Despite the fact that we're squarely in the NFL offseason, there's no shortage of drama on the business side of the game. Several big-name players want to get PAID, but who's in position to truly cash in? Which cases could legitimately impact the 2018 season?
What's real? What's fake? What's farce?
All valid questions.
In this edition of the Schein Nine, allow me to survey high-profile "situations" around the league (in alphabetical order) and give my opinion on what should happen next.
1) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
I don't really care that Beckham showed up to organized team activities this week. Yes, the three-time Pro Bowl wideout skipped these voluntary workouts last year. And yes, it doesn't hurt that he's trying to make nice with new head coach Pat Shurmur.
But am I supposed to forget about the concerning video that leaked in March? What about all of the shenanigans -- on and off the field -- that I documented in a column one year ago? Or the ankle injury that forced him to miss the last 12 games of last season? Or the fact that I've won as many playoff games as Odell?
Set to make $8.459 million in the last year of his rookie contract, Beckham desires a lucrative long-term deal before the new seasons begins. I say the Giants should take a wait-and-see approach here. Have the 25-year-old play out the season.
Beckham's a remarkable talent with Hall of Fame-caliber skills. But there's always something that distracts from winning.
2) Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last season, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, Bell turned down a five-year offer that would have paid him $30 million over the first two years. He wanted to be paid like a No. 1 RB and No. 2 WR. Back in February, Bell was tossing out figures like $50 million guaranteed. The Steelers and the running back just don't seem to be in the same ballpark. And that's a problem.
If I were running this franchise, I would've really looked to get a long-term deal done in February. I love Bell. I would've paid him. He's special. But if we couldn't strike a multi-year pact back then, I would have let him hit the open market.
Of course, this isn't the route Pittsburgh took. The organization franchise-tagged him for the second straight season. Now, the Steelers have to put their best foot forward and hope Bell is staying in shape. Clearly, this situation is less than ideal.
With Randy Fichtner taking over as offensive coordinator, the Steelers sure could've used a full offseason of participation from their chess-piece back. Pittsburgh needs him focused on football and doing whatever it takes to win the franchise's seventh Lombardi Trophy. But now, it appears Bell will stay away through Labor Day, eventually signing his $14.544 tag right before the 2018 regular season begins. That will impact his touches in September. And possibly home-field advantage in January. And then everyone will be right back in the same place next offseason.
3) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady not being at OTAs this week is indeed something. Disagree? Well, in the past, I recall Brady gushing about how OTAs shape a season. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer has a reputation as one of the game's hardest workers and a true believer in The Patriot Way. Now, he's having brunch in New York while workouts are going on back in Foxborough. Can't imagine Bill Belichick being too happy about that. So, what gives?
The upside is the Super Bowl. It's Brady. It's Belichick. It's the greatest, longest, most impressive dynasty in sports history. But there's a lot of drama here. How do all parties involved move forward? The only deodorant for Brady, Belichick and the Pats is winning. But if New England -- which opens up the season with two interesting affairs against the Texansand Jaguars -- loses a couple of games early ...
4) Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Some of these situations are complicated. This one is not.
PAY. THE. MAN. HIS. MONEY.
Donald is a gem, an unstoppable force. He's worth every penny. Do it by mid-July. If I'm Donald, I don't report this year until I get paid. He has the leverage. L.A. is a leading Super Bowl contender with him fronting the defense. Donald has paid his dues. Now it's time to get paid.
5) Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
NFL Network's James Palmer has the latest update on this one:
Gronk is worth it. Always. Having arguably the best tight end in NFL history focused -- after being beat up physically and mentally at the end of last season -- is a big deal. Make it happen, Pats.
6) Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Comparatively speaking, Jones is underpaid. According to Spotrac, the Falcons star currently ranks eighth among receivers in average salary. And Jones is at least a top-three wideout -- if he's not just No. 1. Jones signed a five-year, $71 million extension in 2015. He's an absolute stud ... but he's not on deck.
I won't have an issue if Atlanta gives Julio new money this offseason, but it has to benefit the Falcons. They hold the cards.
7) Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders
Mack is heading into the final year of his rookie deal. Back in April, our Steve Wyche reported that Mack wants a new contract with guarantees in excess of $65 million. Well, Derek Carr rightly got paid. And Jon Gruden rightly got paid. The team is moving to Vegas. Mack is an elite pass rusher. He would absolutely command that number on the open market. He's the face of the Raiders' defense.
While franchising Mack in 2019 is an option, I'd give him the long-term deal he has earned.
8) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Every time a quarterback signs a new deal, the price goes up. I know Rodgers has two years left on his current contract. I don't care. Pay him. Now. Yesterday.
9) Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks
I've long argued that Earl Thomas is one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL. He's been a great, impactful, true star for a Seattle defense that experienced sustained excellence for years. Thomas is in the final year of a $40 million extension he signed in 2014.
Unfortunately, it's not 2014 anymore.
I love Thomas. I've been a fan for a long time. Seattle is smartly getting younger on defense and retooling. I wouldn't rush to make an aging player -- one who asked for another coach to acquire him -- one of the highest-paid safeties in the game.