ASHBURN, Va. – On many days, before most people were rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was climbing a staircase around the corner from his office at the team's headquarters. Often, he would sit down and swivel his chair in the direction of a conference room where an endless stream of practice tape awaited his staff. On his left, a wall of televisions might be flickering with some form of NFL Films. Highlights of Jerry Rice or Joe Greene. A top-10 list of running backs. Maybe a documentary on quarterbacks.
It has been like this for McCloughan for a few years now. Visitors might come in and stare over their shoulder, making conversation about a particular player. But to McCloughan, he would always see teams in the footage, not players. He would see cultures. That's what commanded his attention. So while a visitor on Tuesday arrived and asked about cornerback Josh Norman, McCloughan's entry into the conversation was to speak about the team around him.
"We're quicker," McCloughan said Tuesday. "Bigger, younger, faster, more competitive."
He leaned forward.
Contract offers speak a lot of truth about what an NFL team thinks about a player. While a coaching staff or general manager can say flattering things publicly, the guaranteed commitment of salary-cap space often cuts through the fog of public relations and gives tangible perspective.
In that respect, the Denver Broncos made a clear statement about their evaluation of linebacker Von Miller. And those who have spoken with Miller say he's not pleased with it.
While some look at Miller and see a Super Bowl MVP with four All-Pro nods who gives versatility in Denver's defensive system, the Broncos seem to be expecting more of him. That's what Miller's latest contract offer says. Regardless of the negotiating leverage a franchise tag offers, Denver has the ability to give Miller more robust long-term salary guarantees. But by offering what amounts to a "real" two-year guaranteed deal for $38.5 million, Denver's brain trust is saying at least one (and maybe all) of these three things about Miller right now:
Less than two months ago, a significant contract impasse cratered the relationship between cornerback Josh Norman and the Carolina Panthers. Now it's starting to look like Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and the Denver Broncos are stepping into a similar hole.
The contract impasse between Miller and the Broncos took a seemingly personal wrong turn in the past 48 hours, so much so that the two sides can't seem to agree on who triggered it. Miller rejected a six-year, $114.5 million deal at some point between Monday night and Wednesday morning, according to the Broncos. Sources close to Miller, however, told Yahoo Sports that the player actually accepted two significant parts of Denver's offer on Monday night: specifically, the length of the contract (six years) and the overall money ($114.5 million).
All of those avenues are possibilities at this point. Nobody would have believed it only a week ago. But then again, nobody expected Josh Norman to be playing for the Washington Redskins next season, either.
The Denver Broncos and Von Miller appear to be closing in on a long-term contract. And some opposing general managers think it's going to be a record-setter.
Miller expressed confidence toward a new deal following the Broncos' visit to the White House on Monday, saying he and the team had "made real progress over the last couple of days."
"I'm very optimistic about the whole thing," Miller told reporters. "I remain optimistic about everything."
That kind of a payout may be less of an issue when it comes to Miller, largely because he turned 27 in March, has averaged 12 sacks a year and is coming off a dominating playoff run that saw him capture the Super Bowl MVP. Barring injury, Miller's next deal should account for the final five to six years of his prime, giving defensive coordinator Wade Phillips the versatile pass-rushing linebacker who makes his defense so flexible.
When Peyton Manning signed the final contract of his career with the Denver Broncos a little more than four years ago, the clock began to tick on Denver's succession process. The Broncos had four years to groom a replacement for one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. That plan, built around Brock Osweiler, failed when the Houston Texans plucked away Manning's understudy in free agency.
Less than three months after that failure in Denver, the New Orleans Saints are heading into a similar long-term quandary, staring at a significant commitment to an aging, elite quarterback, while also measuring how to survive his inevitable departure. The Saints are weighing two sizeable issues regarding their quarterback spot, two league sources told Yahoo Sports: the amount of guaranteed money that will be necessary to get a contract extension done with Drew Brees, and finding and properly grooming the player who will eventually replace him.
Neither task appears simple at the moment.
One source familiar with the Saints' line of thinking said there is a wild card in play: guaranteed money.
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Nearly four years ago, New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan had a front-row seat for a franchise-shaping quarterback mistake.
Maccagnan was on hand when the Houston Texans made an ill-fated commitment to Matt Schaub in 2012. That's something worth considering when it comes to the Jets' hardball deal being offered to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. There's a lesson to be learned in failure, and Maccagnan got an inside view when Schaub and the Texans cratered. It taught him that a quarterback's broader history matters, and caution should always be weighed against long-term commitment.
Until it wasn't.
A little over 18 months after signing that extension, Schaub was traded to the Oakland Raiders in the 2013 offseason. One year after his extension, the wheels came off his career. He inexplicably set an NFL record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns in four straight games and never looked the same again. And he's been a journeyman ever since, spending 2015 with the Baltimore Ravens and signing with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.
HOUSTON – A little over four years into his NFL career, Brock Osweiler is encountering an offseason he has never known. He's richer. He's more experienced. And most important, he's finally the centerpiece of an NFL franchise.
But Osweiler hasn't just arrived into the spotlight. For the Houston Texans, he is the spotlight.
"He operates like a pro's pro," Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins said of Osweiler. "He comes out and he demands the best out of everybody – offensive line, fullbacks, even the guys that aren't even in the huddle. He's a natural leader."
That's sizable offseason praise in May, with the Texans beginning their third phase of organized team activities and Oswelier still absorbing the offense. But it speaks to the anticipation building in Houston. An offense that was hammered flat by the Kansas City Chiefs in the postseason has retooled the skill positions with an emphasis on speed and quickness, notably adding free-agent running back Lamar Miller and drafting wideouts Will Fuller and Braxton Miller.
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One day of practice – one torn ACL – and it was over for Dante Fowler Jr. His rookie season was wiped off the books before it ever began.
A little over one year later, the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive end is starting over again, effectively giving the franchise two first-round picks to fold into the defense. But it can't be considered a reboot since Fowler wasn't on the field or in practice enough to show what he will bring to the table.
That's not the case for many of the other presumed defensive stars from Fowler's rookie class, several of whom struggled through uneven first seasons, failing to crack rotations or flunking drug tests. With some of those disappointments in mind, a handful of defensive rookies from the 2015 draft are looking for sophomore reboots.
Among the 10 most intriguing heading into next season …
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By all accounts, wide receiver was supposed to be the position that defined the 2015 NFL draft. That group that was deemed to be so talented, some believed it could rival the 2014 class, which produced stars like Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, Kelvin Benjamin and Martavis Bryant.
Looking back a year later, the 2015 wideouts were a flop. Either through injury, lack of performance or fumbled opportunity, no position group on offense is in more need of a sophomore reboot.
As for the other wideouts, several others never came around despite opportunity, and that landed five of them on the list of 10 offensive players in need of a sophomore reboot in 2016.
Among the coveted rookies who are looking for a reset …
PHILADELPHIA – It isn't part of Carson Wentz's new playbook, but the Sam Bradford-themed news conference looks like something the Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback has already mastered. That's good because nothing Wentz will do in this weekend's minicamp will matter as much as what he said about Bradford on Friday.
So he defused. He pivoted. He directed the conversation to team competition. Wentz had said all the right things – striking the right balance between confidence and deference – when he was done. If Bradford vs. Wentz is bound to be a controversy in Philadelphia, the rookie is doing his best to keep from adding anything flammable.
"Personally, I don't think there will be a lot of tension," Wentz said of his relationship with Bradford. "… It is what it is. Honestly, like I've been saying all along, it's out of my control. People want to make it a big situation, but I think we'll have a really good working relationship. I think it will benefit the team, because we're going to compete."
"I'm very antsy," Wentz said. "The draft process was a long waiting game."