Here's a look at some of the top rumors for Monday, Feb. 29:
The Denver Broncos have focused their efforts this offseason on retaining the services of Von Miller, Malik Jackson and Brock Osweiler. With ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting that Denver has been unable to work out a long-term deal with Miller, the Broncos are set to use their exclusive franchise tag on the pass-rushing specialist. The exclusive tag guarantees that Miller will play for the Broncos in 2016 by preventing him from negotiating with any other teams while automatically calculating his salary for the upcoming season by averaging the five highest salary cap numbers at his position. Although Miller will be back for the defending champs despite not reaching a deal, Jackson appears headed to free agency. Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post reports that Jackson is likely looking for $14 million per year on his next deal, a number he would have to test the free-agent market in order to get. According to Renck, the Broncos' last offer to the defensive end was less than $11 million annually, leaving plenty of ground to be made up between the two parties. 9 News' Mike Klis makes the case for making Jackson one of the top paid interior defensive linemen in the NFL, comparing his production to Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Marcel Dareus' numbers. Denver is also ramping up efforts to retain Osweiler, according to ESPN's Jeff Legwold, despite Peyton Manning's ongoing retirement debate. Legwold notes that even if the Broncos have made a fair offer to Osweiler, he might want to test the free-agent waters and see if a larger deal could be had for another QB-needy franchise.
Calvin Johnson's camp took exception to the rumors from the combine this weekend that is he trying to squeeze money out of the Detroit Lions or looking to get cut so he can retire as a free agent, according to Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio delved into the theory, pointing out that it would in fact be better for Johnson to retire as a free agent in case he opts for a comeback. If Johnson retires as a Lion, and then unretires, Detroit would still own his rights. But a source close to Johnson told Robinson the receiver's decision to retire simply boils down to if he still has the desire to play. Johnson will likely start feeling more pressure from the Lions to make a decision in the coming weeks because Detroit needs to decide its next move. As of now, it looks like the Lions will have to decide on cutting Johnson or keeping him before the receiver has made his own future plans.
The Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King isn't ready to declare a winner just yet, but he came away from the combine believing Carson Wentz will be the first quarterback off the board on draft day. Coming from North Dakota State, however, his need to adjust to the speed of NFL defenses is possibly greater than prospects from FBS programs, making the Cleveland Browns at No. 2 a less-than-ideal fit for the young QB. King thinks Josh McCown could be a good mentor if the Browns keep him, but Wentz will "probably have to play early there." If he slides to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 4, Wentz would have the opportunity to learn behind Tony Romo while shouldering none of the pressure that comes with being the face of the franchise. For now, Wentz is ahead of Cal's Jared Goff, but that could change plenty of times before the draft arrives.
Janoris Jenkins is fed up with contract negotiations and took to Twitter to vent his frustrations. The Los Angeles Rams have failed to reach a deal with the cornerback despite talking about a new contract for over a year now, leaving only the franchise or transition tag as a last-ditch attempt to keep Jenkins in the fold. According to ESPN's Nick Wagoner, the Rams were believed to be offering around $7-8 million annually to Jenkins before he broke off contract negotiations after the team's Week 6 bye last year. That offer fell well short of the $10.5 million per year deal that Wagoner has heard Jenkins is looking for. But NJ.com's Jordan Raanan tweeted that Jenkins is looking for an even larger deal, something in the neighborhood of $12 million per year. Jenkins has changed agents in anticipation of hitting the free-agent market, so this report might be some posturing from his new representation. The Rams have yet to decide which of their starting corners will get the tag, Jenkins or Trumaine Johnson, but they do at least now know that the franchise tag will cost nearly $14 million and the transition tag is worth nearly $12 million.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec doesn't see pending free-agent offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele's status with the Baltimore Ravens affecting fellow lineman Eugene Monroe's standing with the team. According to Zrebiec, it would be mutually beneficial to Monroe and Baltimore if they parted ways this offseason. GM Ozzie Newsome made it clear that Monroe is only considered the starter right now because of Osemele's pending free agency, marking Monroe as a Plan B at best. Baltimore made an aggressive offer to Osemele in an effort to keep him from hitting free agency, but the Ravens still expect the tackle to shop the offer in free agency. Zrebiec believes Baltimore could hang onto Monroe while Osemele mulls free agency, but even if they ultimately lose Osemele they should still move on from Monroe.
In addition to making an aggressive push for Osemele, Baltimore is also reportedly close to working out a new contract with Joe Flacco that would drop his 2016 cap number from $28.55 million to something much more manageable. Florio is reporting that the two sides are close enough to a deal that it could "happen within the next 2-4 days." The recent increase in the salary cap for the upcoming season has lowered the urgency for a re-structured deal, giving Baltimore enough flexibility to still operate even if they have to carry Flacco's major cap hit. ESPN's Jamison Hensley expects the new deal to push Flacco back into the top five in guaranteed money.
The Miami Dolphins and impending free agent Olivier Vernon are still not close to a deal despite a meeting between the front office and Vernon's agent, David Canter, this past Saturday, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. With a deal far from imminent, Miami must now tag Vernon in order to prevent him from hitting the open market. Salguero lays out five different scenarios the Dolphins are looking at in the event no multi-year deal is struck by the tag deadline of 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. Included in these scenarios are tagging and keeping Vernon, tagging and trading him or tagging him as an extension of the on-going negotiations. If Miami lets Vernon play under the franchise tag, he will swallow up 10 percent of the team's available cap space in 2016, which is far from ideal. Tagging and trading Vernon is a possibility, albeit unlikley, that could fetch Miami some early-round picks. But the worst, and least likely option to play out according to Salguero, would be to tag Vernon in the hopes of biding more time for negotiating a long-term deal. If they can't settle on a long-term contract and the team then removes the tag, that would both anger Vernon and send a bad message about how management treats its players.
The New York Giants have made it publicly clear that they want to bring Jason Pierre-Paul back for next season. According to Raanan, the only way this is going to happen is on a one-year, prove-it deal. The Giants aren't ready to commit to the defensive end following another surgery on his mangled hand, wanting instead to take a safer approach to the negotiations. If a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $10 million per year comes to the table from another team, Raanan expects Pierre-Paul to jump on the opportunity. For now, question marks surrounding Pierre-Paul's hand are preventing the Giants from venturing anywhere near a deal of that size.