The NFL is still planning on beginning the regular season on time. Right now, facilities are opening around the league, but the coaching staffs have not yet taken up shop. That should be happening soon, as the NFL gets things back on track.
Players are left on their own to work out and stay in shape during this virtual offseason. In addition to working out, players are doing Zoom meetings with their coaches and teammates while they are at home. Sometimes when working out, players get banged up – and we already have some players in this division that have had to be shut down for the year because of it.
Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs and superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes have begun contract negotiation on an extended deal. Mahomes had his fifth-year option picked up and is under the team’s control through the 2021 season. In the final year of his contract, Mahomes is set to make almost $25 million for that one year.
His new contract could pay him twice that amount annually. The Chiefs are in a Super Bowl window so long as Mahomes is their quarterback and he’s not going anywhere. The team will have to be creative in the way that they structure this deal, but Mahomes will get a deal that makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history. That deal could be here sooner rather than later.
While there seems to be positive movement in the contract negotiations for Mahomes, things seem to be trending the other way for franchise-tagged defensive lineman Chris Jones. He has been in touch with the team during Zoom meetings, but reports indicate there has been little traction in long-term contract negotiations between Jones and the team. The two sides have until mid-July to get a new deal done. It’s going to be difficult for the Chiefs to afford both a new deal for Mahomes and a new deal for Jones – especially because they currently only have $4.8 million in effective salary cap space according to OverTheCap.com.
Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been working out with some of his teammates at a Las Vegas Park, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Rochelle Richards. Wide receivers Zay Jones and Hunter Renfrow, plus tight end Darren Waller, are among the players working out with Carr. It’s a common occurrence around the league if teammates live near each other. While there are no team workouts with facilities just opening, players can meet on their own and put in some work to build chemistry.
Carr has created great chemistry with his teammates, especially late in games. He was 72.3 percent accurate on his throws in the fourth quarter of games in 2019 – the best such mark of any qualified quarterback last season. Working out with his teammates on his own should continue to keep that chemistry strong. This should greatly benefit him as he battles Marcus Mariota for the starting job in training camp.
On Thursday, Raiders tight end Nick O’Leary was placed on the Non-Football Injury list ending his season before it even begins. Initial speculation was that O’Leary must have injured himself working out on his own. Later Thursday, it was revealed that O’Leary was placed on the list due to an illness. He signed a one-year deal with the Raiders but was just there as a fourth-string blocking option. Let’s hope he gets healthy and can resume his playing days in the NFL. The Raiders are stacked in the tight end room with Waller, Jason Witten and Foster Moreau.
Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said he has been learning both the outside cornerback spot as well as the nickel back position during offseason meetings. Harris is the team’s No. 3 cornerback behind Casey Hayward and Desmond King. All three of those players are incredibly talented and versatile players who can thrive on opposing quarterbacks.
Harris can be a dangerous slot corner, but it’s clear the Chargers may have plans to move him around the formation from time to time. This is nothing but bad news for quarterbacks who have to go up against this Chargers defense in 2020.
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry told reporters that he is “fine” playing under the franchise tag for the 2020 season, although he would still like to agree to a long-term contract extension with the team. Henry said that contract talks have already taken place, although there have been no recent discussions. Like Jones and the Chiefs mentioned above, the two sides have until mid-July to figure something out.
Chargers fifth-round pick wide receiver Joe Reed is expected to be used as a gadget player lining up in the slot, out wide and in the backfield. Reed forced 15 missed tackles on 77 receptions last year at Virginia, per Pro Football Focus. I liked Reed on film with the Cavaliers and I was excited to see him at the East-West Shrine Bowl earlier this year.
The Broncos showed interest in him during that week of practice, but instead he goes to a division rival. Reed is buried on the depth chart right now behind guys like Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. However, he’s an interesting developmental player to keep an eye on in 2020 and beyond.
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