Twenty-eight head coaches and general managers hit the podium on Day 1 at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, with one theme emerging: Love the one you’re with.
Niners general manager Trent Baalke revealed that Colin Kaepernick would “absolutely” be on the roster when his contract is guaranteed on April 1, and that he would compete with Blaine Gabbert for the starting quarterback job. It won’t be a fair fight. Kaepernick is set to make $13.9 million, while Gabbert will make $1.95 million. Money talks in the NFL, and the 49ers made a strong statement Wednesday by rolling with Kaepernick for another season. Coach Chip Kelly and Kaepernick seemingly need each other to save their once soaring NFL careers.
Kaepernick isn’t the only one staying put. Bears general manager Ryan Pace made it clear the team would retain Alshon Jeffery, whether it’s with a franchise tag or a long-term contract. Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman also said he wasn’t worried about applying the tag to Josh Norman, which looks like a near certainty. Redskins coach Jay Gruden revealed that receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon would not be surprise cuts. Eagles tackle Jason Peters and Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons are two other stalwarts who will be back with their teams in 2016.
Here’s what else we learned on a busy day:
1. Theme No. 2 for the day: Teams aren’t pressuring big-name players into retiring. Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said that Peyton Manning should be in “no hurry” to make a decision about his future. Manning already has spoken with Broncos executive vice president John Elway, and he’s expected to talk with Kubiak this week. Perhaps there will be some movement on this decision soon.
Kubiak continued to go out of his way to praise Brock Osweiler’s “bright future.” It would be a surprise if the Broncos don’t work out a deal with Osweiler.
Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn said there was “no deadline” for Calvin Johnson to make a decision. Megatron has still not made a final decision on his retirement. Quinn said the team was prepared to let him take all the time he wants, even if he doesn’t give them a heads up before free agency.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also are waiting to hear if guard Logan Mankins will retire. They have so much salary-cap room that they don’t have to get an answer anytime soon. We also learned that Andre Johnson could retire this offseason, and he’s definitely not returning to Indianapolis.
2. Not every player is going to have a choice about his future. Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said everything we needed to hear about Greg Hardy’s future without saying anything. Coach Rex Ryan isn’t sure how “realistic” it is for Mario Williams to stay on the Buffalo Bills. Browns coach Hue Jackson made it clear (again) that Johnny Manziel’s days in Cleveland are numbered. Gettleman made it sound as if he wants to keep Charles Johnson on the roster, but the two sides have work to do in order to make it work.
3. Bears coach John Fox responded to public comments made by Elway regarding how the Broncos’ title justified Fox’s firing a year ago: “I don’t really pay much attention to what’s said, whether it’s even about our own team sometimes.”
4. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said he’ll use the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker if they don’t reach a long-term deal. Newsome also advertised to any teams needing a quarterback that he has the sixth-overall pick, and he’s ready to take some calls.
5. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim didn’t mince words when talking about the future of running back Andre Ellington.
“Andre hasn’t proved he can be a 20-25 touch-a-game guy. David Johnson has,” Keim said. Continuing on Ellington: “If the guy doesn’t fulfill expectations, it’s time to move on.”
6. Baalke wouldn’t commit to linebacker Ahmad Brooks’ future with the 49ers, simply saying “He’s on our roster.”
Baalke also wasn’t sure if Anthony Davis will come out of retirement.
“Right now, that contract is being tolled,” Baalke said, via CSNBayArea. “It’s just sitting there. It’s like the Internet cloud. It’s just up there.”
Baalke said the 49ers didn’t speak with the Eagles whatsoever about Kelly’s time in Philadelphia. Baalke also said Kelly is very “easy” to deal with on a personal level. When Jim Harbaugh sets the bar, it’s not hard to jump above it.
7. The Minnesota Vikings don’t seem concerned about Adrian Peterson’s age or play.
“At some point, everybody has to retire. Adrian may defy the odds and play until he’s 50, I don’t know,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.
8. The Eagles continue to talk up Sam Bradford’s strong second-half performance in 2015 without fully committing to him. New coach Doug Pederson, meanwhile, is confident Chase Daniel can be a starting quarterback. So why not in Philadelphia?
9. Rex Ryan is in a strange place, letting no slight get past him.
“We were terrible,” Ryan said sarcastically at one point with an exaggerated eye roll during his news conference. “And I can’t coach defense anymore for some reason.”
Rex also said this, which is better with no context at all: “We’ve got to be all in. It’s kind of like being half-pregnant. Forget that. We’re all in. We’re fully pregnant now.”
We’ll be back, fully pregnant, for more than 20 news conferences from the combine on Thursday. See you then.
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