The Daily Briefing Tuesday, March 27, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Is it an unintended consequence or an intended consequence? Dan Quinn of the Falcons is among those who realize that the new catch rule everyone is clamoring for will lead to more controversies – on the issue of fumble or catch. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
The league’s proposed new catch rule will result in some plays that previously were incomplete passes, now being complete passes. But a less-discussed change is that there will be more fumbles: When the ball pops out after a catch, that’s a fumble, not an incompletion.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn has thought about that and says he’ll have his defensive players ready to pounce on the ball more often after a catch and fumble, on plays that previously would have been incomplete passes.
“Defensively we have to think, ‘That ball’s on the ground, go get it,” Quinn said today on PFT Live. “There will be more completions and there probably will be more fumbles too.”
Quinn is right: The new catch rule would turn some plays that have in the past been incompletions into complete passes that are then fumbled. Fans clamoring for a change in the catch rule may not be so happy about it when their team loses the ball on a play that previously would have been ruled an incomplete pass.
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Mayor Sadiq Khan of London doesn’t think the idea of an NFL franchise in England is silly. Alex Dibble of TalkSport:
The Mayor of London has exclusively told talkSPORT he wants the city to host the Super Bowl.
In a sit-down interview, Sadiq Khan said: “My ambition is to have more American football games in London and ultimately for there to be a franchise and, dare I say it, even the Super Bowl.”
Mr Khan has been working closely with the NFL as London’s relationship with the sport grows. Three matches will be played between Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur’s new home ground in October 2018.
21 regular season games have been played in London since 2007. In 2016 Twickenham hosted a game for the first time and in 2017 two matches were played at the rugby ground as well as at Wembley.
More than 1.5 million people have attended NFL matches at Wembley alone.
This year Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium will take on hosting duties. Mr Khan said: “Obviously once Spurs open up their stadium that will give us the potential to have more games there but I’m ambitious – the idea is to have eight games in London eventually, which is the number a franchise team plays and then who knows, maybe one day the Super Bowl!”
Tottenham Hotspur has a 10-year deal to stage two games per season and the NFL’s international development manager Mark Waller has also hinted that a permanent franchise could arrive as soon as 2021. It requires 75 per cent of the NFL’s 32 teams to vote in favour.
Talk of the Super Bowl is in its infancy but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is said to be keen on the idea.
Hurdles include the time difference affecting U.S. audiences and the logistics of accommodating the Super Bowl’s fanfare.
talkSPORT’s interview with Sadiq Khan covered the World Cup, Baseball and F1.
There’s been a lot of talk about ‘should England pull out of the World Cup?’ If that were to happen, is London ready to step in and play a big part in hosting the event?
Khan: “I think you should be very careful as a politician to get involved in sports and stuff. I’m a bit wary about politicians in parliament saying that England will not go to the World Cup. The reality is England have qualified – we should be grateful for that! Hopefully we’ll do better than we did last time, certainly not like we did in the Euros being knocked out by Iceland. I’m looking forward to the team doing well. I think Gareth Southgate needs time. I’m hoping Harry Kane gets fit for the World Cup and I’m sure it will go well.
“In London we’re focussed on our successful bid with the FA to get the Euro finals here in 2020. We’ve got the semi finals in London and we’ve got some group games. I think we should be really proud that we managed to persuade Uefa and the authorities to have these games in London – not in the rest of the country. Not in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, not in Manchester or Liverpool but in London. So we’ll show the world in 2020 how we organise things and confirm without any doubt we are the sporting capital of the world.”
The new Spurs stadium is going to host NFL games. What are your thoughts on an NFL franchise in London – is that something you’re actively trying to make happen?
Khan: “Firstly, the Tottenham stadium is going to be remarkable. Daniel Levy took me around and showed me the stadium during its construction phase and I wish them well. It’s a stadium that’s obviously a football stadium but it’s also purpose-built to host some NFL games.
“I’ve been saying since the first day I became Mayor my ambition is to have more American football games in London and ultimately for there to be a franchise there and, dare I say it, even the Super Bowl. I met recently one of the owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan. I’ve met the NFL commissioner on a number of occasions, most recently at the game at Twickenham this year and my team is working very closely with the NFL.
“This year we’ll have three games in our city for a variety of reasons to do with the availability of Twickenham and other issues. Obviously once Spurs open up their stadium that will give us the potential to have more games there, but I’m ambitious – the idea is to have eight games in London eventually, which is the number a franchise team plays and then who knows, maybe one day the Super Bowl!
It looks like baseball is also going to be coming to London. Was the New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox the only fixture that could have brought baseball to London and to Europe?
“Well, hold on a sec. I’m not going to confirm or deny that rumour. What I will tell you is that since the first week that I became Mayor my ambition has been to make sure everyone knows we are the sporting capital of the world. That’s one of the reasons I was keen to get the Joshua v Klitschko fight in London. 90,000 fans watched that and broke a world record.
“We love Wimbledon being here, we’ve got the cricket, we’ve got table tennis recently. We’re talking to F1. So we’re keen to make sure that we are, dare I say it as a Muslim, the sporting Mecca of the world. Our ambition is to get a proper MLB game here. I had the privilege of meeting the MLB commissioner but also throwing the first pitch at a Mets game and I didn’t let London down – it went into the glove of the keeper! Look, we are in negotiations with the MLB, we’re keen to get a couple of games here – proper games, not ceremonial games or games that are not competitive. Watch this space.”
The bedside manner, or lack of it, from new GM Brian Gutekunst drove JORDY NELSON away from the Packers. Edward Lewis of NFL.com:
Every year around this time of March, we learn once again that the NFL is a business.
Earlier this month, Jordy Nelson got that annual lesson first hand from the Green Bay Packers.
Coming off a disappointing season in which he caught just 53 balls for 482 yards and six touchdowns, Nelson figured a discussion about his cap hit and salary would be coming.
What he didn’t figure was just how “unwilling” the Packers would be to work with him on his contract details and future role with the team, even though he had been such a productive Packer wideout for so long.
“I think the hurt part was, to be honest, was the unwillingness to try to make it work,” Nelson said to the Wilde & Tausch Show on Monday, via ESPN. “But then again, it’s a business, and they have to do what they think is best. What they need to do is to be able to move forward and prepare for the future of the Packers. But I think that was just part of it, but that’s the way it is. I’m definitely not the only one that’s been cut or released when you don’t think it’s going to happen, and it’s not what you want to hear when you go into a meeting with them. But we’ve moved on.”
Nelson was slated to enter the final year of a four-year, $39 million deal with the Packers this season that came with a cap hit of more than $12 million. He anticipated being asked to take a pay cut, and even considered it, up until he spoke with new Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst.
“I think the [pay cut] number was part of it, but also the conversation I had in the meeting,” Nelson said. “I met with Brian and had a discussion because I had to get a feel for not just the pay cut but what their plans were going forward. After that meeting, there wasn’t, I don’t think, much desire there. I think with the combination of both, we decided what was best for myself and my family [just] as they decided what was best for them and the Packers.”
Nelson was cut on March 13. Just two days later, he inked a two-year, $15 million pact with the Oakland Raiders.
Nelson was clearly shaken up by the unceremonious departure. His quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, wasn’t happy about it either.
But the new GM’s boss is happy with the way Gutekunst is doing. Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal:
So far, so good for new Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst — at least in the opinion of his boss, team president/CEO Mark Murphy.
And while there’s still one major personnel transaction the team needs to take care of in the not-too-distant future — a long-term extension for two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the negotiations of which could be tricky — Murphy has liked what Gutekunst has done so far in free agency. And that includes parting ways with popular veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
“I’ve been very pleased,” Murphy said Sunday evening as the first day of the annual NFL meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes resort drew to a close. “I think he used the term ‘aggressive,’ but I think it’s more that we’re more active. We’re participating in things that we haven’t in the past.
“We’re not going to sign everybody, and obviously with the salary cap there’s limitations, but I think he’s looking at every avenue to try to improve the team. Obviously time will tell. We’ve made a couple major decisions, both in terms of releasing some players or allowing players to leave in free agency, and then obviously a few signings and a trade as well. But I’m very pleased with what Brian has been doing.”
So far, the Packers have traded 2015 first-round pick Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns for backup quarterback DeShone Kizer; signed five-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham and ex-New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson in free agency; allowed veteran safety Morgan Burnett to leave for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent; signed transition-tagged Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet that their NFC North rivals ended up matching; and severed ties with Nelson, one of the team’s most productive and beloved players of the last 20 years.
After previous general manager Ted Thompson eschewed free agency for much of his 13-year tenure, that qualifies as a flurry of moves by Gutekunst.
“Obviously, Ted did a hell of a job for us. The perception is that he never did anything in free agency, but we wouldn’t have won a Super Bowl without Charles Woodson. So he did some very good things,” Murphy said. “Obviously Brian spent a lot of time underneath Ted and has been trained by him, but he’s his own person, too.
“Time will tell, but I’m optimistic that some of the changes that we’ve made will really turn out to be very positive for us.”
Murphy added he was fully supportive of Gutekunst’s decision to release Nelson, who went on to sign with the Oakland Raiders. Three of Nelson’s ex-teammates used the word “hurt” to describe how Nelson reacted to what ex-Packers receiver James Jones called a “low-ball” offer as a pay cut. One league source said the Packers offered Nelson a one-year, $2 million contract that contained no guaranteed money — and Nelson considered taking it.
Murphy said he spoke to Nelson after the decision and acknowledged that with Nelson, “you couldn’t have asked for more. … Jordy was such a leader on the team, he’s our player rep, respected throughout the community (and) across the league. But the nature of our business with the salary cap, you really have to make difficult decisions and I give Brian credit for being willing to make some of those tough ones.
“I think Brian handled that well. Whenever you move on from a player like Jordy, you’re going to face that (criticism). That’s just the reality.”
The Packers’ other reality is they will have to address Rodgers’ contract sooner rather than later — he has two years remaining on the five-year, $110 million extension he signed in April 2013. The 34-year-old Rodgers has said he wants to play past age 40, and his deal has been surpassed by a number of quarterbacks.
The latest deal to lap Rodgers’ contract belongs to new Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who got a three-year, $84 million deal from the Vikings that is fully guaranteed — something that had never been done before with an NFL contract.
How the Packers and Rodgers’ agent, David Dunn, will structure his new deal remains to be seen, and Rodgers and Dunn could push for other unprecedented contract terms. For instance, Rodgers could require his base salary be tied to being a percentage of the league’s salary cap each year, or he could decide to take a page from NBA players’ contracts and demand the right to opt out of his deal before it expires based on certain criteria.
While Murphy said he is “still very optimistic that we’ll get a deal done,” he also acknowledged agents may try to tie contracts to salary-cap percentages and that a contract like Cousins’ is “very different” than past deals.
DT MICHAEL BENNETT, a charged felon, turned himself in to Harris County Authorities in Houston. Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
A judge in Houston set bail at $10,000 Monday for Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, charged with a felony in regard to a case following the Super Bowl in February of 2017.
Bennett turned himself in to Houston authorities Monday and was taken into custody after a 35-minute appearance before Judge Robert Johnson in Houston’s 177th criminal district court. He was later released on bond. Bennett will return to his home in Hawaii and travel back for court appearances, accordign to his attorney Rusty Hardin.
Bennett earned over $15 million last year while playing for the Seahawks. The Eagles acquired him in a trade on March 15, nine days before the Harris County district attorney announced the charge against Bennett.
Bennett’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, told Johnson during the court appearance that Bennett had flown from his home in Hawaii to Houston to answer the charge.
Hardin asked Johnson and was granted permission for Bennett to travel freely while out on bail, telling the judge “it would be catastrophic to his career” to restrict his movements.
This from Charean Williams at ProFootballTalk.com:
Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said the team did not learn of the investigation until Friday. The Seahawks also reportedly were unaware of the incident before the March 7 trade that sent Bennett to the Eagles, along with a seventh-round pick, for backup receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick.
Roseman, though, said Monday that “in America there is something called presumed innocence,” via Jeff McLane of philly.com. That suggests the Eagles will stand by Bennett.
Kareem Copeland in the Washington Post on the signing of DE PARNELL McPHEE:
The Washington Redskins have signed former Chicago Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee, the team announced Monday. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
McPhee spent the past three seasons in Chicago, tallying 14 sacks (six in 2015 and four the past two years), and posted his highest single-season sack total (7.5) while with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
All eyes were on McPhee as the Redskins patiently waited to add more bodies to the linebacker room. The organization brought the former Chicago Bear in last week and made an offer, but he did not sign and the 6-foot-2, 274-pounder then went to visit the Atlanta Falcons.
Washington needed linebacker depth after losing Trent Murphy and moving on from Junior Galette. Murphy signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Buffalo Bills to end his three-year stint with Washington after being selected in the second round of the 2014 draft. The team has told Galette it is going in another direction, according to Doug Williams, senior vice president of player personnel.
Injuries were an issue for McPhee during his three years in Chicago and likely contributed to his release from the team despite having two years remaining on a five-year deal that was worth nearly $40 million.
The seven-year veteran had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee before the 2017 season and was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury for the final two games of the year. He had two arthroscopic surgeries on the same right knee with the Ravens in 2012.
The Saints have legal issues with an ex-cheerleader who they booted after she violated several of the many regulations in the team’s book of cheerleader rules. Tamir Lapin in the New York Post:
A New Orleans Saints cheerleader who was fired for posting a swimsuit picture is accusing the NFL of gender discrimination, according to a new report.
Bailey Davis was booted from the Saintsations for putting up an image of herself in a one-piece on Instagram in January — violating a rule that prohibits cheerleaders from appearing nude, semi-nude or in lingerie, the New York Times reported.
She also was accused of going to a party with Saints players — another rule she denies violating.
Davis, 22, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stating that the team’s regulations reflect outdated views of women.
The Saints’ handbook for cheerleaders, reviewed by the Times, prohibits the women from having any contact with players in person or on social media.
Cheerleaders must block players from following them online and aren’t allowed to post any images of themselves in Saints gear.
The women can’t even eat in the same restaurant as players. If they get to an eatery and a player is dining, they must leave. If they’re in the middle of a meal and a player shows up, they’re also forced to go.
But NFL players have no limit on who can follow them on social media and aren’t punished for reaching out to the cheerleaders.
The team says the rules are there to protect cheerleaders from players preying on them, but they put the women in charge of fending off the men, Davis’ lawyer told the paper.
“If cheerleaders can’t contact the players, then the players shouldn’t be able to contact the cheerleaders,” Sara Blackwell said. “The antiquated stereotype of women needing to hide for their own protection is not permitted in America and certainly not in the workplace.”
A lawyer for the Saints, Leslie Lanusse, denied that Davis was the victim of gender discrimination.
“At the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum, the Saints will defend the organization’s policies and workplace rules,” she told the paper in a statement.
The NFL declined to comment, but Davis said the regulations for the Saintsations violate the league’s personal conduct policy banning discrimination.
Davis now won’t be allowed to work her fourth and last year on the squad, when she would have earned $10.25 an hour, $3 above the minimum wage in Louisiana.
She said she hopes her case will help other cheerleaders by forcing the team to treat all its employees equally.
“I’m doing this for them so they do what they love and feel protected and empowered, and be a female athlete and not be pushed to the side and feel unimportant,” she said.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams are boldly cornering the market on talented bad boy defenders. Jeremy Bergman at NFL.com:
he best remaining player in free agency has made a decision on where he’ll be playing for the foreseeable future.
Ndamukong Suh is signing with the Los Angeles Rams on a one-year, $14 million deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday.
Suh made his decision after visiting with the Saints and Titans last week before visiting L.A. on Tuesday. He initially planned to visit the Raiders on Wednesday before deciding to skip the scheduled meetup. Despite not hosting Suh on a visit, the Jets emerged as a serious contender for his services late in the week, but rescinded their offer on Sunday.
The former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle, who was released by the team at the start of free agency last week, tallied 15.5 sacks and 181 combined tackles in his time in Miami, despite eating up double teams constantly. Since 2010, he ranks second among NFL DTs in sacks (51.5), first in QB hits (147), second in total pressures (381.5) and first in tackles for loss (103).
Miami released the five-time All-Pro three years into the six-year, $114 million contract they signed him to in 2015. He spent the first five seasons of his career with the Detroit Lions.
In Los Angeles, Suh will pair for at least one season with Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. The two defensive tackles have made the first-team All-Pro squad six times between them.
Suh isn’t the only massive name Les Snead and Co. have acquired this offseason. Los Angeles reshaped its secondary before free agency, making separate trades to bring AFC West standouts Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to the organization, tagging Lamarcus Joyner, re-signing Nickell Robey-Coleman and signing Packers veteran Sam Shields.
In acquiring a trio of potential Hall of Famers this offseason, the Rams have constructed their own 21st century version of the Fearsome Foresome — two bulldozers on the line and two ballhawks roaming the secondary — all captained by one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history, Wade Phillips.
But as quickly as this Rams’ defensive dynasty has been put together, it will be equally fleeting. Los Angeles has Donald, Suh and Joyner under contract for only one season. In other words, just one full year into the Sean McVay era and with Jared Goff still on his rookie contract, the Rams are going all in now. It’s Super Bowl or bust in 2018.
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As if Suh’s not enough, the Rams apparently have their eyes set on the most controversial offensive player in the game. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Rams have interest in Odell Beckham and have already talked to the Giants about the possibility of a trade for the receiver, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News reports.
Leonard reports that the Giants are seeking a first-round pick plus. The plus is negotiable, suggesting the Giants would take less than two first-rounders.
Los Angeles makes sense as a landing spot for Beckham since he calls it home in the offseason, and the Rams lost Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs in free agency, leaving a spot for a No. 1 receiver. Beckham would give the Rams a name to sell when they open their new $2.6 billion stadium in 2020.
Both General Manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay declined comment to Leonard, which, since Beckham remains under contract to another team, they are required to do under NFL rules.
The Rams already are listed among the top Super Bowl contenders. Now, imagine if they can land both Beckham and Ndamukong Suh.
Colts owner Jim Irsay says something that is intended to sound positive about the state of QB ANDREW LUCK. Mike Chappell at CBS4Indy.com:
Jim Irsay’s message to the Indianapolis Colts’ fan base was equal parts patience and optimism.
The patience involves the long-lens view of a franchise now being led by general manager Chris Ballard. The Colts, Irsay insisted, are in a three-year rebuilding mode after missing the playoffs for three straight years for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
The optimism? That involves the health of Andrew Luck.
The team’s most indispensable player missed all of last season and remains in rehab mode after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in January 2017. The expectation is for Luck, who’s been working out on the West Coast with a pair of throwing specialists, to be on hand April 9 when the Colts open their offseason conditioning program.
Irsay did nothing to suppress those expectations Monday when he met with local reporters covering the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.
“All indicators are (the) healing is going really well and we feel really optimistic that he’s turned the corner and has a full decade ahead of him of excellence,’’ Irsay said. “That’s a long period of time.’’
Luck, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, turns 29 in September. For perspective, consider New England’s Tom Brady is 40 and New Orleans’ Drew Brees is 39.
At the recent NFL Scouting Combine, Ballard and coach Frank Reich shared their boss’ optimism.
“Do I have any doubt that he’s going to be ready? No, I don’t,’’ Ballard offered.
Added Reich: “I’m anticipating that he’s going to be ready to go. Again, we’ll have to determine what level that will mean. There’s no way to predict that. I’m thinking optimistically.’’
The overriding question has been how involved Luck will be once on-field drills begin in mid- and late-April. At the Combine, Ballard revealed Luck’s rehab regimen had yet to include throwing a football. The Colts’ first voluntary minicamp is April 24-25.
Irsay made it clear he expects his $140 million QB to be very active during the team’s offseason work.
“I expect him to throw quite a bit,’’ he said. “I expect him to channel his Brett Favre, if you will, and just say ‘The hell with it . . . let’s go play football, let’s go rock and roll.’
“There’s never been anything unusually ominous or surprising or behind the scenes that’s taken us by surprise. There really hasn’t been. The throwing shoulder, there’s a lot going on there. It’s a complicated mechanism. At this level, with the type of torque that’s put out, you just want to make sure you bring him along the right way.’’
As much as Ballard has preached an it-takes-53-players approach, Luck’s impact on the Colts’ success can’t be overstated. With him under center, the team is 43-27 in the regular season. Without him, the record plummets to 10-16.
“We all know the importance of Andrew and the health of the shoulder coming around,’’ Irsay said. “Can we get it done if that doesn’t happen, if it’s an extended period still where we’re working our way through it still taking longer than we thought? Sure we can.’’
But even taken at face value, Irsay’s words indicate that Luck is not yet “healed.”
Josh McDaniels opens up on why he betrayed the Colts, and he still claims there are no assurances he will be Bill Belichick’s successor. Jim McBride of the Boston Globe:
Josh McDaniels showed up at Gillette Stadium Feb. 6 for what he thought was his final day of work as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator.
It was two days after the Super Bowl LII loss to the Eagles and he was set to clean out his office and put the finishing touches on the opening remarks for his introductory news conference as Indianapolis’s new head coach, which was scheduled for the following day.
However, after meeting with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick and hearing their plans for McDaniels, he had a change of heart and decided to stay in New England.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure what the future was. I just hadn’t had any clarity on that,’’ McDaniels said Monday, speaking publicly for the first time since his decision. “So, where did I fit in? Were there any plans? I just didn’t have much clarity on what my role was here moving forward.’’
McDaniels, who had one year left on his Patriots contract, had all those questions answered during his chats with Kraft and Belichick.
“Once I heard from Robert and Bill on that Tuesday, it just gave me reason to pause and consider this whole situation,’’ said McDaniels, who was given no guarantees about future positions, but did have his contract adjusted.
Armed with all the information he needed, McDaniels’s desire to continue in New England was fortified.
“The opportunity to stay here and work for who I think is the greatest owner in sports and the best head football coach in the history of our game, to work with the best quarterback that has ever played . . . Look, I’m privileged to have the opportunity to do that and when they kind of crystallized that — ‘Hey, here’s what we see going forward and here’s how we would like you to fit into it’ — it gave me a reason to stop and say, ‘All right, what’s the best decision for me?’ And certainly it was difficult. But I made the decision on my own, nobody pushed me into it.’’
When he finalized the decision, McDaniels called Colts general manger Chris Ballard early Tuesday evening. He acknowledged it wasn’t an easy conversation.
“Chris was tremendous the whole entire time,’’ said McDaniels. “He’s an incredible human being. He’s great at what he does. He’s going to be successful. It was difficult. I had a friendship with him — I still do. . . . He’s a guy that I have a lot of respect for and admiration for. He was a big reason why I was interested in that job in the first place. It was as difficult a decision as I’ve ever made professionally. He handled it extremely well, he was a complete professional about it.’’
Next up was the task of calling assistant coaches that had been hired when McDaniels verbally agreed to take the Colts job.
“I spoke to all of them that night right away, shortly after I talked to Chris,’’ McDaniels said. “They were professionals. Like I said, it wasn’t easy for anybody. I apologized to them if it put them in an awkward position. They’re all there [in Indianapolis], which I’m very happy about. They have great opportunities, they’re great coaches, they’re great people, and I’m happy that it worked out for them in that regard.
“Again, it was never my intention to go into this and put anybody in an awkward position or do any harm to anybody or do anything to hurt anybody’s career. That certainly wasn’t a part of my thought process. I just felt like, once I knew the whole picture and I had the opportunity to make a decision, it was tough but I feel like I made the right one.’’
McDaniels’s name has been among the first mentioned when head coaching jobs open up and he’s interviewed for six jobs — the Rams, 49ers, and Jaguars two seasons ago and Bears, Giants, and Colts this year. He made it clear Monday that he “absolutely” wants to be a head coach again.
“I was looking at every one of those opportunities — I interviewed with Chicago, New York [Giants], and Indy. And I was looking at every one of those very intently with the intention to gain one of those positions. That’s what I wanted to do,’’ he said. “Each time I’ve gone into this, they’ve all been different. You know, the scenarios are different, what they’re looking for is important, what I’m looking for is important. To mesh with the people there is important.
“And I apologize to anyone who was affected in any way. Indianapolis did a tremendous job. They have a tremendous organization and I was lucky to be considered and I just think once I found out [what my future in New England was], I made the right decision for me and my family at this time.’’
There was much speculation that McDaniels decided to stay in New England because he didn’t want to uproot his wife and four kids, who range in age from 3-12, again. McDaniels, who moved his family to Denver in 2009 for the Broncos head job, said that wasn’t true.
“My family was ready to go to Indianapolis because at that point that was the decision I had made. So, this isn’t a thing where I’m telling you, ‘I couldn’t move and all that’ — that’s not the case. If that were the case I wouldn’t interview,’’ he said. “They’re very supportive. My wife’s incredible, my kids are great. Do they love New England? Absolutely . . . And have we been blessed to be part of this organization? No doubt. But I’d say in the long run, this coaching profession is kind of crazy. And they know that.
“And at some point, if I have to move or if we end up moving, they understand that’s part of the situation and they were ready to do that.’’
McDaniels said he’d be in favor of an overhaul of the process of interviewing coaches while their teams are still in the playoffs. Currently, those coaches only are allowed to interview during bye weeks and official decisions can’t come until their team is eliminated.
“I think the process is complex,” he said. “You’re putting everything you have — and rightfully so — into the opponent and the game that your playing so that you give your team the best effort so you have an opportunity to win and keep playing. There’s no way I’d do anything different — nor would I recommend anyone else do anything different. We work all year for this opportunity, so it is complex.
“You have a very short time to interview and then you’re trying to piece together what you would and wouldn’t do based on a very short interview process. So, I would say if they could tweak in a positive way and allow either more time or whatever the decisions that are allowed to be made to permit people to try and gather more information or really have the opportunity to make clear decisions. They’re obviously going to impact a lot of people and that would never be a negative thing if they could figure that out.’’
For now, McDaniels is enjoying a week off, but said the offseason has been busy as team-building continues. He said he appreciates the confidence shown in him by Belichick and Kraft, both of whom called McDaniels the top offensive coordinator in the league over the last few days.
“That means a lot,’’ said McDaniels. “Those are two people that I respect dearly. And obviously I try to please them in anything and everything I do for them . . . I’m going to work my butt off for them. I know there’s many, many people that would love the opportunity that I’ve had and I can’t thank them enough for it and I’m looking forward to having another opportunity to go out there and work hard and do my job the best I can to help us win.’
THIS AND THAT
Bill Barnwell analyzes who has the most “draft capital” in 2018.
In a league in which no franchise has shown any ability to beat the draft, the best way to find young talent is to amass as many picks as possible. Not all picks are created equal, but we can track which teams have the most capital to work with in the 2018 NFL draft.
There are a couple of ways to measure draft capital, and both are useful when analyzing the current league:
The most well-known model is the Jimmy Johnson chart, a widely accepted chart credited to the coach who traded for more draft picks than anyone while rebuilding the Dallas Cowboys into a dynasty.
Franchises that are more inclined to use analytics have built their own trade chart, adjusted for more empirical measures of actual value returned and for the current collective bargaining agreement, which operates on a different draft scale. The closest public analogue to those models is the chart created by Chase Stuart of Football Perspective.
The Johnson chart is useful for measuring what the league perceives as the value of each pick, which comes in handy for analyzing trades. The Stuart chart is useful for measuring what each pick is actually worth relative to other selections. The traditional chart favors selections at the top of the draft, while the Stuart chart finds that midround picks are far more valuable than the Johnson chart perceives them to be. For the purpose of this piece, we’ll use the Stuart model unless otherwise noted.
If teams weren’t allowed to trade selections and compensatory picks didn’t exist, we would know exactly which had the most and least draft capital from the moment the season ended. Obviously, that’s not the case. We can measure not only which teams have the most draft capital, but also which have added (or lost) the most from what they would have mustered based on their performance alone. Let’s do that here.
To establish the baseline for how much draft capital each team should have, we can start with a 224-pick, compensatory-selection-free draft and assign each team the picks they would have received by virtue of their record, ranging from 67.4 points (Cleveland, 0-16) to 33.3 points (Philadelphia, 13-3). The league handed out a total of 53.2 points worth of compensatory selections, so we’ll assign each team 1/32nd of that figure to add to their total.
The difference between the “expected” draft capital and the amount of actual picks each team is currently projected to spend in the draft is a product of the work done by those organizations. General managers traded players for picks, acquired extra value in pick-for-pick swaps and used free agency to generate compensatory selections. It’s difficult to see that equity on the field before the players appear, so this is a measure of what each general manager has done on paper heading into the end of March.
Let’s start with the five teams that have traded away the most draft capital, then finish with the five that created the most. A full rankings of all 32 teams can be found at the bottom:
Biggest draft capital fallers
Expected capital: 47.6 points (13th)
Actual capital: 37.3 points (21st)
Difference: minus-10.3 points
Washington is down its third-rounder from the Alex Smith trade, and while the team is currently projected to come away with a third-round compensatory pick from Kirk Cousins’ departure via free agency, that selection and any other comp picks Washington draws from this offseason won’t hit the books until the 2019 draft. Jay Gruden & Co. have no compensatory selections in this year’s draft, and the seventh-rounder they got from the Rams in the Derek Carrier trade doesn’t make up for much.
4. New York Jets
Expected capital: 55.4 points (6th)
Actual capital: 43.8 points (15th)
Difference: minus-11.6 points
The Jets actually had extra picks thanks to the second-round selection they added in the Sheldon Richardson trade, but then they sent both of their 2018 second-round picks and their 2019 second-rounder to move up the board from sixth to third in their deal with the Colts. The move leaves the Jets with only two picks in the top 100, as Gang Green won’t draft after the third overall slot until 72nd. It’s a lot to give up for what might be their third choice at quarterback.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
Expected capital: 35.0 points (32nd)
Actual capital: 22.2 points (32nd)
Difference: minus-12.8 points
Virtually every one of the Eagles’ picks after their first-rounder has changed hands. Their second-round pick went to the Browns in 2016 as part of the deal to draft Carson Wentz. Their third-rounder went to the Bills as part of the Ronald Darby deal last August. They had three late-fourth-round picks after trading away Eric Rowe and Sam Bradford in 2016, but one went to the Dolphins for Jay Ajayi last October. Howie Roseman traded a fifth-rounder he acquired from the Seahawks back to Seattle and reacquired a seventh-rounder he dealt as part of the same swap through an entirely different pair of Seahawks trades.
Of course, the Eagles aren’t complaining with the results. They’ll need to foster cheaper talent over the next several years as their roster continues to get more expensive, but Philly holds all of its own picks in 2019 and projects to get a fourth-round compensatory selection for Trey Burton.
2. Seattle Seahawks
Expected capital: 43.7 points (18th)
Actual capital: 30.7 points (27th)
Difference: minus-13.0 points
It hasn’t exactly been a joyous offseason for the Seahawks, and the fact that they’re missing a huge chunk of their draft capital isn’t going to help matters. They usually have a comp pick or two, but their disastrous free-agent period last year meant that even the sixth-rounder they could have picked up for Stephen Hauschka was wiped away by the signings of Luke Joeckel and Eddie Lacy.
John Schneider is also down his second- and third-round picks after trading for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, respectively. The Seahawks do have four selections in the fifth round, where they once found a cornerback named Richard Sherman, but this is a team that needs starting-level talent on rookie salaries, not roster-fillers.
Things aren’t about to get better, either. The Seahawks will send their 2019 second-round pick to the Texans in the Brown trade. They would have been in line for three fourth-rounders after losing Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson and Sheldon Richardson in free agency, but the signings of D.J. Fluker, Jaron Brown, Ed Dickson and Barkevious Mingo appear set to cost the Seahawks two of those would-be fourth-rounders and a pair of later selections.
1. Houston Texans
Expected capital: 59.2 points (4th)
Actual capital: 27.6 points (31st)
Difference: minus-31.6 points
The Texans probably couldn’t imagine a world in which they finished with one of the league’s worst records in 2017 when they traded their first- and second-round picks to the Browns as part of the Deshaun Watson and Brock Osweiler deals, but that’s exactly why it’s dangerous to ship off high draft picks in future seasons. They’ll have three third-round selections, with a comp pick and the Seattle third-rounder from the Duane Brown trade coming through, but the Texans will be missing a pair of enormously valuable assets.
Was it worth it to acquire Watson? We’ll see. Again, it’s difficult to imagine the worst-case scenario, but it’s also naive to write it off altogether as an impossibility. Watson looked fantastic during his abbreviated rookie campaign, but what if the ACL injury saps his effectiveness? What if the interceptions that sneaked up at times during that rookie campaign get worse? What if Houston’s inability to field a competent offensive line in front of its young quarterback turns Watson into a frantic mess?
If Watson turns into the player he looked like in 2017, the Texans won’t regret their deal, even if it came at the huge cost of sending the 25th selection in one draft and the fourth overall pick in another to grab Watson. Given what the 12th pick ended up costing, though, anything short of that will go down as a catastrophic mistake by former general manager Rick Smith.
Biggest draft capital risers
5. Green Bay Packers
Expected capital: 47.2 points (14th)
Actual capital: 52.5 points (6th)
Difference: plus-5.3 points
As was often the case under Ted Thompson, the Packers have extra picks via the compensatory process. Even after the ill-fated decision to sign Martellus Bennett, Green Bay ended up coming away from last spring with a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round selection and two fifth-rounders. Those compensatory picks add up to 7.6 points of draft capital, roughly equivalent to the 69th pick in a typical draft. As a result, new general manager Brian Gutekunst heads into his first draft in charge with 12 picks, which ties him with the Raiders for the most in football.
4. Denver Broncos
Expected capital: 56.1 points (5th)
Actual capital: 66.8 points (4th)
Difference: plus-10.7 points
The Broncos added picks in every which way. They picked up a third-round compensatory selection when Denver declined Russell Okung’s option and let him leave for Los Angeles. They traded a 2017 fifth-round pick to the 49ers to grab a fourth-rounder this year. John Elway shipped off veterans for a pair of fifth-round selections, sending away former key contributor Aqib Talib and failed offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo for picks that will fall two spots apart. Only in the NFL can a star player whom fans were upset to see leave and a guy they might have driven to the airport themselves be worth about the same draft pick.
Those picks might come in handy if the Broncos do want to move up. A couple of extra fifth-rounders won’t get them from fifth to second overall, but let’s say they want to draft someone such as Baker Mayfield and think they can get him in the middle of the first round. To get from No. 40 to No. 18 overall, where the Seahawks are sitting with a hole in their draft, the Broncos might be able to get things done by shipping the 40th pick, their third-round pick (71) and a 2019 third-round pick, which would be a near-perfect match on the Johnson chart.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Expected capital: 60.9 points (3rd)
Actual capital: 74.1 points (2nd)
Difference: plus-13.2 points
The entire difference here amounts to Indy’s trade with the Jets, given that last week’s swap is the only way the Colts have modified the picks they would have inherited by finishing with the league’s third-worst record in 2017. As you might suspect, the Stuart chart suggests the Colts won this trade quite comfortably, as the difference between the third and sixth pick (4.4 points) is far less than the two second-rounders the Jets sent to Indianapolis to pull off the trade (21.4 points). That doesn’t even include the second-round pick New York is sending to the Midwest in 2019.
2. Buffalo Bills
Expected capital: 41.5 points (21st)
Actual capital: 72.9 points (3rd)
Difference: plus-31.4 points (2nd)
There’s an enormous difference between the Colts and the two teams ahead of them on this list. The Bills added a staggering 31.4 points in draft capital. To put that in context, Stuart’s model values the first overall pick at 31.6 points. GM Brandon Beane has basically manufactured the top selection in a typical draft through trades while managing to hold on to most of his own picks (or using them for better picks in a trade). That’s a dramatic shift for an organization that desperately needs an infusion of draft talent after the Doug Whaley era.
Of course, it came at a cost. If I told you before the 2016 season that the Bills could trade Ronald Darby, Marcell Dareus, Cordy Glenn, Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and a third-round pick for Kelvin Benjamin, one year of E.J. Gaines and Jordan Matthews and the first overall pick, would that have seemed like an appealing trade? That amounts to much of the core the Bills expected to build around over the next several seasons. And while those players clearly looked very different two years later, things could come crashing down quickly if the general manager doesn’t find a way to draft a franchise quarterback, as Sashi Brown found out in Cleveland.
A year from now, we could very well be criticizing the Bills for passing up the opportunity to draft Patrick Mahomes and failing to beat the Jets to the top of the draft for Josh Rosen. That criticism might not be fair, and like Brown in Cleveland, it’s clear there’s a coherent plan behind what Beane is doing to rebuild the roster in Buffalo. (It helps that he’s also winning games along the way.)
1. Cleveland Browns
Expected capital: 69.1 points (1st)
Actual capital: 102.3 points (1st)
Difference: plus-33.2 points
Keep in mind that the Browns are punished here for not having any compensatory picks and just dealt away a bunch of their picks for veterans. When GM John Dorsey traded for Jarvis Landry, Damarious Randall and Tyrod Taylor, he shipped off what amounts to 13.3 points of draft capital, which is worth a late-first-round pick. He sent another fifth-round pick to the Patriots as part of the Danny Shelton swap, though that will return a third-round pick in 2019.
This just doesn’t happen very frequently. The last time a team had two top-five picks was in 2000, when Washington benefited from the absolute insanity of the Ricky Williams trade to come away with the second- and third-overall selections. Washington drafted a pair of players who combined to make nine Pro Bowls in Lavar Arrington and Chris Samuels. If the Browns are ever going to turn things around, it’s going to start with what happens at the end of April.
Put another way, the Browns have approximately twice as much draft capital as the average team. Two drafts in one!