The Daily Briefing Monday, May 7, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Mark Maske of the Washington Post says the NFL owners are hopelessly divided about whether to require conventional standing for the National Anthem.
NFL owners are considering a compromise solution to the sport’s national anthem policy that would make it a team-by-team decision whether to require players to stand for the anthem prior to games, according to several people familiar with the league’s inner workings.
Those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, cautioned that no final determination has been made as the owners prepare to take up the anthem issue when they gather this month in Atlanta at their regularly scheduled spring meeting.
Several other possibilities remain, from leaving the anthem policy unchanged to forging a different compromise that would result in a leaguewide policy by which players would be required to stand for the anthem if they’re on the sideline but would be given the option to remain in the locker room. Or the NFL could revert to its pre-2009 approach of keeping all players in the locker room until after the anthem is played.
While some owners would like to require all players to stand for the anthem, others remain opposed to such a mandate and there appears to be insufficient support to make that a leaguewide policy, according to those with knowledge of the owners’ thinking. Making it a team-by-team decision would allow some owners to impose a requirement that players stand for the anthem while most others would be likely to continue to allow players to make their own choices, those people said.
“My guess is they will leave it up to the teams,” a high-ranking official with one NFL franchise said.
Others expressed a similar view in recent days, saying that is the solution that could satisfy owners on both sides of the issue.
The current policy, included in the game operations manual sent by the league to teams, says players must be on the sideline for the anthem. It recommends but does not require that players stand for the anthem.
Some owners have said or hinted that they want to require players to stand for the anthem. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last season that he would bench any Cowboys player who refused to stand for the anthem. Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said at the annual league meeting in March in Orlando that NFL playing fields are “not the place for political statements” and teams must show angry fans that they “respect our flag and respect our country.”
McNair said in March: “I think we all need to respect our flag and respect our country. I think we’ll figure out a way to make sure that we do that. We’ll have discussions about it.”
Profootballtalk reported last month that Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown met with former San Francisco 49ers safety Reid and discussed the anthem issue when Reid visited the Bengals as a free agent. Reid has protested during the national anthem since 2016, when his then-teammate, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, began the movement by sitting and then kneeling during the anthem in protest of the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. Brown told Reid that he intended to prohibit Bengals players from kneeling during the anthem, according to the report.
Kaepernick remains unsigned and has a pending grievance accusing teams of colluding to keep him out of the league. Reid is similarly unsigned as this NFL offseason continues and also has filed a collusion grievance.
The issue ignited a national debate last season after President Trump was critical of players who refused to stand for the anthem as a means of protest. When owners met last October in New York with the controversy raging, they declined to enact a requirement that players stand for the anthem. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and some owners said then that they wanted players to stand for the anthem but they were not prepared to require it. They said they were focused on their discussions with the players that led to a social justice accord, by which the league and teams are providing funding to community activism projects deemed important by the players.
Goodell worked closely on that agreement with the leaders of a group known as the Players Coalition, including Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Some within the sport say that the cooperation between Goodell and the players on that issue makes it unlikely that Goodell would support any effort to require players to stand for the anthem.
Players said then that there was no agreement as part of the social justice deal that they be required to stand for the anthem. But it also appeared that some owners were hopeful that the deal would lead players to voluntarily stand for the anthem. Some divisions on the players’ side became evident as Reid and some other players left the Players Coalition last year, saying that the group no longer represented their views.
The other potential compromise of requiring players on the sideline to stand but giving them the option to remain in the locker room would be modeled on an approach taken for a portion of last season by the Miami Dolphins. It’s not clear how many owners would favor that as a leaguewide approach over making it a team-by-team issue.
The owners discussed the anthem policy during the March meeting but took no votes and came to no resolution. Several owners said then that they expect a resolution at the May meeting.
“It is a sensitive, complicated issue, and we’re going to deal with it at our May meeting,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said at the March meeting in Orlando.
Here is what Peter King would do:
I think there obviously is no easy solution to the anthem dilemma the NFL faces when the league’s owners meet later this month to discuss how to address what players should do when the national anthem is played before games. But my solution is a bit of a split of the baby. As much as I think it’s a player’s right to do what he wants during the anthem, the way to make this go away is to tell players who don’t want to stand to stay in the locker room until after the anthem is played. It’s not perfect, but it’s a better solution than making this an endlessly politicized issue.
The DB was at an MLB game the other day where maybe 12 of the 50 combined players bothered to stand outside the dugout for the Anthem. We’re not hearing that MLB thinks this is an issue.
Mike McCarthy is either serving extravagant praise on QB DeSHONE KIZER or disrespecting this year’s crop of rookies.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy has high praise for the backup quarterback Green Bay acquired this offseason, DeShone Kizer.
McCarthy said Kizer compares to the elite prospects in this year’s draft, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen.
“He has starter ability in this league. Clearly,” McCarthy said. “In my opinion, if he was in that class this year, he would have been part of the first five quarterbacks, the first-round guys. He has exceptional arm talent.”
That doesn’t make a lot of sense: Last year Kizer went in the latter part of the second round, No. 52 overall. Kizer did not have a good rookie year, which is why the Browns sent him to Green Bay. So if Kizer wasn’t a first-round pick a year ago, and didn’t have a good year, why would he be a first-round pick this year?
McCarthy also talked up backup quarterback Brett Hundley last year after Aaron Rodgers went down, and Hundley did not play well enough to justify McCarthy’s high praise. So perhaps McCarthy just likes to publicly bolster his backup quarterbacks. Because an honest assessment would suggest that Kizer is not a first-round talent, and if he was the Browns wouldn’t have traded him to the Packers.
Peter King on the MATT RYAN contract:
Three thoughts on Ryan’s five-year, $150 million deal ($100 million guaranteed), making him the first $30-million-a-year player in NFL history:
• No one should care about guaranteed money for a star 33-year-old quarterback who’s always been healthy. As with the debate over how much guaranteed money Aaron Rodgers should get, it’s nonsensical. What real chance is there that Ryan will be cut anytime in the next four years? Name the last proven good quarterback who got big guaranteed money and later, because of injury, a team was dying to dump. Sam Bradford doesn’t count, because you couldn’t call him great during his rookie contract, and because the Rams didn’t want to dump him till after the guaranteed money ran out after year five. In year three of his mega-deal, Andrew Luck is still very much wanted by the Colts despite a nagging shoulder injury. Point is, there’s maybe a 3 percent chance Ryan will suffer some kind of career-altering injury in the next three years that will render the guarantee a waste. Now, gigantic guarantees for other, less valuable positions … I see why teams recoil at those. But I’d fight for every guaranteed dollar if I had the leverage.
• The per-year cap numbers are not killer to the Falcons. Mike Greenberg campaigned with me—on his “Get Up” ESPN show the other day—for a cap exemption for one player per team, because he said contracts like Ryan’s make it exceedingly hard to build championship teams. Let’s look at the cap over the next three years, using the increases of the past two years (a $12 million bump from 2016 to 2017, and a $10 million boost from 2017 to 2018) to judge how much Ryan’s deal will eat up for the Falcons:
Hard to summon much energy for the one-superstar exemption. In 2018, Atlanta will have $159.5 million to spend on the rest of the roster, minus Ryan. In 2016, Atlanta had $155.3 million to spend on the entire roster.
• In the end, it’s all monopoly money. Teams have been paying huge money to quarterbacks since the beginning of time. It’s all relative. Of course it’s better to have your young quarterback get very good very fast in his fixed-salary first contract. But it’s a fallacy to think you can’t build a great team around him if he’s making Ryan money.
Peter King with advice for Jerry Richardson:
I think I still cannot figure out for the life of me why Jerry Richardson doesn’t put a clause in his contract of sale for the Panthers to ensure the team remains in Charlotte. Maybe he will. Maybe we just haven’t been told everything about the negotiations. But even if it meant sacrificing 10 or 15 percent of the sale, who on God’s green earth would care if one of the richest men in the Carolinas, who is in his eighties and can properly provide for the next 20 generations of Richardsons with the money he’ll pass down, earns a couple of hundred million dollars more out of this sale? His reputation is already badly sullied because of the sexual harassment scandal that forced him to sell the team; what would his everlasting legacy be if eight years from now the Panthers move?
TE COBY FLEENER seems to be among the short-timers with the Saints. Larry Holder in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Moving past the NFL Draft, the next major roster shifts for the New Orleans Saints won’t occur until the massive cutdown day on Sept. 1 at the end of training camp.
Some minor tweaks will pop up here and there, like after next weekend’s rookie minicamp. But the vast majority of the offseason roster is in place for the Saints to begin molding the 2018 squad.
The Saints aggressively navigated through free agency and the draft to improve the already talent-laden roster. This means a few difficult decisions could come not only for rookies, but also for some veteran players.
Let’s take a glimpse at seven Saints players in possible jeopardy of making the roster once Week 1 arrives in early September:
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound wide receiver has been around the Saints program since 2014. And still, it seems like it’s year to year with Coleman as far as landing on the roster.
Coleman added a significant catch or two in several games in 2018 with 23 receptions for 364 yards and three touchdowns. The wheels fell off dramatically in Week 15, though, with two lost fumbles against the Jets.
New Orleans opted not to issue a restricted free agent tender to Coleman. The Saints eventually retained Coleman on a one-year deal worth a maximum of $1 million. This deal doesn’t guarantee Coleman’s spot on the roster.
The Saints added Bears restricted free agent Cameron Meredith essentially as Willie Snead’s replacement for actual guaranteed money. Then the team brought on Central Florida’s Tre’Quan Smith with its third-round pick a week ago.
The Saints know Coleman’s game backward and forward at this rate. Will it be enough for him to stick with the team for one more year?
He’s been atop the “players in jeopardy” list for months. Long before free agency and long before the draft. The veteran tight end certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations, but nearly every Saints fan probably understands that by now.
The Saints passed on drafting a tight end a week ago. A lack of a second-round pick hindered the team’s opportunity to pluck one of the top prospects. New Orleans did add Deon Yelder in undrafted free agency.
But Fleener’s future with the Saints squarely landed on the bubble when the team brought back Benjamin Watson after a two-year stint in Baltimore. Watson returns as the probable starter with veterans Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui still on the roster.
All of this could leave Fleener searching for another team sooner than later.
The 2015 second-round pick always looked like a gamble given his injury history during college. That history followed Kikaha into the NFL, and he could be running out of time in New Orleans.
Kikaha is entering the final year of his contract after three years of injury-marred seasons. He added four sacks in 2017 before landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He missed the entire 2016 campaign with a torn ACL, his third of his college and NFL career (two on one knee).
New Orleans never wasted time picking up edge rush help the last two years. Alex Okafor, Trey Hendrickson, Al-Quadin Muhammad and George Johnson hopped on the roster. All four are back for 2018 … and the Saints only traded 13 spots in this year’s first round, including a 2019 first-round pick, to take Marcus Davenport at No. 13 overall.
The other four players mentioned by Holder are RB DANIEL LASCO, WR TOMMYLEE LEWIS, LB NATE STUPAR and CB P.J. WILLIAMS.
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Peter King on the big move up for DE MARCUS DAVENPORT:
The Saints need Marcus Davenport to produce close to Bradley Chubb. The second-best pass-rusher in the draft cost New Orleans the 27th pick this year and a first-rounder next year. But say the Saints are a playoff team again, and pick in the twenties next year. I would ask: If you think a pass-rush prospect in a weak class for them is legit, wouldn’t he be worth two ones in the bottom third of the round? After Davenport, the next guy for the Saints might have been Boston College’s Harold Landry, and there wasn’t much excitement for him at 27.
QB JOSH ROSEN has noticed the strange comments of Browns exec Alonzo Highsmith who said he was turned off about Rosen when the UCLA volleyball coach suggested Highsmith talk to Rosen’s girlfriend, Bruins volleyballer Zana Muno.
Rosen has added context to the already-bizarre story, and it didn’t make the Browns look especially rational. Rosen said in an appearance on the The Rich Eisen Show, via CBS Sports:
“I thought it was interesting that he didn’t talk to my girlfriend,” Rosen said. “Maybe he was scared of someone actually saying something good about me? I don’t know, I thought it was funny.”
Also, Rosen was just as befuddled as everyone else by the entire situation.
“It’s amazing that you can pull a red flag from something with literally zero information,” Rosen said. “Like, he literally pulled absolutely no information from his encounter and it managed to be a red flag.”
It was odd enough that Highsmith didn’t even try to talk to Rosen’s girlfriend. And Highsmith’s logic falls apart when you consider that Highsmith had just said it took meeting Mayfield for the Browns to change their mind on him. How could Rosen not get that same opportunity (and lose favor with the Browns) based off a non-interaction with his girlfriend’s volleyball team?
Meanwhile, this happened in Gulf Shores, Alabama over the weekend. Eric Sondheimer in the LA Times:
UCLA won the NCAA beach volleyball national championship in Gulf Shores, Ala., on Sunday, coming out of the losers bracket to eliminate Hawaii and then defeat Florida State 3-1 in the final, delievering the school’s 116th NCAA title.
That ties Stanford for most NCAA titles. It’s the first beach volleyball title for the Bruins in the third year of the championship. USC won the first two.
Former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame standout Zana Muno, wearing a knee brace from a torn ACL three weeks ago, teamed with Savvy Simo on the No. 3 team to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead over Florida State.
Yes, you read that right. Rosen’s girlfriend Zana Muno won the critical match playing with a torn ACL. And it’s a bad thing that a competitor like this is Rosen’s girlfriend?
S EARL THOMAS will be staying away from Seattle. A tweet from Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times:
Carroll acknowledged Earl Thomas isn’t attending the offseason program. Said with a smile that phase two doesn’t appear to suit Thomas. Said hope is he may show up for Phase 3, which includes OTAs and starts later this month.
In his first Raiders mini-camp, first round rookie T KOLTON MILLER worked exclusively at left tackle. Paul Guttierez of ESPN.com:
Rather than have first-round draft pick Kolton Miller start his NFL career at right tackle, the Raiders have him working almost exclusively on the left side. Yes, even if Oakland already has a Pro Bowler there in Donald Penn, who, by the way, is 35 and coming off Lisfranc surgery in his right foot. “That’s where he has recently played,” Gruden said of Miller, stretching in front of Gruden in this picture from rookie minicamp. “We like him at left tackle. We think he’s a prototype left tackle. He can bend, he’s got the length that you’re looking for and he’s a sharp kid…that doesn’t mean that’s where they’re going to end up, though.”
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If, and it is a big if, DT MAURICE HURST is really healthy, he could be steal for the Raiders. Dr. Jon Gruden says he is healthy.
Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Jon Gruden on DT Mo Hurst Jr.’s heart: “I’m not going to answer any more health questions on Hurst. I realize there’s a lot of ghost stories out there about unnamed sources … I hope you just judge him on the field. He’s been cleared medically, and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Trevor Woods of Maizenbrew.com is among the “ghost story” writers:
Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was once viewed as a first round draft pick, but after a heart condition was detected at the NFL Scouting Combine. Hurst didn’t participate at the combine, but was ultimately cleared to participate at Michigan’s Pro Day.
Despite Michigan giving Hurst the green light, many NFL teams didn’t feel the same, and Hurst wasn’t drafted until the fourth round by the Oakland Raiders.
And now a report has come out by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, with NFL execs and coaches unhappy the Raiders drafted Hurst.
One NFL exec called the Raiders decision “irresponsible”, adding he hoped Hurst would “never put a f–king helmet on again in his life.”
Further, an NFL head coach said “Only the Raiders would draft a guy who could literally die on the field from a known condition.”
Hurst’s health is a touchy subject and it appears the views about his heart vary drastically.
One thing everyone can agree on though is hoping Hurst’s heart keeps on chugging along for decades and decades.
Only time will tell if these anonymous comments have merit or not. Until then, Hurst is a professional football player now, fulfilling a dream that has been with him since he was a kid.
Dr. David Chao, once the doctor of the Chargers, defends the Raiders decision in the San Diego Union Tribune:
I disagree with the opinions of those who conclude Oakland or its doctors were irresponsible.
As a former head team physician, I can attest that the profession takes its duties of medical evaluation seriously and that doctors spend countless hours in Indianapolis (for the Combine and re-checks) examining players, then later reviewing reports and meeting with team management. I can’t say the medical team spends as much time as a scout does in player evaluations, but I can say upwards of a 100 hours of time are spent in this process each year.
And there are differences of medical opinions.
What I gathered from teams is that they’re asking: “If our doctors didn’t pass him, and the Combine doctors didn’t pass him, and we know his condition—how did anyone pass him?” https://twitter.com/Raidersig/status/992039318423126016 …
The explanation is simple.
One or more GMs may pass on a player for their team but another feels he can play. Similarly, medical evaluations can be gray rather than black and white.
Hurst played collegiately at Michigan and had UM doctors and Harvard doctors clear him. Clearly, some think he is fine to play. It seems true some teams removed Hurst from their draft board, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play football.
I don’t know what his heart condition is and, thus, do not know how I might have advised my team. But clearly the opinion is not unanimous.
I actually think it is not only unfair and inaccurate but also irresponsible for a scout to characterize the drafting as “irresponsible.” There is no way for a non-medical person to know.
As an orthopedic surgeon and physician, even I would rely on my primary care doctor and cardiology consultants to weigh in.
I do not see how a personnel person can make this proclamation. This opinion should carry the same weight as a team physician publicly criticizing Baker Mayfield as not worthy of the first pick in the draft.
The heart is really a pump.
The questions is whether the issue is myopathy (mechanical), arrythymia (electrical) or circulatory (plumbing). Depending on the type or cardiac condition, there may be treatments/fixes or mitigation. Until one knows whether it is the motor, wires, or pipes that are at issue on a hot water pump, you don’t throw it out without looking to fix it first.
It seems that Jon Gruden is seizing control of the Raiders building, but I have never seen a team flat out go against a hard recommendation from the medical staff.
Of course, teams have made decision to draft despite medical issues. But risk does not equate to “failure” or “can’t be allowed on the field.” Removing from ones draft board means not for us, but doesn’t mean a player can’t play.
Also, one team may be saying Hurst isn’t a good risk long term medically, but the Raiders may be saying he is worth a fifth-round level of risk.
Perhaps their intent is to monitor Hurst’s heart regularly and determine if he is safely able to safely play a few years.
Nick Fairley had a known heart condition, played six season with the Lions and Rams and even passed a physical to play one year in New Orleans before being ruled out with a heart issue by the same Saints doctors that initially passed him.
I am not saying the Fairley and Hurst cardiac issues are comparable, but if the Raiders can safely get six seasons out of Hurst, that would be a great return.
If the Raiders discover there is a risk of Hurst “droping dead” I would expect the doctors, team and his family would all rule him out. No money is worth that risk for a player – especially not fifth-round money.
Joe Flacco’s gotten the message. That’s what I hear. And he’s too smart not to have gotten it. Flacco, 33, understands the tradeup to pick of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson means the Ravens have noticed his sub-.500 record and 82.4 passer rating in the past three years, regardless how much is his fault. The quarterback always takes major blame when an offense is lousy, and Baltimore’s has been bad—29th, 12th and 29th in passing yards in the past three seasons. What’s more, the Ravens are a boring offense. They excite no one. They’re inefficient—and you can’t blame only Flacco, because the receiving group has been consistently disappointing too. When I saw this pick, I said I bet this is about more than dissatisfaction with Flacco. It’s about making the team exciting again in a market that has grown blase, and throwing some change-ups with an electric quarterback. Flacco will get the first shot, and he may well play well enough to beat back Jackson. We’ll see.
Peter King on BAKER MAYFIELD over SAM DARNOLD:
“Baker’s obviously an outlier at 6 feet and 5/8 inches tall,” Browns assistant GM Eliot Wolf said. “But would we be doing the right thing if we changed our board and picked a lesser player because he’s two inches taller?” I asked another draft-decider with a definite quarterback interest two questions: How many teams in the league would he guess graded Darnold higher than Mayfield. (“Twenty.”) And who did he have number one among the passers? (“Mayfield. His tape was so good, there was no comparison to the others.”) Now all we need is two years, maybe more, to see if the Browns were right.
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER causes a stir. Steven Ruiz of USA TODAY:
The Steelers drafting another quarterback was always going to make things awkward in Pittsburgh’s locker room. Mason Rudolph’s arrival will likely lead to at least one player on the roster losing his job.
That player is most likely Josh Dobbs, who was drafted last offseason. But the second-year pro isn’t taking the Rudolph pick personally, which should ease the tension a bit.
“I know how the league works. It’s just another opportunity to have competition,” Dobbs said. “I’m sure it will be a great addition to the [quarterback] room. … [The Steelers] were really excited with how I performed last year in the preseason and in practices and overall preparation.
“It’s like you can’t really take it personal. They are always looking for the next player. Quarterback is the most important position. No matter who they bring in, you have to compete every single day. Your play speaks for itself. That’s all you can do, show the leaps and bounds I made last year, continue to progress in the offense and add new ideas. I plan on being [at camp] and plan to compete. When you’re a true competitor, you rise to the competition.”
Unfortunately, Roethlisberger wasn’t so understanding. During an appearance on 97.3 The Fan in Pittsburgh, the Steelers quarterback questioned the pick.
“I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” Roethlisberger said. “Nothing against Mason; I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid. I just don’t know how backing up or being a third [string] — well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart — helps us win now.”
Roethlisberger doesn’t understand why the Steelers would take a quarterback … when he has publicly mulled retirement in the last year. And if he doesn’t know how a backup QB could help the team win, he must have missed the Super Bowl when a third-round pick helped a team from Pennsylvania win it all after losing its star quarterback.
Roethlisberger also must have missed the meaning behind Rudolph saying that it isn’t his job to get younger players prepared, a comment that seems to have irked the Steelers starter.
“I don’t think I’ll need to, now that he said he doesn’t need me,” roethlisberger said when asked if he plans on mentoring Rudolph. “If he asks me a question, I might just have to point to the playbook.”
Luckily for the Steelers, the younger players are handling the awkward situation as you’d expect a 36-year-old veteran to. When Rudolph was asked about Roethlisberger’s contentious comments during an appearance on NFL Network, the rookie answered like a pro.
Via Steelers Depot:
“Yeah, if I was Ben, I’d probably say the same thing,” Rudolph said. “You know, he’s a competitor. Obviously, he has a lot of confidence in himself, like I do and yeah, he’s going to be a future Hall of Famer and I would expect him to say that. So, you know, I’m just looking forward to going in there and learning the system, competing, raising my level of play, preparing like I’m the starter even though obviously I won’t be the starter. And just waiting and being prepared for whenever I get my time. Whenever my time comes, to be ready and take advantage of it.”
Maybe the young quarterbacks in the Steelers locker room should be mentoring the vet on how to handle the media. After all, this isn’t the first time Roethlisberger has created unnecessary drama.
Peter King says the Dolphins are fine with how the draft unfolded:
The Dolphins do not have quarterback buyer’s remorse. Miami guaranteed $16.7 milion of quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s team-friendly deal in March, which meant the Dolphins were locked into him for 2018. That didn’t mean if somehow Baker Mayfield fell down the board that they wouldn’t have tried to nab him. But I can tell you they’re happy with the most versatile player in the draft—safety/corner/nickel/box linebacker Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama. This is Tannehill’s prove-it year. After missing 19 straight games due to injury, he’s got to play well and be sturdy to have a future in Miami, which is the way it should be.
Peter King looks at what it might have taken the Patriots to move up for QB BAKER MAYFIELD:
This deal, thrown out as a possibility by Mayfield’s agent to Andrew Brandt after the draft, was certainly not possible if the Browns picked him, which happened, and almost certainly not if Mayfield fell to the Giants at number two. Cleveland never was going to trade the first pick. Let’s say Mayfield was there when the Giants picked. The Patriots would have had to deal with Giants GM Dave Gettleman, who, in five previous drafts, had never traded a first-round pick—and now he was going to trade from two to 23, which was the Patriots’ first pick? And let’s say he would have. What would the compensation have been? I’d maintain it would have had to be all four New England picks in the first two round this year, plus next year’s first-round pick. Here’s how that would have looked on the draft-trade value chart, which some teams and use and other do not:
• Giants pick: number 2 overall. Value of Giants’ pick—2,600 points.
• Patriots picks: number 23 (760 points), 31 (600 points), 43 (470 points) and 63 (276 points), with a projected number one pick next year. Let’s say you gamble the Patriots are picking 30th next year. That’s 620 points, devalued by about 20 percent because it’s a year down the road. Give next year’s first-round pick a value of 496 points. Total value of the five New England picks—2,602 points.
So it’s close. But would it have made any sense for the Giants to get a slew of picks but not the player of their draft dreams, Saquon Barkley? And would it have made sense for the Patriots, needy at so many positions with an MVP quarterback apparently intending to play multiple seasons, to go without a pick after Mayfield until day three, and then to likely go without a pick next year in the top 50? Seems totally nonsensical.
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Peter King with perhaps informed speculation on QB TOM BRADY’s state of mind:
“I plead the fifth.”
—Tom Brady, to Jim Gray, who asked him if the Patriots have the “appropriate gratitude” for what he has accomplished.
A couple of thoughts here. Something’s bugging Brady; it’s come to the fore in the last few months. He and Bill Belichick won’t be close friends when they retire. They have a business relationship, and it’s a very good one. Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren don’t hang out, or see each other regularly. Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson, same thing. Joe Montana and Bill Walsh, before Walsh died, weren’t close. Obviously Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll—you know how ugly that was. So there’s that.
But there’s more. Brady takes hard coaching. He likes hard coaching. But after going to eight Super Bowls—if it were me—I know my attitude would be, Can we please ease up on ripping me? My point is: Brady will be in camp this summer, and probably be at some portion of the off-season program, and he’ll work harder than anyone else and be as driven as he ever was, and he’ll once again give the Patriots the best chance to win than any quarterback will give his team in 2018. That’s how he’s wired. But that doesn’t mean he likes every minute he’s in the building either.
THIS AND THAT
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com with the interesting story of RB SHERMAN WILLIAMS:
Sherman Williams was an All-SEC running back who helped Alabama win a national championship, and the Cowboys chose him in the second round of the 1995 NFL draft. But things didn’t go according to plan from there.
Williams was a disappointment in the NFL, never gaining even 500 yards in a season, and after the Cowboys cut him he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and passing counterfeit currency, and he spent 14 years in prison. But after Williams was released in 2014, he went back to Alabama, and this weekend he got his degree.
“My message to the kids is always work hard, hard work pays off, and anything you set your mind to do you can do it,” Williams told the Tuscaloosa News. “Have passion at it, work hard at it, have the discipline and determination and it will come through for you.”
Williams said returning to college after a long stint in prison was a shock, with the campus looking very different than it was in the 1990s, and with today’s students using technology that is foreign to him. But he also said he thinks he still has something value to contribute, including warning younger people not to make the same mistakes he made.
Peter King offers this explanation for his departure from SI, for greener pastures at NBC:
An emotional week for me: I told my staff at The MMQB and my bosses at Sports Illustrated that I’ll be leaving June 1—my 29-year anniversary of being hired by SI—and beginning a new job with NBC Sports in July.
This is an NFL column, and I’ll get to the news of the moment in a few paragraphs. But for the past 21 years, this has been a personal column too. You’ve gotten to know way too much about the softball and field hockey exploits of Laura and Mary Beth King. You’ve been with me through the deaths of one mother, two brothers and two dogs. You’ve been with me through the joy of Laura’s wedding to her wife Kim, and now through ridiculously cute photos of their son Freddy. You’ve been with me through some opinions you hate, through over-Favring and excessive Bradying, through some bad poetry, through a Westin-lobby-near-fistfight, and even through a little bit of football thrown in there. I’ll have some career thoughts in my last column here in the coming weeks. But I did want to take a moment to explain to you how I came to this decision, and what my future is, and about the exceedingly bright future of The MMQB.
First: I am not retiring. My column will continue in the digital space at NBC Sports, very likely with a new name, beginning in July. So I’ll continue to write a Monday column; it’s my first love. In addition, I’ll be doing what I’ve done for NBC the past couple of years: four to six feature stories for the “Football Night in America” pregame show. I’ll be appearing with Mike Florio one morning per week on his “Pro Football Talk Live” radio show. I may be doing a few other things at NBC in the Olympic sphere or other places. My plan is for the Monday column to still be long and filled with football plus the strange detours of this strange brain. I’m not going to be writing a lot more than that. Some, but not a lot.
Second: This is not about any dissatisfaction with SI, or any worry about the future of a great franchise. I love the place. Always will. Sometimes it’s just time. I am 60. My dad died at 64. I had one brother die at 55, the other die at 64 just months into his retirement. I don’t want to continue the family trend. A few weeks ago, my wife Ann and I were on the train from New York to have dinner with friends in New Jersey. A few minutes from Montclair, I saw on my phone that Saints owner Tom Benson died. I was the only one on our staff who knew Benson even a little, so I knew it was up to me to write the deadline obit. I sat outside the restaurant thumb-typing the obit on my phone. No complaints. That’s the life. The 24/7-ness of the job, though, has worn on me, as has some of the silly and invented stuff that populates the football media (e.g., 2019 mock drafts 360 days before the 2019 draft). The monster must be fed daily. Enough.
Now, SI boss Chris Stone offered me a chance to stay and just write “Monday Morning Quarterback” with no other responsibilities. It was a great offer. I was tempted. But there was something else at play.
At The MMQB, we’ve got a group of writers who are blossoming and ready to do more—Jenny Vrentas, Robert Klemko, Andy Benoit (three originals from when we started the site in 2013), Albert Breer, Tim Rohan, Jonathan Jones, Conor Orr, Jacob Feldman, Kalyn Kahler. Average age: 30. I got hired at the magazine a week shy of my 32nd birthday. I think of the good things they’ve done already, the imaginative things, the smart things, and I know they’re so far ahead of where I was when I started. If I stay, their development gets stunted because I’m the 225-pound gorilla. It’s time for them too, and for a new generation of football writers. They deserve the spotlight I’ve been hogging. They’re ready. I’m really excited for them.
I’ve been an NBC part-timer since 2006. The network has treated me very well, and I like the football team (led by Sam Flood) and the digital team (led by Rick Cordella) there. I think it’s going to be a great fit. Look for me there—with a new Twitter handle I’ll figure out; I’ll miss @SI_PeterKing—in a couple of months.
There’s a lot of emotion coursing through me as I write this, early Sunday morning. I almost made it all the way through my talk to the staff Thursday afternoon without breaking, but when I got to our youngest staffer, 24-year-old Kalyn Kahler, it got tough. She came on staff three years ago, straight out of Northwestern, as my editorial assistant/office manager/fledgling writer, and she’s grown into a promising young multimedia presence. She oversaw our Football in America series last fall, handles our social media, and has written some strong pieces for us. She never has a bad day. She never says, I’m too busy. When I got to Kalyn, it sort of all hit me. All these young people, all of these young women too, so many of these young people different than my generation, all ready. It’s just cool to see. So I choked up a bit.
I’ll have time to reflect on this wonderful life in my final column, but for now, I wanted you to know why I did what I did. I wanted you know what great hands you’ll be in, with such imaginative and vibrant young writers and an editing group led by Mark Mravic. This plunge into the unknown, while entirely different, is going to be energizing.
For now: Thanks for letting me be a part of your lives for so long. Onward.
Rick Maese of the Washington Post reacts to the news of King’s transition:
Here are five things I think I think about the news.
1. I think I think King’s decision has a bigger impact on his former employer than his new one.
The venerable magazine already faced an uncertain future, and losing a cornerstone talent is not a good sign. King had been at the magazine for 29 years. He was one of only a handful of writers that smart sports fans knew to seek out. He loves football, and he loves writing about football, and while his delivery and approach are sometimes criticized, he’s as respected as any writer in any team building across the league, as much for his curiosity as his knowledge. His future is fine.
Sports Illustrated, on the other hand, is reportedly for sale and could be had for $150 million. The magazine has lost talented writers, and scaled back some ambitions. An institution that had generations of fans running to the mailbox each week is now published biweekly and has for years struggled to find its footprint in the digital space. The lone exception might have been King’s weekly column, “Monday Morning Quarterback” — a must-read for fans, coaches and execs across the league — which was turned into its own micro-site in 2013: The MMQB. It was, he wrote then, “a site under the Sports Illustrated umbrella devoted to all things football, using all the means of modern media to disseminate that football prose and information.”
There’s been speculation that the magazine’s most valuable asset is the swimsuit issue, and Sports Illustrated announced three new hires with digital backgrounds this week, seeming to indicate an increased focus on its digital operation, including SI TV.
2. I think I think the excitement over the personality-driven, niche sports vertical just might be over, and King’s former site might be the last of the genre.
King will continue writing his column at NBC, and Sports Illustrated will continue publishing MMQB content in some fashion, even if it feels increasingly like a broad label for all of SI’s football coverage. But the landscape has changed since King launched his effort five years ago.
Back then, ESPN had already given Bill Simmons Grantland to play with. Joe Posnanski was building a site called Sports on Earth. Fox gave Rob Neyer a baseball site. Yahoo would allow Adrian Wojnarowski to build staff for a basketball vertical called, um, The Vertical. RIP to all of them. Sites built around news and content seem to have a longer shelf life than those built around a single personality.
3. I think I think that most of the NFL’s top reporters are now working for outlets that have a financial relationship with the league. I certainly hope none of them feel compromised by those relationships, but the optics are less than ideal, and that might not bode well for much-needed accountability coverage of the league.
King was never an overtly critical voice, preferring to explain controversies rather than pass judgment. To his credit, though, he chose to have an MMQB reporter focused on health and safety issues. It’s often hard for outlets, even without business partnerships with the league, to invest resources in journalism that doesn’t involve transactions, team news and tidbits that affect fantasy team owners.
The league suddenly has new suitors in the digital space, eager to stream games, which could give it some leverage in talks with traditional partners, like ESPN and NBC. I don’t expect King’s style and delivery to change, but the sport is better when journalists of all stripes are asking important questions.
And while I don’t expect NFL Network to expose a leaguewide scandal, it’s important for other league reporters to feel that part of their job is to look under rocks, challenge authority and take teams and the shield to task when warranted.
4. I think I think King will remain relevant because he’ll still be highly visible on a big platform for football fans. But I hope his column doesn’t suffer. I hope he still spends more time talking to sources than talking into microphones. I hope readers still find the column, and that it doesn’t fade away as King’s broadcast responsibilities ramp up.
And I hope King can beef up his editorial voice on TV. Like him or not, Bob Costas’s Football Night in America commentaries addressed important topics in an important and visible time slot. King’s voice is a powerful one, and I hope he pushes NBC to explore the wide range of issues that his MMQB crew tackled each week. King is 60, but he has a high motor, and there’s no chance he views this new chapter as a cushy final stop before retirement.
5. I think I think Sports Illustrated better have a plan. They have a great collection of football reporters. No one slides in and takes King’s spot — no one replaces his ideas, his guidance or the doors he was able to open across the league for others on staff. What made MMQB content valuable is the same thing that made SI a must-read for decades: original stories, strong voices, respected and curious journalists. The brand can’t abandon that for a doomed video operation, aggregated content or whatever whims a new owner might bring.
I think I think King and NBC win in this shake-up. I think I fear that SI and football fans might not fare as well.