Andrew Luck is coming off major shoulder surgery, and no one is talking about it. In this era of excess coverage of all things NFL, the mysterious recovery of one of the sport's most indispensable players oddly has attracted little attention.
The January surgery on Luck's throwing shoulder came as a surprise, with details initially scarce. It wasn't until late March at the Annual League Meeting that Colts owner Jim Irsay told Fox59 in Indianapolis that Luck had a "slightly torn" labrum, a regrettable phrase that sounds like calling your wife slightly pregnant.
There is no timeline for Luck to hit the field again. Reading between the lines of comments from Irsay and coach Chuck Pagano, it will be a major surprise if Luck is on the field during OTAs or minicamp season. Irsay told Fox59 Luck should be "pretty close to being ready" by training camp, also implying the 27-year-old QB could be brought along slowly. Placing Luck on the PUP list to start camp would not be a surprise.
The news is not all as bleak as a windy winter walk to St. Elmo's. Luck played through this injury for nearly two full seasons, missing a lot of practice time in 2016. He could come out the other side improved. But during an offseason in which Cam Newton's shoulder surgery caused great consternation, his AFC counterpart's recovery has flown under the radar.
"I would be lying if I said it wasn't [unsettling]. I can't lie to you," coach Chuck Pagano said at the Annual League Meeting. "We've got to adapt. That's what great teams and great organizations have to do."
The Colts haven't been a great team since losing the 2014 AFC Championship. Even back then, they were a flawed roster propped up by a franchise quarterback capable of transcendence. They've lost 16 games and a general manager in the two seasons since. Pagano knows he's the next man out if Luck has trouble recovering his fastball, which is one more reason why Luck's rehab should get more attention as the season draws closer.
Speaking of which ...
Storylines that deserve more attention
1) Philadelphia's acquisition of Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could prove to be a coup. It's also a window into how business will be done in today's trade-happy, short-term NFL. The Eagles are getting a highly motivated player entering the final year of his contract. Jernigan is pumped to get into a scheme that showcases his pass-rushing ability, and the Eagles now have another standout to play alongside Fletcher Cox. The move looks especially prescient in the wake of Philadelphia nose tackle Beau Allen's torn pectoral muscle, suffered while weightlifting last week two days after the trade.
2) The Jernigan trade likely caught the eye of Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan. He also has a talented interior defensive lineman in Sheldon Richardson who has faced questions about his effort. NJ.com believes the Jetsultimately will trade Richardson, even if they only get a mid-round pick for him. It's hard to imagine the Jets doing better than that considering Richardson's off-field history and $8.069 million salary in 2017.
The Jets' fire sale may yet have more clearance items to unload. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes nobody should be surprised if Eric Decker is not on the Jets' roster this season. That could make him a candidate to be traded, although a release also remains possible because he's coming off hip surgery.
3) Desmond Trufant's monster contract extension in Atlanta said a lot. It said the Falcons recognize Trufant's value as the team's best defender, even if he missed the sweet spot of the team's Super Bowl run. Trufant has enjoyed a better career than Stephon Gilmore or A.J. Bouye and was rewarded for it. It's a reminder that GM Thomas Dimitroff has done some of his best work on draft day when trading up. The team gave up a third- and a sixth-round pick to move up eight spots and take Trufant No. 22 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Finally, the contract for Trufant is the clearest indication yet the Falcons are not looking to add Richard Sherman. Trufant is their Richard Sherman and Atlanta also gave a hefty extension to fellow 2013 draft cornerback Robert Alford in December. Jalen Collins showed promise down the stretch last season and undrafted rookie nickelback Brian Poole was a revelation last year. Falcons coach Dan Quinn is trying to build a new "Legion of Boom," not recreate the old one. Sherman's big salary doesn't fit.
So where could Richard Sherman land?
Staying put in Seattle is the most likely finale to the latest Sherman miniseries, considering that NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the Seahawks are looking for trade compensation like a first-round pick or a good player and a pick, in addition to paying Sherman's $13.6 million salary in 2017. It could be difficult to find a team willing to go that far, but it also would be foolish to rule out the possibility. The Seahawks and Sherman have proven publicly they are willing to divorce if the right option comes along. This is not the healthiest stance to take in any marriage.
My picks for the most logical suitors would be as follows:
New Orleans Saints: The pursuit of Malcolm Butler shows the Saints are willing to invest a pick and a contract into a big-name cornerback. This is also an organization with a murky front-office structure that tends to make impulsive purchases. With coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis facing a potential do-or-die season, the team could be willing to take on some future pain for present gain. It's the Saints' way.
Philadelphia Eagles: GM Howie Roseman is not afraid to make bold, creative trades. Sherman would fit a big need at cornerback, although the Eagles' lack of cap room would make a potential deal rather complicated. To make it happen, Philadelphia probably would have to send back a big contract in return. Bring on the NBA-style trades!
New England Patriots: The Patriots have to be mentioned because Rapoport reported the team showed interest in Sherman before signing Stephon Gilmore. Still, the trade price tag looks prohibitive for them. Why deal for Sherman when the team can potentially keep Malcolm Butler for $3.9 million?
Miami Dolphins: With the exception of Oakland, the teams listed here have front offices that don't fear decisive action. That could be read as "just crazy enough to make a trade like this." Miami brought Byron Maxwell to town from Philadelphia last season as part of a trade before the draft, so there's a certain logic to Dolphins impresario Mike Tannenbaum getting Maxwell's old Seahawks teammate to join him. "Mike T" is overdue to make some noise this offseason.