Mike Florio runs down the latest news in the NFL and wonders if we can expect big changes coming from New York. He also analyzes the Cowboys’ decision to restrict Josh Brent from the sideline on game days and if the Titans should go all-in on Chris Johnson’s contract.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Can it get any worse for Jets?
Tackle Phil Loadholt took care of one obstacle in the way of his return to the Vikings when he took a pay cut earlier this offseason.
He’s working his way through another one during OTAs. Loadholt is back on the field after tearing his Achilles in the preseason last year and says his return to the field has gone smoothly.
“I feel like I’m moving pretty well,” Loadholt said, via the Pioneer Press. “I got some things I’ve got to get better at obviously, but I’m working hard to get better and those things and be ready to roll.”
Loadholt’s pay cut leaves him set to make a non-guaranteed salary of $2.25 million after agreeing to a reduction with another $1.25 million available in incentives. If he’s going to see all of that money, he’ll have to take care of a third obstacle in the form of Andre Smith. The former Bengal signed as a free agent this offseason and will be Loadholt’s competition for the right tackle job.
With the Patriots getting involved in quarterback Tom Brady’s effort to overturn the four-game suspension imposed against him by filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Patriots possibly have could end up pick up a portion of Park Avenue’s legal tab.
The folks at PatsPulpit.com have uncovered a 1997 NFL resolution that arguably makes the Patriots responsible to reimburse the NFL for its attorney’s fees based on the team’s decision to become involved in the case.
Here’s the relevant language: “If any member club . . . initiates, joins, has a direct, football-related financial interest in, or offers substantial assistance to any lawsuit or other legal, regulatory, or administrative proceeding (‘Claim’) against the League . . . each Claiming Party shall be obligated jointly and severally to reimburse the League . . . for all of such party’s legal fees, litigation expenses, and costs incurred in such Claim if the Claiming Party (or the third party that received substantial assistance from the Claiming Party, or in whose Claim the Claiming Party has a direct, football-related financial Interest) does not obtain a judgment on the merits which substantially achieves, in substance and amount, the remedy sought.”
For a variety of reasons, this language probably doesn’t apply to the Patriots in this specific case.
First, it was the NFL and not Brady who initiated the lawsuit. Thus, there is no claim “against the League.” The league filed a lawsuit in an effort to uphold Brady’s suspension.
Second, the Patriots arguably don’t have a “direct, football-related financial interest” in the case. The Patriots won’t lose any money at the box office if Brady serves his suspension. While the suspension could make it harder for the Patriots to get to the playoffs (and thus host playoff games and make even more money), this would seem to be more of an indirect football-related financial interest, a byproduct of the suspension itself.
Third, the NFL will incur only minimal additional expenses as a result of the brief filed by the Patriots, apart from the 0.5 hours that one or two (or more) lawyers will bill to the league for reading the eight-page document. Parties to a lawsuit don’t respond directly to friends-of-the-court briefs, and the arguments made by the Patriots track the arguments made by Brady and the NFL Players Association.
As evidenced by the title to this item, there’s a but. It comes from this provision from the 1997 resolution: “The Commissioner . . . shall determine the amount of said legal fees, litigation expenses, and costs, and such determination shall be final and binding.”
While the resolution doesn’t expressly state that the Commissioner also will determine the threshold question of whether fees are even owed, it’s a safe bet that both questions fall within the unassailable, do-what-I-want discretion of the Commissioner. So even if the arguments favor the Patriots, the Commissioner could choose to pick the team’s pockets for any, some, or all of the legal fees incurred by the NFL from this point forward, and there really won’t be anything the Patriots can do about it.
Cousins said he has been studying up on Doctson to find out what kind of target he’ll be, and Cousins is already excited about the possibilities for finding Doctson in the end zone.
“I went back and watched some of his highlights from TCU, and he is a special player,” Cousins said, via CSNMidAtlantic.com. “Looks like he can make the contested catch. It’s very natural for him to go up and catch that type of pass. He can run well. He has got great size. I almost thought he was a tight end when he showed up because if his size. . . . Having a guy like Josh could also be a great weapon in the red zone.”
Cousins believes the addition of Doctson gives Washington a very good receiving corps.
“We’ll try to build that chemistry as he’s here and as we can work together and just learn what he does well and what fits him, what he is natural at and try to get him the football,” Cousins said. “We certainly can spread it around with all the talent at the outside positions.”
With Doctson joining receivers DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder, plus tight end Jordan Reed, Cousins sounds like a happy man. For reasons beyond the $20 million he’s making this season.
Former Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, a sixth-round pick of the Panthers in 2013 who inevitably landed in Philadelphia via a trade with his former college head coach, is still in Philly even after Chip Kelly has gone. Last year, a strong preseason won Barner a spot on the 53-man roster. This year, a strong offseason could be helping Barner even more.
As explained by Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, Barner’s performance coupled with the absences of DeMarco Murray (also gone), Ryan Mathews (recovering from surgery), and Darren Sproles (absent from OTAs and likely gone, eventually) has put Barner in line to potentially become the team’s starting tailback.
Barner’s receiving talents serve him well in coach Doug Pederson’s offense. It also doesn’t hurt that Barner has high-end return skills, which helped him stick with the team in 2015.
Eventually, it could be Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood vying for playing time and touches in 2016. At a time when the Eagles seem to be intent on shedding as many former Kelly players as possible from the roster, maybe they relish the chance to get the most out of a Kelly’s former Oregon protégé.
Crowell and Johnson said that Jackson’s complimentary words gave them a confidence boost heading into the final phase of offseason work and they may get another from running backs coach Kirby Wilson. Wilson says that while Jackson is working on building a passing attack from the ground up, Crowell and Johnson will be responsible for setting the tone offensively in Cleveland.
“We are going to be a run-oriented football team,” Wilson said, via the team’s website. “Everything starts with the run game, our offensive line and our backs. As coach told us, we are going to be a physically dominant, running football team. … We call it ‘big boy football.’ It is all about attitudes and it starts with the run game. You have got to be able to run it, and you have got to be able to stop the run on defense. We are going to take pride in that, being physically superior than our opponent.”
A run-first approach doesn’t come as a surprise based on the situation at quarterback and wide receiver in Cleveland, but it also fits with what Jackson did in Cincinnati over the last few years. The Bengals ranked in the top eight in rushing attempts in each of the last three seasons, which suggests Crowell and Johnson won’t be lacking for chances to confirm Jackson’s assessment of their abilities.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently applied a deadline for extending his contract, which currently is entering its final year. Once the regular season starts, Brees won’t be interested in talking.
His head coach agrees with that approach.
“Just having seen the interview and his comments, they totally make sense,” Sean Payton said on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “It was the case [five] years back. You don’t want to be, A, as team or, B, as a player focusing on player contracts right during the middle of the season. . . . I wouldn’t say that there hasn’t been a sense of urgency with [G.M.] Mickey [Loomis] and [agent] Tom [Condon]. Those guys are the ones that are in contact and are the ones that are doing it. . . . I just know how Drew is and his focus and his ability to work and concentrate on the task at hand that won’t be altered, and that’s a strength of his.”
The strength of the final year of Brees’ contract becomes a potential weakness for the team, if the deal isn’t done before Week One. Come 2017, his $30 million cap number for 2016 becomes a $43.2 million franchise tender. Which makes it very unlikely that the franchise tag would be used again on Brees, like it was in 2012.
Many will say it’s far more likely that the two sides will work something out long before it’s time to use the tag. Of course, many also thought the deal would be done before Brees’ $30 million cap figure hit the books on March 9.
Cowboys guard Ronald Leary, who has lost his starting job to La’El Collins, wants out of Dallas. The Cowboys have made it clear they want fair value in return for Leary, which means (duh) they won’t be inclined to trade him unless they get fair value.
Leary meanwhile has made it clear that he doesn’t care about what the Cowboys get; he just wants out. The latest tangible piece of evidence comes from Leary stripping all references to the Cowboys from his Twitter page, via the Dallas Morning News.
But here’s the problem for Leary. He chose to sign his one-year restricted free agency tender last month, which puts him under contract for 2016 at a salary of $2.553 million. So while he can boycott voluntary workouts without consequence, he faces significant fines if he stays away from mandatory minicamp or training camp.
Leary had options. He could have, for example, refused to sign the tender and then skipped the offseason program, mandatory minicamp, training camp, etc., hopeful that Dallas would withdraw the tender.
Now that running back Marshawn Lynch is retired, plenty of speculation has emerged as to whether he will unretire. Only days after Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said he won’t predict what the always-unpredictable Lynch will do, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin is willing to go out on a limb, at least as it relates to Lynch’s most recent team.
“I’m most certain that he’s not coming back,” Baldwin said regarding Lynch during a Friday appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.
If Baldwin is talking about Lynch not coming back to the Seahawks, Baldwin should bet the farm on it. Even if Lynch unretires, there’s no way the Seahawks will want to carry his $9 million salary, especially after taking a $5 million cap hit due to the pre-June 1 processing of his retirement.
That doesn’t mean Lynch won’t decide to return and play for another team, and most speculation has centered on Lynch joining forces with his on-the-upswing hometown Raiders. If the team is indeed leaving Oakland, Lynch could help give the fans something to really remember.
The safest course with Lynch is to expect anything, because no one ever really knows what he’s going to do. There’s a good chance that, at this point on the calendar, even he doesn’t know.
The late Bud Adams made no secret of the fact that he wanted Peyton Manning to sign with the Titans when Manning was a free agent in 2012 and the failure to land him reportedly contributed to the franchise’s founder and owner’s decision to fire General Manager Mike Reinfeldt after that season came to a close.
Manning wound up signing with the Broncos, of course, and went to two Super Bowls with Denver before retiring in the wake of their Super Bowl win earlier this year. The Titans haven’t had anything close to that kind of success in the last four years, which will likely have some of their fans wondering what might have been after Manning revisited that pursuit at the Middle Tennessee Sports Awards in Nashville on Thursday night.
“I was pretty close,” Manning said of joining the Titans, via the Tennessean.
That decision would have led to a lot of other what ifs around the league including what things would look like for the Titans, Broncos, Texans, Marcus Mariota and others had Manning made a different decision. Those what ifs don’t make for much other than conversation topics to while away an afternoon, but long holiday weekends usually offer an opportunity to do just that.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler is reportedly planning a push for a new contract with the Patriots and he’s not the only member of the defense who will be dealing with issues on that front in the near future.
Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower are heading into the final year of their contracts, leaving the Patriots with some work to do to keep everyone on hand beyond the 2016 season. For now, though, Hightower says that he’s only focusing on on-field matters.
“I don’t have anything to do with any of that,” Hightower said, via the Providence Journal. “I’m just out here trying to get better with my teammates.”
Reporters pointed out to Hightower that he does have something to do with whether he remains with the Patriots, which he conceded before adding that “there’s a time and place for everything” and repeated that this is the time to get better.
The only real negative about Hightower’s last two seasons have been injuries that kept him from playing in eight games, but his contributions when healthy have made him an integral defensive piece in New England. That would make it a surprise if a deal doesn’t get worked out when the appropriate time and place present themselves.
The NFL made a lucky roll of the dice two-plus years ago when it staged an outdoor Super Bowl in New Jersey in early February. With the league apparently getting ready to cozy up to Las Vegas, the league may be ready to gamble once again with the crown jewel event of the year.
According to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, the Jets and Giants have informed the NFL of interest in hosting one of the next two games that will be awarded, in 2018: Super Bowl LVI and LVII, to be played in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
“We have informed them of our interest in both games,” Giants co-owner John Mara told Myers. “We hope to pursue another Super Bowl. We’re not sure yet of the date.”
The last time the NFL awarded a Super Bowl to New York/New Jersey, a blizzard struck the area the morning after the game. Even without snow on game day, organizers erroneously estimated the use of public transportation, resulting in massive crowds trying to get to and from the game.
There’s a long way to go before the folks in New Jersey need to crystallize plans for adding a lot more trains. For now, the potential interest could be more about ensuring that places like Tampa and New Orleans in 2018, when the owners award a pair of championship games. If, as expected, Dallas returns to the table and New York/New Jersey does the same, there will be four cities jockeying for two games, at a minimum.
Then, if Tampa and New Orleans get the games, the Cowboys, Jets, and Giants will get personalized letters telling them to keep trying.
Three takeaways from the first week of Ravens OTAs.
Bernie Kosar spoke to Browns rookies last week.
Steelers rookies spent some time at the Mel Blount Youth Home.
Titans receivers know they are facing extra scrutiny.
Former Broncos QB Jake Plummer shares his thoughts on the current team.
Position coach Ollie Watson breaks down the Chargers running backs.
The Packers have given their defense several new pieces to work with this season.
A few things to look for in Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s third season.
Saints WR Michael Thomas explains what drew him to Ohio State.
Said Buccaneers K Roberto Aguayo, “Pressure is built from inside. I’m competitive. I want to make every kick. At the end of the day it’s your kick. So I just [say] it internally; ‘I have to make this kick, this is what I have to do.'”
Offensive coordinator Rob Boras shares some thoughts on the Rams offense.
We checked in with one Ravens pass catcher returning from an injury last week and wide receiver Breshad Perriman said he was feeling strong in his return from the knee injury that kept him from playing at all last season.
Tight end Dennis Pitta has been out of the lineup even longer. Pitta last played in a game on September 21, 2014 and has been trying to return from a second dislocated hip since that point. That comeback attempt is playing out in Baltimore’s practices this offseason and Pitta said the on-field activity has been “very encouraging.”
Coach John Harbaugh seems to agree with that assessment.
“He looks like Dennis Pitta to me,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “If you’re asking for a comparison to what he was when when he was playing to what he was now, he’s removed from football for a couple of years and we’re in — this is nothing. As far as the stability of the hip, how he feels about it, running around, making catches, looking like a football player, it’s all good.”
Pitta will be in for different tests in training camp and especially preseason games when he’s taking hits to the hip that’s caused him so much trouble in the last three years. His body’s response to that will determine how far he goes in his return to the field.
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler is heading into the third and final year of the contract he signed as an undrafted rookie in 2014, and he’d like to be paid more like the Super Bowl hero and Pro Bowler that he is than like an undrafted free agent.
Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that Butler has told teammates and friends that he plans to push for a new contract before the start of the regular season.
Under his current deal, Butler is slated to make $600,000 this year and then become a restricted free agent next year, when the Patriots could keep him with a relatively low-cost tender offer. So he doesn’t have a lot of leverage, with the Patriots able to keep him for the next two years.
The one way Butler could get some leverage is by not coming in to work. Butler did not attend Thursday’s Organized Team Activities, although it’s unclear whether his contract had anything to do with that.
Five cities competed this week for a trio of Super Bowls. The two losing cities got the NFL’s equivalent of a participation ribbon: A personal letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell urging them to keep bidding for future Super Bowl.
“It is clear the Tampa Bay region will be in excellent position to contend for Super Bowls in the years to come,” Goodell wrote. “Thank you for your leadership and many contributions to the success of the league. Our office and the Super Bowl Advisory Committee will continue to support your efforts.”
Of course it will; the NFL needs to constantly have more cities bidding on Super Bowls than it has Super Bowls to award. Otherwise, the NFL won’t get the kind of competitive offers that include free presidential suites for owners and $50,000 in per-team “credits” for expenses teams inevitably will incur. Once the supply of viable candidates to host the games matches the demand, the jig will be up for the NFL.
Which is why the NFL needs to constantly encourage the losing cities to keep trying — and why the owners of every team need to cajole the local politicians and business leaders into aspiring to host the game. The more cities at the table, the more free stuff for the people in each city who already can afford to buy their own stuff, over and over again.