Denver Broncos Sign Case Keenum to Fill Quarterback Hole

kase-keenum-vikings-playoffsThe Denver Broncos entered the 2017-18 NFL season with Super Bowl aspirations. But what they got was a 5-11 campaign that was mired by bad quarterback play.

General manager John Elway has taken a step to remedy this situation by signing former Minnesota Vikings starting QB Case Keenum. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first broke the news:

Keenum Had a Career Year with the Vikings

Despite setting an NCAA passing record with 19,217 yards, Case Keenum has been an unheralded pro prospect throughout his 5-year NFL career.

He spent two seasons with both the Houston Texans and L.A. Rams to begin his career, starting a number of games with both teams. But he never truly flashed the skills of a franchise QB with either squad.

case-keenum-vikingsKeenum signed with Minnesota in 2017 under the assumption that he’d back up either Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater. But injuries to both players thrust him into a starting role early on.

The 30-year-old never disappointed, having a career season with 3,547 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. He also competed 67.6% of his passes, which is over 7% higher than any other season.

Still, Minnesota failed to make a long-term commitment to Keenum. And with both Bradford and Bridgewater still in the mix, it’s unclear what the Vikings will do moving forward.

Denver Chooses Keenum Over Cousins

As I discussed earlier, the Broncos were interested in Kirk Cousins. But the ex-Washington Redskins QB is also looking for a deal that would involve a short 3-4 year window. Most teams like to lock up franchise quarterbacks for 7 years, with options from years 5-7.

Broncos adviser and former coach Gary Kubiak suggested that Elway should go after Keenum, rather than further continuing in the Cousins sweepstakes.

In an ironic twist, Cousins is going to sign a deal with the Vikings.

Deal Reportedly worth $36 Million Over 2 Years

Keenum may be cheaper than Cousins, but he wasn’t ultimately that cheap. Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reports that the contract is worth $36 million over two years, with $25 million of this guaranteed.

According to 2017 statistics, the top 14 NFL quarterbacks earn an average of $19 million per season. This means that Keenum, at $18 million per year, is around the middle of all starting QBs.

Broncos Solve a Glaring Problem

Last year’s starting QB Trevor Siemian saved the team an incredible amount of money, because he was on a rookie deal that paid less than $700,000. But the old adage that you get what you pay for definitely applies here. Siemian struggled throughout the year and eventually got injured.

Backups Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch weren’t any better in his place. And a team that started the year 3-1 and entered Super Bowl conversations ultimately lost 10 of their final 12 games. They also finished last in the AFC West, which few saw coming.

The Broncos are early into what’s expected to be a big market for quarterbacks this offseason. The Cleveland Browns traded for former Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, Minnesota is signing Cousins, and the Redskins traded for former Chiefs QB Alex Smith.

Don’t expect the market to wind down either, because the Bills, New York Jets, and Arizona Cardinals are also actively looking for a signal caller. Each team has the pieces to compete for a playoff spot if they can just get a good starting quarterback.

Denver Broncos Targeting Kirk Cousins in 2018

kirk-cousins-steelersThe Denver Broncos were one of the biggest disappointments of the 2017-18 NFL season. And the main reason why Denver went from Super Bowl hopefuls to a 5-11 record is because they had no quarterback consistency. But general manager John Elway thinks that Kirk Cousins could help solve this problem.

According to Yahoo Sports, the Broncos see Cousins as an “all-in” target when free agency kicks off on March 14. Cousins had three strong seasons in a row as a full-time starter for the Washington Redskins. And he would be a huge upgrade over the team’s QB options last year.

Roadblocks to Denver Landing Kirk Cousins

Signing Cousins isn’t going to be cheap. And the Broncos don’t have an abundance of salary cap room at this time. But sources told Yahoo Sports that the team is currently looking at scenarios to free up between “$40 million and $50 million” in cap space before the offseason.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll sign Cousins even if they have the available money. Multiple factors will come into play on both sides, including how many years the contract will be, guaranteed money, and how successful the team could be in the future.

It’s possible that Cousins meets with the team and decides that he doesn’t think they have a chance to win in the immediate future. Or he could simply not like the organization from an overall standpoint.

On Denver’s side, they may not want to commit significant guaranteed money if they can find a solid, cheaper QB prospect.

Competition for Cousins is Intense

kirk-cousins-nflAnother thing that could prevent the Broncos from signing Cousins is the competition for the quarterback’s services.

Denver is far from the only team in the hunt for this star QB. The Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, and Cleveland Browns are all reportedly interested in Cousins.

Each of these teams may have to deal with the fact that Cousins will want a different deal from the average long-term QB contract, which is 7 years with optional years from seasons 5-7.

His contract might be a 3-year or 4-year deal, with salaries that are nearly guaranteed each season. Such a deal would favor Cousins, because he’d get plenty of money and the chance to revisit the negotiating table before he turns 33 years old.

Many teams like the common 7-year deal for franchise quarterbacks, because they can better control the fifth, sixth and seventh years. That said, one or more of the aforementioned teams may ultimately decide that they don’t want to engage in a 3 or 4-year contract.

Signing Cousins will Take Away from Other Team Needs

kirk-cousins-2016Another issue with chasing Cousins is that teams will have to sacrifice in other areas of their football team. This is something that Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t seem thrilled about.

“Part of the reason we’ve been winning games and staying in games is because we’ve been playing good on defense and we’ve been a smart team and all those things,” Zimmer explained.

“I want to be really careful about taking away from our strength and saying, ‘OK, we’re not going to be able to do this and we’re not going to be able to do that anymore because of financial reasons or something else.”

Of course, Zimmer of may change his mind when he and the team eventually meet with Cousins in free agency.

Speaking of which, teams will be able to officially exchange contract figures on March 12, just before the free agency period officially starts. Cousins is expected to earn a lucrative deal and will compare offers from different teams.

Cousins Free Agency is Reminiscent of Peyton Manning

Back in the 2012 off-season, Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning was highly sought after by multiple teams. He met with different franchises before deciding on the Broncos. It would be like deja vu if Cousins did the same and also settled in Denver.

peyton-manning-chiefsHowever, a lot must happen before this becomes a reality. The next two weeks for Cousins will be a rush as he meets with different franchises who are looking for a really good quarterback.

On Cousins side, he’ll not only want a big deal – which is almost guaranteed after three straight years of 4,000+ passing yards – but he’ll also want to play for a winner.

Cousins and the Redskins had some solid years together. But the roster around him was never good enough to make a serious run in the playoffs.

The Browns and Jets probably won’t offer an immediate chance to win. Denver has pieces in place to be a winner, but they’re also coming off a poor 2017 campaign. Minnesota made the NFC championship last season. But as Zimmer noted, they may not want to mess with their formula too much.

In summary, there are still plenty of questions before we find out what uniform Kirk Cousins will be wearing next season.

Steelers Put Martavis Bryant on the Trade Block – 5 Teams where He could Go

martavis-bryant-2018-tradePittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant clearly wasn’t happy with his role last season. He was especially unhappy with seeing rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster pass him on the depth chart.

But head coach Mike Tomlin said that there was no way Bryant would be going anywhere in 2017.

“He was out of bounds in what he said … it will be dealt with,” said Tomlin. “I’ll visit with him at some point … he’s a good guy to work with in the building and has been.”

It looks like the organization has had a change of heart, though, about shopping their disgruntled receiver. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Pittsburgh is listening to potential deals on Bryant.

What can Bryant do for Teams?

Martavis Bryant is no doubt a very talented receiver. The 6’4″ target runs a 4.4 forty and had solid hands too. His combination of height and speed is what makes him so dangerous to opposing teams on deep balls.

martavis-bryant-2018-trade-1The Clemson man was really building momentum in his first two seasons, tallying 549 and 745 receiving yards in 2014 and 2015, respectively. But his career hit a snag when he was suspended for all of 2016 after multiple substance-abuse violations.

Bryant returned in 2017, but didn’t gain much traction early on in a reduced role. He also complained about playing time and was benched for a short while. He ended the year with 605 receiving yards and a career-low three touchdowns.

Considering his potential, though, Bryant could be a huge bargain for his $705,000 base salary next season. And given that Pittsburgh has Antonio Brown and Schuster, they can afford to part with their talented wideout.

5 Teams that Bryan could be Traded to

1. Buffalo Bills

According to CBS, the Buffalo Bills made a play for Bryant last season. And given that their receiving core isn’t significantly better, it doesn’t seem like they’ve lost interest in him. Tight end Charles Clay led the team with 558 receiving yards, while prized rookie wideout Zay Jones caught just 27 of 74 intended passes. The team traded for Kelvin Benjamin, but they could no doubt use more help in this department.

2. Washington Redskins

Washington traded for Kansas City QB Alex Smith, signaling that they’re not going to give Kirk Cousins a big deal. And their top receiver is Jamison Crowder, who’s not a big-play threat. Adding Bryant to the fray would help make Smith’s transition to the nation’s capital much easier.

3. Chicago Bears

The Bears are another team without a top-flight wide receiver. And they even gave former Steeler Markus Wheaton a chance to fill this role, although he didn’t have any success. Young QB Mitchell Trubisky needs some weapons, and Bryant would be a nice start.

4. Miami Dolphins

Miami could pay Jarvis Landry to retain his services. Or they could let him walk and pursue Bryant or another wideout. This will all come down to how much the Dolphins are willing to shell out for a guy who’s become a star under their watch.

5. San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco landed their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. They now need to add more talent to their roster, especially on offense. Bryant would be a great step in this direction, considering his speed, height, and hands.

As for Pittsburgh, they could really use a good defensive player, or at least draft picks to land multiple prospects. Again, they’re pretty set in the receiving department. And they also have star running back Le’Veon Bell along with veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger.

But what they lack is pass rushers and elite secondary players. That said, look for them to shop Bryant for a defensive player or two.

Chiefs Trading CB Marcus Peters to Rams

marcus-peters-tradeThe Kansas City Chiefs have a deal in the works to trade cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams. Peters is one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, but he’s also caused some drama in Kansas City.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the deal is nearing completion and should be agreed upon by both teams. However, the trade can’t officially be finalized until March 14, which is considered the first day of the league’s year.

Why are the Chiefs Trading Marcus Peters?

As good as Peters may be, he’s also had his share of on-field problems. In a game against the New York Jets last season, he threw an official’s flag into the stands and left the field, because he thought he’d been ejected.

When Peters found out that he wasn’t ejected, he returned to the field without any socks on. The 2-time Pro Bowler was suspended for a game afterward for a combination of this incident, and an argument with head Coach Andy Reid on the way to the airport before the game.

Marcus PetersDespite the suspension, Peters came back the next game against the Rams and played excellent. His two interceptions helped the team win and clinch the AFC West title.

He also drew heat from Chiefs fans for sitting during the national anthem throughout the entire 2017 season. When asked to explain his reasoning during an interview with the Kansas City Star, he said the following:

“I’m an American, bruh. I’m an African-American that was born in this wonderful country that we all can live in. How about we start all protecting each (expletive) other and come together, you feel me? It will be better for it.”

What are LA and Kansas City Getting in This Trade?

Los Angeles will likely lose cornerback Trumaine Johnson in free agency. That said, they’ll be looking for another elite cornerback to fill this space on their defense. And the trade for Peters will do exactly this.

Peters himself should enjoy the move too, because he won’t be far from his hometown of Oakland, California. And given that Kansas City has been very active on the trade market – they dealt quarterback Alex Smith already – they’ll have no trouble also dealing their star cornerback.

The compensation that L.A. is sending back hasn’t been announced yet. But NFL Media’s Rapoport reports that the team will most likely get draft picks and/or a player in return.

Rapoport believes that the possible player could be outside linebacker Robert Quinn. Quinn had 8.5 sacks for the Rams last year, which pushed his career tally up to 62.5.

Regarding the draft picks, it’s unclear exactly how high these will be. But gaining Quinn along with one or more middle-round picks for Peters wouldn’t be a bad deal.

Chiefs should Have a New Look Next Season

Even after dealing Peters, Kansas City should still have a very strong defense. But many will be interested to see if their offense improves or regresses next season, based on Smith being dealt.

Smith is a veteran who started for the team the past two seasons. By dealing him, Kansas City is ushering in the the future with second-year QB Patrick Mahomes.

The 10th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes certainly isn’t short on confidence. In fact, he claims that he has an even stronger arm than Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.

“I’ve seen these things with Josh, but I’m going to say I believe I have the stronger arm,” Mahomes told the KC Star. “I’ve never seen anyone throw harder than me with the football. Until I see it in person, I believe I have the stronger arm.”

He added, “The furthest I have even thrown the ball was 85 yards. But I had a little wind at my back, so I don’t claim that one. At my Pro Day, I threw it like 80 if it was windy, but I didn’t throw it as good as I could have. It was wobbling.”

The Chiefs will also return second-year running back Kareem Hunt, who rushed for 1,327 yards and added another 455 receiving yards. This helped him earn Pro Bowl top honors as a rookie.

Add in explosive wide receiver Tyreke Hill, and the team could have one of the best offenses in the league. But much of this will depend upon how Mahomes performs in his first year as a starter.

Rob Gronkwoski Retirement Coming after Super Bowl 52 Loss?

rob-gronkowski-retirement-1Rob Gronkowski is one of the greatest receiving tight ends in NFL history. But he may be thinking of cutting his career short prematurely following a 41-33 Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gronk has played eight seasons, which isn’t much based on the standards of other great receiving tight ends. However, a number of injuries have raised speculation that he might call it quits on a Hall of Fame career. It helps matters that Gronkowski has saved his football earnings, while living off endorsement deals.

Following the Super Bowl, Gronkowski refused to commit on if he’ll be back on the field in 2018 and beyond.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I’m definitely going to look at my future, for sure. Sit down the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at.”

According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Greer, the chance that Gronkowski retires is very real:

“I believe Rob Gronkowski’s rumblings about retirement are real. He’s been responsible with his finances (putting away most of his football money and living largely off his endorsement cash), and he’s taken an absolute beating. That this is a real choice for high-profile players now is great progress, too. Give credit to ex-Niner LB Patrick Willis and ex-Lions WR Calvin Johnson credit for blazing that trail.”

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington had sources tell him that “[Gronkowski] “began telling some people close to him, even before he suffered a concussion in the AFC Championship Game, that football was taking a toll on his body and he was contemplating the end of his playing days.”

Gronkowski WWE Rumors

If Gronkowski indeed retires from the gridiron, then he might already have another career lined up in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). He joked about this during the 2016 offseason, while also mentioning that he didn’t want to retire before teammate Tom Brady.

Gronk is good friends with WWE star Mojo Rawley, who fueled the retirement rumors by telling TMZ that it’s a “matter of when, not if.”

Could the Retirement Talks be about Money?

Gronkowski restructured his contract last year, because he was only slated to make $5 million. The restructuring was about including incentives that helped him make $10.75 million, which is closer to what he’d make on the free-agent market.

rob-gronkowski-retirementHe’s set to earn $9 million in 2018 and $10 million in 2019, which will keep him as the league’s highest-paid tight end. But he could want more money, given that his career might be shorter than expected due to his many injuries.

The 28-year-old has some leverage after a great Super Bowl performance, in which he caught 9 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He also had another strong regular season, catching 69 passes for 1,084 yards and 8 touchdowns.

These stats put Gronkowski into the conversation with elite receivers, rather than just a tight end who’s good at catching passes.

Gronk Retirement Rumors are Likely Real

Considering that Gronkowski has thrived for years on a team that doesn’t play many contract negotiation games, it’s unlikely that he’s faking retirement for a bigger payday. There’s a very real possibility that he could hang up his shoulder pads.

“I’ll sit down in the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at,” Gronkowski told the New York Post following the Super Bowl LII loss.

Gronkowski missed Super Bowl LI due to an injury. And he was in danger of missing Super Bowl LII, following a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jacksonville safety Barry Church in the AFC title game.

The extra week between the AFC Championship and Super Bowl helped Gronk prepare. And he delivered, catching two second-half touchdowns, the second of which gave the Patriots a 33-32 lead.

Hard to Think about Next Year

rob-gronkowski-retirement-2“It stinks to be on this [losing] side for sure,” said Gronkowski. “This stinks. You put all that hard work in the whole year. I’m proud of the boys.”

The media asked Gronkowski if he’s going to use the Super Bowl 52 loss as motivation. And he responded by saying that it’s tough to look this far head.

“It’s just hard losing. I don’t even know if I can think about next year right now,” Gronk explained. “We’ve just got to sit back and relax for a couple of weeks and just look back at all our fond memories of a great season we had.”

The main reason why Gronkowski feels like a loser is because Philly QB Nick Foles had the performance of his life on the main stage. That said, it’s not like anybody can count New England out in the 2018-19 season. This is especially the case if Rob Gronkowski does come back for another year or longer.

2018 Super Bowl Prop Bets – Analyzing Odds on Super Bowl 52 Props

Prop bets are always one of the most exciting parts of the Super Bowl. And this year will be no different, because there are plenty of fun Super Bowl 52 prop bets available.

In fact, we have dozens of 2018 Super Bowl prop bets available. These range from things as simple as which team will win the coin toss, to who’ll win the game’s MVP award.

You can check out all of our Super Bowl 52 prop bets here (click “More Bets” in the Super Bowl line). And keep reading as I analyze a few of the bets being offered and give advice on what you should do.

Player to win 2018 Super Bowl MVP

  • Alshon Jeffrey (PHI) +2500
  • Brandin Cooks (NE) +2000
  • Chris Hogan (NE) +4000
  • Danny Amendola (NE) +1800
  • Dion Lewis (NE) +1800
  • Fletcher Cox (PHI) +3000
  • Jake Elliott (PHI) +6000
  • James White (NE) +3500
  • Jay Ajayi (PHI) +1600
  • LeGarrette Blount (PHI) +4500
  • Nelson Agholor (PHI) +5000
  • Nick Foles (PHI) +333
  • Rex Burkhead (NE) +5000
  • Rob Gronkowski (NE) +900

Who will win the Super Bowl 52 MVP Award?

nick-foles-eaglesThe biggest surprise omission from our 2018 Super Bowl MVP prop bet is Tom Brady. If he were listed, he’d certainly have the best chance to win the award.

Instead, what we’re left with is a group led by Philadelphia QB Nick Foles at +333. I can’t really say that I see any value in picking Foles here, unless he’s somehow able to repeat his performance from the NFC Championship (352 passing yards, 3 TDs). But given his erratic play, I wouldn’t bet on this happening at the current price.

Sometimes, the Super Bowl MVP is a player whom you don’t expect to win. But mostly, it’s the big-name guys who’ve been around the league for a while. Case in point, Tom Brady has won two out of the last three years, while Giants QB Eli Manning (twice), Baltimore QB Joe Flacco, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers, Saints QB Drew Brees, and Denver linebacker Von Miller have won within the past decade.

That said, I’m looking at players like Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Alshon Jeffrey, Dion Lewis, and Jay Ajayi.

I believe that all five of these players are offering better value than Foles. And while Foles does fit the typical quarterback requirement, look at the QBs who’ve actually won – none of them are backups-turned-starters.

1st score of the game

  • Eagles Field Goal +450
  • Eagles Passing TD +440
  • Eagles Rushing TD +600
  • Any Other Eagles Score +1600
  • Patriots Field Goal +375
  • Patriots Passing TD +275
  • Patriots Rushing TD +600
  • Any Other Patriots Score +1800

What will the first score be?

jaguars-patriots-afc-championship-oddsObviously many are thinking that the New England Patriots will score first. After all, they have a dominant offense and are led by Brady.

But Super Bowl history shows us that the Patriots have only scored first in two of the seven Super Bowls during the Brady/Bill Belichick era.

That said, the Eagles are a good bet to score first. Philly also ranked third in the league with 6.3 points per quarter, which is worth keeping in mind.

The Eagles scored 53 TDs against 29 field goals during the regular season, for roughly a 2:1 ratio.

They only had 9 rushing TDs during the regular season, so you want to throw this bet out at +600.

They had 38 passing TDs against 29 field goals, which gives Eagles Passing TD +440 the most value (versus +450 for a field goal). But note that Wentz threw many of those touchdowns, making the value here slimmer than it appears.

First play of the game

Run -145
Pass +115

Will the first play from scrimmage be a rush or pass?

The Eagles rushed 473 times versus passing 341 times on the season, for roughly a 12:8 ratio. The Patriots passed 448 times versus rushing 389 times, for roughly a 10:8 ratio.

Combined, the teams are at an 11:9 ratio with regard to rushes vs. passes.

The run vs. pass odds are at an 11.2:8.8 ratio. Therefore, I give the slight edge to a running play happening first.

Longest made FG – Either team

Over 47.5 (-130)
Under 47.5 (+100)

stephen-gostkowski-kickerPatriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski made 37 of 40 field goals on the year, with 7 of these coming from 47+ yards. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott made 26 of 31 field goals, with 10 of these coming from 47+ yards.

This means that both kickers, who have powerful legs, combined to make 17 of their combined 71 total field goals from 47.5+ yards. However, this is only 24% of their combined attempts.

Combine the fact that the odds are -130 on betting over 47.5 yards, and you definitely want to take the under here.

Will there be a defensive or special teams TD

Yes +190
No -235

eagles-defenseThe Patriots scored one touchdown on a kick return. But they haven’t gotten any defensive touchdowns on the year.

The Eagles tied Jacksonville for the most defensive touchdowns at 5, and they scored one in the postseason.

This means New England and Philadelphia have combined for 7 defensive and special teams touchdowns in 18 games.

The theoretical chances of seeing either a defensive or special teams TD in this game are 38.9%.

Now, let’s do a little math on why betting No is a good idea:

  • You stand to win $100 for every $235 wagered.
  • 100/235 = 42.6% bet equity.
  • 42.6 – 38.9 = 3.7% advantage for No bet.

As you can see, wagering on no defensive or special teams TDs is a smart bet.

Final Thoughts on 2018 Super Bowl Prop Bets

You’ll have no shortage of prop bets to choose from for Super Bowl 52. But I strongly suggest that you limit your prop bets to those that can actually be researched through stats.

I discussed a few above, and you’ll also find some other wagers where you can spot value on one side of the line through research.

Of course, there are also some pure gambles, such as the coin toss bet. I never like these, because there’s no skill to guessing whether a coin will and heads or tails. Instead, I like the other prop bets that do bring skill into the equation.

If you also go this route, make sure to do your research and pick a winner!