The Daily Briefing Wednesday, February 28, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
DE ZIGGY ANSAH has become the highest paid defensive end in football without much of a negotiation. Frank Schwab at NFL.com:
New Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia won’t have to figure out how to replace the team’s best pass rusher.
Defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah will get the franchise tag, the team announced. He’ll get about $18 million on the franchise tag, making him the highest paid defensive end in the NFL according to Kyle Meinke of MLive.
While it’s debatable if Ansah should be the highest paid defensive end in football, he’s clearly the best player in Detroit’s front four and a difference maker. Ansah bounced back very well last season from an injury-plagued 2016. He got 12 sacks, just short of his career best of 14.5 sacks in 2015. Ansah, the fifth pick of the 2013 draft by the Lions, will be a key piece of Patricia’s defense along with cornerback Darius Slay and linebacker Jarrad Davis.
The Lions can continue to work out a long-term deal with Ansah, and that’s in their best interests to lower his 2017 cap number.
The Lions have been 9-7 the last couple years, and didn’t want a situation like a few years ago when top defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh left in free agency. Patricia will be trying to build on those last two seasons, and having Ansah on the defensive line is a good start to that.
The Packers are negotiating and extension with QB AARON RODGERS and apparently the contract signed by SF QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO that made him the NFL’s highest-paid player is the floor. Charean Williams at ProFootballTalk.com:
Jimmy Garoppolo‘s perch at the top of the pay scale isn’t going to last long. The Packers are making “progress” on a new deal with Aaron Rodgers that surely will make the Green Bay quarterback the highest paid in the league.
Packers president Mark Murphy told ESPN on Tuesday that General Manager Brian Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball are involved in talks with Rodgers’ agent.
“We’ve had discussions with his representative,” Murphy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN. “I have a lot of confidence in Brian and Russ and Aaron as well. We want to create a win-win.”
Rodgers became the highest-paid player in in the NFL when he signed a five-year, $110 million extension in 2013, but he has outplayed that deal. Rodgers now ranks sixth, with Garoppolo recently having signed the league’s richest deal, getting a five-year, $137.5 million contract with the 49ers.
As you might imagine, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not immediately acquiesce to the NFL’s demand that he re-emburse it for more than $2 million in legal fees. Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com:
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will appeal the NFL’s decision to seek reimbursement of legal fees stemming from his actions related to Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension, a source confirmed to ESPN.
A hearing has not been scheduled yet, the source said.
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that Jones had requested the hearing, and that it would be before Goodell.
According to multiple sources, the NFL is seeking in excess of $2 million from Jones, citing a resolution that was added to the NFL constitution in 1997 that says if an owner participates in bringing litigation against other owners, he must reimburse them for the legal fees.
Jones threatened to sue the NFL and retained lawyer David Boies over Goodell’s contract, but he never made a filing. The Cowboys offered a letter of support in the Elliott case as the running back fought the NFL’s six-game suspension.
“Really don’t have any comment,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday. “I’ll let Jerry address that at the appropriate time, but don’t really have anything to say about that right now.”
Stephen Jones said he was not aware of any other time the rule has been enforced, “but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened,” he said.
The reimbursement action was generated by fellow owners, not Goodell, and has been approved by the league’s finance committee, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
While Archer repeats the NFL’s line that Goodell is just carrying out the will of unnamed owners, Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com sees the NFL’s collection efforts starting with The Commish (or at least those close to him).
It’s just personal, not business.
That’s an accurate description of the still-decaying state of affairs between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, two league titans whose relationship has devolved into a string of red-faced telephone conversations, legal volleys and prickly media leaks. This is the NFL’s shadow struggle. And it is threatening to press on in perpetuity – Goodell trying to corral an owner with an unquenchable thirst to dictate the league’s future; Jones continually angling to reduce the power of an overpaid and underperforming caretaker.
It’s a tug-of-war that has flipped an organized crime/corporate adage on its ear.
It’s just business, not personal.
Where it concerns Goodell and Jones, that axiom can be reversed. While the problems between the two men might be rooted in business, their strained relationship is getting chest-deep in personal feelings. That’s the fallout of Monday’s New York Times report, stating that Goodell is planning to fine Jones “millions” for conduct detrimental to the league. In Jones’ world, that kind of money is a pin-prick. But the Times report and how it was initially framed is something else.
Those close to Jones believe something more nefarious is afoot, specifically, a campaign designed to beat back and scold the Cowboys owner while publicly reasserting Goodell’s power and reach.
One league source who has long been a Jones ally went as far to call the Times report a “hip check” from the NFL’s Park Avenue offices.
To be fair, the league attempted to re-frame the report in a softer tone – with the NFL Network reporting that any “millions” coming out of Jones’ pockets would simply be the recouping of legal fees. More specifically, monies the NFL doled out during the negotiation of Goodell’s contract extension – which saw the Cowboys owner and league engage in a spate of trash talking between white-shoe law firms – and also some portion of the Ezekiel Elliott suspension dustup.
Regardless of the framing, the fact remains that the NFL is going to dock Jones some cash (Jones is planning to fight this, according to an NFL Network report) and the maneuver was leaked by someone. This is bound to add an extended chill to a relationship between Goodell and Jones that was already icy at best. And like anything else that goes on at the highest levels of this league, there is likely far more in play than we realize. And that is this: In a matter of a few short years, the league and the players’ union will engage in a labor negotiation that is shaping up to be one of the most contentious in the history of the NFL. One that has the NFLPA laying plans for a $600 million war chest in reserves to float its players during a potential work stoppage.
The goal of the union? To negotiate with a big stick that gets the attention of NFL owners. In short, the erasing of regular-season games due to a labor impasse.
Sources close to Jones have told Yahoo Sports that the owner is well aware of the union’s planned war chest and work-stoppage design. They’ve also said that some hardened beliefs are beginning to materialize in the mind of the Cowboys owner.
Number one? That Jones is going to have to be a key player in all future decisions, especially the 2020 labor negotiation. Not just for his legacy and what a labor deal could mean for the future of the league, but also for the health of the multibillion dollar empire he’ll be passing to his family.
Number two? That almost from the start of his tenure as NFL commissioner, Goodell has not only made mistakes in handling scandals, but he has fostered a deeply antagonistic relationship between the league and the NFL Players Association. To the point that the union is preparing for the 2020 labor negotiations to shape up like some sort of Armageddon moment.
Those parallel tracks of thought – Jones’ desire to be a cornerstone in future weighty decisions; and Goodell being a troublesome lightning rod in labor negotiations – have suggested an uneven landscape over the next two years. As the labor negotiations move closer, those close to Jones believe his sense of personal manifest destiny will lead him to push harder on fellow owners to be the lead in every major decision. They also believe Jones could be an owner who extends some kind of olive branch to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, as a means of “rebooting” the relationship between the league office and the union.
All of which brings those close to Jones back to Monday’s Times report. When a commissioner has been so publicly challenged by one of his most defiant and powerful owners, and that same owner has designs on taking an even more influential role in the league’s future, what is the NFL to do?
Draw a line. Push back. Respond. Or to borrow the phrase of one of Jones’ backers, apply a hip check.
In the big-picture view of Jones’ advocates, that’s what happened this week. The Cowboys owner was not only rebellious and critical, but he broke ranks and directly challenged the league’s power structure. So Goodell and the league office responded in kind. While a recouping of “millions” in legal fees could have been treated as a business decision and quietly levied, someone chose to take the low road.
Regardless of the source, the New York Times report was absorbed by Jones’ backers as something that was meant to embarrass. Something that was meant to strike back. Something that was meant to reassert Goodell’s clout in the league hierarchy.
In this shadow struggle between Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones, it was the latest business maneuver wading through some chest-deep personal feelings.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are kicking the NFL’s ticketing deal with Ticketmaster to the curb. Darren Rovell of ESPN.com:
The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to a deal that would opt them out of the league’s ticketing deal with Ticketmaster and instead have ticket reseller SeatGeek serve as the team’s primary box office, sources told ESPN.
Representatives for the Cowboys and SeatGeek both declined comment.
The Cowboys wouldn’t be the first team to opt out of the Ticketmaster deal. The Detroit Lions were, switching their primary ticketing to Veritix for the 2013 season.
In November, the Saints made the move to SeatGeek. Sources say the Lions are moving back to Ticketmaster for 2018, meaning the Cowboys and the Saints will be the only NFL teams not running their box office through Ticketmaster.
The move is consistent with the maverick that Jerry Jones has become. In 1995, Jones famously struck deals with Pepsi and American Express to sponsor the Cowboys while the league had official deals with Coca-Cola and Visa. The NFL sued Jones before eventually acquiescing. In 2002, Jones became only the owner to opt out of the NFL’s licensing deal, which split revenues equally. Jones felt that the Cowboys contributed a disproportionate share and sought to be rewarded by going on his own to distribute and choose where he wanted the Cowboys gear to be sold. Sixteen years later, the Cowboys are still the only team that does that.
The deal with SeatGeek isn’t an automatic business touchdown. The company is just starting to ramp up its primary business after spending much of its life as a reseller and the deal comes less than two months before the NFL schedule is released.
The Cowboys, despite having the most seats in the NFL in 100,000-seat AT&T Stadium, are handled more easily because the team sells more season tickets than any other team. That being said, fans will have to get used to a different system than they were accustomed to for the managing of their tickets.
Bill Barnwell looks at the deal signed by another B.B. – QB BLAKE BORTLES. Like many Barnwell pieces, it is hugely long. Read the whole thing here, with excerpts below:
The decision to extend Blake Bortles’ contract doesn’t stem from the quarterback’s ability. It isn’t a product of what he showed in the postseason during two impressive games against the Steelers and Patriots or, alternately, in a dismal effort at home against the Bills.
Jacksonville’s decision to re-sign Bortles is a product of a questionable decision the Jaguars made last year — it seemed questionable at the time and has grown worse with some perspective. It’s also a reflection on where this team is going and whether the Jags can build upon an impressive 2017 season to take that final leap past the Patriots and into the Super Bowl.
Last May, the Jaguars decided to exercise Bortles’ fifth-year option, which gave the team another year of cost control on their enigmatic quarterback through the 2018 season. The fifth-year option for players taken in the top 10 of the draft is rather expensive for quarterbacks, given that it represents the average salary of the top 10 players at the position. For Bortles, that fifth-year option was more than $19 million.
The salary is guaranteed only for injury, so in most cases, teams that regret the move can just cut the player and move on without any penalty. Players who can’t pass a physical by the beginning of the new league year (in March) remain on the cap and get paid, even if they can’t play, as will likely be the case for Ryan Shazier in Pittsburgh. The Steelers naturally couldn’t have anticipated in May that their star inside linebacker would suffer a career-threatening spinal injury six months later, but for Pittsburgh, the reward of having another year of cost control over Shazier was worth the risk that he would suffer a serious injury.
Likewise, the Jaguars were about to be stuck paying Bortles $19 million for an injury he had when Jacksonville signed him to the extension. The UCF product suffered a wrist injury during the final month of the 2016 season, which the Jaguars elected to treat with shots in the hopes of avoiding surgery. The Jags then picked up Bortles’ option last May all while knowing he had a wrist injury that might require surgery after the 2017 campaign. The wrist got worse as the 2017 season went on, requiring Bortles to undergo surgery after the season ended in late January.
A move that seemed iffy at the time without public knowledge of the injury and looked downright foolish once the Jags briefly benched Bortles during the preseason for Chad Henne only looks worse now. Given the likelihood that Bortles would be unable to pass a physical and subsequently be guaranteed $19 million before hitting free agency next season, the Jaguars made the decision to tender him a three-year, $54 million deal with $26.5 million guaranteed at signing. The fifth-year option was a sunk cost, and the Jaguars didn’t make a terrible move by handing Bortles this deal, but it raises questions about their thought process heading into 2018 and beyond.
The details of the deal
There’s a slim chance Bortles will actually end up playing out this extension for all three years, as teams almost never let a veteran quarterback play into the final year of his contract. This is more realistically a two-year deal for somewhere between $30 million and $36 million, plus incentives, with the ability to renegotiate after 2019 without having to resort to the franchise tag.
To gain that concession, the Jags had to drastically increase the chances Bortles remains the starting quarterback for Jacksonville in 2019. The structure of this deal — namely, the $15 million signing bonus, which is spread over three seasons for cap purposes — means the Jaguars would pay a steep cost to dump Bortles after one season. Cutting the soon-to-be 26-year-old would leave a minimum of $10 million in dead money on their cap next year.
That number could rise as high as $16.5 million if Bortles can’t play; the Jags guaranteed $6.5 million of his $16 million base salary in 2019 with offsets, which another team would inherit as part of a new deal. If Jacksonville cut Bortles after 2018 and he signed a one-year, $3 million contract with, for instance, the Browns, the Jags would owe Bortles $3.5 million in cash and have $13 million in dead money on their cap for 2019.
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The Jaguars didn’t give veteran stars such as Calais Campbell ($6 million) and A.J. Bouye ($10 million) huge signing bonuses as part of far larger and longer contracts when importing them in free agency last year. Either they’ve suddenly changed the way they do business and are going to approach the salary cap differently, or Bortles’ camp insisted they structure this extension in such a way as to make it more likely the former third-overall pick is around for another season.
It’s not about the money in Bortles’ pocket. The Jaguars could have offered Bortles the same three-year, $54 million deal but replaced the $15 million signing bonus with a $6 million signing bonus and a $9 million roster bonus payable on the first day of the new league year. In that scenario, Bortles sees the money hit his bank account at exactly the same time, but the Jags would owe a minimum of $4 million and a maximum of $10.5 million by getting rid of Bortles after one season.
The other prescribed reason the Jaguars structured the deal this way might be to create cap space in 2018, but that doesn’t make much sense. Jacksonville already had about $30 million in cap space with Bortles under contract at the $19 million mark. Their free-agent class includes star wideout Allen Robinson, fellow starting wideout Marqise Lee, nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin, veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny, and Henne. The Jags are unlikely to pay serious money to Colvin given their investment in Bouye. Henne and Posluszny will likely get modest one-year deals. Lee has pieced together one healthy, productive season as a pro. The Jags rightly want to keep around Robinson, but they could have franchised him for one year at $16.3 million or extended him with whatever structure they wanted without having to free up 2018 cap room.
If the Jaguars wanted to free up cap space in the short term for whatever reason, they could have cut struggling wideout Allen Hurns and saved $7 million. Alternately, Caldwell could have turned $12 million of Bouye’s upcoming base salary into an option bonus and freed up $9 million, a move the Jags don’t often do but one that would have entailed less risk than redoing Bortles’ deal.
Borrowing from the future to create cap savings now also ignores the reality that the Jaguars are going to need cap room in the very near future. The Jags have just $17.1 million in free space next year before accounting for rollover or re-signing Robinson. Jacksonville also will be looking at extending Myles Jack and star edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue in 2019, given that they’re both free agents after the 2019 campaign and due for hefty raises on the combined $3.1 million they’ll account for on that year’s cap. Caldwell can create cap room by cutting one of his expensive defensive linemen at that time, but the argument for the Jags clearing out space immediately at the cost of a totally different deal structure with Bortles doesn’t really add up.
So, with the cap-space argument aside, the Jags made this move because they’re comfortable betting that Bortles will be worth running out as their starter into the 2019 season, but not so comfortable that they were willing to give him the sort of five-year extension players such as Andrew Luck and Cam Newton signed before their fifth-year options actually played out. Is that wise?
Depends on which guy shows up. Bortles had his best season in 2017, but it was topsy-turvy. Among the league’s regular quarterbacks last season, only Cam Newton had a higher standard deviation in terms of game-to-game Total QBR than Bortles. Those numbers don’t include the postseason, when Bortles was borderline unplayable as a passer against the Bills but used his legs to pick up first downs in the second half. He followed that with great games against the Steelers and Patriots, which clearly left a lasting memory in the minds of the Jacksonville front office.
When I evaluated Bortles after the 2015 season, I noted that what looked like impressive numbers were mostly hot air. A disproportionate amount of his success came in garbage time as the Jags faced defenses that were mostly concerned with holding on to leads. His biggest plays were a product of throwing up 50-50 balls to Robinson, who was developing into a top-tier wideout.
I can’t make those arguments about Bortles this time around. Robinson went down with a torn ACL in Week 1, and the team’s other nominal starters — Hurns and Lee — were each battling injuries for stretches of 2017. Bortles’ best run came when he threw for 901 yards and seven touchdowns without a pick over a three-week stretch in December, with much of that damage coming on throws to fourth-round pick Dede Westbrook and undrafted free agents Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens.
Indeed, Bortles also wasn’t padding his stats. In 2015, he dropped back 163 times on drives that started with his team possessing a win expectancy at or below 10 percent, which was the third-highest total in football. He posted a 98.6 passer rating on those drives. Last season, Bortles had 68 such dropbacks, which was 25th in the league. He also didn’t derive much benefit from those situations, posting a passer rating of 75.0.
Instead, Bortles dominated teams when he got to throw without having to worry about dragging his Jags back into the game. On drives that began with the Jags enjoying a win expectancy of 75 percent or higher, Bortles was a monster. He completed nearly 67 percent of his throws, averaged 8.8 yards per attempt and threw eight touchdowns without a pick. His passer rating was 115.9 and his Total QBR was 82.0, which was second in the league in those situations behind Russell Wilson (91.2).
I don’t bring this up to criticize Bortles — there’s nothing wrong with throwing the ball effectively when your team is ahead, of course — but it’s also fair to wonder how much of his perceived improvement from a team that benched him during the preseason is the context in which he played. After years of investing in running backs, the Jags had their best running game with Leonard Fournette in tow. The Jacksonville defense posted the best DVOA in the league, forced the opposing team to punt on a league-high 50.7 percent of possessions and allowed the Jags to run 191 meaningful possessions on offense, second behind the Cardinals. Bortles was facing plenty of tired defenses in 2017.
The Jags’ defense is unlikely to be quite as effective next season, if only because of health; including their 11 starters and key reserves such as Colvin, Posluszny and Marcell Dareus, their defensive core missed all of three games during the regular season. Jacksonville also was dominant on offense in the red zone, scoring an average of 5.5 points per trip. That, too, is difficult to pull off on a recurring basis. Bortles is likely to shoulder a more meaningful part of the load and won’t be in such passing-friendly situations.
On the other hand, he’s likely to have Robinson back in the fold. If Robinson comes back with Cole and Westbrook, Jacksonville’s top receivers will each be entering their age-25 campaigns and should improve. Fournette should be healthier after a midseason ankle injury kept him out and slowed him for much of the subsequent campaign. Cam Robinson was projected to end up as a right tackle, but he over-delivered as a rookie left tackle and allowed just two sacks in 15 games. He should continue to grow into his role.
The problem with judging Bortles gets back to that variance issue. The Jaguars didn’t have any idea which quarterback they were going to get from week to week. After that incredible three-game stretch, Bortles threw five interceptions over the final two games of the year, although one was in a desperate, game-ending situation. He followed that with an awful game against the Bills in the wild-card round before looking impressive against two of the best teams in football.
If the Bills had mustered up anything on offense — or stopped the Jags on the fourth-and-goal, play-action touchdown pass that ended up winning the game for Jacksonville — Bortles’ season would have ended with three straight ugly games and there’s virtually no chance the Jaguars are picking up this option. Then again, if the ball doesn’t bounce off a defender’s hands before a field goal try at the end of the first half or his defense doesn’t come up with a fourth-and-goal stop to win the game, Nick Foles never has the opportunity to have those two incredible games against the Vikings and Patriots, either.
The best way to evaluate Bortles is by looking at the entirety of his season and the way he has played over his entire career as a starter as opposed to looking at those two most recent games or the three beforehand. In that vein, it’s hard to make a case that the Jags should be committing to playing Bortles past 2018. This is a guy who might not even have started in Week 1 if Henne had been more impressive during the preseason. Bortles’ mechanics, which were a problem heading into the draft, fell apart in virtually unprecedented fashion under heavy pressure in 2016 before staying solid last season. With the Jags investing in weapon after weapon for their quarterback, Bortles ranks 29th in Total QBR and 30th in passer rating over the past four seasons among the 30 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts.
The Jags proved that they can win with Bortles, and if not for a questionable call or two, they might have advanced to the Super Bowl with their much-maligned passer calling signals. It’s also true that there might not be a guaranteed upgrade to Bortles waiting in the marketplace. Kirk Cousins could go elsewhere, and as ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando noted on my podcast Monday, Cousins’ Total QBR in 2017 (52.3) was below that of Bortles (55.6). The Washington star was also the third-most inconsistent quarterback of the season. Eli Manning appears to be staying in New York and hasn’t been very good over the past two years. Sam Bradford hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Case Keenum has one year of success on his track record, and, like Bortles, it came during a 2017 season in which a good running game and a dominant defense did a lot of the work.
At the same time, though, it’s not difficult to imagine that a Jaguars offense whose job is first and foremost to avoid turnovers might very well be better with Alex Smith at the helm, and Jacksonville could have topped Washington’s offer if so inclined. Cousins has a far longer track record of success than Bortles and likely has a higher long-term floor. The Jags were reportedly actively exploring the quarterback market days before extending Bortles.
I think Bortles deserved to come back into 2018 as the team’s starter on that fifth-year option. Simultaneously, it’s difficult to understand how a team that didn’t believe enough in Bortles to hand him a meaningful long-term deal also thought it was worth the risk of being stuck with a $10 million-plus dead-money hit in 2019. It’s also extremely unlikely any team would have given Bortles two years and $36 million fully guaranteed on the free-agent market given the other options available.
This is a Jaguars organization that, rightfully buoyed by the success of 2017, is doubling down on the guys who took it to the AFC Championship Game. Caldwell, Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone were under contract through the end of 2019, but ownership just gave each new deals running through the 2021 campaign. Bortles was part of that success, and while he wasn’t the most important contributor, he also held his own for stretches of time. The Jaguars don’t advance past the Bills without their defense making up for a terrible game from the quarterback, but they also wouldn’t have made it past the Steelers without several big throws from him, too.
It’s also fair to look back 12 months ago, when the two most promising up-and-comers in the AFC were the Raiders and Titans. One year later, both Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey are gone and the teams they left look to have major holes.
The Jaguars should be good again in 2018 — they actually underperformed their Pythagorean expectation of 11.8 wins with a 10-6 mark — but there’s also a chance that everything goes south against a harder schedule if the defense’s injury rate regresses toward the mean. If that happens, the Jags might very well be looking at the decisions they made this offseason and wonder why they were so adamant about bringing everyone from 2017 along for the ride.
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com says a QB could be drafted in the first round by the Dolphins – or at least that is the chatter in Miami:
Ryan Tannehill is still, when healthy, the Dolphins’ starting quarterback. But he may have competition soon.
The Miami Herald reports that there appears to be some willingness within the Dolphins organization to consider taking a quarterback with the 11th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Whether a quarterback they like will be there when the 11th pick comes up remains to be seen, but they’ve been linked to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Projections are all over the map about whether Mayfield would still be on the board when the Dolphins pick.
Tannehill is still under contract for three more seasons, all at salaries under $20 million, which is looking more and more affordable by starting quarterback standards in today’s NFL. But Tannehill hasn’t played since suffering the first of two serious knee injuries in December of 2016, and he’ll be 30 in July. It’s possible the Dolphins think Tannehill’s best days are behind him. If so, it would make sense to go shopping for his replacement.
If Tom Curran of NESN.com is to be believed, TE ROB GRONKOWSKI has been pondering retirement for a while now.
As Rob Gronkowski ponders possibly giving up football for wrestling, NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran reveals the tight end “didn’t enjoy himself” this past season and “a hell of an air-clearing” is needed in Foxboro.
Curran, speaking Monday on “Boston Sports Tonight”, said it’s “starting to wear on him mentally and physically, the atmosphere in Foxboro…He seriously considered stepping away from the game in training camp.”
“They still need to have a hell of an air-clearing at Patriot Place to get these guys back,” Curran said.
Since the retirement issue first came up at the Super Bowl, Gronkowski and those around him have hinted about the All-Pro joining the WWE or becoming an action-movie star.
A series of tweets from Gronk the past few days have fueled the wrestling speculation.
THIS AND THAT
The Competition Committee has been meeting in Indy. Frank Schwab of Shutdown Corner says they have all looked again at a famous play, and everyone agrees that Dez Caught It.
Three years after Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was involved in perhaps the most notorious “not a catch” reversal in NFL history, the league’s competition committee said it should have been a catch. Bryant seemed to make a big fourth-down catch in a playoff game at Lambeau Field, but it was reversed on review, sparking an outrage. This week the competition committee said it wants to rewrite the catch rule so catches like Bryant’s will count in the future. That and three bucks will get Cowboys fans a tall latte.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported that New York Giants owner John Mara said the competition committee agreed plays like Bryant’s catch and Calvin Johnson’s infamous non-catch at Chicago (they call it the “Calvin Johnson Rule” for a reason) should have been catches. The committee is trying to redefine the catch rule after yet another season of controversy with the rule.
“I think where we are unanimous [are] plays like the Dez Bryant play in Green Bay, going to the ground, the Calvin Johnson play from a couple of years ago,” Mara told ESPN. “I think all of us agree that those should be completions. So let’s write the language to make them completions.”
Ultimately, the competition committee agreeing that Bryant’s play should have been a catch should just make Dallas fans more upset. The Packers won that game and moved on to the NFC championship game. It’s not like they’re replaying the game with a better catch rule in place.
But Mara’s declaration is another sign that the catch rule as we know it will die. Once commissioner Roger Goodell admitted before the Super Bowl that the rule was bad, it was doomed. And it’s not like the NFL can go into the 2018 season with a rule that the competition committee now admits needs to be changed. One of the biggest moments of the 2017 season came when Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James had a potential game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots reversed due to the catch rule. Hopefully that won’t happen again.
No matter what, Cowboys fans will talk about that ruling until the end of time. At least they finally know the NFL admits it should have been a catch.
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on the discussion about the pass interference rule:
Among the many topics of discussion as the NFL world begins to descend on Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine is whether to change the pass interference rule so that the maximum penalty is 15 yards, as is the case in college football.
That has been discussed before and the NFL has always declined to change the rule, preferring instead to keep defensive pass interference as a spot foul. And it’s unlikely that the NFL will change the rule this year, either.
NFL rules changes almost always favor the offense, and especially passing offense. A rule change that would favor the defense would be very out of character for the league, particularly after the 2017 season, when passing and scoring were down, and television ratings were down simultaneously. If anything, the NFL is going to lean toward changing rules to encourage more offense and more scoring.
Capping pass interference at 15 yards would do the opposite: It would allow defensive backs who are burned on deep passes to dive at a receiver’s legs and try to trip him before he can get the ball, knowing that a 15-yard penalty is a lot better than a 50-yard reception.
The league may consider two types of pass interference, with flagrant interference remaining a spot foul but incidental interference capped at 15 yards. But it seems unlikely that the NFL would want to add more subjectivity to enforcement of a penalty that fans and defensive backs alike already complain is enforced too inconsistently.
So the smart money is on pass interference rules staying exactly as they are. Plenty of peple don’t like the rule, but few can agree on the best way to fix it.