The Daily Briefing Friday, April 13, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Todd Archer of ESPN.com on the choices facing the Cowboys vis a vis WR DEZ BRYANT:

 

At some point Friday, Dez Bryant is expected to meet with Jerry Jones at The Star with the future of the Dallas Cowboys’ all-time leader in touchdown receptions very much in question.

 

Since the offseason began, Bryant’s future with the Cowboys has been debated almost daily, and Friday could be the beginning of the end of his time with the only team for which he has wanted to play.

 

As Jones and Bryant get set for their meeting, what are the options?

 

Do nothing

Since executive vice president Stephen Jones said in January the Cowboys need to address Bryant’s contract, this does not seem like a realistic option. But it is possible. The Cowboys have added six players in free agency, placed the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and second-round tender on David Irving with Bryant costing $16.5 million against the cap.

 

According to ESPN Stats & Information estimate, the Cowboys have roughly $725,000 in salary-cap space. According to the NFL Players Association, they have $1.686 million. They will gain $3 million in room on June 1 when Orlando Scandrick’s release hits the books, but that is not enough to sign their draft picks and have room to keep practice squad players, deal with injury settlements and other unexpected expenditures that crop up during the year.

 

Pay cut

In recent years, the Cowboys have had starting right tackle Doug Free and cornerback Brandon Carr accept pay cuts to remain with the team. Bryant is set to make $12.5 million this year and count $16.5 million against the cap. That $16.5 million is the second-highest cap figure among receivers.

 

With the deals Sammy Watkins ($16 million per season), Allen Robinson ($14 million) and Donte Moncrief ($9.6 million) received, reaching the right number would give the Cowboys cap flexibility and make Bryant happy would seem difficult but not impossible.

 

The Cowboys could give Bryant the chance to earn back some of the money with incentives, but that might not be the smartest decision. Stephen Jones is on record saying Bryant’s sideline outbursts have been something of a distraction. Would those go away if he knows he needs a certain amount of catches, yards or touchdowns to earn a significant amount of money?

 

Also, Jerry Jones does not do the contracts for the team and so far Bryant’s agent has not been broached regarding a pay cut. While Jerry Jones and Bryant might be able to work on the larger aspect of a pay cut, the details of those discussions would not involve either.

 

Restructure/extend

The Cowboys are known to restructure contracts to create cap room each year. Some of the restructuring is by design (see Frederick, Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford).

 

While there is an immediate benefit (creating cap space for the current year) there is a downside (adding to cap figures in future years). Considering Bryant’s age and falling production, restructuring the contract is not applicable.

 

Extending Bryant would also seem unwise, considering the age and falling production, but it would allow the Cowboys to guarantee the receiver some money up front and keep him at more favorable salaries in future years should he return to the 2012-14 form.

 

Trade

A source said Bryant’s name has come up in trade discussions this offseason. Given the number of big names that have been dealt that should not be viewed as a surprise, especially given the Cowboys’ interest in signing Watkins as a free agent.

 

Bryant’s declining production and $12.5 million salary would make a deal difficult, but given the money thrown at receivers less decorated than Bryant maybe a team would be willing to part with a mid-to-late pick.

 

All the team acquiring Bryant would be on the hook for would be his 2018 base salary. They could simply walk away from his $12.5 million base salary due in 2019 after the season.

 

It is possible the Cowboys could allow Bryant and his agent the chance to seek a trade, but the chances seem remote.

 

Release

Jerry Jones has made difficult decisions like these before. He cut the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith. He cut the franchise leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware. He said goodbye to Hall of Fame guard Larry Allen. He cut Terrell Owens less than a year after signing the receiver to a big extension.

 

This would be a difficult decision for Jones because of his relationship with Bryant. He has been a father figure to him since the Cowboys took Bryant in the first round of the 2010 draft. He has scolded him when necessary about off-field issues. He has put an arm around him when needed as well.

 

If the Cowboys release Bryant, they can save either $8.5 million or $12.5 million against the cap. The Cowboys could choose to take the entire cap hit this season, saving them $8.5 million in 2018, or they could designate Bryant a post-June 1 cut and save $12.5 million. The only downside to that is Bryant would count $4 million against the cap in 2019.

 

Teams are allowed to designate two players as post-June 1 cuts before. Scandrick was the Cowboys’ first in March.

 

As soon as Friday, Bryant could be the second.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

The story yesterday that those at various NFL teams don’t think WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. is NOT currently on the trading block will not end the speculation about a new home for OBJ says Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Plenty of questions still linger regarding whether the Giants will trade receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Some think he’ll be traded. Some think we won’t be traded. (Some think both.)

 

Here’s what I think. (I think there’s a chance some of you may not care what I think.) Unless and until the Giants and Beckham reach an agreement on a long-term deal, a trade can still happen.

 

Beckham showed up this week for offseason workouts. The time is right to work something out. If it doesn’t happen before OTAs or training camp, Beckham could boycott. Even if he shows up for the start of the regular season, acrimony will linger until the Giants pay him, or until they trade him to a team who will.

 

Some may think that Beckham’s desire to be paid as the kind of character flaw for which he needs mentoring, under the not-so-subtle threat of being publicly called out if he resists. Others may think that Beckham deserves to get paid, and that he should do whatever he has to do to get paid. (Some may think both.)

 

Regardless, the Giants deliberately let the trade cat out of the bag. While they may now be trying to herd said cat in order to get Beckham focused on a potential long-term deal, until that long-term deal is done a trade necessarily remains on the table.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

If you liked the ownership style of the late Tom Benson, Gayle Benson says you will be just fine with how she operates the Saints.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

After the death of longtime Saints owner Tom Benson, his widow is promising to continue running the team the way he did.

 

“As is standard NFL practice, my husband provided a report to the Commissioner summarizing the Ownership Succession Plan of the New Orleans Saints,” Benson wrote in a letter to her fellow owners, which was passed along to PFT. “For clarity, my husband’s plan and desire was for me to have full voting control of the Saints and to serve as Controlling Owner of the team per NFL rules. I understood this and want to reassure you that I am fully prepared to assume this role. Moving forward, I too, will provide the Commissioner my very own Ownership Succession Plan of the New Orleans Saints. Please rest assured, I will own and operate this franchise until my death and do so with the same drive and focus towards success that my husband displayed throughout his life.”

 

Gayle Benson says the Saints are in good shape financially and expect to continue to thrive in the Superdome, which they have sold out for every game since the team returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

 

The Benson family went through some turmoil when Tom Benson changed his will keep his daughter and grandchildren from a previous marriage from taking over the team. But Gayle Benson says that turmoil is in the past, and she’s confident that the Saints are well-positioned for the future.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

LB RUEBEN FOSTER is facing a series of serious felony charges in Santa Clara County.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster has been charged with felony domestic violence, prosecutors announced today.

 

“Foster, 24, physically attacked the 28-year-old woman during a February argument at their Los Gatos home, leaving her bruised and with a ruptured ear drum,” the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office said in a statement.

 

Prosecutors charged Foster with one felony for that violent act, another felony for forcefully attempting to prevent the victim from reporting the crime, and a third felony for possessing an assault weapon. Foster is also charged with a misdemeanor for possessing a large capacity magazine. The charges could carry up to 11 years in prison.

 

The 49ers drafted Foster in the first round last year despite questions about character issues that had some teams reportedly taking him off their draft boards. Team owner Jed York was noncommittal last month about whether Foster has a future with the team. Foster will also be subject to league discipline, with the NFL conducting its own investigation that could find him in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy even if he is acquitted.

 

If the charges are true, the DB will be disappointed if he doesn’t do some significant jail or prison time.

 

Foster is still on the 49ers active roster, which with the social justice warriors having a hard time getting contracts, has some media folks upset.

 

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com on what could be next:

 

Reuben Foster‘s spot on the 49ers’ roster is “under great scrutiny,” but San Francisco cannot use the commissioner’s exempt list for the linebacker.

 

Jim Trotter of NFL Media reports that Foster will not become a candidate for the list until the league concludes its investigation of domestic violence allegations. That means Foster can attend the start of team workouts Monday.

 

It remains unclear whether he will show up.

 

The Santa Clara District Attorney charged Foster with felony domestic violence related to a February incident that left his girlfriend with a ruptured eardrum. His new teammate, Richard Sherman, appeared in court Thursday during Foster’s arraignment.

 

The 49ers were not surprised as Sherman told management after he signed that he was interested in taking Foster under his wing, per Trotter. Safety Jaquiski Tartt joined Sherman in the courtroom, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports.

 

 

SEATTLE

America’s national nightmare might have ended as the Seahawks, entrenched in liberal Seattle, seemed ready to sign the aggrieved Colin Kaepernick.  Then, things went south.

 

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com had the original leak:

 

After arranging for Colin Kaepernick to work out for the Seattle Seahawks this week, team officials postponed the trip when the quarterback declined to say he would stop kneeling during the national anthem next season, a league source told ESPN on Thursday.

 

Seattle still is considering bringing in Kaepernick for a tryout, and no decisions are final, a source said.

 

The Seahawks on Friday signed former Redskins QB Stephen Morris, according to a league source.

 

The Seahawks had contacted Kaepernick about two weeks ago to arrange a visit to the team’s headquarters, but after tentative arrangements were made and travel was planned, the trip was unexpectedly scuttled over the Seahawks’ last-minute stipulation regarding Kaepernick’s anthem stance, a source told ESPN.

 

The source said the Seahawks wanted to know that Kaepernick wouldn’t kneel this season, and he was unwilling to give that assurance to them.

 

The day after his scheduled workout with the Seahawks, Kaepernick sat for his deposition administered by NFL attorneys in New York regarding the league’s alleged attempts to conspire to keep him out of the league.

 

This comes at a time in which the Cincinnati Bengals visited with San Francisco 49ers free-agent safety Eric Reid, who knelt with Kaepernick during the anthem, and wanted assurances from Reid that he would not participate in on-field activism.

 

No NFL team has worked out Kaepernick, who once helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl, since he became a free agent after the 2016 season. The Seahawks visited with him a year ago and considered it again this week, and the Baltimore Ravens entertained the idea of bringing in Kaepernick last summer.

 

The Seahawks are still working through their backup quarterback situation and have not decided whom they want to bring in to work behind Russell Wilson. Kaepernick is expected to be one of the options, but other quarterbacks will be considered.

 

Then came pushback from the Seahawks, filled with “nuance”:

 

ESPN and PFT report that Colin Kaepernick‘s workout with the Seahawks was scrapped because the team asked Kaepernick to commit to ending his practice of kneeling during the anthem. NFL Network, owned and operated by the NFL and its 32 teams, understandably is pushing a different version of the events.

 

Says Ian Rapoport of NFL Network: “The Seahawks did postpone a tentatively scheduled workout with Colin Kaepernick, as Adam Schefter reported. It was not because he said he declined to stop kneeling, tho. The team asked for his plan moving forward on how to handle everything and there was not a firm plan. . . . Seahawks brass, John Schneider and Pete Carroll, want Colin Kaepernick to consider how he wants to proceed on everything (not just anthem) and get together at a later date when his plans are formed. Clearly, Seattle has accepted players speaking out for what they believe.”

 

It’s a stark contrast to the ESPN/PFT reporting, and the fact that it’s coming from a media company owned and operated by the league raises obvious questions. That said, the team may be trying to use the potential employment of Kaepernick as a way to set the stage for a global resolution of the issue, including but not limited to a settlement of his collusion grievance.

 

Not long after the grievance was filed, attorney Mark Geragos suggested that he’d go away if a team gave Kaepernick a job. Now that the case is being built (and potentially beginning to take a shape that suggests trouble for the league), the olive branch from the Seahawks may have been part of an effort to take Geragos up on his offer, belatedly, with Kaepernick, the Seahawks, and the NFL having a clear understanding as to all issues between them before Kaepernick signs.

 

If that was the intended message, it apparently backfired. Maybe Kaepernick, looking for a way to bolster his case, heard what he wanted to hear. Maybe the Seahawks, realizing that they’d potentially stepped in it, have tried to make a bad move seem better.

 

Whatever the actual truth, the pending collusion grievance has sprouted another branch that will require full exploration by both sets of lawyers before a final decision can be reached.

 

Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the state of things on Friday morning:

 

The dueling reports regarding the reasons for the cancellation of the Colin Kaepernick workout in Seattle set the stage for a good, old-fashioned pissing match. From Kaepernick’s perspective (as reported by ESPN, Yahoo Sports, and PFT), the Seahawks canceled the workout because Kaepernick declined to commit that he wouldn’t kneel during the anthem. From the team’s perspective (as reported by the media outlet owned and operated by the Seahawks and the other 31 NFL teams), the Seahawks opted to delay the workout because they wanted to know more about Kaepernick’s broader plan regarding the situation.

 

Clearly, the dispute regarding the facts of the interactions between the Seahawks and Kaepernick will become an issue in his collusion grievance, which already was due to include depositions of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Seahawks G.M. John Schneider. If those interactions happened verbally, the truth will be resolved by an assessment of the accuracy and overall credibility of the witnesses. If those interactions happened via email or text message, it may be a lot easier to decide who’s telling the truth, and who isn’t.

 

Meanwhile, a tweet posted by Ian Rapoport of NFL Media following his first two Twitter entries confirms that the “plan” about which the Seahawks are curious includes Kaepernick’s “lawsuit” — more specifically, his collusion grievance. Quite possibly, the Seahawks and the NFL hope that an offer of employment will prompt Kaepernick to abandon his collusion claim, as part of a formal settlement. Although attorney Mark Geragos was willing to walk away from the collusion case in its early stages, it’s possible that he’ll react differently now that evidence to support the claim has been harvested.

 

This is a common dynamic in employment litigation. Early on, the business refuses to consider settlement, opting to fight, fight, and fight some more. Then, after realizing following a few rounds (and one or two standing-eight counts) that the fight may not end well, settlement suddenly becomes far more palatable.

 

For Kaepernick and Geragos, the question possibly becomes whether they’re willing at this point to let the league and its teams off the ropes, or whether they choose to punch them through.

 

Some thoughts from Larry Stone of the Seattle Times:

 

I have advocated for the Seahawks to bring in Kaepernick as the backup to Russell Wilson and continue to believe he would be perfect for the position. As I have stated before, I have no objections to players bringing light to issues of social injustice by kneeling, which I see as an expression of peaceful protest rather than an affront to patriotism.

 

Yet, here again, there is an obligation while evaluating this issue to see gray areas. For starters, I think teams have a right to assess the level of, for lack of a better word, distraction that would come attached to signing Kaepernick. This is an especially sensitive issue for the Seahawks, a franchise that celebrates individuality under coach Pete Carroll yet seems to believe the roiling issues surrounding their protesting last year was contributory to their first playoff-free season since 2011.

 

And I would say it’s also hard to blame owners for looking at a climate of declining TV ratings and waning popularity, and determining that the politicization of the players is at least partially responsible.

 

Many people have pointed out that the NBA, which embraces activism by its players and coaches to a much greater extent than the NFL does, is experiencing soaring ratings and popularity.

 

But it’s also important to note that the NBA requires its players to stand during the anthem. As the Washington Post wrote recently, “that has largely removed the catalytic issue of patriotism — and fans’ perceptions of it — from the conversation.”

 

The NFL may replicate that dictum next month at its league meetings, or it may choose to skirt the issue by requiring teams to stay in the locker room until the anthem is over. The league also might leave it to the discretion of the teams.

 

I believe Goodell, of all people, is heading down the right road by inviting players to voice their concerns in person. Yes, it might be tied to protecting the brand rather than genuine interest in the causes troubling NFL players — though I’d like to think it’s the latter. If Goodell can convince influential leaders in the so-called “Players Coalition” that the league is serious about investing in social-justice issues (and not just buying them off, as some have charged), perhaps the protests would fade out of their own volition, without a draconian edict from the owners.

 

That may well be a pipe dream, however. It’s already been well documented that some in the Players Coalition have had deep divisions amongst themselves about how best to proceed, particularly the issue of how much to involve Kaepernick.

 

My fear now is that Kaepernick’s original attempt at calling attention to oppression against black people and other people of color has been co-opted beyond repair. President Donald Trump pushed the matter inexorably in that direction when he declared last September, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of those NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out. He’s fired! Fired!’ ”

 

All of a sudden, any hopes of focusing the discussion on social justice was out the window, and it became just another skirmish on the increasingly toxic political battlefield.

 

At this point, I honestly think players might be better served by following the NBA model. Stand during the anthem, and more people might start listening to the important things you have to say.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

The NFL has denied an appeal by LB VONTAZE BURFICT for using PEDs and he will be suspended for the first four games of the season.

 

 

CLEVELAND

The Browns have given big money to former Dolphins WR JARVIS LANDRY.  Frank Schwab of Shutdown Corner:

 

Jarvis Landry will be a happy man in Cleveland.

 

Earlier this offseason the Cleveland Browns traded a fourth-round pick this year and a seventh-round pick next year to the Miami Dolphins for Landry, who was under the franchise tag. Landry was seeking a long-term deal, and on Thursday he got it.

 

Landry got a five-year, $75.5 million deal with $47 million guaranteed from the Browns, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. That makes Landry one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL.

 

Landry’s $15.1 million per year ranks him fifth among NFL receivers according to Spotrac. The only receivers getting paid more per year than Landry are Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. The first three are among the best receivers in the NFL, and Watkins was overpaid because he’s 24, talented and receivers like that rarely hit unrestricted free agency.

 

Landry now makes more per season than A.J. Green and Julio Jones, among others.

 

Is Landry worth it?

It’s all relative, but the answer is probably not. Landry is a polarizing player. He has 400 catches through four seasons, which is great, but averages just 10.1 yards per catch. He plays slot receiver, and generally that position can be stocked with lower-priced but still productive players. Landry had 112 catches last season but only 987 yards. His job isn’t like Jones or Green, who stretch the field and are threats to break big plays, and that hurts Landry’s numbers. Landry isn’t a major impact player, yet he is very good at his role. It’s hard to justify more than $15 million a season for a receiver who averaged 8.8 yards per catch last season and has 22 touchdowns in 64 games.

 

Why would the Browns pay so much?

Cleveland didn’t send two picks to Miami for a year of Landry. He’s 25 and is a productive player. The Browns, coming off one win over the past two seasons, don’t have the luxury of luring players at a discount because they want to come to Cleveland. The Browns need good young players to build around, have a ton of cap room, and it was worth the higher price tag to lock up Landry and keep him happy.

 

Every other receiver in the NFL just perked up

You don’t think A.J. Green, who is signed through 2019, will note Landry’s contract? Green is a far more productive and versatile receiver, and he can and will get more than Landry at some point soon. The Browns just reset the market, for slot receivers and everyone else. Teams around the league won’t be happy to see the numbers of Landry’s deal. It just raised the bar for everyone else.

 

And, of course, the one receiver who just saw his contract demands get even higher: New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, who happens to be Landry’s college teammate from LSU. Beckham is entering the final year of his contract.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

See NEW ENGLAND for T NATE SOLDER’s thoughts on his time with the Patriots.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

RB MARLON MACK is ready to take over in his second season.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Colts won’t have Frank Gore in the backfield this season and that means they are set to have a new No. 1 back for the first time since Gore joined the team in 2015.

 

Of the players currently on the roster, Marlon Mack would appear to be the one who will get the first shot at grabbing that title for the 2018 season. The 2017 fourth-round pick ran 93 times for 358 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie and said the spot left open with Gore out of the picture is one he’s going to do all he can to grab.

 

“I feel like, for me, it just motivates me to just go harder,” Mack said, via the Colts website. “Other guys in the room feel the exact same as me. Everybody wants to be the top dog, and so you’ve just got to (be motivated) and just be hungry and attack; attack, I’d say, just show your talents and do your best.”

 

The Colts have a handful of other options — Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson and Matt Jones — but the biggest competition for Mack could wind up coming from the draft. However the pecking order winds up working out, a strong ground game would be a big benefit to a Colts team that needs to avoid putting everything on the offensive side of the ball on Andrew Luck‘s surgically-repaired shoulder.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Just when we thought we had seen it all.  Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:

 

In April 2016, Kristan Ann Ware felt excited as she walked into an annual work review. As a Miami Dolphins cheerleader, Ware had to re-apply for her job every season, but as a performer entering her third year, she only looked forward to a new role and the chance, as a veteran, to give younger teammates guidance.

 

Ware soon realized her interview would not go as she expected. Shortly after it began, according to a complaint Ware filed Wednesday with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, one of her coaches tapped on a stack of papers and said, “Let’s talk about your virginity.”

 

By the time she left the office, Ware had been told by two coaches she could no longer discuss her personal vow to forego sex before marriage, and she had been photographed in a bikini while trying not to cry.

 

“It was like a bus hit me,” Ware said. “I was completely speechless. All that formed on my face were tears.”

 

Ware lasted one more season as a Dolphins cheerleader, a year she alleges brought her emotional and physical distress. Now, Ware is filing a complaint against the Dolphins and the NFL with a state labor board. In the complaint, Ware alleges she faced hostility and retaliation from Dolphins cheerleading coaches and was discriminated against on behalf of her gender and religion. She and her lawyer say the NFL could do more to protect cheerleaders, but instead has ignored them.

 

“The NFL and all NFL member clubs support fair employment practices,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws. Our office will work with our clubs in sharing best practices and employment-related processes that will support club cheerleading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace.

 

The Dolphins have not responded to a request to comment.

 

The legal action adds to the growing public disillusionment with workplace conditions among NFL cheerleaders. This week, the New York Times quoted several former cheerleaders, both with attribution and anonymously, who said they faced harassment as NFL cheerleaders, including a former Redskins cheerleader who said the team sold an appearance where cheerleaders showed up at a residence to do nothing but hang out with men drinking beer and watching football.

 

Last month, former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint claiming the Saints discriminated against her on the basis of gender when they fired her over an Instagram post and rumors she had been at the same party as a player. Sara Blackwell, the Florida lawyer representing Davis, is also representing Ware.

 

“If it wasn’t for Bailey speaking out, I would have never been able to find Sara,” Ware said. “If it wasn’t for God healing me and using my pain for his purpose, I would have never been courageous enough to tell my story. Right now is the perfect time to tell my story.”

 

It began during a bus trip in London in fall 2015, when the Dolphins were overseas to play the New York Jets. Several cheerleaders discussed which songs they listened to during sex — “girl talk,” is how Ware described it. When pressed for hers, Ware eventually explained she didn’t have one, because she intended to remain a virgin until marriage because of her religious beliefs.

 

Between the bus conversation and the April interview, coaches discovered this information. In the complaint, Ware alleges Dorie Grogan, the team director, questioned her about how the team had come to know. According to the complaint, as Ware explained that she shared the personal information only when asked, Grogan interrupted her and said, “As far as we are concerned, you have taken something that was once upon a time pure and beautiful and you’ve made it dirty.”

 

According to the complaint, Brooke Nix, the team choreographer, looked at Ware and said, “I think it is still beautiful, but you need to stop talking about it.”

 

According to the complaint, Grogan repeated that Ware could talk about her virginity in private, but never around the team, then added that Ware needed to become a woman.

 

As part of the interview, the complaint states, another coach told Ware to put on a bikini and heels — Ware later said the coaches wanted to see if she was “calendar ready.” Holding back tears, according to the complaint, she changed, came back into the room nearly naked and posed for photos.

 

“After being exposed, and having my virginity [cast] in a negative way, I felt so vulnerable,” Ware said in a phone interview. “It kind of crushed my spirit to change into a bikini after that comment was made. It took a piece of me.”

 

Before the meeting with coaches, Ware said, teammates had sometimes asked her why the hard-driving Grogan had treated her so nicely. Afterward, according to the complaint, Grogan’s behavior toward Ware grew aggressive. During a photo shoot in which Ware wore a bikini and clutched fruit, Grogan told her to play with the fruit “like they were balls” and to “make love to the camera.” Ware believed Grogan was mocking her.

 

During a run through for a fashion show, the complaint alleges, Ware wore a bathing suit in a manner Grogan didn’t like. Grogan yanked on the straps of the suit until red marks appeared on Ware’s skin, according to the complaint.

 

In the fall of 2016, Ware alerted a Dolphins’ human resources representative, the complaint states. While the representative was understanding, Ware said the abusive treatment from coaches continued.

 

“There is a sense of manipulation, where any time you raised a concern, it was like, ‘All we need is a pretty girl to wear the uniform. You’re completely replaceable, so if you have a problem with it, leave. One hundred other girls want your spot,’ ” Ware said. “I want to make a positive difference where these girls can have their dreams come true without compromising who they are. The silence needs to end. The intimidation needs to end.”

 

The complaint alleges Ware was discriminated on the basis of gender, arguing both cheerleaders and football players represent the Dolphins, but players were not reprimanded or censored when using religious language, and therefore male and female employees were held to different standards.

 

When Ware wrote a blog post for the Dolphins website, all mentions of her faith were removed except a general reference to God, according to the complaint. The Dolphins cheerleading team’s main Instagram account did not tag or promote her Instagram posts when she mentioned religion, according to the complaint. The complaint cites players expressing religious views on social media that were not stifled and that the Dolphins had a team chaplain as examples of how players were treated differently.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com with WR JORDAN MATTHEWS on why he signed with New England:

 

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews met the media on Thursday for the first time since signing with the Patriots as a free agent and said that he felt New England offered “the best opportunity for me to grow as a player” of any team that showed interest in signing him this offseason.

 

In order for Matthews to grow as a player, he’ll have to actually get on the field and neither the contract he signed nor the other receivers on hand offer much in the way of a guarantee that Matthews will even make the team out of camp this summer. Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt and Cordarrelle Patterson are also on hand at receiver, but Matthews sees the competition for spots as a positive.

 

“I think it’s the best thing ever,” Matthews said in comments distributed by the team. “I think that’s what’s really going to breed greatness in all of us. At the end of the day, if you don’t have that type of competition then that’s the easiest way that guys start saying, ‘OK, this guy’s a rookie. This guy’s young. This guy has no production.’ But I feel like we have a group of a lot of guys that are not just competitors, but they have had production in the league so they’ve proven it. So, it’s not just, ‘OK, this guy has potential.’ No, there’s a lot of production, so I think that’s one thing to really be excited about. But also, there are a lot of great guys. I’ve spent some time around Julian [Edelman], talking to him, so I can’t wait to meet the rest of them.”

 

Matthews was asked later if he’s most comfortable as a slot receiver and said he feels equally at home inside or outside. Showing that kind of versatility on the field would be a plus as he tries to carve out a niche in the Patriots offense.

– – –

Now in Houston, T NATE SOLDER looks back on his time with the Patriots.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The last year has featured a great deal of talk about the environment in New England, from the reports of friction between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, to Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson saying that the Patriots live in fear instead of having fun. Former Patriot Nate Solder has offered a more nuanced take.

 

Solder, who had spent his entire seven-year career in New England before signing with the Giants this year, wrote in the Players’ Tribune that the Patriots could be cold.

 

“It can be a tough environment,” Solder writes. “It’s very businesslike, and at times it can be cold. Everything in New England is predicated on performance. It’s a place where people sometimes treat you differently based on how you practiced that day or how you answered a question in a meeting. One day, you could walk around the facility feeling like a Pro Bowler — the next, like you’re about to get cut.”

 

But Solder also discusses how, in 2015, his son was diagnosed with cancer at just three months old. Solder said that Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels were incredibly supportive, always urging him to prioritize his role as father over his role as left tackle.

 

“[McDaniels] told me that if I ever needed to dip out of a meeting because the stress got to be too much, nobody would ask any questions. Coach Belichick told me the same,” Solder writes. “He said that if I ever needed to miss practice or a meeting, it was totally fine. ‘Whatever Hudson needs,’ he said. I don’t think I can even put into words how much I appreciated that — both what Bill said and how Josh handled everything. They treated me like a human being instead of a football player or a left tackle.”

 

Solder titled his piece, “Thank You, New England.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2018 DRAFT

Adam Rank of NFL.com is a Fantasy Football expert, but that doesn’t stop him from getting this Mock Draft posted:

 

The better part of my summer is spent helping people prepare for their fantasy drafts. And I’ll be pretty honest: I’m sort of great at it. I mean, I did convince a bunch of people to take Mike Evans last year … but that’s not my fault! Blame Dirk Koetter!

 

Anyhow, since I’m so amazing at draft consulting on the fantasy level, it only makes sense I should help real NFL teams with their draft prep. So, I give to you, my draft consultation for all 32 franchises. Well, except for the Chiefs, Texans and Rams — they don’t have first-round picks. But don’t worry: Those guys are good without me. Well, the Rams are. Call me, Chiefs.

 

1 – CLEVELAND

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Let’s be smart here. Browns, you need a quarterback. A statement that has been true since the days of Bernie Kosar. Take Darnold and redshirt him for a year, with Tyrod Taylor as your starter. I mean, you’ll start him when you go 1-4 (not Tyrod’s fault) and Hue Jackson is trying to save his job. He won’t. But your next coach (in the Sean McVay/Kyle Shanahan/Matt Nagy mold) will at least have something to work with.

 

2 – NY GIANTS

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

I won’t be mad at you for going quarterback. Or even Saquon Barkley. But that team subletting a room from your house — I know, it’s a partnership, but it doesn’t seem that way — needs a quarterback. Make them move up from three to two to get their guy. We call this move the Trubisky. Then draft the best O-lineman in the draft. I know, I know … Barkley, fool! But if you have Nate Solder and Nelson up front, then you can grab a running back in the second. A guy like Ronald Jones II. You’ll be happier.

 

3 – NY JETS

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Don’t let the Giants sucker you into moving up one spot. You’ll get a good quarterback no matter what. They are trying to bluff you. The Giants are so disrespectful to you. I heard them telling people that you were their tenant in the Meadowlands. Can you believe that? You’re partners! Don’t let them pull a fast one over on you. Stay put and take your quarterback, Josh Rosen. He’s this generation’s Jay Cutler. (Hey, I LOVED Jay Cutler, so back off.)

 

4 – CLEVELAND

Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

Barkley seems to make a lot of sense here. But here’s something crazy you might want to consider: being insanely good on defense. Because defense wins championships. I mean, it didn’t in the last two Super Bowls. But there was a time, not too long ago, when defense actually mattered. You put Chubb with Myles Garrett and you might just be competitive this season. Or at least you will be when Nick Saban is coaching your team next year.

 

5 – DENVER

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Quarterback makes sense. I know — you signed Case Keenum. That’s like going out for a steak dinner, but your friend convinces you to share a small plate of bacon-wrapped dates instead. Delicious, but you’re still going to be hungry. I would go with Barkley here. Not because I love those moments where Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah go bananas over a swerve pick. But this would be reminiscent of the Rams going for Todd Gurley back in 2015. And guess who that team’s quarterback was in 2015!! Oh, actually, it was primarily Nick Foles. Damn, this was almost perfect. But Keenum started five games for the Rams that season. So it kind of fits.

 

6 – BUFFALO

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

PROJECTED TRADE WITH COLTS. At the moment, the Colts hold this No. 6 pick. Andrew Luck still hasn’t picked up a football, which seems less than ideal. But don’t take a quarterback. And if Nelson, Chubb and Barkley are gone — as they are in this exercise — my advice would be to avoid going on tilt. Even though I would be freaking the freak out right now. But be cool. The Bills would love to trade up with you and take a quarterback. You need a lot of help, so you take Buffalo’s two first-rounders (Nos. 12 and 22) and let Brandon Beane …

 

… take Josh Allen. Not that you deserve him, Bills, after what you did to Tyrod! But Allen has the big arm. He’s mobile. And I know you don’t want to get into the trap of drafting the next Carson Wentz, but you really have no choice.

 

7 – TAMPA BAY

Derwin James, S, Florida State

Call the Dolphins and Cardinals to see if they want to deal for a quarterback. You know what, don’t be afraid to call the Jaguars, either. It’s doubtful, but do your due diligence. Unfortunately, at this point, your draft pick is like a ticket to Lollapalooza: Anybody interested already has their ticket, and you’re probably just going to have to eat it. You’d like a running back, and Barkley would have been great, but that’s a no-go. Take Derwin James. Just whatever you do, don’t take Tremaine Edmunds. Just don’t.

 

8 – CHICAGO

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

You take Edmunds. It’s really the missing piece. Dang, though. While sweeping the AFC North was a lot of fun last year, had you not done that, you would have had a top-three pick. And seeing how your QB of the future is already in place, you could’ve loaded up on draft currency by trading down. Let’s not even think about that, though. Edmunds gives you your own version of Anthony Barr. Yep, I went there. (And I should be given credit for not being all, The Bears trade Jordan Howard and No. 8 to the Broncos to take Barkley. You’re welcome.)

 

9 – SAN FRANCISCO

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Just ask Jimmy Garoppolo what he thinks and then do that. I mean, has that guy steered you wrong at all? You’re set offensively, so go with a cornerback like Ward. But don’t do the Joe Montana-Ronnie Lott comparisons. At least not yet.

 

10 – OAKLAND

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

I really want to make a joke here about 1998, and how the Raiders would just draft the fastest receiver on the board. Or take a fullback. But that’s a weak joke, and I’m not going to make it. Mostly because my editor talked me out of it. But if you follow the model of ’98, when Charles Woodson was drafted, the Raiders could go for Roquan Smith — a high school wideout with speed to get to the quarterback.

 

11 – MIAMI

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

All right, guys, you need a quarterback. Take your quarterback here. Oh, no — not that guy. No, you want Lamar Jackson. I mean, only if you want this year’s version of Deshaun Watson and you want to be all fun and make the playoffs and stuff. If not, go with that guy. But trust me: You go Lamar Jackson here. You know, the guy who passed for 9,000 yards in college — and also had more rushing yards than Barkley.

 

12 – INDIANAPOLIS

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

PROJECTED TRADE WITH BILLS. All right, Indy, now it’s time to make some picks! You need to do something flashy, because your fan base is probably a bit miffed right now with your quarterback situation. Grab Calvin Ridley. It’s not a flash pick for the sake of a flash pick. He’s a great player who will pair nicely with T.Y. Hilton. And if Andrew Luck throws a football again, even better.

 

13 – WASHINGTON

Vita Vea, DT, Washington

I would like to imagine the Redskins’ draft board is really just a white board with the name Calvin Ridley written on it. And after the Colts take him, you have a cutaway to the Redskins brass freaking out like that scene in “Boiler Room” where all the fake stock brokers are going loco. But don’t despair — you still have other issues. Grab Vea to improve that woeful run defense.

 

14 – GREEN BAY

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

You guys should just totally not draft. You’re good. Just take the weekend off. Fine. You’ll probably use this pick. And I know a corner would be appetizing. But you did that last year. Honestly — and this is coming from a Bears fan — you could use an upgrade at receiver. So take Moore, and he will be torching the Bears in no time. Damn it, I hate my job sometimes.

 

15 – ARIZONA

Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

You could go Baker Mayfield here. But what, you going to also make a move for Landry Jones and just have a Sooner quarterback stable? Brian Bosworth and Barry Switzer as honorary captains? Jim Ross as the new play-by-play voice? Stop it, you. Stick with Sam Bradford. Go with defense. Jackson is a great pick, and having viable corners is going to be paramount in this division.

 

16 – BALTIMORE

Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

You probably want to go receiver, but I’m afraid I’m going to have an intervention for you. Kind of like the gang from MacLaren’s would have in Ted and Marshall’s apartment. You don’t do great with receivers. And Joe Flacco doesn’t throw to them anyway. He does like his tight ends, though. You go with that athletic freak from Penn State. And really, if you can get any team to trade up here, you do that.

 

17 – LA CHARGERS

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

The Chargers have a lot of needs on the O-line and in the interior defense. But if Mayfield is going to just fall to you, then you have to make that pick. And think of this: Mayfield wore that “Karate Kid”-like headband to his pro day. In the movie the Karate Kid, Daniel, is a fan of the Chargers. I mean, you have to do it, right?

 

18 – SEATTLE

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

Dude, what happened here? The Legion of Boom used to front one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL. But now you’ve gone from rivals of the Justice League to the type of slapstick villains the Scooby-Doo gang would apprehend. When you pull away the mask of the current cornerback and it’s really just been the janitor all along! Take Fitzpatrick and try to regain some of swagger the Rams stole from you.

 

19 – DALLAS

Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

I love you the most when you make smart football moves. I was at Radio City Music Hall when everyone implored the Cowboys to take Johnny Manziel. Seriously, the roof was about to come off the place in anticipation. But they made the right football move and drafted Zack Martin. Calmer heads need to prevail again — avoid the receiver and instead go with a lineman. Grab Hernandez.

 

20 – DETROIT

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

How is it possible you guys haven’t had a good running back since Barry Sanders? And as much as I love the fact that you have Matthew Stafford throw more balls than Clayton Kershaw throws pitches in a given year (Did you know they are lifelong friends???), run the ball once in a while. You take Guice. I’m not telling you that he’s this year’s Leonard Fournette. I’m also not not telling you that.

 

21 – CINCINNATI

Billy Price, C, Ohio State

I don’t know, guys. Do you even want to be here today? Because I’m trying to figure out what you are trying to do. But you can never go wrong with rebuilding the offensive line. Price should be pretty good for you. I know, T.J. Johnson is serviceable, but you can move him around. And this isn’t just a pick-the-best-Ohio-State-guy type of thing. But it doesn’t hurt.

 

22 – INDIANAPOLIS

Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

PROJECTED TRADE WITH BILLS. Oh, you’re back again. We made a big move for you earlier in the draft when you selected Ridley. And I know you probably don’t want to just add two guys from a national championship team, but that’s what we’re going to do right here with Payne. He owns a pretty lofty spot on Daniel Jeremiah’s big board and now you’ve solved two huge needs. Send Saban a thank-you card.

 

23 – NEW ENGLAND

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

You want to trade this pick. You want to go defense if you keep it. And you’ve never quite hit on a wide receiver in the first round. I get that. But you’re going to want to go with Sutton here. He’s a younger version of Kenny Britt, and I feel like he would have been a bigger star in college with a better quarterback. Thankfully, that shouldn’t be a problem in New England.

 

24 – CAROLINA

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

You guys also need to go with a receiver. It’s a shame so many of them have come off the board already, but you’re in luck because Kirk is there for you. And to be honest, with Devin Funchess and Torrey Smith, you can slide the rook into the slot. I’m by no means writing off my guy Curtis Samuel, but at this point of Cam’s career, you need to surround the QB with as many weapons as possible.

 

25 – TENNESSEE

Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College

Oh shoot, I was actually going to suggest you go with Kirk, but I had to set up the Panthers. Besides, you can grab DJ Chark later. Here, I would want you to draft Landry. You’ve done a great job of improving the offense in recent years, so add another defensive stud. Because pass rushers are like donuts, in that you can’t have too many. I mean, it gets excessive at some point, but here, one more isn’t going to be to your detriment.

 

26 – ATLANTA

Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

The one thing I would recommend is a couples counselor for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, because there is no way Julio should have fewer than 15 touchdowns ever. EVER! But hey, the roster is loaded with talent, so I would recommend you take a chance on Taven Bryan. Not the complete package yet, but a high-upside guy who fits best in spots like this.

 

27 – NEW ORLEANS

Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

I know you wanted to move up in the draft for a quarterback, but that’s cool. Maybe the Chargers will cut loose another Hall of Fame quarterback in the future and you can fill that need then. For now, I would keep pace with the Falcons and add another defensive piece in Davenport. Move Sheldon Rankins to defensive tackle and now you’re cooking with gas.

 

28 – PITTSBURGH

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

I can’t believe I have to sit here and tell you guys not to draft Mason Rudolph. Have you seen Big XII teams play defense? Trick question. No Big XII team has played defense in the last decade. So, you need to do the things you normally do. Go after a highly productive college player who is going to start for you over the next 10 years. That pick is Leighton Vander Esch. Might seem like a reach, but he’ll be in the Pro Bowl by his third season.

 

29 – JACKSONVILLE

Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame

Ah, man — I would have totally had you guys take Lamar Jackson, but there was no way he was going to last to this spot. If not the Dolphins, I would have had the Cardinals or Chargers take him. Hey, I’m not the one who went out and advanced to the AFC Championship Game and should have been in the Super Bowl if Myles Jack … ah, I’m getting off track. You guys are there. It might be worth the risk to go for Mike Hughes, whom I expect to fall. But your best bet would be to grab McGlinchey to continue to build that offensive line.

 

30 – MINNESOTA

Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

You spent a lot of money on Kirk Cousins. Now you need to protect him, like getting that extended warranty. Sure, you don’t want to pay the extra money, but you sure do like the coverage if you need it. So you take a lineman to replace the retired Joe Berger. Snatch up Wynn right here. And honestly, if you want to make sure you’re protected, don’t be afraid to take another lineman in the second round. A third might be excessive, but I’m not going to stop you.

 

31 – TAMPA BAY

Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

PROJECTED TRADE WITH PATRIOTS. Fine, Pats, you can trade this pick. I might take a gamble on Hughes here, but I feel you, Mr. Belichick. You have to (wait for it) do your job. Flip this pick to Tampa Bay and …

 

… Hey, Bucs — it’s probably a good idea to jump back into this spot to grab the running back of your choosing. I’m going to suggest you go with Michel. I would have said Ronald Jones II, but Dirk Koetter made a face. Which is fine, if you don’t want the next Jamaal Charles. Michel is also going to be an excellent player.

 

32 – PHILADELPHIA

Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

You need to feel pretty good when your biggest need is to replace the backup tight end who just signed with the Bears. All right, you could probably go offensive line, but it would be so much more fun to take Hurst. And good news: He played baseball, so he’s probably able to throw the ball.