Inside Football: What's taking so long for a Deflategate decision?
Training camps are here, so why isn't there a Deflategate decision yet? Also, is Junior Galette done? And why are the Titans being so stingy with Mariota?
For those who work or play in the National Football League, beach time and pool time are a thing of the past. It's go time. The grind starts now. No more lazy days. If you didn't soak up your vacation time, well, ice up son, because it's gone and it's not coming back until next June.
Being the veteran that I am at this point, I opted to spend a good bit of July on the sidelines, not quite unplugged but also not opining on the NFL on a daily basis. For better or for worse, I'm back.
That doesn't mean I wasn't paying close attention the past few weeks, however, to the various machinations of this league that never sleeps. And there was plenty of stuff going on that made me do a double-take or two. There was plenty of head-scratching going on as I ran the kids to one camp or another. Plenty of things that made me stop and go, "hmmm," in the words of our great American poet, Arsenio Hall. So I thought I would take this time to address some of those issues now, with the true nuts of bolts of players donning the pads and position battles and scheme tweaks still just beginning as more teams call veterans to training camp by the day.
Here are some burning questions prompted by the month that was in the NFL, and what these developments mean.
1. Why the hell hasn't Roger Goodell made a Deflategate decision yet?
As I've noted many times, nothing, when it comes to matters of NFL discipline, should surprise anyone at this point. It's impossible to predict the ebb and flow many of these matters take, and the league will do what the league wants when it wants to do it.
But, come on man.
We are a half a year removed from the game in question taking place, we are months removed from Ted Wells' grand-standing conference call where he tried to defend his report and we are weeks removed from Tom Brady spending a day at the NFL offices to plead his case in his appeal.
As I discussed when filling in for Doug Gottlieb a few weeks back, the longer this thing goes, the more I believe Goodell is going through backchannels to try to broker a deal both sides can live with. It may be impossible in the end, but the NFL wants this wrapped up in a bow whenever the appeal decision is made, and would love to have an outcome that doesn't involve arguably the best quarterback of all-time suing the NFL as the backdrop to this Super Bowl 50 season.
I don't see Brady taking any deal that involved a suspension, though a fine of a few game checks might be palatable. With camps opening, Goodell is running out of time not to have this bleed into Hall of Fame weekend, etc, and I certainly don't see Brady backing down now. The NFL can say there is no timetable, but a team deserves the right to know going into camp exactly what sentence a player is facing, particularly one of this magnitude.
2. What the heck are the Titans doing picking a fight with the second-overall pick over relative financial table scraps?
You have to go out of your way to get embroiled in a financial staredown with a draft pick during this era of virtually slotted contracts. And for a franchise as moribund as the Titans, to do so with a kid they just handpicked as their savior, at a time when people in their building and around the league are wondering about the future of the franchise's ownership, and with a roster in utter disrepair, this befuddles the mind.
News flash: you aren't the Patriots and Bill Belichick. You won two games last season. You aren't in a position to take hard-line stands over an issue like contract offsets with a quarterback you just selected second overall. You gain next to nothing kicking off your relationship with Marcus Mariota in this fashion. It's certainly not going to win you brownie points from a dwindling fanbase and it's not a good look to be scrounging over future pennies (relatively speaking) should this kid become a total bust.
I get it you might be gun shy after swinging and missing massively on Jake Locker, but that's not Mariota's problem. To have the focus being on what happens should Mariota fail as camp approaches is exactly the opposite of where it should be.
3. Is Junior Galette trying to run himself out of the NFL?
It certainly appears that way to me, and if NFL owners are so willing to blackball Ray Rice for his actions being caught on video tape, then perhaps the same standard will apply here (although pass rushers are certainly more of a commodity than running backs).
If that is in fact Galette on that heinous video tape, swinging his belt at a woman, then go ahead and give him the treatment Rice is getting. Unofficially banish him from the league. Be gone.
Galette's missives in response to the Saints cutting him will do him no favors in other NFL front offices, and while I suspect his ability to get after the passer will lead someone to throw him a lifeline (the NFL lowering Greg Hardy's suspension to four games would seem to send that message, would it not?), after the Bears debacle with Ray McDonald maybe discretion should be the better part of valor as the domestic violence accusations mount against individuals.
Kudos to the Saints for showing this guy the curb, despite the cap ramifications of doing so, to say nothing of the potential void it leaves their defense, but addition by subtraction is not unusual in this league. As much as they must be regretting the mega-deals they gave Galette and Jairus Byrd, and as many questions will linger about their defense, this was the right thing to do and as the days go on Galette himself may prove them to be even more correct with the things he says and does.
4. Did that Tod Leiweke hiring come as out of nowhere as it seemed?
Indeed, many influential people at the ownership level of top NFL clubs didn't learn the league had hired Leiweke as its new COO until a few hours before the press release went out last week. It caught many of them by surprise, with Leiweke most recently being with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was being read by several execs I spoke to as a potential signal that chief legal counsel Jeff Pash's role may be shifting somewhat and focused even more centrally on matters directly related to legalities.
As I've noted before, in the aftermath of Deflategate, it's widely known in ownership circles that Patriots owner Bob Kraft, a don among dons, has soured on Pash and that much of his angst over the handling of this case is directed at him rather than Goodell. Leiweke, who spent several years in the Seahawks organization, is someone who could be a buffer of sorts, and in a year in which the NFL had one crisis after another, it could be that more new blood was simply needed. But especially at a time when Deflategate is very much on people's minds around the league, this hire was being viewed by many high rollers in the NFL through the prism of Kraft's dissatisfaction with the way things have been done over a very tumultuous last few years.
Notes from around the league …
|It's hard to imagine a scenario now where Julio Jones isn't signed before the season begins. The dual Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas signings essentially established a new sweet spot for top-of-the-line receivers, and the only way anyone is getting at all close to the $16M/year Megatron got is by getting to the open market in his prime. Extensions that are done while a player is on the franchise tag or the fifth-year option aren't going to reap that sort of reward, and from everything I am hearing, both Jones and A.J. Green are cool with doing something now in the Bryant range rather than play it out and try to hit a grand slam a year from now, knowing the franchise tag is likely looming for them as well. Expect both to fall in around $13M a season and this could be a very similar situation to how the Bryant and Thomas deals went down in that once one was agreed to, the other was all but imminent. These two won't be as nearly identical, but they aren't going to be all that dissimilar either.|
|Seems like the Ravens have quickly become a fashionable Super Bowl pick, and while I like a lot of what's going on there, as usual, there are a lot of unknown quantities on that offense. Specifically, I don't know they have a pass catcher you can bank on at all, depending on how capable you think Steve Smith is at 36. Joe Flacco will go a long way to getting some of these lesser-known youngsters up to speed, but keep an eye on their younger defensive ends and linebackers as well, because I have a hard time believing they get the sack totals out of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil this season that they received in 2014.|
|Just like Julio Jones, expect A.J. Green to get a new deal before the season begins. The dual Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas signings essentially established a new sweet spot for top-of-the-line receivers, and the only way anyone is getting at all close to the $16M/year Megatron got is by getting to the open market in his prime. Extensions that are done while a player is on the franchise tag or the fifth-year option aren't going to reap that sort of reward, and from everything I am hearing, both Jones and A.J. Green are cool with doing something now in the Bryant range rather than play it out and try to hit a grand slam a year from now, knowing the franchise tag is likely looming for them as well. Expect both to fall in around $13M a season and this could be a very similar situation to how the Bryant and Thomas deals went down in that once one was agreed to, the other was all but imminent. These two won't be as nearly identical, but they aren't going to be all that dissimilar either.|
|The Colts' free-agent spending is under the microscope even more following the release of Gosder Cherilus, who they made one of the highest-paid at his position just a few short years ago. I tend to think they got it more right this past offseason, but absorbing future cap hits at a time when they haven't been proactive about extending Andrew Luck or T.Y. Hilton could have big ramifications down the road. Several other execs believe that Luck's price tag might end up being so astronomical it puts them in a bind with Hilton. I figured Hilton would come in around $12M a year -- there are questions about just how much of his development is due to Luck's phenomenal talent -- around where Mike Wallace was a few years ago. But rival cap guys who are sizing up the Colts aren't sure they'll be able to dip that deep. Luck is going to become the highest-paid player in the history of the game, but the Hilton situation could get more interesting than many would have expected.|
|In a year in which the Bears are still rebuilding and the Lions might take a step back, I am buying the Vikings big time. They didn't really give Adrian Peterson much of anything financially in his contract restructuring, but he feels like he won, so great. He's amped up to be the best in the league again and probably will return to glory. I love the Vikings getting kicker Blair Walsh signed long-term (he showed he could do it outside the dome a year ago with the Vikes having to play outdoors) and doing so before Justin Tucker signs probably helps their cause as well financially. There are a lot of good feelings building there and Mike Zimmer has the perfect temperament to keep them from letting the press clippings (this one included) from going to their heads. They come out of an early bye (Week 5) with a stretch where they could make waves against the Chiefs, Lions, Bears, Rams and Raiders, which could have them sitting in a nice spot ahead of their Nov. 22 showdown with NFC North bullies Green Bay.|
|I continue to get the strong sense that the Giants are going to be above and beyond in how professionally they handle the Jason Pierre-Paul injury situation, and they aren't banking on getting anything much out of him in the first half of the season, anyway. Look for the sides to come to terms on a one-year deal that with incentives for games played makes the sack-master well compensated, and the reality is these sides need one another now and don't have many alternatives. The Giants wish the star would have allowed them to help him through this very difficult situation, but want nothing more for this to work. Also, as opposed to years past, there was no "woe is me" coming from the coaching ranks there following the horrible fireworks accident. The return of Steve Spagnuolo seems very well-timed in that regard, with him refusing to allow anyone to use unfortunate injuries as an excuse. The Giants are also quietly hopeful that injured offensive tackle William Beatty could be a factor in the second half of the season as well.|
|It's time for the Jets and Mo Wilkerson to get creative and try to get a deal done. Most of the team's deals this offseason were really one or two years in disguise, so why not figure out a two- or three-year deal that keeps Wilkerson in the fold until the Jets have to make big financial decisions on fellow defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams? Make it $36M for three years, largely guaranteed -- which wouldn't put him in the Robert Quinn money he deserves but also would allow him to hit the market well before 30. The Jets keep their best player and remain flexible, and add some voidable years to help with cap relief. If it's not the right time to find numbers that work over five or six years, let's stop pretending any of these deals end up going that long anyway, and find a short-term solution. Wilkerson would be very open to the idea, and while it might not be ideal for the Jets, I believe there is ample wiggle room in this regard. If Wilkerson hits certain thresholds then maybe a no-franchise guarantee kicks in at the end of the deal. Get creative … Look for Geno Smith to get a solid half season to show what he can, or can't, do before the Jets entertain the thought of a quarterback change. If Smith is struggling, and especially if he is being undone by turnovers, then come November change could be in the air. But don't expect a quick hook. I figure it'll take a good half season at least for the new regime in New York to have a handle on where its young, embattled QB is.|
|The Steelers' big-money signing of Cam Heyward had some other teams wondering, with Heyward getting over $30M in the first three years of the deal. The Steelers realized they would be seen as overpaying, and they know they like Heyward more than a lot of other teams do. But they also were somewhat limited in that he was already going to get $7M on the fifth-year option and they've been burned by the franchise tag in the past and are also thinner on the pass rush than they've been in a long time. So Heyward had a lot working in his favor. It's a calculated gamble on his upside, but they see double-digit sack totals in his near future and were willing to pay him as such.|
|The Rams made a concerted effort to fortify their offensive line but several scouts from other teams question if the unit was going to be up to snuff. The fact the Rams used a supplemental pick on a linemen they figure to "redshirt" for a year raised eyebrows as well, given that this would seem to be a make-or-break year for them and their regime. A move to Los Angeles would only further work in coach Jeff Fisher's favor in terms of an extension, given his strong Southern California ties, but it remains to be seen if owner Stan Kroenke has curried enough favor with other owners to get the votes to move. Kroenke going rogue might be his only way. Without improved play from the line I wouldn't brace for a whole lot of out Nick Foles, who, when he shined in Philadelphia, did so in the scope of an innovative scheme and with what was the best line in the NFL that season.|
|I'd be very surprised if much changes in the Seahawks situation with quarterback Russell Wilson, and I don't see either side flinching now. It would take a massive shift in terms of the kind of up-front money ownership is willing to spend to facilitate this deal, and contrary to the way this deal is being framed elsewhere, I continue to hear that the Seattle structure would be highly "pay-as-you-go" and the true guaranteed money remains a significant obstacle. As I reported months ago, Wilson's team has never been interested in negotiating once the pads come on at training camp, and that's not going to change, either, short of the Seahawks shifting the structure of their proposals. I'm still thinking this is headed to a franchise tag in 2016, and I would fully anticipate that being an exclusive designation.|
|Just like Geno Smith in New York, I don't expect a quick hook for embattled quarterback Robert Griffin III. Expect Jay Gruden to give RG3 a real shot at keeping the job before Gruden considers a quarterback change. That said, if RG3 struggles like he has the last two seasons, change could be in the air come November.|
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