Ben Roethlisberger has been critical of Steelers teammate Martavis Bryant since the receiver was suspended for the entire 2016 season.

July 17th, 2017

Bryant wants Big Ben to explain criticism in 'man-to-man' talk

Ben Roethlisberger has been critical of Steelers teammate Martavis Bryant since the receiver was suspended for the entire 2016 season.

Bryant would like to clear up the issues with a face-to-face meeting with his quarterback when training camp opens later this month.

“I feel like we need to,” Bryant told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. “We should have a man-to-man. Because some of the things he put out there about me, I kind of didn’t agree with how he did it. So I want to sit down and hear his own opinion, man-to-man, about why he did that.”

Upon Bryant’s suspension last season, Big Ben said the receiver needed to “grow up” and reach out to talk to him about the situation. Roethlisberger added that Bryant lied to him and “let down” the team. The quarterback added this May that his receiver must “win back everyone’s trust.”

Bryant wants to have that talk now.

“I mean, at that time, I was going through a lot of stuff. I wasn’t really even worried about his opinion at that time, because there was just a lot that was going on,” Bryant said Thursday. “He’s my brother. I love him. But at the same time, I have my own family outside of football. I have my own problems. I’m not just going to come up to you and open up to you about what’s going on with my personal life. That’s not how I am. We just didn’t see eye-to-eye on that, but as far as right now, everything’s great.”

Added Bryant:

“We haven’t had that sit-down talk yet. Hopefully we’ll have it before the season starts. If not, that’s fine. I’m still going to go out and perform and do what I have to do to be the best teammate I can be.”

The Steelers’ offense jumps to another level with Bryant on the field. In just 21 career games, the 25-year-old wideout has earned 76 receptions for 1,314 yards with 14 touchdowns while averaging 17.3 yards per catch.

With Bryant’s field-stretching ability back, the Steelers are a threat to lead the NFL in points per game. First, he wants to sort things out with his quarterback.

The Arizona Cardinals opened the 2016 season with a two-point loss on a missed field goal versus the New England Patriots.

July 14th, 2017

Bruce Arians: Cardinals 'gotta win close games' in 2017
The Arizona Cardinals opened the 2016 season with a two-point loss on a missed field goal versus the New England Patriots. The defeat was a harbinger of things to come in a disappointing 7-8-1 season for Bruce Arians’ team.

Of the Cardinals’ eight losses, five came by seven points or fewer.

Speaking on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football on Wednesday to promote his new book The Quarterback Whisperer, Arians said he’s focused this offseason on getting back to winning those tight tilts.

“You gotta win close games,” he said. “The NFL is all about close games. And we had won more close games than anybody in the league previous years. And last year, we lost four games that we had — three by kicks, one by just not playing smart. We could have been smarter. We spent all offseason practicing those scenarios that put you in critical situations so we can be a smarter football team.”

In 2016, the Cardinals lost five one-score games, while winning just three contests of eight or fewer points (two three-point victories, one eight-point win). During their 13-3 2016 season, the results were more lopsided. Just five of Arizona’s 13 wins that year came within eight points — not counting the overtime playoff victory over the Packers. Just one of those three defeats were by fewer than 12 points.

Arians is correct to zero in on execution in close contests.

Per NFL Research, 146 of 256 games in 2016 were decided by eight points or fewer, the most such games in a season in NFL history. Of those contests, 72 were won by teams that trailed in the fourth quarter, the most in a single season in NFL history.

The Cardinals overhauled their roster this offseason, hoping to put the lost 2016 season behind them. Those changes included swapping kickers (veteran Phil Dawson in for Chandler Catanzaro) with the plans of eking out a few more close wins. The next step is moving past the mental errors that eroded their chances last season.

Wide receiver Trey Griffey’s stint in Indianapolis appears to be over before it ever had a chance to get started.

July 10th, 2017

Colts waive receiver Trey Griffey off injured reserve

Wide receiver Trey Griffey’s stint in Indianapolis appears to be over before it ever had a chance to get started.

The Colts reached an injury settlement with the son of baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. on Friday, waiving him from the injured reserved list. He’ll become a free agent if he clears waivers.

Indianapolis signed Griffey after he went undrafted in April out of the University of Arizona. Just over two months later, Griffey finds himself a free agent once more.

Griffey played a full season just twice in his four years catching passes at the University of Arizona. The best of those years came as a sophomore in 2014, when Griffey caught 31 passes for 405 yards and one touchdown.

Injuries prevented him from having the college career he wanted, and they might prevent him from cementing a legacy as a pro the way his father did in Major League Baseball.

With 2014 draft selection Derek Carr already landing a rich

July 7th, 2017

Marcus Mariota: Future Titans payday not on my mind

The arrival of a $25 million per year quarterback came and went without much sticker shock from the rest of the NFL. But that also means the days of a $30 million per year quarterback aren’t too far ahead.

Oregon Live theorized that Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota might be the first one to topple that number. With elite-in-the-making projections and timing on his side (Mariota would be a prime candidate for an extension before his club option season in 2019), it will be interesting to see if he can one day set the market.

Unsurprisingly, the reserved quarterback wasn’t much for talking about his future earnings.

“For any athlete, anybody in professional sports, it’s out of your control. I mean, you’ve got to play well, you’ve got to do certain things, things kind of have to line up for those contracts to happen. I can’t think about next season or the season after that,” Mariota told KHON-TV in Hawaii. “I’ve got to focus on our first game and continue to be the best guy that I can be for the team. If all those things happen and things go right and that contract is up, and you know, I’d love to be in Nashville and I think the Titans are such a great organization, that it would be a lot of fun to play for them for a long time.”

With 2014 draft selection Derek Carr already landing a rich, long-term deal, it won’t be long before we pivot our attention to Mariota and Jameis Winston, who went atop the draft in 2015. Established passers like Matthew Stafford will have the first crack at elevating monetary expectations in the QB marketplace but before long another year of rookie contracts will fall by the wayside.

It will be the one solace for the QB tandem. After watching pre-collective bargaining agreement quarterbacks cash in before the advent of the rookie salary structure, another year of solid play could jump them to the front of the line in average salary.

All details of Derek Carr

July 3rd, 2017

The full Derek Carr details

It’s taken a little longer than usual, but finally the full and complete Derek Carr contract details have emerged. And, as usual, the details confirm some reports regarding the deal — and debunk others.

For now, the specifics:

1. Signing bonus of $12.5 million, paid within 15 days of contract signing.

2. Fully-guaranteed 2017 base salary of $5 million.

3. Fully-guaranteed roster bonus of $7.5 million, earned on June 30, 2017 and payable on or about September 21, 2017.

4. 2018 base salary of $7.4 million, guaranteed for injury only at signing and fully guaranteed as of the third day of the 2018 league year in March.

5. Fully-guaranteed roster bonus of $15 million, earned on the third day of the 2018 league year and paid within 15 days thereafter.

6. 2019 base salary of $19.9 million, guaranteed for injury only at signing and fully-guaranteed on the third day of the 2019 waiver period in February.

7. 2020 base salary of $18.9 million, $2.9 million of which is guaranteed for injury at signing. The $2.9 million becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2020 waiver period in February.

8. 2021 base salary of $19.525 million, not guaranteed.

9. 2022 base salary of $19.777519 million, not guaranteed.

10. Annual workout bonuses of $100,000 for 2018 through 2022, based on participation in the offseason program of at least 85 percent.

The deal pays out, as multiple others have reported, $40 million fully guaranteed at signing, along with $70.2 million for injury.

The contract isn’t as backloaded as it could have been (and as some assumed it was), given the looming move from California (with state income tax of 13 percent) to Nevada (with none). Here’s what Carr will receive, year by year:

2017: $25 million.

2018: $22.5 million.

2019: $20 million.

2020: $19 million.

2021: $19.625 million.

2022: $19.877 million.

Relative to the rest of the deal, Carr gets more per year in California than he’ll get in Nevada. The key for Carr becomes 2019; if the team remains in California that year, he’ll pay an extra $2.6 million in taxes.

The cap numbers for the deal are as follows, assuming five years of proration of the signing bonus: $15 million in 2017; $25 million in 2018; $22.5 million in 2019; $21.5 million in 2020; $22.125 million in 2021; $19.877 million in 2022.

The structure confirms that the Raiders’ reported reluctance to sign linebacker Khalil Mack this year due to cap issues is a canard. By loading up $12.5 million in roster bonus and salary and limiting the signing bonus of $12.5 million, Carr ended up with a much larger cap number this year than he otherwise could have had. With a salary of $1 million and a signing bonus of $24 million (which would have still created $25 million in cash flow), the cap number for 2017 would have been only $5.8 million.

Chris Paul ‘despises’ Doc Rivers, had issues with treatment of son Austin

June 29th, 2017

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Chris Paul’s departure from the Los Angeles Clippers came as a shock publicly, but if one report is true, it wouldn’t have been a surprise privately.
ESPN’s Michael Eaves shared several alleged reasons that Paul left the Clippers, generally boiling it down to CP3 having a fallout with coach and team president Doc Rivers over the treatment of son Austin Rivers.
According to Eaves, several Clippers, including Paul, felt that Austin Rivers was given preferential treatment by his father, escaped criticism for mistakes where the rest of the team did not, and made no effort to fit in with his teammates as a result. Though veteran players tried to address the situation, Austin Rivers supposedly did not change his behavior, leading to resentment in the locker room.
The last straw, according to Eaves’ source, came last season, when the New York Knicks offered Carmelo Anthony and Sasha Vujacic to the Clippers in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce, and Rivers. Doc Rivers declined the trade, leading to Paul’s perception that the coach and GM was putting his son ahead of improving the team, with one executive stating that the event means Paul “despises” Doc.
Interestingly, former Clipper Glen Davis spoke of this sort of resentment recently, which led to Austin Rivers ripping him publicly. This is now the second time we’ve heard that there is something to it, and it ultimately may have cost the Clippers one of their superstars.

QB Index: How do ‘Top 100 Players’ QBs of 2017 stack up?

June 27th, 2017

The order of the top 10 players in the “Top 100 Players of 2017″ will be revealed on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET on Monday night. Gregg Rosenthal is using the occasion as a glorious excuse to rank the 16 quarterbacks who made the top 100 list based on where they currently stand on the quarterback hierarchy.

16) Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Top 100 ranking: No. 81

In the final game before Smith lost his grip on his status as Kansas City’s Franchise Quarterback, the throws Smith didn’t attempt stood out. Smith played it safe, failing to pull the trigger on a perfectly designed shot play that had Tyreek Hill streaking open. Later in the team’s Divisional Round playoff loss to the Steelers, Smith’s eyes saw the pass rush instead of a receiver open deep. Smith executes the Chiefs offense especially well in early scripted plays, but perhaps coach Andy Reid grew tired of Smith’s limitations.

Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips told me this offseason that he doesn’t want players who do exactly what he says. That made me think of Smith, a player on the verge of getting replaced again for doing what he’s told.

15) Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

Top 100 ranking: No. 70

A season in which Cousins took significant strides ended with a hard thud.

“If that was a career-defining drive, not a good ending,” FOX broadcaster Joe Buck said about Cousins’ underthrown, season-killing interception in a Week 17 loss to the Giants.

For three months, Cousins did his best to prove he’s not just a system quarterback. The numbers and game tape showed dramatic improvement in his vertical passing and ability to handle pass-rush pressure. That could be why Washington officials have showered Cousins with love this offseason.

Or perhaps Cousins’ erratic end to the season, which included just one passing touchdown in Washington’s final two losses, gives the organization just enough pause to prevent them from making him the highest-paid quarterback in football, with Cousins receiving the franchise tag for the second straight season.

14) Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Top 100 ranking: No. 50

It was amazing that Mariota even survived a rookie season in which he was sacked 38 times in 12 games and was shelved early with a sprained MCL. In Year 2, the Titans protected their investment with an improved offensive line and running game. This season, general manager Jon Robinson put enough weapons on the field for Marcus to go Full Mariota for the first time.

There’s still a lot to learn about the 23-year-old Mariota. His feel in the pocket and mid-range passing skills are reminiscent of Philip Rivers, if Rivers had the foot speed of Steve Young. Unless his recovery from a broken leg gets in the way, this ranking should be his floor in the quarterback pecking order.

13) Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top 100 ranking: No. 57

He’s going to take his shots. Now that he’s surrounded by a starting five of diverse pass catchers, including free agent DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard, those shots should connect more.

Winston’s hyper-aggressive nature will cost him some games and make him the subject of some sky is falling sports columns, because when things go south for him, he can start to look Delhommian. Winston misses too many routine throws, but he also routinely completes the improbable. He has the traits that are toughest to teach, especially with regard to his incredible pocket movement and anticipation.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter put a lot on Winston’s plate early to get him ready for a season like this, when he can sling the ball at will to a supporting cast that looks just right.

12) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Top 100 ranking: No. 31

Lions fans and management have probably never felt more confident answering this question: Is Matthew Stafford good enough?

Streaky to the point of being unreliable early in his career, Stafford put together a 2016 season that was most notable for its lack of ups and downs. Stafford and coordinator Jim Bob Cooter have largely figured out how to harness Stafford’s prodigious arm; now, his teammates just need to catch up. With Stafford still just 29 years old with 96 straight starts, it feels like he’s just now entering his prime.

11) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Top 100 ranking: No. 14

It wasn’t Ezekiel Elliott who saw blitzes on third-and-long and anticipated throws into traffic before receivers broke on their routes. It wasn’t the vaunted Cowboys offensive line that evaded the rush from Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, then reset before delivering a perfect touchdown strike 50 yards down the field. The discussion about how great Prescott’s situation was in 2016 largely ignored the juice needed to throw Dez Bryant open to the sideline from the opposite hash mark. Prescott matched NFL greats like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers throw for throw in shootouts.

There are practically no historical comparisons to Prescott’s rookie season, although Dan Marino’s comes close. And while there is no limit to his long-term potential, this ranking reflects a desire to wait and see how Year 2 unfolds before assuming he’s ahead of other quarterbacks, including future Hall of Famers, who succeed year after year. It’s going to be a fun ride, Cowboys fans. Don’t be in such a rush.

10) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Top 100 ranking: No. 44

Here’s how Newton’s ranking in my year-end QB Indices shook out over the last four years: 16, 1, 14, 8. Carolina’s win totals from the last four years: six, 15, seven, 12. Even the most ardent Cam believers (ahem) can admit the man is streaky. This is true in games, in seasons, even in fashion.

His supporting cast isn’t always an asset. There were times last year when the Panthers played slowly and predictably, like an NBA offense still posting up big men while the rest of the league rained down threes around them.

I believe Newton can evolve coming off shoulder surgery, because he’s done it before, and because there’s never been a quarterback quite like him. (That, and it’s an odd-numbered year.)

9) Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Top 100 ranking: No. 73

The Chargers are running out of chances to give their best player even one year in which his pass protection doesn’t fall apart, or the running game doesn’t collapse, or the injuries around him don’t make it appear that the Football Gods are preemptively punishing the Spanos family for leaving San Diego.

The image of Rivers throwing under intense pressure has become such an intrinsic part of watching football that it’s truly hard to imagine a scenario in which his organization doesn’t let him down. (Pro Football Focus last ranked Rivers’ pass protection as “above average” in 2007.) Rivers is not without faults, with his second-half swoons becoming a trend, but he still has the goods to deliver the late-career storybook season Tony Romo never got a chance to in Dallas.

8) Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Top 100 ranking: No. 11

Carr’s ability to change speeds shouldn’t be a surprise, given his status as a Wiffle ball master. Few quarterbacks combine the intuitive feel that Carr displays on his pretty touch passes with the radar-gun-breaking back-foot bullets Carr deploys when a cornerback is closing fast.

The fourth-year Raider is worth all that new money he’ll be getting because he checks every conceivable box and can carry a franchise in transition. The Brett Favre comparisons never made sense to me, because Carr is so calculated in his decisions, only flashing his athleticism and ability to improvise when he really needs it.

7) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Top 100 ranking: No. 24

In the first half of Wilson’s misunderstood 2016 season, he took an important step in any star quarterback’s life: showing he can play pretty well even when he’s not at his best.

It turned out that Wilson could still be effective from the pocket, even when defenses knew his scrambling ability was limited by injuries. Though he ran for just 7.9 yards per game in his first 10 games (that’s about 30 yards less than his career per-game average entering 2016), Wilson threw for 2,714 yards with 11 touchdowns and two picks, and Seattle went 7-2-1. His deep ball should always remain sexy, and the improvisation was back by midseason, but Wilson showed he doesn’t even need all of his tools all the time.

Seattle’s transition to a pass-first offense had its share of bumps. Wilson will turn 29 years old in this, his sixth season. It still feels like there are more steps — like an MVP-caliber year — to come.

6) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

Top 100 ranking: No. 51

Luck’s road to quarterback immortality hit a few potholes after he made pro football look too easy early in his career. Luck’s recovery from shoulder surgery casts a pall over the upcoming Colts season, but it shouldn’t overshadow what Luck proved in 2016.

Coming off a lost 2015 campaign, Luck adjusted his game, cut down his mistakes and played efficiently through limitations caused by his injury. It was a mature, under-the-radar season that convinced me more than ever that true greatness awaits him, even if it has taken him longer than expected to get there.

5) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Top 100 ranking: Top 10

Ryan was one play away from being the first quarterback this century to win MVP and the Super Bowl in the same season, immortalized by That Throw and Catch to Julio Jones. One play away from going down in the record books with better postseason numbers than his bananas regular season. It’s just hard to pick what that one play was, because there are so many to choose from.

Ryan’s task this season is to shake off the knowledge of how close he was and show the Falcons offense can still rank among the game’s best with former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan now coaching the 49ers. In four seasons of grading every quarterback start, 2016 was the first year in which Ryan finished better than ninth in my year-end rankings. To be considered at the level of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, Ryan still has to show he can perform at that level every season.

4) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Top 100 ranking: No. 22

Last season wasn’t Roethlisberger’s best. The Steelers had missteps executing their passing game, which was dominated by quick hits, long bombs and little in between. Leaning on Le’Veon Bell down the stretch solved the problem, but how different would Big Ben’s season have looked if not for all those near misses to Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton?

But then, as rocky seasons go, it wasn’t so bad. Roethlisberger needed a touchdown to give his team a chance against the Cowboys with under two minutes left, and he delivered (before his defense blew it). He needed a touchdown to win the AFC North against the Ravens and a first down against the Chiefs to win their Divisional Round matchup, and he again delivered both times. The throws were all there. The weapons, with Martavis Bryant back for 2017, are better than ever. There’s every reason to believe Roethlisberger will revert to his usual top-five status.

3) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Top 100 ranking: No. 16

If not for Tom Brady, there would be countless articles written this offseason about Drew Brees’ improbable victories against Father Time.

The 38-year-old Brees has led the NFL in passing yards in five of the past six seasons. The articles about his diminishing arm strength started to appear around 2012, yet the numbers definitively show Brees is among the very best vertical passers every single season.

The Saints seem to ponder drafting Brees’ replacement every year, but he’s still going strong a decade removed from the Dolphins passing on him because of his shoulder surgery. Brees must think about how life would be different in an organization that had any clue how to field a defense. Last season’s Saints team was the third that Brees has led to a top-three finish in points scored without even managing a winning record. Brees can’t stay this good forever, but he remains at the top of the game.

2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Top 100 ranking: Top 10

The Cowboys would have hosted the NFC Championship Game last season if they had been facing anyone but Rodgers in the Divisional Round. No quarterback beats the perfect play call more often or the perfect coverage more audaciously.

The bar is so high that Rodgers can finish with 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the same season that inspired many What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers? articles. His relative ups and downs put him behind Brady for now, but Rodgers showed again down the stretch last season that his best is better than anyone else’s.

1) Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Top 100 ranking: Top 10

There are times when Brady makes things look easy, and it usually starts before the snap. Like when he shifts a receiver to match up with James Harrison, then hits said receiver for a huge gain. Or when the world assumes he’ll lead the Patriots to a touchdown to start the first overtime in Super Bowl history, and then he does it.

Brady didn’t win the MVP in the season where he made his strongest case as the greatest ever, a 15-game blitz that tops any stretch of his career, capped with 104 points in the playoffs and a comeback that will live on as long as Super Bowls are played.

Jarvis Landry’s agent puts deadline on extension talks

June 23rd, 2017

Jarvis Landry put a deadline on contract extension talks: The start of the 2017 season.

The agent for Dolphins’ star receiver, Damarius Bilbo, told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, that Landry won’t hold out over a new contract, but also doesn’t want to negotiate once the regular season begins.

“The ball is still in their court; we are happy to go into a fourth year healthy and eager to put another year in the books,” Bilbo told Jackson.

“Why get mad over something that he signed as a four-year deal? It is what it is. There will be no ill will. He has never considered a holdout. He would never consider not getting better at football.”

Landry, a second-round pick in 2014, is set to make less than $900,000 in the final year of his rookie contract. While the wideout wants to remain in Miami long-term, Bilbo said the regular-season deadline isn’t designed to pressure the Dolphins into doing a deal, but rather so Landry can focus on the season.

“We want to respect the Dolphins,” Bilbo said. “When the season kicks off, we want to continue to respect that. We don’t want every game to be about a new contract. This is not a tactic; that is not an approach. This is who Jarvis is and what he wants out of the upcoming season.”

The 24-year-old receiver set the NFL record for most receptions in the first three years of his career with 288. He’s gobbled up 3,051 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns in three years.

“Who’s the guy that the Dolphins get the ball in their hands when they’ve got to get something going?” Bilbo asked. “He’s the heartbeat. He’s the sparkplug of that offense.”

Bilbo told Jackson that while the Dolphins indicated they want to keep Landry beyond 2017, the sides have not discussed money.

If an extension doesn’t come before the player-imposed Sept. 10 deadline, it appears Landry is comfortable spending 2017 as one of the most underpaid players in the NFL. This is where we should point out that if Miami offered a massive contract extension to Landry’s agent in the middle of November, we doubt he’d decline it simply because there was a fungible deadline put on the process in June.

The Dolphins could decide to wait until after the season to do a big-money extension, or the team could franchise tag Landry for around $15 million in 2018. Barring a catastrophic injury, Landry’s payday is coming at some point.

Baker Mayfield reaches plea deal on misdemeanor charges

June 20th, 2017

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, one of the top quarterbacks in college football, has settled his criminal case.

Mayfield accepted a plea deal on misdemeanor charges of public intoxication, fleeing and disorderly conduct that he incurred in Fayetteville, Ark., on Feb. 25, per The Oklahoman. An initial charge of resisting arrest was dropped, per the report. Under terms of the deal, which was reached June 14 and released on Monday, Mayfield will have to pay $460 in fines.

The police report described Mayfield as intoxicated, yelling obscenities and covered with food, and stated that the Sooners star walked, then sprinted away when a police officer asked him to come toward him. He was tackled by police, and a dashcam video of the incident was made public. Mayfield issued an apology via Twitter a few days later.

OU has also required Mayfield to complete an alcohol education program and 35 hours of community service.

Mayfield was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year. He’ll be a fifth-year senior this fall, and has led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships. His 3,965 passing yards last season ranked ninth in the nation among FBS schools, and three of the eight ranked ahead of him — Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Cal’s Davis Webb — were selected in the NFL draft in April.

Saints offense always overcomes, but losing Terron Armstead is big

June 17th, 2017

I’m hesitant to use the term “devastating blow” in the wake of Terron Armstead’s shoulder injury because the New Orleans Saints’ offense always seems to find a way.

But, man, this is about as close as it could get, outside of Drew Brees and maybe Cameron Jordan or Michael Thomas.

I don’t think many people outside of Saints camp appreciate just how talented Armstead is, because nagging knee injuries have plagued him in the past two years. And now they really won’t get to appreciate it, with a torn labrum suffered in Wednesday’s practice expected to sideline him for four to six months.

It’s unclear yet whether Armstead could return late in the season. But the Saints don’t have to make any decisions on him anytime soon. (He will be eligible for the physically unable to perform list because the injury occurred before training camp, so they won’t have to use the injured reserve designation on him.)

This should’ve been the year when Armstead made his first Pro Bowl, paving the way for Brees, Thomas, Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram in one of the NFL’s most buzzworthy offenses. Peterson said many times that the Saints’ offensive line is one of the things that drew him to New Orleans.

Instead, this injury has now zapped a lot of that buzz out of this offseason.
Terron Armstead is out for four to six months after suffering a shoulder injury in minicamp on Wednesday.
The Saints are long overdue for a breakout season after three straight 7-9 finishes. But it feels like they can’t catch a break this year.

First, standout center Max Unger needed foot surgery that is expected to sideline him until late August. Then came the news that standout defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s career is in jeopardy because of a heart issue.

But there are a few silver linings for the Saints.

For one thing, their offense always seems to find a way — whether they’re replacing star skill-position players such as Reggie Bush or Marques Colston or stud offensive linemen such as Jahri Evans or Armstead.

Armstead played in only seven games last year because of those knee and quad issues and the Saints still led the NFL in total yardage and passing yardage.

The other silver lining is that New Orleans has been stocking up on young offensive tackles in recent years, drafting Stanford’s Andrus Peat with the 13th overall pick in 2015, then drafting Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd pick this year.

It’s likely that Peat will slide over from left guard to left tackle, as that was his natural position in high school and college — and that’s the position he played pretty effectively last year when Armstead was injured.

Ramczyk also played left tackle in college. But the plan was for him to move to right tackle in New Orleans, where he could eventually replace veteran starter Zach Strief. And Ramczyk hasn’t been fully participating in practice yet because of a hip surgery of his own.

Still, the 6-foot-6, 314-pound Ramczyk is a first-round pick at left tackle. So if he flashes potential during training camp, he could wind up in the role. And that would allow everyone else to stay put across the rest of the line: Peat at left guard, Unger at center, newly signed free-agent prize Larry Warford at right guard, Strief at right tackle.

It’s also possible the Saints could kick the tires on some veteran free agents, but pickings are pretty slim at this point.

The last silver lining is that New Orleans still has time to figure all of this out, with six weeks until training camp kicks off and nearly three months until the Sept. 11 season opener on Monday Night Football at Minnesota.

Armstead won’t be there, but the buzz might return by then.