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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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Prop Challenge, Day IX — Will we finally have overtime in a Super Bowl?

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Welcome to PFT’s Prop Challenge, our daily look at a Super Bowl proposition bet.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

Will there be overtime in the Super Bowl?

Yes: +550. No: -800.

The next Super Bowl to go to overtime will be the first. And undoubtedly, there will be bettors happily taking 11-2 odds with the idea that we’re due for a fifth quarter in pro football’s biggest game.

Also, there’s no denying the “Yes” side of props like this are more fun. What a nice story to have, cashing a ticket on the first-ever Super Bowl overtime. Win a bet like that and you dance to the seafood buffet.

However, history suggests “No” has a lot going for it — and not just because the first 48 Super Bowls have ended in regulation.

According to Pro Football Reference data, only 28-of-413 non-Super Bowl postseason games have gone to overtime since 1967. That’s about one in in every 16 games.

Viewed that way, 5.5-to-1 on the Super Bowl going to OT might seem a touch . . . short.

That said, Super Bowl XLIX is widely regarded as a closely matched competition. The point spread is pick ‘em at the majority of Nevada sports books.

Again, we turn to you. What’s the better bet — no overtime or the first-ever Super Bowl OT?

Aside: could you imagine Super Bowl overtime? The pressure would leave a nation pacing and push every Super Bowl party deeper into the night.

And it would be glorious.

Anyways, cast thy votes and leave thy comments.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

Day VI: Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s carries.

Day VII: Will there be a safety in the Super Bowl?

Day VIII: Over-Under on Russell Wilson’s rushing yards.

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Aaron Rodgers wins NFL Most Valuable Player

Aaron Rodgers AP

For the second time, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League.

Rodgers was announced as 2014 league MVP as the culmination of tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix. Rodgers had previously won the award for the 2011 season.

It’s no surprise that the award went to Rodgers, who had a phenomenal statistical season: Rodgers completed 341 of 520 passes for 4,381 yards, with an incredible touchdown-interception ratio: He finished the year with 38 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

Rodgers got 31 MVP votes. J.J. Watt was second with 13 MVP votes. DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo each had two votes, while Tom Brady and (in a major surprise) Bobby Wagner each had one.

The postseason ended in disappointment for Rodgers, who saw his Packers blow a big lead in the NFC Championship Game and lose to the Seahawks. But in the regular season, Rodgers was the best player in football. He was recognized for that tonight.

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Gronk wins comeback player of the year award

Gronk Getty Images

After shaking off a major knee injury to establish himself as the best tight end in the NFL, New England’s Rob Gronkowski has been named the comeback player of the year.

Gronk, who was a unanimous All-Pro, was given the award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix. Members of the Gronkowski family picked up the award for Rob, the most successful of the many athletes in the family, as Rob is at the Patriots’ team hotel getting ready for the Super Bowl.

Of the 50 voters for the NFL awards, 27 picked Gronkowski. In second place were Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin and Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain with seven votes each, followed by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris with three votes, Ravens running back Justin Forsett and Texans running back Arian Foster with two votes, and Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote and Bills quarterback Kyle Orton with one vote each.

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Thomas Davis named NFL Man of the Year

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, whose foundation helps underprivileged children, has been named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year — the only award that recognizes players for their community service as well as their playing ability.

Davis received the award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix.

“I am honored to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” Davis said. “This award means a great deal to me, as it symbolizes the valued work that the NFL, its players, and its 32 teams do in the community. I am blessed to have such a strong support system in my family, the Carolina Panthers and the NFL, which allows me to make an impact in the communities we serve.”

Davis, who had 129 tackles for the Panthers last season, will get a $50,000 donation made to the charity of his choice.

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Larry Fitzgerald wins NFL’s inaugural sportsmanship award

Larry Fitzgerald AP

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has garnered the NFL’s inaugural Art Rooney Award for sportsmanship, the club announced Saturday night.

The award was voted upon by Fitzgerald’s fellow players. It is named for the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One example of Fitzgerald’s respect for those he competes against came last season, when he delivered a textbook block on unsuspecting Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. While Fitzgerald knocked down Sherman, he did not hit him as hard as he could have. As the players ran back to their huddles, Sherman patted Fitzgerald on the helmet.

Afterwards, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll publicly praised Fitzgerald for the physical-but-clean way he plays the game.

The 31-year-old Fitzgerald is entering his 12th NFL season.

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Aaron Donald wins defensive rookie of the year

New Orleans Saints v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.

Donald got the award at tonight’s NFL Honors, capping a season in which he recorded nine sacks, including one sack in eight of the Rams’ last 11 games.

Of the 50 media members who vote on the NFL’s awards, 25 chose Donald as the defensive rookie of the year. Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley was next with 18 votes, followed by Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack with six votes and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland with one vote.

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J.J. Watt named defensive player of the year

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

In the least surprising news to come out of tonight’s NFL Honors event, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been named the defensive player of the year.

It was obvious that Watt would win the award because it’s obvious that Watt is the NFL’s best defensive player. There’s plenty of debate about who the second-best defensive player in the NFL is, but there’s no debate about who’s first.

Watt was selected unanimously by the 50 media members who vote on the NFL’s awards.

The biggest question about Watt now is whether he can continue to play at the dominant level he has shown off for the last three seasons. If he does, he’ll be not just the best defensive player in the NFL at the moment, but perhaps the greatest defensive player ever to play the game.

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Junior Seau leads a strong eight-man class into the Hall of Fame

Junior Seau AP

The Pro Football Hall of Fame cleared the decks of a number of finalists who had been debated for years, as they ushered in an eight-man class to Canton Saturday night.

First-year eligible linebacker Junior Seau was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with running back Jerome Bettis, defensive end Charles Haley, guard Will Shields and wide receiver Tim Brown.

They’ll be joined this summer by seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff and contributor candidates Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, who were chosen in separate up-down votes which required at least 80 percent to be elected.

Brown, the longtime Raiders receiver/return man, was in his sixth year as a finalist, as he was stuck in previous years behind Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Andre Reed.

Likewise, Haley was in his sixth trip as a finalist, as he was finally recognized his contributions to five Super Bowl Champions in San Francisco and Dallas.

Bettis was in his fifth year in the final 15, and Shields was making his fourth trip that far.

Seau, however, didn’t need that much time, as the late Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker needed the shortest discussion of any of the 18 candidates discussed.

Those five modern era finalists emerged from a strong group of finalists, which were debated in a nearly nine-hour meeting Saturday.

The players who filled slots six through 10, and stand a solid shot at the Hall next year include linebacker Kevin Greene, quarterback Kurt Warner, tackle Orlando Pace, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and coach Tony Dungy.

The first five players eliminated from the original list of 15 modern era finalists were coaches Don Coryell and Jimmy Johnson, kicker Morten Andersen, running back Terrell Davis and safety John Lynch.

Those remaining players will be eligible again next year, along with a crop of first-year eligible players which includes quarterback Brett Favre, wide receiver Terrell Owens, guard Alan Faneca and safety Darren Sharper.

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Bruce Arians is the NFL’s coach of the year

Bruce Arians AP

After leading the injury-plagued Cardinals to the playoffs, Bruce Arians has been named the NFL’s coach of the year.

Arians, who kept the Cardinals together after they lost both starting quarterback Carson Palmer and backup quarterback Drew Stanton, was named the recipient of the coach of the year award at NFL Honors. A panel of 50 members of the media voted on the award.

This is the second time Arians has been named the NFL’s coach of the year; he also won the award after the 2012 season, when he took over the Colts after Chuck Pagano was stricken with leukemia and led the Colts to the playoffs.

To earn two coach of the year awards in his first three seasons as a head coach is an extraordinary accomplishment, for an extraordinary coach.

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DeMarco Murray named offensive player of the year

DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was named the NFL’s offensive player of the year for the 2014 season.

Murray finished the regular season with 392 carries for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns, plus another 57 catches for 416 yards. His production was a big part of the Cowboys snapping their string of 8-8 seasons and making the playoffs.

Going forward, it remains to be seen whether Murray will keep helping the Cowboys win. Murray becomes a free agent in March, and the Cowboys may not have the cap space to afford to keep him.

But for now, Murray’s award is a tribute not just to his own season but to that of a great Cowboys offensive line, and to a year when Dallas finally turned the corner and returned to the postseason.

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Report: Ron Wolf a member of Hall’s Class of 2015

Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The man who built one of the NFL’s top teams of the 1990s is reportedly headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Packers G.M. Ron Wolf is a member of the Hall’s Class of 2015, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday evening. Wolf gained induction as a contributor.

The 76-year-old Wolf is perhaps best known for trading a first-round pick to the Falcons for quarterback Brett Favre in 1992. The move was a masterstroke, as Favre became one of the top passers of his generation, leading Green Bay to two Super Bowls, including victory in Super Bowl XXXI.

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Odell Beckham Jr. named offensive rookie of the year

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Getty Images

The choice for offensive rookie of the year in the NFL in 2014 was an easy one.

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who shook off an injury-plagued start of the season to become one of the league’s most exciting playmakers, has been named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. The award was announced on Saturday night at the NFL Honors event in Phoenix.

The NFL’s awards are voted on by a panel of 50 members of the media, and in the case of this award, there was widespread agreement: Beckham got 42 votes, with Cowboys guard Zack Martin getting seven and Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans getting one.

Beckham missed the first four games of the season and spent three more as only a small player in the Giants’ offense. But over the second half of the season, Beckham was the best wide receiver in the NFL. After the Giants’ Week Eight bye, Beckham never had fewer than 90 yards in any game, and despite that slow start he finished the year with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The NFL had a talented class of rookie wide receivers this season, but there was no question who was the best: Beckham, by far.

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Jerome Bettis indicates he’s made the Hall of Fame

Bettis AP

Via his verified Twitter account, former Rams and Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis indicated Saturday evening that he has been selected to the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015.

Wrote Bettis: “So happy to be amongst the games greatest players!! My Family and I are truly honored and blessed!”

Ed Bouchette, the Steelers’ beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a member of the Hall’s selection committee, confirmed in a story for the newspaper that Bettis had made the Hall.

On Twitter, the Steelers congratulated Bettis for his induction writing: “The Bus is headed to the ! Congratulations to on a well-deserved honor!”

Bettis rushed for 13,662 yards in 12 NFL seasons, sixth-most in league history.

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Best week yet for PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio

pftlive

Super Bowl week was only the fourth week for PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, and it was by far the best yet. In fact, it could be the best we’ll ever have, until next year at this time.  At the earliest.

Producers Rob “Stats” Guerrera and Kristen Coleman put together — and held together — a guest list that was second to none in sports radio this week.

From Friday working backward to Monday, with links to the video of the interviews, were segments with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, Bears defensive end Jared Allen, Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., Ravens running back Justin Forsett, Dolphins executive V.P. of football operations (as of Monday) Mike Tannenbaum, Vikings receiver Greg Jennings, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, Bengals receiver A.J. Green, Bills coach Rex Ryan, Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, former Eagles, Rams, and Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, former Raiders receiver Tim Brown, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, Bills running back Fred Jackson, Packers legend Jerry Kramer, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, former NFL defensive player of the year Jason Taylor, Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, Browns cornerback Joe Haden, and Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.

Media guests included Peter King of TheMMQB.com, Tom Curran of CSN New England (twice), Paul Burmeister of NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk, Darin Gantt of PFT, MDS of PFT (twice), Greg Cosell of NFL Films, Ross Tucker of NBCSN and others, and Bob Glauber of Newsday.

That’s 42 total guests. In five days.

You can listen to the audio from all five shows by clicking the show logo in the upper right corner of the page.

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Patriots center Bryan Stork probable for Super Bowl XLIX

Super Bowl XLIX Media Day Fueled by Gatorade Getty Images

The Patriots’ starting center looks on track to play in Super Bowl XLIX.

Rookie Bryan Stork (knee) is now officially probable for Sunday’s game vs. Seattle, the Patriots announced Saturday.

Stork had been listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

According to the NFL, a “probable” designation means a player has a 75 percent chance of playing, whereas “questionable” infers a player is 50-50 to take part in the game.

Stork (6-4, 311) did not play in the AFC Championship vs. Indianapolis because of his injury. A fourth-round pick from Florida State, Stork has started 12-of-14 games in which he’s played this season, including the Patriots’ divisional-round win vs. Baltimore.

Stork was the lone player on either club designated as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Both teams now list seven players apiece as probable, with none designated as doubtful or out.

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