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Winners, losers from the NFL lockout

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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Broncos remain without new naming-rights deal for stadium

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The Broncos remain without a naming-rights deal for their stadium.

They prepare for another season at Sports Authority Field at Mile High despite taking over control of the naming rights last August after the sports equipment company filed for bankruptcy. The Broncos had expressed optimism at getting a new deal for 2017, but absent one, they will keep the Sports Authority signage at the stadium until they find a new partner.

“I’m a little disappointed in that,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis told Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. “On the other hand, there’s a lot that goes into these deals, and some of them take longer periods of time than others. Some are quicker than the timetable we’ve been on. I’m looking forward to getting a deal done, but it has to be the right deal, and we’ve had discussions and we have a few more coming up. I’m not going to reveal who they’re with. It has to be the right partner, and there’s a lot of different components to it.”

Ellis knows the Broncos will have to modernize the 16-year-old stadium in attempts to keep up with new buildings in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Las Vegas as well as the game-day experience offered by the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

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Kurt Warner gets the last word in the Hall of Fame speeches

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has released the order in which new inductees will be enshrined and, in turn, their speeches will be delivered. Somewhat surprisingly, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t going last.

Instead, the final man to take the podium will be quarterback Kurt Warner. Jones will be the next-to-last man standing. And speaking.

The full order will be Kenny Easley, Jason Taylor, Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jones, and Warner.

It will be interesting to see whether the new Hall of Famers comply with guidelines aimed at keeping the speeches manageable in length. Sometimes, however, a long speech isn’t necessarily a bad speech. Last year, Brett Favre filibustered at the microphone (shocker), but he was really, really good.

The enshrinement ceremony will happen on Saturday, August 5, two days after the Hall of Fame Game between the Cowboys and Cardinals. The game has been moved to Thursday night in order to avoid a repeat of last year’s cancellation of the game, which happened during failed efforts to prepare the field for a Sunday game following the Saturday ceremony.

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Bills trade Cardale Jones to Chargers for conditional draft choice

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The Bills traded quarterback Cardale Jones to the Chargers for a conditional draft choice. The conditional pick is a seventh-rounder, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones was unlikely to make the Bills roster after falling to fourth on the depth chart behind Tyrod Taylor, T.J. Yates and fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman. Taylor and Yates both previously played under new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.

The Bills selected Jones in the fourth round of the 2016 draft under a different front office and different coaching staff.

The former Ohio State star played only one game last season, going 6-for-11 for 96 yards and an interception in the season finale.

The trade reunites him with Anthony Lynn, now the Chargers head coach after being the running backs coach, then the offensive coordinator and then the interim head coach in Buffalo last season.

The Chargers worked out Robert Griffin III this week as they sought a backup to Philip Rivers. They have veteran Kellen Clemens and undrafted free agents Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins on the roster behind Rivers before Wednesday’s trade.

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Teddy Bridgewater on PUP, will speak to reporters Thursday

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The Vikings placed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on the physically unable to perform list after his physical, the team announced Wednesday. The move allows for the possibility of moving Bridgewater to the reserve PUP list for the start of the regular season.

Bridgewater has not practiced in 11 months since a left knee injury during training camp. The severe knee injury included a dislocation and several torn ligaments.

Bridgewater threw without a knee brace in July after posting an Instagram video in March of him working in a brace.

He will speak to reporters for the first time since the injury on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. CT.

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Saints make several moves, including waiving Marcus Murphy

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The Saints made several moves Wednesday, a day before training camp begins.

Coach Sean Payton announced they placed receiver Dan Arnold on injured reserve along with Dannell Ellerbe. Arnold, whom the Saints signed June 5, was injured during OTAs.

The Saints waived running back/kick returner Marcus Murphy.

Murphy joined the Saints as a seventh-round pick in 2015. He contributed mostly on special teams the past two seasons but ball security issues prompted the Saints to make Murphy inactive on game day for the final 13 games. The offseason additions of running backs Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara and receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr. made Murphy expendable.

The Saints also placed center Chris Watt on the reserve/retired list. Watt joined the Saints shortly after the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp in June.

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Ezekiel Elliott practicing as if he has no worry

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Ezekiel Elliott’s moves so far have impressed. He’s looked good on the field in three days of practices and has dodged reporters afterward.

While Elliott isn’t talking, teammates are. They say the Cowboys running back hasn’t let an NFL investigation distract him.

“That’s something we always talk about when we always come out here — all your personal problems, you have to leave them at the door,” veteran running back Darren McFadden said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I feel like he does a great job with that. Once you come out here playing football, you’re playing football and everything else going on off the field, you have to worry about that later.”

The NFL’s investigation into a domestic abuse allegation against Elliott has lasted more than a year. ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported the league could give Elliott a short suspension to start the season despite the fact that the incident lacked enough evidence for the Columbus (Ohio) city prosecutor’s office to pursue charges.

“We don’t even talk about it,” veteran running back Alfred Morris said. “It’s not that it’s not happening or not pending or whatever, it’s just that we have a job to do. You have to leave the off the field off the field.”

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Multiple teams will be using multiple planes to travel this year

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It’s a new era in the NFL for travel, and changes to plane availability have resulted in multiple teams switching from one plane to two for road trips.

PFT has learned that at least three teams will be using two planes this year: The Steelers, Bills, and Dolphins. (We became aware of the issue via a report from Andy Slater of  WINZ regarding the Dolphins using two planes.)

The Bills will be using two planes for most trips, but not of all of them.

Earlier this year, several teams had to scramble to find air service when American restricted access. As one league source recently explained it to PFT, the airlines simply have realized that they can make more money by using planes in more traditional ways.

It’s odd to see the NFL at the mercy of the airline industry, because usually it’s pretty much everyone else who’s at the mercy of the NFL. This has sparked some speculation that perhaps the best play for the league would be to maintain its own fleet of planes that would transport teams each and every weekend, when up to 16 teams travel. The planes then would be leased for use in the offseason to corporate groups and muckety-mucks who want to travel in a bird bedazzled with NFL logos.

If/when a non-mainstream outfit like Miami Air (all due respect) fails to get the Dolphins or Steelers to a game on time, that could be the trigger for change. Until then, the new normal will include lesser availability, greater expense, and in some cities multiple aircraft.

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Bears G.M. makes it clear: Mike Glennon’s the starting quarterback

AP

There are plenty of questions about the Bears as they enter training camp. The identity of their starting quarterback is not among them, as General Manager Ryan Pace has already declared.

It’s not Mitchell Trubisky, the guy Pace traded up to No. 2 overall to take in this year’s draft. It’s Mike Glennon, the free agent he dropped a three-year, $45 million contract on.

“Glennon’s here for a reason,” Pace said, via J.J. Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com. “We evaluated him over the years. We’re very confident in him. Glennon’s our starter and we’re confident with that.

“This thing is going to have to play out. But Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback and I don’t think now is the time to deal in hypotheticals going forward.”

With that settled, the Bears can go on to figuring out who the starters around him will be, as Trubisky interns. Of course, with coach John Fox in a prove-it year anyway (and with a long-held preference for veteran quarterbacks instead of rookies), that might have been a moot point.

Whether Trubisky eventually wins the backup job from Mark Sanchez remains to be seen, but at the moment, No. 2 is as high on the depth chart as he’ll go.

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Coach, quarterback have little to say about Duane Brown

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Texans left tackle Duane Brown is holding out of training camp. The man who coaches him and the guy he primarily protects both tiptoed around the situation when talking to reporters on Wednesday.

“I’m just coaching the guys that are here,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien told reporters. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Duane. He’s been a captain for us my first three years here and he means a lot to me, but I’m going to really concentrate on the guys that are here and I’ll let [G.M.] Rick [Smith] handle that side of things.”

Smith is handling the contract dispute by claiming there’s no contract dispute. Which will do little to get the contract dispute resolved.

Quarterback Tom Savage took a similar approach to O’Brien’s.

“I guess all that stuff’s between him and the coach and the G.M. and all that,” Savage said. “I can’t really say much on that. He’s a good guy, though.”

It’s a smart play by Savage. Of course the quarterback wants Brown there. But he won’t be helping his own cause if he pressures Brown to show up or otherwise abandon his desire to improve his financial situation.

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Jets waive WR Devin Street

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The Jets claimed a former Cowboys receiver, cutting another ex-Cowboys receiver to make room. The Jets waived Devin Street on Wednesday after claiming Lucky Whitehead.

The Cowboys drafted Street in the fifth round in 2014. He spent two seasons in Dallas, playing in 30 games, mostly on special teams. He made nine catches for 132 yards and a touchdown with the Cowboys.

Dallas waived Street last year coming out of the preseason, and the Patriots signed him to their practice squad. He didn’t last long in New England, and the Colts added him to their active roster. Indianapolis released him before this year’s draft.

The Patriots claimed Street and then released him, and he signed with the Jets early last month.

Street, 26, played in five games with the Colts last season, making one catch for 20 yards.

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Bengals rookie John Ross still weeks away from debut

AP

John Ross broke the NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash record this spring, laying down a blazing 4.22-second time.

But he hasn’t done anything since, and won’t when the Bengals open training camp.

According to Geoff Hobson of the team’s official website, Ross “isn’t expected to make his Bengals practice debut for a couple of weeks.”

The first-rounder is coming off shoulder surgery, and hasn’t taken part in any of their offseason workouts or OTAs.

The Bengals were hoping he’d add a deep speed element to complement A.J. Green, but for the moment they’ll rely on veteran Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd in practice, until Ross gets back on the field.

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Jordan Reed to open camp on PUP list

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Injuries have proven to be the most effective method of slowing down tight end Jordan Reed over the course of his career and he’s apparently dealing with something physical again as camp gets underway.

The Redskins announced on Wednesday that Reed has been placed on the physically unable to perform list, which leaves him ineligible to practice with the team until he’s activated.

The team did not identify a particular ailment for Reed and he was a participant in the team’s offseason work, so it’s not clear what led to their decision. Given Reed’s lengthy injury history, including several concussions, it may just be a case of playing it safe until they feel comfortable ramping up his workload.

As previously reported, safety DeAngelo Hall and linebacker Houston Bates will also open camp on the PUP list. Wide receiver Kendal Thompson rounds out the group of players that aren’t ready to get on the field at the moment.

UPDATE 5:58 p.m. ET: A team spokesman announced, via Mike Jones of the Washington Post, that Reed has a big toe sprain. Some might say that the team’s offense without Reed is like an army without a leader or a foot without a big toe, so their caution is understandable given the point in the calendar.

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D’Onta Foreman’s lawyer is working to get charges dropped

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Another day, another arrested NFL player in Texas professing his innocence.

Texans running back D’Onta Foreman, who technically is in West Virginia, told reporters that his lawyer is working to resolve marijuana and weapons charges quickly.

“I definitely feel good about it,” Foreman said. “My lawyer is great. He’s doing everything possible to get everything dropped, and like I said, I’m innocent and I feel like — it’s the truth, I am innocent — so we’re looking forward to getting everything dropped and everything will take care of itself.”

Foreman nevertheless learned a valuable lesson from the experience.

“I just learned that it’s certain things and certain people that I can’t always involve myself with,” Foreman said. “Those guys that I was with are my friends but we understand now, with that happening, that there’s certain ways that we have to move and certain ways that we have to go about doing things. I think, my friend, he understands that and I understand that and we’ll definitely be better.”

The stakes are high for Foreman. Anything other than abandonment of the marijuana charges will result in a one-game suspension. If the weapons charges aren’t dropped, he could face other discipline.

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John Elway promoted to president of football operations/GM

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The Broncos gave John Elway a new five-year contract this week. Then, they gave him a promotion.

Elway received a bump from executive vice president of football operations/General Manager to president of football operations/GM. He retains full autonomy over the team’s football decisions.

“We’re football first here at the Broncos and obviously John is our leader of the team,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a press release. “I think he is definitely deserving of this title elevation. It’s really a recognition that he deserves for all that he does and all that he has done for this team over the years since he arrived here in 1984.”

Elway has guided the Broncos to the second-most overall wins (73) in the NFL since 2011 when he became the team’s top football executive. The Broncos also have won AFC West titles in five of the past six years while winning Super Bowl 50 to end the 2015 season.

 

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Titans sign Dennis Kelly to contract extension

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The Titans traded wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to the Eagles last year for offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, but Green-Beckham’s stay in Philadelphia came to an end when the Eagles waived him in late June.

Kelly is set for a much longer stay in Tennessee. The Titans announced on Wednesday that they have signed Kelly to a multi-year contract extension. They did not announce any of the terms of the deal.

Kelly played in all 16 games for the Titans last year and made six starts as an extra offensive lineman during his first year in Nashville. Kelly also played most of a seventh game after left tackle Taylor Lewan was ejected in the first quarter of what turned out to be a 47-25 rout of the Packers.

He also made starts at right tackle, right guard and left guard during his time in Philadelphia and Wednesday’s extension makes it clear that the Titans value that versatility up front.

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