The Draft Games Begin

It’s a rite of April. Draft chatter is at full buzz and no one knows what’s the truth and what’s just spin. Let’s cut through all that with five things to know as May 8 draws near. Plus, NFL Media’s new leader, 10 things and my journey to England

Five things you should know about the draft, 24 days before the first round begins:

1. You’d better go to the videotape if you want to see Jadeveon Clowney work out. Clowney won’t be doing any more individual workouts for NFL teams, apparently the result of Clemson tackle Brandon Thomas, a day-two NFL draft prospect, blowing out his knee in training for the draft two weeks ago. The Clowney camp has told at least three teams he won’t be working out for teams before the draft, preferring to let his on-campus Pro Day April 2 at South Carolina stand. I spoke to two general managers over the weekend about this, and one took exception to Clowney taking a pass on pre-draft team workouts and one didn’t. He still will visit teams and interview with coaches and GMs, but his next show-and-tell football performance will be after the draft in a mini-camp, with whichever team picks him. Now, I don’t think this will prevent a team that loves him from picking him, but it might be a small factor in the decision by a team on the fence about Clowney. As one of the general managers said, “I’d want the guy who’s going to be coaching him to put him through some of our drills, and see how he responds.”

2. Ten players who touch the ball in the first round—and no runners. That’s how draft guru Gil Brandt sees it. Four quarterbacks and six wideouts in the top 32 for Brandt, if he had to pick it today. Contrast that to last year, when there was one quarterback, wideout or running back in the top 15—receiver/returner Tavon Austin, who went eighth to St. Louis. This year a very similar player in size and production, Brandin Cooks of Oregon State, could be the sixth wideout picked. Regarding the passers, Derek Carr of Fresno State joins the big three quarterbacks, and at receiver, the depth is so good that former unheralded guys like Cody Latimer of Indiana are creeping into view high in the second round now.

3. “I’m down to my 40th-ranked player, and I don’t have a running back picked yet.” That’s Brandt on this crop. It’s the diminished importance of the position, plus the fact that Trent Richardson looks like he should have been picked 103rd, not third, in 2012 based on his production so far. Teams have proven over and over they can find good backs on day three of the draft, and as rookie free agents.

Tom Savage is making the rounds and could have the strongest arm in the draft. (David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
Tom Savage is making the rounds and could have the strongest arm in the draft. (David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

4. Speaking of surprise players … The stunner this draft season is a quarterback who threw 83 passes as a Rutgers sophomore in 2010, then didn’t play college football in 2011 or 2012 as he transferred from Rutgers to Arizona to Pitt. “The hottest guy in the draft,” Brandt of Tom Savage. How hot is he? Late last week Savage’s agent, Neil Schwartz, had to tell two teams who wanted to set up a visit or meeting with the quarterback that he didn’t have any time left to do so. “There are literally no days left on his calendar for him to go see any other teams,” Schwartz said Saturday. The deadline for teams to host players or work them out is April 27, and by then Savage is scheduled to have either worked out for or had visits with 24 or 25 teams. That’s an amazing number of workouts and/or meetings … and when I say meetings with teams, I mean time with either the GM, coach, offensive coordinator or two or three of those. Savage is popular because he’s got an above-average NFL arm right now—some are calling it the best in the draft—and showed well over the last half of last season with a bad offensive line at Pitt. He spent Friday with the Oakland staff, and that’s a place he’d fit in well. Amazing to think a player so itinerant and with so little college success could be leap-frogging A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger. But there’s a good chance Savage will. Todd McShay had Houston taking Savage with the 33rd overall pick. Now there’d be a way to kick off the second day of the draft in style, with a stunner like that.

5. A few teams with quarterback needs have an interesting strategy. I’ve heard that at least four quarterback-needy teams—Houston (first pick),  Jacksonville (3), Cleveland (4) and Oakland (5)—are strongly considering passing on quarterbacks with their first picks and waiting until their second or third selections. Simple reason: They’re not in love with any of the quarterbacks, and there are too many other good players who are surer things than a quarterback you have sincere doubts about. For that reason, there could be more quarterbacks taken in round two than round one. For instance, Jacksonville really likes Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, and he’d likely be there high in the second round when the Jags pick again, at 39.

One more thing: The great value in this draft will be from about 20 to 50. So guess what team is in great position to capitalize on the depth in rounds one and two? San Francisco, with the ability and the recent history of moving around so well. The rich-get-richer Niners hold the 30th, 56th, 61st, and 77th overall picks. If they want someone in the forties, they’ve got the currency to get him. The Browns are in good shape to do some damage too, with picks 26, 35, 71 and 83.

Brian Rolapp, here at a Super Bowl XLVIII presentation, is succeeding Steve Bornstein as president of NFL Network. (AP)
Brian Rolapp, here at a Super Bowl XLVIII presentation, is succeeding Steve Bornstein as president of NFL Network. (AP)

Get to know Brian Rolapp.

The chief operating officer of NFL Media is 41, a Mormon, a Brigham Young grad, checks Twitter before he does anything else in the morning, and you’ve probably never heard of him. But you need to know Brian Rolapp. As the NFL approaches its 95th season, Rolapp’s going to be among the handful of most important people charting the course of all things NFL as the game turns 100 and beyond. His importance will be not only determining the course of NFL Network as the successor to retiring president/CEO Steve Bornstein, but also in innovative new media ventures.

Rolapp is behind the invention of a new media tool the NFL will launch in August called NFL Now, which will be able to customize your NFL consumption to your favorite team, your fantasy team, your favorite NFL Films stuff from its vast vault—so that every day, multiple times, you’ll be able to check back to see the latest from all sources NFL.

Mostly, Rolapp seems exactly what Roger Goodell wants in his senior staff: a guy who respects tradition but isn’t married to it, loves new ideas and seeks new ways to keep the NFL on the cutting edge of how fans consume media.

“That’s one of the reasons that I like working here,” Rolapp told me in a recent two-hour meeting. “I think it’s one of the reasons for the success of the league. I have this saying with my guys: ‘Only the paranoid survive.’ You evolve or die. There is no resting on your laurels here, because the minute you do that you are in jeopardy. Roger’s very good about instilling that.”

To that end, Rolapp and Goodell take a trip each year, usually in August. They go to Silicon Valley to try to stay current with new technology. We discussed that, and other NFL media news.

The MMQB: The media world has changed, but TV obviously is your first priority.

Rolapp: The NFL is such a powerful entity, and it was really built on media. Pete Rozelle figured out long ago the power of television to build the sport. How do you create content for the predominant media platform of the day? In the old days it was television. Now it’s a lot more complicated than that. We always say, ‘It’s not old media and new media. It’s just media.’ You need to understand how the fans are consuming content and how they’re spending their time. You need to find out a way with your partners to deliver it to them. The secret of our sport is that we have all of these great media partners broadcasting games, promoting the games. It’s not just one. It’s CBS. It’s Fox. It’s NBC. It’s ESPN. It’s NFL Network. It’s DirecTV. And now, increasingly it’s things like Twitter, Microsoft, Verizon.

“The new partnership with CBS is important,” Rolapp says. “This is about getting more fans exposed to Thursday Night Football.”

The MMQB: Why NFL Now?

Rolapp: Technology in all these things we’re talking about is a priority. NFL Now is a personalized video network that exists on any device you have. So you log in and say, ‘I like the Browns,’ and essentially you’ll have video content that’s customized and available to you, from NFL Films content, from news and highlights, to your fantasy players; you’ll have customized highlights for your fantasy players. It’s essentially embracing video and mobile, which is where the world is going. So we think that initiative is a really important one that we’ll continue to build and spend a lot of time on. The goal was to give fans access, wherever they are, to the NFL video—whether new or historic—personalized to them. That was the goal. It didn’t matter what device they used, a smart phone or iPad or smart TV, on a desktop computer. And NFL Films stuff … You can search for whatever you want, and finally we can mine that treasure trove that Steve and Ed Sabol built for 40 years.

The MMQB: How do you get your news?

Rolapp: My news source—and I’m just a focus group of one—my routine is I check Twitter first to figure out what’s going on. I look at that, then I look at some of the other news feeds that I have, and my email for things like ratings on the NFL Network, and then I get to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times. It’s all on my tablet. The newspapers are delivered to my office, but essentially I put my feet on them. They serve different purposes. They’re coasters for my Diet Coke at lunch. Then there’s other sites that I’ll go to. There’s Tech Crunch for example. All Things D—which has become ReCode. Mashable I’ll do. I do the football things. I do your site a lot. I’ll look at Pro Football Talk. So I go sort of general news, to industry/media news, to football industry news. Then in between is all the stuff internal—ratings from the network, ratings from the games before—all the internal sorts of things that I look at.

The MMQB: Where’s the growth in your business going to come from now?

Rolapp: In the NFL, there’s really two things when it comes to media. There’s the live games, which are as popular as ever. But there’s also a lot of growth in where a lot of these digital platforms and television platforms are fueling, and that’s what happens outside of the game—the Monday-Saturday throughout the week and in the offseason. Whether it’s people coming to get injury reports or getting what happened at practice, it’s getting the previews of the games, it’s the fantasy players. And in the offseason, the combine is as big as it’s ever been. Free agency is an event itself. The draft is on two networks and out-rates playoff games for the NBA on television. Training camp is getting bigger. There is no offseason.

This fall, the first eight Thursday Night Football games will be broadcast by CBS and simulcast on NFL Network. The final eight also will be produced by CBS but shown solely on NFL Network.  (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)
This fall the first eight Thursday Night Football games will be broadcast by CBS and simulcast on NFL Network. The final eight will be produced by CBS but shown solely on NFL Network. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

The MMQB: What’s highest on your radar right now?

Rolapp: I think this new Thursday night package and making that work. This partnership with CBS is important. Thursday night football started as eight games on NFL Network, then it went to 13, and we really wanted to make sure that we thought this extra prime-time night of games could work competitively, could work from a schedule standpoint, could work from a fan’s standpoint, and we’re convinced it does. Some say, ‘Well, you can’t simulcast a game on two networks, that’s never been done before.’ Or, ‘You can’t do a short-term deal, that’s never been done before.’ We thought, ‘Well, no, we could.’ This is about getting more fans exposed to Thursday Night Football.”

The MMQB: Who will watch the game on NFL Network if they’re already on the bigger CBS station?

Rolapp: I don’t know. If it’s one person, I don’t want them to get lost because they can’t find it. If he’s conditioned to go to NFL Network, that’s fine. It might be one. It might be a million. You have two voices. Like with the draft: Some like Mike Mayock. Some like Mel Kiper. Well, don’t just give them one, give them both.

The MMQB: What is the future of NFL Network? Does it stay in L.A. or does it eventually come to the East Coast, to the NFL Films’ home in New Jersey?

Rolapp: We haven’t really looked actively at moving. It’s an expensive proposition. We’ll look at it. There’s a lot of advantages to being in L.A. There’s great access to the people you need to run a network—producers to talent and everything else. There are no immediate plans to move it, but there are no sacred cows. . . . There are very good arguments for moving it East—location to management, location to players. You have a concentration of teams. All of that is in there. It’s really down to, does that outweigh the cost it would take to do that? It’s really a business decision more than anything. One day will we have a team in L.A.? Will we have a stadium in L.A.?

Real Fantasy Football

Twenty-seven-year-old tight ends and 5'1" running backs? This must be the regional combine. Andrew Lawrence on the fringe players chasing the very distant NFL dream. FULL STORY

The MMQB: What about the network itself? What do you want to see improve?

Rolapp: I think we’re happy with what’s working, but we can improve. There are so many alternatives now to get football and NFL information. We as a network need to find how we’re different. In my mind, it comes down to a few things. It starts with, we’ve got the greatest brand in sports, and that needs to be embraced in everything we do. Second: We really need to become the players’ and the coaches’ network. If that’s a place they want to watch, if that’s a place they want to be, if that’s a place they show up, the fan will know that. Third is providing inside access that no one else can provide. If we can do that, then we can deliver on not only what fans want, but it differentiates us from everyone else, and that’s who we should be. So that means that we’re re-looking at all of the programming. In this day and age you need to have programming that matters. I think in the future, there’s going to be, at best, 50 television networks that matter. At best. You better be one of them.

The MMQB: What do you do in Silicon Valley when you and Roger Goodell visit?

Rolapp: We go to a lot of tech companies. A lot of the big ones that you’ve heard of. Then we try to get a handful of people you’ve never heard of before. There’s a move in Silicon Valley—they understand the power of content and the power of our content. Maybe five years ago they weren’t sure if it was necessary yet.

The MMQB: What do you take away from there? Give me an example.

Rolapp: Take a Green Bay Packers game—something like 25 million people will watch that. Well, the internet can’t sustain that right now. We were at a very prominent Silicon Valley company that basically showed us how one day it will, and that day is right around the corner. If 35 million people go to watch that game on the internet right now, it would crash. Broadcast is different because it’s one-to-many. Internet is one-to-one, and the pipe just fills out. There is this [Intel founder] Andy Grove quote, ‘There’s a fundamental rule in technology that whatever can be done will be done.’ It’s a healthy perspective for us because we have to plan for the day and understand that whatever you think technology can do, it will do.”

The MMQB: Will games on free TV ever go away?

Rolapp: Look, we have built a very good thing here by making NFL football available to as many people as possible. I don’t see free TV going away.

“There’s always danger of killing the sacred cow,” Rolapp says. “The trick is not allowing your concern for killing the sacred cow to paralyze you, and embracing change.”

The MMQB: Why is putting highlights on Twitter a good idea? Wouldn’t the networks be against that?

Rolapp: By having video on Twitter, it’s smart in giving fans what they want, but it’s also a good business proposition because it’s a sponsor for us. This is actually a way to make our business grow. By putting more of this content out there, the fan wins, and the advertisers win. You might be away from your television or you might decide that it wasn’t important to watch the Giants game, because maybe they’re not as competitive as you wanted them to be. When we actually tweet out that there’s a highlight of Eli Manning, you’re going to go back and watch that game. There’s all sorts of data that shows that too, where people forget that something’s on television and someone tweets out that they’re watching this, and then people go and they watch because they forgot about it or they recorded it. So it’s a way to get back in front of people.

The MMQB: You’re getting about $1 billion a year from DirecTV for Sunday Ticket, and that expires at the end of this season. Will you renew with DirecTV?

Rolapp: I think that’s a concept that is tried and true. There’s something for everyone there. DirecTV has been a really good partner. We’ve only really had one partner when it comes to this. They’ve been great. We’re right now in an exclusive negotiating period with them, and we’re talking to them about it. I think they have every intent to renew, and I think we have every intent to see that it works out. We haven’t reached the point [of a deadline] yet.

The MMQB: Is there any danger, as Mark Cuban says, of killing the sacred cow?

Rolapp: Like I said to you, only the paranoid survive. So, yeah, there’s always danger of killing the sacred cow. The trick is not allowing your concern for killing the sacred cow to paralyze you, and embracing change. There’s that other quote, I can’t remember who said it, it basically said if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevancy even less.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

England is such a wonderful place, with kind and considerate people and the loveliest landscape. I rediscovered that on our trip to England for the burial of my brother Ken last week. Ken, 64, was a resident of the country since 1983 with his wife, Jane, who hails from northern England, and children. Ken died suddenly two weeks ago while on a walk with Jane.

I thought I would take a few moments to tell you about the funeral and my experience on the death of a second and last brother in four years—Bob died in 2010 of a heart attack—and the banding together of a community to help Jane. To me, it indicates there is still so much good in people, and I guess I’m a hopeless optimist and think things like overwhelming goodness are still possible in our world.

Ken and Jane lived first in England in a village called Kingsclere, about an hour west of London, in the area where the book “Watership Down” is set and the TV show “Downton Abbey” is filmed. Then they moved to another village 70 minutes north of London called Denton. He died on a visit to Kingsclere, and Jane decided that is where he would be eulogized and buried. It is a lovely little place, with a charming English pub called The Swan and a musty 1,000-year-old Church of England church, and a high hill with long footpaths where sheep graze and horses run overlooking the village. That’s where Ken and Jane used to take seven-mile walks.

On the weekend Ken died, he and Jane had been staying with their close friends Alison and Mark Wray. The Wrays took in the rest of the immediate family, joining Jane. The rest of us, there for a few days, stayed either in rooms above The Swan or in a nearby hotel. My wife, Ann, and sister, Pam, came from the states, along with Ken’s very good friend from William & Mary, Tim Groves from Cambridge, Mass. We’d gather during the day at the Wrays’ home on a quiet street (every street in Kingsclere is quiet), up to 22 of us from around Europe and America, crammed into the dining area and spilling into the kitchen, and Alison and Mark would put out a dizzying array of food that they worked all week to prepare. “This is what friends do,” Alison said. “I wouldn’t want Jane to be anywhere else at a time like this.” Spinach-lentil-and-feta pie the first day, either meat or vegetable lasagna the second day, either asparagus or tomato-and-onion quiche the third day, and the toasts with the merlot and the Old Speckled Hen, and the fresh bread, and the pasta salad, and the conversations with people from Spain and Connecticut and Massachusetts and England … well, I wish the dinners of two hours had lasted four. And I wish we had more than one evening at The Swan, where the Bowman and the Theakston and Guinness—with no TV, no music, just conversation—flowed.

“Where ye from?” said one of the locals at the bar.

“New York,” I said. “The city.”

“This must be prettih slow,” he said.

“I love it,” I said. “Love your village.” Which made him happy.

The bar’s 11-year-old black lab, Jake, burrowed into us for some of our crisps. (Potato chips.) “Jake! No!” the guy at the bar said. Jake lay down and waited, hopefully. He got lucky only once, with one dropped crisp.

(Left to right) Peter King, with brothers Bob and Ken, in 1978. (Photo courtesy of the King family)
(Left to right) Peter King, with brothers Bob and Ken, in 1978. (Photo courtesy of the King family)

Jane’s an organizer. Last Monday, the women of the family and the village gathered at St. Mary’s Church to prepare the old place for a proper funeral. Kirsty, the partner of the Wrays’ son and a florist-in-training, brought seven buckets of fresh flowers, and the women made eight bouquets to place on the walls, four on each side, and large arrangements to greet the mourners at the entry of the church and more in and around the pulpit. The church hall was prepared for a reception afterward, with large photoboards of Ken’s life arranged by his son Adam. (One of my favorites is the King boys, with neckbeards, from 1978. Unfortunately, you can see that one here.) Everywhere I looked were neighbors from the village, scurrying about, making the church as homey as a centuries-old church could be made to look. Six, eight, 10, 12 villagers, there to help, to do anything Jane or Kirsty asked. They just came. Mark and I delivered the funeral wreath, made in the Wrays’ garage that morning by Jane for the top of the light pine casket, to the tiny funeral home.

Jane and Adam spoke at the funeral, stupendously and emotionally, never faltering. After the service, we walked eight-tenths of a mile to the cemetery, where six men in black suits lowered Ken’s casket into the ground. The funeral home wanted us to go in hearses; Jane said she wanted to walk, because she and Ken walked everywhere. So we walked. The cemetery, wind-whipped, is on a hill that overlooks a soccer field and much of the village. It’s where Jane and Ken buried their stillborn daughter, Sally, two decades ago. Ken and Jane were walking to this place, to visit Sally’s grave, when he collapsed and died, and so it was right that Ken would be buried here. The vicar said some nice things, and invited us to throw dirt onto the coffin if we wished. A few of us did. Jane threw Ken’s sweat-stained three-decade-old Yankees cap (he was a very serious Yankee fan) on top of the casket. And then we walked back to the church hall.

On the last full day of his life, Ken went to a wine-tasting and bought a case of pink champagne. So of course the 80 or so folks who crammed into the reception toasted Ken with the champagne he and Jane, both retired, would have used for their Champagne Friday tradition. As the last of three King brothers, I did the toast, clumsily. I was grateful for a squeeze on the left arm from Jane when I faltered at one point. I just wanted her, and everyone in the room, to know what a full and happy life Ken lived, and how incredibly grateful the American side of the family was for the goodness of the British side, and how Jane so generously had enriched all of our lives.

Afterward, Jane wanted to walk the Watership Down route, the seven miles she and Ken so often had walked. So a group of 18 of us went out, including Ken’s 14-month-old grandson, Thomas, alternately on my back and the backs of others, and on a glorious afternoon we trod the seven miles they so often did. We walked the walk, Ken’s walk. It’s one of the prettiest places in the world, full of high grass and acres of yellow flowers and green pastures and birds I didn’t know. On and on, and I never thought, Lord, I’m tired. When are we going to head back?

I’ll always remember the day, vividly. It’s the kind of day every person would hope for at the end of his or her life, in the kind of village where every person would hope to be remembered. A perfect day.

I just thought of one more thing: Adam, and Jane’s brother Steve made a soundtrack of 53 songs Ken loved for the reception and as a keepsake. As the mix played after the last dinner at the Wrays’ home a few hours after the funeral, I noticed one of Ken’s favorites was playing.

“When I’m 64.”

***

Quotes of the Week

I

“We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith. As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment.”
—San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke, who has to be at the end of his rope with Aldon Smith, his troubled Pro Bowl pass rusher. Smith, police said, was belligerent with authorities at Los Angeles International Airport Sunday afternoon and allegedly said he had a bomb.

II

“It was a little emotional. I have spent my life here.”
—New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, 42, the NHL’s all-time winningest netminder, after a 3-2 win over Boston on Sunday in Newark. His contract is up, and Cory Schneider is the Devils’ long-term goalie. So Sunday’s win is probably the last of his 23-year run in New Jersey.

III

“I don’t really buy ‘Draft Day’—it’s a shallow and evasive movie …”
—Highly respected movie critic A.O. Scott of the New York Times, on the new movie about the NFL draft. Scott reports the movie was made “with what appears to be the very enthusiastic—not to say domineering—cooperation of the NFL.”

IV

“We have talked about keeping our own players and this is a positive for us. Alex is a quality person and player that truly brings to life what playing like a Brown means.”
—Cleveland GM Ray Farmer, upon matching Jacksonville’s five-year, $42 million offer sheet for center Alex Mack, meaning Mack will remain a Brown for at least the next two seasons.

Stat of the Week

We learned from the free-agent chase of offensive linemen this year that tackles aren’t the only golden children, and that teams will pay for quality on the line, and teams are freer with guaranteed money than they’ve been in the past. Of the eight players who signed for $30 million or more, the top four in gross dollars had every cent of the first two years guaranteed, now that Alex Mack is in the fold. Examining the value of the top offensive linemen on the market this season:

Player Pos. 2014 team Contract Guaranteed in first 2 years Percent guaranteed in first 2 years
Branden Albert LT Miami 5 years, $47 million $20M 100%
Alex Mack C Cleveland 5 years, $42 million $18M 100%
Eugene Monroe LT Baltimore 5 years, $37.5 million $17.5M 100%
Jared Veldheer LT Arizona 5 years, $35 million $13.5M 100%
Roger Saffold RG St. Louis 5 years, $31.7 million $8M 53.3%
Zane Beadles LG Jacksonville 5 years, $30 million $12.45M 100%
Austin Howard RT Oakland 5 years, $30 million $9.9M 66.9%
Anthony Collins LT Tampa Bay 5 years, $30 million $9M 75%

Note: The last two columns represent the amount of guaranteed money each player earns over the first two years of the deal, and the percentage of the total money in the first two years that is guaranteed. By my definition, a guarantee is a full guarantee, not just a guarantee if the player is injured and cannot play.

Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me

A couple, from Stanford’s spring game Saturday:

1. Barry Sanders, son of Barry Sanders, led all rushers with 12 carries for 68 yards, including one juking 29-yarder. The junior from Oklahoma City is competing to win the starting running back job and didn’t hurt himself Saturday. One of the competitors for the job: Ricky Seale, whose dad, Sam Seale, played a decade in the NFL as a cornerback.

2. Free safety John Flacco, brother of Joe, intercepted starting quarterback Kevin Hogan and returned the pick 58 yards for a touchdown. John Flacco is a fifth-year senior, a former New Jersey high school valedictorian who majors in biomechanical engineering.

Tweets of the Week

I

II

III

Sort of?

IV

They’re right: It was cool. It would also be a palindrome if you made it “4-10-14.” 

V

Alex Mack will be front and center for the Browns for at least the next two years, when he will be paid $18 million guaranteed. (George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Alex Mack will be front and center for the Browns for at least the next two years, when he will be paid $18 million guaranteed. (George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think I owe so many of you thanks for your kind wishes—and I owe Greg Bedard much more than that for filling in for me last week and writing this column—after the death of my brother. I appreciate the texts, emails and tweets. And now we’ll continue on.

2. I think this is the way Jacksonville could have forged a contract that Cleveland would not have matched with center Alex Mack: agree to pay him $15 million in the first year, fully guaranteed, with the option to quit the deal after one year. Many of you on Twitter have made the point over the past couple of days that Cleveland matching Jacksonville’s offer sheet means there couldn’t have been an offer to entice Cleveland to let Mack go. Well, there could have been, but the Jaguars didn’t go far enough in their offer to make Browns GM Ray Farmer blink.

3. I think all three sides in this deal won.

a. Mack won because he gets $18 million fully guaranteed over two years and the chance to be an unrestricted free agent at age 30 in 2016 (he’s never missed a start in five years), and he will have his third season at $8 million guaranteed if he gets a disabling injury in either 2014 or ’15.

b. Cleveland won because the Browns keep a rock-solid player and leader in the middle of their offensive line for what will be about 7.8 percent of their 2014 cap and 6 percent of their cap in 2015. Now the Browns don’t have to explain to their fan base why they let a top player at his position, a home-grown one, walk.

c. Jacksonville won because the Jags showed their fan base they’re serious about bidding, reasonably, for good players. My only quibble with the Jags is they took a swing at Mack, but they had to know it was virtually certain the Browns would match. I have an ulterior motive in this from Jacksonville’s standpoint: In two years, if the Jags find and develop a quarterback and are a contender, Mack could look at them and remember the favor they did him by offering him $18 million fully guaranteed for two seasons, and he could think about opting out of the last three years in Cleveland to sign in Jacksonville. We shall see.

4. I think the only blip on the Cleveland radar from this issue is Mack had to put himself out on the market and force the Browns to pay him market value for a top-five center, and if you’re Mack, a smart guy, you have to be thinking: The team I’ve played every game for at a high level had a ton of cap room available and didn’t choose to pay me until its hand was forced. I’ll remember that in two years.

Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith have been in the headlines for off-field reasons this offseason. (Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith have been in the headlines for off-field reasons this offseason. (Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

5. I think the same thing about the Colin Kaepernick incident in Miami—whatever exactly it was, and we don’t know exactly what it was yet—as I thought about the Ray Rice incident in New Jersey in February: I’ll make a judgment when all the information is in, when we know whatever the full investigations unveil. In the Rice case, for instance, we know what the video showed when he exited an elevator with his unconscious fiancée, but we don’t know what other video evidence shows, and we do know there is some other pertinent video related to the incident. The point is, there’s no need for any final judgment on April 14, on either story.

6. I think the news nugget of the week—reported by NFL Media’s Albert Breer—was Johnny Manziel scoring a 32 on the Wonderlic test. That’s five points higher than Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson scored once upon a time, and probably goes a way toward confirming that Manziel could digest any offense.

7. I think the least surprising thing about the football world in the past few days is that Shawne Merriman has signed to do something with World Wrestling Entertainment.

8. I think I don’t know how much traction this story got in my absence, but I know how hard Jenny Vrentas and Emily Kaplan of The MMQB worked on it, and I think it’s the most comprehensive and reasoned discussion of what Native Americans think about the “Redskins” controversy. I urge you to take a few minutes and read it.

VRENTAS: The Battle of Washington

9. I think more teams should do the human thing, the thing GM Doug Whaley and the Buffalo Bills are doing with the Easter holiday coming up and the draft pushed back two weeks on the calendar from last year: The Bills are giving their scouts and draft personnel a week off to be with their families, and to halt this paralysis-by-over-analysis that happens when you give more time to a process that already lasts a month too long. Good for the Bills.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Remembering a most painful anniversary this week, as the city of Boston heads into an emotional week of remembering the three who died and the 264 who were injured in the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago. Peace to everyone there. 

b. What a hockey game Union (N.Y.) and Minnesota played for the NCAA championship. I watched much of it. End-to-end action for three periods, and a school with 2,200 students and zero athletic scholarships and one NHL draft choice (Union) beating a school with full scholarships and 51,000 students and 14 NHL draft choices. The score was Union 7, Minnesota 4, in Philadelphia. What effort and raw enthusiasm, on the ice and in the stands. Cool stuff. 

TALK BACK

Have a question or comment for Peter? Email him at talkback@themmqb.com
and it might be included in Tuesday’s mailbag.

c. I am a Nutmegger. The first 18 years of my life I lived in Connecticut. And so I have followed UConn sports closely over the years. I saw none of either basketball championship game, but the Huskies of both genders did their state proud last week. Congrats to the UConn men and women. Nine titles for the women now, and four for the men in the last 15 years. That is pretty amazing for a university in Storrs, Conn.

d. Atlantic Coast Conference fathers must be so pleased about excluding UConn from the ACC. What a smart decision, listening to Boston College, which never wanted a rival as dangerous in recruiting and in games as UConn in the ACC. BC got its wish, and UConn now toils in some conference invented to give some athletic orphans a port in the NCAA storm.

e. Boston College men’s basketball in the past four seasons: 52-74, zero national titles.

f. UConn men’s basketball since 2009: 104-41, two national titles.

g. Well, BC sure has a pretty campus.

h. Coffeenerdness: I couldn’t drink Starbucks while in the hinterlands of England. My brother worked for three decades for Whitbread, which bought Costa Coffee. So I drank Costa. “Starbucks had a chance,” Ken told me on our visit in March. “We went looking for a coffee company a few years ago, and Starbucks could have been it. But they drove too hard a bargain, and so we bought Costa.” Costa is at least on equal footing with Starbucks there now, and I had a few Flat Whites over there, with an extra shot. A Flat White is like a latte, with the espresso and milk mixed together better than a latte.

i. Beernerdness: Felt like a bit of an ugly American doing it, but had too much Guinness and too little of the local ales in England. Guinness was darn good, as always. 

j. Read that a Red Sox fan booed Jacoby Ellsbury on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium and called him a traitor. Well, okay. I don’t see it that way, at all, as a follower of the Red Sox. Ellsbury grew up in Oregon, went to Oregon State, got drafted by the Red Sox, climbed the ladder in the Red Sox system, played seven years for the Red Sox, lived in Oregon every off-season, and his contract expired. He wasn’t nurtured in the Sox-Yanks cauldron of the northeast. As a free agent, why should he be allowed to sign with any team except the Yankees? I don’t blame him one iota for signing with the Yankees—I don’t like it, but I don’t blame him—if the Yankees paid him the most money, and they overwhelmingly did.

k. Saw “20 Feet From Stardom” on the trip home from England. What a tremendous movie. Those poor women, basically getting ripped off for such memorable work. Excellent storytelling too, particularly on “Gimme Shelter” backup singer Merry Clayton’s story.

l. I really want to see that LBJ play on Broadway. Anyone seen it? How is it?

m. I am a basketball doofus, but if you gave me a vote for the professional team of the century, I’d pick the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich and his guys are amazing. You can’t keep them down.

n. Good luck, Jim Kelly, as you head into your second week of chemotherapy and radiation, battling the cancer in your head.

o. Bubba Watson seems like the coolest of guys. Congrats to him on a second Masters win. He celebrated by going to Waffle House with his wife. How awesome is that?

p. And you, Martin Brodeur … You are my Player of the Week, for your 688th and probably final win as a New Jersey Devil, 3-2 over Boston Sunday. You’ve been great to watch over the past 23 years.

The Adieu Haiku

Bedard can’t Haiku.
But what a job last Monday.
I got Wally Pipped!

mmqb-end-slug-square

More from The MMQB
138 comments
REH913
REH913

hope they cancel The right reverend Dion Sanders accusing the Eagles of racism after the release of Djax. I guess he never heard of Mike Vick or just recently the 31 year old Jason Peters who is black and had a few minor law infractions. They are so racist they gave him a 3 year extension. By the way do reverends get a tax exemption? 

StanLa
StanLa

Don't get too high on U-Conn. I heard they were going to invite a student to play next year

help4mac1
help4mac1

Had a heart attack on 1 Feb and was lucky a woman who was very good at CPR was passing by in her car. I ignored some symptoms and was otherwise very healthy. The doc told me only 10% survive something like this. If you need a stent Mr King, get it.

TexasDoorman
TexasDoorman

Mr. King,

I hope you will find some peace after the loss of your brother.

I have two brothers, both living, that mean the world to me. 

Your words about your loss resonate with many of us.

I thought about you and your brothers and me and mine.

That is a compliment to a writer. You made me think. 

You made me appreciate.

Best wishes to you. 

leonardosobe
leonardosobe

Let me guess............. most will be Felons by the time they depart the NFL.

wlewisiii
wlewisiii

I'll stick to NFL Yesterday and keep the money in my wallet rather than Goodell's thankewverymuch. 

dennis
dennis

Recently, I've been worried that Goodell would take away free NFL on TV as a way for him to satisfy his greed for more money. Still worried, even after the interview. Don't trust the commish after the false 50,00 pages of evidence and what he fabricated against the Saints. And Peter, that photo of you in 1978 proves you were a non-football playing nerd. The one thing missing from your writing is the inside knowledge from the point of view of a man with the passion to succeed at a violent sport. For you, risk-taking is trying a new coffee.

joebdox
joebdox

Peter,


Thanks for mentioning UCol's victory in the NCAA hockey championship. But have your editors lose the (N.Y.), OK?


It's just UNION, like Yale or Harvard or Stanford or Baylor. Would you say Bosox (MA) or 9er's (S.F.)????

dawgpoundgal
dawgpoundgal

I believe the whole Alex Mack situation was caused by his agent, not Mack.  His comments before and after Cleveland matched the Jaguars offer seems to support that.  His agent was just looking for a bigger payday.

IdDoHannahStorm
IdDoHannahStorm

I saw Savage play several times this past season.  He was a bright point in the usual mediocre Pitt football offering.  Given that he played well with a terrible offensive line and so-so receivers, he could do well in the NFL. 

tonybot3
tonybot3

C'mon now Mr. King.... Mack can't be upset by Cleveland.... He's the top paid center in the entire league. Cleveland was ready to pay him that money even BEFORE the Jags stepped in, via the transition tag.   Its not like they were holding out on the guy.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Aldon Smith will remain on the 49'ers roster until he is arrested and put in jail. They are an organization that has sacrificed everything for a winning record. The league will have to be the ones that take action, if any is required. 

FootPrints
FootPrints

PK not getting to over, but I'll say a Rosary for you in all happenings..

BenjaminSargo
BenjaminSargo

Heres a revelation...........  of the 1st 100 picks..maybe 3 will be white.

Jim21
Jim21

My condolences to Peter King. I have to say though, I liked MMQB beetter when Greg did the column. More concise and just football. It was refreshing to say the least. 

Scramble
Scramble

Brown's fans will be thinking why aren't we making the playoffs with a 9 mil a year center, yet the Ravens let a 7 mil a year center walk and won the super bowl with a 3 mil a year center. How many ways can Brown stain their fans.

David G
David G

Mr. King, It will be interesting reading to see what you will write about Aldon Smith.  That coupled with the Von Miller story in Denver.  Beginning to look like teams need to really check the on players stability away from their teams.  I thought Von messed up pretty bad.  Smith makes Von look like an amateur.

HorizontalGophers
HorizontalGophers

Peter,

It's been an emotional time - pop a tall one, turn off the world and catch last night's episode of VEEP. Best one yet and the best favor you could do for yourself. For what it's worth. 

WR2

tojo45
tojo45

Beautiful piece on the services and events.   I'm sorry for your loss.  

GeorgeLovell
GeorgeLovell

Peter I'm so sorry for your loss.  It seems like your brother had a good life and was loved by many people and in the end, that's all that really matters.

ReadIt
ReadIt

Anyone else's office get a little dusty reading this? Sorry for your loss PK, great to see all the love and support your family has from both sides of the pond.

ashoreinhawaii
ashoreinhawaii

My brother and I were having a conversation about how the NFL never allows itself to portrayed in movies, how overprotective they are of their brand.

Along comes "Draft Day." From the reviews I've read it appears to be one big commercial for the NFL and ESPN.
No interest. Bad enough I have to endure Chris Berman, and all those other not-funny braying jackasses on ESPN - Herm Edwards, et al.

JohnMatuszak
JohnMatuszak

peter king was seth rogen before seth rogen was seth rogen

Milldog13
Milldog13

Condolences on your brother. Some of your best writing regarding your time in England. Felt like I was there. Glad there were so many to help ease his wife's burden and to help celebrate his life.

delmail333
delmail333

Clowney will be the #1 pick & worth every pennie of what ever he signs for ( think millions ) & the Texans Owner is also a USC Grad which also helps !, Johnny Football should have stayed in school, I mean 2 years worth will not take him far ( And this was after being schooled in his Dorm his last year ) & not in a class room .

He'll get killed in the NFL, Just watch !

Plainview
Plainview

Peter King and all of his brothers in that picture remind me of Mungo Jerry.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

It’s what the NFL wants but more mock-drafts & “need to know” about the biggest crap-shoot, market push in America, a dice roll that more often than not come up snakes-eyes, even for prized 1st-rounder draftees, we “need” like we need more Super Bowl hype in January.   We’d all do better in spring spending more time on the already ares & weres. 


As for Rolapp’s TNF sell: until they stock it w/ some top-tier tussles, in vintage Texas lingo, ‘that dog won’t hunt.’  Football is king (no pun) but even monarchy can wear thin.

JamesPate
JamesPate

Don't get me wrong on my comment, I love all sports and wish I  could have  somehow  played in all of them. I did alittle football  jr. high and high school . Point being i never was any good . My comment is,  over the yrs. now how come the players   being drafted are Afican-American, you hardly see any white players( afew playing). It just seems too me the white guys quit playing. The same goes for NBA and baseball. Don't get me wrong if you play ball of any kind, God Blessed you with it. I know i sure  wished I could have, the money is. good ,but too play is BETTER.I don't want any drama just interested.

MikeBailey
MikeBailey

It seems to me that Tom Savage has Jeff George written all over him.

Mike26
Mike26

@leonardosobe  What a winner YOU are!  You're right:  99.99% are felons when they leave the league.  

Mike26
Mike26

@dennis  "False 50,000 pages"....time to accept the reality that your thugs messed up dennis and move on.

joe1025
joe1025

@joebdox There are Union Colleges in other states, so they are distinguishing it from those. It's the same reason they always use Miami (FL) and Miami (OH) when reporting football scores.

Mike26
Mike26

@joebdox  No, it's Union, NY.  You're a tiny college no one's ever heard about before and won't again.

andye2007
andye2007

@Jim21  Seems a bit callous to mention that in the the same message containing your condolences.  

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Plainview Peter looks like someone you would want to keep away from your children......

Bruce Poff
Bruce Poff

Hey James! Ur wrong about whites & blacks in MLB ! Only 8% of the players in MLB are African American! Better recheck ur research numbers! LoL

Wombat
Wombat

@JamesPate  I don't know... but I did notice recently that I see no kids playing outside in middle America any more. Perhaps it is partially a symptom of WOW and Facebook? Heck, I have a kid that has "texting dates"? What the bleep is that?

clt0002
clt0002

@MikeBailey  People were fawning over George. That's not really the case with Savage. They just love his arm. 

JohnMatuszak
JohnMatuszak

@MikeBailey  i don't see that..George was the #1 overall pick wasnt he? highly touted as the strongest arm ever

brettwolfe
brettwolfe

@Mike26 @joebdox  Well, Mike,smart people have heard of Union.  It's a top 50 ranked college.  And the Dutchmen are not a One Hit Wonder.  They've been to the Frozen Four 2 of the last 3 years.

Newsletter