Dave Ziegler “confident” Jimmy Garoppolo will improve the Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders Introduce Jimmy Garoppolo
Getty Images

The Raiders made the decision at the end of last season that they needed to get better at the most important position in football. They benched Derek Carr the final two games of last season and released him last month after nine seasons as the team’s quarterback.

They signed Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency, and General Manager Dave Ziegler said he is “confident” the Raiders have upgraded the position.

Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels were with the Patriots when Garoppolo broke into the NFL as a backup to Tom Brady. So, they have familiarity with their new quarterback, and he has familiarity with their systems.

“Simply put: Proven leader, proven winner,” Ziegler told Tashan Reed of TheAthletic.com. “I think he’s won 70 percent of his starts. And you can caveat that with the whys and all that stuff but, at the end of the day, he was a part of winning a lot of football games. He’s a proven leader. He’s a proven winner, and the next part of that is obviously he’s been steeped in the offensive system that we run. And so, there’s an advantage in that, too. Simply put, that’s what it was.”

Garoppolo’s signing was delayed by a day, and his introductory press conference pushed back, after he agreed to terms. There was some concern outside the organization that maybe things had taken an unexpected turn. But Garoppolo ended up signing a three-year, $72.75 million deal.

Ziegler said the team “never had any concern” the deal would get done.

“It was just things contractually like language and stuff like that that we had to work through,” Ziegler told Reed. “There was zero worry at any point. We knew it was going to get done. It was just making sure that everything — there’s a lot of protection and clauses and language and things like that — so it just took a little bit longer once we all sat down and started to go through the contract. Because you talk about the framework, obviously, before, but when we actually were kind of going the nuts and the bolts of it, there was just a couple things that took a little bit longer to work through than we anticipated.”

Kevin Colbert now helps former Steelers players transition to life after football

Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers
Getty Images

Last year, Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert transitioned into a new role with the team. In that position, he helps Steelers players transition into their own new roles.

Legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll called a player’s post-football reality his “life’s work.” For Colbert, helping players put their on-field careers behind them could ultimately be the most significant work of his life.

It helps me,” Colbert told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Helping them gives you a purpose.”

As explained by Dulac, Colbert conducts monthly virtual meetings that help players get the assistance they might need, from educational opportunities to financial aid to wellness to professional job training.

Colbert is working with the team’s “Lend a Hand” group, started four years ago in memory of former Steelers chairman Dan Rooney.

Per Dulac, 32 players attended the most recent meeting.

“The real purpose is to help all our retired players transition into life after football,” Colbert said. “Mostly it’s for the younger, recently retired guys who are trying to transition into that next phase of life.”

It can be a very difficult transition, given that most players don’t know much other than playing football.

“A player will tell you after [their career] is over they missed the locker room,” Colbert said. “They miss having the ability to talk . . . so they can help each other with that. When we get off the call and they start talking among themselves, they’re going to believe each other more than they’re ever going to believe me. That’s the purpose of it.”

It has helped give Colbert purpose, too.

“When he decided to retire, he didn’t want to retire-retire,” Steelers president Art Rooney II told Dulac, regarding Colbert. “He wants to stay active doing things, and one of the things we talked about was him being more involved with the alumni. He actually came up with the idea to create this program after my dad’s efforts to lend a hand to players over the years. Kevin is passionate about it and dedicated to it. It’s off to a good start.”

If Colbert does that job the way he did his job as G.M. of the team for 22 years, the “Lend a Hand” project will be ridiculously successful.

Wes Martin to sign with Browns

Washington Commanders vs Detroit Lions
Getty Images

The Browns have agreed to terms on a deal with offensive guard Wes Martin, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports.

An Ohio native, Martin is returning home after spending three of the past four seasons in Washington. He played for the Giants in 2021.

The Commanders made Martin a fourth-round pick in 2019, and he played 25 games with 10 starts his first two seasons.

He went to the Giants, and after seven games with one start in 2021, he moved on to the Jaguars. The Commanders signed Martin back in training camp last August after Jacksonville cut him.

Martin will backup Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller.

Todd Bowles: Bucs can be great even without “aura” of Tom Brady

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v San Francisco 49ers
Getty Images

The Buccaneers no longer have Tom Brady after the quarterback elected to retire at the start of the offseason.

But Tampa Bay feels like it’s still in a position to compete.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield cited that as one of the reasons why he elected to sign with the club. And at the annual meeting in Arizona, head coach Todd Bowles echoed that sentiment.

“When you replace a player of that magnitude, first of all, you don’t replace him,” Bowles told NFL Media’s Judy Battista at the league’s annual meeting in Arizona. “You lose aura. You lose the expectation of being great. That doesn’t mean you can’t be great. You just have to do it more as a team. We did it as a team when he was there, but he was such a great player and a great person that you focus all on that. And now that that is gone, the perception is that everything else is gone when really it isn’t.

“We have a lot of good players on our team on both sides of the ball. We have some pieces to fill, but we have a lot of good football players on our team. And we just have to understand that and not go with the so-called outside narrative and do what we have to do to win ball games.”

Despite Brady’s presence last year, the Buccaneers really weren’t great. While Tampa Bay won the NFC South, the club was 8-9 and lost 31-14 to Dallas in the Wild Card round. We’ll see if the many offseason changes can put the Bucs in a better position to compete in 2023.

Brandon Staley: We want Austin Ekeler to be a Charger

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Getty Images

Austin Ekeler feels underpaid, but he’s not underappreciated.

The Chargers gave Ekeler permission to seek a trade two weeks ago after the sides failed to come to an agreement on a new contract. He remains a Charger with no apparent interest from any other team, and the Chargers are hoping it stays that way.

“We’ve been in full communication with his team,” Brandon Staley told Steve Wyche on NFL Network on Sunday. “I think there’s alignment and a way forward. We want him to be a Charger. I think that that’s something that [General Manager] Tom [Telesco] has said. It’s something I’ve said. We want this guy to be a Charger. We’re also respectful of his position, and we’re going to see where it goes. There’s going to be time now between now and our first game, and we’ll see what happens. But I know the Chargers feel very strongly about Austin Ekeler. He’s just been fantastic for us.”

Ekeler is entering the final year of his contract scheduled to make $6.25 million in base salary. He led the Chargers in rushing in 2022, with 915 yards and 13 touchdowns on 204 carries, and also led the Chargers with 107 catches and five receiving touchdowns.

Sean Payton: Broncos won’t trade Jerry Jeudy or Courtland Sutton

Getty Images

Despite talk that the Broncos might shop one of their top receivers this offseason, coach Sean Payton says Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are staying put.

We’re not trading those two players,” Payton said. “When people call and the phone rings like it does this time of year, [Broncos General Manager] George Paton’s job is to pick it up and say, ‘Hey. Tell you what, we’re not.’ And so, we’ve received calls, you bet. Those are two good football players. But we’re in the business of gathering talent right now. Why do people call? Because they know we’re void of draft picks and that we might, because there was some discussions a year ago, I think, regarding Courtland. But we like the current group that we’re working with.”

If the Broncos end up trading either Jeudy or Sutton, it would hardly be the first time that a team traded a player after the coach said they wouldn’t. But Payton sounds pretty definitive about not moving either Jeudy or Sutton.

Payton knows he was hired to turn around an offense that was ugly in Russell Wilson‘s first year in Denver, and Payton wants Wilson to have as many receivers as possible.

Jonathan Gannon: I’m operating that DeAndre Hopkins is a Cardinal right now

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals
Getty Images

Four weeks ago, Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon said he wasn’t sure whether wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would be back in Arizona this season. Gannon still doesn’t know for sure, but he is currently planning to have Hopkins on his team in 2023.

Gannon told Steve Wyche of NFL Network that he’s thinking about coaching Hopkins, not trading him.

I’m operating that he’s a Cardinal right now,” Gannon said. “So, I’m looking forward to getting in the meeting room and on the field with him and seeing where it can go. I just know he’s an elite player. Being a defensive guy, I had to go up against him a couple times in the division. The challenges that he presents. I’m excited to get to work with him.”

Of course, the “right now” in Gannon’s comment means that could change, and it could change any time between now and the start of the season. Trading Hopkins could make sense both for a Cardinals team that appears to be at the start of a rebuilding effort, and for Hopkins, a veteran who doesn’t have many good years left. Even if that’s not what Gannon is planning on right now.

Robert Saleh: Aaron Rodgers’s interest shows how far Jets have come

San Diego Chargers v New York Jets
Getty Images

The Jets still haven’t landed quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The mere fact that they even have him on the line counts as progress.

That’s how Jets coach Robert Saleh characterized the situation in Sunday comments to Judy Battista of NFL Network.

“Two years ago when we first got there, just thinking about where we were and how far we’ve come, to have a guy like him want to play for us is pretty cool and shows how far we’ve come,” Saleh said.

He’s right, but they still don’t have Rodgers on the team. And even if (when) it happens, it’s a Band-Aid not a building block. The Jets will need a post-Rodgers strategy, if they hope to sustain things.

Still, that’s for next year or the year after. The NFL has become a one-season-at-a-time proposition. For the coming season, the Jets will be a bigger fish than they’ve been in years — if they can ever get Rodgers in the boat.

Andy Reid: Patrick Mahomes’ ankle hasn’t slowed down his offseason workouts

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
Getty Images

The most-watched ankle of the NFL postseason hasn’t caused any trouble during the offseason.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid told Steve Wyche of NFL Network that quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘ ankle hasn’t prevented him from working out this offseason and isn’t a concern going forward.

“He didn’t have to get anything done. He’s doing good, he feels good,” Reid said. “This time, he jumped right back into workouts and working the ankle, rehabbing the ankle. He’s lifting and running the parts that he could run, and he didn’t miss a beat on that.”

Mahomes injured the ankle in the Chiefs’ divisional round win over the Jaguars and had to miss the second quarter, but he managed to tough it out through the second half of that game, and then played every snap of both the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. Going forward, it appears to be a non-issue.

Bills continue to balance getting the most out of Josh Allen with protecting him

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions
Getty Images

It became instantly obvious during the 2018 season that Bills quarterback Josh Allen has a significant amount of mobility. It eventually became clear that, like most mobile quarterbacks, there’s a balance to be struck between cutting it loose and keeping away from injured reserve.

The Bills continue to try to strike that balance, five years into Allen’s career.

McDermott has acknowledged in a conversation with Judy Battista of NFL Network that he’s “absolutely” nervous about the fact that Allen gets tackled on 66 percent of his runs down the field.

“I don’t think that’s a healthy way to play QB in this league and it’s undefeated that things are going to happen when you play that style, brand of football,” McDermott said.

“We have to get that adjusted and it’s never going to go completely away, but it has to get where it’s workable,” McDermott added. “He’s one of the best in the league and I don’t want to take his personality away from him . . . but there needs to be an adjustment in that style of play.”

Of course, Allen’s most significant injury in 2022 came when he was hit in the arm while throwing from the pocket. Injuries can, and do, happen anywhere.

But quarterbacks who run, and who get tackled, are at enhanced risk of being injured. The more they run, the more they get hit, the greater the chance of an injury.

It won’t be easy for the Bills to find that sweet spot. There’s increasing urgency to win a championship. With each season of Allen’s career that it doesn’t happen, the pressure will go up. Thus, the temptation to roll the dice with his health will go up, too.

“Things have to come together in every season of any sport to win it all and we’ve been this close, and we keep knocking at that door,” McDermott said.

Sometimes, continuing to knock on the door isn’t good enough. Sometimes, an impatient owner will try to find a coach and/or a G.M. who can figure out how to finally kick it in.

Shannon Sharpe has removed Brett Favre’s case against him to federal court, too

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game
Getty Images

On Friday, Pat McAfee exercised his prerogative to move to federal court the defamation lawsuit filed against him by Brett Favre. Earlier in the week, former Ravens and Broncos tight end (and also, like Favre, a Hall of Famer) Shannon Sharpe made the same move.

Sharpe’s position is the same as McAfee’s. Because Sharpe isn’t a Mississippi resident and because Favre seeks more than $750,000, Sharpe has the right to take the case from state court to federal court.

Generally speaking, it’s better for an out-of-state defendant who is sued in state court to fight in federal court. Indeed, the first page of the civil defense lawyer playbook whenever a client is sued in state court is to see whether there’s a way to get the case to federal court.

Favre has the ability to try to send the case back to state court via a motion to remand. That would be very difficult to do here, given that Favre’s lawyer publicly has suggested that the cases are worth “millions” of dollars.

The value of the cases will be for a federal judge and federal jury to decide. And, as we’ve previously explained, it won’t be easy for Favre to prove he was defamed under the high standard applicable to public figures, or to prove that the difference between his pre-existing reputation and his post-defamation (allegedly) reputation requires significant financial compensation.

Favre may eventually regret filing these cases. Along the way, the litigation could be very illuminating, especially if/when McAfee and Sharpe’s lawyers uncover evidence that potentially proves the things they allegedly said about Favre to be true.

Bills are giving full support to Damar Hamlin as he prepares to possibly play again

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers
Getty Images

Bills safety Damar Hamlin hopes to play football again. The Bills hope to help him make a return while keeping all relevant factors in mind.

Coach Sean McDermott tells Judy Battista of NFL Network that the organization has addressed with Hamlin the mental and emotional aspects of returning to game action after suffering cardiac arrest during a game on January 2.

“The best thing we can do is support him all the way through this, and that is a big piece of it that is, mind, body and spirit,” McDermott said. “It’s just not physically like, hey, in the weight room, it’s the mental piece as well.”

McDermott added that “the amount of courage it’s going to take to re-engage again is unbeknownst to many of us.”

Indeed it is. What player has ever tried to come back and play after nearly dying on the field?

“I’m ready to support him in any direction he decides to go, even if it’s last minute,” McDermott told Battista, seemingly acknowledging the very real possibility that Hamlin will check every box and be ready to play and then realize that, all things considered, he just can’t do it again.

It would be understandable if that happens. The Bills are doing the right thing by giving Damar Hamlin all the support he needs, all the time he requires to make a decision — and if necessary to change his mind.

As broadcasting patterns shift, potential antitrust liability looms for the NFL

NFL: AUG 25 Preseason - Chiefs at Bears
Getty Images

For the most part, the NFL sails through clear, open waters. But there’s an iceberg out there, whether the league is worried about it or not.

The shift from traditional, over-the-air TV to streaming could eventually land the league in an antitrust mess, for one very important reason. The antitrust exemption from the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 quite possibly, if not most likely, does not apply to NFL games sold through web-based services.

Here’s a fairly recent item from the University of Iowa’s Journal of Corporation Law regarding the league’s looming legal challenges, if/when (when) the bulk of the broadcasting cash comes from the likes of Amazon, YouTube, and other tech companies that don’t make games available through free channels beyond the markets in which the involved teams play.

In short, a strong argument can be made that the antitrust exemption doesn’t apply to streaming based on subscriptions, not advertisements. Regardless of how the issue would be resolved in court, the NFL becomes susceptible to an argument that this new age of non-TV television wipes out the ability to legally sell all games in one block.

Of course, there can’t be a legal entanglement without someone actively trying to change the status quo. To get things started, a plaintiff is needed. An entity to claim that the antitrust laws apply in the streaming world, and that a streaming service should be allowed to strike a deal with (for example) the Dallas Cowboys to make its games available to all customers — without having to buy a broader, league-wide package that would, on an annual basis, become a box of Forrest Gump-ian chocolates.

It’s not necessarily a one-way street. The potential for an antitrust fight becomes far more compelling if/when a team like (for example) the Dallas Cowboys wants to break ranks from the model that has been in place for decades.

Really, what’s to stop Jerry Jones from standing up during the annual meetings in Arizona and going on and on (and on) about how this new world of streaming changes everything? That he’d like to be able to sell the streaming rights to his team’s home games to Amazon or whoever, and keep all the money?

At its core, the sports league that many regard as a shining example of American capitalistic exceptionalism shows strong elements of socialism, with 32 businesses working together to ensure that the rising tide lifts all boats equally.

What if Jones or one of the other owners of what would be one of the more desirable teams decides that it no longer makes sense to take less in the name of helping everyone else get more?

This isn’t a prediction that it will happen. It’s an acknowledgment that it could.

The fact that owners will be voting to adopt Thursday night flexing in order to boost the Jeff Bezos billion-dollar-per-year investment underscores the league’s appreciation and awareness of where the world is going. It’s just a matter of time before streaming takes over. When it does, the NFL may be dealing with a can of worms that has remained sealed shut since the early 1960s.

Whatever the league’s plan for dealing with this fundamental change to its potential portfolio of liability, it needs to have one. It may be just a matter of time before someone argues persuasively that, while the league has an antitrust exemption that allows all-or-nothing rights deals with the likes of CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC, the league can’t control global streaming rights — and each team must be able to strike its own deal for its own home games.

And, yes, when it happens the league will fight. It will resist. It will try to find a way to force the whole thing into arbitration resolved by the Commissioner.

Still, the iceberg is out there. And the NFL is moving closer and closer to it.

Patriots face longest Super Bowl odds of the Belichick era

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots
Getty Images

Bill Belichick became the coach of the Patriots in 2000. The Patriots have won six Super Bowls on his watch.

This year, Patriots have the longest odds to win the Super Bowl of any of the 24 years that Belichick has been the coach.

As noted by Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, the Patriots are 70-1 to win Super Bowl LVIII. It’s the longest odds (via SportsOddsHistory.com) for the Patriots since 1993, when New England entered the season at 100-1.

This also makes it the longest odds of owner Robert Kraft’s tenure; he bought the team in 1994.

In 2001, Belichick’s second season with the team, the preseason odds were 50-1. And, of course, they won it all that year.

In recent days, some have linked the Patriots to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. If they’d somehow get him, that would definitely change the odds. Of course, the odds of getting him away from the Ravens may be even longer than 70-1.

Allen Lazard has “no worry” about Aaron Rodgers not becoming a Jet

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears
Getty Images

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers eventually will be a member of the Jets. It’s inevitable, barring a dramatic change to his stated “intention.”

Jets receiver Allen Lazard, a former teammate of Rodgers in Green Bay, has zero concern that the GB/NY QB pipeline will fail to deliver Rodgers to New Jersey, 15 years after if brought Brett Favre to town.

Lazard recently told TMZ.com regarding the eventual Rodgers arrival, “There’s no worry on my end.”

Lazard also said Rodgers was “a big reason” for the receiver’s decision to sign with the Jets. It helped that former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett currently has that job in New York.

It’s still unclear when Rodgers will officially arrive. It’s been eleven days since Rodgers told Pat McAfee that the four-time MVP plans to play or the Jets. The Packers and Jets seem to be no closer to working out a trade now than they were then.

The draft, which starts in 32 days, continues to be the first logical deadline for doing a deal. Unless the Jets believe the real deadline is the start of training camp — and if they become willing to say that to the Packers.