AROUND THE NFL

A proposal to guarantee each team a possession in overtime has been tabled to the May meeting.  This from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Since the NFL adopted overtime for the regular season 45 years ago, the winner of the overtime coin toss has chosen to receive the kickoff about 99 percent of the time. That may change if the proposed overtime rule change is adopted.

 

The proposal, which was tabled until May, would guarantee both teams a possession in overtime, even if the team receiving the kickoff scores a touchdown on the opening possession.

 

That rule might make kicking off more advantageous than receiving at the start of overtime. If you get the ball second in overtime, you know what you need to do to win: Score a touchdown or just kick a field goal. That allows teams to cater their play calling and strategy to the specific situation, and that’s why the team that wins the coin toss in college football overtime almost always chooses to play defense first, and get the ball second.

 

The NFL proposal isn’t exactly the same as college overtime, and there are some advantages to getting the ball first that don’t apply in college. For example, in the regular season overtime would still be limited to 10 minutes, and receiving the kickoff would allow the first team with the ball to take a lot of time off the clock and not leave the other team with much (or any) time to score on its possession. That’s one reason coaches might rather receive.

 

If the rule passes, it’s going to make for some interesting strategic decisions for coaches. And a lot of second-guessing of coaches when their teams lose in overtime. Which may be one reason that coaches have given the proposal a lukewarm reception.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Who would you rather have – QB DWAYNE HASKINS or QB JOSH ROSEN?  Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.com:

 

The Giants are planning to investigate every possible option when it comes to finding their Quarterback of the Future, and that includes a potential trade for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen.

 

But here’s the thing: At the moment they have no idea if Rosen is, or ever will be, available.

 

And nothing that happened at the NFL owners meetings this week has cleared that mystery up.

 

Multiple Giants sources told SNY this week that all they’ve heard so far are “rumors” that the Cardinals plan to take Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray No. 1 overall and put Rosen on the block. They have certainly discussed the possibility internally, one source said, though those talks were extremely preliminary. They don’t even seem sure at the moment whether they’d prefer Rosen – the 10th overall pick a year ago — to the quarterbacks in this year’s draft.

 

Mostly, they are in a wait-and-see mode to see if the Cardinals do decide to trade Rosen and what their asking price might be.

 

And on Tuesday morning, at the NFL coaches breakfast at the league’s owners meetings, new Cards coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t exactly clear the mystery up.

 

“People have said a lot of things that are misconceptions, if you will,” Kingsbury said. “Josh is a tremendous player, I’ve always thought, watching him at UCLA. He played his best football in a spread system, some similarities to what we do. He’s a tremendous thinker, very cerebral, can throw it with anybody.”

 

Of course, so can Murray, whom Kingsbury recruited out of high school and has remained close with over the years. The Murray-to-the-Cards speculation was sparked by Kingsbury’s own words from last year when he said he’d take Murray with the first overall pick in the draft – months before he was hired by the Cardinals, of course, and suddenly had that first pick in his hands.

 

“I was head coach at Texas Tech then in October, and was speaking how I feel about him as a player and how I felt,” Kingsbury said. “(I) was definitely ahead of the curve on his quarterback playing ability I think, but I had watched him a long time and I knew how special a talent he was and just appreciated his level of play and wanted to make sure that I showed him some props.”

 

Maybe that’s all it was, but many people around the NFL think it’s a lot more than that. There’s also a feeling that the 22-year-old Rosen, who struggled as a rookie last season, isn’t a good fit for Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” offense – at least not as good a fit as Murray would be.

 

“We take a lot of pride in building a system around a quarterback,” Kingsbury said. “For someone to say he doesn’t fit our system, it doesn’t make sense.”

 

Kingsbury went on to rave about Rosen – especially his toughness in fighting through a miserable situation in Arizona, where he got battered behind a patchwork offensive line and sacked 45 times last year.

 

“Watching him last year, continuing to get up, it would’ve been easy for him to tap out,” Kingsbury said. “You all saw how bad it got, with all the injuries up front. Injuries at wideout, where guys couldn’t create separation. He was just back there taking hit after hit, continuing to get up, and played his best football at the end of the season. You see that as a coach, it’s very impressive. There is a lot there to work with.”

 

But for him, or for someone else, like perhaps Giants coach Pat Shurmur? At the moment, that seems totally up to the Cards. And at the moment, they’re not telling anyone whether they plan on trading Rosen.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Every other team but the Bengals, and including the Rams, approved a rule change that would have put the Saints in Super Bowl 53 had it been in the books last year.

 

The NFL owners voted on Tuesday evening to approve a rule proposal that allows for offensive and defensive pass interference, including non-calls, to be subject to review.

 

Coaches can challenge those calls in the first 28 minutes of each half. In the final two minutes of each half, those calls will be subject to a booth review.

 

This rule change is only for the 2019 season.

 

Owners passed the provision, 31-1, at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix on Tuesday night. The Cincinnati Bengals were the lone team to vote against pass interference replay reviews, sources told NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

 

Coaches will still have only two challenge flags.

 

This decision comes a day after New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said that the competition committee agreed to an amended rule-change proposal (6B), in which coaches would be allowed to challenge offensive and defensive pass interference even if there was no flag on the play. The rule change that passed on Tuesday night is considered 6C.

 

The reviewability of pass interference calls and non-calls came to the forefront after the NFC Championship Game in January, when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis early on a third-down play late in the fourth quarter. No penalty was called on the play. The Rams went on to win the game and make the Super Bowl.

 

The aftermath prompted outrage from Saints fans, coaches and brass, including owner Gayle Benson, who went as far to release a statement on the non-call.

 

On Tuesday night, Benson celebrated the rule change.

 

“This is what I wanted to happen. That’s why I made my statement,” Benson told reporters, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport “[The non-call in the NFC title game] will never happen again.”

 

“We think it was a good change,” Payton told reporters. “We’re trying to address the two fouls that most impact games. … The last three years coaches are being a little bit more judicious with their challenges. I think that will continue especially the minor fact that you now have a more meaningful play you can challenge.

 

“South of two minutes it’s in replay’s hands, but north of two minutes it’s in your hands. I think it won’t take back the way we watch a game. I just think it’s just two more calls.”

 

The one-year rule change wasn’t just about pleasing the aggrieved Saints. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that it was important that teams came to a consensus on expanding replay review.

 

“I personally believe it was the fact that every club wanted to get, and the league wanted to get these plays right,” Goodell said at a press conference immediately following the vote. “Replay is to get it right. And ultimately people compromised, I think, on long-held views because they want to get the system right. They want to get the play right.”

 

The mandate delivered by ownership to approve this expansion of replay review comes as a surprise. As early as the start of the Annual League Meeting, approving review of pass interference calls was considered a “non-starter” on the competition committee, Rapoport reported.

 

Coaches were reportedly the driving force behind a deeper consideration of the rule proposal, namely Payton, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Chiefs coach Andy Reid. The latter two reportedly advocated for extending a meeting between coaches and the competition committee on Monday evening to consider and then amend the original proposal.

 

“Replay has an important tool for us. It wasn’t able to correct something we wanted to have corrected in the past. That to me was the driving force at the end of the day,” Goodell said. “Our job is to get these right and we should use every available means to get them right. Replay is a great means to be able to do that.

 

“Will this solve every problem? Will this get us to perfect? It’s the old saying, right? Don’t let perfect get in the way of better. This is a very natural evolution and obviously a very positive thing.”

 

 

TAMPA BAY

This from NFL.com:

 

Blaine Gabbert is headed to his fifth NFL franchise and fourth in the last four seasons.

 

Announced by Tampa Bay on Wednesday, the Buccaneers signed the veteran quarterback to a one-year deal.

 

Originally a first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars taken 10th overall in 2011, Gabbert never panned out in Duval and moved on to San Francisco for three seasons before single-year stints in Arizona and Tennessee. Last season with the Titans, Gabbert was called into action for the injured Marcus Mariota on multiple occasions. The 29-year-old signal-caller played in eight games with three starts — and a 2-1 record as a starter — and passed for 626 yards, four touchdowns, four interceptions and tallied a 60.4 percent completion percentage.

 

Gabbert returns to Florida to presumably compete with Ryan Griffin for the backup spot behind incumbent starter Jameis Winston. He will also reunite with new Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who coached Gabbert on the Cardinals in 2017.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Coach Kliff Kingsbury will be hosting his team meetings in shorts spans.

 

Most Americans can relate to concerns over cellphone and social media addiction.

 

For many, their phones are the last thing they see before going to sleep and the first thing they look at when they wake up.

 

In between, they’re faced with the constant urge to check the computers in their pockets for Twitter updates, scores, news or whatever it is that feeds their need.

 

The tendency has prompted concerns over the impact devices have on users’ mental well-being and led to apps and tactics intended to dissuade that urge to stare at a screen.

 

This does not appear to be a concern for Arizona Cardinals rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

 

Kingsbury told reporters at Tuesday’s owners meetings in Phoenix that he plans to implement “cellphone breaks” at team meetings to feed his players’ addictions.

 

“They’re itching to get to those things,” Kingsbury said via ESPN.

 

It’s a practice Kingsbury is bringing from his coaching tenure at Texas Tech. According to ESPN, he plans to let players break to check their phones every 20 or 30 minutes during meetings.

 

“You start to see kind of hands twitching and legs shaking, and you know they need to get that social media fix, so we’ll let them hop over there and then get back in the meeting and refocus,” Kingsbury said.

 

It’s probably not the best tactic for addressing the rewired brains of a generation that’s grown up with social media and the constant glare of screens.

 

But Kingsbury’s job isn’t to solve society’s ills. His is to coach a football team. And to that end, maybe feeding players’ technological urges is the best way to keep their attention when poring over Xs and Os.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

It sounds like DT NDAMUKONG SUH is one and done in LA. Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead said Tuesday at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix that the re-signing of Suh is “pretty much guaranteed to be off the table,” via Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.

 

“Based on the fact that from our budgetary constraints this year, it probably doesn’t fit in his desires,” Snead added.

 

Suh, who ranks No. 12 on NFL.com‘s Top 101 list of free agents, made the rounds last year before signing a one-year, $14 million deal with the Rams.

 

The veteran defensive tackle is likely to command a high-end contract, but the Rams were busy during the first wave of free agency with the signings of safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Clay Matthews and quarterback Blake Bortles, and re-signing outside linebacker Dante Fowler.

 

The moves as of Wednesday morning have left the Rams with $4.5 million in available salary cap space.

 

And that figure doesn’t represent too much wiggle room when considering Rams head coach Sean McVay said Tuesday that the team “absolutely” wants to take care of cornerback Marcus Peters with an extension. Peters enters 2019 in the final year of his contract, which pays a base salary of $9 million.

 

Meanwhile, the Rams could get creative with the cap by restructuring other contracts if they really want to bring back Suh and both sides agree to a deal.

 

But for now, Suh could receive a lot of attention on the open market from potential suitors much like he did in 2018 before he selected the Rams.

 

The 32-year-old Suh, a three-time All-Pro selection on his nine-year career, appeared in all 16 games for the Rams the past season. He came on during the postseason and showed he could still perform at a high level while helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl.

 

 

SEATTLE

Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com on the challenges facing WR DOUG BALDWIN:

 

Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin’s toughness and competitiveness are his calling cards. His ferocity is how he went from undrafted to a two-time Pro Bowler.

 

But this has been a really rough offseason for Baldwin, with multiple surgeries, and perhaps his football future is in doubt. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times wrote that it’s believed Baldwin might be “contemplating his football future.”

 

That’s far from a proclamation that Baldwin will retire. There are no direct signs that he’s planning to step away from the game. Condotta also wrote that “the Seahawks appear to be moving forward with the idea he will be with them in 2019,” pointing out Seattle hasn’t signed a receiver.

 

But after surgeries this offseason on his shoulder and knee, with a sports hernia surgery coming in April, it wouldn’t be surprising if the 30-year-old Baldwin has at least thought about what comes next.

 

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told Condotta that there’s no timetable for when Baldwin will be back. He couldn’t even say if Baldwin’s sports hernia surgery will be his final one this offseason.

 

“I don’t know that conclusively,” Carroll told the Seattle Times. “Still working on some stuff.”

 

Last season Baldwin dealt with multiple injuries, and while he gutted it out to play in 13 games, he had just 50 catches for 618 yards.

 

“He was so banged up,” Carroll said, according to Condotta. “He had a number of things that surfaced last year. It’s been challenging. Having had to deal with that … it’s not going away, here he goes he’s getting operated on in April again.”

 

It’s impossible to count out Baldwin, given how hard he worked to become one of thee NFL’s best receivers. Carroll pointed that out too. But Carroll also was honest about how hard it will be.

 

“If he could do it, he will. I have no doubt in that,” Carroll said. “But it’s a been a challenging offseason for him. He’s had a lot of stuff he’s been working on.”

 

Presumably, Baldwin will be back. He’s a great player and hasn’t backed down from a challenge before. But this offseason is unlike any other for him.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

WR JORDY NELSON has decided to retire after 11 NFL seasons, according to his former teammate James Jones who now works for NFL Network.  Nelson appears destined for a spot in the Hall of the Very Good.

 

A premier touchdown scorer, Nelson had three double-digit touchdown seasons, scoring 57 of his 72 career touchdowns in a five-season span between 2011-2016, which includes a missed 2015 campaign. Nelson won Comeback Player of the Year in 2016, made it to one Pro Bowl, and earned a Super Bowl ring in Green Bay.    He finishes his career with  613 catches for 8,587 yards and 72 touchdowns.  Nelson is probably not a Hall-of-Famer but seems destined for the Packers’ Ring of Honor.

– – –

The Raiders are campaigning to NOT be involved in “Hard Knocks.”  Liz Roscher of YahooSports.com:

 

It’s been a transformative 15 months for the Oakland Raiders. They got a new coach, traded a star player, had a putrid season, and then signed and acquired a slew of new players that should give fans a reason to care about the team in 2019.

 

It would be interesting to see the latest phase of the Raiders’ transformation on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” a reality show that follows one team a year during NFL training camp. But that’s exactly what Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t want.

 

The Raiders are one of just five teams eligible for “Hard Knocks” this year. And despite how interesting it might be for fans to see the Raiders featured, Davis doesn’t want his team to be part of it. He joked to ESPN that he’d rather fire coach Jon Gruden and hire him back, since teams with first-year coaches aren’t eligible to be on the show

 

Joking aside, Davis does have actual reasons he doesn’t want the Raiders to be on “Hard Knocks.”

 

“It would be disruptive,” he told ESPN at the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of business to take care of, get ready for the season. I appreciate that they might think we’d be great TV, but we got something to accomplish.”

 

With all those new players (not to mention the drama that seems to follow Gruden everywhere), the Raiders would definitely be compelling on “Hard Knocks.” But that also seems to be why Davis doesn’t want that scrutiny. It’s hard to blame him — the show is fun and interesting for fans to watch, but what team wants to have their business aired on national television?

 

The Raiders aren’t the first team this year to publicly resist the intense zoom lens of “Hard Knocks.” Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn made it clear to ESPN in February that they didn’t want their team to be the (un)lucky one picked this year. They both pointed to the Raiders as the ideal team, with Patricia saying it would be “fantastic viewing” before agreeing that being on “Hard Knocks” would be like having a weeks-long root canal.

 

There are three other teams eligible: the San Francisco 49ers, the Washington Redskins, and the New York Giants. It’s hard to imagine any of those teams being more compelling than the Raiders, but at least the Giants have a high awkwardness quotient with Eli Manning still at starting quarterback. The Raiders would undoubtedly be better, but both teams have that train wreck factor that could make for excellent TV.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Another child for Chargers QB PHILIP RIVERS and wife Tiffany. Jason Owens of YahooSports.com:

 

The Los Angeles Chargers have had trouble drawing fans since their move from San Diego.

 

It appears quarterback Philip Rivers and his wife Tiffany are addressing that problem directly by literally producing a fanbase.

 

Tiffany gave birth to the couple’s new daughter Anna last week. It’s the ninth child for the couple who have been together since middle school.

 

The Chargers announced the news via Twitter on Tuesday with a “Lion King” tribute.

 

Anna is the couple’s seventh daughter, joining Sarah Catherine, Halle, Grace, Rebecca, Clare and Caroline. Peter and Gunnar are their two boys. The children range in age from newborn Anna to 16-year-old Halle.

 

There’s no word on whether the Rivers plan to have another child or are calling it quits with nine.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

QB LAMAR JACKSON is working on his passing in Florida.

 

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson topped the 200-yard mark just once as a passer the past regular season with a 204-yard effort in Week 16.

 

Jackson, a dual-threat quarterback, likely understands he needs to improve in throwing the football and has been working out in Florida during the offseason.

 

“I know he’s throwing quite a bit,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters Tuesday at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. “He’s got a quarterback trainer down there he’s working with.”

 

Jackson isn’t short of familiar targets to throw to, as members of the Ravens’ receiving corps are training with him.

 

“A number of the receivers have gone down to work with him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got other receivers, other places — I don’t know who they are — but he’s been throwing regularly and I think he’ll ramp that up even more as he gets closer.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Coach Bill O’Brien on says the challenge of signing DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY could be similar to the challenge of spelling his first name:

 

The Houston Texans ensured Jadeveon Clowney wouldn’t hit the open market by designating the pass rusher as a franchise player on March 4.

 

The two sides have until July 15 to hammer out a multiyear deal, but the real work behind the scenes in the negotiations process begins now to ensure Clowney remains in Houston for the long haul.

 

“It will be interesting,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters Tuesday during the coaches breakfast at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. “We try to do the best that we can to represent our organization in the best way possible relative to each player. JD has been a really, really good player for us every year. I really have a great fondness for Jadeveon Clowney. I think he’s a good teammate, good guy, plays hard, made a lot of plays for us.

 

“This is what we think is best right now for our organization under the spirit of the tag where you try to continue to negotiate with JD and his representative. Obviously, you don’t want him walking away in free agency, so that’s the spirit of the franchise tag to kind of give you some more time to negotiate. That’s what we’re doing.”

 

Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, has come on the past two seasons after dealing with injuries to start his career in Houston, so the Texans utilizing the franchise tag on him didn’t come as a big surprise.

 

The 26-year-old Clowney has totaled 18.5 sacks and 42 quarterback hits since 2017 to become an exceptional complementary piece opposite of defensive end J.J. Watt. On his five seasons with the Texans, Clowney has appeared in 62 games with 55 starts and made the Pro Bowl in three consecutive seasons (2016-18).

 

What happens next in the negotiations will fall almost exclusively on the business side of football, and O’Brien told reporters he doesn’t get too involved in that process.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Robert Kraft has decided to fight the Florida solicitation charge – and from a legal standpoint, he seems to have a number of promising angles of defense.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

With Patriots owner Robert Kraft entering a not guilty plea and requesting a jury trial on charges of soliciting prostitution at a Florida day spa, there’s a chance the prosecution of Kraft and many others won’t have enough evidence to even go to trial.

 

As explained by WPTV.com, the court order authorizing video surveillance at the spa did not expressly permit recording of activities.

 

“The [search warrant applications] that the police filed with the judge was to monitor and record what was happening the spa,” Jordan Wagner, a partner at the law firm representing more than a dozen of the defendants told WPTV.com. “But in the judge’s order, he only put the word monitor, not monitor and record.”

 

WPTV.com confirms that the applications “clearly ask” for permission to “monitor and record,” and that the court orders permitting surveillance uses only “monitor” and not “monitor and record.”

 

“We checked the paperwork,” WPTV.com writes. “The search warrant applications clearly ask for monitoring and recording permissions in the title of the document. However, the judge’s order granting those permissions only uses the word ‘monitor,’ not ‘monitor and record.’”

 

Martin County sheriff Bill Snyder, who told WPTV.com that law enforcement officials posing as repairmen installed the hidden cameras, insists that the activities were legal and complied with the court orders.

 

“I can say this unequivocally,” Snyder said. “We followed every protocol that the State Attorney and the judge required.”

 

The argument apparently will be that Snyder and his associates did not follow “every protocol” because the they exceeded the plain language of the court order allowing video surveillance when monitoring of the cameras became monitoring and recording.

 

The response surely will be, “Monitoring implies recording.” The response to that surely will be, “Why did you ask for monitoring and recording if monitoring implies recording?”

 

“We feel if you ask for A, B, and C, and you only get A and B, logic would tell you that you weren’t allowed to get C,” Wagner told WPTV.com. “In this case, they asked for monitoring and recording and the judge’s order only says monitoring. . . . The sheriff’s office has all the reason in the world to say that they did everything by the book because I think that they know that they violated a lot of peoples’ rights, people who were arrested and people who weren’t arrested as well.”

 

It’s an issue that will be resolved long before Kraft or any of the other defendants will be required to stand trial, and if this argument based on plain language and basic logic prevails, there will be no trial at all, for any of the men charged with soliciting prostitution as part of this specific “monitoring” exercise that became “monitoring and recording.”

 

Also, the stopping of Kraft’s chauffeur-driven Bentley for bogus reasons to get Kraft’s ID also smacks of over-reach.

 

If this really was about human trafficking – how come the only police action so far is a tawdry prostitution sting?

– – –

The Patriots have added one of their former players, LB JEROD MAYO, to the coaching staff – and he jumps any positional “assistants” that might have been hanging around by getting the serious full title of linebackers coach.  Tom Curran of NBCSports.com has the story:

 

If it looked to you like talking about football on television was enough to scratch Jerod Mayo’s itch for the game, you weren’t alone.

 

I thought the same thing.

 

But the former Patriots linebacker, best known for his nine-year run in the NFL, and then as a weekly guest and subsequent in-studio host on Quick Slants, is pulling the ripcord and going back to the game. Mayo has agreed to become the Patriots linebackers coach.

 

The departures of Brian Flores, Josh Boyer and Brendan Daly put the Patriots defensive coaching staff in transition mode. The addition of Greg Schiano as defensive coordinator was one move. Mayo is another.

 

Mayo retired in February 2016 after three straight seasons in which he ended up on season-ending IR (torn pec, torn patella, shoulder mayhem). With his reputation as a leader and as one of the smartest players Bill Belichick coached, immediate speculation was that he’d go right into coaching.

 

But while he was playing, Mayo was also building experience in the business world and he transitioned from the field into a job with Optum.

 

At the time, Mayo said, “I love the game of football. I’m not going to rule [coaching] out, but right now I just need a little break.”

 

Now he’s back. Mayo figures to be in position to have a big impact on second-year linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley who was outstanding through training camp and into the early regular season before a torn biceps landed Bentley on IR. Mayo’s command of the on-field responsibilities in the Patriots defense — not just at linebacker, but in the front-seven in particular — will presumably help ease the loss of Daly and Flores.

 

Mayo’s relentlessly upbeat personality also figures to make an impact on the Patriots who said goodbye this offseason to “character coach” Jack Easterby.

 

Belichick’s ode to Mayo at the 2016 owners meetings are worth revisiting.

 

“I’ll start out this morning, first of all, to talk about Jerod Mayo,” Belichick said. “There have been very few players in my career that I’ve had the opportunity to coach that I’d say had more of an impact on a team than Jerod has from day one, which is unusual.”

 

“From the first day he walked in the facility, which was his pre-draft visit, after we drafted him in 2008, he’s been a pleasure to coach, a great addition to our team, both on and off the field,” Belichick continued. “I’m sure I learned a lot more from him than he did from me. Jerod, (Mayo’s wife, Chantel) and their family brought a special glow to our team, to our organization. Although Jerod will always be part of the team and is always welcome, he’ll be missed on a daily basis, the attitude, work ethic and love of football that he brought was special. He was very special.”

 

The expectation is that this is going to curtail Mayo’s Quick Slants availability. We’ll miss him too.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS

Whatever QB COLIN KAEPERNICK settled for, it didn’t break the NFL’s sizeable bank.  Ken Belson of the New York Times, analyzing a story at the Wall Street Journal, still leaves us confused:

 

The N.F.L. will pay considerably less than $10 million in its settlement of grievances filed by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, according to two people with knowledge of the agreement who were not authorized to speak publicly.

 

Specifics of the settlement were not disclosed when the deal was reached Feb. 15, ending an 18-month standoff over claims by Kaepernick and Reid, former teammates with the San Francisco 49ers, that they had been denied jobs in the league because they knelt through the national anthem before games. They accused the league’s 32 teams of colluding to keep them out of the sport.

 

Much of the settlement will cover the fees of lawyers representing Kaepernick and Reid, one of the people with the knowledge of the agreement said Thursday, and the players will receive smaller, roughly equal amounts.

 

So is that less than $10 million for the two of them combined?  That’s the implication, but it’s unclear.  But it sounds like $5 million to the sleazebag lawyers, maybe $2 each to the two plaintiffs?

 

Mike Florio adds this:

 

There’s another important factor bolstering the notion that the settlement was less than expected: Kaepernick remains unemployed, even after the Dolphins were fumbling around for a quarterback, Kaepernick reportedly was interested, and they signed Ryan Fitzpatrick instead. The ongoing shunning of Kaepernick, notwithstanding the latest failed prediction from attorney Mark Geragos that Kaepernick would be signed within two weeks of the settlement, suggests that the league has no concerns about another collusion claim, or an argument that Kaepernick is the victim of retaliation for the filing of his prior collusion grievance.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Tony Romo wants to break the CBS bank according to Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News:

 

Here’s a prediction Tony Romo himself would like: He could become the first $10 million a year TV analyst in sports history.

 

Romo’s representatives are looking for a contract extension paying him “eight figures” annually to remain as CBS Sports’ top NFL analyst in 2020 and beyond, sources tell Sporting News.

 

Romo and CBS have been a perfect marriage so far. The most likely scenario is still this: CBS extends its star commentator’s deal with a nice fat raise.

 

But Romo could also play out his rookie TV contract and become a free agent. He could draw suitors ranging from rival TV networks and startup football leagues to tech giants looking to stream games.

 

There’s even a chance the young father and husband could walk away from TV to pursue his growing business interests, sources said. That would disappoint many fans who view Romo as the best thing to happen to sports media in many years. CBS declined to comment.

 

The former Cowboys quarterback currently makes $4 million a year under a three-year TV deal that expires after the 2019 NFL season. But in just two seasons on the air, the 38-year-old Romo has exploded as the most popular game commentator, in any sport, since John Madden.

 

The Cowboys’ all-time passing leader is nicknamed “Romostrodamus” for his uncanny ability to see plays before they unfold. Romo knows today’s pass-happy NFL inside-out — unlike other color analysts who haven’t played in decades. He educates TV viewers in a clear, entertaining way, without the Spider 2 Y Banana jargon of Jon Gruden at his worst. If CBS wants to keep their young superstar in the booth with play-by-play partner Jim Nantz, it will have to double his salary and then some, sources said.

 

A $10 million salary sounds like a lot for an announcer. But consider some sports TV history.

 

At his zenith, Madden made $8 million a year, more than any active player at the time, according to The Ringer. That was decades ago. Troy Aikman, the Cowboys’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback turned lead analyst for Fox Sports, makes about $7.5 million annually, sources said. Before he returned to the NFL as coach of the Raiders, Jon Gruden was pocketing $6.5 million a year from ESPN to call “Monday Night Football.”

 

You could make the argument that Romo would be foolish to leave CBS for a rival network. He’s happy at CBS. The network surrounds him with some of the best production talent in the business. And here’s the trump card for the Tiffany network. He gets to work with Nantz, the best play-by-play announcer in sports. 

 

Nantz and Romo have bonded over their shared love of NFL football and golf. The all-world Nantz has patiently and generously helped mold Romo from broadcast rookie to TV sensation. If there’s any justice, the duo should win the Emmy for their flawless performance in the AFC Championship Game. Although Super Bowl 53 was nearly unwatchable, Romo still came out smelling like a rose.

 

Romo knows CBS took a risk by installing him, a TV rookie, as lead over the veteran Phil Simms in 2017. He’s repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the faith shown in him by Nantz, producer Jim Rikhoff, sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson and CBS Sports bosses Sean McManus and David Berson. With CBS controlling the AFC game package, Romo gets to call the more exciting and interesting conference, with teams such as the Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs and Browns.

 

“I feel this is exactly where I should be,” Romo said about CBS during a Super Bowl preview in January.

 

But Romo’s also a savvy businessman who’s got plenty of options. Pro football leagues want him. Rival networks want him. Madison Avenue wants him. Hollywood wants him. Tech giants want him.

 

Don’t forget, Romo’s not as invested in the history and tradition of the venerable CBS as his bosses across the table. Instead, he’s a massive crossover star.

 

During Super Bowl week, Romo was treated like a rock star, drawing more attention than Patriots and Rams players. During a CBS press event, the media pack swarmed him on stage. He couldn’t even get to his interview table. As Dr. Phil noted on a podcast with Romo: “He’s the hottest man in football. And he’s not even playing.”

 

Since retiring from the Cowboys, Romo has had offers to both play, and coach, in the NFL, sources said. Romo confirmed to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic he’s had “legitimate offers” to return to the league. “Usually, it’s a coach that reaches out,” Romo told Deitsch.

 

 

 

 

AAF UPDATE

With three weeks left in the first AAF season, Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com notes some ominous comments:

 

Hey, remember when the Alliance of American Football had a great opening weekend?

 

That was less than two months ago, and little has gone right since. Not long after some good opening weekend television ratings and nearly universal positive buzz, there was a troubling story about the league needing a huge investment from Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Panthers, to make payroll.

 

That $250 million investment was good news for the league at the time. But the man who made that investment said the league could decide to fold, if it can’t use young NFL players and be the NFL’s developmental league.

 

Dundon gave strong comments to USA Today about being unable to come to an agreement with the NFL Players Association over the use of young NFL players in the AAF.

 

“If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can’t be a development league,” Dundon, who became the league’s chairman with the February investment, told USA Today. “We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league.”

 

That’s an extreme threat, and it’s rather shocking if the AAF’s entire plan for survival after just one season depended on borrowing NFL players. A NFLPA source told USA Today there’s a concern over CBA violations involved with letting the AAF borrow players. The CBA restricts the amount of offseason work players can do, in order to give them enough time to rest. Young players could feel pressure to play in the AAF, which theoretically would mean they’re playing football year-round if you count their NFL teams’ offseason programs.

 

Dundon told USA Today the league is considering its options and plans to make a decision on the league’s future in the next two days.

 

 

NFL DRAFT

Here is a Mock Draft from Peter Schrager of NFL.com:

 

1 – ARIZONA CARDINALS

 

Kyler Murray         QB    Oklahoma

I’ve been saying it since Kliff Kingsbury was hired as the head coach, and I’m not moving on it now: Kyler Murray will be the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals. He handled the criticism of his NFL Scouting Combine interviews with grace and wowed at his pro day, and his skill set has exactly what it takes to excel in a Kingsbury offense. What happens to incumbent QB (and 10th overall pick in 2018) Josh Rosen? That’s on general manager Steve Keim, and a question that is way above my pay grade.

 

2 – SAN FRANCISCO

 

Nick Bosa              Edge   Ohio State

Bosa’s the most polished pass rusher in this draft, and he is widely viewed as the top prospect in this class. San Francisco would be thrilled to see him slip out of the top spot, which is what I think will happen.

 

3 – NEW YORK JETS

 

 Josh Allen              Edge    Kentucky

Though this pick could be traded with the intention of adding more selections in the top 100, the Jets’ roster is still missing a dangerous edge rusher. Allen had seven sacks during his junior season, decided to forego the allure of the NFL draft in ’18, and responded with a 17-sack season in which he was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Based on the scouts I’ve spoken with, he’s an amazing kid with great leadership qualities, too.

 

4 – LOS ANGELES RAIDERS

 

 Ed Oliver                DT             Houston

 

Leave it to the Raiders to make a bit of a splash — like this one. While everyone’s talking up Quinnen Williams as the top defensive tackle in this draft class, I know of more than one team that points to Oliver as the guy atop the board at the position. With the success of Aaron Donald at his size (6-foot-1, 280 pounds, 31.5 sacks in 2017-18), don’t be shocked if Oliver (6-2, 287) — who I expect will run a 4.7-second 40-yard dash at Houston’s pro day on Thursday — goes before the more buzzed-about Williams.

 

5 – TAMPA BAY

Devin White             LB              LSU

The Buccaneers hoped to bring back veteran inside linebacker Kwon Alexander, but the stud LB signed with San Francisco instead. So, they grab the next LSU inside linebacker coming down the pipeline. White blew scouts away at the combine with his speed, and I’ve had a general manager compare him to Patrick Willis. Not bad. The Bucs need some of that, and a whole lot more.

 

6 – NEW YORK GIANTS

 Drew Lock                QB            Missouri

There will be WFAN hysteria and message-board debates about this pick leading right up until the card is turned in. I do think the Giants will go quarterback, but not the guy everyone has pegged to them. Lock wowed folks at the Senior Bowl, has a ton of moxie and can rip it. Make no mistake: The fans may not agree with the choice. But I see Lock as a Giants quarterback before Dwayne Haskins. The “Kansas City model” plays out, and it’s Eli passing the torch to the former Missouri Tiger, not the Ohio State Buckeye.

 

7 – JACKSONVILLE

Rashan Gary              Edge         Michigan

Though he isn’t generating the same kind of pre-draft buzz as Bosa or Allen, Gary is viewed by a lot of folks as the edge rusher with the greatest upside. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman had him listed at No. 1 in his annual “Freaks” column last July. A two-time All-Big Ten Academic honoree, Gary has unlimited potential. The knock is production — with just 3.5 sacks last season, there are doubters.

 

8 – DETROIT

Quinnen Williams        DT             Alabama

The Lions are thrilled with the free-agent addition of Trey Flowers, but they’re not done. Look for them to add a few more defensive cornerstones in the draft. Head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn are building a team from the inside out, and if Williams falls all the way to 8, they’ll scoop him up. Viewed as one of the surest things in this draft, Williams has the Nick Saban pedigree and the versatility along the defensive line that Patricia will covet.

 

9 – BUFFALO

Jawaan Taylor        OT               Florida  

Buffalo would love one of the elite front-seven defensive studs, but if the draft falls this way, I think offensive tackle will be the move. Taylor played right tackle at Florida, but he can play either left or right in the NFL. Still far from a finished product, he has monster paws and can protect Josh Allen for years to come.

 

10 – DENVER

 Dwayne Haskins      QB           Ohio State

Joe Flacco will be the Broncos’ quarterback for 2019, but don’t sleep on the team snagging Haskins or Drew Lock if one of those two falls to 10. Haskins ripped it at his pro day and, from what I’m told, was a “pied piper” leader on an offense littered with future professional players. John Elway swings for a quarterback again.

 

11 – CINCINNATI       

Cody Ford                   OT            Oklahoma

The Bengals have a new coach (Zac Taylor), a new offensive coordinator (Brian Callahan) and a new defensive coordinator (Lou Anarumo). There are lots of spots to fill on the roster, but I can see Taylor pushing for more protection up front. Though Ford is still viewed as raw, the sky is the limit for this OU product, who excelled blocking for both Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield.

 

12 – GREEN BAY

T.J. Hockenson           TE               Iowa

You’d be hard-pressed to find a scout who doesn’t love Hockenson’s game. A ferocious blocker with good hands and superb route-running skills, he’s viewed as a complete tight end. Reliable, sturdy, proven — he’d make new Packers coach Matt LaFleur (and, more importantly, Aaron Rodgers) very happy.

 

13 MIAMI

Christian Wilkins          DT               Clemson

The Dolphins are clearly in rebuilding mode, seeking leaders and champions. They got one in defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (drafted 11th overall out of Alabama) a year ago; Wilkins is that guy for them this year. His college numbers are absurd from the DT spot: 208 total tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 17 sacks and 56 quarterback pressures across four seasons, with two national championships as cherries on top.

 

14 – ATLANTA

Jonah Williams                OT              Alabama

The Falcons’ roster was ravaged by injuries a season ago, and they still put up big offensive numbers. GM Thomas Dimitroff has gone to the Alabama well before and struck gold with receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. In Williams, the Falcons are getting a gamer who can play tackle (though he does not have the ideal build for it) or guard.

 

15 – WASHINGTON

D.K. Metcalf                        WR             Mississippi

Metcalf is more than just a combine workout warrior. When healthy at Ole Miss, he was often the best player on the field. The first snap from scrimmage against Alabama — a one-handed snag and run that ended in the end zone — showed just that. The Redskins are waiting on former first-rounder Josh Doctson to be what they hoped at receiver (the 2016 22nd overall pick has 81 career catches, 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns). Grabbing Metcalf gives them an immediate contributor with obvious elite athletic skills to use in Jay Gruden’s offense.

 

16 – CAROLINA             

 Andre Dillard                      OT             Washington State

The Panthers signed a talented center in Matt Paradis, but I doubt they’re done adding to the offensive line. Dillard is considered a rock-solid prospect who stood out in the Pac-12 and excelled in drill work at the combine.

 

17 – NEW YORK GIANTS (from Cleveland)

Clelin Ferrell                        Edge         Clemson

The leader of that loaded Clemson defensive line, Ferrell is one of the more decorated players in the entire draft, winning two national titles, notching a first-team All-ACC selection and the Ted Hendricks Award (college football’s top defensive end). In 2018, he had 19.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles. New York gets the edge rusher the Giants’ unit so desperately needs.

 

18 – MINNESOTA

Kaleb McGary                    OT               Washington

The Vikings started to address the offensive line in free agency, adding Josh Kline, but they’re not done. Look for this pick to be a center, guard or tackle. In McGary, they get a big, hulking body who’ll be able to contribute right away. Viewed as a better run blocker than pass protector, he still has great room to improve.

 

19 – TENNESSEE

Noah Fant                          TE             Iowa

I’ve polled several teams’ coaches and general managers, and it seems as though there’s far from a consensus as to which Iowa tight end is viewed as the better NFL prospect. The truth is, Hockenson and Fant are two completely different players. Fant is the athletic, pass-catching, game-changing tight end Tennessee’s offense could so desperately use.

 

20 – PITTSBURGH

Byron Murphy                     CB              Washington

Though he hasn’t been accompanied by the same viral buzz or volume of YouTube clips as Montez Sweat or D.K. Metcalf, Murphy’s stock may have jumped even more after the combine. His drill work was superb, and his size and build came in where scouts hoped it would be. Murphy’s the top cornerback on my board, and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t go in the top 20.

 

21 – SEATTLE

Montez Sweat                         Edge             Mississippi State

Sweat was the star of the combine, rocking a record-breaking 40-yard dash and looking like the next Julius Peppers. Though others have had him catapulting into the top five, I’m not sure he’s viewed that way around the league. Seattle would be an awesome fit.

 

22 – BALTIMORE

Garrett Bradbury                    OL                 N.C. State

If the Lamar Jackson era is going to work, the Ravens need playmakers who fit his style and as much O-line stability as possible. Bradbury had a great week in Indianapolis at the combine and is projected to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL at one of the three interior offensive line positions. Solid pass blocker, great run blocker. Perfect Raven. And Baltimore is all in on the ground attack, as evidenced by the Mark Ingram pickup.

 

23 – HOUSTON

Deandre Baker                     CB                   Georgia

Houston’s defensive backfield underwent an extreme makeover in the past month. In Baker, the Texas get a confident young man with good size (5-11, 185 pounds), good speed and great ball skills. Baker went up against some of the top receivers in the SEC over the past few seasons and held his own. He’d slide right into one of the cornerback spots in Houston.

 

24 – OAKLAND (from Chicago)

Devin Bush                           LB                 Michigan

I could see the Raiders choosing to beef up their defense with at least two of their three first-round picks. Bush is only 235 pounds, but he can run sideline to sideline and showed as much with his 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the combine. A competitor who patrolled the field for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, he’d be an immediate upgrade to Oakland’s current LB situation.

 

25 – PHILADELPHIA

Josh Jacobs                          RB                     Alabama

Jacobs is viewed by most teams I have spoken with as the top running back in this year’s draft. He only ranked 144th in the nation in 2018 with 640 rushing yards. On the flip side, a limited college workload means he still has plenty of tread on his tires. The Eagles hit home runs across the board in free agency; they could nail this one if Jacobs slips all the way to 25.

 

26 – INDIANAPOLIS

Dexter Lawrence                   DT                     Clemson

GM Chris Ballard has had the golden touch over the past 12 months, nailing last year’s draft perhaps like no other GM in the league. Lawrence was one of the highest-ranked high school prospects in recent memory out of North Carolina, and he delivered at Clemson. He’s massive (350 pounds), talented and well-liked. Lawrence missed the team’s two postseason games this year because of a failed test for a performance-enhancing substance, but his coaches vouch for him and scream it from the mountaintops.

 

27 – OAKLAND (from Dallas)

Marquise Brown                  WR                Oklahoma

This is the pick the Raiders got in exchange for Amari Cooper. Brown missed the combine and Oklahoma’s pro day with a foot injury, but he’s viewed as a Tyreek Hill type of game-breaker. Possessing electric speed, great ball awareness and above-average hands, Brown — alongside his cousin, Antonio Brown, and new addition Tyrell Williams — would immediately make Oakland’s wide receiver room one of the more interesting in the league. I loved watching Brown in college. Kyler Murray swears by him. Jon Gruden scoops him up late in the first round.

 

28 – LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Jerry Tillery                         DT                  Notre Dame

Tillery could go as high as the top 15 or slip to the end of the second round. Eye of the beholder on this one. A 6-7 force who ran a 4.9 40-yard dash and was ultra-productive in his final season in South Bend, Tillery had eight sacks and also blocked two kicks last season. He’s shown big flashes and would be a great addition up front for Gus Bradley’s D.

 

29 – KANSAS CITY

Jaylon Ferguson                  Edge                     Louisiana Tech

The Chiefs’ defense should look significantly different with a new coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo) and no Eric Berry, Justin Houston or Dee Ford. Safety Tyrann Mathieu will be a sound addition, but I see the Chiefs being players in acquiring a few pass rushers (either via trade or the draft). Ferguson had 45 sacks at Louisiana Tech, including 17.5 last season.

 

30 – GREEN BAY (from New Orleans)

Riley Ridley                           WR                       Georgia

The Packers have added a lot on defense in free agency, but again, I look at the head-coaching hire and the desire to put as much around Aaron Rodgers as they possibly can. Ridley is a reliable receiver who, despite not putting up huge numbers at Georgia, runs precise routes and has fantastic hands. The younger brother of the Falcons’ Calvin Ridley, Riley could very well be a first-round pick, too.

 

31 – LOS ANGELES RAMS

Miles Sanders                       RB                        Penn State

Sanders isn’t getting the same pre-draft buzz as other running backs in this class, but his combine performance turned heads around the league. His pass-catching ability — SEE: the Indiana game, when he hauled in six catches for 54 yards — helps him. Los Angeles will look to add a complement (with the ability to catch passes out of the backfield) for Todd Gurley at some point in this draft.

 

32 – NEW ENGLAND

D’Andre Walker                     Edge                    Georgia

The Patriots’ defense put on a show in Super Bowl LIII, but New England will always keep adding to the depth chart. Walker burst onto the scene during his senior year in Athens, recording 7.5 sacks and flying all over the field in big games. Never underestimate Bill Belichick’s love of players who were coached by guys he respects. Kirby Smart is one of them. The Pats took a pair of first-rounders out of Georgia a year ago, and they’ll grab another in 2019.