Posted by Mike Florio on March 26, 2017, 12:52 PM EDT
When it comes to the potential practical consequences of putting a professional football team in Las Vegas, the NFL isn’t completely ignoring the situation. It seems, however, that not nearly enough people are taking the situation as seriously as they should.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, some are indeed sounding alarms about moving a team to the nation’s gambling capital. Those alarms seem to be obscured by the sound of the league’s looming jackpot.
As noted on Saturday, the NFL can’t (and thus isn’t even trying to) reconcile its desire to put a team in Las Vegas with its supposed aversion to all things gambling. But if, after the owners get together this week with a chance for any opponents to chime in, the league gives the Raiders the green light to leave Oakland for Las Vegas, it will be important for both the team and the NFL to have clear plans in place for plopping players, coaches, executives, and other team employees into a place where gambling is more prevalent than good food quickly.
Put simply, players and their families will be moving into a place where gambling is everywhere. While some have argued that nearly any player on any team already is within driving distance of a casino, casinos in most places are destinations. In Las Vegas, where both casino games and sports betting are legal, a player can’t walk out of his apartment without being smacked in the face by the “here it is, why aren’t you here?” prevalance of it.
At some point, the lure of gambling will tempt everyone — even those who believe they are sufficiently self-disciplined to avoid it. At some point, someone connected to the team will develop a gambling problem. At some point, someone with a gambling problem will develop a significant gambling debt. At some point, someone with a significant gambling debt will be ripe to be compromised.
The league needs to be ready to prevent it (which may be impossible) and to spot it when it happens (which may be just as difficult). And even if the league manages to keep it from ever happen for the duration of the Raiders’ stay in Las Vegas, the league needs to be ready to hear more of the same-old conspiracies about corrupt officiating and points shaving, realizing that a layer of craps-table felt will make the tin-foil hats seem less nutty.
Posted by Michael David Smith on March 26, 2017, 11:07 AM EDT
Hall of Fame Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin thinks there’s a special kind of scrutiny that comes with being a star player on the Dallas Cowboys, and Ezekiel Elliott needs to learn that.
Irvin said on KRLD that Elliott has to understand that the kind of attention he got as a star player in college will be dwarfed by the attention he’s getting now that he’s a star player in Dallas. Irvin said the incident in which Elliott pulled a woman’s top down in public demonstrated a kind of immaturity that isn’t acceptable for a Cowboys star.
“Not to ever make an excuse for anybody, but he’s a young guy,” Irvin said, via the Dallas Morning News. “And I don’t mind a guy having fun and all of that. But I need him to understand the enormity of everything surrounding him. I know Ohio State is huge, but the Dallas Cowboys are something different. Everything you do, anything you do . . . that’s going to get out, that’s going to be a story. And you have to try to stay away from that. As I was watching it, I remember when I first saw it . . . I checked my calendar. Is this Mardi Gras? When you watch it, you can see the wheels turning in his head . . . don’t do it; don’t do it. But he does it. He just has to be careful, man.”
Irvin had plenty of his own off-field problems during his time as a Cowboy, so some would say he has no standing to criticize Elliott. But perhaps Irvin is uniquely qualified to understand why Elliott needs to clean up his off-field act. There’s a perception around Elliott that he needs to grow up, and Irvin is only the latest to say so.
Posted by Michael David Smith on March 26, 2017, 8:44 AM EDT
Under current NFL rules, a coach may challenge two calls per game, and if replay reviews prove him right on both of them, he gets a third challenge. Three is the limit.
If a proposal before the Competition Committee this week is approved, there will be no limit, and coaches can keep challenging as long as they’re successful.
Washington has proposed a rule that would permit an unlimited number of successful challenges. If the challenges are unsuccessful, the limit would still be two.
That rule proposal would seem to have a lot of headwind in an offseason in which the NFL has made faster-paced games a top priority. More challenges means more replay delays, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has acknowledged that replay delays are a problem.
So it seems unlikely that the rule would be adopted. A team challenging four, five, six or more times a game could slow the game to a crawl, even if the coach is correct. Of course, the real issue is that officials shouldn’t be making enough mistakes that a coach could have four, five or six successful challenges in the first place.
Posted by Michael David Smith on March 26, 2017, 5:54 AM EDT
Bills General Manager Doug Whaley appears to be on the hot seat, raising questions about who’s really calling the shots in Buffalo heading into the draft.
Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News writes that it seems only a matter of time before Whaley gets moved out. Sullivan suggests that owners Kim and Terry Pegula have decided to give more authority to new head coach Sean McDermott, and Whaley’s power is limited. Sullivan even suggests that it could be that the only reason Whaley hasn’t resigned is he wants the Pegulas to fire him so they’ll be forced to keep paying him until his contract expires.
The Bills have decided that McDermott, not Whaley, will address reporters at the official annual pre-draft media event. Typically the person who answers questions in that setting is the person who’s calling the shots, and the Bills choosing McDermott to talk to the media on the team’s behalf suggests that McDermott, not Whaley, is calling the shots.
A similar situation played out in Washington in February, when G.M. Scot McCloughan was kept away from the media. A month later, McCloughan was fired.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Whaley is the next NFL G.M. to lose his job.
“Despite all of these efforts, ours and yours, we have not yet identified a viable solution,” Goodell said in the letter, which the East Bay Times reportedly obtained Saturday. “It is disappointing to me and our clubs to have come to that conclusion.”
Oakland and its partners submitted Friday a revised $1.3 billion development proposal that Goodell wrote is not “clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable time frame, and free of major contingencies,” according to East Bay Times.
A vote that could relocate the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas is expected as early as Monday at the NFL’s annual spring meeting in Phoenix. Twenty-four of the league’s 32 owners must vote in favor of the relocation for it to be approved.
It’d be the latest relocation for the league. On Jan. 12, the Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles. The Rams moved from St. Louis to L.A. last year.
Goodell’s full letter has not been published in its entirety at this time, but its largest excerpt reads as follows, per the East Bay Times:
“We have been prepared for nearly two years to work on finding a solution based on access to land at a certain cost, without constraints on the location of the stadium or timing of construction, and clarity on the overall development,” Goodell wrote.
“However, at this date, there remains no certainty regarding how the site will be fully developed, or the specific and contractually-defined nature of the participation by Fortress or other parties. In addition, the long-term nature of the commitment to the A’s remains a significant complication and the resolution of that issue remains unknown.”
The new Packers tight end announced Saturday an incentive for fans interested in wearing his No. 80. He pledged on social media not to pocket a cent off whatever commission he’ll receive from jersey sales in 2017, allocating his profit instead to “after school programs that I’m working to put together.”
He added that his older brother, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, inspired him.
Michael pledged this month to donate all endorsement money earned in 2017 “to help rebuild minority communities through s.t.e.a.m programs, as well as initiatives that directly affect women of color in hopes that we can create more opportunities for our youth and build a brighter future.” He also committed 50 percent of his jersey profit to fund inner-city garden projects.
Fans generally have to be mindful when investing in a player jersey.
As a hypothetical, former Packers running back Eddie Lacy’s jersey was $99.95 to begin the year. After his contract expired on March 9, it’s down to $69.97. A player’s roster longevity is often directly correlated to the jersey’s value.
Martellus does not necessarily shine in that category. He is 30. As part of a three-year contract he signed this month, the Packers can avoid paying him a $2 million roster bonus if he’s released before the start of the 2018 league year. In 2019, he is due a $5.65 million salary.
But the factors to purchase his or his brother’s jersey now extend beyond that.
They’ve turned profit into philanthropy.
Notably, the brothers are neither the first nor surely last NFL players to make such commitments. Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, for example, announced he would donate all jersey profits in 2016 amid a surge in sales.
“The only way I can repay you for the support is to return the favor by donating all the proceeds I receive from my jersey sales back into the communities!” Kaepernick said on Instagram. “I believe in the people, and WE can be the change!”
Cincinnati announced Saturday it has parted with its long-time linebacker. Maualuga, a second-round pick in 2009 out of USC, has spent his entire eight-year career with the club.
There were clues, however, there wouldn’t be a ninth.
The Bengals added former Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter a week ago. Maualuga, 30, is coming off a season in which he started a career-low six of 14 games played. In all, he started 104 of 114 games for Cincinnati, racking up 580 tackles, four sacks, seven interceptions and six forced fumbles.
Maualuga also was entering the final season of a three-year contract. It featured a $3.15 million base salary and $300,000 workout bonus due in 2017.
Posted by Mike Florio on March 25, 2017, 3:01 PM EDT
A mere four years ago, the NFL wanted nothing to do with staging any games in Las Vegas. Then, once Las Vegas emerged as a viable candidate to lure the Raiders from Oakland, the nation’s gambling capital suddenly became acceptable for at least 10 NFL games per year.
No one seems to be troubled (or even curious) by the about-face. Indeed, hardly anyone ever questions how and why it happened — especially since Commissioner Roger Goodell insists that the league can shift its attitude toward Las Vegas without shifting its attitude toward gambling.
“We’re obviously very sensitive to that, but we’re also going to evaluate the Raiders case on the relocation application in what’s in the overall best interests of the league,” Goodell told reporters in January. “But one thing we can’t ever do is compromise on the game. That’s one of the things we’ll do is to make sure the policies we’ve created, if we did in any way approve the Raiders, I don’t see us compromising on any of the policies.”
Compare that to this shrug of the shoulders from an unnamed AFC owner in comments made to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com.
“From a gambling standpoint? That’s a joke to even say that’d be a problem,” the unnamed owner told Breer. “That was an issue decades ago. Now? Sports gambling is going to be legal. We might as well embrace it and become part of the solution, rather than fight it. It’s in everyone’s best interests for it to be above-board.”
And so it could be that, just as abruptly as the league pulled a 180 on Vegas, the league may abruptly flip its flop on gambling. Which could make it much harder for the league to continue to sue each and every state that tries to adopt betting on sports.
“We oppose further state-operated gambling on individual NFL games because it presents a threat to the integrity of those games and to the long-term relationship between the NFL and its fans,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in 2009, as the NFL fought to keep sports betting out of Delaware. “If you make it easier for people to gamble then more people will. This would increase the chances for people to question the integrity of the game. Those people who are upset will question whether an erroneous officiating call or dropped pass late in the game resulted from an honest mistake or an intentional act by a corrupt player or official.”
Those people who are upset will question whether an erroneous officiating call or dropped pass late in the game resulted from an honest mistake or an intentional act by a corrupt player or official.
The owners who will convene in Arizona this weekend should consider that quote and ask themselves that question, especially with more than 50 players eventually living in a place where gambling will be everywhere they go.
While putting a team in a place where gambling is legal is technically different than embracing gambling, “Las Vegas” and “gambling” are too synonymous to permit the average perception-is-reality fan to engage in the mental gymnastics necessary to tell the difference between the two. Which precisely why, as recently as 2013, the league shunned Vegas.
Even without the quote from the unnamed AFC owner, it was going to be very hard to remove the stigma of gambling from the dropping of a franchise into Las Vegas. That quote will make it damn near impossible — especially as more and more similar quotes are harvested on- and off-the-record as reporters descend on Arizona to (hopefully) ask pointed questions about how the NFL plans to walk the tightrope between loving Las Vegas and loathing betting lines.
Posted by Mike Florio on March 25, 2017, 12:20 PM EDT
Plenty of people have plenty of opinions about the ongoing unemployment of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. One specific person’s opinion (more accurately, a question) caught my attention.
Browns tackle Joe Thomas had this to say in response to the item posted earlier today by MDS: “Most people can agree [Kaepernick’s] current unemployment is a combination of his anthem protest and his declining play, which is playing more into it?”
It’s a question raised earlier this week on PFT Live (the poll question appears below), and it gets to the heart of what’s happening with Kaepernick. If he were regarded as being as good as Tom Brady, Kaepernick already would be under contract; indeed, his 2014 contract with the 49ers never would have been restructured and he’d still be the starting quarterback there. (And Trent Baalke would still be the G.M. And Jim Tomsula or Chip Kelly would still be the head coach.) If Kaepernick were viewed as having no football abilities at all, the political aspects wouldn’t matter.
The problem seems to be that Kaepernick’s perceived skills currently fall into the gray area that prompts teams (owners, General Managers, coaches, whoever) to conclude that the baggage outweighs the bang. Otherwise, Kaepernick would have a job somewhere right now, either as the starting quarterback or at least in position to compete to be the starter.
The proof that he falls into the more-trouble-than-he’s-worth category comes from the manner in which Kaepernick was treated a year ago. Multiple teams were willing to trade for him, if he’d simply reduce the $12 million in fully-guaranteed base salary he was due to make in 2016. The Broncos, who steadfastly refuse to give up anything for Tony Romo now, were willing to trade for Kaepernick. The Browns reportedly were willing to cough up a third-round pick and to pay Kaepernick $7 million or $8 million for one year.
That interest came at a time when Kaepernick was recovering from not one nor two but three offseason surgeries. Surgeries that resulted in weight loss that kept him behind Blaine Gabbert for the first five games of the season.
So what has happened in the past year, other than Kaepernick embarking on a highly polarizing political position that landed his image on the cover of Time and his name on the lips of every NFL fan and millions of drive-by Super Bowl commercial watchers? Kaepernick started 11 games for a horrible team in a new offensive system, generating numbers that were far from horrible.
As a passer, Kaepernick completed nearly 60 percent of his passes, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and throwing 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions. His passer rating was 90.7 — his highest such number since signing his long-term deal after the 2013 season.
As a runner, Kaepernick averaged 42.5 yards per game and 6.8 yards per attempt. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the leading rusher among quarterbacks in 2016, averaged 38.6 yards per game, in 15 starts.
Speaking of Taylor, his numbers for the year were comparable to Kaepernick’s. Completion percentage: 61.7. Average per attempt: 6.9 yards. Passer rating: 89.7. Touchdowns to interceptions: 17 to 6. Average per rush: 6.1 yards.
Taylor emerged from the season with a two-year, $30.5 million contract to remain with the Bills despite an overhaul to the coaching staff. The Bills, with former Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison now on board, presumably could have had Kaepernick for considerably less than that. And Dennison comes from one of the teams that was ready to trade for Kaepernick a year ago.
Which brings me back to the Browns. A year ago, they wanted him. Now, after a season with a two-win team in an offense new to him while recovering from three surgeries with numbers that compare to those generated by Tyrod Taylor (a guy in whom the Browns reportedly were interested), the Browns want nothing to do with Kaepernick.
There are two possible explanations for this. One, the Browns are being the Browns, again. Two, Browns ownership wants nothing to do with Kaepernick.
Given that the Browns wanted Kaepernick a year ago, and in light of how he performed a year ago, Door No. 2 is a fair response.
Beyond Cleveland, it’s fair to ask why other teams see nothing in a guy in whom multiple teams saw something a year ago. The Broncos don’t want him. The Jets don’t want him. The Texans apparently don’t want him. The Bills, who could have had him for less than Taylor, didn’t want him. The Bears, who are paying Mike Glennon $15 million per year (it’s still not clear whom they were bidding against), didn’t want him.
While Kaepernick may not currently be better than 20 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, he’s a better option for multiple teams than what they currently have. Which means that his ongoing unemployment absolutely, positively is more about politics than football.
So, Joe, there’s your answer. And if you hope to have a shot at finally getting to the postseason, maybe it’s time to start publicly pushing for Kaepernick as the alternative to Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, anyone else available via free agency, or any of the rookies in the 2017 draft.
Posted by Michael David Smith on March 25, 2017, 9:53 AM EDT
Free agent running back Adrian Peterson says he remains unemployed not because he’s asking for too much money, and not because teams aren’t interested, but because he wants to find the right team for him, and that can take time.
Apparently annoyed by an ESPN report that he had turned teams off with an $8 million salary request, Peterson took to Twitter and said it’s not a financial issue.
“You can’t believe everything you read or hear people,” Peterson wrote. “The last thing I’m worried about is playing ball this coming season. That will happen! It’s not all about the money as everyone is speculating here lately. You’d think these analysts spoke to me directly. When you don’t know what’s going on people will say anything to create or make a story!”
Peterson said he’s eager to go to a Super Bowl contender.
“Finding the best fit and helping a team in a major way win a championship is my main objective! I’m in no rush,” Peterson wrote.
When that will happen remains to be seen, but Peterson’s comments suggest that he’d be fine with waiting until training camps open before he finds the right team. He’s committed to playing, but he’s not committed to finding his team right away.
Posted by Michael David Smith on March 25, 2017, 7:56 AM EDT
Long snapping is a unique skill, and few NFL teams have more than one player who can do it well. So after the Eagles lost both their starting long snapper and their emergency backup long snapper in the same game last year, they’re seeking to expand protections for long snappers in 2017.
The Eagles have proposed a rule that would prevent the defensive team from hitting the long snapper until a full second after the snap. That would allow the long snapper to snap the ball and then put his head and hands up to protect himself before anyone can touch him.
The precise wording of the Eagles’ rule proposal is, “When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap.” Breaking that rule would be considered unnecessary roughness, a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down.
During a December game, Philadelphia starting long snapper Jon Dorenbos suffered a season-ending wrist injury. That left Brent Celek as the emergency long snapper, but Celek got hurt during the game, too. Trey Burton then entered the game as the third-string long snapper and successfully snapped a ball to the holder on a field goal.
It was impressive that Burton could do that, but the Eagles would prefer not to have to rely on him again.
“There was a year Matt Schaub had a pretty rough year and got signed the next year. So it has nothing to do with football,” Sherman said on ESPN. “You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before.”
The idea that football has “nothing” to do with Kaepernick’s inability to find a job just doesn’t carry any water. If Sherman thinks Kaepernick’s unemployment is solely about the anthem protest, then how does Sherman explain the tepid interest in Kaepernick when the 49ers made him available for trade last year, before the anthem protest? Kaepernick has undeniably declined significantly as a player since he burst onto the scene as the 49ers’ starter in 2012. Over the last two seasons, Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert have shared time in San Francisco and played approximately equally well, and Gabbert hasn’t been able to find a job, either.
But it’s also undeniable that a lot of NFL owners, general managers and coaches are conservative people who disagree with Kaepernick’s protest. It’s certainly possible that some of those people would be willing to look past Kaepernick’s on-field struggles but aren’t willing to look past his anthem protest, or his off-field political advocacy.
Sherman thinks Kaepernick is still better than most starting quarterbacks in the league.
“You don’t have 32 starting-level quarterbacks in this league,” Sherman said. “You have about eight elites, and then you have the rest of the league. You have about eight, nine elite quarterbacks. You have two or three who have the potential to be elite. And then you have the rest of the teams. So he could play and start on a ton of teams in this league. He would be a starter on probably 20 of the teams in this league. But you’re telling me that you’re going to let other guys, you’re going to pick up some of these other guys and tell me that they’re starters?”
If Kaepernick were really better than 20 teams’ starting quarterbacks, it’s hard to believe not a single one of those teams would be willing to sign him. But Kaepernick is surely at least one of the 64 best quarterbacks in the NFL, which means he should at least be able to get a job as a backup. Yet he remains unemployed.
The veteran defensive end carried a lofty salary. On the other side of the ball, a young quarterback in Carson Wentz needed more surrounding pieces to facilitate his development.
What followed was logical.
The former Eagle said Friday that there are no hard feelings for his release. Quite the contrary, in fact. Barwin told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane the Eagles were “smart” for choosing to part ways with him as they did, a March 9 move that sliced $7.75 million off the salary cap.
“Obviously, there was a ton of money invested in the defensive line room with Fletcher (Cox), Vinny (Curry), (Brandon Graham) and myself,” Barwin said to McLane. “Now they have a quarterback that appears to have a chance to be a really, really good player.
“I wish it wasn’t the money I was getting paid, but I think it was smart to use that money and help Carson.”
Posted by Michael Gehlken on March 24, 2017, 7:38 PM EDT
The Jaguars hired Tom Coughlin to be their executive vice president of football operations on Jan. 9.
Since then, the NFL Players Association is known to have begun at least two separate inquiries related to the club’s front-office activity, the latest of which reportedly involves an email Coughlin sent to several players.
According to the Florida Times-Union’s Ryan O’Halloran, Coughlin requested via email for certain players under contract to report for a physical earlier this month. The union is looking into the off-season request, specifically in regard to its allowance under the collective bargaining agreement.
A Jaguars and NFL spokesman both declined comment when reached by Pro Football Talk.
This grievance from the NFL Players Association is not a total surprise, having been foreshadowed earlier this month. The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on March 2 there was discontent among agents and the union at the NFL Scouting Combine over the Jaguars requiring players without medical clearance to rehab at the facility four days a week.
Coughlin’s email similarly involves a request of injured players. Per O’Halloran, player agents advised their clients to take the team’s physical as the union continued to explore the matter.
Earlier this off-season, former Jaguars defensive end Jared Odrickfiled a $5.5 million grievance against the club, seeking to recoup guaranteed money. Per USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, the Jaguars contend Odrick “voided (the) guarantees by refusing checkups during injury rehab.” Odrick’s grievance has yet to be resolved, a source said Friday.
Any fallout related to Odrick’s situation is expected to be contained within the two parties.
If the Jaguars’ activity related to injured players is deemed a CBA violation, however, possible punishment could involve the forfeiture of a designated number of practices this spring.
Posted by Mike Florio on March 24, 2017, 7:24 PM EDT
Yep, Oakland is making one last play to keep the Raiders. Whether it’s political cover or a viable Hail Mary pass remains to be seen.
For now, here’s what we know: Via ESPN.com, Oakland and its partners have submitted a “revised” plan to finance a $1.3 billion stadium at the site where the team’s current facility sits.
“At the end of the day this is the decision of the Raiders and the NFL,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told ESPN. “What I am confident about is, if the Raiders want to stay in Oakland we have a viable plan to build them a stadium with no upfront money from them, in financial terms that I believe are more favorable to them than the terms in Las Vegas — what we know of them.
“And then, of course, we have something that Vegas can never offer, and that’s legacy and loyalty. This team was born in Oakland. This team enjoys some of the most passionate and dedicated fans of any NFL franchise. Those things belong uniquely to Oakland.”
Those things have been a non-issue when it comes to the team’s desire to get a new stadium, which over the past year or so has centered on Las Vegas. The question now becomes whether those qualities will prompt the Raiders to slam the brakes on the momentum building toward Las Vegas and explore an offer that could, in theory, get worse once it accomplishes its objective to pulling the emergency cord in the train car.
According to the last-second offer, the Raiders and the NFL would kick in the same $500 million that they’d contribute in Las Vegas. Fortress Investment Group would loan $650 million to the project, similar to the loan Bank of America would be making to the project in Las Vegas. Also, Oakland would contribute $200 million in infrastructure improvements, with Fortress paying $150 million of that amount up front and making it back later.
“I recognize that this could be our final chance, but we have worked so hard these last two years,” Schaaf said. “We’ve put together a viable deal that satisfies many requirements that we believe is the best deal for the Raiders and the NFL. We hope that they give it full consideration on Monday.”
Getting full consideration may be the primary objective of the latest offer. That way, Schaaf and other Oakland politicians can argue after the Raiders leave that they did everything they could to keep the team, but that it was the league and the Raiders that opted to leave.