INDIANAPOLIS -- The first day of the new-look NFL combine (the league rearranged the setup to an older format, which is maybe only something interesting to people on the ground here) was largely dominated by the new-look league year (the combine was pushed back a week, plopping the initial rumblings of free agency squarely in this timeframe), with franchise tags being a hot topic in Indy as a large group of coaches and general managers spoke to throngs of media members.
There wasn’t any prospect action, so for now we’ll focus our winners and losers -- and it’s just a name, everyone is a winner, don’t be mad -- largely on a group of people who are already in the league.
But there were very much a group of people who benefited from the action Wednesday,and a few surprises occurring.
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Alshon Jeffery: The Bears wide receiver didn’t get tagged on Wednesday, which means he’s about to hit free agency. And it means he’s about to cash in. Jeffery has issues off the field (a PED suspension in 2016) and has been injured during the last two seasons. But he’s still a young, physical receiver with immense talent. He is going to get (over)paid by someone in free agency. Getting guaranteed money this year would be great, but hitting the market now is a major boon to his bank account.
Nick Perry: Perry might make even more money. There are many pass rushers available in this draft, but there isn’t a whole lot of availability for guys on the open market thanks to Chandler Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul and Melvin Ingram all getting the franchise tag ( ). Perry is a 26-year-old pass rusher who started 12 games last season and recorded 11 sacks. , and he is probably going to get north of $10 million a year.
Forrest Lamp: There is a very weird obsession with the length of certain body parts in the NFL, and for teams interested in drafting offensive linemen, arm length is a big deal. You can’t be holding off blockers with tiny little T-Rex arms. Lamp, a hot prospect at guard who is probably going to go in the first round, just made himself some real cash by somehow making his arms an inch longer between the Senior Bowl and the combine.
Forrest Lamp— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) March 1, 2017
32 1/4" arms
10 5/8" hands
Arms measured in over an inch longer than at that Senior Bowl (31 1/8)
Who knows how (Inspector Gadget therapy treatment?) or why the magical Lamp’s arm grew in the past few weeks, but it’s irrelevant, because he is now over the magic number of 32. He’s going to get drafted early.
Trumaine Johnson: The Rams decided to place the franchise tag on Johnson again this year, rather than let him hit free agency, which means he’s now going to make more than $16 million this season. He’s a poor man’s Kirk Cousins, getting a chance to play on two fully guaranteed deals before hitting the market. He is the highest-paid cornerback in the league, which is remarkable considering where he stands in the “most-talented cornerback in the league” conversation. He also joined some rare company.
Paxton Lynch: The good news is that Vance Joseph said he believes that the Broncos are OK with Lynch and Trevor Siemian. The bad news is that . Maybe that’s just offseason motivational chatter, but it’s odd that he wouldn’t be pumping up his second-year quarterback, even if there isn’t a whole lot of work on which to base that assumption. The offseason is for optimism, and this was an odd take. It makes you think that, even if John Elway really wants to make sure that the Lynch pick (he was taken in the first round in 2016) ends up being a good one, Tony Romo is very much in play for Denver.
Trade rumors: If the Browns, 49ers or Bears were hoping they could really start to put the framework of a Jimmy Garoppolo deal in place at the combine, they can think again. The rumors ran rampant Wednesday that the Patriots Garoppolo. The good news is that even if the Patriots are leaking that, it absolutely does not put a kibosh on any chatter about Garoppolo. What makes more sense is that the Pats get this news out there over the last few weeks ( ) to create more demand for their backup quarterback, who is in short supply. Basic economics, really.
Colin Kaepernick: The 49ers quarterback is exercising his option to leave the 49ers, but where is he going? There aren’t many good starting quarterbacks, and there aren’t many great quarterbacks in the draft, but there will be teams hesitant to sign him for his off-field beliefs (whether that’s right or wrong is irrelevant; it’s true), and there will be teams hesitant to sign him because he hasn’t been great the last few years. There are also better options coming to this market, including Romo, Mike Glennon and Jay Cutler, to name a few.
Leonard Fournette: The powerful running back out of LSU rolled right into the combine giving no bleeps about his size, having apparently put on five pounds since his playing days in Baton Rouge and weighing a robust 240 pounds. No one’s drafting him to be faster than everyone else, but giving up an early pick for a running back is a risky proposition, and it’s even riskier if the running back is adding pounds. We’ll see how he looks when he rolls in for media sessions and for the drills -- if it’s all muscle and he looks just as fast as before, he would flip right back over to the other side of this piece.