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Winners, losers from the NFL lockout

Fans wait outside the NFL Players Association headquarters in Washington AP

We have broken down the deal.  Now let’s look at who escaped this lockout slog looking good, and who didn’t.

The Winners

Veteran NFL players: They missed an offseason of minicamps and practices, which should make it easier to fend off young players in camp this year.  More importantly, they will get a bigger slice of the salary cap pie.

Top rookies will make far less in this new CBA, and that money will go to veterans.  Getting NFL teams to agree to a very aggressive “salary cap floor” also guarantees NFL revenue will be spent back on the players.

For example, teams have to spend to 99% of the salary cap as a league this year.  The lowest any team can spend is 89% of the cap.  These are huge increases from previous floors that will guarantee small market teams spend aggressively.

Players you’ve never heard of: Minimum salaries of players will go up $50,000, which is a substantial increase.  Almost half the league has minimum salary contracts.  The players did right by their right by the rank and file.

Bank accounts of NFL owners: The NFLPA* was playing defense all along.  We essentially knew ahead of time the owners would leave this lockout with a larger share of total revenue, and that is the case.

The players made advances in other issues like safety and a salary cap floor, but ultimately the owners will now get a greater share of a rapidly growing revenue pool.  This can be a “win-win” deal, but there’s no debate the owners will get more money in this CBA than the one that came before it.

That was the entire idea behind the lockout.

Small market teams: Yes, they have to spend more to get to the salary cap floor.  They also will get more revenue sharing help from the top-earning teams in the league.

Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth: These two leaders from the NFLPA* earned a lot of respect.

Mediator Arthur Boylan: Sure, the biggest breakthrough happened when he was on vacation.  Boylan still kept the union and NFL moving forward during choppy waters.  He helped to finish the job mediator George Cohen could not.

A special thanks to …

Patriots owner Robert Kraft: No owner did more to bring the two sides together and compromise than Patriots owner Robert Kraft. That he did it against the backdrop of his wife’s battle with cancer makes his contributions all the more remarkable.

Colts center Jeff Saturday’s remarks after the agreement said it all.

Gets his own category

DeMaurice Smith: Fans may disagree, but we suspect history will show Smith did well by his players.  Let’s face it: The NFLPA* is always going to be an underdog in labor talks.  They have fewer resources and they were playing defense.

Smith took over a difficult situation and slowly earned the respect of his players and adversaries in ownership.  He didn’t give up that much and got plenty in return for financial concessions.  Most importantly, he helped get to the finish line without missing significant time in training camp or the preseason.

The lockout was caused by owner unhappiness at a time of unprecedented prosperity in the league. They locked the players out, which has to count for something.  Both sides were at fault for taking fans for granted throughout the process, and dragging this out longer than necessary.  That’s why Smith isn’t a “winner” but someone that earned respect.

Losers

The 18-game concept: It will eventually be a matter of debate again, but not for at least two years.  This was a big issue for the players, and they didn’t budge.

Roger Goodell: We think Goodell is a very good commissioner with the best interests of the game at heart. But there’s no denying he’s been beaten up over the last few months.  Player anger towards him became significant.  A perception grew that he couldn’t control his owners. (We’re not sure anyone could.)

Goodell’s efforts to end the lockout cannot be underestimated.  But this is a results business: Goodell presided over the longest work stoppage in league history.  In the long run, people will view the 2011 lockout as a speed bump for a wildly successful league.  In the short run, the NFL can’t have it both ways.

They have sold the concept to fans on NFL Network that the “season never ends.” It ended for five months this year, running the league’s biggest fans through an emotional ringer.

This lockout came primarily as a money grab at a time of unprecedented success for the league. Considering the economic climate the lockout took place in, Goodell takes a short-term hit.

Hardcore coaches: Practice contact will be reduced dramatically in the regular season. Offseason practices will also be cut down, with big fines for coaches who break the rules.

“The only thing the players didn’t get is someone else to play for them,” one source told PFT.

Highly-drafted rookies: This especially applies to top ten picks.  No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton is slated to get roughly $22 million over the next four years.  For comparison’s sake, last year’s top pick Sam Bradford got $50 million guaranteed and $72 million over his first six years.

First-round picks outside the top-16 picks will take a hit, but it’s not as dramatic.  Players taken in rounds two-through-seven may actually benefit because of the minimum salary increase.

All 2011 rookies: It will be harder for quarterbacks like Newton or Minnesota’s Christian Ponder to win starting gigs and succeed in camp after missing the entire offseason.  This will especially hurt late-round picks and undrafted players that now seem more likely to be cut.

Undrafted players:  With the per-team signing bonus expenditure limited to $75,000 per team for undrafted players, these rookies will no longer be able to tell prospective teams to put their money where their mouths are.

Agents: They are taking a hair cut on fees for rookie contracts, which are already headed South.  Anti-holdout measures for rookies will also be taken, which takes away a leverage point for agents.

Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb: Perhaps the Bengals could have traded Palmer before the 2011 draft. Now it appears he may spend the 2011 season at home because he refuses to play for Cincinnati.  The Bengals probably won’t entertain trading him until 2012.

McNabb would not still be a member of the Redskins if not for the lockout. With five highly drafted rookies getting taken, the market for him has been significantly diminished. His exorbitant bonus isn’t due until September, which means the Redskins may fruitlessly try to trade him for a while.  More jobs will be filled in the meantime.

Vincent Jackson: Fans won’t forget that Jackson was the last Brady antitrust plaintiff to give up on squeezing the NFL for more cash in exchange for his signature.  We don’t think it’s fair to call the players “greedy” throughout much of the process, but Jackson, Logan Mankins, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning took a P.R. hit by seeking extra benefits for attaching their name to the antitrust case.

NFL fans: The players and owners take us for granted because they can.  We just want football, and we support the league completely. It was an insane act of hubris for the NFL to threaten to take the game away when it was at its very peak. The league isn’t likely to pay for it.

Rich Eisen from NFL Network put it well: “Love all these fans saying now we missed nothing when my twitter feed has been filled for 4 months MFing everyone involved in this process.”

The more you love the game, the more these last five months have been difficult to swallow.

The lucky part: We won’t have to go through this again for at least another decade.

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Seahawks waive Patrick Lewis

Russell Wilson AP

The Seahawks have waived center Patrick Lewis.

Lewis lost his starting job in camp, and the Seahawks cut him after unsuccessfully trying to find a trade partner. Justin Britt will start for the Seahawks at center.

Lewis had joined the Seahawks in 2014 via the Browns practice squad. He played in six games, starting four, at center in 2014 and started nine games last season. Lewis is just 25, and like recently released ex-Vikings center John Sullivan, should soon draw some interest from other teams.

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Broncos cut Britton Colquitt

New Orleans Saints v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Broncos are changing punters.

Britton Colquitt, who has punted in Denver since 2009 and was the team’s longest-tenured player, was released today. The Broncos are going with rookie seventh-round draft pick Riley Dixon as their punter this season.

The Broncos tried to trade Colquitt, but his salary made that unlikely. He’ll now be free to shop himself to 31 other teams.

Colquitt is unlikely to remain unemployed long, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him punting somewhere else in Week One.

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Titans bounce another 2015 draft pick

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 03:  David Cobb #23 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Titans General Manager Jon Robinson hasn’t wasted much time clearing out members of his predecessor Ruston Webster’s draft class.

The Titans announced that 2015 fifth-round pick David Cobb has been placed on waivers as part of the moves the team made to reach Tuesday’s 75-man limit. The Titans traded for running back DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry this season, leaving little room for Cobb in the backfield.

Cobb joins second-round wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, sixth-round linebacker Deiontrez Mount and sixth-round center Andy Gallik as 2015 picks sent packing. First-round pick Marcus Mariota isn’t going anywhere, but reports from Tennessee this summer suggest that third-round offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi may not make the club.

The Titans also dropped wide receiver Jarrod West in order to get down to 75 players. With the first spot in the waiver order, more changes will likely be coming over the next week as the Titans pick through the discards from other teams.

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Shaq Lawson to PUP, Reggie Ragland to IR as Bills make first cuts

Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson (90) takes part in drills during their NFL football rookie minicamp in Orchard Park, N.Y., Friday, May 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) AP

The Bills drafted linebackers with each of their first two picks in April’s draft, but they won’t be getting immediate contributions from either one.

First-round pick Shaq Lawson will remain on the physically unable to perform list, leaving him ineligible to play for at least the first six weeks of the season. Lawson has a shoulder injury and it’s not definite that he’ll be playing at all this season. Second-round pick Reggie Ragland definitely won’t as he’s been placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL.

The Bills also placed sixth-round wideout Kolby Listenbee on the reserve/non-football injury list as he continues to recover from sports hernia surgeries. Listenbee will also be out for at least six weeks. Wide receiver Marcus Easley joins Lawson on the PUP list.

Cornerback Jonathan Dowling, tight end Chris Gragg and tackle Justin Renfrow were all waived with injury designations. Long snapper Reid Ferguson, linebacker David Hawthorne, offensive lineman Robert Kugler, wide receiver Greg Little, tight end Jimmay Mundine, linebacker Eric Striker, defensive lineman Alameda Ta’amu, quarterback Austin Trainor and defensive tackle Justin Zimmer were all cut from the roster outright.

The Bills acquired linebacker Lerentee McCray in a trade with the Packers earlier in the day.

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Steelers place Green on reserve/PUP

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green (80) pulls on a  hat during a practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Latrobe, Pa., on Saturday, July 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Steelers placed tight end Ladarius Green on the reserve/physically unable to perform list Tuesday.

That means Green can’t play until Week Six, at the earliest. He has until Week 11 to get healthy enough to be activated.

Green had ankle surgery in January. Both Green and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin have denied rumors that Green has been held out because he’s having recurring headaches.

Green signed with the Steelers in March after playing four seasons with the Chargers. He’s yet to practice with his new team.

Second-year man Jesse James has been the Steelers’ top tight end through the preseason and figures to stay in that role for now even if the Steelers use the waiver wire or trade to acquire a veteran tight end.

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Vikings release John Sullivan

JOHN SULLIVAN AP

A day after word spread that the Vikings were looking to trade veteran center John Sullivan, the team released him.

It usually works that way.

Sullivan returned from a back injury that kept him out for all of last season and started the first two preseason games, but the Vikings decided to go with Joe Berger at center.

Sullivan, 31, was a sixth-round pick of the Vikings in 2008 and was the team’s starting center from 2009-14.

“Our entire organization appreciates everything that John Sullivan has done for this franchise,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. “Sullivan led our team, not only with how he played the game, but also with how he handled himself in our community. We wish John Sullivan and his family nothing but the best as they move forward.”

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Bruce Ellington to miss season with hamstring injury

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 1: Bruce Ellington #10 of the San Francisco 49ers makes a catch in front of Lamarcus Joyner #20 of the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on November 1, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 49ers acquired wide receiver Jeremy Kerley in a trade with the Lions on Sunday and it looks like he’ll have a shot to step into the role once earmarked for Bruce Ellington.

Ellington was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season a few days after he suffered a hamstring injury in the team’s game against the Packers. While teams can hold off on designating a player to return from injured reserve, players eligible for that slot need to be on the initial 53-man roster so Ellington won’t be back until 2017.

Ellington had one catch in the preseason while also serving as a kick and punt returner. The 2014 fourth-round pick had 19 catches for 215 yards in his first two seasons and appeared to be on track for a significant role on offense this season.

The 49ers also cut linebacker Jason Fanaika to reach the 75-man limit.

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Vikings don’t have many options, if Teddy Bridgewater’s injury is serious

2834712 Getty Images

The good news is that Adrian Peterson is healthy.

The bad news is, if Teddy Bridgewater isn’t, there aren’t many directions in which the Vikings can go to replace him.

At most positions in the NFL, supply outweighs demand. But not at quarterback, where there aren’t enough good ones to go around. And Bridgewater’s injury, if it’s as serious as the reports and accounts of teammate reaction suggests, will require the Vikings to quickly devise a Plan B.

If they go “next man up,” Plan B consists of journeyman Shaun Hill, a 36-year-old veteran who started eight games for the Rams in 2014 after Sam Bradford’s latest ACL tear. Hill has 34 total career starts, with a career-high 10 coming in 2010 with the Lions.

The upside is he knows Norv Turner’s system. The downside is, with all due respect, Hill a bounce-around guy who has never been mistaken for a great quarterback.

And so the Vikings can either wait for the waiver wire or try to find a trade partner. Mark Sanchez is available; in 2010, he beat the Vikings on a Monday night, but with a meh 21-for-44 showing for fewer than 200 yards. The Buccaneers could be willing to trade Mike Glennon; he’s entering the last year of his rookie deal. Colin Kaepernick also could be had, if the Vikings are willing to step into the shoes of a contract that pays out $11.9 million fully guaranteed this year, with a $14.5 million injury guarantee for 2017.

Kaepernick led the 49ers to a win over the Vikings to start the 2016 season, an aberration in hindsight for both teams — and a night in which Kaepernick had good-not-great passing numbers (17 for 26, 165 yards, no touchdowns, no picks) and 41 yards rushing. (Given Vikings guard Alex Boone’s position on Kaepernick’s national-anthem stance, it would be a little awkward, to say the least, to bring Kaepernick to town.)

Current Jets quarterbacks Geno Smith or Bryce Petty are available, along with Browns quarterback Josh McCown.

McCown would be an intriguing option given his play for the NFC North’s Bears in 2013 while Jay Cutler was injured (McCown had a solid game against the Vikings, in a close loss), and it was McCown who as a second-year player with the Cardinals threw an end-of-game Week 17 pass touchdown pass to Nate Poole against the Vikings in 2003, knocking Minnesota out of the playoffs and causing Paul Allen’s head to explode.

For that reason alone, McCown could be the most intriguing option — if the tanks-fer-nuttin Browns are truly in collect-picks-for-players-and-tank mode.

Of course, if we’re going to go all the way back to 2003, why not go back another year to 2002 and get the guy who made the Vikings defense look like the Keystone Cops.

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Colts down to 74 players

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:   Dezmen Southward #41 of the Atlanta Falcons (l) gestures as he runs with  Osi Umenyiora #50 of the Atlanta Falcons during the NFL match between Detroit Lions and  Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium on October 26, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts only had to get to 75 players by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, but they went a step further.

The team is down to 74 players after waiving linebacker Anthony Sarao and cornerback Darius White and placing safety Dezmen Southward on injured reserve.

Southward was a third-round pick by the Falcons in 2014 and played in all 16 games during his rookie season. He didn’t make it past November with the team last year as the coaching change following his first year appeared to change the direction the Falcons wanted to go at safety. He closed out the year on the Colts’ practice squad.

With 74 players, the Colts have room to add a player in the next few days and may have their eye on someone who has been cut loose elsewhere. They will then need to get down to 53 players on Saturday.

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Report: Cowboys getting calls about Darren McFadden

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03:   Darren McFadden #20 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball past Will Blackmon #41 of the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ezekiel Elliott made his preseason debut for the Cowboys last week and the results were in line with what the team hoped to see when they drafted Elliott fourth overall in April.

The Cowboys had used Alfred Morris as their lead back in the first two preseason games and he also looked good running behind their talented offensive line, which would seem to leave the Cowboys set with a 1-2 punch in the backfield while Lance Dunbar is also back on the field as a passing game option.

Could that lead to a move involving Darren McFadden? Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Cowboys have been receiving calls about trading the veteran, who is still out of action after injuring his elbow before training camp.

Per Rapoport, Dallas “really wants to keep” McFadden. That may be the case, although it also sounds like exactly the sort of thing you’d make known if you wanted to get more in return in a deal for a player who would likely be in a limited role unless injury strikes.

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Tebow had chance to change positions, instead he changed sports

Tebow Getty Images

Tim Tebow is trying out in front of baseball scouts today, in the first step toward getting himself back in professional sports after he realized that he has no future as an NFL quarterback.

But one of the odd things about Tebow’s decision to give baseball a shot is that he gave up on football before exploring every avenue available to him. According to former Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik, Tebow was afforded the opportunity to play H-back in Tampa Bay but said he was only interested in playing quarterback.

“I called & called agent Jimmy Sexton, begged him & Tim Tebow to come play H-Back for the Bucs but it was always nope, only QB,” Dominik wrote on Twitter today.

Dominik didn’t say when that happened, but presumably it was in 2013, Dominik’s last year as the Bucs’ G.M., when Tebow was cut twice, first by the Jets at the start of the offseason and then by the Patriots at the end of the preseason.

Tebow always struggled as a passer but had the athletic profile of a football player. He probably could have played H-back, fullback, tight end or maybe even linebacker in the NFL if he had wanted to. But he didn’t want to.

Now he wants to play baseball. He’s an extreme long shot to make it to the majors, which underscores how odd it is that he turned down an opportunity to keep playing in the big leagues of the NFL, albeit at another position.

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Vikings stop practice after Bridgewater goes down, clutches at left knee

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 18:  Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up prior to the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 18, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings called off practice Tuesday when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered what those on hand called a non-contact injury.

About 25 minutes into practice, Bridgewater went down and trainers rushed to talk with him. Bridgewater was reportedly grabbing at his left knee.

Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press tweeted that some players threw their helmets down and cursed, and that some knelt in prayer around Bridgewater. Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press called it “a bad scene.”

PFT will provide further updates as they become available.

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Chiefs put Justin Houston on PUP, Josh Mauga on IR, OMG

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs  celebrates their 30-0 win over the Houston Texans during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs knew earlier this offseason that outside linebacker Justin Houston was unlikely to be ready for the regular season.

Today was just the filing of the paperwork.

Via Field Yates of ESPN, the Chiefs are putting Houston on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. That will keep him off the field at least the first six weeks of the season.

Houston needed surgery in February to repair his ACL, and the timetable was placed at six to 12 months. Only the most optimistic recovery would have had him ready by now.

The Chiefs will also be without linebacker Josh Mauga, who will be placed on injured reserve with a labral tear in his hip, per Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star.

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Report: Giants bringing back Will Beatty

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 10:   Will Beatty #65 of the New York Giants in action against the Oakland Raiders during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 10, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

It took a while for tackle Will Beatty to generate interest on the free agent market after he missed the 2015 season with a torn pectoral and rotator cuff, but August saw him making the workout rounds with the Jaguars and Panthers.

Beatty looked around, but he’s reportedly heading back to the only team that he’s played for in the NFL. According to multiple reports, the Giants are re-signing Beatty after releasing him in February.

Beatty’s return comes after the Giants offense struggled in their preseason outings. The starters didn’t score any points against either the Bills or the Jets in the last two weeks, something that represents an unwelcome change for a team that came out of last season secure in their offensive prowess while trying to shore up their defense.

The Giants currently have 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers at Beatty’s old left tackle spot and Marshall Newhouse on the right side of the offensive line. Beatty will likely start out backing them up, but a return to the starting lineup could be in his future if he remains healthy and gets back up to speed quickly.

Beatty’s arrival will force the Giants to make another cut to meet the 75-man limit. They got the ball rolling on Monday by cutting tight end Matt LaCosse, fullback Nikita Whitlock, wide receiver Myles White and long snapper Tyler Ott.

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Breshad Perriman set for preseason debut as Ravens drop to 75 players

Breshad Perriman AP

The Ravens have waited a long time to see wide receiver Breshad Perriman in a game and that wait is set to end on Thursday.

Perriman has been practicing with the team for a week since coming off the physically unable to perform list and said Tuesday that he is looking forward to taking the field with the team on gameday for the first time.

“It’s very exciting,” Perriman said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I’ve been waiting for a long time and it’s finally coming. We’ve got a preseason game Thursday and then we have the Buffalo Bills after that. I can’t be more excited. I haven’t suited up for any games since college. It’s been a real long time. Just to think about it, I’ll be able to go out there with my teammates and my friends, it’s just crazy.”

Tuesday’s cut to 75 players means that some other players from Ravens camp won’t be around to join Perriman on the field. The Ravens announced that they have cut kicker Will Lutz while running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is on the reserve PUP list and linebacker Bronson Kaufusi and tackle Stephane Nembot have been placed on injured reserve.

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