The Daily Briefing Friday, March 17, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

Kalyn Kramer of TheMMQB.com tracked down U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman who ruled against the NFL and for TOM BRADY in the matter known as Deflategate, only to see his widely-praised opinion rejected by a 2-1 vote by a panel from the First Circuit Court of Appeals.  He actually is quite candid, including making it clear that the two judges that ruled for Roger Goodell did not convince him with their reasoning.

 

KAHLER: So, justice was served on the field, but do you think justice was served in the courtroom for Tom Brady?

 

BERMAN: No. I would decide the way I decided in the same way today. I mean, I couldn’t actually, because the court of appeals has now had a precedent, but take that away, and I would go the same way. I would not change a thing.

 

I’m very comfortable with the proceedings at the courthouse and with my written opinion. I immediately made public the sealed (secret) proceedings from the NFL arbitration. Each side got a full opportunity to make their case publicly, both orally and in writing. I concluded that the NFL arbitration process was fundamentally flawed—principally because of lack of notice of the alleged infraction and of a potential four-game suspension; inappropriate comparison of football deflation to use of steroids; failure to allow Brady’s counsel to question NFL general counsel [Jeff] Pash; and refusal to share with counsel the notes of witness interviews. The commissioner’s arbitration award was not entitled to “deference” by the courts also because he had a personal stake in the outcome of the appeal. That is, he had an incurable conflict of interest, evident partiality, and could not possibly be fair … he was reviewing the discipline which he himself had imposed. Under these circumstances, the commissioner’s appeal decision must be held to a much higher level of scrutiny by the courts.

 

KAHLER: How does it feel to be a footnote in NFL history?

 

BERMAN: It’s fun. I have had other big cases. When I first started, I had this fabulous wine case. Not a criminal case, but a civil case, having to do with importation of wine from out of state, which was illegal in New York State. I ruled that that law was unconstitutional. I immediately got reversed 3-0 by the Second Circuit, but then it went to the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit got reversed 5-4. That case is in the same league as Deflategate. On the two occasions that I have had cases go to the Supremes after being reversed, they have been reversed. The wine case and Brady’s case are up there for me. If you think about it, they are in areas that people are interested in, sports and alcohol.

– – –

KAHLER: Our business of football columnist, Andrew Brandt, covered the trial. He noticed that from the start of the NFL-NFLPA hearings, you seemed more favorable in commenting and asking questions to the Brady/NFLPA side and much more strident in questioning the NFL side. Was that from reading the briefs or from any personal feelings?

 

BERMAN: It was all based on the briefs. I know some of the questions you are talking about, and I couldn’t quite get it. I remember I once said to the NFL side, “I’m having trouble finding the ‘Gate’ here.” So I guess that was an expression of my true feelings. I didn’t see what happened here that warranted a million dollars, two draft picks and a four-game suspension. It just didn’t add up. And, being a judge, we are very concerned with process. The thought of the decider ruling on his own decision, it was just beyond me. Plus, I couldn’t understand or didn’t really get why they couldn’t settle the case. So, if that’s the way I came across, that is interesting. I don’t remember it exactly, but I did have more questions of Goodell’s side than I did of the other side.

 

KAHLER: How does it feel to have a decision overturned? Is it hard to get over that?

 

BERMAN: It’s very disappointing. It helps that there was a dissent. [Chief Judge Howard Katzmann dissented in the Second Circuit’s split, 2-1, decision]. Katzmann is someone I know quite well. I know them all, all three of them quite well. I’m in sync with what Katzmann had to say, but it is too bad. I like to win.

 

KAHLER: Was it hard to let this decision go after it was over?

 

BERMAN: A little bit, yeah, it took awhile. It took awhile, so the Super Bowl was good for me too. 

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

After a couple of hiccups, JASON PIERRE-PAUL is on board with the Giants for four years.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jason Pierre-Paul wanted a long-term deal, and Jason Pierre-Paul got a long-term deal.

 

With the deadline for converting his one-year franchise tender into a multi-year contract nearly four months away, the Giants and JPP got a deal done.

 

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s a four-year deal with a base value of $62 million. Of that amount, $29 million is fully guaranteed at signing.

 

The cash flow is as follows: $22.5 million in 2017, $35 million through 2018, $49.5 million through 2019, and $62 million. Incentives can push the value of the contract to $66 million.

 

Pierre-Paul swapped his $16.9 million franchise tender in 2017 plus the possibility of a 44-percent increase if franchise-tagged again in 2018 or a 20-percent spike if transition tagged for $35 million over two years. His guaranteed money of $40 million (fully guaranteed at signing plus injury-only) covers the $37.18 million he would have made under the franchise tag this year and transition tag next year.

 

Also signing with the Giants is QB GENO SMITH who moves over from the Jets.  Zac Jackson at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Quarterback Geno Smith will sign with the Giants, ESPN reported Friday.

 

Smith, 26, started one game for the Jets last season but suffered a torn ACL during that game. He lost his starting job before the 2015 season after the now infamous punch thrown by then-teammate I.K. Enemkpali. Smith started all 16 games as a rookie in 2013 and started 13 games in 2014 for the Jets.

 

Smith visited the Giants last weekend. There were rumors that other teams had shown interest, but as long as Smith passes a physical he’ll sign with the Giants.

 

The Giants also agreed to a deal with quarterback Josh Johnson on Friday. Smith suffered the torn ACL last October, and it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to compete for a roster spot at the beginning of training camp.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com on recent events with the Redskins:

 

Scot McCloughan won one battle in Washington in August 2015. If he’d won two, maybe—maybe—the Redskins wouldn’t be in the mess they’re wading through now.

The then-GM met for five hours one night that summer to try to convince owner Dan Snyder and president Bruce Allen that the time had come, and the team needed to move from Robert Griffin III to Kirk Cousins. Soon thereafter, with Cousins installed as starter, and believing he was in for a big year, McCloughan made a second appeal to the team’s top brass.

 

Let’s extend Cousins now, he told them, so we’re not stuck holding the bag later.

 

In the end, the quarterback’s lingering contract situation was one noticeable trigger in the explosion of the relationship between McCloughan and Allen, the team’s top two decision-makers. Most people in Ashburn agree that the deterioration of the Allen/McCloughan partnership is why we’re here. The root of that discord remains up for debate, however, and it might never be definitively settled.

 

We’ll start, though, by explaining how Washington got back into a spot that’s all too familiar, where organizational chaos envelops the football side of an operation and swallows whole the promise of a new day.

 

Full disclosure: I bought that promise 100 percent a year ago. My belief, having been around the Redskins, was that they had become as level as they had been at any point during Snyder’s ownership. They had perhaps the top talent evaluator in football. They had an ascending, 40-something head coach with a strong, deep staff. They had a 27-year-old quarterback. They had an increasingly deep roster.

 

They were good in 2015—division champs and red-hot down the stretch—and poised to get better. Even a jaded fan base was climbing aboard.

 

A year later the GM is gone, coach Jay Gruden is replacing both his coordinators, the quarterback’s future is murky, and D.C. Drama is back. And after talking with people at every level of the team who were there for the downturn, it’s clear there is passionate disagreement over just what tore all that optimism to shreds.

 

On one side of this is the idea, floated to the Washington Post by an anonymous team source, that McCloughan’s past demons—he’s publicly talked about his fight with alcoholism—returned to bring him down over the last year. On the other side, there are players and coaches who deny ever having witnessed that, and argue that it is being used as a red herring to take attention off a power struggle between Allen and McCloughan.

 

“What’s pissing me off is how everything is Scot’s fault,” said one veteran player. “This is not Scot’s fault. Everyone here appreciates Scot. … Let’s be honest, the issues are there, but he’s never gotten in front of the team drunk or anything like that. Whoever is saying that needs to stop.”

 

“If that was there, he did a good job of hiding it,” said another player. “There was never a discussion about that, at least that I saw.”

 

What those on the coaching and scouting staffs did see, eventually, was a blurring of lines that created a level of tension in the upper reaches of the club. There were, in particular, three flash points obvious to those not named Allen and McCloughan:

 

• The Cousins negotiation. At the close of training camp in 2015, McCloughan wanted to try to extend Cousins, but there was concern over how that would go over with Griffin, because some felt the team would still need him at some point. (Whether a fair figure could have been reached with Cousins is open for debate, considering the quarterback’s inconsistent résumé and lack of success at that point.) Finally, that December, McCloughan was given the green light. By then, Cousins’ camp wanted to wait until after the year.

 

After Cousins’ hot finish, the Skins knew they’d have to franchise Cousins at around $20 million, which framed negotiations in a place where the team wasn’t willing to go. Talks on a long-term deal got off to a rough start, and then control shifted from McCloughan to team negotiator Eric Schaffer. By the time 2016 was winding down, the GM had been removed completely from decision-making on Cousins.

 

To some inside the club, the use of the exclusive tag on Cousins was a surprise, since there’d been earlier discussion on potentially moving Cousins and going with Colt McCoy or signing someone like Mike Glennon. Point of all this? It’s hard to say that this was necessarily where the problem began, but there’s no question—based on the import of quarterback decisions—that it strained the relationship.

 

Su’a Cravens didn’t play the final three Redskins games in 2016 due to a biceps injury.

 

• Su’a Cravens injury. The rookie safety/linebacker injured his biceps on Dec. 11 against the Eagles. Initially the team believed it was a tear. It wound up being a bruise, the kind players often play through. Cravens missed the following Monday’s game against Carolina, and then the next game in Chicago on Christmas Eve.

 

By then, teammates, some of whom had seen him playing ping-pong at the facility, were openly wondering why he wasn’t pushing through the injury. After he missed two games, the team wanted him to get the arm drained in an effort to play in Week 17. Cravens responded by not showing up to the facility for treatment that day, at which point McCloughan decided to call Cravens.

 

That didn’t go over well with Allen. Some veterans felt McCloughan was simply trying to uphold the culture that he and Gruden had worked to build, which is seen as a “Seattle” thing (McCloughan worked for the Seahawks from 2011-13): If you see something, say something. But certainly there’d be some debate in the football world over whether it’s a GM’s place to handle those things. (Cravens sat out the finale.)

 

• Bashaud Breeland’s outburst. At another point in December, the third-year corner—who’d been seen internally as moody following the Josh Norman signing—blew an assignment, and was called by a coach on it. He argued. The coach argued back. Then Breeland blew another assignment, took his helmet off and sat on a cooler on the sideline. From the perspective of the coaching staff, these sorts of squabbles with players were not uncommon.

 

But after practice, in the locker room, McCloughan saw Breeland coming out of the shower and bluntly told the third-year corner to come to his office after he was dressed. Word of the confrontation got around, and it led to another squabble in the front office over boundaries.

As was the case with Cravens, some players believed Breeland needed to be shaken and didn’t mind McCloughan doing it. Clearly, others within the organization didn’t think it was his place.

* * *

So the season ended with the Redskins losing a win-or-go-home game against the Giants on New Year’s Day. Obviously, in the time since, things got worse. It’s been theorized that Allen grew jealous of the credit McCloughan got for the team turning a few corners over the past two years. Conversely, there have been rumblings of dissatisfaction over McCloughan’s 2016 draft and free-agent haul.

 

And there was more sinister talk, but few actual accounts, of McCloughan’s drinking being a visible issue. “It was whispered about all the time,” says one staffer, “but I never saw it, and I don’t know anyone who did.”

 

Maybe we eventually get more answers on what really happened. What I do know is that the conclusion predicted by some in Ashburn—Eventually, those people forecast, there would be problems over power and McCloughan’s past issues would be raised as he departed—has come true.

 

This one really never was about Snyder, as far as I can tell. It was about Allen and McCloughan, two guys who entered into a partnership two years ago founded in large part on trust, based on Allen’s history with McCloughan’s father and brother, whom he’d worked with around the turn of the century in Oakland.

 

That trust, as you can see, didn’t last long. And the Redskins are starting over. Again.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

DL FROSTEE RUCKER is back with the Cardinals.  Kyle Odegard at AzCardinals.com:

 

The Cardinals lost a veteran leader on the defensive line when Calais Campbell signed with the Jaguars, but brought another one back on Friday.

 

Frostee Rucker signed a one-year contract, returning to his role as a rotational player and a strong voice in the locker room.

 

“It’s always been a blessing and a pleasure to be able to play here,” Rucker said. “We want to win. That’s why I came back.”

 

Rucker, who will be 34 in September, didn’t register a sack last season but had eight combined in the two seasons prior. Injuries have hampered him the last couple of years but Rucker still believes he can be a positive contributor when fully healthy.

 

“I’ve been working hard, and I’m going to continue to work very hard this whole spring and get back to where I left off a couple years ago — feeling good, feeling healthy, feeling fast and physical,” Rucker said.

 

With Campbell’s departure, the Cardinals will look for defensive tackles Robert Nkemdiche and Rodney Gunter to assume a bigger role in 2017. Rucker has led the younger players in his four previous years with the team, and will once again be counted on to mentor his younger position-mates in a crucial season for the defensive line.

 

“You guys call it leadership,” Rucker said. “I just call it being myself.”

 

 

SEATTLE

The Seahawks have re-signed TE LUKE WILLSON on a one-year contract.

 

AFC WEST

 

OAKLAND

Oakland landed TE JARED COOK, who wants to take a number away from WR AMARI COOPER.  Conor Orr at NFL.com:

 

Could there be a new No. 89 in Oakland?

 

New Raiders tight end Jared Cook, who has worn No. 89 each year since his rookie season in 2009, doesn’t sound like a player unprepared to purchase his digits off Oakland’s former first-round pick.

 

“I don’t know,” Cook said, via The Mercury News. “Me and (Cooper) are going to have to have a little conversation to see if I can get it off of him. Might have to bribe him a little bit, throw him like five bucks or something. We’ll see if I can get it off his back.”

 

Cook knows well that this will cost him much more than $5 and it’s unlikely to happen, though one has to admire the 29-year-old tight end’s bravado. After a miracle catch in Green Bay’s playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys, Cook reportedly misjudged his market and priced himself out of Green Bay before taking visits to Minnesota and Seattle. Now, we’re talking about him swiping a jersey from the team’s budding star franchise receiver.

 

It’s important to take these tidbits with a sense of humor, which I think Cook is. It’s difficult for a franchise to sign off on a number change for someone so popular like Cooper, especially when so many young fans have already purchased the silver and black No. 89.

 

Of course, in this business you never know. A Cook/Derek Carr love fest has underscored the days following his signings. Should he exceed expectations, fans might be willing to just hand it over.

 

“We sat in on a meeting and watched some film together today,” Cook said Thursday. “Love the kid, man. He’s cool. He’s a real down to earth guy.

 

“(I’m) just another weapon for Derek to use, man. To be able to stretch the field, get down to the secondary at a fast pace, create separations off different routes … it gives him a different elements to put the ball in different places and keep the chains moving.”

 

The Raiders are also scheming to bring RB MARSHAWN LYNCH out of his year-long retirement.  More from Conor Orr:

 

The stacked veteran running back market just received a jolt of intrigue: the potential reintroduction of Marshawn Lynch.

 

“Beast Mode” is being looked at as a potential option for the Oakland Raiders, a source informed of the team’s interest told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Lynch, however, is retired and his playing rights are owned by the Seattle Seahawks. Rapoport also noted there is no indication the Raiders have contacted the Seahawks yet about Lynch.

 

Most importantly, Lynch hasn’t said he wants to come out of retirement to play again. A source told NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo that Lynch has been keeping in shape and is mulling over the idea of coming back, but hasn’t made any decisions.

 

KGMZ-FM in San Francisco first reported the development on Thursday.

 

Lynch turns 31 in a month, which makes Oakland’s fascination all the more intriguing. They allowed 27-year-old Pro Bowler Latavius Murray to walk in free agency and have yet to eye up Adrian Peterson, who has expressed interest in playing for the Raiders in the past.

 

Instead, they are hoping to sign the hometown hero who has not played in a game since Jan. 17, 2016 — a playoff contest against the Carolina Panthers. In that game he carried the ball six times for 20 yards. In his last full season back in 2014, Lynch carried the ball 280 times for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns.

 

Still, the Raiders aren’t in a strong position to orchestrate a potential trade with the Seahawks. As Rapoport noted, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie isn’t interested in giving up any decent draft picks and the team is saving money to eventually sign Derek Carr and Khalil Mack to long-term contracts.

 

This is a strange situation for the Raiders, who must have had some sort of intel that Lynch is remaining in shape without violating the league’s tampering rules. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, there were rumblings that Lynch might come out of retirement in 2016 and, at that time, Seattle had “no intention of letting him go without compensation.” Rapoport added that the Raiders tried to trade for Lynch last year and it nearly happened, though the heralded power back opted to remain retired.

 

Has that changed with another year?

 

After Lynch’s artful retirement announcement during Super Bowl 50, the tea leaves have suggested he still had some gas left in the tank.

 

If nothing else, this is a nice move by the Raiders to inject some hometown pride into their team amid a time of possible upheaval. Lynch has done philanthropic wonders in the bay area over the years and would probably jump at the chance to serve his fans on the football field as well. Now, the question becomes how the Raiders navigate all the red tape to make that happen.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers GM doesn’t shut the door on a QB with the 7th overall pick.  Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com:

 

Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco did not completely dismiss the possibility of selecting a quarterback with the team’s No. 7 overall selection in this year’s draft.

 

Of course, the Chargers already have a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers. But with the NC State product turning 36 in December, some NFL observers wonder if it’s time for the Chargers to draft Rivers’ eventual replacement.

 

 “We’re very happy with Philip Rivers, and I think he’s got a number of good years left in him,” Telesco said in this interview with the NFL Network. “We can win with Philip, and we’re happy with him. But since I’ve arrived here, we’ve always done a lot of work on the quarterbacks. You just have to.

 

“Even though we have our franchise quarterback, we always have to be looking toward the future. It’s work we’ve done every year. We’ll do work on all the quarterbacks. You never say never — you have to be prepared in this business, whether you’re picking at No. 7 or if we trade back [into the first round], it’s just hard to tell right now.

 

“We will scout every position like we don’t have someone there, and we’ll make determinations draft day on what we end up doing. But right now we’re very happy with Philip. He’s the leader of this football team, and we feel like we can win with him.”

 

Telesco said the Chargers should have a training camp site selected by next week and that he has had conversations with Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead about the logistics of moving a team, with the Rams moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles last year.

 

Jack Wang of the Orange County Register reported that the Chargers have a 10-year agreement in place to use a park near the team’s temporary headquarters in Costa Mesa for training camp. The contract still needs approval by the Costa Mesa City Council.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald marvels at Bill Belichick:

 

Bill Belichick prevails once again. That phrase is getting a little bit redundant but still worth repeating in the wake of recent events.

 

The Patriots coach and chief decision-maker had the Dont’a Hightower free agency situation pegged from the outset. No franchise or transition tag was necessary. He let his defensive captain take a stroll on the open market and find his worth, knowing no crazy money would be offered. At least, not by any desirable teams. The Hoodie was right, of course.

 

Of all the in-house free agents on the Pats’ list, Belichick needed Hightower to remain. He was the top priority for the defending Super Bowl champions. There was no option in sight at linebacker who could provide all Hightower brings to the table.

 

Belichick figured no team would place as much value on Hightower, who’s able to rush off the edge, blitz from the inside, stuff the run and cover running backs and tight ends in the Patriots system. No one values that kind of versatility as much as the coach who has five Super Bowl rings since 2001.

 

So there was no panic. Belichick knew the market, and he knew Hightower, who has been a winner his whole life.

 

The Jets? Really?

 

They might have showered him with a great offer, along with birthday cupcakes, but Hightower probably would rather eat nails than go there. Losing wasn’t an option, and Belichick knew it.

 

So the Pats coach not only retained the most important free agent for his defense, he did it at a reasonable rate (four years, $43.5 million, $19 million guaranteed) while also adding some pieces around him.

 

Belichick has played all his cards right, from scoring cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks to swapping out tight end Martellus Bennett for the younger, cheaper Dwayne Allen. Defensive end Kony Ealy might be a sleeper, too, and thrive in this system.

 

Belichick has given new meaning to not standing pat or sitting on your laurels after winning a Super Bowl. He’s been as aggressive, if not more, than he’s been in any offseason.

 

We’ll see what happens with Malcolm Butler, but even if the cornerback plays elsewhere next season, it’s tough to question the master strategist

 

Right now, Belichick is toying with everyone. It’s his house, his league, and everyone else is playing along for his amusement.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets are putting out damage control that they were beaten for LB DONT’A HIGHTOWER because their doctors are smarter than New England’s.  Connor Hughes in the Newark Star-Ledger:

 

Money wasn’t necessarily the reason the Jets dropped out of the Dont’a Hightower sweepstakes after his visit with the team Monday.

 

It appears general manager Mike Maccagnan was scared off by the linebacker’s physical state.

 

Before Hightower took his trip to Florham Park, Maccagnan offered him a five-year contract worth roughly $55 million, a league source told NJ Advance Media. The deal could have earned a max value of $62.5 million if Hightower was active for every game during the five-year span, and made the Pro Bowl each year.

 

The contract offered by the Jets was significantly more than the one New England had on the table ($8.75 million per year), so Hightower visited with the team. It was here where things went bad.

 

After giving Hightower a physical, the Jets “were not comfortable” offering him a deal, the source said, confirming PFT’s report from Thursday night. They never made a second offer, and were considered out of the running. Hightower then visited the Steelers on Tuesday, before re-signing with the Patriots on Wednesday.

 

Hightower’s new contract with the Patriots is for four years and worth $43.5 million. The deal includes $19 million guaranteed.

 

Concerns with Hightower’s health are legitimate. In his five-year career, he has played just one full season. He missed two games as a rookie, eight games total from 2014-2015, and three games last year.

 

If the Jets did sign Hightower, assuming he was healthy, he would have been an improvement on defense. Without him, though, the Jets linebacking situation is still solid.

 

Veteran David Harris will return, along with last year’s first-round pick Darron Lee. Harris led the Jets with 95 tackles last season. Lee was second with 73.

– – –

The Jets have opted to sign CB MORRIS CLAIBORNE, the former Cowboy.

 

 The New York Jets have identified their replacement for Darrelle Revis.

 

The Jets are signing former Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne to a one-year deal worth more than $5 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation.

 

Dallas will be in the market for secondary help in next month’s cornerback-laden draft after losing both Claiborne and Brandon Carr in free agency.

 

Claiborne was ranked No. 44 overall in Around The NFL’s list of the Top 101 free agents.

 

With Revis out of the picture, the former LSU star should slot in opposite Buster Skrine in the starting lineup.

 

Although Claiborne is coming off perhaps his finest season since being drafted No. 6 overall in 2012, it’s telling that he played just seven games before going down with a serious groin injury that sidelined him until the postseason. He has played more than 11 games just once in five NFL seasons.

 

The Jets still have a lot of renovating to pull off if they’re going to back up coach Todd Bowles’ dubious contention that this is not a rebuilding campaign.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP IN EXILE

After one full week on the market, Mike Freeman in Bleacher Report is sure there is only one reason that QB COLIN KAEPERNICK does not have a team:

 

It’s more than a week into free agency and Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. Remember, this is a quarterback who played in the Super Bowl only four years ago, yet now it appears he can’t get a look from teams. So I set out to discover, once and for all, what teams think of the 29-year-old former Niner.

 

“He can still play at a high level,” one AFC general manager said. “The problem is three things are happening with him.

 

“First, some teams genuinely believe that he can’t play. They think he’s shot. I’d put that number around 20 percent.

 

“Second, some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him. They think there might be protests or [President Donald] Trump will tweet about the team. I’d say that number is around 10 percent. Then there’s another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.

 

“Third, the rest genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”

 

When I spoke to a handful of executives at the combine a few weeks ago, one even called him “an embarrassment to football.”

 

For the moment, the interest in Kaepernick is slim, and that’s putting it kindly.

 

It’s possible teams are waiting for the right time to make their play for him. That’s sometimes how it works in free agency. Weeks or months will go by with little interest in a player and then, boom, it all heats up at once.

 

But what’s happening with Kaepernick is highly unusual. So far, it seems he hasn’t visited a single team. I can’t find a quarterback-needy team that’s interested. Again, things can change quickly, but the silence is deafening.

 

From a football perspective, teams worry about Kaepernick’s throwing accuracy. He still has some difficulty hitting tight windows and sometimes runs even when receivers are open. In 2016, Kaepernick connected on 59.2 percent of his passes, which ranked 26th in the league.

 

There’s also the perception—a wrong one—that he has difficulty learning new schemes.

 

And if those weren’t enough, concerns linger that he is moody and not a good teammate. That belief also may not be accurate. From speaking to 49ers players about Kaepernick, it’s clear most of the San Francisco locker room liked him.

 

Kaepernick can take hope in how putrid the quarterback market is. When Jay Cutler is at the top of the heap, that says it all.

 

There are still teams desperate for a competent QB, so much so that one eventually will find the risk in signing Kaepernick is worth any potential backlash. That’s my guess.

 

Still, it’s hard to emphasize how unusual Kaepernick’s current situation is. If a Super Bowl quarterback can walk and chew bubble gum simultaneously, he gets opportunities. Those opportunities usually arrive until that player is totally and completely done. That’s not the case with Kaepernick.

 

Four years ago, he ran for a playoff-record 181 yards and two scores at Green Bay as the 49ers beat the Packers in a divisional playoff game, 45-31. The Niners would then go to Atlanta and upset the Falcons in the NFC title game before losing Super Bowl XLVII to the Ravens when a last-gasp drive fell five yards short. Throughout those playoffs, Kaepernick was more than capable, completing 61.3 percent of his passes, throwing only two interceptions and producing a combined quarterback rating of 100.9.

 

Guys like that get multiple shots.

 

Further adding to the intrigue is that teams understand Kaepernick hasn’t been playing with a great deal of talent around him recently. The 49ers, frankly, have been a dumpster fire the past few years, and it showed with some of the players with which the team surrounded their QB.

 

Despite all of that, his phone is not ringing off the hook. Or at all, for that matter.

 

Kaepernick’s new agents appear to have foreseen all of this, which is why it wasn’t surprising when sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Kaepernick would start standing for the anthem.

 

Now, he sits. Waiting and waiting. A still-talented player whose political statement may have cost him his NFL career.

 

Apparently there was a team interested in Kaepernick, if 49ers GM John Lynch is to be believed.  Eric Branch in the San Francisco Chronicle:

 

The free-agent market for Colin Kaepenrick has seemingly been nonexistent, but general manager John Lynch said today that the 49ers quarterback nearly signed with another team last week.

 

Lynch, speaking on KNBR, said Kaepernick was close to signing a deal around the time the 49ers added quarterback Matt Barkley on March 10, the second day of free agency.

 

“I don’t know what happened to that market (for Kaepernick) because when we added our second guy, at that time, I can just tell you, you learn things,” Lynch said. “And he was in everyone’s mind in this league very close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number. And it fell through, apparently.”

 

Lynch said the 49ers hadn’t officially shut the door on re-signing Kaepernick, but acknowledged the signings of Barkley and Brian Hoyer made such a scenario unlikely.

“I think the likelihood of it happening has probably gone down significantly,” Lynch said. “But we’re not going to close our mind or options on anyone, including him.”

 

Kaep is not just sitting idly by waiting for the phone to ring.  He’s doing good work in the nation of Somalia.  Dan Hanzus at NFL.com:

 

Colin Kaepernick is currently without a gig in the NFL. This might not change any time soon. But the man is not sitting on the couch staring at his phone.

 

The free agent quarterback is part of a group of activists who have been campaigning to send life-saving food, water and aid to famine-endangered citizens in the African country of Somalia. Kaepernick’s group scored a major victory on Friday when Turkish Airlines agreed to donate a 60-ton cargo plane to transfer goods for the humanitarian mission.

 

An obviously thrilled Kaepernick used his Twitter account to deliver the good news.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

ESPN may be about to hemorrhage a significant number of on-air talent due to declining subscribers – but that didn’t stop them from adding Rex Ryan.  Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News thinks it is a swell move:

 

The most entertaining NFL coach of this generation is taking his talents to Bristol.

 

The Daily News has learned that ESPN signed Rex Ryan to a multi-year deal to be on Sunday NFL Countdown.

 

The iconoclastic former Jets and Bills coach appeared on the show on Super Bowl Sunday last month before going all-in with the World Wide Leader.

 

Ryan’s football insight coupled with his candor should provide an intriguing dimensions to ESPN’s top pregame show.

 

His Xs and Os breakdown of how he would have covered Falcons All-Pro Julio Jones in Super Bowl LI was a glimpse of what he’ll be able to offer. His charisma and tell-it-like-is style will resonate with viewers.

 

“I got an opportunity in front of me that a lot of guys don’t get,” Ryan told the Daily News in January in the run-up to his ESPN appearance on Super Bowl Sunday. “I’m going to see where it takes me. Maybe this a different career and I really enjoy it. I’m hoping that’s the way it is. Maybe I get into (it) and I don’t like it. Maybe they don’t like me. Maybe I go back to doing something I love, which is coaching. I’ll never say never. I’m a young guy still. … I’m healthy. But bitter? Nah. Not bitter, man. I’m really not.”

 

Ryan, who still has about $16.5 million owed to him on the final three years of his Buffalo contract, could carve out a long-time role in television if he wants. TV executives were vying for his services after the Jets fired him after the 2014 season.

 

Ryan was unceremoniously dumped by the Bills less than two years into his blockbuster five-year deal. His decision not to bench starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the season finale against the Jets was the final straw. (The Bills, by the way, ultimately decided to keep Ryan’s quarterback of choice on a restructured deal).

 

Ryan, who has more playoff wins (four) than any coach in Jets history, went to back-to-back AFC Championship Games in his first two seasons before missing the playoffs in his final four. He went 50-52 in six years before being replaced by Todd Bowles.

 

Ryan told the News in January that he hasn’t abandoned his goal to hoist the Lombardi Trophy as a head coach, but admitted that he wants a legitimate opportunity to succeed after the Bills prematurely pulled the plug on him.

 

“The one thing about (being on TV) is that you don’t lose,” Ryan told the News in January. “You’ll remember every damn loss. But the wins? You don’t necessarily remember. So, it takes a lot out of you. I’m tired of getting f—ked. Unless it’s a real situation, there’s no sense of getting into it again.”

 

In the meantime, he’ll share stories and provide analysis to the viewing audience.

 

If Ryan is himself, he’s destined to be a hit. 

 

 

 

 

2017 DRAFT

Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News finds it hard to believe that QB DeSHAUN WATSON has doubters among the scouting/media conglomerate:

 

Deshaun Watson didn’t do much at Clemson’s Pro Day on Thursday to help or hurt his stock as the potential top quarterback prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft.

 

But running around and throwing lasers again to his college go-to guys at wide receiver and tight end provided a reminder of his greatest, most immeasurable asset vs. any other QB in the class — he’s the only one who can boast that he’s fresh off leading a team to a national championship.

 

Watson’s “wow” factors, his athleticism and arm, were on display as expected, but so were his issues with efficiency, footwork and mechanics, things he’ll need to iron out.

 

But his college coach, Dabo Swinney, wanted to make sure all the evaluators in attendance representing quarterback-needy NFL teams saw what they couldn’t see with Watson.

 

“It’s what’s inside of him, it’s what’s in between his ears, it’s type of young man he is,” Swinney said. “He’s chemistry, Day 1. He’s leadership, Day 1. He changes the locker room, Day 1. He impacts free agency, Day 1. He makes everybody better, Day 1.”

 

That’s exactly what you’d expect Swinney to say about the player who took his program to new heights and helped stamp his own legacy as one of the greatest modern offensive coaches.

 

But he’s absolutely right that winning, even though measurable, keeps getting overlooked as a tangible attribute.

 

“I don’t know how to articulate the greatness that’s inside of him,” Swinney said of once comparing Watson to Michael Jordan. “To me, that’s what Michael Jordan represents, because that’s what I grew up with. I’m sure when Michael Jordan was coming out of North Carolina, his 3-pointer wasn’t very good and he had some flaws when you started poking holes on him. But it was who he was, it’s that will, that drive — you can’t coach that.

 

“That’s what I want to make sure I articulate. (Watson is) always the same with his character and integrity, and he’s at his best in the biggest moment.”

 

Watson led the Tigers to two consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff final after dominating the ACC, the same conference in which North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky started for one season. Watson also outplayed Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in the same game, in the same rain, against a semi-conference rival, during the latter’s better of two seasons.

 

There can be a lot of ways in which NFL teams keep knocking Watson and moving him down their boards, much like every single flawed young QB who comes into the league. When weighing all things, however, nothing weighs as heavily in his favor as the kind of experience every team on every level covets most.

 

Swinney believes that gives Watson a chance to go as high as No. 1 overall, above any player at any position.

 

“He’s got plenty of consideration. He won’t be sitting there long,” Swinney said. “Don’t buy all the stuff you hear. Wherever he goes, he will be great. They’ll all figure it out.”