The Daily Briefing Monday, June 26, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
Andy Reid, Hall of Famer? Greg Bishop makes the case base on endurance and wins, not titles:
As noted by Pro Football Talk, Chiefs coach Andy Reid is currently tied for 11th on the all-time wins list, with 173. He needs 13 wins to pass Chuck Knox and move into the top 10. If Reid records an average of 11 victories in the next five years, he’d be fifth all-time, behind only Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Bill Belichick. I think that’s worthy of the Hall of Fame and a slam dunk nomination should Reid win a Super Bowl in K.C.
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TOM BRADY was hanging out in Asia last week. Jonathan Jones of SI.com wonders whether the NFL will ever play a game there:
Five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady usually gets what he wants. And this week, while on a promotional trip to China with Under Armour, the Patriots’ quarterback expressed his wish to play a game in the country before he retires.
But in reality, how close is the NFL to playing a game in China?
The league clearly wants to expand its brand, and Asia is the most logical next stop in doing so. And having the most successful franchise in recent history with the most successful quarterback ever playing there would be a dream, but this type of request isn’t nearly as easy as it may sound.
Teams would face the obvious challenges: a flight of more than half a day, finding a window of time to play and broadcast the game that works for both Chinese and American audiences, finding a week that would suit two teams’ regular-season schedule without risking a competitive disadvantage in the week before or weeks after.
“I think we’d have a desire, if possible, for [the teams] to be West Coast-based because that helps with both the time-zone differences and the travel,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international and events. “And then thirdly we’d like to look at teams that have a strong connection with the Asian community both within the U.S. and a strong business and trading relationship with Asia. Again, that would lead you to look more closely at the West Coast teams.”
This isn’t the first time the NFL has toyed with a game in China. In 2007 the league tried to hold a preseason game in China between the Patriots and Seahawks leading up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing. That game was postponed until ’09 and was eventually canceled as the league focused its efforts on more manageable regular-season games in London, where travel and time differences weren’t as severe.
A year ago, reports surfaced that the Rams would play their 2018 season-opener in China—against San Francisco, according to the Sports Business Journal. Waller did not provide an official update to those reports on Monday, but regardless, the obstacles the league is facing are still very real. (It should also be noted the Rams won’t begin playing at Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park until 2020, so an international game in 2019 would also still be in play for the Rams while they’re remain in their temporary home as part of a league resolution.)
If and when the NFL does play a regular-season game in China, it would likely take place at Beijing National Stadium. The Bird’s Nest was built for the 2008 Olympics and now seats 80,000.
Waller said NFL interest among the Chinese is “growing well, particularly in digital consumption,” but of course it’s nowhere close to being the kind of draw as it is in America. The NFL saw about 7.5 million unique viewers from China across multiple digital platforms for Super Bowl LI, compared to 16 million unique viewers for Game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals, Waller said. Meanwhile, in America, the five Finals games averaged about the same TV share any regular season Sunday Night Football game on NBC.
The NBA, and basketball as a sport, had its seeds planted in China long before the NFL and American football, a sport with its rules and various scoring opportunities that is objectively tougher for the uninitiated to grasp. The NBA played two preseason games in Beijing and Shanghai in 2004 with former No. 1 overall pick and China native Yao Ming leading the Houston Rockets. The Chinese national team has finished in the top-eight in three Olympics since 1996, and the 22-year-old Chinese Basketball Association boasts 20 teams that have some of Asia’s best players as well as former NBA All Stars.
“I think what you can take from the NBA is that they clearly have a long-term, thoughtful growth strategy and I believe we’ve followed the same path,” Waller said. “We’ve worked very hard to grow our penetration presence through digital, particularly through live-streaming and on-demand. I think we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get more of the sport played locally.”
A regular-season game in China could possibly be the spark the sport is yearning for from a country that makes up nearly one-fifth of the world’s population.
“…One day I hope that there are many games here and over the course of the year, because it’s such a great sport and because I love it so much,” Brady said while in Beijing. “To bring that here and to bring the discipline and to bring the incredible strategy involved, it’s just a great event and hopefully a lot of the Chinese people would enjoy it.”
There’s plenty of work to be done for just one game to be played on Chinese soil, let alone many over the course of a season. And Brady will need some good fortune if he wants to play in China before the end of his career. But the former sixth-round pick who just won his fifth Super Bowl has dealt with long odds before.
S TAVON WILSON is being sued in the aftermath of a domestic violence incident – and with a broken nose among the evidence, it could be serious. Justin Rogers in the Detroit News:
It’s been a less-than-ideal start to the Lions’ summer break.
Just days after the team announced defensive tackle Khyri Thornton has been suspended six games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, TMZ is reporting starting safety Tavon Wilson is being sued for an altercation with his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child.
The civil suit, stemming from a May 2016 incident, alleges that Wilson threw the woman to the ground and punched her in the face, breaking her nose.
There are some inconsistencies with the accustation. According to the police report, the alleged victim was the one arrested. And Wilson’s lawyer told TMZ there is video of the incident, which shows his client only witnessed the altercation.
The Lions issued a statement late Friday night, stating they were aware of the situation.
“We have spoken to Tavon and we have also notified the League office of this matter,” the statement said. “Due to the personal nature of this situation, we will have no additional comment at this time.”
The Vikings (and the DB, not that it matters) are buying into WR MICHAEL FLOYD’s defense that he violated the strict terms of his probation due to the secret alcohol in kambucha tea. Brian Murphy in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:
The Minnesota Vikings are covering Michael Floyd’s flank in his kombucha tea defense as the wide receiver prepares to face an Arizona judge Monday to explain how he violated house arrest by accidentally ingesting alcohol.
Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren wrote a letter to Floyd’s attorney, Robert Feinberg, who attached it to a defense motion urging Scottsdale City Judge Statia Hendrix to cancel the hearing and reinstate electronic monitoring for the last five days of Floyd’s 96-day home confinement.
Warren corroborates Floyd’s claim that he was unaware kombucha tea contained alcohol when he drank several bottles while watching movies late into the early morning of June 11 at the Minnesota house of Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, his former college roommate at Notre Dame.
The wideout later failed three self-administered Breathalyzer tests and was ordered by Hendrix to appear Monday and prove he did not violate probation from his February extreme DUI conviction — a violation that could land Floyd back in jail.
“I am writing to request Mr. Floyd not have his court mandated requirements negatively impacted since he did not know the kombucha he ingested contained alcohol,” Warren wrote in the June 21 letter, which was cc’d to Vikings president Mark Wilf, general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer.
Floyd said in a sworn affidavit the Vikings encourage their players to consume kombucha tea as a health drink, and that it is served “on tap” at Winter Park.
He also told Hendrix he failed to refrigerate a case of GT Synergy kombucha tea he bought at Whole Foods and brought to Rudolph’s house, which, according to a forensic pathologist Floyd hired to defend him, elevated his blood-alcohol levels.
In his letter, Warren explained how kombucha tea is “utilized by many professional athletes as a probiotic and is available at our facility on a daily basis.”
He also referenced a 2015 warning regulators with the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issued to beverage producers whose kombucha tea contained too much alcohol, threatening federal fines if they did not reformulate their drinks.
“In closing, since Michael has joined our team, he has displayed a strong work ethic, a compliant attitude and professionalism,” Warren wrote in support of Floyd.
Floyd, a St. Paul native and Cretin-Derham Hall graduate, served a 24-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to extreme DUI in Scottsdale. His blood-alcohol level was .217 on Dec. 11 when police arrested him after finding Floyd asleep at a traffic light behind the wheel of his running vehicle.
The Arizona Cardinals released him days later. Floyd finished the season with New England but was inactive for the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI victory over Atlanta.
The Vikings signed Floyd May 10 to one-year, $1.5 million contract that could be worth as much as $6 million with incentives. His house arrest started in March and was scheduled to end June 17 until he was flagged five days earlier at Rudolph’s.
Floyd said in his affidavit that between 1:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. he drank “four or five bottles” of kombucha tea while watching movies.
“After falling asleep, I awoke to the beeping of the home-monitoring machine, signaling that I must complete a test,” Floyd said. “I had several sips of kombucha right after waking up, just before blowing into the home-monitoring testing machine. I had not eaten anything since noon on June 10.
“I received a call on June 12 from an administrator at Sentinel Advantage, informing me of the results of the three tests from the morning of June 11 and informing me that I missed a fourth test. Until I was contacted by the administrator at Sentinel Advantage about the report related to the morning of June 11, I had no knowledge that kombucha contained alcohol, or that some types of kombucha have a higher alcohol content than others.”
At 5:30 a.m. June 11, Floyd’s blood-alcohol content was .055, according to court documents. He was tested again at 5:54 a.m. and it was down to .045. At 6:23 a.m. his blood-alcohol content was .044. Floyd went back to sleep and missed a fourth test scheduled for 6:33 a.m.
Gossip web site TMZ reported June 16 that Floyd’s alcohol-monitoring system flagged five random tests for “high-alcohol” content, which Floyd denied.
“Totally false,” he told the Pioneer Press that day. “The whole thing is false. You can’t believe everything TMZ says.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. According to an article on Mayo’s website: “There isn’t good evidence that kombucha tea delivers on its health claims.”
To bolster his defense, Floyd hired Thomas L. Bennett, a doctor of forensic medicine and pathology in Sheridan, Wy.
Bennett reviewed Floyd’s Breathalyzer tests and interviewed the Vikings wide receiver Tuesday over the telephone, concluding in an eight-page report to Judge Hendrix that Floyd’s non-compliance tests were caused by fermented kombucha tea.
“To a reasonable degree of medical and scientific certainty,” Bennett wrote that Floyd’s breath alcohol levels of .044-.055 percent “are achievable and consistent with ingesting kombucha, in the circumstances and time frames as Michael Floyd described.
“This living and dynamic beverage, kept at room temperature, will continue to change during storage. Alcohol is a natural and expected component of this process.”
Feinberg, the defense attorney, asked Hendrix to consider Bennett’s report and Floyd’s affidavit, dismiss Monday’s hearing and order his client to finish his house arrest. Otherwise, Floyd is prepared to explain what happened and convince Hendrix not to revoke his bond and order him back to jail.
“Common sense alone dictates that Mr. Floyd would not jeopardize all of his hard work with only five days of home monitoring remaining,” Feinberg wrote in his motion. “Mr. Floyd simply would not have ingested kombucha had he known that it contained alcohol and doing so would violate his home-monitoring terms.
“The circumstantial evidence alone provides a clear window into what happened here: a simple mistake was made by a well-meaning young man in a fiercely competitive sport, who was drinking a health drink recommended by his team, the Minnesota Vikings, and who had no idea the drink contained alcohol.”
TE GREG OLSEN thinks he deserves a raise. Greg Bishop of TheMMQB.com thinks he’s right, but he may not have the leverage to get it done:
“Business should reflect productivity.”
—Panthers tight end Greg Olsen to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The two were discussing Olsen’s contract, worth $6.5 million in base salary in both 2017 and ’18, and how he wants a new one. He’s clearly among the best tight ends in football. He hasn’t missed a game since before President Obama took office. He’s right, too, but right here doesn’t equal likely or even possible.
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Jackson Cowart in the Charlotte Observer finds QB CAM NEWTON thinking hard about winning a Super Bowl:
For Cam Newton, football and success were the only options.
At his fifth annual 7-on-7 football tournament at Providence Day School on Saturday, the Carolina Panthers quarterback addressed 20 high school teams from North and South Carolina with a brief but pointed message: only those who constantly perfect themselves get what they deserve.
Of course, nobody is flawless – not even Newton. But the former No. 1 pick preached perfection, in the tournament and beyond. He compared little things on the field, like snapping the ball and catching a pass, to basic chores in the home. Only when commitment is universal, he said, will success follow.
Then, he put the pressure on himself.
“I’m looking at my life right now and I’m saying, ‘I’m missing one thing: I want a Super Bowl,’” Newton said. “Yeah, but it’s really certain things that you have to really fine-tune and say, ‘Am I deserving to be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? How can I push myself to be a better me?’”
Only a handful of the 400 players in the stands have prospects at the next level, let alone a Super Bowl in their sights. For many, football is a hobby. But Newton said there was no contingency plan in his life – it was football or bust.
“The only way I put myself in this situation to be successful was I didn’t have no plan B …” Newton said. “I told myself, at the end of the day, I’m gonna be a football player and a football player only.
“And a lot of guys get it misconstrued because you’re setting yourself up for failure; that’s what some people think. But in myself I was thinking, ‘I ain’t got no other alternative. Either I’m gonna dominate this man in front of me or not.’”
Top prospect is awestruck
Dax Hollifield, a four-star linebacker at Shelby High School, speaks with teammates on the sideline during the Cam Newton Foundation’s annual 7-on-7 football tournament on Saturday at Providence Day School.
Alex Kormann email@example.com
It’s a message that resonated with Dax Hollifield, a four-star linebacker from Shelby. Hollifield grew up a Panthers fan – he said he went to games every weekend – and he said he’s been to Newton’s 7-on-7 tournament each of the past four years. This time, he’s the top-rated prospect in attendance.
But he’s no Cam Newton, at least not yet. And even at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, Hollifield is still awestruck by the 6-foot-5 Carolina quarterback.
“That man’s the biggest person I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “I go everywhere and he’s still the biggest freak I’ve ever seen.”
Greg Bishop of TheMMQB.com on the good works done in Haiti by LB CLIFF AVRIL (RB MARSHAWN LYNCH makes a cameo appearance):
Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril saw the damage Hurricane Matthew did to Haiti last October and pledged to build a house there for every sack he registered last season. Then he made the Pro Bowl, after registering 11.5 sacks. Then he built 12 homes.
Avril’s parents grew up in Haiti and came to the United States in the 1980s. He used to visit relatives there most summers during his childhood, but stopped visiting once he started playing college football. Then he saw his former teammate, running back Marshawn Lynch, doing charity work in Haiti, and so Avril went back, helping how he could, along with Lynch, Michael Bennett and others. (Quick aside: Avril agrees with my assessment that all roads in the NFL lead back to Lynch. He’s like the football version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Avril said.)
To build the homes, Avril partnered with the charitable organization New Story, and they used Haitian workers and local materials in their efforts, helping to boost the local economy. When Avril visited the completed residences this spring, the occupants cried and prayed. He also saw their old homes, with dirt floors that turned muddy when it rained.
As for the Seahawks, Avril notes that the defense returns with its core intact, now that safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are back to full health after both suffered injuries in the past two seasons. “I feel like we’re getting back to who we are,” he said.
Avril plans to continue with his pledge this season.
The Broncos are facing another season in a stadium named after a company that no longer exists. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Denver Broncos continue to play in a stadium that may as well be known as Vandelay Industries Park. And there’s no indication that this odd dynamic will be ending any time soon.
As noted by 9news.com in Denver, the high-priced latex salesmen from WME-IMG have yet to find a suitable buyer for the rights to “Sports Authority Field,” named for a company that went bankrupt in 2016.
“We continue to work closely with WME-IMG and have had several productive discussions with potential partners,” Broncos spokesman Patrick Smyth told 9news.com. “We’re focused more on finding the right, long-term naming rights partner than meeting any deadline for this process, which is extensive.”
The Broncos assumed full responsibility for the naming-rights deal last August, deciding to keep the name in place — presumably to avoid any negative P.R. that would flow from reverting to a non-corporate moniker and then jamming a new one back in to the official title of the facility.
Regardless, nearly a year after the Broncos decided to continue to keep the name of a non-existent company on their stadium, there’s no indication that a real name will be replacing it any time soon.
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Mike Klis of KUSA-TV hears that QB PAXTON LYNCH is making his move.
The quarterback competition is just starting to heat up in Denver.
Entering the Broncos’ offseason program it seemed like Trevor Siemian might have the “upper hand” but Paxton Lynch is making a push for the starting quarterback job.
Mike Klis of KUSA-TV reports that something happened to the 2016 first-round draft pick in the final two weeks.
“His switch was flipped. He started to get it,” Klis wrote for 9news.com. “He started to play as if he was doing just that – playing. Playing and not thinking about his protections and hot reads and coverages and delivering the ball on time.”
Lynch agreed that he was finally starting to make some progress.
“Yeah, I mean the more reps I’m getting with these guys, the more I get to go against the defense and see the looks live compared to just on paper, it’s helping me a lot,” Lynch told Klis. “I think each practice I’ve progressively got better.
“I think it’s made me and Trevor both better players going through it. Also, I think it’s made the offense even better as well. Us competing, making us play better, making the guys around us play better.”
Veterans report to training camp on July 26. If Lynch can continue to make great strides coach Vance Joseph will have to face a difficult task, hopefully before the start of the season. It’s a decision Lynch isn’t sure how it will go down.
“I guess it’s up to the coaches to decide,” Lynch said. “They get paid that kind of money to make those decisions. All I can do is go out there and play, get better every day and then whatever happens after that will happen.”
Whispers abound about why the Chiefs canned GM John Dorsey. He may have been a good scout, but he wasn’t good with the office and management part of the job. Terez Paylor in the Kansas City Star gets the anonymous leaks:
The Chiefs have compiled a 43-21 record the last four years thanks to the work of coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey, all while publicly and privately painting a picture of internal harmony and teamwork.
They managed to stay unified and on message even during tough times, like the NFL’s tampering investigation into the free-agent signing of Jeremy Maclin that led to fines and the forfeiture of draft picks.
But behind the scenes, the Chiefs’ front office did not always run smoothly under Dorsey. Team chairman Clark Hunt’s decision to fire Dorsey was fueled, in part, by concerns about his internal communication and management styles, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation who spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity.
As one of the sources said while describing how Dorsey had removed two front-office executives without much explanation: “John does stuff and doesn’t tell people why.” Another source said Dorsey’s management style “could wear on people.”
A message left with Dorsey seeking comment for this story was not immediately returned.
Dorsey’s firing was announced Thursday, the same day Reid received a contract extension. Both men had a year left on their contracts and report separately, but directly to Hunt. That structure will remain when a new GM is hired.
While sources have consistently maintained that Reid and Dorsey worked well together — “You never got the impression they were sparring,” one source told The Star — the two also had different approaches to their jobs.
While Reid has a reputation for being structured and process-oriented, Dorsey was described by those who know both men as looser.
“He goes with the flow,” one source said of Dorsey.
That style didn’t always mesh in situations outside of Dorsey’s undeniable strengths, picking and evaluating players. The other areas Dorsey oversaw were contracts and salary cap management — and the Chiefs have been in cap trouble for a while — in addition to the general, day-to-day management of the team.
“He’s not a big disciplinarian or big on chain of command,” a source said, “so people did what they wanted.”
“It’s more about his management skills,” another source added.
For instance, the typically stable Chiefs also made waves this offseason when Dorsey released director of football administration Trip MacCracken and director of pro scouting Will Lewis. Each man had been with the team for at least four years, and not only were their dismissals surprising, there weren’t many answers to be found, even inside the organization.
“Those decisions were totally John’s,” a source said. “That’s the kind of stuff he does.”
Sources also critiqued Dorsey’s management style, noting that while he was often friendly and jovial, the same tongue-in-cheek manner he used to win over most people over eventually wore on others.
“It could rub people the wrong way at times,” a source said.
Dorsey still has fans inside the Chiefs organization. They cited his passion for the game, constant availability and eye for talent as respected strengths.
“Loved working for him,” one source said. “Great dude.”
“He was always great to us …,” another source added, “You hate to see something like this happen.”
Dorsey also has a number of supporters across the league, as an overwhelming amount of league sources who dealt with him on a regular basis — approaching a dozen — told The Star.
“He was always a guy that would listen, was a pro, good to work with,” one league source said.
“One of my favorite people in 20 years in the business,” another source said. “Honest and straightforward. Man of conviction. Was shocked and sad to see the news.”
Multiple sources also called Dorsey a friend on a personal level, noting that it was not unusual for him to call just to say “hello,” even when on vacation.
“A consummate pro’s pro in negotiations,” one league source said. “Always up front and straight, and a super talent and football evaluator.”
Other league sources agreed with that notion, adding that Dorsey’s standing as an evaluator of talent remains peerless.
“He is a dyed-in-the-wool scout, loves the element of watching college players, loves breaking down film,” said Andrew Brandt, who spent 10 years as a Green Bay Packers vice president alongside Dorsey and writes for TheMMQB.com. “That always seemed like that’s what he was most happy, and most comfortable, doing.”
It’s a trait that, communication and management issues aside, many league sources believe will be difficult for the Chiefs to replace, especially on the heels of the club losing Dorsey’s talented and respected right-hand man Chris Ballard to Indianapolis five months ago. Ballard is now the Colts’ GM.
“I loved him,” one league source said of Dorsey. “Blunt, honest and a great talent evaluator. Losing him and Ballard in one offseason is insane.”
Brandt said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs prioritized talent evaluation, along with leadership and communication, with their next hire. The Chiefs are already over the projected 2018 salary cap, but there’s a widely-held belief around the league that whatever cap issues they have can be rectified in a year or two.
“We have this traditional version of an NFL GM coming from a scouting background, like John — and that’s the most popular GM model,” Brandt said. “Then there are a few coming from more of my background, which is from the financial side, about business and cap contracts. The third model is one Andy had in Philly, which is coach/GM.
“To me, the real underappreciated trait you want from a GM is leadership and communication, because the GM will be coming from one of those backgrounds and will need to communicate seamlessly with what he’s not an expert at. Teams sometimes rush to sign an expert in one area while maybe not taking into account the necessity for communication in other areas.”
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who should have good communication skills as he has earned his living communicating, has been said to be lined up for Dorsey’s slot. But if so, he’s claiming not to have knowledge.
This from Paylor:
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick tweeted Sunday that the Chiefs have not contacted him about the now-vacant GM job, shooting down a report from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Riddick, 48, has spent the last four years as a football analyst at ESPN, but he has a history with Chiefs coach Andy Reid, which would not have come as a surprise. He spent five years in Philadelphia’s front office alongside Reid, starting out as a scout in 2008 before being promoted to the director of pro personnel in 2010, a position he held until 2013.
Riddick was also a candidate for the San Francisco 49ers’ general manager opening this offseason, which was eventually filled by John Lynch.
Riddick is a former safety who spent seven years in the league.
The DB wonders about former Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik. It may not matter, but Dominik’s first NFL job was with the Chiefs back in the 90s.
Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com with an update, including the name Brett Veach, an in-house candidate:
The Chiefs have been turned down at least once, but they have one known candidate for their vacant General Manager job.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, they’ll interview internal candidate Brett Veach to replace fired G.M. John Dorsey.
Veach has background with coach Andy Reid, which can’t hurt since there’s at least the perception that Reid emerges from the recent upheaval with more power. Their structure has been to have a coach and a G.M. who each report to owner Clark Hunt.
Veach’s name came up in Buffalo, primarily because LeSean McCoy was pumping his candidacy.
But having him around could help the Chiefs navigate what has been a tumultuous time for a team with a good roster and what had been perceived as some stability, at least until this offseason.
Minnesota’s George Paton has turned down a chance to interview, and ESPN’s Louis Riddick disputed reports he was on the list.
He’s the highest paid player in the NFL, but QB DEREK CARR thinks he left some money on the table to help the Raiders. Conor Orr at NFL.com:
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said he doesn’t care that his $25 million per year deal will be quickly surpassed by a handful of NFL quarterbacks with expiring contracts looking to top the market.
His main concerns? Take care of his team and his family. Both of those are now complete.
Carr confirmed on Friday during a post-signing press conference that his deal was structured in order to help the Raiders ink other superstars. Khalil Mack, quite possibly the best defensive player in the league, will most likely be next along with guard Gabe Jackson. Mack is entering the final year of his rookie deal with a fifth-year option season coming in 2018. Mack will undoubtedly top the market for all defensive players, with Von Miller’s six-year, $114.5 million deal ($19,083,333 per year with $70 million in practical guarantees) serving as a baseline. Jackson, a former third-round pick, is entering the final year of his deal.
“We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization,” Carr said. “That was really important to me. Not to just take every single dime that we could. I hope that that’s known. Obviously, the position that I play, it has to be around a certain number. It just is what it is. At the same time, I told (my agent), if we can structure it in a way to help the Raiders get the other guys, give them an opportunity to come in, that that would be really important to me too.”
Asked practically how that will work, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was vague.
“The bottom line is, we’re able to move forward to keep all the players we need to keep in the correct timing. This affords us to do that. We’ll start on that ASAP.”
As NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted, Carr’s contract was backloaded, which could end up working out for both the Raiders and Carr. In the near future, Mack can get paid and down the line, Carr can have a larger portion of his money while the team is in Nevada — a state with no state-level tax.
Carr can now go back to work knowing that there are no lingering issues heading into training camp. As Rapoport noted, Matthew Stafford could sign his new deal before the season starts. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins could also begin navigating those waters.
For Carr, it will all be background noise.
“I don’t care if they all do, we got our contract done, that’s all that matters to me,” Carr said. “The only thing that was important to me — we weren’t going to worry about what other people were doing or have done. I just wanted to get mine done and, like we talked about, make sure the team had the flexibility to make sure my friends stay around.”
Greg Bishop of TheMMQB.com with more thoughts on the Carr deal:
Raiders signal caller Derek Carr signed a five-year extension last week good for $125,025,000 over five seasons. The $25 million average makes him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. I agree with The MMQB’s Albert Breer that the contract is more evolutionary than revolutionary, because it’s only slightly higher than the average salaries of Andrew Luck (Colts, $24.6 million), Carson Palmer (Cardinals, $24.4 million), Brees (Saints, $24.3 million) and Kirk Cousins (Redskins, $23.9 million). In a year when the salary cap increased by 7 percent, Carr’s deal, while life changing, is closer to what should have been expected than anything transformative.
That said, no one should be more excited about the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020 than Carr. He’ll play out the final three years of this deal in Nevada, a state that does not tax income. I reached out to Stephen Kidder of Hemeney & Barnes in Boston, because he has a deep background in sports tax law. He said that California taxes will cost Carr about $3,286,000 in income while the Raiders are in Oakland. That means he’ll pocket almost $10 million more in Nevada than he would have if the Raiders had stayed put.
Some other points of note. The top 12 highest paid quarterbacks in terms of average salary are Carr, Luck, Palmer, Brees, Cousins, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. (At $20.5 million per season, Brady’s deal ranks among the best bargains in sports.) This list confirms what’s obvious: that if you have a franchise quarterback, you don’t quibble on dollars, you pay. The only franchise-caliber QB who’s not on that list if Matthew Stafford, and he’ll be there soon enough. The rest of the NFL teams are looking for their next franchise signal caller, rather than paying one.
The DB likes fourth-round rookie QB JOSHUA DOBBS. And here’s an update from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs used to hear a lot about receiver Antonio Brown. Now Dobbs understands why.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones previously coached at Central Michigan, where Brown played college football. And Jones still points to Brown as an example of the kind of effort he’s looking for, to the point where some of his current players get sick of hearing about it.
“I heard a lot of talk about him from Coach Jones,” Dobbs said during a Sunday night visit to NewsChannel5 in Nashville, “and you almost got annoyed to the point of talking about his work ethic. But then when you get to camp and you see the attention that he puts into each and every rep, how hard he works, and then the amount of hours that he puts into his craft outside of the complex, you definitely see where the coaches were coming from and the point they were trying to make.”
And so the guy who made the most out of his free education in Tennessee (graduating with a degree in mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering) is already getting the most out of his paid education in Pittsburgh, where he quickly learned one other important lesson during the Stanley Cup Final: He ditched the Nashville Predators sweater for a Pittsburgh Penguins sweater.
“I am guilty,” Dobbs said.
If he hopes to win hearts and minds in Pittsburgh, he’s not being guilty. He’s just being smart.
Could it have been Peyton Manning at QB for the Dolphins in that playoff game at Pittsburgh, instead of MATT MOORE? Barry Jackson, longtime scribe of the Miami Herald:
Dolphins coach Adam Gase reached out to retired quarterback Peyton Manning in the immediate aftermath of Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury last December.
That’s according to Peyton’s father, Archie, who revealed that nugget in an interview with The New Orleans Times Picayune on Friday.
Archie Manning said Friday that he witnessed a text-message exchange between Peyton and Gase.
“He said, ‘Hey 18, [Ryan] Tannehill went down,’” Archie said. “[Gase] said, ‘I think he’s going to miss some time. The first question I’m going to get at the press conference in the morning is if I’m going to try to bring you to Miami. What do you want me to tell them?’”
That phrasing allowed Gase to gauge Manning’s interest in a comeback without asking in so many words.
Said Archie: “The text message came back from Peyton, ‘You tell them I could probably come play, but there’s no way I can miss carpool the next two weeks.’ So, he was done.”
Gase was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator during two seasons when Manning was the team’s quarterback. During the first of those two seasons (2013), the Broncos became the first team in history to score 600 points.
Manning, who turned 41 in March, guided the Broncos to a victory over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 in February 2015 but had his worst statistical season that year, with a 67.9 passer rating, nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 10 games. He retired a month later and kept a fairly low profile last season, eschewing broadcasting opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins signed journeyman T.J. Yates to back up Matt Moore after Tannehill’s injury. Moore led the Dolphins to a victory against Arizona after Tannehill was injured in that game, then went 2-1 as a starter to close the regular season, with the Dolphins clinching a playoff berth in week 16 against Buffalo, before losing in week 17 against New England.
Moore then went 29 for 36 for 289 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, in the Dolphins’ 30-12 playoff loss at Pittsburgh.
Manning and Gase have maintained a strong relationship. Manning visited Gase, and dined with the coach and Tannehill, in South Florida last spring, shortly after Gase landed the Dolphins’ coaching job.
NEW YORK JETS
Finally, some good news from the Jets. Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:
The offseason has not been filled with positive stories about the Jets, but there’s at least one exception to the overall tone around the team heading into the 2017 season.
Safety Jamal Adams was the team’s first-round pick in April and he was ticketed for the starting lineup even before Calvin Pryor was dealt to the Browns for linebacker Demario Davis. Coach Todd Bowles has called Adams “very instinctive” while mostly sticking to coachspeak about the rookie, but cornerback Morris Claiborne has been more effusive about what he’s seen from Adams in his first practices as a pro.
“The things he has done so far? He’s unbelievable,” Claiborne said, via NJ.com. “He’s been out here playing lights out. Picking up the defense, checking to different things, knowing what he wants to check to. He’s having fun doing it, too. His spirit is awesome. He’s having fun doing what he knows how to do, and that’s football. I can’t be more impressed with a young guy coming into the league, and, especially playing on that backend, doing the things he’s done so far.”
It will take more than hitting on one safety for the Jets’ rebuild to be a success, but every journey has to start somewhere. Adams making good on the hype he generated at LSU would be as good a departure point for the Jets as any.
THIS AND THAT
Justin Forsett, seemingly into retirement, is fronting an interesting start-up company – and Greg Bishop of TheMMQB.com gives him an ad:
Back inside the Cal the locker room in the mid-2000s, running back Justin Forsett and his teammates would lament how they often had to choose between showering and eating lunch. They would make jokes about needing to take a shower pill to continue with their day.
Then one of those teammates, Wale Forrester, became a firefighter and one day after a workout, he was called suddenly into work. He stopped by a sporting goods store and asked if they sold wipes for athletes after workouts. And the salesman said that the store did not but added that it would love to.
That’s when the ShowerPill Athletic Body Wipe was born. It’s an extra-thick disposable wipe that athletes can use when they don’t have time to shower. The product, launched commercially in 2014 but now consuming Forsett’s time post football, has been approved by the FDA and kills 99.9 percent of germs. Perhaps it can even help sportswriters.
As Forsett played for seven teams over nine seasons, he often brought the wipes into the locker room. The feedback was intense. In Seattle, even the team employees started using the wipes after yoga sessions or long flights. Forsett started the company with Forrester and Wendell Hunter, and they donated their product to residents of Flint, Mich., during the water crisis, along with homeless communities in Baton Rouge and the people of Haiti after Hurricane Matthew.
The product is backed by NFL stars from Ronnie Lott to Steve Smith and its brand ambassadors include Jared Goff, Golden Tate and Marshawn Lynch. (Everything comes back to Lynch, remember?)
Forsett recently purchased a home in Dallas, his first permanent residence since he started in the NFL in 2009. No NFL team has called him, and he said the running back market in particular is oversaturated, but he hasn’t entirely ruled out a return to the NFL. In fact, he’s playing in a flag football league this summer, staying in shape. Should he return to the NFL, he’ll have to take the ShowerPill back on the road. “We’re trying to be the Gatorade of hygiene,” Forsett said.
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Tim Tebow is now in High-A, back in his home state of Florida. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
The traditional stats might not seem to merit a promotion, but the Mets are seeing things in Tim Tebow to justify moving him up a level in their minor league system.
Despite hitting .220 for the low-A Columbia Fireflies, the Mets promoted him to high-A St. Lucie yesterday.
“His on-base, his isolated power, his swing, exit velocity. A lot of different things have been much better in the last 15 games or something like that,” Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said, via Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. “On the other hand, we recognize this is not a usual circumstance, but we just felt, everything involved, it was about the right time for him to move to high-A ball.”
Tebow has 23 RBI and three home runs, but he’s also second on the team with 14 doubles. He strikes out a lot (69 times in 214 at bats), and he’s also 29 years old.
“I think we’re pleased with the first half of the season. It’s not like he’s tearing up the league, but at the same time all the indications are positive in terms of various things we look at, chase rates, exit velocities and other things,” Alderson said. “The bottom line is the average isn’t there, but he’s improving. . . .
“There was a chance he would completely bomb in spring training, that didn’t happen. His performance there justified assignment to a full-season club. He went to Columbia. I wouldn’t say he’s excelled there, but I would say what he’s done there, given all the circumstances, justifies the promotion to St. Lucie.”
That’s just about the definition of damning with faint praise, but Tebow has continued to work on his second sport, and get high marks for his intangibles. That’s always been the case, regardless of sport.
THE NEXT BIG QB DEALS
Using DEREK CARR’s contract as a guideline, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com looks ahead to MATTHEW STAFFORD and beyond.
Derek Carr got his new contract from the Oakland Raiders last week — a sweet, $25-million-a-year job with $40 million in full guarantees at the time of signing. It’s the latest big quarterback deal to be handed out, but it surely won’t be the last.
Who will be next? Which quarterbacks will be looking for (and receiving) new contracts in the coming months and years? Let’s take a look at the next several guys in line for big quarterback deals and hereby present our best guess as to the order in which they will sign them.
1. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
With one year and $16.5 million left on his contract, Stafford and his agent have already had some talks with the Lions about an extension. There’s a strong likelihood it gets done before the 2017 season starts, as it would cost the Lions $26.4 million to franchise Stafford next year and more than $31 million the year after that. Having recently seen star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh price himself out of Detroit due to high franchise tag numbers, the Lions know the dangers of delaying this too long.
But Stafford, who has five years and 19,000 yards on Carr, will look to beat that $25 million average annual salary. Agent Tom Condon, whose big-money quarterback client list includes Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, will be paying close attention to the guaranteed money and the schedule for those guarantees paying out. Carr’s deal delays the guaranteed payments year to year after the first two seasons. Condon’s recent deals tend to make sure the first two and three years house the big money and big guarantees. And since Condon also has Matt Ryan, who’ll be due an extension this time next year, he’ll be interested in trying to elevate the ceiling here on a Stafford deal.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The Saints’ 38-year-old future Hall of Famer did an extension last year that voids after this season, which means he’d be a free agent at 39. Coming off his fifth 5,000-yard passing season (no one else in history has had more than one), Brees doesn’t appear to be slowing down. But he does appear content to go year-to-year on his contract at this point and to want to finish his career in New Orleans. It’s not a stretch to imagine he and the Saints do another one-year extension before this season starts.
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Just putting it here because it’s worth watching to see whether Brady gets any new money added to his deal this offseason. He signed a two-year, $41 million extension last offseason that included a $28 million signing bonus. Three years earlier, he did a deal that came with a $30 million signing bonus. So there’s precedent here. Brady’s current deal runs through 2019, and since he turns 40 in August it’s hard to imagine the Patriots adding years at this point. But with a base salary of just $1 million this year, Brady wouldn’t be nuts to expect another new-money “extension” that comes with a similarly sized ($25 million-$30 million) signing-bonus reward and reworks the remaining years on the deal. Should this get done soon, it could help set a framework for any new deal Brees might want to do with the Saints, now or next spring.
4. Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings
Bradford’s contract runs out after this season, as does that of fellow Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whose catastrophic training camp injury last summer is the reason Bradford is in Minnesota in the first place. Bradford, who set the single-season record for completion percentage in 2016, is making $18 million this year in salary and bonuses. His future in Minnesota is tied to Bridgewater’s: If the Vikings are encouraged by Bridgewater’s health this summer and fall, that will lessen their need to do a deal with Bradford that would head off his unrestricted free agency. If Bridgewater’s health and/or Bradford’s performance give the Vikings reason to believe the 29-year-old veteran is their better long-term option, this is another Condon client who could be in line for a nice extension sometime this calendar year.
5. Kirk Cousins, Washington
The team’s designated franchise player for the second year in a row, Cousins is fully guaranteed a $23,943,600 salary for this season and nothing thereafter. If Washington doesn’t sign Cousins to a long-term deal before July 17, franchise-tag rules say it cannot negotiate one with him until after the end of its 2017 season. Which means, if they don’t get an extension done in the next three weeks, Cousins could become an unrestricted free agent in March. It would cost Washington nearly $35 million to franchise Cousins again in 2018, and $28.8 million to use the transition tag on him. Cousins’ 2017 guarantee means he would need much more than Carr to sign by the July 17 deadline, and so far the team has been unwilling to offer him the kind of deal that would entice him away from the promises of unrestricted free agency with multiple teams bidding next spring. The bet here is that he hits the market and gets more than $30 million a year on his new deal, setting a new benchmark for quarterback salaries.
6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
If Cousins or Stafford or someone gets to free agency in March and blows through that $30 million-a-year barrier, the reigning league MVP would go into next summer with one year left on his contract and looking to do an extension with Atlanta that would elevate that ceiling even higher. Ryan is making $18.15 million in salary and bonuses this year and $21.65 million in 2018. A repeat of his 2016 performance would put him in a position to become the highest-paid player in the league at this time next year, regardless of the deals his peers do or don’t get in the meantime.
7. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags hold a $19.053 million option on Bortles for 2018, but that’s only guaranteed against injury right now. It doesn’t become fully guaranteed until the start of the 2018 league year. If the Jags decide to move on from Bortles before then, he’s not likely to get any kind of major extension. But if they decide he’s their guy for the long term (or even just for 2018), then he’s positioned for an extension sometime next summer or the one after that. And it’ll be worth watching even if he’s not elite. Bortles’ next deal could serve as a floor for contract expectations to come for mid-tier QBs who outperform him.
8. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Yeah, remember him? If you just ranked all the quarterbacks in the league based on quality, Rodgers would deserve to earn the most. But he signed a long-term extension in 2013 that runs through 2019, which means he’s probably two years away from being able to demand an extension. By that time, Rodgers’ $22 million average annual salary will look antiquated and silly. It’s possible Green Bay could look to do a deal sooner than the summer of 2019 if they need cap help or if they just want to do right by their superstar quarterback. But since Rodgers will be 36 at the end of his current contract, they might prefer to wait. And given what could happen to the top of the quarterback market in the next year or two, Rodgers might prefer to wait, as well.
9. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson’s deal runs through 2019, as well, which means he’d be looking at an extension two summers from now. Wilson will turn 31 during that 2019 season. He could be in line to score a longer extension than even Rodgers.
OTHERS TO WATCH
2019 Free Agents
Tyrod Taylor has two years to show the Buffalo Bills he’s a franchise quarterback, and if he does, he could be in line for a big deal heading into 2019.
Alex Smith could be out after this year with the Kansas City Chiefs, but if that’s the case, he likely isn’t getting another big deal. Smith’s best bet is to play lights-out for the next two years and hit free agency when it’s time for Patrick Mahomes II to take over in K.C.
2020 Free Agents
Dak Prescott’s deal runs through the 2019 season, and since he was not a first-round pick, the Dallas Cowboys don’t hold his fifth-year option. They’re not allowed to do an extension with him until after 2018. So assuming Prescott continues to play well, he’ll be talking extension with the Cowboys two summers from now, and it could be a doozy.
Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay were first-rounders in 2015, which means 2019 would be their fifth-year-option seasons and they’d be due for extensions either that summer or the summer of 2020. (Andrew Luck signed his extension before his option year.) What’s worth watching about the summer of 2020 is that, as of now, there would be only one year left on the CBA. Depending on the labor climate and the expectations for the new deal (assuming it’s not in place by then), 2020 free agents could be inclined to wait and risk the franchise tag.
The current contracts of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady all expire after 2019. While it’s not impossible to think one or more of them could get extensions in the meantime, those players will be 39, 38, 37 and 42, respectively, at the end of the 2019 season. There’s a strong chance each is already on the final deal of his career, and any extension these guys get at this point would be closer to what Brees is doing than what Carr, Stafford and Cousins are eyeing.
ACCEPTANCE IN THE NFL
Ryan O’Callaghan, now out of the closet after the end of his NFL career, says there won’t be a problem if the NFL has an openly-gay player in the near future. Greg Bishop in TheMMQB.com:
As O’Callaghan made the media rounds last week, several outlets asked him if he thinks the NFL is ready to accept a gay superstar. That’s the wrong question, Zeigler said. The league has already proven that it is. “We’re so addicted to thinking the NFL is homophobic and these athletes are all big, dumb jocks,” he said. “Sports have moved beyond that. I’m shocked we’re still asking the question.”
O’Callaghan agreed. “I can’t remember hearing a gay slur in the locker room,” he said, adding that “football players are more open-minded than people give them credit for. Teams are made up of so many different people from all walks of life. You become open to each other’s differences that way.”
There is a pretty good chance that somewhere in the NFL there is a situation like Michael Sam at Missouri. He wasn’t a proclaimed gay at the time, but everyone in the football program knew he was and accepted his lifestyle without comment.