AROUND THE NFL

Would Adam Silver be a better NFL commissioner than Roger Goodell?  Peter King on the whispers:

 

I think, regarding the whispers of some influencers in the NFL feeling out Adam Silver for his interest in the NFL commissioner’s job before Roger Goodell signed long-term in late 2017, as reported by ESPN: Surprised in one sense, because the owners have been fairly solid behind Goodell, even in the bad times. Not surprised in another sense, because “fairly solid” is not “rock solid.” The fractious Jerry Jones/Goodell rift in 2017 could have led to a phone call to Silver … and to the new deal the league announced in December 2017. I’ll always think the Jones divisiveness back then pushed the other owners to that lucrative Goodell extension.

 

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com was the latest writer who to put out the tale:

 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he hasn’t “given any thought” to inquiries by NFL owners about his willingness to switch leagues and become commissioner of the NFL.

 

While Silver did not explicitly confirm that he had been approached by NFL owners, sources close to the situation told ESPN that several NFL owners have tried to persuade Silver to run their league over the course of his five years as the NBA’s commissioner. Silver has also been approached by a number of Fortune 500 companies, according to sources.

 

“I’ll just say I have not given it any thought,” Silver told ESPN about his reaction to those job opportunities. “I feel very fortunate to be in this position. As a longtime fan, as a longtime league employee, the opportunity to become the commissioner of this league was beyond anything I even ever dreamed of as a kid.

 

“I’ve loved every day I’ve been in this job, and I think there’s nothing but enormous opportunity ahead for this league. And ultimately, I realize I’m just passing through like every player who’s gone through this league and ultimately like every owner, and I feel an enormous obligation to the fans and to this greater NBA family to do my best and try my hardest every day. But that’s where 100 percent of my focus is.”

 

ESPN’s Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham reported in August 2017 that a confidant of an NFL owner reached out to gauge whether Silver would be interested in running the NFL, to which Silver immediately said no.

 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell signed a five-year extension worth up to $200 million in December 2017. Silver signed a five-year extension with the NBA in June that runs through the 2023-24 season.

 

Silver is celebrating his five-year anniversary as NBA commissioner this weekend at the All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina. He officially succeeded David Stern as the league’s fifth commissioner on Feb. 1, 2014, and held his first State of the NBA news conference on Feb. 15 of that year at the All-Star Game in New Orleans.

 

League revenues have increased from $4.8 billion to a projected $9.1 billion in Silver’s five years. Team valuations have increased by 267 percent, from an average of $509 million in 2013 to $1.9 billion in the latest Forbes Magazine valuations.

 

So are those “sources close to the situation” close to Silver or close to “the NFL”?

 

We would think the former.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

S GLOVER QUIN was once a Lions mainstay.  Now, he is an ex-Lion.  Kyle Meinke of MLive.com:

 

The Detroit Lions moved Quandre Diggs to safety full time last offseason. Then they used their third-round pick to draft another in Tracy Walker. At that point, the writing was already on the wall.

 

Detroit was planning for a future without Glover Quin.

 

On Friday, that future arrived.

 

The Lions announced they were cutting Quin, who has been exceedingly productive in his six years with the club. He made 424 tackles, intercepted 19 passes and forced seven fumbles. He led the NFL in picks in 2014 and was named second-team All-Pro. And he did all of it without missing a single start. That’s 96 regular-season games, stretching his overall streak to 148 — nearly double any other safety in the game.

 

That’s a mouthful. And it only begins to tell the story of Glover Quin.

 

Quin and I both arrived in Detroit in 2013. I’ve been there for every game he’s played, and nearly every time he’s laced up a cleat on the practice field. And I can tell you from watching him handle his business, and from talking to those around him, there has been no greater leader in Detroit than this guy. No greater teammate. And perhaps nobody outside of the quarterback has had a more wide-spread influence on the franchise.

 

I remember when Detroit drafted a really talented cornerback in 2013. People said he had the physical makeup to be a great player, but this guy had such a poor handle on the mental aspects of the position that he was benched that year. Twice.

 

That player’s name: Darius Slay.

 

The Lions put Slay’s locker right next to Quin’s. That was no accident, and it was impossible to miss the mentorship that unfolded. They talked shop every day. They talked about everything else too. Slay was rough around the edges when he entered the NFL, and guys like that — even really talented ones — wash up all the time. But Quin didn’t let that happen. He threw everything he could at Slay, in-season and outside of it. Slay eventually came to dub Quin his “big brother.”

 

Now look at him. Slay was named first-team All-Pro last year, and appeared in his second straight Pro Bowl just last month. He’s one of the best cornerbacks in the league. And while there are a lot of reasons for that, his God-given ability foremost among them, perhaps nobody else had a greater influence than Quin.

 

“From locker mates to friends an now family… big bra i appreciate everything u taught me as a man an as a player,” Slay posted to Instagram. “The room will never be same without ya. I love ya an wish u the best on whatever u decide to do with your career.”

 

Quin also shepherded another defensive back, a guy who slipped into the sixth round in 2015 because some scouts thought was too slow and others thought was too small. He wound up starting in the slot as a rookie, much like Quin, and played really well that year too.

 

His name: Quandre Diggs.

 

The Lions put Diggs’ locker right next to Slay’s and Quin’s. Again, I don’t think that’s any accident, and it played a big role in Diggs’ surprisingly good rookie season. Then when Tavon Wilson went down with an injury late in the 2017 season, requiring Diggs to move to safety, Quin played a key role in preparing him for the sudden assignment.

 

Diggs wound up picking off passes in three straight games at the position. He was so good so fast, the Lions made the move permanent last year. And Quin continued his tutelage, helping to turn Diggs into one of Detroit’s best defenders. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate in his first full season at the position.

 

“The definition of a leader man!” Diggs said of Quin on Instagram. “Taught me so much about the game and life in general! These 4 years will never be forgotten OG! Guess me and Slay will have to FT you everyday while we chillin in the locker room, or you can just let us stay at the crib with you and the fam! Always love big bro and will always appreciate the lessons!”

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

Peter King:

 

2019 is the 60th season of the Denver Broncos, a franchise with three road playoff wins in history.

 

Joe Flacco has seven road playoff wins.

 

Mark Sanchez has four, the same number now as TOM BRADY.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

After a detailed remembrance of his Super Bowl run, Peter King on JOE FLACCO:

 

Whatever you end up thinking about Joe Flacco’s tenure in Baltimore, I would urge you to remember what he did six years ago, in the postseason of his fifth NFL year.

 

He beat Andrew Luck by 15 in a wild-card game. He made the throw of his life to help beat Peyton Manning, in 2-degree wind chill in Denver, by three in a divisional game. He beat Tom Brady by 15 in the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro. He beat the broiling-hot Colin Kaepernick by three in the Super Bowl.

 

Flacco, easily, had one of the best postseasons by a quarterback in history. Who beats two of the top five quarterbacks ever, in the span of eight days, both in hostile road environments?

– – –

Then the win in the Super Bowl, in New Orleans. Flacco told me after that game, at a family party in Huck Finn’s restaurant in the French Quarter, that his idol growing up was Joe Montana. (How many kid quarterbacks have said that? Only all of them.) That caused me to go back to my hotel room in the wee hours of Monday morning to see how Flacco’s postseason compared to Montana’s finest one.

 

Not far off, as it turned out.

 

So … I get that Flacco has been a mediocre quarterback since then, in part due to injury. He’s 43-42, with one playoff win (albeit in Pittsburgh) since that night in Huck Finn’s. But I guess I’m a glass-half-full guy. Elite or not, Flacco deserves to be remembered as the man who delivered a Super Bowl title to Baltimore. And when the Ravens picked him 18th out of Delaware in 2008, I guarantee if you’d told owner Steve Bisciotti he’d win one Super Bowl with Flacco in 11 seasons, he’d have signed for it right then.

 

 

CINCINNATI

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com on the lack of a defensive coordinator in Cincinnati:

 

Obviously not having a defensive coordinator yet isn’t ideal. Most recently, Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn was blocked from interviewing, and Ohio State defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley turned an interview down. Things didn’t work out with more experienced names like Jack Del Rio and Mike Nolan.

 

But Taylor says he isn’t going to rush that one—“No [timetable], just need the right person”—and is leaning on secondary coaches Robert Livingston and Daronte Jones in interim.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

Peter King:

 

I think the more Antonio Brown tweets, the more he scares off potential suitors. (That’s not just something I think. In the case of one team, it’s something I know.)

 

Mark Kaboly in The Athletic, who has been there the whole time, says fame has changed WR ANTONIO BROWN.  After his initial success, he took on initials, a move for the worse.  This from Peter King:

 

Kaboly, a Steelers’ beat guy, has a theory that Antonio Brown the good guy became A.B. the mega-star. I’m not in the locker room so I cannot testify to that. But it’s an interesting theory—and Kaboly is the first to advance that Brown has changed.

 

Writes Kaboly: “It’s sad that Antonio Brown has become A.B. We are now going to remember A.B. as a stunningly talented football player who got swallowed up by fame and greed. A.B. is going to be remembered as an egotistical jerk who cared about nothing but his stats and his money. And that’s a shame, because he wasn’t like that when he was Antonio Brown.”

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

David Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel gets Jimmy Johnson’s prescription for the Dolphins – and it doesn’t include a dose of QB KYLER MURRAY:

 

The Dolphins need a rebuild and, to their credit, admit it.

 

“That’s the first step,’’ Jimmy Johnson said. “A lot of teams don’t want to do that and are patching holes and going nowhere.”

 

Like the Dolphins for most of this millennium.

 

So what to do? Who better to ask than Johnson, a former Dolphins coach? He also hit on some Dolphins topics as they start a rebuild. He turned around Dallas from awful to dynasty. He then took over an old and salary-cap strapped Dolphins team and, while not building a champion, took it to the playoffs three straight years and won two games. That would merit a parade down Biscyane Boulevard these days.

 

Jimmy talked why he’s bullish on Miami Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz and his staff in a conversation. But the NFL is his area of expertise on the Fox broadcast team, and he touched on some Dolphins-centric themes.

 

Here’s the wild-card question of this draft: What do you think Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray?

 

“We watched him play a lot,’’ Jimmy said. “There’s two things. You’ve got to be with the right coach and the right style. That’s paramount. If not with the right coach and right style, he’s got no shot. The second concern is he’s a small guy. Not only short, but a small guy and a big part of his game is his mobility.

 

“Small guys get hurt in the NFL. Now he’s accurate, great arm, great athlete, smart — he’s got everything going for him but he’s not a big guy and that mobility, as great as it is, is dangerous for a small guy. It’s dangerous for a big guy. Look at Cam Newton. You rely so much on your mobility you get hit and nicked up and you lose that.”

 

Jimmy said he feels it would be too much of a gamble to take Murray with a high draft pick.

 

“He’s liable to put you in the playoffs the first year,’’ he said. “He’s that good. But he’s liable to be hurt the second game.”

 

2. So what to do at quarterback?

 

“I like Tua,’’ he said of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagvailoa.

 

But there’s time to gather more information and study the top quarterbacks if the Dolphins push to the 2020 draft to take a quarterback. Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Georgia’s Jake Fromm are the other ones to study. They larger point here is …

 

3. “The quarterback is the most important position, and I always thought the back-up quarterback was the No. 2,’’ he said.

 

He showed that in taking Steve Walsh with the second pick in the 1990 supplemental draft to back up Troy Aikman. Walsh, of course, was then flipped early in the 1990 season for a first-, second- and third-round pick to New Orleans. That didn’t make the trade a win. What did was …

 

4. “You’ve got to make the draft picks matter – that’s what makes the trades good,’’ he said.

 

Everyone knows Jimmy was big on acquiring draft picks. What made Dallas work into Super Bowl form and kept the Dolphins a mere playoff team was he hit big on the draft picks in Dallas. He did well with the Dolphins in drafting four impact defensive players (Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison). The offensive side? Not as much.

 

But after the quarterbacks Jimmy put a premium on pass-rushing defense linemen. He never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round. He did, however, pick pass rushers and

 

5. “Only pay great players big money,’’ he said.

 

Look at what’s got the Dolphins into salary-cap hell. In 2019, they’re scheduled to pay average and/or old or injured players contracts no one wants to pay: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill ($18.2M), Reshad Jones ($13M) Robert Quinn $11.8M), Andre Branch ($6.9M) and Kiko Alonso ($6.5M), Josh Sitton ($5M) …

 

The bottom-line is evaluating talent properly. Jimmy had a talent for that. It’s what the Dolphins need moving ahead if they’re ever to get out of the wilderness.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

After meandering around, Peter King comes out in favor of the hiring of Greg Schiano to be New England’s DC:

 

I think it’s fair to throw shade at Bill Belichick for making Greg Schiano his defensive coordinator after Schiano’s Ohio State defense imploded in 2018 and Schiano wasn’t retained in Columbus. I’ve always felt Schiano has been over-lampooned in his career. Those who marginalize Schiano’s job at Rutgers have no idea what an awful program it was when he took it over. Eleven wins in the five years before he took over in 2001, and Schiano got Rutgers as high as seventh in the AP poll five years into his run there. Then he took over for Raheem Morris, who’d cratered in Tampa, and he inherited a quarterback, Josh Freeman, who never put in the time required for a quarterback to be great. Schiano certainly was too autocratic for his own good there, but two years to establish a program when the quarterback’s fighting you all the way is just not enough time. Then getting run out of Tennessee before ever coaching a game because of a media firestorm and unsubstantiated connections to the Penn State sex-abuse scandal, and then his tenure at Ohio State, clouded by very shaky defensive performance that checkered his tenure. He’ll have to do one thing in New England: Run Belichick’s defense, controversy-free, working for a man who respects him greatly. I like Schiano’s chances to do that.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP IN THE KASH

On Thursday, we learned that QB COLIN KAEPERNICK, despite all his socialist friends, wanted a better contract than the one shared by all the other AAF players.

 

On Friday, we learned that the NFL has paid him something, probably a lot of something, to compensate him for his time not serving time on an NFL roster.

 

Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

The NFL and lawyers for Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid released a joint statement on Friday announcing the resolution of the players’ grievances against the league.

 

“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” the statement read. “As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”

 

Given the confines of the agreement, specific terms, including finances, of the settlement aren’t known.

 

Kaepernick, who last played for an NFL team in 2016, filed his grievance through the NFLPA against the league on Oct. 16, 2017. The former San Francisco 49ers signal-caller alleged collusion that denied him a job with a team after he took a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness of racial inequality and social injustices.

 

Reid, who joined the silent protest with Kaepernick on the 49ers’ sidelines, filed his grievance through the NFLPA on May 7, 2018, after going unsigned during the first wave of free agency. He eventually joined the Carolina Panthers on a one-year deal in September 2018, and then recently signed a three-year deal worth more than $22 million to remain in Carolina.

 

While Reid has found employment, the same can’t be said for Kaepernick. The 31-year-old quarterback continues to be overlooked by teams in need of a starter or backup despite Kaepernick’s experience. During his six-year career, he was 4-2 as a starter in the postseason and took the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII.

 

The NFLPA later issued a statement, expressing optimism that Kaepernick will eventually get another chance to return to the league.

 

“Today, we were informed by the NFL of the settlement of the Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid collusion cases,” the NFLPA said. “We are not privy to the details of the settlement, but support the decision by the players and their counsel. We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them. We are glad that Eric has earned a job and new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well.”

 

Kaepernick and Reid are both represented by attorney Mark Geragos.

 

What think you that the terms of said agreement will remain “confidential?”

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com presumes that somewhere in all the discovery, there must have been something embarrassing to the NFL:

 

The NFL, which has rarely met a P.R. crisis it hasn’t bungled, has made a wise and prudent move in settling the Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid collusion grievances.

 

The buying of peace carries with it not only the avoidance of a potentially massive judgment and the embarrassment and stress of a full-blown hearing during which owners and executives would have been twisted in various shapes and sizes of sailing knots but also the disclosure of a likely treasure trove of emails, text messages, and deposition transcripts generated in more than a year of pre-hearing discovery.

 

Win or lose, that information could have been devastating to the NFL, both as it relates to potential proof that the league office tried to discourage teams from signing Kaepernick and/or Reid and as it relates to evidence of people overstepping their roles and/or failing to competently perform the duties of their jobs and/or saying dumb things that would have fueled umpteen news cycles.

 

Silence becomes a big part of what the league paid for, via a confidential settlement that may never be leaked but that will invite speculation that the NFL — which rarely settles anything — paid huge money to make Kaepernick and Reid go away.

 

The fact that Reid’s case also was settled confirms that the NFL did this to keep testimony and documents secret, and that the NFL offered enough to persuade Reid, who in some ways seemed to be even more determined to seek justice than Kaepernick, to stand down.

 

But Kaepernick surely got much more than Reid, because Kaepernick had a much stronger case than Reid. And even though the NFLPA has expressed hope that Kaepernick will return to the NFL, there’s a chance that Kaepernick’s settlement (the terms of which the NFLPA isn’t aware) includes a provision that he won’t seek, and won’t be offered, NFL employment.

 

For the league, that would make a wise decision even wiser, because the same alleged collusion that resulted in the settlement could spark a fresh collusion case that would apply from the day after the ink dries on the deal. But it also should make a costly settlement even more costly.

 

More legal analysis from Michael McCann at SI.com:

 

Significance of Kaepernick defeating the NFL on summary judgment

 

Kaepernick’s collusion grievance received significant skepticism and Twitter ridicule. Many scoffed at the idea that teams would plot against a quarterback who led his team to a 2–14 record. Instead, his critics surmised, Kaepernick was simply upset about the lack of offers and, to deflect blame, invented a storyline that blamed others.

 

That skepticism changed dramatically last August when Burbank denied the NFL’s request for summary judgment. This was a major development, meaning that Kaepernick had persuaded Burbank that he possessed enough evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact. In other words, Kaepernick had some evidence, even if the nature of this evidence remains unknown to the public. Also, due to the settlement’s non-disclosure agreement, the nature of this evidence will remain out of public light. In fact, both sides could be sued for breach of contract lawsuit if they divulge the contents. Meanwhile, attorneys in the grievance who breach confidentiality could risk sanction by state bars. That doesn’t mean we can’t speculate about the evidence. Such evidence could be in the form of an admission made during witness testimony (attorneys Geragos and Meiselas have deposed a number of owners, team officials and NFL officials) or perhaps a damning email, text or other correspondence sent by one owner to another.

 

For the NFL, the summary judgment ruling made the possibility of losing to Kaepernick a legitimate worry. The NFL knew that Kaepernick and his legal team had persuaded Burbank that evidence of collusion was present.

 

To be sure, Kaepernick still faced an upward climb in proving collusion. Under Article 17 of the CBA, Kaepernick had to prove collusion by (1) a “clear preponderance of the evidence” that collusion occurred and (2) that such collusion caused him economic harm—and this would have been a high standard to meet. Still, the NFL losing on summary judgment informed league officials that Kaepernick’s case was not frivolous and was instead an actual threat.

 

Why the NFL agreed to settle with Kaepernick (and Reid)

 

The NFL likely settled for a multitude of reasons.

 

First, the league may have realized after losing to Kaepernick on summary judgment that it could have lost the entire grievance. Burbank clearly saw “something” adverse to the NFL or else he would have granted summary judgment and tossed out Kaepernick’s grievance. The fact that he didn’t was clearly a worry to the league.

 

Second, a loss to Kaepernick on the merits would have been a public relations disaster for the NFL. Kaepernick would have shown that at least two teams, or the league and at least one team, had conspired against him. This type of finding would have been construed by media as proving that NFL owners are racially-insensitive or even racist. Kaepernick, for his part, would have been celebrated as a hero while Goodell would have been vilified (I realize many already view him as a villain, but that narrative would have taken on greater momentum). By settling instead, the NFL avoids admitting it did anything wrong. Don’t underestimate the value to the NFL in avoiding saying “we were wrong.” That value was apparent in the concussion litigation settlement and could be true here as well.

 

Third, a finding that the NFL colluded would have been badly damaging to labor relations between owners and players. The NFLPA would know for a fact that teams had colluded against at least one of its members and perhaps two if Reid was also victimized by collusion. Ask baseball players and the MLBPA how it was impacted upon a finding that MLB owners had colluded against baseball players in the 1980s: the finding caused lasting distrust. Moreover, considering the NFL and the NFLPA still haven’t solved the apparent riddle of how to craft a sensible national anthem policy, the NFL losing to Kaepernick would have emboldened the NFLPA to continue the fight over the anthem.

 

Fourth, the negative impact that would have been associated with the NFL losing to Kaepernick would have been exacerbated by the fact that Burbank was completely neutral. His decision would have been authoritative and credible. Likewise, the odds that the NFL could have successfully challenged Burbank’s award in federal court were exceedingly slim. Federal law is highly deferential to arbitration awards. It is extremely unlikely that Burbank would have made the kind of fundamental error necessary to undermine his award before a federal judge.

 

Fifth, the NFL and its teams could have owed Kaepernick a sizable amount of money. To be sure, the league could afford to write a large check. It reportedly generated about $15 billion in revenue last season. Still, at least in theory, Kaepernick could have been entitled to an amount of money higher than that paid to highest paid quarterback in the league (Aaron Rodgers, $33.5 million). Specifically, Kaepernick would have been awarded both compensatory damages and non-compensatory damages (the latter of which would have reflected punitive or punishment damages). Burbank would have calculated compensatory as the salary Kaepernick would have earned but for collusion, while non-compensatory would have equaled twice the amount of compensatory damages. Hypothetically, if Kaepernick had proven that but for collusion he would have signed an $20 million contract—a contract for a middle-of-the-pack starting QB—Burbank would have awarded him $60 million in damages: $20 million compensatory + $40 million non-compensatory. Taking this hypothetical to the next step, if collusion had caused Kaepernick to miss two seasons (2017 and 2018) and if he would have been paid $20 million in each of those seasons, then Burbank’s award would have been $120 million.

 

Sixth, there was an admittedly slim and farfetched possibility that Burbank ruling in favor of Kaepernick would have led to termination of the entire CBA. Under Article 17, (1) if Kaepernick had shown “clear and convincing evidence” that 14 or more teams had colluded against him; (2) if Burbank had found that these teams engaged in “willful collusion with the intent to restrain competition among teams”; and (3) if the NFLPA was the party the brought the proceeding that led to a finding of 14 or more teams colluding against Kaepernick—note the many “ifs” in that sequence—the NFLPA could have elected to terminate the CBA, which is set to expire in 2020. Obviously, it’s unknown if Kaepernick could have proven such a wide-ranging conspiracy, though it is perhaps notable that Burbank did not dismiss any teams from the grievance.

 

Regardless, in the unlikely scenario the NFLPA would have been given an option to terminate the CBA, it probably would have declined. A termination could have led to a work stoppage and it’s unclear if the NFLPA would have been prepared to negotiate a new CBA with the league.

 

Lastly, the NFL was likely worried about potential disclosures from the grievance process. Geragos and Meiselas have already deposed a number of owners, team officials and league officials. Had no settlement been reached, Burbank would have ruled on the grievance. In doing so, he likely would have authored a detailed decision. The decision would have referenced transcripts of testimony. Any unflattering and insensitive statements by NFL witnesses while under oath might have been revealed. Keep in mind, those witnesses had to truthfully answer probing questions asked by two very skilled litigators in Geragos and Meiselas. Even if testimony hadn’t proven collusion, it might have depicted owners and officials as insensitive or biased. Further, it’s possible that Kaepernick’s attorneys have uncovered damming texts, emails and other messages that might embarrass the league and its teams. Such evidence would also have been subject to reference in a written decision. While Burbank’s decision might not have been become public immediately, it likely would have surfaced eventually. Plus, the loser of Burbank’s award could have challenged it in federal court, thereby creating public records with detailed information about the grievance. The NFL has long tried to avoid the discovery process and disclosure of any discovery. It is one of the reasons why the NFL reached a global settlement on concussion litigation: to avoid the public learning how the league really does business.

 

Why Kaepernick (and Reid) agreed to settle

 

Like the NFL, Kaepernick had plenty of reasons to settle before waiting for Burbank’s decision.

 

First, Kaepernick and his legal team were disadvantaged by the applicable burden for proving collusion under Article 17. Burbank would have only ruled for Kaepernick if he identified a “clear preponderance of the evidence” that collusion took place and caused Kaepernick economic harm. This burden is higher than the “preponderance of the evidence” burden used in civil cases, a burden that colloquially means “more probable than not.” The insertion of “clear” before “preponderance” means Burbank had to be convinced. If he only leaned in favor of Kaepernick’s arguments, that would not have been enough. Kaepernick had to have made a compelling showing to win. Although it’s impossible to assess the odds of the NFL or Kaepernick winning given that the evidence remains hidden, the applicable burden alone clearly favored the NFL.

 

 

Second, Kaepernick losing the grievance would have brought him scorn from his many critics. The fact that Kaepernick defeated the NFL on summary judgment would have been ignored, and the focus would have been on Kaepernick losing at the end, and the symbolism that loss would have carried.

 

To that point, Kaepernick is likely more marketable by settling than losing. Nike has made him the primary face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign and pays him several million dollars a year. While Kaepernick losing his grievance would not have caused Nike to cut him, a loss would have at least dented his marketability. Perhaps stated too bluntly, nobody likes a loser and apparel companies are aware of that when assessing an athlete and celebrity’s endorsement value.

 

That’s not to say Kaepernick “cutting a deal” with the NFL won’t be used against him. By settling, some might question whether he was really a warrior of social justice. They could say if he’s willing to deal with the NFL, presumably for a financial payment (which as Robert Raiola notes would probably be taxable), then he put money above justice. To rebut that point Kaepernick could highlight how he has pledged many millions of dollars to charity in order to advance social causes. He could further maintain that the NFL would only agree to settle with him if they feared losing. That could be inferred as a sign that Kaepernick had made the NFL worry.

 

Along those lines, when does the NFL ever settle with individual players over their grievances? The league took Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and Ezekiel Elliott to federal court, and it battled against Ray Rice and Greg Hardy until there were arbitration awards. Sure, it looks like (for now) the league and Kareem Hunt might not end up battling each other in arbitration or court, but let’s see how that plays out. The larger point is by settling with Kaepernick and Reid, the NFL could be viewed as less confident. That, in turn, could be construed by Kaepernick as a sign he really won.

 

Third, Kaepernick might now be better positioned to sign with an NFL team. He is no longer associated with a collusion grievance. A team doesn’t have to worry about whether communicating with him could become admissible evidence before the arbitrator. Kaepernick just saw Reid sign a three-year, $22 million contract with the Carolina Panthers. Maybe Kaepernick believes that he is set to sign with a team.

 

Peter King:

 

It’s wrong to assume the NFL felt it was going to lose the case and thus settled; if that were the case, why would Kaepernick have taken a deal?

 

I know three things that influence my opinion of the case:

 

• One: When the depositions given by NFL people in the case were complete, those inside the league felt confident that nothing was said by a league executive or employee that could be deemed damaging enough to prove the case that two or more teams colluded to limit Kaepernick’s NFL employment. Very confident. Maybe that’s right; maybe it isn’t. Now, in the time between the end of the depositions and now, could some attorney have told Roger Goodell or his top legal lieutenant, Jeff Pash, that they might have liability with something in one or more of the depositions? I don’t know that. But the big reason why so many who covered this story were surprised was because they didn’t see it coming—that’s how confident the NFL was in its case.

 

• Two: The NFL is coming off a strong season, with no mega-controversies (till the woefully handled missed pass-interference call in the NFC title game, with the league office’s clumsy attempt to bury it by ignoring it for 10 days) and an uptick in TV ratings and an influx of new stars like surprising young MVP Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley. The Bears and Rams and Chargers lifted dormant or down markets. Concussions were down a significant 23 percent year over year, giving hope that the game can be made safer. Roger Goodell mostly stayed out of sight during 2018, which turned out to be a pretty good strategy—fans didn’t have the commissioner on whom to focus their anger. With all that giving the NFL momentum this offseason, it’s probably a smart investment for the league to make the Kaepernick problem go away.

 

• Three: This comes from an excellent summation of the legality of the settlement from the University of New Hampshire’s associate dean of the School of Law, Michael McCann, writing for Sports Illustrated: “The loser of Burbank’s award could have challenged it in federal court, thereby creating public records with detailed information about the grievance. The NFL has long tried to avoid the discovery process and disclosure of any discovery.” Smart. So even if the NFL were to win the arbitration, Kaepernick could have appealed, and attorney Michael Geragos could have filed to force an appeals court to open up the NFL’s depositions.

 

In the end, if you’re talking a just way for this to end and you believe (as I do) that Kaepernick is likely to never play in the NFL again, he deserves a multi-million-dollar settlement, if that’s what he got. He did exacerbate what was a dicey situation already with his own actions, once wearing socks with pigs dressed as police officers. There were times when critics saw him as more interested in being a victim than a football player. Regardless, he didn’t deserve to be shunned by 32 teams.

 

I’ll always think Kaepernick hasn’t found NFL employment in 25 months because of business reasons, not football ones. I believe some teams have had interest in signing Kaepernick as a backup quarterback who may have been able to work his way into the starting job—on some teams—when the noise died down. But interested coaches and GMs with some franchises would have had to battle the business side of the organization and possibly the owner to get the deal done. That wouldn’t have to happen in a place like New England. If Bill Belichick wanted Kaepernick, I’ve got to think owner Robert Kraft would agree to let him make that move. (Maybe that’s why that rumor got some legs over the weekend, though I couldn’t find any confirmation of any interest by New England in Kaepernick.)

 

In the end, this became about more than whether Kaepernick’s free-wheeling style of play would fit a particular offense. It became about business, and whether Kaepernick would have indelibly affected the bottom line over the football product.

 

In my opinion, those issues are more specious than real, but I’m not the one running a team. It’s an unfulfilling end to the Kaepernick/NFL saga, if this is it. But we don’t get to choose the end that seems most satisfying or fair.

 

So how much was it?

 

Florio also tweets this out:

 

@ProFootballTalk

Over-under for the Kaepernick settlement: $49.5 million.

 

This from Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report:

 

@mikefreemanNFL

Number NFL team officials are speculating to me is the NFL paid Kaepernick in the $60 to $80 million range.

 

@mikefreemanNFL

I’m not saying that’s the amount of cash. I’m saying that’s the speculation I’m hearing.

Overall, I think the NFL knew it was toast.

 

@mikefreemanNFL

And I don’t believe Kaepernick would have settled unless the money was Earth-shaking.

 

@mikefreemanNFL

And again, the way the NFL handled this is night and day versus Brady case.

 

Question – does an NFL owner know the amount his leadership and lawyers have decided to give to Kaepernick?  Or is it confidential from them too?

 

Here is Charean Williams, also at ProFootballTalk.com with info on how Kaepernick spurned the AAF:

 

Alliance of American Football co-founder Bill Polian said Thursday that the startup league had talked to Colin Kaepernick. Now, comes word from Barry Wilner of the Associated Press that the former 49ers quarterback asked for $20 million to consider playing.

 

Kaepernick’s representatives did not immediately answer a message from the AP.

 

Kaepernick would have provided a boost to the league, but his contract demand doesn’t fit with the financial structure of the league. All players get the same three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000.

 

Kaepernick is holding out hope of a return to the NFL, which has 16 quarterbacks making an average of at least $20 million per season, according to overthecap.com. He has not played since 2016 and has a collusion grievance against the NFL.

 

The AAF also talked to Tebow, who declined in order to continue playing baseball in the New York Mets organization.

 

Darren Rovell tweets that the AP report missed the number of Keap’s demands:

 

@darrenrovell

$20 million number floating around on Colin Kaepernick for what he wanted to sign with the new upstart AAF is not completely accurate. I was told he wanted MORE.

 

 

TAG

A list from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

It’s a tradition that truly is unlike any other. Whether it’s a good tradition or a bad tradition is in the eye of the tradition beholder.

 

Every year, we take a look at the players who may end up being tagged in advance of free agency. The two-week window for the franchise or transition tag (each team can do one or the other) opens Tuesday.

 

So here’s the 2019 version of our list. And it’s no list that any player should want to make, because it means that the player is being kept from maximizing his contract value on the open market.

 

Dolphins: Two years ago, the Dolphins had to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option on former first-round tackle Ja’Wuan James. Last year, the Dolphins had to decide whether to cut James before the fifth-year option payment became fully guaranteed. This year, they have to decide whether to apply the franchise or transition tag to him. Tagging him won’t be cheap, but letting him leave will require the Dolphins to find a new right tackle. Which won’t be easy to do.

 

Bills: Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has signed a one-year extension, not that he would have been a candidate to be tagged. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, a former second-round pick of the Dolphins who arrived via waivers in October 2018, has said he’s in negotiations with the team; with Kyle Williams retiring, need may supersede whether Phillips is worth the eight-figure investment. Right tackle Jordan Mills has started 48 of 48 regular-season games, but that likely won’t be enough to get him tagged.

 

Jets: Plenty of Jets players are due to become unrestricted free agents, from quarterback Josh McCown to running back Bilal Powell to receiver Jermaine Kearse to cornerback Morris Claiborne. They’ve already re-signed receiver Quincy Enunwa, and none of the other names of potential free agents would justify spending cash that they’ve likely earmarked for guys who will be hitting the market in other cities.

 

Patriots: The kicker position in New England has been like the coaching position in Pittsburgh. While the Patriots won’t have only three kickers in 50 years, they’ve had only two in 23: Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. Gostkowski is due to become a free agent this year, and the franchise tag would seem to be a move that his current skill level doesn’t merit. He missed a field goal in the Super Bowl, and he nearly missed two others. Tackle Trent Brown, who thrived when thrust into the starting lineup in 2018, is due to hit the market. If the Pats didn’t use the tag on Nate Solder last year, they likely won’t use it on Brown. Ditto for defensive end Trey Flowers; if the Patriots wanted to keep him beyond 2018, they would have already signed him to a new deal.

 

Steelers: Multiple reports have indicated that the Steelers plan to use the transition tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, apparently in the hopes of trading him. If so, things could get even uglier, with a fight over the amount of the tag and a determined lack of cooperation from Bell, who would need to go along with the plan in order for the plan to work the way the Steelers would like it to.

 

Bengals: The Bengals previously extended the likes of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Tight end Tyler Eifert and cornerback Darqueze Dennard are due to become free agents, but neither should prompt the Bengals to do something they haven’t done in six years — apply the franchise tag.

 

Browns: The Browns have a growing nucleus of great players. For now, none that are due to become free agents should compel the Browns to break out the tag.

 

Ravens: The first big personnel move for new G.M. Eric DeCosta was trading Joe Flacco. The second will be deciding whether to tag linebacker C.J. Mosley. If a long-term deal isn’t negotiated before the window for tagging Mosley closes, DeCosta could be forced to use the franchise tag in his first year on the job.

 

Texans: Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, is due to hit the market. The Texans will have to decide whether to sign him to a long-term deal, tag him, or let him walk away. Tagging Clowney could spark a Terrell Suggs-style fight as to whether Clowney is an outside linebacker or a defensive end, since the latter designation carries a bigger one-year tender. However it plays out, Clowney has every reason to be upset with the Texans for taking full advantage of the rookie wage scale in order to avoid paying him big money right out of the gates — and to resist giving him the long-term deal he has earned.

 

Colts: G.M. Chris Ballard faces no dilemmas when it comes to whether to tag any of Indy’s pending free agents; the real question is whether Ballard will carve off some of his gigantic cap stash to make a big splash in the early days of free agency. He’s inclined to resist, but that could be easier said than done — especially with no viable in-house candidates for the tag.

 

Titans: Linebacker Derrick Morgan headlines Tennessee’s free-agent class. A 30-year-old with 0.5 sacks in 13 games won’t have to worry about being tagged.

 

Jaguars: Kicker Josh Lambo has a new long-term deal. He’s the only guy who would have merited any consideration under the rules of the tag.

 

Broncos: At one point, cornerback Bradley Roby looked to be headed for a 2019 tag. But after Denver traded Aqib Talib and made Roby the top corner across from Chris Harris, Jr., Roby didn’t play well enough to force Denver’s hand during the period for applying tags.

 

Chiefs: Pass-rusher Dee Ford becomes the first in what could be a long line of young players to force the Chiefs to make tough decisions. If tagged this year, Ford could force the Chiefs to move on from the likes of linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry. If not signed to a long-term deal this year, Ford could force the Chiefs into a mess of a situation next year, when both receiver Tyreek Hill and defensive lineman Chris Jones are due to become free agents. Looming over every decision made by the Chief is the eventual mega-deal that will be given to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Back to Ford, tagging him could spark a squabble over whether Ford is a linebacker or a defensive end, the same kind of fight that’s looming between the Texans and Jadeveon Clowney.

 

Chargers: Cornerback Jason Verrett may have been headed for the tag, but a torn Achilles tendon wiped out his contract year. Receiver Tyrell Williams is due to hit the market; he’s simply not tag-worthy.

 

Raiders: Two years ago, tight end Jared Cook parlayed a catch for the ages in a playoff game between the Packers and Cowboys into a big contract with the Raiders. Coach Jon Gruden has repeatedly gushed about Cook, and hopes to keep him. Whether that happens via the franchise tag remains to be seen.

 

Cowboys: Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (pictured) is on track for a second straight tag. Last year, he pounced on $17.1 million. This year, the tender spikes to $20.52 million. Which would make a long-term deal ridiculously expensive, and which would guarantee that Lawrence will hit the market in 2020, since his tag for 2020 would shoot to  $29.52 million.

 

Washington: For the first time in a long time, Washington won’t be at the epicenter of franchise tag talk. The team sent a fourth-round pick to Green Bay for safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix; the franchise tag would seem to be a bit too much to spend to ensure keeping him around. Once-promising receiver Jamison Crowder has never fulfilled his potential, and he missed too many games last year.

 

Giants: Safety Landon Collins stands out as the one player on the roster worthy of tag consideration; barring an extension, it quite possibly will happen.

 

Eagles: The team reportedly is considering the use of the franchise tag on Nick Foles, with an eye toward trading him. Although this approach would violate the CBA, Foles seems to be OK with it — possibly because his agents already know that he wouldn’t get on the open market a long-term contract worth more per year than the franchise tag will pay.

 

Vikings: The team has locked up every key young player on the roster except linebacker Anthony Barr, who has completed his rookie deal. The Kirk Cousins contract could make it difficult to tag Barr; the best bet for keeping him could be to let him shop himself during the legal tampering period, at which time he may realize the grass won’t be greener with a new team. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who signed a one-year deal last March, is a long-shot candidate to be tagged.

 

Packers: Green Bay hasn’t used the franchise tag for eight years and counting. Not long ago, it would have been a no-brainer to tag linebacker Clay Matthews. That won’t happen. Ditto for receiver Randall Cobb, whose four-year, $40 million contract is expiring.

 

Lions: Last year, the Lions tagged defensive end Ziggy Ansah with the goal of giving new coach Matt Patricia a year to evaluate Ansah. Seven games and four sacks later, Ansah won’t be tagged again.

 

Bears: There’s no one due to become a free agent who would or should merit serious tag consideration.

 

Panthers: See the Bears.

 

Buccaneers: Absent an extension, tackle Donovan Smith is expected to be franchise tagged. And for good reason. The 2015 second-round pick has started all 64 games of his career.

 

Falcons: A breakout star in Super Bowl LI, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett finally is poised for the open market. The Falcons likely won’t let him get there.

 

Saints: Running back Mark Ingram is heading to the open market. Regardless of whether the Saints hope to keep him for a ninth season, it won’t happen via the franchise tag.

 

Seahawks: Defensive end Frank Clark is expected to be tagged if not extended. Next year, things will get very interesting, absent a contract extension for quarterback Russell Wilson.

 

49ers: After 11 seasons with the Bears and one with the Giants, Robbie Gould has found a home in San Francisco over the past two years. The 49ers could choose to keep Gould around via the franchise tag.

 

Cardinals: An emerging star in 2016, when he racked up 12.5 sacks, pass rusher Markus Golden surely won’t be tagged. The same applies to linebacker Deone Bucannon, who undoubtedly will hit the market.

 

Rams: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was a so-so performer in the regular season. He elevated his game in the playoffs, but likely not enough to be tagged. Pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. likewise say a spike in his performance in the playoffs, but also not enough to be tagged. Using the franchise tag for a second straight year on safety Lamarcus Joyner would cost $13.5 million.

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Albert Breer with some anonymous scouting takes on QB KYLER MURRAY:

 

We’ve covered Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray’s decision to focus on football pretty thoroughly over the last two weeks on the site. I figured now is a good time to take a quick look at Murray the football player, through the eyes of a few scouts who’ve watched him over the last few months.

 

AFC Exec 1: “This kid is way better than Lamar Jackson—better arm, more accurate, better anticipation, better processor, better athlete. I think he’s better across the board than Lamar, Lamar’s just bigger. But that’s not irrelevant. … If I told you he was 6′ 3″, you’d be all in, but he’s not. He’s shorter than Russell Wilson, and Russell is a lot stockier. … He’s a really good player. He does all the quarterback stuff really well. He’s a great athlete. My hang up is his size.”

 

AFC College Scouting Director: “He’s a hard one. He’s really good, he throws the ball well, there are no throws that he can’t make on any level. And I don’t think him being small is that big a problem, but when you’re small and you run like he can, I’m not sure how you wouldn’t be a little concerned. … You have to build it around him, but he’s pretty good. … And you gotta be real with yourself too, if you want to take him. You may have a second-round grade on him—I think a lot of people do—but if you think you’re getting him in the second round, you’re probably not.”

 

AFC Exec 2: “At first glance, the passing skills are there. He’s good. So it’s just the size and can you tailor the offense to him. … The weight is big, because with his body type, you’re not sure he can get a lot bigger. Russell, Baker [Mayfield], those guys have a thickness to them, they’re broad-shouldered. That’s not this guy’s body type. Even as lines have changed, he’s still beneath the norm. And until we get him on a scale and measure him, that’s going to be the perception. … He also had a really good offensive line, great system, so we didn’t see him getting hit as much. How’s he going to throw from the pocket at our level at his height?”

 

It all adds up to maybe the most anticipated weigh-in in combine history. That one, if you wan to mark your calendars, is set for Thursday, Feb. 28.

 

Peter King talked to Lincoln Riley, the head football coach at Oklahoma:

 

Now we turn our attention to what could be the most interesting draft story in a generation: Who falls in love with 5-foot-9 7/8 (in his stocking feet) quarterback Kyler Murray, who now seems likely to be the first athlete ever drafted in the top 10 in two sports?

 

To begin to answer the question, start at ground zero. Dispel what you think you know about Murray—unless, of course, you’ve scouted him thoroughly or saw every game Oklahoma played last season. Because a sub-5-10 quarterback who runs the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds, ran the ball 140 times last fall and has quickness in Tyreek Hill’s league would naturally be a scrambling, throw-on-the-run type of player, right?

 

“What percentage of the time,” I asked Oklahoma coach and Murray mentor Lincoln Riley the other day, “would you guess Kyler threw from the pocket this year?”

 

Riley thought for a few seconds.

 

“Eighty-five percent?” Riley said. “Ninety, maybe.”

 

Think of how amazing that is—a short quarterback who runs like a greyhound, and Riley called a similar percentage of designed passes from the pocket as many NFL teams with classic dropback passers would. Think of how the game has changed from a decade ago, when a fleet and smallish quarterback would basically be an option quarterback playing the game on the edges. Not Riley. Not with Murray. His runs? Mostly designed runs to takes advantage of a player with Vick-type tools.

 

Riley’s guess on Murray’s pocket throwing is pretty damn close to reality. Pro Football Focus charted the number of Murray’s pass plays in 2018 that came from the pocket. The number: 89 percent. So 336 of his 377 throws for Oklahoma last year came with Murray planted where he could survey the defense and pick his target.

 

No wonder so many GMs and scouts and friends in the pro coaching business swear by Riley. He had Michael Vick on his hands and coached him like he was Carson Wentz. Riley got Murray ready for the next level, but that’s not why he coached Murray, and called plays for him, the way he did. Riley never got tempted to turn Murray into Lamar Jackson despite Murray’s 4.39-second time in the 40,  and Riley never had to call plays differently for Murray’s sightlines with a monstrous offensive line in front of him (6-5, 6-4, 6-5, 6-5 and 6-4 from left to right). Duke’s Daniel Jones, a fellow first-round prospect, is 6-5 and had 12 passes batted down last season. Missouri’s Drew Lock, 6-4, had eight. Murray had five.

 

So for the past two seasons, Riley has coached short quarterbacks into Heisman winners who became premier NFL prospects. (Baker Mayfield, at 6-foot 5/8, is 2 3/4 inches taller than Murray.) Riley said he called the same game for both players.

 

Phoning from Oklahoma the other day, Riley said: “Throughout all the years with both Baker and Kyler, I can’t ever remember there being a time where we said, We want to run this play, or use this scheme, or protect this way but we can’t do it because these guys are 5-10 or 6-foot instead of 6-4. It never really entered into the equation. I don’t think their pro coaches are going to think about it either.”

 

Riley watched the draft process last year culminate in Mayfield going number one. He watched the success Mayfield had as the dominant presence in helping the Browns from 0-16 to 7-8-1. He thinks Murray will have the same impact on his NFL team.

 

“I will be shocked,” Riley said, “if five players get their name called on draft day before Kyler.”

 

And this:

 

If I’m Arizona, I’m strongly considering Murray—Josh Rosen and all. If you hire Kliff Kingsbury as coach, and he loves Murray more than Rosen, flip Rosen to a team for a mid to low-first-rounder. I hear the Raiders are fascinated with Murray. If so, could Oakland flip Derek Carr to Jacksonville or Miami or Washington or the Giants and pick Murray—and how bizarre would it be to see Murray playing his home games on the field of the Oakland A’s for one season? If I’m New England, I’m looking long and hard at Murray, for three reasons: Tom Brady will be 42 the next time he takes a snap, the Patriots have enough currency (six picks in the top 101 of this draft, plus next year’s first-rounder) to move into the top 10 if he slips a bit, and Murray could sit and learn while getting physically prepped to be a long-term quarterback.

 

It’s all tempting with such a compelling player.

 

“March 12 might be the biggest Pro Day ever,” I said to Riley.

 

“It’ll be a zoo,” he said.

 

Same as the next nine weeks, all the way up to the draft.

 

Here is the scaled that Murray will be measured on:

 

I think, FYI, you should know how Kyler Murray compares, height-wise, to his NFL peers as he preps to be measured at the combine in 11 days. Keep in mind that Murray, measured at Oklahoma in stocking feet before last season, was 5-9 7/8.:

 

Patrick Mahomes, 6-2 1/8.

Baker Mayfield, 6-0 5/8.

Drew Brees, 6-0 1/4.

Russell Wilson, 5-10 5/8.