We should learn a lot about the Browns and Jets on Monday Night Football, beyond just what the final score tells us. Until then …
• No one in Pittsburgh is surprised by what’s transpired, good or bad, during Antonio Brown’s first week as a Patriot. Not by the fact that he was working late into the night last week. Not by the fact that he produced on the field on less than a week’s study. And not by the circus that came to Foxboro with him. It’s evidence that nothing really changed.
• Brown’s contract with the Patriots contains strong forfeiture language. Per the deal, “any action that materially undermines the public’s respect for, or is materially critical of, the Club, the Player’s teammates, or the Club’s ownership, coaches, management, operations or policies then, upon election of the Club, the guarantees set forth in this Section 27 will be null and void.” That covers his $1 million base salary.
The team’s ability to recover Brown’s $9 million signing bonus ($5 million of which is due Sept. 23, with the remaining $4 million due Jan. 15) is narrower, per the CBA. But one way to do it? Proving non-disclosure—that the player failed to clue the team into a situation that might affect his ability to work. That would be one motivator for the Patriots to push out the notion that they didn’t know about Brown’s civil case.
• It’s certainly possible that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was unaware of the sexual assault accusations against Brown when the team signed him. But if it was that objectionable to him, Kraft could tell Bill Belichick to walk away from the player now, especially with the additional information that came to light both here on The MMQB and via ESPN over the weekend.
• Jalen Ramsey’s trade request should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed his career since his first-team All-Pro season in 2017—he showed up to training camp in a Brink’s truck, for crying out loud. The next question becomes: Can the Jaguars can get proper value back for him?. He’s under contract through 2020, which is a plus (He’s making $3.6 million this year, and has an exercised fifth-year option at $13.7 million for next year). He’s made the Pro Bowl twice and, at his best, is among the very best at his position, a physical freak of a corner. The flip side is that he’s going to be expensive to keep long-term, and he’s got a well-established track record now of clashing with coaches. Stay tuned to this one—it certainly could get significantly uglier if he’s not traded right away, based on where we are right now.
• Mason Rudolph was the fifth quarterback the Steelers have drafted since taking Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, and easily the highest selected (76th overall) of the group. And they’ve felt good enough about him to shed Landry Jones months after taking him, and to trade Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars last week when Nick Foles went down injured. Rudolph, for his part, has what you’d want physically as a quarterback—but he was considered raw coming out of Oklahoma (thanks to the system he played in) and there were questions about his ability to stand in the pocket and take hits.
“He’s a talented thrower, really good touch passer, good accuracy, and a pretty solid athlete in the pocket,” said one rival personnel director who’s evaluated him. “I’m just not sure how well he handles pressure in his face.” We’ll get a good look soon at how far he’s come along. But it’s safe to say the Steelers feel as OK as they could, given the circumstance of losing Roethlisberger for the year.
• The Chiefs’ defensive improvement warrants mention—Kansas City shut out Oakland over the final three quarters on Sunday—and it goes beyond the numbers. The team is seeing a more gap sound group, better fundamentals and, just as important, in-game adjustments from Steve Spagnuolo’s staff. Improvements at safety (Juan Thornhill, Tyrann Mathieu), linebacker (Darron Lee, Damien Wilson) and defensive end depth (Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Emmanuel Ogbah, etc.) haven’t hurt either.
• One reason why the Giants feel comfortable putting Daniel Jones in now: the improvement of the team’s offensive line has been tangible through two weeks. That should allow for the rookie to play a little more confidently, especially since he clearly showed he could take a hit or two at Duke.
• Sean Payton’s going to earn his money this week—one of the top offensive innovators will go to work on retrofitting his offense to fit Teddy Bridgewater (who isn’t massively different stylistically from Drew Brees) for the time being. The Saints felt like, going into this season, their roster didn’t have any glaring holes and the one need they had, depth at linebacker, they swiftly addressed by trading for Kiko Alonso. Now the idea of that gets put to the test, with a good but not top-shelf quarterback dropped into the mix.
• One guy the Saints might miss now? Mark Ingram, a tailback who could bring a physical identity to the offense in this time of transition. And the interesting thing on Ingram’s departure is that New Orleans was willing to give the ex-Heisman winner the deal that Baltimore did (3 years, $12 million). The problem there was that Ingram had initially asked the Saints for much more, and pride came in to play with the idea of conceding the team valued him correctly to begin with, which happens more than you might think.
• During my conversation with Rams coach Sean McVay for this week’s MMQB, he was quick to point to how Jared Goff got knocked around and hung in there, comparing it to the way his quarterback stuck out the NFC title game in September. “He really did a good job not being fazed, not flinching, when things don't always go our way,” McVay told me. “And I think that's the epitome of what represents why Jared Goff's special. … He's a mentally tough guy that's unphased by good or bad and I think anytime that you look at a really good quarterback, that's a quality that you've got to have, and it's really good that he's got that.”
• Here’s hoping Adam Vinatieri gets to go out on his own terms, whenever the time is right for the proud Colt to walk away.
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