Which are the 10 or 11 relevant teams?

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Saints coach Sean Payton said over the weekend that the NFL has only 10 or 11 relevant teams at any given time. If he’s right (and he is), the challenge becomes identifying the 10 or 11 relevant teams.

It’s easy to peg six or seven of them. It’s harder to identify the last few, at the exclusion of others that are close to being in the group of relevant teams.

My own list consists of these no-brainer franchises: Chiefs, 49ers, Patriots, Ravens, Seahawks, Saints, Eagles, Steelers, Packers. That’s only nine; the last spot or two could go to the Rams, Cowboys, Buccaneers (as long as Tom Brady is there), or Vikings, or the Bills, Colts, Texans, or Titans.

If it’s that hard to identify teams No. 10 and 11, maybe there are, for now, only nine relevant teams. Regardless, even though the league wants fans and media to think that every team has a chance to make the playoffs and that every playoff team has a chance to win the Super Bowl, folks inside the league regard roughly a third of the teams as legitimate threats to make it happen.

So which are your 10 or 11 teams? List them in the comments.

FMIA: 2020 NFL Draft, Stripped Of Glitz And Replaced By Humanity, Is A Successful Diversion Amid Pandemic

Courtesy of ESPN

What the 2020 NFL Draft would have been like, Vegas style: Roger Goodell, from a luxe podium next to Caesar’s Palace on the Strip in Las Vegas, announces to the crowd of 750,000 and to America: “With the 24th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Cesar Ruiz, center, Michigan.” . [more]

Yet another PFT Sunday mailbag

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It’s a new offseason Sunday tradition in these parts. Your questions submitted via Twitter, with the best 10 of them answered here.

So here we go, with a post-draft edition of the mailbag. Featuring 10 carefully harvested questions. Or, as the case may be, the first 10 that I happened to notice while scrolling through them.

From @gpromise3: “Grade the Dolphins’ draft.”

No.

Seriously, I mean it. No.

The process of grading draft picks is stupid. Anyone who gets it, knows it. Despite hearing the on-air draft analysts offer up reasons why every single player picked can become a solid contributor in the NFL, it’s all a guessing game, for everyone. And there’s no way of knowing where a given player’s football ceiling resides until he’s competing against (and being physically assaulted by) grown-ass men at the next level.

Roughly half of the first-round picks in any given year become busts. Yet you’ll never hear that mentioned during the coverage of the draft.

They don’t mention it for two reasons. First, that kind of transparency undermines the effort to sell hope to fans of every team, fans who are led to believe that their favorite team is one draft away from launching a dynasty. Second, if any of the on-air draft analysts were to say, “You know, half of these guys are going to stink,” plenty of fans may say in response, “Which ones?”

To which the analysts would say, “We don’t know.”

To which the fans would say, “Then why are we listening to you?”

Listening to draft grades is even more stupid, because no one knows who will and won’t thrive at the next level. But at least the grading process entails something other than an “everything is awesome” vibe, forcing on-air draft analysts to attach letters that could end up making them look stupid later.

From @deanosborn42: “What’s really going on with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers? Are they trying to ease him gently out the door?”

On Saturday, we took at stab at making sense of Green Bay’s strategy for the first two nights of the draft, which resulted in the first-round pick and fourth-round pick being devoted to Rodgers’ potential successor and the second- and third-round picks being invested in the running game.

There’s a sudden and palpable sense that the Packers are planning for life without Rodgers, but the cap consequences make it impossible to trade him before June 1, difficult (but not impossible) to trade him after June 1, difficult (but not impossible) to trade him before next June 1 of next year, challenging (but much easier) to trade him after June 1 of next year, and likely that he’ll be traded in 2022.

So it looks like the Packers are planning for two more years with Rodgers, with the possibility that he’ll convince them to extend it to a third year, based on his play. The question becomes what does Rodgers want? With the writing now on the wall, Rodgers may want to take a sledgehammer to it.

Again, it will be hard for the Packers to do anything about that before next June. Until it ends, whenever it ends, the dynamics between Rodgers and the Packers will be fascinating to monitor between now and then.

From @richardeid: “Belichick said not drafting a QB wasn’t ‘by design.’ Is that a big flashing light that says [Jarrett] Stidham isn’t the guy?”

Not necessarily. If Belichick had hoped to take a quarterback in the first few rounds but couldn’t make it work based on the complex balancing process of need and availability and position played by the various available prospects, that’s not good news for Stidham. If Belichick were merely planning to take a late-round prospect for developmental purposes, that wouldn’t have mattered to Stidham’s prospects, at all.

Given the public praise heaped on the second-year fourth-rounder from New England veterans like Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, and Matthew Slater, it’s safe to say the locker room believes in Stidham. Which makes it more likely that the coaching staff believes.

So even if Belichick’s failure to draft a quarterback wasn’t by design, Stidham continues to be the best option — and barring a future transaction he’ll be the most likely successor to Tom Brady.

From @GearsofTed: “Which of the big 3 WRs (Lamb, Ruggs, Jeudy) will be the best?”

Yes, I’ve already said that no one knows how anyone will do at the next level until they do it, or don’t. Until that happens, there are plausible reasons for making a preliminary ranking of the likely performances of Henry Ruggs III (12th overall to the Raiders), Jerry Jeudy (15th to the Broncos), and CeeDee Lamb (17th to the Cowboys).

I’d currently rank their expected performance, at least in the early years of their careers, in the opposite order in which they were drafted: Lamb, Jeudy, Ruggs.

Lamb lands in a spot with the best quarterback, running back, and offensive line of the three teams. Also, with Amari Cooper the No. 1 wideout in Dallas, Lamb won’t have to worry about being double-teamed unless and until he make a Randy Moss-style splash.

Then there’s the chip-on-the-shoulder factor. He believes he should have gone higher than No. 17, he’ll be pissed off that he didn’t, and that will give him extra motivation to get the most out of his abilities. Put simply, Lamb has a chance to explode in Dallas.

Jeudy has great weapons around him, too, along with a great defense. And Broncos quarterback Drew Lock showed star potential in limited time as a rookie. Jeudy, like Lamb, will have a chance to build confidence via one-on-one matchups, generate stats, and become a quality player, right out of the gates.

Ruggs, in contracts, steps onto a team with no No. 1 wideout, a quarterback who has by all appearances hit his ceiling, the highest expectations of any receiver because he was the first one picked, and the ball-and-chain that comes with generating a ridiculously fast time in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Plenty of guys who have great unencumbered, straight-line speed can’t adapt to the broken-field impediments to running fast (starting with getting jammed at the line), the expectation to stop and start and change directions smoothly, and the question of whether, ultimately, the player can reliably catch the ball.

Ruggs also may face double teams right out of the gate, making it even more of a challenge to become the best of the first three receivers taken.

From @lenberkowitz: “Does this tank job by the Jags qualify as earliest tank job ever in the NFL?”

The Jaguars are not tanking. They aren’t even rebuilding. They’re retooling on the fly, changing the culture and swapping out players with name recognition for unproven players without name recognition who could prove to be better than expected.

Gardner Minshew II, a steal in round six last year, will get a chance to show that he’s the guy. The offense, under new coordinator Jay Gruden, likely will be redesigned to enhance Minshew’s chances.

The team’s goal this offseason was to get the salary-cap situation under control, and to make free-agency and draft decisions aimed at adding to and enhancing a quality core of players. First-round cornerback C.J. Henderson and first-round pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson definitely have the potential to beef up the defense, and second-round receiver Laviska Shenault adds to a quietly potent receiving corps that includes D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, and Keelan Cole.

And here’s the best reason for thinking the Jags aren’t tanking — owner Shad Khan has made it clear that coach Doug Marrone and G.M. Dave Caldwell are under the gun. So they’re trying to put together a team that will competitive in 2020, not position themselves to be able to pick Trevor Lawrence in 2021. If the Jaguars are in position to pick Lawrence next year, neither Marrone nor Caldwell will be employed by the team.

From @trmullen: “Greetings from the uk!! Are you surprised [Jameis] Winston is signing with Saints? And where do you think Cam Newton ends up Chicago or New England or elsewhere?”

From the moment Winston didn’t find a starting job, the Saints made the most sense. He can be the new Teddy Bridgewater, and if given a chance to play, Winston can set himself up for a starting job elsewhere in 2021.

Things could get even more interesting if coach Sean Payton sees enough in Winston to make him the starter in 2021 over Taysom Hill, who currently is the presumed successor to Drew Brees and who now has a two-year, $21 million deal. For now, though, Winston and the Saints would be (if the deal happens) a one-year arrangement aimed at helping both sides.

As to Newton, who knows? His best play at this point may be to wait for someone’s starter to get injured, or possibly to show up for training camp in horrible shape, thanks to months of not doing nearly enough to stay ready.

From @TeGentzler14: “Did the Eagles draft Jalen Hurts to combat the exact situation that happened to them against Seattle in the playoffs last year? With the ‘gadget plays’ being secondary?”

Every team needs a quality backup quarterback, especially when the starter has a history of getting banged up. Indeed, once Carson Wentz exited the playoff game against the Seahawks after a hit that should have resulted in a flag and a fine for Jadeveon Clowney, it was over for the Eagles.

Hurts, ideally, gives the Eagles for the next four years a better option behind Wentz, along with someone who could be used from time to time in different roles. It’s the best of both worlds for the Eagles, giving them a backup who can run the base offense and a utility player who can enhance it, when Wentz is playing.

Then there’s the coronavirus angle, which at least one reporter has mentioned (and which at least one other reported privately has mocked). If the NFL plays this year, and unless the players are quarantined from their families and/or society, any player could test positive, at any time. If it’s the starting quarterback who gets abruptly shut down for several weeks, it makes more sense than ever to have a replacement ready to go.

From @TheLaughingMan5: “Is there a reason Jake Fromm fell as far as he did? Usually we hear why people are falling down the board, but I felt there was a lot less of that this year.”

Sometimes, there’s a prospect who gets more hype than he deserves. Sometimes, that’s a result of the fact that he’s represented by an agency that also represents more than a few people who are in position to hype him in the media.

Sometimes, the evaluators fall for it. Sometimes, they don’t.

Sometimes, that’s all that needs to be said.

From @SkolVikings407: “As a Vikings fan myself. Chris Simms didn’t mention them as having a strong draft, what’s your opinion on how their draft went?”

Draft picks are scratch-off lottery tickets. And I’m always a fan of getting as many scratch-off lottery tickets as possible.

The Vikings emerged from the 2020 draft with 15 lottery tickets. So I like it.

The problem this year is that those young players will have reduced opportunities to catch the eye of the coaching staff, given the absence of a usual offseason program. Thus, plenty of those 15 players ultimately will get cut.

Before it’s time to cut those players, there undoubtedly will be a chance for them to prove that they belong. But they’ll have to do it quickly — especially the six who were taken in rounds six and seven.

From @dcowboy777: “If theres no season how do they do next year’s draft order?”

Dave Birkett recently wrote an article about the 2005 NHL draft, which happened after a season lost to a lockout. Hockey used a lottery with the number of balls tied to factors like playoff berths in the seasons preceding the draft and whether teams had the first overall pick in recent years.

If there’s no NFL season in 2020 — and despite stated plans and at-times blind optimism that possibility needs to be taken seriously — the league will have to come up with some way of crafting a draft order. Of course, if there’s no NFL season there definitely won’t be a college football season. Which will make the 2021 draft even more of a crapshoot than it was this year.

There will be various practical impediments to playing football, apart from the question of whether fans will be present. Most importantly, how can the NFL justify the widespread and continuous testing of its players, coaches, trainers, etc. if widespread testing still isn’t available to the general public?

Here’s the simple reality: If the NFL eventually has to craft a draft order without the benefit of a preceding season that naturally generates one, we’ll all have much bigger problems than pro football coming up with a process for selecting dibs on college football players who won’t have played in well over a year. So here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that, for plenty of reasons other than the fact that it will be another problem for the NFL to solve.

PFT’s second round mock draft

Second round mock draft
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Who are the best players available after the first round of the 2020 NFL draft? Which players will hear their names called on Friday night? We’ll do our best to answer that with our second round mock draft:

33. Bengals: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU.

34. Colts (from Washington): Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn.

35. Lions: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa.

36. Giants: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson.

37. Patriots (from LA Chargers): Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU.

38. Panthers: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin.

39. Dolphins: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia.

40. Texans (from Arizona): Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah.

41. Browns: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor.

42. Jaguars: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma.

43. Bears (from Las Vegas): J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State.

44. Colts: Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota.

45. Buccaneers: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M.

46. Broncos: Lloyd Cushenberry III, G/C, LSU.

47. Falcons: Grant Delpit, S, LSU.

48. Jets: Josh Jones, OT, Houston

49. Steelers: Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame.

50. Bears: Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois.

51. Cowboys: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama.

52. Rams: KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State.

53. Eagles: Malik Harrison, OLB, Ohio State.

54. Bills: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State.

55. Ravens (from New England via Atlanta): Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado.

56. Dolphins (from New Orleans): Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC.

57. Rams (from Houston): Van Jefferson, WR, Florida.

58. Vikings: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama.

59. Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State.

60. Ravens: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma.

61. Titans: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin.

62. Packers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama.

63. Chiefs (from San Francisco): Robert Hunt, G, Louisiana-Lafayette.

64. Seahawks (from Kansas City): Zack Moss, RB, Utah.

PFT’s one, and only, 2020 mock draft

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Mock drafts are like opinions, assholes, and corpse lilies. Everybody has one (except the corpse lily), and they all stink.

And now that I’ve gotten your attention, here’s our stinky mock draft, made even smellier by virtue of the fact that the absence of Pro Day workouts kept scouts and coaches and General Managers from passing around information that helps create a consensus as to who should or shouldn’t be among the first 32 players taken.

Much of the pre-draft process is about CYA. And there’s no better way to CYA than to point to the widespread groupthink reflected in the various media mock drafts, most of which are shaped not by film study by supposed draft experts but by what scouts and coaches and General Managers tell those crafting the drafts.

So instead of taking a bunch of time to track down and harmonize and homogenize a consensus in a year when one hasn’t developed like it usually does, I’ve turned over the process to a proven executive whose name would be instantly recognized, and whose opinion would have much more credibility than mine or anyone else’s currently in the media.

Thus, if you like it, credit the unnamed expert. If you don’t like it, blame the unnamed expert. Either way, here it is.

1. Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU.

2. Washington: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State.

3. Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State.

4. Giants: Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville.

5. Dolphins: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa.

6. Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon.

7. Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn.

8. Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama.

9. Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson.

10. Browns: Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia.

11. Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama.

12. Raiders: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida.

13. 49ers (from Colts): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma.

14. Buccaneers: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma.

15. Broncos: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson.

16. Falcons: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU.

17. Cowboys: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama.

18. Dolphins (from Steelers): Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama.

19. Raiders (from Bears): Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama.

20. Jacksonville (from Rams): Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina.

21. Eagles: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State.

22. Vikings (from Bills): Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU.

23. Patriots: Austin Jackson, OL, USC.

24. Saints: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU.

25. Vikings: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama.

26. Dolphins (from Texans): Patrick Queen, LB, LSU.

27. Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State.

28. Ravens: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado.

29. Titans: Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC.

30. Packers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama.

31. 49ers: Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn.

32. Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU.

NFLPA acknowledges lack of force majeure clause in CBA

Demaurice Smith democracy
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There are plenty of aspects of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that benefit the NFL. There is one provision, or lack thereof, that could significantly benefit the NFL Players Association in the event that there’s no football season in 2020.

The NBA’s CBA has a so-called force majeure provision, which has resulted in an agreement that players will take less money moving forward to compensate the league for games that ultimately will be lost to the pandemic. The NFL’s CBA does not have a force majeure clause.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith confirmed that fact during a Wednesday videoconference with reporters.

“We don’t have a provision,” Smith said. “It’s clear under the CBA. . . . We’re bound by a contract [and] certainly it has provisions in it that are different than other sports, and that’s just a fact.”

It’s a fact the works in favor of the players in the event that negotiations occur regarding when, where, and how 2020 games will be played, because the NFLPA has the ability to take the position that, regardless of whether any, some, or all games are canceled, the players are due to receive their full salaries.

Smith also pointed out that “it’s clear what happens under the CBA in the event of cancellations.”

He’s referring to this provision that appears on page 82 of the 2020 CBA, under the heading “Cancelled Games”: “If one or more weeks of any NFL season are cancelled or [All Revenue] for any League Year substantially decreases, in either case due to a terrorist or military action, natural disaster, or similar event, the parties shall engage in good faith negotiations to adjust the provisions of this Agreement with respect to the projection of [All Revenue] and the Salary Cap for the following League Year so that [All Revenue] for the following League Year is projected in a fair manner consistent with the changed revenue projection caused by such action.”

This provision applies to the setting of the salary cap for next year, not for the current year. So, basically, the “Canceled Games” clause creates a mutual obligation to negotiate a salary cap for 2021 based on the revenue losses in 2020. This means that, in theory, the players can indeed expect full payment for 2020, with the understanding that the negotiations culminating in a 2021 salary cap will be influenced dramatically by the fact that the teams had no revenue but still paid full salaries to players in 2020.

Regardless, the absence of a force majeure provision gives the NFLPA significant leverage when it comes to the inevitable negotiations regarding the shape and the contours of the 2020 season. And the fact that the players arguably would be entitled to full pay even if no games are played will give the union a significant voice when deciding the strategy for playing games this season.

If that seems harsh to the league’s interests, there are two realities to consider. First, the league will surely develop an argument that it won’t have to pay players in 2020 if there’s no season (despite the absence of a force majeure clause). Second, this is the deal that the league negotiated. Time and again, fans and media shrug in response to provisions that impair player interests and blame the union for not agreeing to a deal that contains better terms. If the league has to pay the players for 2020 due to the absence of a force majeure clause, that’s something that could have been avoided when hammering out the deal.

FMIA 2020 NFL Mock Draft: Three Trades, a Tua Stunner and a Round 1 Full Of Hope

2020 NFL mock draft
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I am, by nature, a hopeless optimist. (After you see my 2020 NFL Mock Draft 2020 below, you’d think the more apt description is hopeless masochist.) So I am glad the draft is going on despite the pandemic. It’s a pain for teams, of course, but competitively, it’s the same for everyone. The Chargers’ Tom [more]

Another PFT Sunday mailbag

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With the draft only four days away, the NFL machine is gathering itself for what will be a frenetic week. Which means there isn’t a whole lot happening right now. Which makes it a perfect time to answer 10 of your questions, as submitted via the PFT Twitter account.

So grab some lunch, settle in, and try not to get any Kenny Rogers Roasters grease on the keyboard.

From @PFTPMPosse: “Could you see the NFL ever going to a PPV style model for broadcasting games?”

It’s highly unlikely that NFL games would ever be exclusively available via a pay-only model. Even as streaming grows, millions of fans rely on non-Internet options for watching TV, whether through over-the-air signals in metropolitan areas or satellite dishes in rural locations. Unless and until streaming can gather audiences like those that flock to three-letter networks for NFL content (currently, NBC, CBS, and FOX), the league will continue to make multiple games per week available at no charge to consumers.

The business reason is simple. Every game televised on free TV becomes an infomercial for the sport, for which the NFL gets paid huge money by the network televising it. The smaller the audience, the less potent the message. The challenge becomes striking the right balance between the money paid for the rights and the reach of the broadcast.

A very important political reason exists for maintaining free TV access to NFL games. In the 1960s, Congress gave the NFL a broadcast antitrust exemption, allowing a collection of distinct businesses to come together and sell its TV rights collectively. If/when the NFL sells those rights in a way that freezes out the average consumer, Congress may strip the league of its antitrust exemption, forcing a new reality in which the Cowboys sell their rights for billions and the teams no one really wants to watch scramble for whatever they can get on The Ocho, or wherever.

That said, look for the NFL to try to expand its streaming footprint aggressively. Although DirecTV likely will keep the satellite right to NFL Sunday Ticket, momentum has been building for the league to sell digital rights to Amazon or YouTube or ESPN+ or any other entity that would pay huge money for the rights to put out-of-market games on phones, computers, laptops, etc. Indeed, don’t be shocked if the NFL eventually decides to create a direct-to-consumer option for this, something the league already does with live preseason games and with regular-season and playoff games that already have been played.

From @aredzonauk: “Will the NFL or ESPN work-in some booing to make [Roger] Goodell feel at home?”

The TV presentation of the draft reportedly will include a montage of 15 fans per pick, who supposedly will interact with the Commissioner and/or react to the selections. That’s likely too small of a crowd to give the fans the kind of anonymity that would be conducive to booing him.

The league sees it every year at the draft. Tens of thousands will boo lustily when the Commissioner walks to the podium. And then any, some, or all of the specific persons from the group that boos will, if given the chance to get close to him, clamor for handshakes and hugs and smiles and selfies with Roger Goodell.

All that said, don’t completely rule out the possibility of a sufficiently #selfaware Goodell arranging for his wife and daughters to boo him in jest when the process starts. If executed the right way (and it wouldn’t be easy to do it), Goodell could score major points with NFL fans everywhere if he finds a way to poke fun at the fact that, if the draft were happening in Las Vegas, the thousands assembled on the Strip wouldn’t be chanting “Wayne NEWWWWW-ton.”

From @95KeepPounding: “Do you think [G.M.] Marty Hurney will finally be out of Carolina after the draft or will Dave Tepper make the ultimate mistake and extend the contract of a guy who is 102-122 in his 14 years as a GM?”

During the final episode of last year’s All or Nothing, Panthers owner David Tepper said something that made me think that both coach Ron Rivera and Hurney were on very thin ice.

“This league is set to be an 8-8 league,” Tepper said. “Everything is fair in this league. So if you have better coaches, better GM’s, some advantages with facilities, advantages with the training, management process, whatever those, whatever it is, you know, analytics, whatever that is to give you an edge, that’s what you need. And you need a good quarterback.”

Tepper already has replaced Rivera, a two-time coach of the year, with Matt Rhule. Hurney has to date remained in place, but it’s entirely possible that Tepper intends to wait until after the draft (as plenty of teams now do) to make a change. It’s the kind of thing that gets loudly denied until it happens — and then it happens and instead of obsessing over the fact that the team sent false messages and/or flat-out lied, the media focuses more on what’s next.

But the Panthers surely wouldn’t do something like this. Not the team that spent so much time at the Scouting Combine selling the notion that they plan to keep Cam Newton for multiple oh wait.

From @LockerRoomTalka: “Do you think [Bill] Belichick will pass [Don] Shula in all time wins before he retires?”

Yes. And I was really tempted to just stop there.

Shula has 328 wins. Belichick has 273. Which means that Belichick has 55 wins to go.

Belichick turned 68 on Thursday. Although Belichick has said in the past that he doesn’t want to coach into his 70s, that’s a much tougher commitment to make when parked only 727 days away from them.

Owner Robert Kraft has previously told PFT Live that he’d like to see Belichick coach into his 80s, comparing Belichick (and Kraft himself) to people like Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffett, who continue to work at a high level a generation or more beyond what used to be the accepted retirement age.

For Belichick, the question becomes how long he’ll coach into his eighth decade — and how many games he’ll be able to win per year without Tom Brady at quarterback. If Belichick can remain in the range of 10-12 wins per year, he’ll need five seasons to pass Shula. If the Patriots fall into the 8-8-on-average category (with scattered seasons of 6-10 and 7-9 and 8-8- and 9-7 and 10-6), he’ll need seven years.

Health permitting, Belichick surely will keep going. The real question is whether and when he’ll begin to struggle to remain on his feet and moving around a sideline for three or more hours. That’s precisely why George Halas, currently second on the all-time victory list with 318, retired from coaching at the age of 73.

All things considered, Belichick probably has at least five years left. And five years could be all he needs to catch and pass Shula.

From @MaximusOvrdrv: “Should the NFL start broadcasting games throughout the week (say a game on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, etc.) if high schools and colleges do not resume their football programs? In your opinion, would that be a better way for not only the NFL, but for the fans as well?”

The broadcast antitrust exemption (that’s two mentions of it in one mailbag) prevents the NFL from televising games on Fridays or Saturdays from Labor Day weekend through early December. So the first challenge would be securing a one-time dispensation from Congress. That presumably would be easy to accomplish, if high school and college football aren’t playing in 2020. Then again, college football could choose make a stink about it; the powers-that-be may wantr FOX and ESPN to broadcast past games during the traditional college football viewing windows throughout the day on Saturday, with no competition from pro football.

Assuming that the NFL can televise games on Fridays and Saturdays without losing their antitrust exemption, would the NFL choose to do it? With no other football available in 2020, why not?

Scheduling could be an issue, but the removal of fans from the equation (which likely will be the case if high-school and college football aren’t played at all) would make it easier to move games from the Sunday-afternoon cluster to Friday night or throughout the day on Saturday. Also, if the NFL season ends up being played with, for example, all teams sequestered in Florida hotels (where pro sports are deemed to be an “essential” business), the travel burdens will be minimal for teams that play on, for example, a Friday after a Sunday or a Saturday after a Monday night.

With the ticket revenue likely gone, adding up to four weekly broadcast windows (one on Friday night and three on Saturday) would help make back plenty of money for the league. If, of course, the league can get the networks to pay for it.

If not, well, maybe those extra games become streaming-only, with fans paying for the ability to watch. Surely, if there’s no high-school or college football this year, hundreds of thousands if not millions will fork over whatever the charge will be to watch football on Friday nights and all day Saturday.

From @leepers500: “What is the message to the market of [Christian] McCaffrey’s deal? You have to produce yards through the air AND on the ground (I believe he’s quite high on the receiving yards list each year as well as rushing)? Or is it: if you are the lone superstar on rebuilding franchise, you get paid?”

The message is simple: Every running back will be valued and evaluated individually.

Some will be regarded as interchangeable pieces, chewed up and spit out and replaced with another rookie after three or four or maybe five years. Others will secure big-money paydays from teams that believe/hope they’ll keep tread on the tires deep into their 20s — and that for business reasons realize that the player sells plenty of tickets, jerseys, etc.

Production and versatility become a huge part of the assessment, and McCaffrey checks both boxes. He also has become the new face of the Carolina franchise, given the release of Cam Newton and the retirement of Luke Kuechly. In an alternate reality where both are still on the team, would the Panthers have moved so aggressively to get McCaffrey under his second contract? Maybe not.

So the reality is that the market for running backs will remain muddled and largely depressed, given the ability in any/every given year to find incoming prospects who will move the chains and score points if: (1) they get competent blocking; (2) they learn how to hold onto the ball when facing NFL-caliber defensive players who are skilled at ripping it out; and (3) they can be trusted to pick up blitzing defenders.

Not many will break from that formula. And if McCaffrey’s performance significantly dips over the next year or two, it may be even harder for the next McCaffrey to get paid as early in his career as McCaffrey did, after only three seasons.

From @LawrenceTheHump: “If the giants had selected Sam Darnold or Baker [Mayfield] rather than Saqoun [Barkley], would they be more competitive and competing for a playoff spot this year?”

At the risk of being “that guy” (while still being “that guy”), the Giants couldn’t have drafted Mayfield in 2018 without trading up from No. 2 to No. 1. But the point is a good one.

The Giants, instead of taking a running back, could have had Darnold or Josh Allen or even 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. More importantly, they could have had pass-rusher Bradley Chubb or already-All-World guard Quenton Nelson.

When the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 and 2011, they had great defensive and offensive lines. And great offensive and defensive linemen have much more staying power than great running backs. For instance, the team that stopped the Patriots from going 19-0 was led defensively by Michael Strahan, who had been drafted in 1993.

So the real question is whether the 2018 Giants should have waited to get a running back later (like maybe Nick Chubb at the top of round two) and pounced on Bradley Chubb or Nelson at with the second pick in round one, and whether either guy (coupled with Nick Chubb) would place the Giants in better position to secure a playoff berth now than Barkley (coupled with guard Will Hernandez, taken one spot before Nick Chubb) does.

But the better question isn’t whether that approach would enhance the Giants’ chances now, but whether having Bradley Chubb or Nelson would help put in place a foundation that could extend well beyond the prime years of Saquon Barkley‘s career?

In answering that question, consider the list of running backs who were drafted by the Giants after Michael Strahan arrived and who left the team before Strahan retired: Ron Dayne (first round, 2000); Joe Montgomery (second round, 1999); Sean Bennett (fourth round, 1999); Tiki Barber (second round, 1997); Tyrone Wheatley (first round, 1995); and Gary Downs (third round, 1994).

From @CPruenca: “Are you hearing anything regarding Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory reinstatements?”

Not a word, and that’s no surprise.

Although many view the new substance-abuse policy as relaxing dramatically the standards for the reinstatement of players who previously were suspended indefinitely by the league, it has no impact at all on the status of players like Smith, Gregory, Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, David Irving, etc. They’re still suspended, the Commissioner still has full discretion when deciding whether to reinstate them, and the Commissioner has no deadline for making a decision on their reinstatement applications.

For Smith, the fact that his latest suspension arose from DUI and hit-and-run charges makes his situation much different than players who simply had failed too many marijuana tests. Some think, however, that the Cowboys wouldn’t have made the move if they don’t know something.

If they do, they’re the only ones.

From @djgingerale: “What movie did you end up watching with your wife last night?”

We watched Plus One on Hulu, at the recommendation of one of the many folks who responded to the question on Twitter (some of the responses were as entertaining as the movie). I’d never heard of it. Starring Jack Quaid (son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan) and Maya Erskine (who was at times hilarious), it’s worth your 99 minutes if you’re looking for something light and funny — although I’ll admit that someone brought a blender to the TV room, jammed three onions on it, and pressed the “frappe” button during one specific scene between Quaid and Ed Begley Jr., who plays Quaid’s father in the movie.

From @leepers500: “Suppose an antibody test is developed and used to test players along with a virus test, temperature checks and quarantines. Then the system fails and players fall sick, with perhaps very serious consequences. Since the CBA has been passed, does the NFL bear the liability?”

The CBA won’t matter at that point, because however the 2020 season plays out will be the product of a specific and precise negotiation between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, like those that resulted in the parameters of the virtual offseason program. And, unfortunately for the league and the union, it seems as if every answer to every question triggers another 20 questions.

Surely, whoever chooses to play (and the final agreement between league and union hopefully will give players a chance to opt out without financial penalty beyond lost salary) will at some point be assuming all associated risks. And, given the size of some of the players, there will be very real risks to assume.

Plenty of offensive linemen and defensive tackles aren’t just obese, they’re morbidly obese. And they will be at enhanced risk of a serious health consequence, especially if they have high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes or other conditions that morbid obesity can cause.

As one league source opined recently, if only one football player dies from COVID-19 that he may have caught at work, the NFL likely will have no choice but to shut down indefinitely. That’s why it will be critical to identify a clear and effective system for keeping the virus out of locker rooms, and for getting the union and anyone who chooses to play to sign off unconditionally on the plan. Without both of those things, there can be no NFL football in 2020.

I realize that plenty of people may not want to hear that, but we can either deal with hard truths now or we can delude ourselves into the summer months and deal with the hard truths later. Having the best possible plans in place for a 2020 football season demands that the NFL and the NFLPA embrace the former.

Players finally have a path for earning workout bonuses

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With plenty of veteran players having hundreds of thousands of dollars tied to offseason workout bonuses, the players needed to know whether and how they can earn those bonuses.

They now do. The rules of the virtual offseason program expressly address the ability of players to earn workout bonuses via compliance with the stay-at-home sessions.

“[I]f a Club elects to conduct any portion of an offseason workout program, virtual or otherwise, then the specified participation requirement (e.g., 75%, a stated number of workout days, etc.) applicable to any contract term contained in a player’s contract that is contingent upon the player’s participation in the Club’s offseason workout program (e.g., offseason workout bonus, Salary escalator, Salary de-escalator) will be based upon the Club’s total number of completed offseason workouts (virtual or otherwise),” the league’s Management Council explained in the memo to all teams dated April 13, 2020.

In other words, the player will be required to participate in the specified percentage of the total number of offseason workouts, virtual and in-person, that the team eventually conducts.

“For example, if a player’s contract includes a $90,000 offseason workout bonus that is contingent upon the player participating in 75% or 24 of a Club’s 32 offseason workouts, but the Club completes only 24 workouts during its program, and the player participates in 18 of the Club’s 24 completed workouts, then the player will be paid $90,000 upon completion of the offseason program,” the memo explains.

The example is a little bizarre, because as one source explained it to PFT no team uses a percentage as low as 75 percent for compliance. Most workout bonuses require 90-percent participation. Thus, the fewer the number of workouts, the smaller the margin for error from missing a day here or there.

For example, if a team has 32 workouts, a player with a 90-percent threshold can miss three sessions. If a team has fewer than 30 sessions, he can miss only two. If a team has fewer than 20 sessions, he can miss only one.

And this applies both to workout bonuses and salary escalators/de-escalators. Players whose base pay rises or falls due to offseason compliance need to be sure to participate in the minimum amount, or they’ll see the consequences in their weekly game checks.

So what happens if a team has no offseason program at all? From the memo: “[T]he parties reserve their rights as to whether or not a player contract bonus contingent on participation in an offseason workout program is earned if a Club does not conduct any offseason program at all.”

In other words, the league and the union will cross that bridge if they ever come to it. They likely won’t, because it’s hard to imagine no team taking advantage of the opportunity to conduct the virtual training program.

Which running backs are up next for new contracts?

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With the Panthers giving running back Christian McCaffrey a four-year, $64 million extension after three NFL seasons, which running backs are up next for long-term deals?

Glad you asked. Even if you didn’t.

Titans running back Derrick Henry leads the list. With four seasons under his belt and currently limited by the franchise tag, Henry will make $10.278 million in 2020 absent a long-term contract. The deadline for a multi-year extension is July 15; otherwise, Henry (who has signed his tender) will play for $10.278 million this year, and he’ll be in line for a second tag at a 20-percent bump in 2021, which amounts to $12.336 million.

Will the Titans give him a long-term deal? That remains to be seen.

Ditto for Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake, who’ll make $8.48 million under the transition tag in 2020. Will the Cardinals sign him before July 15, or is he on a year-to-year arrangement as the Cardinals squeeze every ounce of value of out him before letting him hit the market next season, or tagging him again at a 20-percent bump ($10.176 million)?

Still operating under their rookie contracts are a pair of high-end tailbacks who are a year away from the open market or a tag: Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Saints running back Alvin Kamara. Both want, and deserve, new contracts. With McCaffrey setting the market at $16 million per year in new money, will either or both try to one-up McCaffrey, or will his deal be the ceiling?

McCaffrey has performed at a higher level than both, generating a rare offensive production (he’s only the third 1,000/1,000 running back) while also being available consistently. Cook has missed 19 games in three years; McCaffrey hasn’t missed one. Kamara has played in 45 of 48 regular-season games, but his numbers pale in comparison to McCaffrey’s — largely because the Saints don’t use Kamara the way the Panthers use McCaffrey.

Still, McCaffrey has averaged 5.87 yards per touch in three seasons. Kamara averages 5.82.

Packers running back Aaron Jones entered the conversation regarding the best in the game last season, with more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage and some MVP support from his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Jones also has in 2020 a contract year, at a $2.1 million salary.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon likewise is on deck for a new deal after three seasons, with one left on his rookie contract. He has generated far fewer total yards than McCaffrey or Kamara, and Mixon averages 4.74 yards per touch, more than one yard less than either of them. (Cook averages 5.37 yards per touch, and he became the nucleus of the Minnesota offense in 2019, with more than 300 total touches and more than 1,650 yards from scrimmage.)

Colts running back Marlon Mack has a year left on his rookie deal, too. He had nearly 1,100 rushing yards in 14 games, and the Colts like him — especially given his contract. Do they like him enough to pay him, or will G.M. Chris Ballard eventually find someone to replace Mack?

Also entering a contract year is Steelers running back James Conner, who regressed in 2019 due to injury and the absence of great players around him, especially at quarterback. Before Conner can get paid, he’ll need to re-establish himself — and he may have to first win the starting job in Pittsburgh all over again.

Others who are lurching toward new contracts include Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, whose fifth-year option is due to be exercised, or not, next month. He’s been a disappointment relative to his status as the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, but he fairly quietly had a 1,674 yards from scrimmage in 2019.

Next come the likes of Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Browns running back Nick Chubb, and Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones, who will be eligible for new deals after 2020, along Broncos running back Philip Lindsay, an undrafted free agent in 2018 who will be a restricted free agent next year. After a strong rookie season, Lindsay was less effective in 2019, and the recent arrival of Melvin Gordon on a market-level deal raises questions about Lindsay’s long-term value to the Broncos.

And don’t forget Seahawks running back Chris Carson. A late-round pick in 2017, Carson had nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage last year before suffering a season-ending hip injury in Week 16. He enters a contract year in Seattle.

The wild-card is Patriots running back Sony Michel. The first rounder embarks on his third season after racking up more than 900 yards in each of his first two seasons. But the Patriots never give big money to running backs, and coach Bill Belichick may be content to squat on Michel for three more years, to make a team-friendly offer in 2022, and to let Michel walk away if he won’t take it.

And so not all of these tailbacks will get second contracts. A small handful will get eye-popping money. Many teams are content to simply chew up and spit out a young tailback, letting him chase a payday elsewhere while replacing him with another young player with full tread on the tires.

FMIA: 2020 Draft Rounds Into Focus; NFL People Show Lives In Quarantine

NFL draft rumors
NBC Sports

Ten days till the strangest draft in NFL history kicks off, and there’s some interesting news coming later in the column. (For instance: Roger Goodell will announce the first-round picks from his basement in Westchester County, N.Y.) But for the first time this crazy spring, let’s focus on round one of the NFL draft rumors, [more]

One month later, sports remain shut down

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Yes, it was only one month ago today that the NBA suspended play following the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert, triggering an avalanche of sports cancellations that has resulted in a 31-day wasteland consisting merely of NFL free agency, one (and only one) UFC event, and a smattering of pro wrestling. So where are we when it comes to returning to the field, the court, the rink, the wherever?

NBA.

An idea has percolated regarding a reconvening of the league and a completion of the season in a single city, like Las Vegas. With each passing day, however, players are getting farther out of playing shape, sparking concerns that up to a month would be necessary to get them ready to go.

With no obvious date for beginning an in-season preseason and up to a month needed to prepare players to compete, at some point it will simply make sense to pull the plug on 2019-20 and focus on preparations and strategies for having a 2020-21 season.

NHL.

The NHL would like to find a way to conclude its regular season and conduct a postseason. Hockey shut down with 189 regular-season games remaining.

On Friday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN that cities throughout North America have expressed interest in hosting neutral-site postseason games, from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Manchester, New Hampshire to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“We do have people putting together the comprehensive laundry list of what we would need from facilities and evaluating some facilities on some level,” Daly told ESPN. “But I can’t tell you we’ve even finished creating a list [of potential sites], much less narrowed it down.”

As with the NBA, players will need to get themselves back in shape. As with the NBA, a practical deadline surely exists for abandoning 2019-20 and turning to 2020-21.

MLB.

Baseball has been kicking around the possibility of taking all 30 teams to Arizona and starting the season, presumably staying there until the world returns at least to semi-normal. Players understandably are leery about the prospect of being separated from their families for an extended period of time.

Of course, players without families would have fewer qualms about the Camp Baseball concept. And players with families could be replaced by minor leaguers, since the lower levels of the sport will be shut down if fans can’t attend, given the absence of revenue sources other than ticket sales.

NCAA.

The fate of college football could become a microcosm of the broader American political divide. Coaches like Mullet Mike Gundy will insist on trying to play. Administrators will struggle to justify shutting down campuses to everyone but the football team.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby recently addressed the dynamics of the situation.

“Virtually every program is highly reliant on football revenue,” Bowlsby told ESPN. “We’re making lots of contingency plans, but if you don’t get the anticipated number of games in, you lose the donations, you lose the sponsorships, you lose the gate receipts and you lose the TV. It’s potentially very impactful.”

As previously noted, schools at some point will have to drop the student-athlete facade if efforts to play on-campus football become more focused and determined and successful than efforts to hold on-campus classes. Given the money that the schools will be losing, many won’t hesitate to abandon the ruse and admit that football players constitute cogs in a gigantic money-printing machine.

Much like the inconsistent way the various states have implemented (or not) stay at home orders, don’t be surprised if some schools and/or conferences decide to bail on football for 2020 while other schools and/or conferences (specifically the most profitable ones) do all they can to find a way to play.

NFL.

Pro football didn’t flinch in the face of the pandemic, trudging forward with free agency despite glitches that still linger nearly a month later. Plenty of players haven’t been able to take physicals, and in turn haven’t been able to finalize their contracts. Some necessarily will be at risk of eventually having their tentative deals yanked if their new teams have a younger and cheaper option fall into their laps during the draft.

As to the draft, the league also hasn’t flinched, despite what will be a dramatic adjustment to the process. After the stay-at-home draft, then what?

There likely will be no offseason programs, as the NFL and NFL Players Association continue to try to come up with a plan for allowing players to earn workout bonuses by working out at home. At some point, the NFL’s “we plan to play” mantra will have to yield to a more pragmatic approach: We’ll have a plan for whatever may happen.

Those plans, for all sports, must include the possibility of not playing at all. If no feasible alternative can be identified based on a virus that will set the timeline as to when reality returns, the only realistic option will be to continue to wait.

For the virus to run its course. For widespread antibody testing that will determine the people who already have had the virus. For a vaccine. For a cure.

As to all sports, events well beyond the field, the court, the rink, the wherever will determine whenever the time is right for sports to return.

Tom Brady is first QB to make two all-decade teams

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Add another accomplishment to Tom Brady‘s legendary career: First quarterback ever named to two all-decade teams.

Brady was a unanimous choice for the 2010s all-decade team, which was his second honor after also making the 2000s all-decade team.

Among those joining Brady on both the 2010s all-decade team and the 2000s all-decade team were Bill Belichick, Julius Peppers, Devin Hester and Shane Lechler.

Chosen to both the 1990s and 2000s all-decade teams were Willie Roaf, Larry Allen and Warren Sapp.

Chosen to both the 1980s and 1990s all-decade teams were Morten Andersen, Gary Anderson, Sean Landeta, Ronnie Lott, Gary Zimmerman, Jerry Rice, Bruce Smith and Reggie White.

Chosen to both the 1970s and 1980s all-decade teams were Walter Payton, John Hannah, Mike Webster, Ted Hendricks, Jack Lambert, Billy Johnson Rick Upchurch and Chuck Noll.

Chosen to both the 1960s and 1970s all-decade teams were Dick Butkus, Bob Lilly, Merlin Olsen, Larry Wilson and Jim Bakken.

Making two all-decade teams is an impressive achievement — and particularly for Brady, doing it at the sport’s most important position.

FMIA: Amidst Stunning 2020 Draft Possibilities, How One NFL Team Cuts Through The Mayhem To Get Ready

NBC Sports/Courtesy of the Colts

The draft continues to be a moving target in plans by the NFL, but with the first round 17 days away, a very different 2020 NFL Draft is taking shape. What I know this morning: • Momentum is building for ESPN and NFL Network to do a combined draft telecast. Over the weekend I spoke with [more]

PFT Sunday mailbag

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Last Sunday, we trotted out on an experimental basis a Sunday mailbag. Making it easier to handle was the fact that there wasn’t much mail in it.

Apparently, you liked it. Because this week the damn thing is overflowing.

Still, the rules are the rules. No matter how many questions are submitted, the best 10 get answered here.

That said, at least one question that was asked this week was so good — and the answer that I dug up was so intriguing — that it will get its own separate post later today.

Until then, here we go.

From @Sdchattanooga: Who is the #Colts QB of the future? #NFLDraft2020

Good question. We don’t know, and they don’t know. Philip Rivers was signed to be a one-year bridge while they figure it out. That’s possibly one of the reasons the Colts didn’t pursue Tom Brady, who intends to play for at least two more years.

So the Colts will know, and the rest of us will know, who their quarterback of the future will be in the future. Whoever it is, he’s not on the roster now.

For @Trae3boy: Will we have football in September?

No one knows at this point, and anyone who acts like they know is either foolish or lying, or both.

There are good reasons to remain deliberately foolish or to lie about it. The NFL wants fans to be engaged in the offseason. If the NFL starts talking seriously about the possibility of no 2020 season, who cares about the draft? Who cares about the schedule release?

Of course, that kind of talk didn’t bother the NFL in 2011, but only because the threat of no football meshed with the league’s financial objectives. The league was trying to squeeze the union into a new CBA, and the league regarded the vague threat of no football as a necessary evil, especially since the league had done a nice job of positioning the fans and the media to blame the players for no football, if no football happened.

I believe that the NFL will do everything in its power to have football this year, even if it happens in empty stadiums or with a much smaller crowd than usual. I also believe that high school and college football will not happen, which will give the NFL a way to make back some of its lost ticket revenue by televising games on Friday nights and throughout the day on Saturday, every week, if the NFL chooses to do that.

Consider this one for a moment. Instead of having five broadcast windows per week, the NFL could end up with nine: Thursday night, Friday night, three on Saturday, three on Sunday, and Monday night.

That could nearly double the TV revenue for 2020, and the ratings would skyrocket, since there would be no other football to watch. And that makes the stakes even higher for the NFL to find a way to play its games, in empty stadiums or in practice facilities or on the island where Fyre Fest was supposed to happen.

Sure, the league will at some point claim that it’s playing its games in the fulfillment of some sort of national duty. And that’s true. The deeper reality, however, is that many billions of dollars will be on the line.

From @Dirtbag1327: With the imminent decrease or nonexistence of training camps, will off-script offenses with mobile QBs have a distinct advantage?

Yes and no. To the extent that execution of the called play won’t be as crisp as it could or should be, a guy like Patrick Mahomes who can improvise will benefit from that. However, the improvisation needs reps as well, so that receivers will have an idea regarding where to go and what to do when the play moves onto the “just get open” phase.

Teams like the Chiefs will benefit from keeping their offensive nucleus together, a dynamic cemented by the recent one-year deal with Demarcus Robinson and the pay cut accepted by Sammy Watkins.

Also, with defenses likewise struggling to get up to speed absent full and normal preparations, plenty of teams (especially those with continuity on offense) will be able to get more out of the play that’s called, without having to rely on a second-phase fire drill.

That said, off-script offenses with mobile quarterbacks already have a distinct advantage. Which is why more and more teams are looking for that kind of quarterback.

From @TeGentzler14: What are the chances #tommy never takes a snap with the Bucs?

Very slim. He has said many times he plans to play until through 2022, the year he turns 45. Football definitely will be back by then, and there’s no reason to think he won’t play for the Bucs at some point in the next three years.

From @bigknuterockne: If you could take one player out of the HOF who would it be?

My family went to the Hall of Fame in 2005. My son was nine. As we walked through the room with the busts and I was sharing little tidbits with him about some of the players, we approached one and I made sure we just kept going.

O.J. Simpson.

Many Hall of Fame voters have more than a little OCD when it comes to adhering to the bylaws, even though the bylaws routinely are overlooked in order to enshrine or exclude certain players. Given the things Simpson did after his playing career, his bust should be removed, and if the bylaws need to change to make it happen, so be it.

I realize the precedent that sets. I understand there’s potentially a fine line between who stays and who goes based on post-career misconduct. Wherever the line may be, a double-murderer (as determined by a civil court in California) is on the wrong side of it.

From @MarkTrocinski: Are there any free agents that you are surprised are still available?

I’m very surprised cornerback Logan Ryan has yet to sign a new deal. Some were suggesting at one point last season that he should receive consideration for defensive player of the year. He had four forced fumbles, four interceptions, 4.5 sacks, and 18 passes defensed. (He also applied the last nail in Tom Brady’s New England career, with a late-game pick six during the playoffs.)

One problem could be Ryan’s versatility. He’s very good at a lot of things but not off-the-charts great at any specific thing. A year after Tyrann Mathieu got $14 million as a safety who does a lot of things, teams apparently don’t know how to value a cornerback who does a lot of things.

Three years ago, Ryan signed with the Titans for three years, $30 million. Coming off arguably his best season and still not 30 years old, even more should have been available, especially with Bradley Roby getting $36 million for three years to stay in Houston.

All Ryan can do at this point is wait, possibly in time signing a one-year deal and hitting the market again next year.

From @HowellDaniels: What’s your guilty pleasure go-to snack in the quarantine doldrums?

The miniature Reese’s Cups in gold foil. Frozen.

From @HowellDaniels: I realize Simms came recommended, but how did you find your writing staff?

Simms wasn’t necessarily “recommended”; he auditioned along with many others for the co-hosting gig on PFT Live. NBC made the final call, and in hindsight NBC made the right decision.

We have a very small writing staff and, over the years, we’ve had limited turnover. MDS was our first hire ever, years before NBC. Josh Alper was an early hire as well. Both ended up working for AOL’s Fanhouse, and both returned. Darin Gantt, a Hall of Fame voter who spent 14 years covering the Panthers, happened to be available when Gregg Rosenthal left NBC for NFL.com.

A few years ago, we were looking for a part-time day-shift writer, and we keep looking and looking and none of the options felt right. Then, out of the blue, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had a round of layoffs, Charean Williams became available, and we pounced. She started on a part-time basis and is now a full-time member of the team. In addition to being a Hall of Fame voter and a past president of the Pro Football Writers Association, Charean had a vote on the all-time 100th anniversary team and the 15-person special Hall of Fame class of 2020.

Curtis Crabtree has been manning the overnight window at PFT for several years from Seattle, where he also works for KJR radio. With a crew of five full-time writers and one part-timer, we end up having coverage 20-21 hours on most days.

Maybe it’s because we don’t work in the same place, but everyone gets along incredibly well. The incidents or issues or problems are very few and very far between, and the fact that we have so few departures (and in turn so few openings) means that we’re doing something right, I hope.

From @ujayha11: Where do you think Cam and Jameis will go?

Cam should go to the Chargers, because the Chargers should be falling all over themselves to get him. If not the Chargers, the Dolphins, Raiders, and Patriots should at least give the possibility consideration. The biggest impediment for Cam continues to be the inability to give him a normal physical, given his foot, shoulder, and ankle issues.

Jameis is a much different story. He threw for 5,109 yards last year, but no one wants him to be their starter. And he’s likely still coming to grips with the fact that, at least for now, his days as a starter are over.

So will he become a backup in 2020? His mindset will be critical, because most teams want a backup who is content to be a backup and help the starter. Winston’s attitude may be that he’s going to try to topple the starter, so screw him. (Some teams want a backup like that, too.)

It could be that teams are waiting to pursue Jameis in order to allow him to come to grips that, wherever he lands, he’s not getting anything close to the $20 million he received in 2019 under his fifth-year option.

Winston’s best play could be to wait for someone to get injured. At that point, however, the team in question may be more inclined to go with the next man up in lieu of getting Winston up to speed. If (and I’m reluctant to say this lest I eventually be accused of applying a jinx) Tom Brady gets injured, a Winston return to Tampa makes a ton of sense.

Then there’s the baseball angle. Last August, he told Peter King that it’s something Winston still wants to do. If he’ll be on a football team but not playing, maybe he’ll finally decide to give baseball a try.

From @realEdwardMason: What new statistic would you like to see added to the official stats sheet?

This is a Chris Simms idea, and unlike his usual ideas it’s a great one.

For defensive linemen, the only stats that matter are tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles. The best defensive linemen affect the game without doing any of those things, however. Specifically, they affect the game by f–king up a play.

So that’s the stat. The “eff up the play” stat. A stat that’s triggered when a defensive lineman’s burst through the offensive line irrevocably disrupts the intended attack, even if someone else gets the tackle or the tackle for loss or the sack or the forced fumble.

It wouldn’t be simple to tabulate, and it would require a keen eye and some subjectivity. But it ultimately could be spotted and tracked, and it would give the players who are the most disruptive in the league some hard evidence of the manner in which they disrupt things.

From Dragyn509: Do you think Carole Baskin killed her husband?

This is a bonus question, and for anyone who hasn’t watched The Tiger King and who plans to (is there anyone left in that category?), spoilers follow.

To be clear (i.e., I don’t want to be sued), this is an expression of opinion, as influenced by the information presented by the producers of the show and the specific manner in which the information was presented. “Documentary” hardly means “factual,” and there are easy devices for using video, words, and music to lead the audience to a desired conclusion.

So based on the way that show was put together, I came to the conclusion that, yes, Carole Baskin killed her husband and fed him to her tigers. And that’s probably the conclusion the producers wanted me and everyone else to come to.

Without getting into too many details (including the suspicious living will that gave Carole Baskin the right to handle her husband’s estate in the event of his “disability or disappearance“), she wasn’t indignant or upset about the suggestion that she killed her husband and fed him to her tigers. Maybe over the years she’s become desensitized to the accusation, but her husband died and to make matters worse she’s been accused of killing him and feeding him to her tigers! A normal person who is innocent would yell and scream and rant and rave every time the topic comes up.

But one thing is clear about The Tiger King: During the seven-episode limited series, normal persons are very few and very far between.