ProFootballTalk: Fitzgerald talks ‘different’ Arizona QB
A new column that spends plenty of time wagging a finger at Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for “embarrassing” the team’s owner with “late-night shenanigans” that may or may not ever result in a conviction, guilty plea, suspension, or fine contains new details about the events that resulted in Revis becoming a Jet in 2015.
Basically, it unfolded exactly the way everyone thought it did. Which is pretty much the way it always does.
“Team officials in stealth mode communicated with Revis, Inc., through private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine rather than make calls from the team’s landlines at their Florham Park facility,” writes Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “No paper trails were a must. [Owner Woody] Johnson, the driving force behind bringing back Revis to right a wrong in his mind, endorsed all of it.”
That’s how tampering works, every year with most if not all teams. Paper trails never exist, and face-to-face meetings occur at the Scouting Combine, with no effort by the league to ensure that agents and teams are talking only about clients currently on the roster and not about clients currently on another roster.
In 2015, even after Johnson committed a clear tampering violation by declaring the team’s interest in a Revis reunion (the Jets eventually were fined $100,000), Johnson was pushing the team to bring back Revis, before the Patriots decided whether to pick up a $20 million option for the coming season.
Mehta separately points out that the courtship of Revis ended up being a “colossal mistake.” Based on the way Revis performed in the second year of the contract, that’s a given. The recent arrest doesn’t make his return any more or less of a blunder; indeed, if Revis were still playing at a high level, the Jets would be circling the wagons and defending their star player.
Mark Twain is credited as saying, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes,” and the same may be said of reports about a trade involving the Dolphins and Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas.
On Sunday, word was that Thomas would be involved in a deal that sent tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville. Monday brought word that the deal would involve Albert and not Thomas, who was reportedly being targeted by other clubs.
A little more time has passed and now Thomas again appears to be on his way to Miami. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Thomas will be traded to the Dolphins and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that the Jaguars will get a late-round pick in the 2017 draft in return.
Salguero previously reported Albert will be traded to Jacksonville for a late-round pick in 2018 in what may go down as two separate moves rather than one big trade.
Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Thomas has agreed to a revised deal, something that was reportedly a consideration when discussions about a deal began, but no terms are known. The deal can’t be formalized until the new league year starts on March 9, so there’s time for further details to get ironed out.
The Cowboys’ annual game of kick the can has begun in earnest.
According to Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys have freed up $17.3 million in short-term cap space by restructuring the contracts of left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick.
Such moves are standard operating procedure in Dallas, where they’re always pushing money into future years for present relief. They do it by turning base salary into bonuses, allowing them to prorate the hit over future years.
The moves would have them under the suggested salary cap of $168 million.
Much has been made — and inferred, or is it implied? — about Washington receiver Pierre Garςon’s seemingly lighthearted Instagram post that generally asked, “#YALLHIRING?”
The message ultimately says nothing other than Garςon, a pending free agent, currently doesn’t have a deal to return to the team. With 17 days to go until free agency opens (and, perhaps more importantly, 15 days until his agent can talk to other teams), the team is apparently playing the waiting game.
The waiting game becomes the tampering game next week in Indianapolis, when teams and agents begin to meet and to discuss hypothetical (or actual) offers for looming free agents, setting the market and allowing the player’s current team to determine whether it will or won’t pay him what he can get elsewhere.
For Washington, it’s a complicated question. With both Garςon and Jackson becoming free agents, it’s unclear whether either or both will stay. That likely will depend on what it will cost to keep them.
Regardless, it’s too early to call the Instagram post anything more than it is — a recognition by the player that the team has yet to sign him. They may, they may not. Either way, time will tell.
The most recent report regarding a potential trade between the Dolphins and Jaguars has tackle Branden Albert going to Jacksonville in exchange for a draft pick.
That’s an update from word over the weekend that the Jags were going to send tight end Julius Thomas to Miami in return, but Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported that won’t be the case in an Albert deal. Salguero did add that Thomas is a player the Dolphins “would be interested in.”
They apparently have company on that front. Mike Kaye of First Coast News reports that the Jaguars have heard interest from a team or teams other than the Dolphins when it comes for dealing for the tight end.
It’s possible that the Jags are putting that word out in hopes of getting the Dolphins to reconsider a deal involving Thomas or otherwise gin up interest in Thomas so that they can get something in return rather than just cutting him. There’s a good chance that would take Thomas revisiting his contract, which calls for him to make $7 million in 2017. Thomas might prefer getting cut and choosing his own landing spot, however.
Thomas signed with the Jaguars before the 2015 season and has caught 76 passes for 736 yards and nine touchdowns while missing 11 games over his two years in Jacksonville.
Sometimes the dots connect themselves.
Former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is looking for a job, and the Panthers are looking for a productive slot receiver to go along with their occasionally productive big ones on the outside.
According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Cruz visited the Panthers this weekend and met with General Manager Dave Gettleman (who used to work for the Giants).
Cruz left town without a contract and is believed to have at least one other visit scheduled.
The veteran wideout was released by the Giants since they didn’t want to pay him $7.5 million after he came back with a moderately productive year after knee and calf problems the previous two years. He said he thought he had “a lot of good football” left in him. The Panthers could certainly use someone like him, even if it doesn’t turn out to be him.
This is the time of year when certain veterans get a head-start on the free agent market, but it takes becoming unemployed.
The 29-year-old was two years into what was billed as a five-year, $42.5 million deal. He was due a $2 million roster bonus on March 13 and a $6.5 million base salary this year, of which $3.5 million would have been guaranteed.
He led the Jaguars in sacks in 2015 (which is relative), but played in just six games last year after an elbow injury.
He’s been a productive interior player in the past, and should find some interest before the rest of the veterans have a shot at the market.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t short on advice from TV executives about how to improve ratings.
In addition to a suggestion from FOX that the league has too many broadcast windows, CBS chairman Les Moonves said he talked to Goodell about speeding up games, potentially by reducing the number of commercial breaks.
“If there are ways of doing advertising in different ways that are equally beneficial, we’re looking at that, and we’re trying to make the game as good an experience as we could make it,” Moonves said, via Fortune.
The idea of “doing advertising in different ways” will not mean fewer commercials, but it may mean fitting the commercials into the game differently so that there are fewer delays, or shorter delays. Moonves also discussed with Goodell ways that the referees could see the replays more quickly so that replay reviews would be shorter.
Although the NFL remains the most popular programming on American television, last year’s ratings decline early in the season caused some consternation. The TV networks and the NFL don’t want to see another decline in 2017.
An ugly divorce for Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders is causing an awkward moment with his employer.
Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, the Broncos have no comment on the contention that Sanders lied about missing a November 6 practice for the birth of his child. Sanders allegedly used the excuse “so he could go out partying.”
The allegation comes from court documents obtained by TMZ arising from the divorce of Emmanuel and Gabriella Sanders. She claims widespread adultery, including the expenditure of “thousands upon thousands of dollars on girlfriend and wasting the community estate.”
It will be interesting to see whether the Broncos take any action against Sanders, if he indeed lied in order to miss practice. With $6.75 million fully-guaranteed for 2017 and another $6.9 million in 2018 salary due to become fully guaranteed on March 14, a team-imposed suspension could void the guarantee and set the stage for a parting of the ways, either this year or next year.
The Bengals drafted two tackles in the first two rounds of the 2015 draft, which likely left many people with the feeling that Andrew Whitworth’s time as the team’s left tackle was close to its expiration date.
While there were flirtations with a move to guard, Whitworth stayed at left tackle through the 2016 season while Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher saw time on the right side of the line. This offseason offers a potential parting of the ways with Whitworth set for free agency next month, but the door hasn’t been closed.
Appearing on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Alex Marvez and Solomon Wilcots, Whitworth said that he’s talking to the Bengals and that he hopes it works out for him to stay in Cincinnati. He also said that the discussions have been about him remaining as the team’s left tackle.
Bengals right guard Kevin Zeitler is also set to become a free agent, so there may be multiple changes up front on offense as the team tries to get back to the playoffs after their five-year streak of postseason appearances came to an end in 2016.
The bizarre video that contains images of two men knocked out cold and the sound of another man claiming that he did it and threatening to do it again apparently is the closest thing to a smoking gun in the case against Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. It also proves that, as to the most serious charges pending against him, Revis likely will walk.
The defense lawyer contends that the voice on the tape doesn’t belong to Darrelle Revis. Teammate Brandon Marshall agrees. (So do I.)
As a practical matter, the prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Revis is the person claiming credit for the knockout punches. Before it ever gets to that point, the prosecutor will have to believe that such an outcome is likely to justify the time and expense of taking the case to trial.
It’s not. Revis will hire a voice-recognition expert to explain to the jury that it’s not Revis. At best, the expert hired by Revis and the expert retained by the prosecution will cancel each other out, creating more than enough doubt to support an acquittal.
While that could take care of the assault charges, Revis would still faces charges of conspiracy, robbery, and the making of terroristic threats. If Revis is willing and able to identify the person who threw the punches in exchange for all charges being dropped, he could potentially walk away.
Of course, Revis may not be willing to say anything at all. If he’s not, it will become harder for the prosecutor to find a way to save face without Revis pleading guilty to one of the charges or entering a diversion program or otherwise doing something to accept partial responsibility for a portion of the incident.
Accepting any responsibility could make Revis more susceptible to punishment by the league, however. And with the NFL generally unwilling to negotiate discipline as part of the effort to negotiate a plea arrangement, Revis eventually could be required to roll the dice.
However it plays out for Revis, the video helps his case. Whether it delivers an outright victory remains to be seen.
The Dolphins and Jaguars are talking about a trade which would send left tackle Branden Albert to Jacksonville, but it appears he is the only player involved in the deal.
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the teams have agreed to a deal that would send Albert north for a late-round pick in 2018.
The deal isn’t necessarily complete, and Albert continues to talk to the Jaguars about a way to sweeten his deal to get him to avoid the freedom of the open market.
While the Dolphins might have some degree of interest in Thomas, they might not at his current contract terms, and the Albert-for-pick swap might be a way around that.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had go through a few anxious moments this offseason, wondering if his beat-up veteran quarterback was going to come back.
So coupled with his experience in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger, he expects the Steelers quarterback to be back on the field this season after previous musing about retirement.
“I think given time, he’ll be ready to roll,” Arians said, via ESPN. “He’s in a time where he’s making decisions, too. He’s got the three kids and I think, like [Cardinals quarterback] Carson [Palmer], he got beat up.”
Roethlisberger didn’t take the abuse Palmer did last season, but he has accumulated a lot of hits over a career that has seen him be willing to leave the pocket and take more. Five of those seasons were with Arians as his offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, giving the Cardinals coach a bit of insight.
Of course, plenty of players wonder aloud about their futures in the immediate aftermath of the season, but after the soreness subsides (making them better able to reach for their future fatter wallets) many guys end up forgetting about that talk.
The biggest problem with the recent “T.O. dropped too many passes” excuse for keeping him out of Canton isn’t that it’s a stupid argument (it is), it’s that it feels like a Plan B effort from Hall of Fame voters to justify the snub.
Peter King of TheMMQB.com, who supports T.O.’s case for Canton, fleshed out the drops-based case for exclusion in his weekly column. And while King reiterates his position that Owens should make it, King argues that drops are relevant to the overall case.
If so, why did it take two weeks for drops to become part of the public discussion? It seems like the voters (regardless of whether they oppose Owens) have decided to supplement the extra-statistical scuttlebutt with something rooted in objective fact, now that the threshold justification for keeping Owens out of the Hall of Fame has largely failed to resonate with fans or with media members who don’t have a Hall of Fame vote.
In a close case, drops would be highly relevant. Locker-room misbehavior would be relevant, too. In situations where the performance clearly justifies enshrinement, these paper-thin barriers become even more flimsy when they emerge as a reaction to the intense criticism arising from the omission.
When Hall of Fame quarterback and Hall of Fame voter Dan Fouts went public with his opposition to Owens, Fouts said nothing about drops. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, the first voter to reduce his opposition to writing, said not one word about drops.
Drops first fell into the discussion after the rejection of the “horrible teammate” and “teams couldn’t wait to get rid of him” narratives began to crumble. The drops-based argument should quickly crumble, too.
Again, in a close case, drops on the field and conduct from the sideline to the parking lot is relevant. In a slam-dunk situation, it’s not.
Consider Brett Favre. He’s the all-time leader in interceptions. He had a reputation for doing his own thing, ignoring the instructions of coaches and winging it. At least one of his former coaches — Jerry Glanville — surely would have some bad things to say about him. (Brad Childress and Eric Mangini might, too.) Favre was hardly a model teammate, as Jeff Pearlman’s Gunslinger demonstrates regarding Favre’s alleged treatment of Aaron Rodgers. Favre tormented the Packers with his annual will-I-or-won’t-I retirement musings, setting the stage for the arrival of Rodgers. Favre eventually retired and then unretired, creating a mess for the Packers before being traded to the Jets, where a workplace sexual harassment situation resulted in Favre being fined for lying to the league office.
Did any of that keep Favre out of Canton? Nope. Favre got in on the first ballot, without even a discussion or debate. (It literally took 30 seconds to put Favre’s case to rest.)
For Owens, the debate continues. The fact that the goalposts keep moving demonstrates how weak the case against him is.
Steve Smith announced his retirement from the NFL after the 2016 season and took a job with NFL Network to remain involved in the game moving forward.
He’s had other offers to keep his toe in the football world as well. Smith told James Lofton and Brad Hopkins of Sirius XM NFL Radio that he’s heard from wide receivers and defensive backs interested in watching film and doing on-field work with him in hopes of improving their games. He’s also heard from agents of draft prospects interested in polishing their clients’ games, but Smith is resisting all inquiries.
“And I had to take a step back and I said, ‘You know what?’ If I do all these things, now I’m getting my mind and body to say I can still play,'” Smith said. “So I had to text some guys and say, ‘You know what? I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to watch film with you and work out and train with you because that means I’m telling myself and my family I’m about to go play again. And I don’t want to go through that process. I’m done playing.’ So if I’m training anybody, their last name is Smith, meaning my kids. I’m just going to love on them, and that training is less intense. The goal is so lesser. It’s, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we’re drinking water, fluid, and all that stuff.’ Out there, when you’re training for ball, it’s a different animal. So I said, ‘No.'”
There will always be players who could benefit from the tutelage of an undersized player who carved out a 16-year career that ended with 1,031 catches. For now, though, they’ll have to look elsewhere because Smith isn’t ready to share his tricks of the trade.