AROUND THE NFL

The referee of the 2017 (season) Super Bowl, Gene Steratore quit and took TV money.

 

Now, the referee of the 2018 (season) Super Bowl, John Parry has quit to take TV money.

 

The moves concern Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

It’s not supposed to work this way.

 

Referees shouldn’t be leaving football to enter broadcasting prematurely. They are, in whole or in part because the NFL doesn’t pay referees as much as the NFL should.

 

It’s been a common complaint. People connected to the league believe the league doesn’t value these jobs the way that the NFL should, resulting in multiple referees choosing in recent years to leave the game prematurely. As noted by Peter King on Monday after the NFL announced that John Parry was retiring for a gig with ESPN, seven of 17 referees have retired in the last 13 months. Although some surely would have retired anyway, some surely would have stayed if the money was better, because money is always a factor when making decisions like this.

 

The money surely needs to be better. Would a player still in his prime ever stop playing because he could make more money in the broadcast booth? No player would, and no referee should, either.

 

After Gene Steratore, Jeff Triplette, and Terry McAulay joined CBS, ESPN, and NBC, respectively, in 2018, many assumed that no other TV jobs would be available any time soon. But with the supply of potentially TV-ready referees far outweighing the demand, ESPN was able to dump Triplette for Parry.

 

As legalized gambling spreads, the stakes will only get higher for the NFL. Beyond having good procedures in place to rectify errors, errors need to be minimized. Better referees are much more likely to make fewer mistakes. Thus, better referees need to be making enough money so that they’ll choose to stay put.

 

Interestingly, the networks aren’t shying away from hiring active referees, even though doing so could cause the NFL to view those networks as something other than good partners. Ultimately, the market needs to operate freely; if the networks can make attractive offers to referees, the NFL should be able to make much better offers, given that referees are far more critical to football games than rules consultants are to the broadcasting of them.

 

NFC EAST

 

WASHINGTON

Perhaps we should pay attention to this Tweet from well-connected Chris Mortensen:

 

@mortreport

One team that has been somewhat forgotten in the Josh Rosen talk – should the @AZCardinals select Kyler Murray-  is the Washington Redskins, who are doing genuine due diligence on top rookie QBs despite acquiring Case Keenum.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

This is the best that we can come up with as an April Fool’s Day joke in 2019. ESPN.com:

 

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay welcomed his friend Kliff Kingsbury to the NFL coaching ranks by trying to trick the Arizona Cardinals coach into thinking he would lose draft picks by tampering with Patrick Mahomes.

 

McVay shared the story of his prank on Kingsbury on The Adam Schefter Podcast, which was posted on Monday.

 

He said he pulled the prank at a dinner he attended with Kingsbury and Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback with whom Kingsbury has a personal relationship.

 

“We have a mutual friend that I put his name in my phone as [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell. I had this friend send me a text saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re at dinner with Kingsbury and Mahomes. You know better than this. This is tampering. You’re both losing picks.’

 

“I showed Kliff the text, and he saw a ghost. I said, ‘You better call [Cardinals general manager] Steve Keim right away.’ He said, ‘I thought I was going to lose the No. 1 overall pick.’

 

“We couldn’t let it go on too long, but it was pretty good. We got him good.”

 

McVay said he talked to Kingsbury later about the prank and said the Cardinals coach told him, “That’s messed up. I’m getting you back, man.”

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

WR COURTLAND SUTTON is the #1 receiver for the Denver Broncos, ready or not.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Broncos went into last season with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as their starting receivers. They traded Thomas during the season, and he since has retired. Sanders tore his Achilles’ late last season and continues to rehab.

 

That left rookie Courtland Sutton to assume the No. 1 receiver role in the final four games of last season. He averaged 6.3 targets, 3.5 catches and 36.5 yards per game.

 

“The No. 1 role, you can’t go into a game and have one or two catches,” Sutton said Tuesday, via Mike Klis of Denver’s 9News. “You have to go into a game and be that guy. I accept that role.”

 

Sutton, 23, finished his rookie season with 42 receptions for 704 yards and four touchdowns. The Broncos expect more from him this season.

 

“It’s a little different,” Sutton said of expectations for his second season, via video from Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. “Coming in as a rookie, you’re just trying to feel it out. You don’t know what to expect. There’s nothing you can really dive through to say this is how I’m supposed to come into it. But having a year under my belt, I know what to expect from myself and what my teammates expect from me. I’m excited going into this season, knowing I’m going to get to be the No. 1. I’m going to get all that look and all that pressure. I’m excited about that. I want my teammates to look at me as that leader and that guy who is going to assume that role and take it and go with it.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. breaks out the dictionary to describe his feelings about being in Cleveland with WR JARVIS LANDRY and the rest of the Browns.  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

Odell Beckham Jr. is convinced that The Land will always remember April Fool’s Day, 2019 as the day the joke was on the rest of the NFL.

 

“I think this moment is going to be more iconic than we all realize right now,’’ Beckham said at his introductory press conference, shortly before posing for a photo with Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Myles Garrett and holding up his No. 13 jersey. “That’s obviously what we want the goal to be. We’ll look back in 10 years and be like, man, I remember, what’s today, April 1, 2019, the start of something great. You know? And I’m just happy to be a part of that.’’

 

Never mind that Beckham left New York after five years and needed some time to wrap his brain around this move to Cleveland. If The Land was good enough for his idol LeBron James, it’s good enough for him.

 

“At the end of the day, I know where I’m at in life,’’ he said. “I don’t need to be in New York, I don’t need to be in L.A., I can be in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, it doesn’t matter where I’m at. I’ve created what I would call a legacy, so it never really crossed my mind, ‘oh, we’re going to Cleveland’ or worrying about marketing or worrying about any of that. I care about football. I care about winning.

 

“I didn’t step into this game to be famous, that’s just what fell into my lap. We talked about legendary, we talked about a legacy, we talked about gold jackets, that’s our conversations. It never was about the money, it never was about any of that, it’s about being a legend.’’

 

Beckham acknowledged that the trade hit him like a blindside sack when he first heard from Giants GM Dave Gettleman while vacationing in Paris.

 

“I was heading to dinner, and I remember just seeing Gettleman calling and I knew something was going down,’’ said Beckham. “I picked up the phone and I took the call. Alright. It was quiet for a minute at dinner. It just was a lot. I don’t even know how else to describe it, but it’s just a lot, a lot of emotions, a lot of thoughts that run through your mind. Your whole life’s changing. It’s still the same, in theory, but it’s changing, so I just took it to process. I think I called my mom, called this man (Jarvis Landry), and here we are today.’’

 

In the first few days after the trade, he was still in disbelief.

 

“You start off in New York in your career, and next thing you know, I’m here today, but I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be here,’’ he said. “Kind of the past is in the past. It was definitely a shock. I think I’ve come to grips with everything and processed everything, as it was a lot, but to see my guy (Landry), guys here, I’m excited about this.’’

 

Beckham says Landry made him who he is today.

 

He’s dreamed about playing pro ball with Landry since they were both about 17 and in high school in Louisiana, but it still hit like a tidal wave when it actually happened.

 

“It’s just life,’’ he said. “It’s such a sudden change. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. Of course, I’m happy. My guy’s here, but at the same time, you build a relationship with the teammates and those other guys on that team, and that’s really what’s the hardest thing. Like seeing Saquon (Barkley) and Shep (Sterling Shepard) the other night, we were all like, ‘Damn.’ It’s just different.

 

“It’s really the guys in the locker room, it’s the people you go to war with and you wake up in training camp and you go through all those things with. That’s really what makes it so hard, but now, I get an opportunity to meet new guys, new friends, so it’s very exciting.’’

 

As for living and playing in Cleveland, Beckham is up for the change of scenery.

 

“I’ll have to check it out when I get here,’’ he said. “Yeah, the cities are definitely different, but at the end of the day, when you’re in season, you just focus on playing ball anyway, so I’m sure it’ll be a little different, but you make home anywhere. I can feel the excitement. You want to be around guys who want to win, one, but you want to be around fans who want like…this is just a lot, and it’s a lot for the city of Cleveland I feel like. It’s a football town. I heard this is a football town. I’m looking forward to finding out.”

 

Beckham, acquired in a trade for the No. 17 overall pick, Jabrill Peppers and the No. 95 overall pick, acknowledged that he won’t be in Cleveland for the entire voluntary offseason program, but that he wanted to kick it off with a bang.

 

“It’s just the first day,’’ he said. “We want to set the tone. I don’t know exactly my offseason plans are. I usually train in LA, but I definitely want to be able to be here and create that bond, that relationship with the new teammates, coaches, everybody, just so you can kind of see who I am exactly. But I just thought it was important to be here today. I know he (Landry) was going to be here, so I had to come see my guys.’’

 

“Just to continue to get better as a person and as a player, and you do that by studying film and things like that,’’ Kitchens said. “Like I told you guys a couple of weeks ago, Odell didn’t know where he was going to be. He didn’t know that he was going to be in Cleveland up until three weeks ago now. He has some things to tie up, but he thought that it was important enough to be here today so he was here for his teammates, for himself and for his coaches and things like that.

 

“My hat is off to him. He told me something a couple of weeks ago, and he made it work. He had to go through some hoops to get here, but it was important enough for him to be here.”

 

Beckham can already tell that Kitchens has his back and gets him.

 

“I love him,’’ said Beckham. “I gave him a big hug. Yes, he told me he loved me and we went from there. He’s just straightforward, it’s just authentic. From what I can tell at the moment. Obviously only time will tell in every aspect of life. Just first impressions, I’m very excited about the whole — I just feel a different energy when I stepped off the plane and then I come in here to see it’s love, you know?’’

 

Beckham insisted that the perception of him as a me-first person is “just wrong. I don’t know how else to explain it.’’

 

“He’s here today,’’ Mayfield chimed in. “I think that shows it.’’

 

“It’s just hard,’’ said Beckham. “I see all the stuff that’s said and everything and I think one of my biggest problems is that I care but I don’t care at the same time, because I know who I am. I went to a school (LSU) we were running the ball like 60 plays out of 72 and we blocked every day in practice so my mentality was never ‘me first.’ Of course, we’re receivers. We want to catch the ball. We want to score touchdowns, but I tell (Landry), you get the post route, I’ll get the corner. That’s how we work. It’s something different.’’

 

Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler and 2014 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, is ecstatic to be reunited with his best friend and former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry, and isn’t worried about statistics.

 

“I don’t feel like I put up my best numbers so people say numbers don’t lie but I think that they do,’’ he said. “Energy is all I bring. I’m going to work hard. You’re getting a guy who is going to give you everything he has on Sundays – through the rest of the week as well – but I will lay it all on the line every singe time I go out there Sunday.”

 

He declined to comment about a report by NFL Network that he’ll want to re-do his five-year $90 million contract extension, signed in August.

 

“I don’t know about the contract,’’ he said. “Honestly it’s not on my mind right now. I’m here in the present today. Just taking it a day at a time. Whatever the plans are …’’

 

Beckham already got a ringing endorsement on Cleveland from his good friend LeBron James.

 

“He just said ‘you’re going to love it,’’’ he said. “He was like, ‘yeah, you’re going to love it.’ That’ s the key word. That’s like my idol, that’s the person I look up to the most. That’s my guy. To see what he did to bring a championship here, I just want to be able to do that same thing.’’

 

And more from Cabot from Mayfield’s perspective:

 

If anyone had heard Baker Mayfield’s reaction to the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, they may have called 9-1-1 about him too, just like one Cleveland woman did about an overly enthusiastic neighbor out on the street that night.

 

“As you can imagine, pretty excited,’’ the Browns quarterback said during Beckham’s introductory press conference Monday. “It was one of those things that, like O said, it’s one of those things you can’t put into words to describe it correctly. I had two people at the house sitting there when I found out. I just started screaming, just yelling like you would have thought I was on the field on game day, just excited.

 

“It’s the potential, it’s knowing exactly who he is and knowing what type of guy he is. His play and his ability speaks for itself with him, but the things that we talked about all throughout last year of what we need, the types of guys we need in this locker room to go in the right direction, that’s the best thing about that. He’s a team guy and he’s going to be a great presence for us in this locker room.’’

 

Beckham says Landry made him who he is today.

 

When Mayfield saw Beckham go dark on social media for a few days so he could process the trade, he reached out to him in Europe, where Beckham was vacationing.

 

“I called him and talked to him,’’ said Mayfield. “The thing we kept saying is ‘this can’t be real,’ but I knew that’s hard and difficult. I went through something somewhat similar, not even close to spending years in New York like he did, but spending a semester at Texas Tech on the football team and then having to leave, it’s exactly right, it’s leaving those brothers that you’ve worked so hard with, that’s the hard part, so that just takes time and once he’s here, that’s all going to take care of itself because of the type of locker room that we have.”

 

Beckham got to know Mayfield through Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, who played with Mayfield at Oklahoma. They hit it off right away.

 

“Definitely,’’ they both said.

 

“Dancing together,’’ Landry chimed in.

 

“Dancing together,’’ Beckham agreed. “Now I’ve got somebody who’s going to show me up dancing, so I’ve got to get my moves right.’’

 

The dancing evolved into working out together last offseason at USC.

 

“We feel like we’ve talked about being here and then it’s here,” said Beckham. “So it’s just hard for me to put into words being here today, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity.’’

 

Mayfield not only threw passes to Beckham at USC, but also dined with him this offseason in Los Angeles, where Mayfield’s been living. Of course, he used his recruiting tools whenever possible.

 

“I absolutely hoped for that, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that we talked about it too much,’’ he said. “Thought about it. Throwing to him, just running routes on air, realizing the potential and all the talent that he has, it’s unique. Not many are able to do it. So then you put together two LSU Tigers next to each other, it’s a dangerous duo. It’s going to be a lot of fun but it’s something you can only dream about.’’

 

He’s not worried about keeping those two tigers fed.

 

“They’re team-oriented,’’ Mayfield said. “They want to win. Probably just close my eyes and throw it and hope one of them catches it.’’

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The sheriff’s department of Martin County may regret the day it met Robert Kraft.  Shalise Manza Young of YahooSports.com:

 

We have reached the name-calling stage of the Robert Kraft legal drama.

 

Kraft’s attorney, William Burck, did an interview with USA Today on Wednesday night and called Martin County (Fla.) Sheriff Will Snyder a liar who is more interested in headlines than justice.

 

Burck pounced on something Snyder said during an interview with a West Palm Beach television station recently, when he admitted that the months-long investigation into a possible human trafficking ring that ensnared Kraft and hundreds of others might not actually be trafficking.

 

“It looks like trafficking. It feels like trafficking. It sounds like trafficking,” Snyder told WPTV. “I believe it is human trafficking. But we are just a little short to being able to prove that.”

 

“He lied about it,” Burck told USA Today’s A.J. Perez. “His officers lied about it. I don’t really know what to say. I’ve never seen anything quite like that before.”

 

The 77-year-old Kraft has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution tied to his visits to Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, which is in Palm Beach County.

 

But there is no evidence that any of the women he dealt with and paid for sexual services were victims of trafficking.

 

Kraft, through his attorney, entered a not guilty plea in Palm Beach County court on Tuesday and requested a jury trial.

 

In response to Burck, Snyder told USA Today that he has no regrets about linking the men arrested for solicitation to human trafficking — even though he can’t prove it’s a trafficking case.

 

“Zero [regrets] because it is sex trafficking. There are several women lower down [in the alleged operation] that could still cooperate,” Snyder said. “Notwithstanding that, this has the markings of a classic, unadulterated sex trafficking ring. Period.”

 

Snyder helped write Florida’s trafficking laws as a member of the state’s House of Representatives.

 

“They can get all the high-priced attorneys they want and scream and yell that the cops are the bad ones,” Snyder said. “But the cops weren’t the ones who were having … sex in the spas.”

 

Burck says it’s dangerous to throw around accusations for headlines.

 

“He’s trying to hide behind it by saying they didn’t find enough evidence,” he said. “You don’t get on a soapbox and start accusing people of being involved in human trafficking and then, weeks later, say ‘never mind’ and think that’s the way you can get away with that.

 

“They are supposed to be upholding the law. They are supposed to be officers of justice, but instead he’s concocting false allegations against people in order to further headlines rather than justice. Sheriff Snyder said ‘the monsters are the men.’ Sheriff Snyder is the liar.”

 

The next court date for Kraft is a hearing on April 9. He was in Phoenix this week for the NFL’s spring meetings, though he did not meet with media, as he usually does.

 

On Saturday, in advance of the meetings, Kraft released a statement:

 

“I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard. Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years [Kraft’s wife, Myra, died in 2011 after a battle with ovarian cancer].

 

“As I move forward, I hope to continue to use the platform with which I have been blessed to help others and to try to make a difference. I expect to be judged not by my words, but by my actions. And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

RANKING THE TIGHT ENDS

With Rob Gronkowski retired, Mike Sando of ESPN.com wonders who is the best active tight end in the NFL at the moment:

 

Rob Gronkowski’s retirement leaves a crater at tight end for the New England Patriots and the NFL.

 

As Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Gronk in a team statement, “His elite combination of size, skill, intelligence, toughness and ability to perform in pressure situations set him apart.”

 

With top decision-makers gathering for the recent league meetings in Arizona, I asked four head coaches and four personnel evaluators to name the NFL’s best tight end now that Gronk is vacating his throne. They were unanimous in their answer — and in their belief that no current tight end approaches Gronkowski for all-around excellence.

 

The four head coaches and four personnel evaluators (including two general managers) all pointed to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce as the best tight end in a post-Gronk NFL. They placed the Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz close behind. They mentioned the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle, the New York Giants’ Evan Engram, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ O.J. Howard, the Eagles’ Dallas Goedert and the Baltimore Ravens’ Mark Andrews among younger players to watch.

 

Three leading candidates

Before Gronkowski was making key plays in crunch time during the Patriots’ Super Bowl run, other tight ends were setting records during the regular season. The three players who stood out in the minds of coaches and evaluators were Kelce, Ertz and Kittle, with some support for the Minnesota Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph.

 

Kittle, 25, set an NFL single-season record for tight ends with 1,377 receiving yards in 2018. That included 855 yards after the catch, nearly 300 yards more than Kelce, who was second at the position with 566. No other tight end had more than 391.

 

Ertz, 28, set a single-season record for tight ends with 116 receptions. He reached 1,000 yards for the first time in his six seasons.

 

Kelce, who at 29 is five months younger than Gronkowski, has produced at a high level longer. He leads NFL tight ends in receiving yards (3,499) and receiving touchdowns (22) over the past three seasons. In 2018, he became the first tight end in league history with at least 100 receptions, 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in a season.

 

The eight coaches and evaluators felt Kelce deserved top billing as the most established of the three.

 

Three testimonials for Kelce

 

A quick sampling of thoughts from the coaches and evaluators who placed Kelce atop their lists:

 

Offensive-minded head coach: “Kelce and Ertz are both good, but I think Kelce is a little tougher matchup. Some of these guys are ‘F’ and some are ‘Y’ tight ends. Gronk could do it all.”

 

Defensive-minded head coach: “My mind immediately goes to which one is the hardest to guard. Kelce is a little longer, a little faster [than Ertz].”

 

General manager: “I am going to go Kelce, with the possibility of that person becoming Evan Engram. Kittle is good, but like many of the players who have been with Kyle Shanahan, he should feel blessed. I mean, look at what Kyle did with the backs in Atlanta. Look at what he did with Matt Ryan.”

 

Top tight ends’ head coaches weigh in

Beyond the anonymous poll, I asked Shanahan and fellow head coaches Andy Reid and Doug Pederson for their thoughts on the position in general and on their tight ends in particular.

 

Reid on Kelce: “The best tight ends develop a trust with the quarterback, and then they have skill after the catch. Travis is phenomenal at that. He can do everything. He can block at the line of scrimmage, he is a great, great route runner, he can play inside, you can move him outside, we have had him in the backfield and he has a great feel for the game.”

 

Pederson on Ertz: “A lot of the so-called West Coast offenses were designed around tight ends who were athletic and created mismatches. Zach is a Pro Bowl-caliber guy, a leader of our team, dynamic on the field. I love having those big-bodied guys that are right in front of the quarterback.”

 

Shanahan on Kittle: “To be a good tight end, you have to be a good blocker or at least you have to be a threat as a blocker. Otherwise, they will put a nickelback on you, they will put corners on you. It is when you can beat all safeties and linebackers in man-to-man coverage, yet you are a good blocker so they cannot put a nickelback on the field. George had the best year ever statistically, and I think he can get a lot better.”

 

 

THE AAF

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com hopes the AAF can make it just the 11 more games necessary to put the season in the books:

 

The Alliance of American Football may or may not be in its final days.

 

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the AAF currently is mired in confusion and uncertainty. And Monday’s comments from majority owner Tom Dundon, who rescued the league from potential implosion early in its inaugural season, have served only to make a confusing situation even more confusing for those operating the league.

 

Broadcast partners, including CBS, NFL Network, and TNT, are concerned that they’ll suddenly have gaping holes in their programming. CBS, for example, plans to televise a game between Memphis and San Antonio as the lead-in to its final four coverage on Saturday. There’s a chance there will be no game to televise.

 

Other partners of the AAF are concerned based on Dundon’s comments that the league will go belly up, leaving plenty of people holding the bag, financially and otherwise.

 

Still, Dundon has the power to walk away, if he chooses. Per the source, the current power structure of the league founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian doesn’t know what will happen if Dundon chooses to pull any ongoing funding.

 

It would be unfortunate to see the AAF disappear so close to the end of its first season. Apparently, it will take $20 million to push the league over the finish line for 2019. Ideally, the AAF would get through its championship game and then decide what to do for 2020.

 

Through it all, discussions continue between the AAF, the NFL, and the NFL Players Association regarding an arrangement that would result in bottom-of-roster NFL players being loaned to AAF franchises. Dundon believes this could save the league; others wonder whether having access to NFL players with low name recognition will be the silver bullet that Dundon seems to believe it will be.

 

Regardless, the situation remains precarious — and Dundon’s on-the-record remarks from Monday tend to make things more uncertain, not less.

 

But as we go to press, it does not look like that will happen.  Darren Rovell of The Action Network:

 

Just eight weeks after playing its first games, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) will be suspending football operations by the end of Tuesday, according to sources.

 

Tom Dundon effectively bought a majority stake in the league in mid-February, with the league announcing his commitment of $250 million. It later became clear that Dundon, who owns the Carolina Hurricanes, was funding the league on a week-to-week basis, with his approximate total commitment being $70 million to this point.

 

After the deal with Dundon, sources say it became clear to league co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian that Dundon’s objectives were different from the original plan.

 

Ebersol and Polian’s plan was to develop the league for three years on its own before becoming a feeder system to the NFL. Dundon, however, wanted to create that minor league relationship immediately and sought to use the leverage of folding the AAF to get a deal with the NFL Players Association to better insure a flow between leagues.

 

As it stood, the NFL collective bargaining agreement would not allow several of Dundon’s asks, including a flexible system between AAF players and NFL practice squads.

 

According to sources, the AAF had a call with reps from the NFLPA on Monday and a potential relationship showed some signs of life, so Tuesday’s news came as a surprise to some league executives.

 

Before Dundon came along, the league’s main investor was Reggie Fowler, as The Action Network first reported on March 27.

 

Fowler, who was initially going to buy the Minnesota Vikings before having financial issues, committed $170 million to the AAF, according to sources. After being vetted and suggested to the AAF by NFL executives themselves, Fowler had only put up $28 million by the time Dundon swooped in.

 

While Dundon funded the league payroll, sources say he did not pay vendors that worked with the AAF, many of whom are still looking for their money. It’s of debate what party — either Dundon or the first ownership group, which was diluted by Dundon’s investment — should foot the vendor bills.

 

Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com with this:

 

I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football,” Polian said in a statement Tuesday. “When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.

 

“The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity.”

 

The league had been struggling from the outset. After the first week of the season, Dundon — owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes — pledged a $250 million investment and essentially became the AAF’s owner.

 

The league shot down reports that it needed the money to stay afloat. Instead, sources told ESPN at the time that there was an issue with the payroll company the league was using.

 

“I sincerely regret that many that believed in this project will see their hopes and efforts unrewarded,” Polian said in his statement Tuesday. “They gave their best for which I am deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Mr. Dundon has elected this course of action.”

 

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Todd McShay of ESPN.com compares his grades for this year’s QBs to those he has given out in recent years.  He has full recaps of QBs from past years in his original

here, but we are just going with the grades. 

 

Give McShay credit for admitting he had PATRICK MAHOMES even with PAXTON LYNCH coming out.

 

How does this year’s crop of NFL draft signal-callers compare to quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2016?

 

Below are my grades and excerpts from my scouting reports for every first-round QB over the past three years, along with the grades for my top four guys — Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Ryan Finley — in this class. These are in order of highest grade to lowest at the time of the draft. For further context, Andrew Luck (2012) has my highest QB draft grade in the past decade at 99, while EJ Manuel (2013) is the lowest of the guys taken in the first round in that span at 76.

 

Let’s take a look at this year’s crop.

 

GRADE: 94

 

Sam Darnold, New York Jets (2018)

 

GRADE: 91

 

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (2016)

 

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (2016)

 

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals (2018)

 

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (2018)

 

GRADE: 90

 

Kyler Murray, Oklahoma (2019)

As a prospect: “Murray is an aggressive playmaker but also displays good overall decision-making skills and shows poise under pressure. He has fast eyes when making full-field progression reads and displays natural touch and timing as a passer, throwing accurately from a variety of different arm angles. In the right system, Kyler can be an electrifying playmaker at the quarterback position. But there are unique risks, including his lean frame and lack of experience.”

 

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State (2019)

As a prospect: “Haskins is a gifted pocket passer with prototypical size and very good arm strength and accuracy. He shows excellent natural touch and anticipation as a passer and can also throw accurately on the run and from multiple arm angles. But his decision-making skills begin to diminish under pressure, and he comes with just decent speed and below-average elusiveness.”

 

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (2018)

 

GRADE: 89

 

Drew Lock, Missouri (2019)

As a prospect: “Lock is a good-sized, big-armed QB with above-average athleticism and speed for the position. He displays good overall deep-ball trajectory and placement. However, his footwork is inconsistent, as he has a tendency to open his front hip. Lock can throw accurately and with zip from many different arm angles and when completely off-balance. He has the tools to develop into a quality NFL starter.”

 

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears (2017)

 

GRADE: 88

 

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (2017)

 

GRADE: 86

 

Ryan Finley, NC State (2019)

As a prospect: “Finley has adequate-to-good delivery quickness with an over-the-top stroke, but velocity is average on zip throws. Still, he shows very good touch and anticipatory accuracy. He senses pressure and knows when to climb and when to slide laterally, all while keeping his eyes downfield. However, Finley will make two or three poor decisions per game and occasionally misses easy throws.”

 

GRADE: 85

 

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (2017)

 

Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos (2016)

 

GRADE: 84

 

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (2018)

 

 

MOCK DRAFT

In today’s Mock Draft, Charles Davis of NFL.com joins those thinking the Bengals might be in the first round quarterback market:

 

1 – ARIZONA

Kyler Murray – QB

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior (RS)

 

It feels like the momentum is all in favor of the ultra-talented playmaker taking his talents to the desert to pair with the alchemist known as new head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his high-scoring offensive scheme.

 

2 – SAN FRANCISCO

Nick Bosa – Edge

School: Ohio State | Year: Junior

 

While he will be announced as a defensive end on draft day, I fully expect this expert technician with a motor that redlines to do his share of damage as an inside rusher next to DeForest Buckner in sub packages.

 

3 – NEW YORK JETS

Josh Allen – Edge

School: Kentucky | Year: Senior

 

There will be plenty of discussion by the Jets’ brass about taking Alabama game wrecker Quinnen Williams here. However, they opt to add an edge rusher to team with inside force Leonard Williams.

 

4 – OAKLAND

Quinnen Williams – DT

School: Alabama | Year: Sophomore (RS)

 

Joy in Raider Land! The team makeover continues with this force from ‘Bama who will help set a new and more forceful tone for this defense.

 

5  TAMPA BAY

Devin White – LB

School: LSU | Year: Junior

 

I still believe that Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat is a strong possibility here, but with former Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander now in San Francisco, Tampa Bay reloads with another LSU sideline-to-sideline speed merchant who thumps.

 

6 – NEW YORK GIANTS

Rashan Gary – Edge

School: Michigan | Year: Junior

 

Will the Giants take a QB here?! It’s certainly possible, but Gary, who can also slide inside to defend the run and put pressure on the passer, is the selection here.

 

7 – JACKSONVILLE

Jawaan Taylor – OT

School: Florida | Year: Junior

 

The Jags added their QB in free agency in Nick Foles. Now they want to protect him, and get RB Leonard Fournette back in form. Taylor moves people in the run game.

 

8 – DETROIT

Montez Sweat – Edge

School: Mississippi State | Year: Senior

 

The Lions can go in multiple directions here, but even after adding Trey Flowers in free agency, they opt for more edge speed and pressure by turning in the card for the Mississippi State All-America honoree.

 

9 – BUFFALO

Noah Fant – TE

School: Iowa | Year: Junior

 

The Bills could easily go with an offensive lineman here, and it would make sense, even though they did spend some capital in that area in free agency. However, a young, developing QB like Josh Allen needs a TE who can become his go-to guy. I think Fant is the best TE in this draft.

 

10 – DENVER

Drew Lock – QB

School: Missouri | Year: Senior

 

I know John Elway recently said that trade acquisition Joe Flacco is not a stopgap at QB — in fact, he said he thinks Flacco is entering his prime — but when I watch Lock play, I see elements of what made Elway so incredible during his playing career. Perhaps Elway sees it, too.

 

11 – CINCINNATI

 

 Dwayne Haskins – QB

School: Ohio State | Year: Sophomore (RS)

The Bengals recently said they will not extend QB Andy Dalton’s contract before the 2019 season. So, the Bengals begin the chant “OH … IO” and select their QB of the future from right down the road in Columbus.

 

12 – GREEN BAY

Ed Oliver – DT

School: Houston | Year: Junior

 

The Packers’ D-line depth needs beefing up and this dynamic, upfield penetrator will pair nicely with ascending DT Kenny Clark.

 

13 – MIAMI

Clelin Ferrell – Edge

School: Clemson | Year: Junior (RS)

 

The impressive Ferrell brings power, speed and a culture of winning with him from Clemson. With the recent trade of Robert Quinn to the Cowboys, there’s a big need at the position for Miami.

 

14 – ATLANTA

Jonah Williams – OT

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

 

Operation OL continues for the Falcons, and they will be very pleased to add this serious-minded All-America offensive tackle who might ultimately be best utilized inside at guard.

 

15 – WASHINGTON

Brian Burns – Edge

School: Florida State | Year: Junior

 

This is another spot where a QB discussion will take place, but after Washington added big men to the D-line in recent years (Jonathan Allen/Daron Payne), OLB Ryan Kerrigan will be excited to get another edge rusher in the mix.

 

16 – CAROLINA

Andre Dillard – OT

School: Washington State | Year: Senior (RS)

 

The Panthers had to be eyeing Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns, but with Washington snatching him up, they opt to keep strengthening their O-line with this ace pass protector, and perhaps kick current LT Taylor Moton inside to guard.

 

17 – NEW YORK GIANTS (from Cleveland)

Daniel Jones – QB

School: Duke | Year: Junior (RS)

 

After the OBJ trade to Cleveland, Giants fans are anxious to see how their extra first-round pick is used. The future successor for QB Eli Manning is plucked from the same tree, as both Manning and Jones were coached by Duke’s David Cutcliffe.

 

18 – MINNESOTA

T.J. Hockenson – TE

School: Iowa | Year: Sophomore (RS)

 

Head coach Mike Zimmer has made no bones about it: He wants to run the football more frequently in 2019. The best blocking TE in the draft will help in a big way, and he can catch the ball well, too.

 

19 – TENNESSEE

Christian Wilkins – DT

School: Clemson | Year: Senior

 

I have to believe that the Titans will also be in the market for an edge rusher, but Wilkins projects as an inside presence to be accounted for at the next level. He will add to the pressure up the gut that Pro Bowl DL Jurrell Casey provides.

 

20 – PITTSBURGH

Byron Murphy – CB

School: Washington | Year: Sophomore (RS)

 

My favorite CB in the draft. I enjoy watching his cover skills and willingness to tackle on tape. I believe he has tremendous instincts, too.

 

21 – SEATTLE

D.K. Metcalf – WR

School: Mississippi | Year: Sophomore (RS)

 

Russell Wilson has a pair of dynamic “water bugs” to throw to in Doug Baldwin (coming off an offseason of surgeries) and Tyler Lockett. How about adding what my colleague Daniel Jeremiah refers to as the “the human Batman suit” outside the numbers?

 

22 – BALTIMORE

Marquise Brown – WR

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior

 

HOLLYWOOD! I know head coach John Harbaugh recently said he wanted WRs that are “rough and tough,” but he will happily welcome Brown, who’ll put the ball in the end zone for him after QB Lamar Jackson, and the run game, occupy the defense’s attention.

 

23 – HOUSTON

Cody Ford – OT

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior (RS)

 

O-line is a definite need here, and this Sooner offers versatility in that he can play tackle or guard. Many believe moving inside will be best for him.

 

24 – OAKLAND (from Chicago)

Josh Jacobs – RB

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

 

When Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, one of their rallying cries was “Pound The Rock.” This explosive runner can do that, and also catch the ball well out of the backfield. A new lead back is a must in Oakland.

 

25 – PHILADELPHIA

Devin Bush – LB

School: Michigan | Year: Junior

 

LB Jordan Hicks ran the defense well in Philadelphia when he was healthy, but now with his move to Arizona, a new leader is tabbed by the Eagles. Bush can fly around the field to make plays.

 

26 – INDIANAPOLIS

Dexter Lawrence – DT

School: Clemson | Year: Junior

 

DT Denico Autry played the best football of his career in the second half of 2018. He will be excited to add the huge frame of Lawrence to the DL room. Plus, the Colts have to be prepared for the run-heavy teams/big backs in the AFC South ( Derrick Henry in Tennessee, Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville, Lamar Miller/ D’Onta Foreman in Houston).

 

27 – OAKLAND (from Dallas)

Deandre Baker – CB

School: Georgia | Year: Senior

 

One of the most competitive CBs on tape when the ball is in the air. He always demanded to cover the opposition’s WR1 at UGA. Oakland will welcome that type of passion and gritty play in a defense that needs an infusion of both.

 

28 – LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Rock Ya-Sin – CB

School: Temple | Year: Senior

 

My first instinct was to put Washington safety Taylor Rapp here. I absolutely love him and might even end up regretting that I took him out of this mock, but the 40 time at his pro day may scare some teams off, even though I think his game translates to the next level. A couple other possibilities for this pick are a right tackle or defensive tackle, but ultimately, the Chargers go with a tough corner who will continue to fortify the secondary.

 

29 – KANSAS CITY

Greedy Williams – CB

School: LSU | Year: Sophomore (RS)

 

Tremendous blend of size, speed and length with good ball skills. He will be counted on to start from the moment his name is called in Nashville.

 

30 – GREEN BAY (from New Orleans)

A.J. Brown – WR

School: Mississippi | Year: Junior

 

The Packers went big for WRs in the 2018 draft (selected three on Day 3) and got better play as the year unfolded from two of them ( Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown). TE will be a consideration here, but they have a lot of bodies on the roster at the position, and I expect Robert Tonyan to take a big step forward. A strong slot WR to replace Randall Cobb will make QB Aaron Rodgers happy.

 

31 – LOS ANGELES RAMS

Jeffery Simmons – DT

School: Mississippi State | Year: Junior

 

If he hadn’t torn his ACL in February, I doubt he gets out of the top 10. With Ndamukong Suh likely leaving, another partner on the interior for All-World DT Aaron Donald is chosen. The Rams will be happy to wait a bit for him to be 100 percent before turning him loose.

 

32 – NEW ENGLAND

Dalton Risner – OT

School: Kansas State | Year: Senior (RS)

 

Yes, Gronk has left the building, and the TE position looks particularly bereft for the Patriots, but when has New England done exactly as predicted? The O-line gets great help with Risner, who can plug in and play well from Day 1. He played center, guard and tackle at K-State, and I love his overall backstory/makeup/consistently excellent play.