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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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Pats, Revis talks haven’t happened yet, but will soon

Revis Getty Images

One of the biggest names in free agency belongs to someone who isn’t a free agent.  Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis is signed through 2015, under a contract that pays out a fully-guaranteed $20 million if Revis is on the roster as of March 10.

Before the Patriots have to decide whether to keep Revis at what would be a cap number of $25 million, the Patriots and Revis will try to negotiate a long-term deal.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, talks have not yet commenced.

They’ll necessarily begin soon.  But there’s a chance they won’t begin Monday.  Here’s our best guess (not report, but guess) on how they’ll unfold.

The Revis camp likely will know what other teams would pay Revis, if he becomes a free agent.  Technically tampering, it’s become common for agents to “gauge the market” when faced with a Door No. 1/Door No. 2 dilemma.

Though Revis has a reputation for chasing the biggest offer, he could decide to take less than what he could get elsewhere to stay with the Patriots.  The question becomes how much less would he take?

Another key factor likely will be the amount of money that is fully and completely guaranteed at signing.  At a time when the Seahawks may be considering a higher full guarantee as part of a deal with a lower annual average for Russell Wilson, a device like that could be a major factor for Revis.

However it works out, there are three options:  (1) Revis signs a new deal with the Patriots; (2) Revis is cut and signs a new deal with another team; or (3) the Patriots keep Revis at $20 million for 2015.

The third option is unlikely, because the parties contemplated that the contract signed in 2014 would be a one-year deal.  While Revis wouldn’t like it if the Patriots don’t cut Revis loose absent a new contract, he’d show up for work, earn the $20 million, and inevitably head toward the open market in 2017, since it would cost the Patriots a whopping $30 million to apply the franchise tag.

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Marshawn Lynch agrees to three-year, $31 million deal

Marshawn Lynch AP

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has agreed to terms on a new contract that covers the next three years.  And he’ll be paid at the high end of the running back market.

Per a source with knowledge of the terms, Lynch gets $12 million this year, in the form $7.5 million signing bonus and a $4.5 million fully-guaranteed base salary.

In 2016, Lynch (if he plays) will get a base salary of $9 million.  In 2017 (if he plays), it’s a base salary of $7 million in 2017 along with a $3 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2017 league year.

If Lynch retires after 2015, he’d be responsible in theory for paying back $5 million of the signing bonus.  But the Seahawks wouldn’t be required to pursue the money.  If they know going in that he may walk after 2015 (and that probably was one of the subjects discussed at Friday’s sit-down regarding the contract), it would be a surprise if they seek repayment of the money.

Lynch was scheduled to make $7 million in 2015, the final year of a four-year contract.  So, basically, he got another $5 million to return for one more year.

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Seahawks release TE Zach Miller

Zach Miller AP

The Seahawks are making a big change at tight end.

Seattle released veteran Zach Miller with a failed physical designation on Friday, the club announced. The 29-year-old Miller underwent two ankle surgeries in 2014.

Earlier Friday, PFT’s Mike Florio reported the Seahawks could have interest in Denver’s Julius Thomas, the top tight end available in free agency.

Miller hauled in 102 passes for 1,092 yards and eight TDs in four seasons with the Seahawks. He played his first four NFL seasons with Oakland (2007-2010).

If healthy, Miller could be attractive to clubs looking to add to their tight end depth. Earlier in his career, he caught 60 passes or more in back-to-back seasons with the Raiders.

In addition to releasing Miller, the Seahawks waived defensive tackle Jesse Williams and offensive tackle Garrett Scott (non-football illness). Williams was a fifth-round pick in 2013, while Scott was a sixth-round selection last year. In the case of Scott, a heart condition detected in a club physical in May ended his career before it started.

The Seahawks also confirmed they had signed defensive tackle Greg Scruggs, news of which emerged Thursday.

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Stephen Gostkowski signs franchise tender

Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko AP

The Patriots opened the week by placing a $4.59 million franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Gostkowski ended the week by signing it.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that Gostkowski has signed the tag, which guarantees him that salary absent agreement on a multi-year deal with the team. Signing the tag also eliminates the possibility, however remote, that the Patriots would rescind the tag and leave Gostkowski, who has been in New England since 2006, in search of a new home.

The Patriots and Gostkowski can work on a longer deal thru July 15 and the Patriots said they intended to do just that when they announced their decision to use the tag on Monday.

With that taken care of, whatever attention the Patriots were paying to the status of the tag can now be applied to other matters. Safety Devin McCourty is the biggest free agent-to-be, although the resolution of cornerback Darrelle Revis’s status for 2015 probably stands as the most pressing issue for the Super Bowl champs.

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Report: LaRon Landry suspended 10 games for violating PED policy

laronlandry AP

Free agent safety LaRon Landry is reportedly in line to miss more than half of the upcoming season.

Landry has been suspended for the first 10 games of the 2015 regular season by the NFL, Field Yates of ESPN.com reported Friday.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Landry’s ban is for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Last season, Landry served a four-game PED policy suspension as a member of the Colts, who released him in February.

The 30-year-old Landry has recorded 617 tackles, 41 passes defended and eight interceptions in eight seasons. However, the news of this latest ban puts his NFL career on hold — at best.

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Report: Davon House likely to test free agency

Davon House AP

One of the better unrestricted free agent cornerbacks is reportedly set to shop around come next week.

According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the agent for Packers cornerback Davon House has indicated his client will be testing free agency.

“I think he’s going to hit the market,” House’s representative, Kenny Zuckerman, told ESPN.

The 25-year-old House ranks 39th among PFT’s top free agents. Though House has made just 14 career starts in four NFL seasons, his size (6-0, 195), athleticism and relative youth for a free agent could appeal to clubs.

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Jets aren’t interested in trading for Jay Cutler (dang it)

Jay Cutler AP

The Jets took one of the Bears’ problems off their hands, but one is apparently enough.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com, the Jets aren’t interested in trading for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, after they traded for Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall earlier today.

The speculation is natural, because Geno Smith has underwhelmed in his two years there, and a new coach and General Manager with no ties to him have no reason to stake their jobs on a guy they didn’t pick.

Coupled with Cutler’s availability — after new Bears coach John Fox went out of his way to not endorse him — there was plenty of reason to think it was possible, if not smart.

But let’s be honest — it would have been a hoot.

Putting a quarterback who may or may not care — and may or may not be liked by anyone he works with — in New York would have created a tabloid back page gold mine, which the entire country could have enjoyed, the way we enjoy watching spattering, out-of-control grease fire that burns down somebody else’s kitchen.

It might not have been productive for the Jets, but it sure would have been a lot of fun for the rest of us.

Killjoys.

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Jed York punts on decision to sign Jerome Simpson

Jed York AP

After the 49ers mutually parted ways (unless they didn’t) with coach Jim Harbaugh, owner Jed York said that the organization wants to win with class.

Some are having a hard time reconciling their decision to sign receiver Jerome Simpson with that objective.

Simpson, who was out of the league in 2014, has had three off-field incidents since 2012, one of which included the alleged delivery of 2.5 pounds of marijuana to his home.  So hows Simpson mesh with the whole “win with class” thing?  Owner Jed York has been asked that question.  He didn’t answer it.

“You have to ask [G.M.] Trent Baalke,” York told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle.  “I don’t know what the thinking was.”

When it comes to the nature of the split with the team’s most recent head coach, York has a different position:  Don’t ask Harbaugh, who claims the parting wasn’t mutual.

“I feel sorry that’s how he feels,” York said. “I have a signed agreement that says otherwise.”

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Source: No deal yet between Marshawn, Seahawks

Marshawn Getty Images

It’s currently expected that the Seahawks and running back Marshawn Lynch will strike a new deal pursuant to which Lynch will return to the team for at least one more year.  But that hasn’t officially happened yet.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the meeting between Lynch and the Seahawks is due to start at 2:00 p.m. PT.  It’s believed that an agreement will be finalized at that time.

It’s also believed that the contract will commit Lynch to the Seahawks for at least one more year, at a significant increase over the $7 million he was due to earn in 2015.

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Report: Marshawn Lynch will return for another year in Seattle

Marshawn Lynch AP

Beast Mode is back for another run.

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has agreed to a new contract and will return for another season in Seattle, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Lynch has been noncommittal over the last month about whether he wants to keep playing football, and there had been talk that he might decide to retire. But the Seahawks have apparently enticed him to stay by offering him more money. Seattle also agreed to re-do Lynch’s contract last year to get him to show up to training camp.

Most players can’t get away with threatening to quit if they don’t get more money year after year, but Lynch is not most players. He’s one of the best players in the league, and one of the most important players to the Seahawks. And now they have him back.

UPDATE 5:00 p.m. ET:  PFT has learned that the deal is not yet done.  But it’s expected to be, soon.

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Bengals plan visit with A.J. Hawk for next week

A.J. Hawk AP

The Bengals re-signed Rey Maualuga on Friday, but they may not be done making moves at linebacker.

Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports that the Bengals plan to bring A.J. Hawk in for a visit next week “as they rate veteran linebacker depth” in free agency. Hawk was released by the Packers last week, although Green Bay is reportedly open to a return at the right price.

With Emmanuel Lamur tendered at the second-round level, the interest in Hawk could be a hedge against anything less than a full return from Vontaze Burfict next season. Burfict had an injury-riddled 2014 season with a pair of concussions followed by a pair of knee surgeries, including a microfracture procedure that could delay his return to the practice field if not the lineup for the regular season.

Given the way Hobson framed the visit, Hawk likely won’t be the only linebacker under consideration for a job in Cincinnati once the market is flooded with free agents.

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Colts want to bring Trent Cole in if he leaves Tampa

Trent Cole AP

The Buccaneers were quick to show interest in former Eagles pass-rusher Trent Cole.

But they’re far from his only suitor.

Via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Colts want to bring Cole in for a visit if he leaves Tampa today without a deal.

The Colts have cap room to make moves, and need to add pass-rushers in the worst way, though Cole has been better as a 4-3 end than as a stand-up outside linebacker in a 3-4.

Of course, the Bucs also have the opportunity to keep him from making that trip, if they throw enough money his way.

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Raiders staying in Oakland . . . for a year

New York Jets v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Good news, Raiders fans in Oakland and the Bay Area. The team isn’t leaving.

Bad news, Raiders fans in Oakland and the Bay Area. They still might.

The Joint Powers Authority in Oakland has approved a one-year lease that will allow the Raiders to play at O.Co Coliseum, via NBCBayArea.com. The move was expected because the window for submitting a relocation application has come and gone. It was a given that the Raiders would remain in Oakland for one more year.

The question becomes what they’ll do in 2016. The Chargers and Raiders are collaborating on a stadium they would share in Carson, California.

The powers-that-be in Carson and Inglewood currently are racing for the ability to build an NFL stadium in the L.A. area. The Chargers, Raiders, and Rams hope to be the two teams that end up there.

At least one of those teams will be the odd man out. If it’s the Raiders, they may be stuck in Oakland for a lot longer than 2015.

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Tyvon Branch scheduled for visit with Chiefs

Tyvon Branch, Benson Mayowa AP

The Chiefs saw a lot of safety Tyvon Branch when he played for the Raiders and they may be interested in seeing a lot more of him during the 2015 season.

Branch has visited with the Colts and Redskins since being released by Oakland and Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reports that he’s scheduled to visit with the Chiefs next. With Eric Berry’s future uncertain as he continues his battle with lymphoma and Ron Parker set for free agency, the Chiefs could use some help at the position.

When he’s healthy, Branch was a good safety for the Raiders and he was particularly strong against the run. That was a weak spot for the Chiefs last season, so Branch fits on that front as well.

The major caveat is that he’s played just five games in the last two years. Whoever signs him will be rolling the dice that he hasnt lost anything while on the sideline and that it won’t be more of the same in 2015, so it’s not too surprising that the teams showing the most interest right off the bat are squads with serious needs at the position.

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It’s good to be King Dunlap

kingdunlap AP

Two weeks ago, veteran left tackle King Dunlap opted to eschew a shot at the open market and to stay in San Diego.

Even if the Chargers won’t be staying in San Diego.

Dunlap joined Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to discuss his decision to sign a four-year deal, whether he has splurged yet with his new money, whether the potential move to L.A. by the team is a distraction, whether his quarterback gets enough credit, what he’d do if he were the team’s G.M. on Tuesday, whether he hoped Peyton Manning wouldn’t return to Denver, whether he hopes Justin Houston won’t return to Kanas City, and the toughest guy to block.

For the whole segment, click the thing in the thing below.

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