Mavericks’ situation raises obvious question: Which other teams have issues like this?

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First, the Carolina Panthers. Now, the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Sports Illustrated has done a great job of exposing previously hidden issues of inappropriate workplace conduct in the sports world.

The obvious question becomes this: Who’s next?

Everyone is officially on notice. Indeed, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban already had concerns about the issue, before becoming aware of the months-long effort to investigate his team.

“I can’t tell you how many times, particularly since all this [#MeToo] stuff has been coming out recently I asked our HR director, ‘Do we have a problem?'” Cuban said. “Do we have any issues I have to be aware of?’ And the answer was no.”

Cuban has since fired the HR director. Cuban also has fired Earl K. Sneed, a writer for the team’s official website who was: (1) arrested for assaulting his girlfriend during the 2010-11 season; (2) pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of family violence assault and interference with emergency request; (3) after the guilty plea, became unable to travel with the team to games played in Toronto; (4) nevertheless remained employed; (5) began dating a co-worker; (6) allegedly assaulted her in 2014; and (7) nevertheless remained employed, until this week.

The message to every NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball is clear. Smoke out these issues on your own now, or risk that Sports Illustrated or someone else will do it for you, creating along the way a major embarrassment for failing to act in the absence of the glare that comes from being the subject of a meticulous journalistic investigation.

As Cuban has learned the hard way, asking the HR director whether there’s a problem may not be enough. These teams may have to hire outside firms to investigate them the way that Sports Illustrated has, in order to ensure that the situations are handled properly, especially if they previously were swept under the rug.

Team-by-team look at potential tag candidates

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On Tuesday, the annual two-week window opens for applying franchise or transition tags. Every year, we look at the potential tag candidates, on a team-by-team basis.

Last year, we waited until just a few days before the window closed, officially explaining that few if any tags ever are applied early in the process. This year, I basically decided not to procrastinate.

Dolphins: Receiver Jarvis Landry could be slapped with either tag. The franchise tag has received the most attention in articles regarding his future, but the transition tag would give Landry a chance to see what’s available elsewhere — and it would give the Dolphins a chance to match whatever someone else would offer to a player who may not attract a top-of-market package.

Bills: The trade of receiver Sammy Watkins left the Bills with no tag-worthy players in 2018.

Jets: The Jets hope to re-sign tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but their reported offer of $8 million over two years falls well short of what the tag would cost. Also, their misadventures with defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who parlayed the tag into a long-term deal the Jets would like to escape, could make them hesitant about using it again.

Patriots: A couple of years ago, cornerback Malcolm Butler seemed destined to be tagged, if he didn’t sign a big-money deal. Now, he’ll exit as a guy who played no defensive snaps in Super Bowl LII. There’s no one else they should consider tagging, especially with tackle Nate Solder exempt and running back Dion Lewis playing a position with a cost-prohibitive tender.

Steelers: Running back Le’Veon Bell could be tagged again, but the one-year tender would increase by 20 percent, from $12.1 million to more than $14.5 million. The Steelers prefer signing him to a long-term deal, which will be hard to do if Bell insists on $14.5 million for 2018 as the starting point.

Bengals: They didn’t apply the tag a year ago to tackle Andrew Whitworth or guard Kevin Zeitler; they don’t have more viable candidates this year.

Browns: The worst franchise in the league has earned that title in part by having no players who are worthy of the franchise tag.

Ravens: Center Ryan Jensen benefits from the fact that offensive lineman are lumped into one bucket for the franchise tag, which means that a guard or center will be paid like a left tackle, if tagged. Which means that few if any centers or guards will ever be tagged.

Texans: A year after watching up-and-coming cornerback A.J. Bouye walk away in free agency, they won’t be stopping significantly older cornerback Johnathan Joseph from leaving.

Colts: The Colts aren’t as bad as the Browns, but the Colts are afflicted by the same lack of talent that will keep anyone (other than Andrew Luck, if he ever gets healthy) from ever being tagged.

Titans: Kicker Ryan Succop could be tagged, but it would cost more than $5 million to do it.

Jaguars: Receiver Allen Robinson tore an ACL in Week One, and he’s due to become a free agent. He believes he’s healthy; if the team agrees, he could be tagged. (Like Jarvis Landry, the transition tag could be an option; for Robinson, the unknown about his knee could keep other teams from making him an offer the Jags couldn’t or wouldn’t match.)

Broncos: The silver lining from the dark cloud of a bad year is that there are no impending free agents who merit special consideration.

Chiefs: Some tough decisions are coming, with players like Marcus Peters (2020), Tyreek Hill (2020), Kareem Hunt (2021), and Patrick Mahomes (2022) heading toward free agency. For now, there’s no one to tag.

Chargers: Safety Tre Boston is a candidate for the franchise tag or the cheaper transition tag. Beyond that, they don’t really have anyone worth tagging.

Raiders: Their 2018 tag money went toward quarterback Derek Carr‘s contract. Their 2019 tag money could end up going toward linebacker Khalil Mack‘s long-term deal.

Cowboys: The Cowboys reportedly will apply the franchise tag to defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

Washington: Quarterback Kirk Cousins could be tagged again, if Washington follows through on its misguided plan to get immediate compensation for Cousins by trading him. It would be a mistake, for various reasons. It also could be challenged, and beaten.

Giants: Guard Justin Pugh will be hitting the open market, if he isn’t tagged. Again, the tag for interior offensive lineman has become, as a practical matter, the tag for exterior offensive lineman. Specifically, left tackles. Which means it could cost more than $15 million to keep Pugh around for one more year. Which means Pugh could end up in Jacksonville, with the guy who drafted him five years ago.

Eagles: Things would be very interesting in Philly if Nick Foles had signed only a one-year deal. With Foles under contract through 2018, there’s no one else who’d justify the investment of a franchise or transition tag.

Vikings: If the Vikings are going to spend more than $24 million to use the franchise tag on quarterback Case Keenum, they should consider breaking the bank on a long-term deal for Kirk Cousins. Or paying less to get A.J. McCarron. Franchise-tagging Keenum comes with a 20-percent bump in 2019 and a 44-percent hike in 2020, which makes it anything but a long-term solution. The transition tag could be an option, allowing the Vikings to keep Keenum at a cheaper rate and giving them a right to match any offer sheet he signs.

Packers: With receiver Davante Adams signed, safety Morgan Burnett remains the only remotely viable candidate for the tag. If the Packers truly want him, however, they’ll more likely find a way to sign him to a multi-year deal.

Lions: The biggest decision for the Lions will be whether to apply the franchise tag to defensive end Ziggy Ansah. He finished his rookie contract with a flourish, racking up 12.0 sacks. Two years before, he had a career-high 14.5. But it’s that donut hole of 2016, when Ansah managed only two sacks in 13 games, that gives the Lions pause. They may want to be sure they’re getting the double-digit guy before they do anything more than a one-year rental.

Bears: The Bears have to decide whether to tag cornerback Kyle Fuller, a former first-round pick who they deemed a year ago to not be worthy of the fifth-year option. If Fuller had previously played like he did in 2017, a different decision would have been made.

Panthers: They’re not expected to tag either of their primary candidates — guard Andrew Norwell or defensive lineman Star Lotulelei. The question becomes whether they re-sign either of them in competition with the open market.

Buccaneers: Another year, another roster containing no free agents worthy of the tag.

Falcons: The tag is a long shot for the Falcons, with the possible exception of kicker Matt Bryant. It would cost more than $5 million for one more year.

Saints: They can’t tag quarterback Drew Brees. They won’t tag anyone else.

Seahawks: Tight end Jimmy Graham hasn’t done enough in three seasons with the team to justify a tag. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson possibly did enough in one season, especially in light of the investment made to get him from the Jets last year (receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick).

49ers: With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed to a five-year deal, there’s no one to tag.

Cardinals: Like the 49ers, there’s no one to tag — unlike the 49ers, there’s no quarterback on the roster.

Rams: After tagging cornerback Trumaine Johnson for two straight years, it would cost quarterback money to tag him a third time. Receiver Sammy Watkins could be kept under contract via the tag for a lot less than that.

Will Garoppolo, McCarron be able to adjust once defenses see what they can do?

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The 49ers made quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the highest-paid player in NFL history based on seven career starts, five in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Someone will be paying quarterback A.J. McCarron based on four career starts.

Hovering over both is an important question: What will they do after defenses get enough film on them?

New quarterbacks and/or quarterbacks in new systems can thrive at first. Then, after four or five or six weeks, opposing defenses gather enough film to figure out what the quarterback is doing well, and how to force him away from his favorite plays and throws.

The question then becomes whether, when Plan A is shut down, the quarterback can execute Plan B, C, and/or D. The great ones can. The not-so-great ones can’t. Many in the middle need time to get to the point where they can move the ball and score points against a defense that knows enough to slow them down.

For Garoppolo and McCarron the question is what kind of quarterback will they be, once defenses figure out what they want to do and take it away? The 49ers already have placed a gigantic bet on Garoppolo being able to thrive once he has generated enough film to make it easier to game-plan against him. Whoever signs McCarron will be making a similar wager.

NFL should open trade window earlier

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The window for making trade in the NFL closes on the Tuesday after Week Eight. It opens on the first day of the league year.

It should open sooner than that.

That’s not simply because teams should have the ability at any time to make a trade (although they should). It’s because there’s no reason not to allow teams to make trades after the postseason has ended.

Every year, the waiver period begins the day after the Super Bowl. That’s when teams should be able to make trades, too.

Currently, teams are allowed to negotiate trades whenever they want. They’re allowed to tentatively complete negotiations. They’re not allowed to finalize trades until the first day of the league year, which this year lands on March 14.

Consider the situation in which Washington currently finds itself. A deal is in place to acquire quarterback Alex Smith from the Chiefs. But if the Chiefs get a better offer before March 14, they can accept that offer without consequence.

This could leave Washington in a major bind, since a renege by the Chiefs could occur after Washington has sacrificed its ability to apply the franchise tag to Kirk Cousins. Apart from the question of whether a decision to tag Cousins as protection against the Smith trade falling through would survive a grievance, Washington should be able to finalize the trade before making a final decision on whether to tag Cousins.

It’s a defect in the calendar that can affect any team, in any year. A tentative trade is arranged, making a team not inclined to tag a looming free agent. The team doesn’t tag the free agent, the trade falls through, and the team is screwed.

So why not allow teams to make trades as of the day after the Super Bowl? There’s no reason to make teams wait until the middle of March to make trades official, and there’s every reason to let teams formally complete trades before someone gets cold feet.

Hall of Fame voter criticizes other voters, exposing flaws in the process

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee meets every year on the day before the Super Bowl to select that year’s class. Fifteen modern-day players are chosen as finalists, and a maximum of five can be selected. At least 10 will be voted down.

This year, one of the 10 who was voted down was Edgerrin James. One of the members of the selection committee has a problem with that, and he published a column that reveals more about the problems with the selection committee than about James’s merits as a Hall of Famer.

The voter in question is Clark Judge, and he writes that James was left out because voters “ignored” James’ accomplishments. Judge uses the word “ignored” nine times in his argument against his fellow voters. He thinks he recognizes James’ greatness and too many of his fellow voters are ignorant of that greatness.

But Judge provides no evidence that any voter “ignored” James’ accomplishments at all. It’s entirely possible that most or even all of the Hall of Fame voters actually consider James a great player who’s worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement. It’s just that they consider other candidates even more worthy.

And that’s one of the fundamental flaws with the way the Pro Football Hall of Fame selects its annual classes: It doesn’t matter if, in a given year, there are half a dozen or a dozen or two dozen worthy candidates. A maximum of five of those 15 modern-day finalists are getting in. If Judge is sure that James should have been one of those five this year, he also needs to name one of the five who got in this year who should have been left out in favor of James. Judge curiously fails to do that. Maybe he doesn’t want to anger fans of Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens or Brian Dawkins, but until he’s willing to name one of those five he’d leave out in favor of James, his insistence that James should have been voted in rings hollow.

Based on things Judge has said and written in the past, it’s likely that Judge would have chosen James over Owens. Judge has criticized Owens and defended the Hall of Fame selection committee when Owens was previously voted down. That’s fine. Judge is entitled to the opinion that James should be a Hall of Famer and Owens should not. But he should present that opinion in an intellectually honest fashion: It’s not that the voters “ignored” James’ accomplishments, it’s that voters thought other players were more accomplished. Judge was free to make his case for James at the selection committee meeting, other voters were free to make their case for Owens, and ultimately voters thought Owens was more worthy.

At least, that’s probably how it went down in the selection committee meeting. We don’t know for sure, because the bigger flaw in the process is its lack of transparency. The first rule of the Hall of Fame selection committee is, Don’t talk about what’s said in the committee room. Voters are sworn to secrecy about who said what. If you break that code of silence, you’re out of the club.

But why should that be the case? Journalists demand transparency of everyone else, so why, when journalists deliberate to make a decision, do they insist that their deliberations be shrouded in secrecy?

Because of that lack of transparency, we have no idea what the arguments were that led to James being excluded. It’s entirely possible that someone on the selection committee made a persuasive case against James, and other voters agreed with that case. Or it’s possible that everyone in the selection committee agreed that James is deserving, but when it came time to narrow down the list of 15 finalists, they decided that other candidates were more deserving.

For voters to insist on secrecy about their discussions, only to have individual voters then criticize other voters, only serves to undermine public trust in the Hall of Fame.

Longtime NFL player Ben “Toeless Wonder” Agajanian dies at 98

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Ben Agajanian, who played nearly two decades of professional football despite losing four toes in an accident, has died at the age of 98.

Teams would promote the fact that Agajanian had a disability and urged fans to buy tickets to see “Bootin’ Ben the Toeless Wonder,” who kicked field goals with the right foot that he severely injured while he was working in a factory in college. Agajanian wore a shoe with a hard, square block where the toes would have been on his kicking foot, and some suggested that gave him an unfair advantage — to which Agajanian would reply they were free to cut off their own toes if they wanted the same advantage.

“Lots of guys said I was cheating because I had the hard square toe,” Agajanian told the Los Angeles Times. “I said, ‘Well, you can do it too. If it helps you, why not?'”

Agajanian was twice the league leader in field goal percentage, in 1947 with the Los Angeles Dons in the All-America Football Conference and in 1949 in the NFL with the New York Giants. Overall he played 13 seasons for 10 teams over 20 years in three different leagues: The NFL, AAFC and AFL.

He did that despite not beginning to play pro football until 1945, when he was 26 years old, having first served in World War II — a duty that he wouldn’t allow his injured foot to keep him from serving. In his last season, 1964, he went 2-for-4 on field goals and 8-for-8 on extra points at the age of 45. Agajanian is one of just eight men to play pro football after his 45th birthday.

Early in his career Agajanian played both offense and defense in addition to playing kicker, and when he broke his arm while making a tackle he continued to kick with his arm in a sling.

When he retired from playing, Agajanian became an assistant coach for the Cowboys, where he was one of the first people in the football world to realize that soccer players kicked balls farther by approaching from an angle than football players like himself could kick with a straight-on approach. He studied that style of kicking well enough that he could teach it to young players even though it was never the way he kicked a football. “When I saw these little fellas kick 50 and 60 yards, I decided that’s the way to do it,” he said of the soccer-style kickers.

Agajanian was so influential in teaching proper kicking technique that Cowboys coach Tom Landry recommended he be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, saying that Agajanian had “done more for the kicking game in both college and the pros in the past 50 years than anybody I know.”

Remaining mentally sharp into his 90s, Agajanian was told recently by the New York Daily News that he was the oldest living person ever to have played for the Giants. “I’ll be damned,” he replied. “You know what I attribute it to? I don’t drink, except for a beer once in awhile. I don’t smoke. I played handball two or three times a week and that keeps your legs in shape, your body in shape.”

Agajanian’s football career saw him play at New Mexico and Compton Junior College, and for the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Dons, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Texans, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. Agajanian’s shoes — the size 11 he wore on his plant foot and the size 7 he wore on his injured right kicking foot — are on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

All those “2018 strength of schedule” discussions don’t mean much

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Once the Super Bowl has ended and we start looking ahead to 2018, a common point of discussion is each team’s strength of schedule. We’re told that this team has an easy schedule next season and is therefore likely to improve, while that team has a hard schedule next season and is therefore facing an uphill battle.

And the reality is, all that talk is meaningless.

There are obvious problems with strength of schedule, and the most obvious is that it’s based entirely on each team’s 2017 records. But 2017 record is simply not a great predictor of 2018 performance. Teams fluctuate. Some get better, some get worse. Some were better than their 2017 records suggest, some were worse. Teams regress toward the mean. Teams add and lose free agents. Teams draft players who may or may not contribute as rookies. Key players get hurt in training camp and the preseason. The fact that a team was 11-5 in 2017 tells us very little about whether that team will be a tough opponent in 2018.

After all, a year ago, if you were calculating a team’s strength of schedule for the 2017 season, and that team had a game scheduled against the Eagles in 2017, you would’ve said that contributed to an easy schedule: In 2016, the Eagles were a 7-9 team that finished in last place. And then the Eagles were the No. 1 NFC seed in 2017 and won the Super Bowl.

Looking ahead at this time last year, you also would’ve said the Rams and Jaguars were easy opponents, while the Cowboys, Giants and Raiders were tough opponents. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

For that matter, even within a season, the strength of any given opponent can vary wildly based on when you catch that opponent: Playing the 49ers when Jimmy Garoppolo was their starting quarterback was a lot harder than playing the 49ers when Brian Hoyer was their starting quarterback. Playing the Packers when Aaron Rodgers was their starting quarterback was a lot harder than playing the Packers when Brett Hundley was their starting quarterback. And there’s simply no way to know today which team will be changing quarterbacks nine months from now.

Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis has thoroughly researched strength of schedule and found that the winning percentage of a team’s opponents last year is virtually meaningless in assessing a team’s actual strength of schedule this year. It’s simply not a useful statistic.

So while a look ahead at the schedule might seem like something interesting to analyze in the offseason, your analysis had better be a lot more detailed than just adding up the 2017 wins and losses of a team’s 2018 opponents if you want to find any value in it at all.

2012 serves as a reminder of the unpredictability of the draft

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The 2012 NFL draft was supposed to be a good year for the quarterback position. NFL teams liked the quarterback class so much that they took four passers first and second overall, with two more quarterbacks later in the first round, one in the second round, two in the third round and one in the fourth round.

The 2017 performance of those eight quarterbacks is a good reminder of the unpredictability of the draft.

The four first-round quarterbacks in 2012 selected threw a combined total of zero passes in 2017. Andrew Luck, who went first overall to Indianapolis, missed the whole season with a shoulder injury. Robert Griffin III, who went second overall to Washington, is out of the NFL. Ryan Tannehill, who went eighth overall to Miami, missed the whole season with a knee injury. Brandon Weeden, who went 22nd overall to Cleveland, is a third-stringer for the Titans.

The quarterback selected in the second round in 2012, Brock Osweiler, is so bad that his primary contribution in 2017 was being part of one of the strangest trades in NFL history: The Texans traded a second-round pick to the Browns just to get them go take Osweiler and his expensive contract off their hands. After absorbing Osweiler’s cap hit and watching him in the preseason, the Browns cut him. He ended up back with the Broncos, the team that initially drafted him, and did not play well in 2017.

And then there were the next three quarterbacks drafted: Russell Wilson, who went 75th overall to Seattle, has won a Super Bowl and was an MVP candidate last season. Nick Foles, who went 88th overall to Philadelphia, just won the Super Bowl MVP award. And Kirk Cousins, who went 102nd overall to Washington, may sign the biggest contract in NFL history when he hits free agency next month.

So as we head toward a 2018 NFL draft that is viewed as similarly deep at the quarterback position, remember that we don’t have much of an idea which quarterbacks will be leading their teams to the Super Bowl five years from now.

Will Kirk Cousins’ next contract tie compensation to cap percentage?

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Several franchise quarterbacks who previously received big-money contracts are seeing those contracts pale in comparison to more recent contracts, thanks to the consistent growth of the salary cap. So when will a franchise quarterback (or any other player) manage to tie his compensation to the growth of the cap?

Already, the various baseline franchise tenders flow each year from the percentage of the cap that past tenders have consumed, guaranteeing that, as the cap grows, the tenders grow. So why can’t a player get similar protection in the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth years of his contract?

It’s a simple concept, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement permits it. A contract can be written to provide, for example, that a player’s salary in 2021 will be $24.1 million or 15.2 percent of the cap, whichever is greater.

Those numbers weren’t randomly selected; $24.1 million is what Jimmy Garoppolo will make in year four of his new contract, and his $27.5 million average represents 15.2 percent of the projected $180 million cap for 2018. If the cap grows to $200 million by 2021 (getting a Thursday night bump of either $100 million per year or $210 million per year, depending on which report is believed, will help), 15.2 percent of a $200 million cap would equate to $30.4 million.

It’s unknown whether Don Yee (real or fake) tried to get a term like that for Garoppolo. Others have. Eight years ago, agents Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod attempted to secure a cap percentage for cornerback Darrelle Revis from the Jets. Two years ago, quarterback Kirk Cousins tried to get the same protection from Washington.

As free agency approaches, Cousins may be in the best position of any player to finally pull it off. Assuming Washington isn’t dumb enough (that could be an ass-you-me proposition, given the team’s history) to tag Cousins again, Cousins should be able to dictate terms to interested teams. It only takes two to generate real leverage. Cousins may have four or more chasing him.

So the message from Cousins and agent Mike McCartney would be clear: Don’t submit an offer unless it ties every year after 2020 or 2021 to a percentage of the cap.

Of course, the rejoinder may be a two-word phrase ending in “you,” especially if the Management Council gets involved. Even though the NFL consists of 32 independently-owned franchises that, in theory, compete in every way possible, the Management Council routinely tells teams what they should or shouldn’t (or perhaps more accurately can or can’t) do when it comes to player contracts.

Of course, all it takes is one team to direct that two-word refrain to the Management Council, if that team is more insistent on getting Cousins than it is on staying in the good graces of those who pull the strings at 345 Park Avenue.

If, in the end, Cousins pulls it off, he could set the template for all of the other quarterbacks and high-value players who could have, and arguably should have, been insisting on this type of protection in the past. Which would make Cousins a trailblazer in two different ways, given that he already has demonstrated to all current and future players the value of going year-to-year under the franchise tag.

Jimmy G gets $48.7 million fully guaranteed at signing

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The numbers are out regarding the Jimmy Garoppolo. They appear below, along with a full analysis of the terms and the deal.

1. $7 million signing bonus.

On a five-year deal, the low bonus results in a cap charge of only $1.4 million per year.

2. $28 million fully-guaranteed roster bonus.

For a cap-rich team like the 49ers, this device gives Garoppolo a bunch of money at signing, and chews up all of the cap space immediately, with no proration.

3. 2018 base salary of $6.2 million, fully guaranteed at signing.

The first-year salary in any long-term deal is almost always guaranteed as a practical matter; who’s going to cut the guy the same year they signed him?

4. 2019 base salary of $17.2 million guaranteed for injury at signing, $7.5 million of which is fully guaranteed at signing.

While the breakdown from Adam Schefter of isn’t entirely clear on this point, it appears that the full guarantee vests on April 1, a late (relatively speaking) deadline. The 49ers used the same device in the Colin Kaepernick deal, giving them an extended chance to make a decision about whether to continue the deal.

5. 2020 base salary of $23.8 million, $15.7 million of which is guaranteed for injury at signing.

Injury guarantees often are meaningless, but in the event of a serious injury, it’s essentially a free insurance policy. The 2020 injury guarantee apparently becomes a full guarantee on April 1, giving the 49ers some flexibility in determining whether to keep him.

6. 2021 base salary of $24.1 million and 2022 base salary of $24.2 million.

These are non-guaranteed amounts and, essentially, club options for the final two years of the deal.

7. Workout bonuses of $600,000 for 2018 through 2022. (Total value: $3.2 million.)

Garoppolo undoubtedly will meet the annual participation threshold and earn these amounts every year.

8. Per-game roster bonuses of $800,000 for 2018 through 2022. (Total value: $3.2 million.)

While many assume that per-game roster bonuses are money in the bank, an injury can be costly, as Aaron Rodgers learned in 2017. For Garoppolo, every game includes $50,000 that he receives only if he suits up.

9. Further injury guarantee of $7.5 million.

The breakdown from Schefter explains that a $7.5 million injury guarantee applied if Garoppolo “makes it to NFC Championship game or is first- or second-team All Pro.” It’s unclear whether this applies only to the 2021 season or other years of the deal, and there’s no mention of the year(s) in which the incentive applies.

10. The cash flow is $46.2 million through 2018, $61.2 million through 2019, $86.4 million through 2020, $111.9 million through 2021, and $137.5 million through 2022.

Schefter claims that the $61.2 million through two years represents a $10 million bump over what Garoppolo would have made under the franchise tag through 2019. That’s accurate only if the 49ers would have used the non-exclusive tag; if they would have applied the exclusive version of the tag (cutting off another team’s ability to sign him away in exchange for two first-round picks), the gap would have been more like $5 million.

Schefter also says that, after three seasons, Garoppolo “walks away” with $86.4 million. While he’ll indeed make that much over three years (roughly $4 million less than three years of the non-exclusive tag and more than $10 million less than three years of the exclusive tag), Garoppolo won’t be walking away. The 49ers will still hold his rights for two years and $48.3 million — an average of $24.15 million per year. By then, the market for franchise quarterbacks should be well north of $30 million.

For a guy who didn’t get a big-money rookie deal and who has started only seven games, it makes sense to cash in. Still, he could have ultimately done better by forcing two or three years of the tag, especially since 2021 and 2022 would have been the first two years of a market-value contract, not the below-market back end of a five-year deal.

That said, it’s easier for a player who already has banked millions to take that risk. For Garoppolo, a second-round pick in 2014, the safe move arguable was to take the large bird in the hand in lieu of the slightly larger bird in the bush. This dynamic actually makes the willingness of Kirk Cousins to play tag in two straight years even more impressive, given that he entered the league as a fourth-round pick. Two years and $44 million later, he’ll either hit the market unfettered or make $34.47 million if Washington is dumb enough to tag him again.

After Garoppolo, who’s next?

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It’s become a tradition around here. When a new high-water mark is set for the quarterback market, we take a look at who’s next. So with Jimmy Garoppolo breaking the bank in the Bay Area, here’s a snapshot of the quarterbacks who will be getting paid, sooner or later.

1. The Next Wave.

Kirk Cousins.

If he hits the open market, Cousins surely will get more than $27.5 million per year. The question is whether he’ll push the market all the way to $30 million, and whether he’ll finally get a term that bases his out-year compensation on a percentage of the cap.

In the event Washington (foolishly) chooses to tag him again in order to try to trade him, Cousins will set the bar even higher than $30 million. He’d get $34.47 million for one more year — and then he’d undoubtedly hit the market unfettered in 2019.

Drew Brees.

He insists he’s staying in New Orleans, and I continue to insist he’s testing the Saints. There’s surely a figure below which an offer from the Saints would amount to an insult. And if the Saints insult Brees, his plans to stay could quickly change.

In the end, will he want more than Garoppolo or Cousins? Probably not. If he does, he possibly would get it on the open market.

But he’ll only get to the open market if the Saints insult him with an offer that is, say, south of $16 million per year.

Matt Ryan.

The Falcons have said they want to extend his contract, which expires after the 2018 season. But the two sides may squabble over how much Ryan should get, especially since owner Arthur Blank already is trying to shame Ryan into taking a team-friendly deal.

Ryan’s leverage comes from the tag, which for him would pay at least $24.98 million for 2019. At a 20-percent increase for 2020 ($29.976 million) and a 44-percent bump for 2021 ($43.16 million), he could leverage a deal that makes him the king of the financial hill, at least for a little while.

Case Keenum.

A new addition to the list, Keenum is headed for the open market unless the Vikings sign him to a long-term deal or tag him, at $23 million or so for 2018. But if the Vikings are willing to pay Keenum that much, they arguably should pursue a guy like Cousins.

Either way, Keenum will be getting paid a lot more than the $2 million he made in 2017. However, he surely won’t come close to whatever the top of the market may be when he signs his next contract.

Sam Bradford.

A knee injury that shelved him for much of 2017 will impact his value in 2018, forcing him to accept an incentive-laden deal or to prove it for a year before getting paid in 2019.

Whispers of a degenerative condition in his knee won’t help, and he’ll be thoroughly poked and prodded before anyone ponies up the kind of cash he may otherwise command.

A.J. McCarron.

He’ll find out soon whether he’s a restricted free agent or an unrestricted free agent, due to his time spent on the non-football injury list as a rookie. If he’s unrestricted, he’ll be able to go to the highest bidder, and he possibly did enough late in the 2015 season to get a deal that would surprise many.

Teddy Bridgewater.

Like McCarron, Bridgewater’s status may be resolved by a grievance, given that the last year of his rookie deal may have tolled, putting him under contract for 2018 at less than $1.5 million. If he wins, he’s free; but that doesn’t mean he’ll get paid.

Bridgewater will have to prove he’s healthy before getting big money. For him, the smart decision for 2018 would be to find a team for which he’d be playing, a lot.

Aaron Rodgers.

Five years ago, Rodgers signed a long-term contract with a new-money average of $22 million. He’s now $5.5 million per year behind Garoppolo, who in comparison to Rodgers has done nothing.

The Packers need to take care of Rodgers, ASAFP. The longer they wait, the more it will cost — and the saltier (justifiably) he will be. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and if the Packers don’t close the gap between his average compensation and far lesser passers who have passed him by, maybe Rodgers will decide to eventually stick it to the Packers, just like his predecessor eventually did.

2. The Second Wave.

Nick Foles.

For some reason, plenty of people in the media believe Foles is due to become a free agent this offseason. The truth is that he’s under contract for another year, at $7 million.

The Eagles should keep him around as the backup to Carson Wentz, given that Wentz has made it clear that he plans to continue playing with the same physicality that ultimately resulted in a torn ACL. Unless someone else makes the Eagles a trade offer they can’t refuse, they should refuse to entertain trading Foles.

If they do, Foles should make it clear that he wants to be paid accordingly. While the reigning Super Bowl MVP may not crack the $20 million barrier, he would — and should — make a lot more than $7 million.

Russell Wilson.

Wilson has two years left under contract, and his average of less than $22 million per year is starting to become more than a little embarrassing, for him and the team.

It’s time for the Seahawks to rectify the situation, and it’s possibly no coincidence that Wilson’s baseball career has suddenly slid away from the back burner.

Jameis Winston.

Now eligible for a new contract, the Buccaneers need to decide whether to give him a second contract before his fourth year or before his fifth. Based on his play in 2017, it probably makes sense to wait.

If/when he gets a second contract from the Bucs, he’ll become the first quarterback drafted by the team to be re-signed.

Marcus Mariota.

Mariota, taken one spot behind Winston in 2015, also has become eligible for a new deal. Will the Titans wait, or will they pay him now? They possibly will wait to see what the Bucs do with Winston before making a final decision.

3. The Third Wave.

Carson Wentz.

The MVP candidate has one more year before he can get a second deal. Whether he gets one early will likely depend on whether he can stay healthy, and whether he can do in January and February what Foles has done.

Jared Goff.

A strong year in 2017 puts him in line to get paid, eventually. The ascending Rams will soon realize that they have more great young players than they can afford. The one guy who will definitely get his money, however, is the quarterback.

Dak Prescott.

A strong rookie year followed by a sophomore slump makes 2018 critical to gauging Prescott’s value. His status as a fourth-round draft pick doesn’t give the Cowboys the luxury of waiting five years before facing a franchise-tag conundrum.

Others to watch include the trio of 2004 first-rounders — Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning — each of whom have two years left on their current deals. Also, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will make $19 million this year and become a free agent in 2019. It’s unclear at this point whether the Jags or anyone else will pay him.

Then there’s Tom Brady, who has two years left on his contract, but who never does an extension based on market value. If he did, he’d already be making more than $35 million per year.

Jeff Fisher’s Rams were a hotbed of quarterback talent

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Nick Foles is the Super Bowl MVP, and he’s the NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating in the postseason.

Case Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game, where he lost to Foles’ Eagles.

Jared Goff is one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks, a 23-year-old Pro Bowler.

What do those three quarterbacks have in common? They were the three quarterbacks who started for the Rams in 2015 and 2016.

Any coach would kill to have that kind of talent at quarterback, and yet Jeff Fisher’s Rams put together an ugly offense with those three at the helm.

In 2015 the Rams went 7-9 and finished dead last in in the NFL in both passing yards and total yards.

In 2016 the Rams went 4-12, again finished dead last in the NFL in total yards, and finished 31st in passing yards.

When Fisher was fired late in 2016, there was some talk that his failure with the Rams was all a result of never having a good quarterback. But that’s not quite right. Fisher had three good quarterbacks. The problem was that Fisher, even with three good quarterbacks, couldn’t put together a good offense.

Pederson is strategic about when to be aggressive, when to play it safe

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Before the Eagles’ playoff run began, PFT noted that Eagles coach Doug Pederson is the NFL’s most aggressive coach on fourth downs. As it turned out, that became a major theme of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, as the Eagles went 2-for-2 on fourth downs, including a fourth-and-goal touchdown and a fourth-and-1 first down that set up the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown.

But now that everyone is praising Pederson for his fourth-down aggressiveness, it’s important to point out that Pederson isn’t just aggressive for the sake of being aggressive. He’s strategic about when to be aggressive and when to play it safe.

Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky took to Twitter to question why Pederson is being praised for his aggressiveness after this year’s Super Bowl, while last year, then-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was ripped for being overly aggressive while the Falcons blew a lead to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. As former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf replied, they’re completely different circumstances.

It’s important to understand the situations when Pederson likes to go for it on fourth down. The Eagles’ first fourth-down attempt was on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 34 seconds left in the first half. That’s a great time to go for it on fourth down because if it fails, the Patriots are left in bad field position without enough time to mount a long drive and score before halftime. The trick play Pederson called worked, but even if it hadn’t worked, the Patriots wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the stop and score before halftime.

The Eagles’ second fourth-down attempt was fourth-and-1 from their own 45-yard line, trailing 33-32 with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter. At that point in the game, going for it makes sense because if you punt the ball away, the Patriots’ offense might never give it back, or might score a touchdown to take an eight-point lead. On both of the Eagles’ fourth downs, Pederson’s aggressive decisions were sound.

But where Pederson’s decision making differed from last year’s Falcons was that Pederson was also smart about playing it safe when he had a late lead. The Falcons were criticized last year for passing too much and not running enough time off the clock when they had a big lead in the second half. That was a valid criticism. When the Eagles had the ball and the lead late in the game, however, Pederson played it safe: After Tom Brady‘s fumble, the Eagles got the ball at the Patriots’ 31-yard line with 2:09 remaining and a 38-33 lead. Pederson called three straight runs up the middle and then kicked a field goal on fourth down. Pederson could have been aggressive and called some passes in an attempt to pick up a game-sealing first down, but he didn’t want to risk an interception or stopping the clock with an incompletion, so he kept the ball on the ground.

There are times when aggressive play calling pays off, and times when conservative play calling pays off. What makes Pederson a successful coach is that he seems to lead the league at understanding the right time for both.

Eagles, among other things, wrap up 32nd pick in 2018 NFL Draft

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The offseason started for most teams long before the confetti fell last night.

But like a Broad Street hangover, the reality is about to hit the Eagles that they don’t have much to work with this offseason, at least in terms of draft capital.

With the loss, the Patriots earned the 31st pick in the draft, and the Eagles the 32nd.

But for Philadelphia, that one’s a precious pick since they lack to normal allotment.

As a result of trades, they lack their second-rounder (which went to Cleveland as part of the Carson Wentz deal) and third-rounder (from the trade with Buffalo for Ronald Darby.). That leaves them them plenty of time to think about the five picks they’ve accumulated from the fourth through seventh rounds.

Here’s a look at the full order of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft:

1 Browns 0-16
2 Giants 3-13
3 Colts 4-12
4 Browns (from Texans) 4-12
5 Broncos 5-11
6 Jets 5-11
7 Buccaneers 5-11
8 Bears 5-11
9 or 10 49ers 6-10 (coin flip)
9 or 10 Raiders 6-10 (coin flip)
11 Dolphins 6-10
12 Bengals 7-9
13 Washington 7-9
14 Packers 7-9
15 Cardinals 8-8
16 Ravens 9-7
17 Chargers 9-7
18 Seahawks 9-7
19 Cowboys 9-7
20 Lions 9-7
21 Bills 9-7
22 Bills (from Chiefs) 9-7
23 Rams 11-5
24 Panthers 11-5
25 Titans 9-7
26 Falcons 10-6
27 Saints 11-5
28 Steelers 13-3
29 Jaguars 10-6
30 Vikings 13-3
31 Patriots 13-3
32 Eagles 13-3

Could Gronk be posturing for a new contract?

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When throwing a dart during Super Bowl LII regarding the possibility of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retiring after the game, it was couched as a 99-percent wild guess. The one-percent came from three different things that has been heard on the Minnesota grapevine in the days preceding the game.

First, Gronkowski never had been hit in the head the way he’d been hit by Jaguars safety Barry Church during the AFC title game. Second, it took him a while to pass the tests necessary to get clearance to play. Third, one or more family members have been pushing him to hang it up.

Gronk definitely doesn’t need the money; he still hasn’t spent a dime that he has made playing football, living instead off of his marketing revenue. Maybe his willingness to keep playing ultimately hinges on how much more money the Patriots are willing to pay.

In 2017, the team gave him a $5.5 million incentive package, and he earned every penny of it, pushing his total compensation for the year to $10 million. For 2018, he’s due to make $8.25 million — but the $5.5 million in extra pay from 2017 will push his cap number over $16 million.

He’d owe nothing to the team if he retires, since he has earned the full amount of his signing bonus. The question becomes whether he’s willing to keep putting himself in harm’s way for another $8 million gross, and whether there’s a number above $8 million that: (1) the Patriots would be willing to pay; and (2) would entice him to stay.

Gronk surely has more money saved than he could ever spend. Given his persona, he could make plenty of additional money just being Gronk. The real question may be how much additional money he would need to continue to take the kind of pounding that has resulted in more surgeries than Cavity Sam and, most recently, a concussion that may cause him to take head injuries far more seriously than he did during a 2017 appearance on PFT Live.