The Debrief

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NFL training camp winners and losers: Tom Brady's new status

Tom Brady's new contract is one of a kind, like so many aspects to his career. It's the rare contract "extension" that only makes a player's long-term future appear even more uncertain that it was before.

The primary motivation for the deal, arriving one day after Brady's 42nd birthday, was to award the six-time Super Bowl champ with an $8 million raise for 2019 while carving out extra salary cap space for the New England Patriots. Brady's 2019 pay is now $23 million, sixth among starting quarterbacks. The extra two years on the contract are practically irrelevant after NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the deal will void on March 17, 2020, the final day of the league year. Brady's career is more year to year than ever before, and this contract recognizes it.

The temporal nature of the pact helps to explain Brady's relatively nonplussed attitude when he spoke Monday about getting the contract done.

"It is what it is. That's a good line," Brady said. "So whoever said it, it's very pertinent. Like I said, there's a lot of guys who have one year left on their contract(s), so the situation -- I've got one year to go and we'll see what happens."

The difference between this extension and Brady's last contract is instructive. Back in 2016, the Patriots gave Brady a huge signing bonus ($28 million) to lock him in. That meant any change to Brady's status would cause an acceleration of dead money against the salary cap.

Now the Patriots and Brady can each essentially revisit their status every year, without any contractual hang-ups. The Pats are protected financially if Brady suddenly decides to retire or if he suffers a serious injury. If Brady excels in 2019, he'll have the looming threat of free agency to get the best deal possible. It's hard to imagine Brady taking his talents elsewhere in free agency, but I'd never say never in the NFL.

Any understanding or verbal agreement about revisiting a contract takes an enormous amount of trust from both sides, but that's what Brady has developed with owner Robert Kraft. As Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston noted last week, Brady essentially put the onus for his new contract at the feet of his owner. Kraft appears to have responded, and Bill Belichick is happy enough to make an exception to the usual way the Patriots do business. Perhaps it was that sixth title that finally won Belichick over.

Everything about Brady's career now involves uncharted territory, but the bottom line of this contract sounds familiar: It will be revisited every season -- even Tom Brady has to keep playing at a high level to keep making top dollar.

Brady's contract capped a busy second week of training camp. The rest of the winners and losers are below:

On the upswing

Sam Darnold's chances for a second-year leap:New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas worked on signing center Ryan Kalil for months, Kalil told Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Douglas told the New York media that he sees Kalil as Darnold's new Josh McCown, an intelligent veteran leader to help guide the 22-year-old QB through the inevitable challenges of being a young starter. Kalil also shores up what was a shaky spot for Gang Green on the pivot.

Darnold's weaponry and offensive coaching staff were upgraded this offseason. He's impressed with his daily consistency at Jets camp, by all reports. All signs point to the best season by a Jets quarterback since Chad Pennington.

Todd Bowles' happiness: Darnold's former head coach sounds refreshed working under Bruce Arians in the sleepy, sweaty environs of Tampa. He has an incredibly young group in the secondary. At some recent practices, both starting safeties and three of the top four cornerbacks have been first- or second-year players. Pass rusher Noah Spence reportedly looks more at home in Bowles' scheme, while Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea form an intimidating duo at defensive tackle. The expectations are low after the Bucs finished dead last in defensive efficiency last year -- before losing Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander this offseason. The pressure is off; just look at Bowles' head shot!

Terry McLaurin's chances of starting at wideout: Asked which receivers have stood out at Washington Redskins camp, safety Landon Collins quickly responded with tight end Jordan Reed and rookie wideout Terry McLaurin. That amplifies the consistent practice reports in Washington about McLaurin's impressive speed and intelligence. Redskins coach Jay Gruden probably would be happy with a strong reason to bench Josh Doctson.

Minnesota Vikings' offense:Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook and the Vikings' O-line have taken so quickly to new coordinator Gary Kubiak's offense that Mike Zimmer is shook. The Vikings head coach had to privately address with the members of his stacked veteran defense why they keep getting taken apart in practice, calling it a "major concern."

That sounds like camp motivation and hyperbole. If I were a Vikings fan, I'd view it as a positive that Minnesota has an offense capable of making the Vike vets look bad, even on the practice field.

Vontaze Burfict's roster spot: When the Raiders signed Burfict in the offseason, I figured he was one of those veteran signings who wasn't even guaranteed to make the team, especially considering his injury history. After a week of camp, he seems a lot more likely to be named team captain. The 28-year-old has been repeatedly cited by teammates as the most intelligent guy on the field, the avatar for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. The reporters say he looks fresh and healthy. Expect a lot of Burfict in your life in 2019, whether you like it or not.

Stephon Gilmore's bid to take up the "best cornerback" mantle: There isn't a universally recognized top cornerback in the game at the moment, but Gilmore could bid for the honor in his third year under Bill Belichick. Through Sunday, according to the Boston Herald, Patriots quarterbacks including Brady hadn't completed a single pass against him in over a week of practice, which is a preposterous notion. (It may also say too much about the current Patriots pass catchers.)

Ryan Fitzpatrick's comfort in his own skin: The Dolphins quarterback competition didn't sound particularly close until Miami's Saturday scrimmage, with Fitzpatrick still the favorite to start Week 1.

"I feel more comfortable with myself and my game right now than I ever have," Fitzpatrick said last week.

I don't doubt him for one minute, and a Ryan Fitzpatrick who feels more comfortable than this version of Fitz is a dangerous man indeed.

Josh Rosen, however, is already making significant progress, according to coach Brian Flores, who noted there's a "lot of time left" in the competition. That showed on the field Saturday, where the Miami Herald reported that Rosen made some "remarkable throws" while Fitzpatrick had possibly his worst practice as a Dolphin. Rosen's preseason performances will loom large in this one.

Jahlani Tavai, starting linebacker:Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia is looking for core pieces to build around on defense. It sounds like he has one in Tavai, a second-round rookie who has quickly been making noise with the starting unit, rotating among all four linebacker spots.

Michael Bennett, Bill Belichick disciple: The Patriots' defense is deeper at linebacker and throughout the secondary than it has been in five years, and possibly in the entire decade. But the lack of pass rushers is eye-opening. Enter Bennett, who has quickly established himself as the best player and leader on the defensive line. Belichick won loyalty by allowing Bennett to arrive at camp late to handle a family issue.

"Coach Belichick -- it's nice when you have a coach that sees you as a human, sees you as a human being, not just a number, and you're able to go talk to him, tell him what's going on, and you're able to go take care of it," Bennett said last week. "I think for me, that's easy to look him in the eye and whatever he asks me to do, I'll do it simply because I know he respects me as a human being, and I respect that."

That's just Bill Belichick, making lasting human connectionsall overthe place.

Trending down

Andrew Luck's availability: Perhaps Andrew Luck's calf injury will be long forgotten by mid-September, yet another early-August storyline that vaporizes before the sport matters. The Colts say Luck could play if necessary this week, and they are being as careful as possible. But the fact remains that Luck suffered the injury more than three months ago, and he admitted that he was "going backwards" last week after trying to practice. Luck will sit out practice at least through the team's first preseason game. It's all about getting Luck ready for the regular season, but he's the one who noted "bodies don't care about a date on a calendar."

The Colts have had some poor early injury luck. Rookie wideout Parris Campbell hasn't practiced in a week, and starting defensive end Jabaal Sheard is out indefinitely, possibly into the season. The team also had to put backup running back Spencer Ware on reserve/PUP on the way to an injury settlement. None of those maladies matter much compared to what happens with Luck, whose latest injury is a reminder as to why coach Frank Reich values backup Jacoby Brissett so much.

Houston Texans' offensive depth: The Texans released 2017 third-round pick D'Onta Foreman on Saturday before he made it through his third training camp, with the Houston Chronicle citing his work habits as the reason. The move underscores Houston's lack of depth throughout the roster, especially at the skill positions. Starting running back Lamar Miller should be a candidate to lose carries, but it's anyone's guess as to who will be his backup. The Athletic picked undrafted Damarea Crockett as a name to watch and perhaps the early favorite for No. 2 duties. A stronger running game would make Deshaun Watson's life so much easier, but there's little reason to believe the Texans have fixed their issues.

That's also true on the offensive line, where it's become clear that Matt Kalil will be Watson's left tackle, with first-round pick Tytus Howard at left guard. Kalil's last productive, reliable season came in 2015.

Cam Newton's football mortality: By most accounts, Newton has looked good on the practice field in camp as he works his way back from shoulder surgery. But his quotes and his semi-regular absence from team drills speak loudly, too.

"I don't want people to just assume, 'Oh, Cam's back!' I'm doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that I'm able to practice and to practice with the capabilities I know I can and the team expects me to be," Newton told reporters last week. "A lot of times, you have to just get out of your own head."

There's no reason for alarm, but when Cam says he's not all the way back, it's worth listening to him.

"Where I'm at now, I may feel certain things and my [brain] may say, 'You're hurt.' But you're really not hurt. Because you've been hurt for so long, you don't know what 100 percent feels like," Newton said.

Drama in Jacksonville Jaguars camp:Yannick Ngakoue's decision to end his holdout on Sunday qualifies as great news, especially because he genuinely seems ready to move on without a contract.

"I'm not angry, what's meant to happen is going to happen," Ngakoue told reporters after returning to work, via the Florida Times-Union.

The situation reminds me of DeMarcus Lawrence's preceding standoff with the Cowboys. The Jaguars are putting off paying Ngakoue now, but they'll wind up paying him more in the long run.

Life without Blake Bortles has also made for a calmer evaluation of the team's offense throughout camp. Rather than judging daily if Bortles is ever going to "get it," reporters were counting the consecutive days without a Nick Foles interception. (His five-day streak ended on Friday, for those keeping score.) Aside from the injury to rookie linebacker Quincy Williams, it's been a positive camp for the Jags. They could be in the market for a veteran off-ball linebacker once we get closer to cuts.

Miami Dolphins veterans like Kiko Alonso: New Dolphins coach Brian Flores doesn't have loyalty to previous regime holdovers like Alonso, especially ones who struggle in pass protection. Alonso is playing behind Jerome Baker, who is emerging as a new Dolphins leader. Third-year pro Raekwon McMillan is behind former CFL star Sam Eguavoen. Flores is looking for his guys.

Green Bay Packers secondary optimism: Perhaps Mike Pettine will never get to see what his young, loaded secondary looks like fully healthy. Presumptive starter Kevin King, who has only played 15 games in two years, is back out of action with a hamstring injury. 2018 second-round pick Josh Jackson hasn't practice at all at camp. The Packers have enough depth to survive, but they won't be special without better injury luck.

Hot topics in Chicago Bears camp: With nearly every starting job accounted for in Chicago, it feels like the local writers are struggling to come up with many sizzling storylines beyond the kicker battle and explaining why the offense consistently (and understandably) loses to the defense in practice.

Zac Taylor's Plan A: 2017 top-10 pick John Ross' absence from training camp thus far because of a hamstring injury underscores Taylor's difficulty when planning for the 2019 season. A.J. Green is already out, and Ross can't be relied on, which gives the first-year head coach a math problem. Taylor's old outfit in Los Angeles runs "11" personnel (1 RB, 1 TE and 3 WRs) more than any other team in the league. Taylor admits that's his plan in Cincinnati. But what if the Bengals don't have three usable receivers?

After Tyler Boyd, the Bengals are rotating a gang of unproven receivers like Auden Tate, Cody Core and Josh Malone with the first team. "Last Chance U" alum Damion Willis, an undrafted rookie, has a real shot to make the team or even crack the top three. Still, this is one of the league's worst receiver groups when Green isn't on the field. Taylor may have to go to Plan B, which would include using more two-tight end sets.

Drew Lock's chances of playing in 2019: From the practice reports to his Hall of Fame Game effort, Lock appears far more likely to be the Broncos' No. 3 quarterback as a rookie rather than challenge Joe Flacco.

Jachai Polite's chances of impacting the New York Jets' defense: The Jets are desperate for a pass rusher to emerge, but the third-round rookie and polarizing draft prospect probably won't be the guy. Polite's been buried on the depth chart and "shown nothing so far" in camp, according to the New York Post. Hey, at least the team can conveniently blame former general manager Mike Maccagnan for the pick!

Jerick McKinnon's early-season role for the San Francisco 49ers: While Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida run wild at 49ers camp, McKinnon is still not back from the torn ACL he suffered last season. At this point, it won't be a surprise if he is a game day inactive early in the year because he doesn't help on special teams.

The slowly creeping reality of Greg Robinson protecting Baker Mayfield's blind side: A headline from The Plain Dealer this week: "Should we worry about Greg Robinson?"

If you have to ask the question, you already know the answer. Facing Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon in practice every day could make any tackle look bad, but the Browns' decision to generously re-sign Robinson this offseason without giving him competition was a curious move. The same paper that posted the Robinson headline also ran a 15-part (!) series entitled "How Baker Mayfield Changed Everything," including three pieces on how he's impacted the local economy. Let's just hope there isn't a series next year titled "How Greg Robinson Changed Everything for Baker Mayfield."

Seattle Seahawks' defensive line: This is the second straight week that Pete Carroll's group up front makes this list. The latest setback to the group was first-round pick L.J. Collier's "unusual" ankle injury. Ezekiel Ansah still hasn't practiced. There is a chance the Week 1 starting lineup is Cassius Marsh, Al Woods, Poona Ford and Quinton Jefferson. Turning this defense into an asset may be Carroll and Bobby Wagner's toughest challenge yet.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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