videoKANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The most notable event of the week for one AFC West favorite came when the Oakland Raiders signed their franchise quarterback, Derek Carr, to a five-year contract extension.

The most notable event of the week for the division's other top contender came when the Kansas City Chiefs announced -- one month before the start of training camp -- they were looking to hire a new general manager.

Talk about a tale of two franchises. Carr and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie were all smiles at Friday's news conference to announce the quarterback's contract. Carr, even though he's now the highest-paid player in NFL history, talked about his desire to leave some money for teammates who are also due for a raise. McKenzie talked about his desire to get that accomplished.

Denny Medley/USA Today SportsAs training camp looms, the Chiefs and chairman Clark Hunt, left, have come under fire following the unusual departures of GM John Dorsey and top receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs hid behind a prepared statement that didn't explain their reasons for letting go of general manager John Dorsey.

In Oakland, they have a plan. With Carr signed for the long-term, McKenzie and the Raiders are free to secure some of their other good, young players like linebacker Khalil Mack, offensive lineman Gabe Jackson and wide receiver Amari Cooper.

In Kansas City, the Chiefs don't have a plan or if they do, they need a better one. Looking for a GM with training camp looming should never be a part of the script.

The week's developments in Oakland and in Kansas City won't necessarily determine the course of the AFC West race in 2017 and for years to come. They will make things more difficult for the Chiefs, who tied with the Raiders at 12-4 last season but won the AFC West title because they swept the two games against Oakland.

Both teams until recently looked as if they had sustainability. The Raiders have many good young players and the financial resources to keep them around for awhile. The Chiefs are well coached by Andy Reid and his staff and also have a talented roster that was being continually restocked because of Dorsey's smart drafting. The Chiefs in April drafted Patrick Mahomes II, perhaps giving them an eventual franchise quarterback of their own.

Suddenly, it's natural to wonder about the Chiefs, who don't look as if they're being guided by any well thought-out plan. Early in June they released their most accomplished and experienced wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, two years after signing him as a free agent.

Now, after discussing a contract extension with Dorsey earlier in the offseason, they're looking for his replacement. That task is more daunting given the mixed results from chairman Clark Hunt in hiring GMs. Dorsey was a good hire. The previous general manager, Scott Pioli, was not.

Hunt needs to get this one right. The Chiefs have to keep up with their rivals in Oakland, who have a general manager, money to burn and a smart plan.

The Chiefs for the moment have none of the three.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When quarterback Tom Brady looked to his left during a drill at the New England Patriots' recent mandatory minicamp, he called out the name of the player to whom he intended to throw the ball.

“I’ve got Sweet Feet!” Brady said with authority.

Fred Kfoury III/Icon SportswireCalled "Sweet Feet" by a select few, James White was given that colorful nickname while in high school.

He was talking, of course, about James White, the Pats' running back and Super Bowl LI standout who was a top MVP candidate in the game alongside Brady. White, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick from the University of Wisconsin, had the game of his life with 14 receptions for 110 yards and one receiving touchdown, to go along with two rushing touchdowns and a successful two-point conversion rush.

“Tom and Josh call me that,” White said with a laugh, referring to Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “Random people do it sometimes, too. It’s cool. It switches it up, makes it a little bit of fun.”

The nickname, which White also has adopted on his @SweetFeet_White Twitter account and sweetfeet_white28 Instagram account, has quite the history. It traces back to White’s senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“It’s actually a ridiculous story how it happened,” said Adam Aloma, the creative writing teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas who came up with the moniker. “One of the things we used to joke about was that he needed a good nickname for when he gets to the NFL, because James White is such a plain name.”

So on Homecoming Week 2009, “Sweet Feet” White was born.

"During Homecoming Week, they always have a pep rally," Aloma said. "A teacher is always asked to come up with an entertaining, fake story to tell the crowd about some type of tradition at St. Thomas, and why we’re playing this team, and what it means. Just to get the crowd kind of hyped up.

“They asked me to do it, and I treated it as a joke. We were playing Boyd Anderson, another high school whose mascot is the Cobras, and my story was how it was tradition that St. Thomas stomps out the cobras. The whole story went back to James White’s great, great grandfather, who came to St. Thomas, and there was a cobra on campus that was terrorizing everybody. Everybody was scared of the cobra. Nobody knew how to handle it. Administration was scared. Everyone was locked in their rooms.

“But James’ great, great grandfather was the only one brave enough to step into the hallways. His feet were so quick that he knew he could try to stomp on the cobra’s neck without getting bitten. So I referred to him as ‘Sweet Feet’ White and said, ‘That’s why James’ new nickname is James “Sweet Feet” White.’”

Those in attendance at the pep rally got a kick out of the fictional story, and sure enough, some began to call White by the nickname.

“I thought it was kind of weird at first,” White said with a chuckle. “But it kind of stuck.”

It sure did, from the halls of St. Thomas Aquinas High School to the Patriots’ practice field and beyond.

Meanwhile, on the football field, the "legend" of James "Sweet Feet" White continues to grow.

Mike Wells: Things could be changing after this being a topic of discussion with the Indianapolis Colts in years past. Coach Chuck Pagano has shied away from tackling during training camp in the past because he wanted to avoid player injuries.

Two things happened with Pagano taking that approach: The Colts still saw their fair share of injuries despite not tackling, and their defense suffered during the season, particularly from the tackling standpoint. You can’t expect a team to tackle with discipline during games after not practicing it beforehand. That’s likely one of many reasons why the Colts have been 20th or worse in defense in four of Pagano’s five seasons as coach.

But Pagano is now open to doing things differently.

Chuck PaganoAP Photo/Michael ConroyAfter consecutive 8-8 seasons, Chuck Pagano aims to go about Colts training camp differently this year.

“You’re always scared to death, but at the same time if you don’t tackle, it’s hard to get good at tackling,” Pagano said. “We do, obviously, a lot of what we call 'thud.' It’s first contact, it’s wrap up, and you try to stay off the ground as much as you can and take care of each other. But we’ll continue to have discussions regarding that, and there may be some periods come training camp that we decide we want to go live here.

“Again, until you do that, you get to the preseason and usually that first or second preseason game is an eye-opener for a lot of the guys, especially the young guys until they adapt to the speed of the game.”

The closest the Colts have been to tackling was when Pagano put them through the “Oklahoma” drill during camp two years ago. That drill is when two players have a narrow lane and they go at each other with full contact.

New general manager Chris Ballard is on board to increase the aggressiveness in practice.

“This will be a physical camp for us," Ballard told Colts.com. “We’ve got a young football team and you need to spar. I think we will have a physical camp and I think you need to. It helps get your body ready. I think a lot of the problems we have is that we don’t hit enough. You’re always worried about injuries, but this is football and it’s a physical game.

“It’s much like boxing. You need to spar. Your body’s got to get prepared for the grind and the hits of the season it’s going to endure. If your body doesn’t get used to that in camp, then I think that’s when things fall off during the season.’’

Like it or not, the New York Jets have set their course. Now you wait to see if this radical approach bears fruit ... and that is the subject of this week's Twitter question:


@RichCimini: First of all, Kris, thanks for having enough faith in me to pose such a daunting question. This is one of the great riddles in sports. They've gone 48 years without a Super Bowl and, honestly, I don't know how many more years it will take to get back. I thought the Jets had it right when they reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games under Rex Ryan. I thought they had it right when they hired Bill Parcells in 1997. But just when you think they have it figured out ... bam!

The reality is, there's no guarantee this roster overhaul will work. Getting younger doesn't always mean getting better. Hitting rock bottom doesn't always equate to a successful rebound. The 2009 St. Louis Rams finished 1-15, drafted Sam Bradford with the first pick in 2010 ... and still haven't been to the playoffs. The 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16, took Matthew Stafford first overall in '09 ... and still haven't won a playoff game.

The Cleveland Browns ... well, every year is Groundhog Day.

On the flip side, we've seen quick turnarounds. After successfully executing their "Suck for Luck" plan, the 2012 Indianapolis Colts went 11-5 with Andrew Luck, just one year after finishing 2-14 and landing the No. 1 pick. Thing is, transformative players such as Luck come along about only once a decade.

The Carolina Panthers provide a more realistic blueprint for the Jets. The Panthers earned the No. 1 pick in 2011 after a 2-14 finish, and they took Cam Newton. They built a strong team around him and, by his third season, they were a playoff team. By his fifth year, they were in the Super Bowl.

The Jets are far, far away from reaching that level. Based on conversations I've had with opposing scouts, only four or five players on the roster are capable of starting for most teams in the league -- Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, James Carpenter and maybe Brian Winters. Like I said ... far, far away.

Best-case scenario: Christian Hackenberg finishes the season entrenched as the starting quarterback and some of the key picks from Mike Maccagnan's first three drafts establish themselves as ascending starters.

The more likely scenario: They end the year without a clear-cut answer at quarterback, draft one in 2018 and endure another year of growing pains. Maybe, by 2019, they'd be able to contend.

The Jets haven't won the division since 2002. Not coincidentally, that's the last time their starting quarterback posted a 100 passer rating (Chad Pennington, 104.2). I've said this many times, but it's worth repeating even though it's hardly a revelation:

It. All. Comes. Down. To. The. Quarterback.

As for Bowles, he probably won't be around to see this through. He's in an almost impossible situation and, as we know, Woody Johnson isn't the most patient of owners. Maybe he'll buy a soccer team while in England and forget about the Jets.

Kansas City's Andy ReidAP Photo/Orlin WagnerAndy Reid is heading into his fifth season as Chiefs coach after spending the previous 14 in Philly.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If he retired today, Andy Reid would be among the NFL's all-time leaders in victories and other coaching statistics.

But Reid isn't retiring. His contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs will keep him around at least another five seasons, so his climb up the coaching charts will continue.

Here is a look at where Reid stands and where the 59-year-old might stand in another five years:

• Reid is tied for 11th in regular-season coaching wins with Jeff Fisher at 173. Chuck Knox is 10th at 186. Figuring 11 wins a season over the next five (he's averaging a shade under 11 in his four seasons in Kansas City), Reid would get to 228. That would put him fifth, behind only Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Bill Belichick.

Getting to 228 victories would seemingly be enough to get Reid into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But he might still need to win a Super Bowl to get in. Each of the top six coaches in wins has won at least one NFL championship. Five of the six are in the Hall, and the sixth (Belichick) is active but a lock for the Hall after he's done. At No. 7 is Marty Schottenheimer, who never won a championship and isn't in the Hall.

• Reid has coached his teams in Philadelphia and Kansas City to the postseason 12 times, tied for sixth place. He'll tie Schottenheimer for fifth with one more playoff berth. If he gets the Chiefs to the playoffs three times in the next five seasons (he has done it three times in four seasons in Kansas City), he'll be no worse than tied for fourth. Shula coached 19 playoff teams, Landry 18. Belichick is at 15, and counting.

• Reid is tied for ninth in playoff wins with 11. At 11-12, he's the only coach in the top 12 with a losing record. Each of the eight coaches ahead of him has won a Super Bowl.

Andy Reid and John DorseyDavid Eulitt/Getty ImagesJohn Dorsey, right, with coach Andy Reid, had said being the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs was his dream job.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On any other day, the five-year contract extension for Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid would be something for the team’s fans to celebrate. One of the best coaches in Chiefs history will be around for the foreseeable future to solidify his part in the franchise’s direction.

But there’s no way to make Thursday a good one for the Chiefs, not when another main decision-maker, general manager John Dorsey, was let go. Dorsey, who had one season remaining on the contract he signed in 2013, was the best scout and the boldest thinker the Chiefs have ever had as their general manager.

The Chiefs could have replaced Dorsey with a general manager as good or better. One of the best candidates would have been Chris Ballard, who until January was the Chiefs’ director of football operations.

But it’s too late for that. Ballard left to become general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.

So the timing of the move with Dorsey suggests this was a recent decision by chairman Clark Hunt.

The shame is Dorsey wanted to remain with the Chiefs. He called their general manager’s position his dream job when he was hired and said last winter he still felt that way.

Dorsey had said he wanted to see his son Jack graduate from high school in Kansas City. Jack was then 5. But Hunt and the Chiefs had other ideas.

Dorsey’s decision-making with the Chiefs wasn’t flawless. He cost the organization millions of dollars by waiting for a year to sign Justin Houston and Eric Berry to long-term contracts and with the deal he gave to aging wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

But, the good far outweighed the bad. The decision to trade a pair of second-round draft picks for quarterback Alex Smith was one of his best. Smith stabilized a most important position, one that saw the Chiefs go through seven starters in the previous five seasons before his arrival in 2013.

But there were others. He took a chance on the temperamental Marcus Peters in the first round of the 2015 draft when some other teams shied away. The Chiefs were rewarded with one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks.

Dorsey found other gems later in the draft: Travis Kelce in the third round in 2013 and Tyreek Hill in the fifth in 2016. He allowed cornerback Sean Smith to walk in free agency last year, another choice that showed plenty of foresight.

His legacy could well be this year’s move to trade up and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. Mahomes may eventually fail, but it’s hard to fault Dorsey for trying to secure the quarterback position for the Chiefs long term. It had been too long since the Chiefs had the guts to try, and Dorsey deserves credit for at least that.

Reid’s contract extension means the Chiefs don’t have to start from scratch. Once Reid gets beyond the 2017 season, he’ll be the Chiefs’ longest-tenured coach since Marty Schottenheimer. That’s significant, particularly for a franchise that went through three head coaches in seven years before Reid showed up.

The Chiefs forfeited the chance at the same kind of continuity for their general manager. That’s an odd choice for a team that had four seasons with four or fewer victories in the six years before Reid and Dorsey took control.

At this juncture, it doesn’t seem like the right one, either.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- How quickly things have changed for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

A little more than a year ago, he was joking about how nice it would be to sign a $100 million contract extension, as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had recently done. On Thursday, it was Oakland's Derek Carr, drafted 33 spots behind Bortles in 2014, signing a huge contract, while Bortles is fighting to convince management -- and his teammates -- that he deserves to be the Jaguars' starter beyond 2017.

Blake BortlesAP Photo/John RaouxWith an 11-34 record as the Jaguars' starter since his 2014 rookie season, Blake Bortles hasn't exactly earned the type of long-term deal draft classmate David Carr got this week.

Bortles had come off a breakout season in 2015, setting single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,428) and passing touchdowns (35). Despite the perception that most of his yards and TDs came during garbage time, when the Jaguars were trailing big, only 13 of his scoring passes came with Jacksonville trailing by double digits. He did turn the ball over too much (18 interceptions, five fumbles), and cutting down on those was going to be his main focus heading into 2016.

But Bortles regressed last season. He completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns with 16 interceptions; three of those picks were returned for touchdowns, giving him 11 in his career. Bortles also suffered a Grade 1 sprained right AC joint midway through the season, aggravated that five weeks later, and also dealt with painful tendinitis in his right wrist.

Bortles’ mechanics were a mess, too. His footwork got sloppy and his delivery was out of whack. He brought the ball below his waist and way behind his body during his windup, which increased the amount of time between his decision to throw and his release. Things got so bad he brought in personal throwing coach Adam Dedeaux, who works with Tom House at 3DQB in California, midway through the season.

The Jaguars did pick up Bortles' fifth-year option, which would pay him roughly $20 million in 2018, but that's guaranteed for injury only, so it's really not much of a commitment. If Bortles struggles early in 2017 and turns the ball over at the same rate he has in his first three seasons (1.4 per game), the Jaguars can put him on the bench to avoid the chance he gets injured, then cut him after the season and not owe him any money.

Carr has been significantly better than Bortles in their three NFL seasons, throwing 12 more touchdown passes (81 to 69) and 20 fewer interceptions (31 to 51). He has also won twice as many games (22 to 11) -- partly because he has been the beneficiary of the Raiders' good drafting and work in free agency -- and led Oakland to the playoffs last season. Had he not suffered a broken leg in Week 16, the Raiders would likely have been able to manage more than the 203 yards they put up without him in a 27-14 loss to Houston in an AFC wild-card game.

Carr is clearly the Raiders' franchise quarterback and that's why they rewarded him with a five-year, $125 million contract this week.

Bortles, meanwhile, has turned the ball over more than any other player (63), thrown the second-most interceptions and ranks 32nd in passer rating over the past three seasons. If he doesn't change those things, he'll be negotiating a new contract next spring with another team.

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings debate the futures of two quarterbacks -- the one they took in the first round in 2014 and the one for whom they traded a first-round pick last fall -- the contract extension of another quarterback from the 2014 draft could make the Vikings' decision even more expensive.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who went four picks after Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft, now has a deal that makes him the highest-paid passer in the league, as measured by ESPN Stats & Information. Carr's extension gives him an annual salary of $25 million -- the highest in the league -- and includes $70.2 million in guaranteed money, which is second behind the $87 million in guarantees Andrew Luck got from the Indianapolis Colts.

His deal now means there are 13 quarterbacks playing on deals with an average annual value of $20 million or more. Bradford, whose current deal averages $17.5 million a season and expires after this year, now has the 16th-highest AAV of any passer in the league.

That's perhaps right where the 29-year-old quarterback should be; he ranked 17th in the league (just behind Carr) in Total QBR last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and is 29th over the past three seasons. But as the prices for quarterbacks continue to rise and the Chicago Bears -- a team the Vikings will play twice this year -- pay Mike Glennon an average of $15 million a year, Bradford's agent Tom Condon will undoubtedly be looking for a deal that pushes the quarterback's average figure north of $20 million and includes at least $40-$50 million in guaranteed money.

Bradford can help his case even more with a strong season as he inches closer to free agency, and the Vikings surely know their decision gets more costly the longer they wait. They've put two veteran tackles in front of Bradford this offseason and revamped the running-back group to be more compatible with their offense; in other words, they've made a concerted effort to set Bradford up for success (and in the process, remove as many variables as they can from their evaluation of him).

Bridgewater's recovery from a knee injury, encouraging as it might have been this spring, probably still puts the young QB too far away to count in on long-term planning, though the Vikings could keep him at $2.18 million for 2018 if he spends this season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. That scenario could allow the Vikings to put the franchise tag on Bradford, or push for another short-term extension that gives them more time to evaluate Bridgewater. But they're counting on Bradford for 2017, and he's looking for the kind of year that nets him a lucrative deal in 2018. The steady upward climb of the quarterback market means he's likely to get it; the Vikings will have to decide if they're the team that gives it to him.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Signing defensive end Devin Taylor could turn out to be a monumental bargain for the New York Giants. Or the former Detroit Lion could fail to make the roster this season.

Given what Taylor’s contract dictates, it could go either way. He signed a minimum-salary, one-year deal on May 25 that has a cash value of $855,000. Taylor received only $40,000 guaranteed, and could earn another $40,000 between workout and roster bonuses, a source told ESPN.

In NFL terms, this is not a major financial commitment, especially for a player who has recorded 11.5 sacks in 31 games the past two seasons. The Giants paid $40 million guaranteed earlier this offseason to re-sign defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 8.0 sacks in 20 games the past two seasons.

William Hauser/USA TODAY SportsDevin Taylor (97, with Jay Bromley) had 15.0 sacks in 92 games with the Lions.

The signing of Taylor, 27, has potential -- and many around the league support this view. One source even termed it a “great signing” because the deal could yield tremendous bang for the buck. Taylor could be a rotational defensive end (or a starter if Pierre-Paul or Olivier Vernon suffer injuries) who occasionally moves inside in pass-rush situations.

At the very least, the Giants are contemplating using Taylor as an interior rusher on passing downs. It’s a spot they must fill before the coming season.

“He’s a proven veteran in this league,” defensive line coach Patrick Graham said. “He has to prove himself again, but I think as a defensive end, he’s shown some great flexibility in the past. It’s a good piece to have, and we will see how the competition plays out.”

The Giants currently have Vernon and Pierre-Paul as starters at defensive end. They also have youngsters Romeo Okwara -- who posted a strong rookie season and spring -- and 2017 fifth-round pick Avery Moss. Finally, New York might have 2015 third-round pick Owa Odighizuwa, who has been dealing with personal issues this spring.

Taylor, undrafted free agent Evan Schwan and Jordan Williams are also part of the mix. A competition will take place this summer for spots on the final 53-man roster.

While it was somewhat surprising that Taylor didn’t attract more interest around the league, his lack of offers illustrates what most teams seem to think of the veteran lineman. An NFC team executive said that franchises tend to view Taylor as a different type of cat. And different rarely plays well in the NFL, particular when it concerns less-than-elite talent.

A different NFC source described Taylor as a guy with average athleticism and football ability. His team viewed the lineman as a potential rotational/depth guy.

If Taylor makes the Giants' roster, his role will likely be the same as what that NFC source envisioned. But spending a minimum salary on an experienced veteran seems to be a low-risk, high-upside signing.

Taylor spent the first four years of his career with the Detroit Lions. He started 18 games (including all 16 last season) and had 15.0 sacks in 92 contests.

His most productive season came in 2015, when he compiled 7.0 sacks despite not starting a single game. If the Giants can get anywhere close to that level of production for less than $1 million, Taylor will amount to one of their best offseason signings.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Drew Stanton knows what it’s like to be a young quarterback trying to navigate his way through the NFL.

Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsNFL teams play "musical chairs" with young quarterbacks these days, Cardinals backup Drew Stanton says, to the youngsters' detriment.

He’s been third string, the backup and the starter. He’s been active and inactive. He’s been demoted and promoted.

Entering his 11th NFL season and fourth with the Arizona Cardinals, Stanton has nearly seen it all, and he doesn’t like how the league approaches grooming this generation of young quarterbacks. Teams have put more of an emphasis on churning through the bottom part of their roster, trying to find the next free-agent gem or stashing a quarterback on the practice squad, Stanton said.

“It’s so hard to develop as a quarterback in this league nowadays,” Stanton said. “The NFL is, unfortunately, heading into a bad trend. When I first got in the league, you could be an inactive third on game day like I was when I was younger. That transitions into now, they’re trying to save spots and get guys to the practice squad.”

The Cardinals will face a decision similar to what Stanton describe this season. They have two veteran quarterbacks vying to back up Carson Palmer in Stanton and Blaine Gabbert. The only other quarterback on the roster is undrafted rookie Trevor Knight. Neither Stanton nor Gabbert is practice-squad eligible, but Knight is. Arizona will have to decide whether it wants to keep two active quarterbacks and one on the practice squad or three active quarterbacks and one on the practice squad.

“It’s musical chairs, for sure,” Stanton said.

LOS ANGELES -- Wade Phillips has taken over nine different defenses as a coordinator or head coach, and nearly every single one of them improved significantly in the first year. He has served a combined 34 seasons in those roles. In 18 of those seasons, his defense finished in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed. In the past six years, three of his defenses have finished in the top five.

Will his Los Angeles Rams be next?

"I have a good feeling about this team," Phillips, the Rams' defensive coordinator, said last week when asked if his latest defense had the makings of a top-five unit. "Again, we’re only in shorts and we haven’t done anything live gamewise, which we’ll get to. I feel good with where we are right now. Comparatively to the teams that I’ve gone to in the first year, I think they’re right on par with those teams. And a lot of those teams did well.”

The Rams boast a devastating front seven, led by Aaron Donald, the game's best 3-technique lineman by a wide margin. Michael Brockers is a solid, underrated defensive tackle who lines up next to him. Veterans Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin, with a combined 104 career sacks, are outside linebackers who will spend a significant portion of their time rushing the quarterback. Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron are two athletic, ball-hawking inside linebackers who should give Phillips a lot of flexibility.

The question is the secondary, though Phillips believes that department is "stronger than people think. I think they'll show that."

Wade PhillipsKirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsOutside expectations for the Rams' defense have climbed considerably with Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator.

Trumaine Johnson will return as the primary corner, and on the other side the starter will probably be Kayvon Webster, who was previously buried on the depth chart on Phillips-led Broncos defenses behind elite cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Lamarcus Joyner will be making a transition to free safety, and Maurice Alexander will return to his more comfortable role at strong safety. And outside of that the Rams have some flexibility, having added a solid slot corner in Nickell Robey-Coleman through free agency and a talented free safety in John Johnson through the draft.

Defense was a staple for the Rams under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the Browns. Last year's numbers -- 16th in rushing yards allowed, 10th in passing yards allowed, 23rd in points allowed -- don't necessarily support that. But the Rams' defense simply ran out of gas down the stretch in 2016, ultimately crippled by an offense that finished 32nd in the NFL in yards and 25th in time of possession.

Football Outsiders' latest projections had the Rams finishing with the NFL's second-best defense in 2017, behind only the division rival Seahawks.

Phillips will simply tell you they're off to a good start.

"I couldn’t be more pleased with the guys’ attitude, No. 1, and also the ability we have," he said as the Rams were finishing their offseason program. "I think we have a lot of talented players. They’re working hard to get better, and I think we will show that in the fall when we start playing, start practicing together. We don’t make many mistakes, and they’re real aggressive and they play well as a team."

A few years ago, the Oakland Raiders were the current New York Jets: perennial also-rans who rebooted by gutting their roster. They created a ton of cap space, spent money in free agency, and drafted two cornerstone players, QB Derek Carr and DE Khalil Mack. They suffered through another three losing seasons and a coaching change, but it finally clicked last season with a playoff appearance.

On Thursday, the Raiders took another big step, locking up their franchise quarterback with a reported five-year extension for $125 million.

The Raiders' ascent shows there is hope for the Jets, but it will take time, patience, smart decision-making and, yes, a little bit of luck. Carr lasted until the 36th pick of the 2014 draft, proof that not all elite quarterbacks are found at the top of the draft. Imagine how the Cleveland Browns feel; they passed on Carr three times, once for Johnny Manziel.

In case you're wondering, the Jets took safety Calvin Pryor with the 18th pick of that draft, and now he plays for the Browns. That's called the circle of life for downtrodden franchises.

Right now, the Jets and Raiders are at opposite ends of the team-building spectrum. The Raiders just committed an obscene amount of money to a 26-year-old quarterback, giving them long-term stability at the most important position. The Jets? Well, they're living in a different world. They will have their fourth different opening-day QB starter in six years, and there's a very good chance it'll be five in seven years in 2018.

There's also the money.

Consider this mind-blowing comparison: Carr's $25 million average per year, reportedly the highest in NFL history, is the same as the combined APY of the 17 highest-paid skill-position players on the Jets' current roster.

We're talking about three quarterbacks, four running backs, two tight ends and eight wide receivers.

Is that crazy or what?

By dumping Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall and Nick Mangold, the Jets eliminated three large salaries from their books. Their new highest-paid player on offense is left tackle Kelvin Beachum ($8 million per year).

A look at each skill position and the top salary (based on APY):

Quarterback: Josh McCown ($6.5 million)

Running back: Matt Forte ($4 million)

Wide receiver: ArDarius Stewart ($844,000)

Tight end: Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($1.3 million)

Except for McCown, Forte and Bilal Powell ($3.75 million), every Jets player in the skill category is making the minimum salary or slightly above it. Someday, maybe, the Jets will have a quarterback worthy of a megadeal. In the meantime, they should follow the Raiders' blueprint.

Just grin (and bear it), baby.

Three questions sparked after the New England Patriots signed linebacker David Harris ...

Brian, Shea McClellin played 34.5 percent of the defensive snaps last season, and he should have trade value before he would become a cap casualty. The Patriots are in substitution packages about 80 percent of the time, and McClellin's versatile skill set can be tapped in specific game plans against offenses that might trend more to the pass. In a recent practice, McClellin showed his athleticism by jamming a running back before dropping back into coverage and intercepting Tom Brady. That type of play is how I envision McClellin's fit on the team: almost like a passing-game linebacker.

JT, I'd say that's a long shot. The Patriots expect Harris to help them in 2017. If I were putting together a list of players I considered "locks" for the team, Harris would likely be on it. It was a surprise that he was even available -- the Jets surprisingly cut him in an economics-based move -- so it's not as though he doesn't have something significant to offer.

When the team's biggest need is interior offensive-line depth, that's a pretty good problem to have. No team truly has all its needs accounted for at this time, but the Patriots look strong across the board on paper. That could change once we get to training camp (first public practice is July 27) and there are potential injuries. After no-pads spring practices, it will be interesting to look more closely at the team's running backs during training camp, when there is full contact. I'm curious to get a better feel for the Mike Gillislee-for-LeGarrette Blount exchange, as well as the backup tight-end spot and if Dwayne Allen can duplicate what Martellus Bennett gave the Patriots in 2016.

As the ink on Derek Carr's five-year, $125 million deal with the Oakland Raiders was drying on Thursday, a few things became apparent.

Chief among those things in Detroit is Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and his agent, Tom Condon, now have a baseline to work with in negotiations with the team.

While Stafford said last week that he didn't have a timetable for finishing up a contract extension, having Carr's contract completed could change his thinking.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders, Matthew Stafford, Detroit LionsKirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsMatthew Stafford has to be looking at the $125 million Derek Carr just got as a jumping-off point for a new deal with the Lions.

The biggest question now isn’t if a deal will get done between Stafford and the Lions; it’s when. Stafford said last week that he wasn't worried about what happened with the contracts of Carr and Washington's Kirk Cousins, but it should make a difference in negotiations. That's just good business strategy.

Stafford could wait to see if Cousins gets a deal done, too, but that negotiation has a definitive timeline of July 17 because of the franchise tag. So the Lions and Stafford can put together a framework now for what the money could look like for Detroit’s franchise quarterback and when the two will finalize a deal.

Stafford, if he signs a similar deal to Carr's, will potentially double his career earnings to date if he finishes whatever contract he signs. So far in Stafford’s career, he has pulled in almost $111 million in cash according to Spotrac, with another $16.5 million due this year.

The Lions understand they are going to have to pay Stafford. They’ve always known this, from the moment general manager Bob Quinn said he’d like Stafford to be the team’s quarterback for the long-term future. This is what the long term, contract-wise, was going to look like. Stafford, for as much as he deflects conversations about his contract publicly, hinted at what he was looking at when he said in April that he sees teams around the league build successful squads with high-quarterback salaries and that the cap is “malleable.”

If a team wants to pay a player, the team will make it happen. And the Lions have made it clear they want to pay Stafford. That’s something Quinn has said and Lions team president Rod Wood reiterated to ESPN last week when he was asked if he was comfortable making the 29-year-old the highest-paid player in the NFL.

“I’m comfortable in getting a deal done with him, and we’ll see where that ends up,” Wood told ESPN. “It’s going to be whatever it takes, I think, to make it happen from both sides, and whether he becomes the highest paid or not, it’ll be a short-lived designation because, as Bob said, and I think it’s true, if you’re in the top whatever of quarterbacks, when your time comes up, your time comes up and then somebody else’s time comes up and they become the highest.

“It’s a premium position, and you need to have a very, very good player at that position to be credible and competitive, and I think we do have that, and we’re working on getting a deal done.”

The highest-paid designation, though, seems more likely for Stafford now that Carr’s deal is complete. Stafford is next up -- or close enough to it that a deal realistically can happen soon.

They lacked a catchy moniker -- the Hogs were still around, but going on 10 years -- or a player who grabbed everyone's attention for his greatness. There was no Joe Montana or Tom Brady; so the 1991 Washington Redskins sometimes get shorted when it comes to recognition.

They shouldn't be overlooked and Football Outsiders shows why. In fact, they even called it an easy decision in naming them the best teamInsider over the past three decades. After all, only this Redskins team produced an offense, defense and special teams that were ranked among the 30 best over the past 30 years. Two years ago, USA Today called the '91 Redskins the best Super Bowl team ever.

RedskinsAl Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesThe 1991 Redskins dominated on offense, defense and special teams.

The Redskins had one of the game's best-ever coaches in Joe Gibbs, who is in the Hall of Fame. They had good players all over the place, some of whom played great. The whole of this team was better than the sum of its parts. They had three future Hall of Fame players, but eight made the Pro Bowl that season. Two were named All-Pro. Of the Pro Bowlers, only corner Darrell Green made it to Canton (receiver Art Monk and guard Russ Grimm also made it there from this team).

"We had tremendous depth," said Charley Casserly, the general manager of that team, "and a Hall of Fame coaching staff and it starts with them. I have to emphasize that."

That depth was evident at receiver, where Ricky Sanders was their No. 3, behind Monk and Gary Clark. Sanders once set a Super Bowl record with 193 yards receiving after the 1987 season and finished his career with 483 receptions.

"Clark to me is Andre Reed," Casserly said. "He's not better than Gary Clark and he's in the Hall of Fame."

At running back, they used a combination of Earnest Byner (1,048 yards) and Gerald Riggs (11 touchdowns) and Ricky Ervins (680 yards; 4.7 per carry). And they had depth along the line; in a game against Houston, the Redskins lost both starting tackles. So at left tackle they used Grimm, who is in the Hall of Fame as a guard and was a backup in '91. They inserted a one-time first-round pick, Mark Adickes, on the right side. Those two shut down the Oilers' top ends, William Fuller and Sean Jones.

The Redskins could have finished as the NFL's best scoring offense and stingiest defense. But in the season finale, they pulled their starters at halftime and Philadelphia rallied for a 24-22 win; the Redskins finished with the No. 2 scoring defense instead. The Redskins' other loss: a three-point defeat to Dallas. Conceivably, a couple of plays prevented them from an undefeated season.

They led the league in average yards per pass attempt (8.07); they also were first in yards allowed per attempt (6.0). They were plus-18 in turnover differential. They excelled on special teams -- returner Brian Mitchell averaged 13.3 yards per punt return.

Of the Redskins' 17 wins that season, 12 were by double digits. During the postseason, they outscored the opposition 102-41.

Then there's quarterback Mark Rypien. In his first four seasons, he combined to throw 56 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. After 1991, in his final seven seasons, he threw a combined 31 touchdowns to 40 interceptions. But in 1991, Rypien threw 28 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He was sacked seven times; he attempted 421 passes. In fact, the Redskins allowed only nine sacks all season and recorded 50.

"Ryp was a leader, he was smart," Casserly said. "He could throw the deep ball. You look around today and how many quarterbacks can throw the deep ball? And we had a way to get guys deep."

One word sums them up: dominance.

It was the Redskins' third Super Bowl winner in a decade. This run was capped by a season that Football Outsiders considers the best. They even said the gap between this team and the No. 2 team -- the 2007 New England Patriots -- was greater than the Pats and the 11th-ranked team.

But this Redskins team didn't have standout personalities. They just won; usually big. Their coach's personality was to deflect praise. Casserly said those reasons, all of which helped their success, are why this team isn't remembered like, say, the 1985 Bears.

"We weren't a team that said a lot," Casserly said. "We didn't blow our horns. The best phase of the team was the offensive line and nobody cares about the offensive line. Not having that signature guy that TV focuses on probably is a reason this team doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves."

But when people dig into the numbers and the season, that's when this Redskins team gets the praise it deserves.

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