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Collusion claim seems destined to fail

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The NFLPA’s claim that the league’s teams engaged in collusion during the 2010 uncapped year has ample merit.   If it ever gets to the merits of the case.

That may not happen.  The new lawsuit filed Wednesday by the union in an effort to secure more than $3 billion from the league faces two major hurdles:  the union knew or should have known in 2011 that there was collusion in 2010, and the union thereafter ratified any collusion by agreeing to the cap penalties imposed on the Cowboys and Redskins as a result of their failure to abide by the alleged agreement to collude.

The petition filed with U.S. Judge David Doty alleges that the claims presented are “entirely new,” but those claims flow from a set of facts that should have put the union on notice that something was amiss.  Apart from the collusion claim filed by the NFLPA in early 2011 regarding the lack of interest in restricted free agents during the uncapped year, there was ample evidence to support suspicion, or more, regarding the NFL’s plan to keep more money in the owners’ coffers and put less in the players’ pockets as a work stoppage was looming.

Prior to the launch of the uncapped year in early 2010, multiple teams cited internal budgets when addressing the reality that there would be no salary cap.  And to the extent that the actual spending by the 32 teams in 2010 suggested that perhaps the owners had an unwritten understanding as to the handling of the uncapped year, the NFLPA had full access to all contracts months before the new CBA was finalized, allowing the union’s lawyers to piece together enough circumstantial evidence to warrant full-blown litigation on the question of whether an informal salary cap had been established for the uncapped year.

Regardless of what the NFLPA knew or should have known before finalizing the current CBA and related legal documents, the paperwork seems to slam the door on any collusion claims relating to conduct in 2010.  As the CBA state at Article 3, Section 3(a) plainly states:  “The NFLPA on behalf of itself, its members, and their respective heirs, executors, administrators, representatives, agents, successors and assigns, releases and covenants not to sue, or to support financially or administratively, or voluntarily provide testimony of any kind, including by declaration or affidavit in, any suit or proceeding (including any Special Master proceeding brought pursuant to the White SSA and/or the Prior Agreement) against the NFL or any NFL Club or any NFL Affiliate with respect to any antitrust or other claim asserted in White v. NFL or Brady v. NFL, including, without limitation . . . collusion with respect to any League Year prior to 2011.”  (Emphasis added.)

Even if the 2011 CBA didn’t slam the door on a collusion claim arising from the uncapped year of 2010, the amendment to the CBA that resulted in the league and the NFLPA agreeing to the imposition of cap penalties on the Redskins and Cowboys in exchange for an increase in the salary cap operates, in essence, as a ratification of the release of collusion claims.  Indeed, the NFLPA should have realized, the moment the NFL asked the union to agree to take $46 million in cap space from the Redskins and Cowboys for treating the term “uncapped year” too literally, that the Redskins and Cowboys were being punished for refusing to collude.  By signing off on the cap penalties, the NFLPA reaffirmed its waiver of the collusion claims, since the mere request to strip cap space from the teams in question proved that collusion indeed occurred.

So why did the NFLPA go along with the cap penalties?  Because the NFL agreed to tinker with the salary cap formula in order to push the per-team limit higher in 2012 than it was in 2011.  If the salary cap had dropped during the first year of the new CBA, there’s a good chance that the contract of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wouldn’t have been renewed at annual meetings that began only a week or two after the new cap numbers were disclosed.

Thus, at first blush it appears that the NFLPA is trying to have it both ways.

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Lions G.M. on Matthew Stafford extension: We’re working on it

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Lions G.M. Bob Quinn says he has his franchise quarterback in place, and now wants to keep him in place for years to come.

Quinn said on PFT Live that Matthew Stafford, who has one year and a $16.5 million salary left on his current contract, is due for an extension.

“We’ve begun a few discussions with his representatives. These things take time. These things don’t usually happen early in April or May, but we’re working towards that,” Quinn said.

Quinn indicated that he has no doubts that Stafford is the right man to lead the Lions for years to come.

“I have a great deal of respect for Matt,” Quinn said. “I think he’s a very good quarterback that has all the leadership and off the field traits that we look for in the quarterback position, and his on-field ability I think is well-documented. His arm strength, his mobility, which he used more of this year. I think he has all those things and we need to do a better job and I need to do a better of putting more pieces around him so we have a better team around him so he doesn’t have to carry the entire load.”

The 29-year-old Stafford probably has several more good years left in him. Quinn wants those years to be in Detroit.

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Thomas Dimitroff would like both teams to get a chance in overtime

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Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff lost the Super Bowl in overtime last month, so it’s understandable if he’s a little sore about sudden death.

Dimitroff said on PFT Live that he’d like to see the NFL explore an overtime format that guarantees each team a possession, as opposed to the current format, which allows a team to win the coin toss, receive the opening kickoff and win the game with a touchdown without the other team ever possessing the ball.

“I would like to have a chance, of course, but that’s not where we are right now and I’m a big league guy so I’m supportive of where we are right now,” Dimitroff said. “Personally I’d like us to continue to discuss that. I understand coin flips. I understand when Tom Brady flipped the coin — when it flipped in his favor in the middle of the field, there’s a guy who’s incredibly special when the game’s on the line, so that’s a difficult situation. . . . We would like to have an opportunity.”

The only overtime proposal the NFL is considering at this week’s league meeting is one that would shorten overtime in the preseason and regular season to 10 minutes. But the league is constantly talking about ways to improve overtime, and it wouldn’t be surprising if another change comes at some point, one that would get rid of the sudden death format. Too late for the Falcons.

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Report: Kaepernick wants a chance to start, and $9-10 million

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Is Colin Kaepernick still unemployed because his asking price is too high?

That’s the suggestion in a report from Dan Graziano of ESPN, who cites multiple sources as saying that Kaepernick won’t settle for just any job.

According to the report, Kaepernick wants to go to a place that will give him a chance to start, and pay him a salary in the range of $9 million to $10 million a year. That would mean he expects a better deal than the ones free agent quarterbacks Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer got this month.

That would also mean some teams that could make sense for Kaepernick as a backup, like the Seahawks and Panthers, wouldn’t be attractive to Kaepernick because he wouldn’t have a chance to start.

Realistically, there aren’t many places where Kaepernick would get a chance to start. So if he’s limiting himself to those places, there are few options available to him.

One person we haven’t heard from is Kaepernick himself. Although he is active on social media, he rarely tweets about football and has not said anything about how much money he wants or what kind of opportunity he’s seeking. If he’s willing to be a backup and play for backup money, saying so publicly might help him get such an offer. If he’s not willing to be a backup and play for backup money, he may remain unemployed for a while.

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Dolphins, Dion Jordan seem overdue to split

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It remains likely a matter of when, not if, the Dolphins will part with former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan.

After Monday, a move seems that much more imminent.

According to Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, Dolphins executive Mike Tannnebaum was asked three questions related to Jordan, including his likelihood of being on the roster when the team starts voluntary workouts in April. His responses read like writing on a wall.

Jordan, 27, has not played the past two seasons.

The defensive end’s career is marred mostly by suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Injuries and sub-par performance haven’t helped stymie buyer’s regret from an aggressive trade up to draft him in 2013.

“Obviously from where he was selected to today, it’s not a move that’s worked out,” said Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ executive vice president of football operations. “It’s pretty obvious. We’ll keep evaluating our roster and make moves when we feel it’s appropriate.”

Per Schad, on the topic of Jordan participating in the team’s April workouts, Tannenbaum said “our roster is always up for discussion.”

Jordan has played 26 career games, starting one. He’s logged 32 tackles with three sacks. Miami traded Oakland a second-round pick to move up nine spots for Jordan.

The Raiders used the second-round pick to draft now-Broncos offensive tackle Menelik Watson.

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Jed York not expecting Raiders fans to jump ship to 49ers

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Just because the Raiders will be leaving Oakland in the next few years, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York isn’t expecting a massive rush of Bay Area fans suddenly to shed their silver and black for 49ers’ red and gold.

The Raiders fans are a unique group,” York said,” via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “I don’t know that they’ve necessarily been loyal to L.A. or to Oakland, I think they have always been loyal to the Raiders. I think you’ll see the Raiders following them wherever they may go, and going to Las Vegas in a few years, I think you’ll see that really take place.

“So for us, I don’t think it’s a big win for the 49ers, but I think it’s a good thing for the National Football League. The Raiders have tried to get a deal done in Oakland for a decade-plus, and they were unfortunately unable to do anything, and I think Las Vegas put together a good opportunity for the Raiders to continue to have a good experience for their overall fan base wherever their fans come from.”

York cited past experience of being the lone football entity in the Bay Area while the Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982-94. He said the 49ers didn’t see any substantial change in revenue from the departure, or return, of the Raiders to Oakland.

“Raiders fans, they’re loyal to the Raiders,” York said. “They’re very different than 49ers fans, and there’s not a ton of overlap where you would see different teams kind of go from one to another. You just haven’t seen that, and I wouldn’t expect it going forward.”

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John Elway on quarterbacks: Same old thing

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At some point, there will be some kind of definitive end to musing about where Tony Romo will spend the 2017 football season and everyone will move on to other topics of conversation when Broncos General Manager John Elway steps in front of a microphone.

That point wasn’t Monday. Elway met the media in Arizona at the owners meetings and was asked about quarterbacks, which led him to say the “same old thing” he’s been saying all offseason. He won’t talk about Romo because Romo is under contract to the Cowboys and he will talk about how much confidence the team has in Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

“Like we’ve said, we really feel good about the two young ones that we have,” Elway said, via ESPN.com. “Trevor did a good job for us last year. Paxton was young. So the plan is to stay the course there and see what’s available in the draft. So we’ll go from there. But we like both, and Paxton was a first-rounder last year for a reason. And then Trevor came in and played very well. So it’ll be a great competition between them in the spring.”

With neither the Broncos nor the Texans showing any sign that they’re willing to make a trade for Romo, networks reportedly interested in him unable to make such a trade and no financial upside to the Cowboys releasing him, there’s nothing to suggest a change to the status quo in the near future. That may mean Elway gets to play the hits a few more times before retiring the act for good.

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Reggie McKenzie says Derek Carr to be full-go for offseason work

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Raiders tackle Donald Penn said last month that quarterback Derek Carr was already closing in on being back to full strength after a broken leg ended his 2016 season in December.

General Manager Reggie McKenzie reaffirmed that notion on Monday at the NFL owner’s meetings in Phoenix. McKenzie said that Carr will be a full-go for the team’s offseason workout program, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com.

The Raiders can begin their offseason programs on April 17. OTAs take place in May before a final veteran mini-camp in June.

Carr sustained the broken leg on Dec. 24 in a 33-25 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

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Robert Kraft would love Malcolm Butler and/or Darrelle Revis on Patriots

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When cornerback Darrelle Revis was last a member of the Patriots, comments from Jets owner Woody Johnson about bringing him back to his first NFL team led to a $100,000 fine from the league for tampering.

Revis wound up returning to the Jets ahead of the 2015 season, but he was released this offseason so Patriots owner Robert Kraft doesn’t have to worry about anyone pulling a Vladimir Putin to his bank account for commenting about the cornerback returning to New England. That may explain why Kraft was happy to do so at the league meetings in Arizona on Monday.

“I would love it,” Kraft said, via Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

There’s been other chatter about a possible reunion, but none of the people chattering nor Kraft are in control of making a deal that would bring Revis back to New England. That’s Bill Belichick’s department and it seems safe to say that he won’t be sharing any of his thoughts on that front.

The same is true of the team’s plans regarding cornerback Malcolm Butler, who has not signed his restricted free agent tender or an offer sheet with the Saints after a visit with New Orleans. There’s been plenty of discussion about how things will play out with Butler. Kraft said he has “great affection” for the corner and that his wish would be for another year in New England.

“I hope he’s with us and signs his [tender] and plays for us. … I don’t want to, in any way, take away from his rights, I want to be clear. I hope he’s with us,” Kraft said, via the Boston Globe.

The possibility of a Revis encore may be linked to how things play out with Butler as the Patriots already have Stephon Gilmore under contract. The deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets with other teams is April 21.

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Colts plan to go slow with Andrew Luck’s shoulder

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Third- or fourth-string quarterbacks usually get lost in the shuffle during an NFL off-season, their low number of practice reps dwindling as the regular season nears.

This year’s backups in Indianapolis will be busier than most.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said Monday the team plans to go slow with quarterback Andrew Luck, who is recovering from January right shoulder surgery. Luck is expected to begin throwing in the spring, but it is clear the club won’t ask of him too much, too soon.

Luck remains on schedule for a full recovery before the season begins, Irsay said.

“We are not going to be rushing him,” Irsay told his team’s website. “We are going to make sure, obviously, that the shoulder has to be ready and the doctors are going to give full approval before he starts putting real reps on it and that sort of thing.

“This is going to be a huge benefit in the long run. We really feel that he’s going to be completely healed for the season and he’s going to have a great season. Chris (Ballard) and Chuck (Pagano) have talked and we are going to make sure, if we need an extra arm in camp, as we start doing our work, we will be prepared for that.”

In 2016, Luck threw for 4,240 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 15 games. He also set career highs with a 63.5 completion percentage and 7.8 average yards per attempt.

That is despite some apparent teeth-gritting behind the scenes.

“I don’t think people realized how much he had to work to get ready to play each week,” Irsay said to Colts.com. “He really had to work hard last year, and it was very mentally draining to get ready.”

 

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Relocation profitable for owners, but it cheapens their fans

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On the evening it was reported the Chargers were relocating to Los Angeles, a San Diego police officer and his partner were dispatched to the team facility. There had been an act of vandalism; a man streamed live video on social media as he pelted the city-owned building’s doors with eggs while cursing the team.

It was quiet now.

The officer stood outside a patrol car, there to deter further disruption. He is a San Diego native, he said. Some of his family members have Chargers tattoos. He grew up attending games with his dad. Now, while working his beat, the father of two toddlers absorbed the evening’s personal consequence.

He can never attend a San Diego Chargers game with his kids.

Franchise relocation, in many respects, is good for business in the NFL. Certainly, its 32 owners profit. But the real gamble Monday wasn’t the Raiders moving to Las Vegas. It was that, with a third relocation in 15 months, the league continued to cheapen the very foundation of its business: fans.

When the Rams and Chargers moved, the other 31 owners pocketed nearly $21 million in relocation fees off each franchise. On Monday, Raiders owner Mark Davis became indebted about $11 million to each owner to swap Oakland for Las Vegas. Local revenue projections from new stadiums make such payments worthwhile.

These numbers are tangible.

In exchange, the cost of weakening the facade of fandom is far more difficult to quantify.

Teams cut players. Teams trade players. That’s part of business in the NFL. But the relationship between a club and city is packaged as something beyond that. It’s portrayed, at times, as a fabric resembling family. Home markets aren’t supposed to be cut or traded. It should be a rare last resort.

Having three relocations in 15 months doesn’t merely send the wrong message.

It screams it.

It screams that NFL owners run their franchise as a business. It screams they operate in their own interests. It screams the long-term viability of a club comes first and foremost, far more valuable than how the franchise is ingrained in its followers’ lives and traditions of their families.

This is the way it always has been in many NFL cities.

In a 15-month span, the league’s gamble was being so brazen about it.

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Jimmy Haslam: “We could trade” Brock Osweiler

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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s the guy who had to sign off on buying a second-round pick for $16 million, so he knows what’s going on.

But like everyone else, he’s not sure if that means the throw-in to that deal — quarterback Brock Osweiler — is going to be hanging around the Browns for very long.

“We picked up a second-round pick” Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Brock could be on our team or we could trade him. There’s lots of options out there and like I said you guys should cover it with [executive] Sashi [Brown] tomorrow.”

While that might seem a startling slap in the face to the former Texans starter, the Browns have never created any illusion about their interest in acquiring Osweiler (along with a second-round pick and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fourth-round pick), from the moment he was barely mentioned in the press release announce the trade.

But as long as he’s there, I guess they’ll be nice to him and talk like he’s actually a player and not just the guy carrying the luggage (the pick) to the room.

“We’re excited about getting the second-round pick and we’re excited to add a guy to our roster who has won games in the NFL,” Haslam said. “We now have eight first- or second-round picks in the next two years. We’re excited about that.”

What that means is so far no one’s really offered anything for Osweiler, or they’d have almost certainly taken it, even though he’s done more on the field than any of their quarterbacks of recent vintage and certainly the ones on the roster at the moment.

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Robert Kraft hopes Bill Belichick coaches into his 80s

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With so much time spent wondering about the number of years that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will play, here’s a question that rarely comes up: How much longer with Patriots coach Bill Belichick continue to essentially run the football operations?

In an interview to be aired during Tuesday’s PFT Live, Patriots owner Robert Kraft expresses a preference: “I hope he does it ’til his 80s.” Kraft then cited examples of business icons like Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch, who remain highly productive beyond their 80th birthdays.

Belichick turns 65 in April. Which means that he could have another 15 years or more left, if he coaches as long as Kraft hopes Belichick remains in place.

Tune in to NBCSN or NBC Sports Radio on Tuesday morning at 8:35 a.m. ET for the extended discussion with Robert Kraft, during which he touches on a wide variety of issues and topics.

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49ers re-sign DuJuan Harris

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After bouncing around the league for years, DuJuan Harris may be finding some stability in San Francisco.

Harris, a running back who got a career-high 38 carries last year, re-signed with the 49ers today, his agent announced.

The 28-year-old Harris entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Jaguars in 2011 and has spent time with the Steelers, Packers, Vikings, Saints, Seahawks and Ravens before signing with the 49ers late in the 2015 season.

Harris will again serve as a backup to Carlos Hyde this season.

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Bills claim defensive end Scott Crichton off waivers

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The Buffalo Bills claimed defensive end Scott Crichton off waivers from the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.

Crichton was released by the Vikings on Friday after spending three years with the team. The Vikings waived Crichton with an injury designation at the conclusion of training camp last year and he spent the year on the team’s injured reserve list.

Crichton – a third round pick of the Vikings in 2014 – appeared in 21 games with Minnesota between the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He recorded just 10 total tackles in limited action.

He provides a veteran option at end for the Bills ahead of the draft. Crichton joins Shaq Lawson, Jerry Hughes and Ryan Davis as the only defensive ends currently on Buffalo’s roster.

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Oakland mayor: Raiders fans “deserved better”

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A coffee-table book could be made, at this rate, featuring politicians’ statements after an NFL franchise relocated from their cities. Disappointment. Some version of “we, the city, did what we could.” At times, anger.

That it’s become so routine is a testament to the 15 months it’s been in the NFL.

Libby Schaaf joined the book Monday.

The Oakland mayor expressed her dissatisfaction with a 31-1 NFL owner vote in Phoenix. It approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, which will be executed once a stadium becomes available at the latter. The Raiders are scheduled to continue at the Oakland Coliseum in the interim.

Bay Area fans, she said, “deserved better.”

“I am disappointed that the Raiders and the NFL chose Las Vegas over Oakland when we had a fully-financed, shovel-ready stadium project that would have the kept the Raiders in Oakland where they were born and raised,” the statement read.

“I am proud that we stood firm in refusing to use public money to subsidize stadium construction and that we did not capitulate to their unreasonable and unnecessary demand that we choose between our football and baseball franchises.

“As a lifelong Oaklander, my heart aches today for Raider Nation. These are the most committed and passionate fans any city or team could hope to have. They deserved better.”

Indeed, this was the latest mayoral statement in a string of NFL franchise relocations.

Here was St. Louis on Jan. 12, 2016, after losing the Rams to Los Angeles.

“The NFL ignored the facts, the loyalty of St. Louis fans, who supported the team through far more downs than ups, and the NFL ignored a strong market and viable plan for a new stadium,” Mayor Francis Slay said. “I am proud of our effort and what St. Louis was able to accomplish in an extraordinarily short period of time. I thank everyone who worked so diligently on this project, especially the Governor’s Task Force.

“In the meantime, we need to increase our focus on the region’s hospitality industry — conventions, tourism and amateur sports. These events and the hotels and restaurants that support them put thousands of City and County residents to work in good jobs. St. Louis is great place to live and build a business — with or without NFL football.”

Here was San Diego on Jan. 12, 2017, after losing the Chargers to Los Angeles. (Or did they?)

“At the end of the day, Dean Spanos was never willing to work with us on a stadium solution and demanded a lot more money than we could have ever agreed to,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “We live in a great city and we will move forward. San Diego didn’t lose the Chargers, the Chargers lost San Diego.”

There is another commonality between such statements.

None paint a full picture of the events precipitating the NFL’s departure.

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