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Around the League

Insights on 10 trending topics in the NFL, from Jerry Jones passing on Johnny Manziel to the Dolphins’ double-standard and Tom Brady’s contract projections

By
Andrew Brandt
· More from Andrew·

1. Ratings Bonanza

Although the timing of the draft had nothing to do with it—the same drama would have played out in April or even February—the draft’s boffo television ratings mean it will likely remain in May (or perhaps get pushed back even later). Despite complaints from fans, media and even teams, the NFL will focus on the metrics.

Of course, a major factor in this year’s record ratings was the Johnny Manziel reality show. Manziel moves the meter; the Browns are a more interesting brand today than they were last week. Now, to temper the hysteria, Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam has proclaimed Manziel the backup and Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback. We’ll check back on that statement in late August. Haslam also recently said that Rob Chudzinski was coach, Joe Banner was CEO and Michael Lombardi was general manager.

2. The Cowboys’ Prudence

Speaking of mercurial owners, I thought Jerry Jones admirably resisted the Manziel impulse and trusted his scouts to make the prudent choice. The Cowboys, for better or worse, have cast their lot at quarterback, emotionally and financially, with Tony Romo.

Romo has the most mortgaged contract in the history of the NFL. If the Cowboys were to somehow part ways with him—through release, retirement or trade—the amount accelerated onto the Cowboys’ salary cap would be a staggering $42 million. Manziel would have been a celebrity-in-waiting behind an incumbent quarterback who, for at least the next two years, is uncuttable, untradeable and unretireable.

3. Brady Altruism

The Patriots’ second-round selection of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made me immediately think about the extension that Tom Brady signed last year. Despite some reports that he “took less to help the team,” I noted that Brady actually received $3 million more than previously scheduled to earn in 2013 and 2014, with much better cash flow.

Next year, however, will tell the story of whether Brady made a sacrifice for the team. Brady is currently scheduled to play for $7 million, an absurdly low number for an A-list QB. If Brady is the starting quarterback for the Patriots a year from now and making $7 million, I will be thoroughly impressed (and surprised) by his altruism.

The Garoppolo selection brought a potentially different angle to this. I could see Tom Brady as the backup quarterback making $7 million in 2015 (or his scheduled $8 million in 2016 or $9 million in 2017). That, of course, would require that 1) Brady accept backup status, and 2) Garoppolo earn the starting job, though I find both of these possibilities unlikely.

I expect Brady’s contract will be upwardly adjusted next year rather than him playing for a fraction of what his peers will be making. Garoppolo’s entry into the mix, combined with the precipitous scheduled decrease in Brady’s contract next year, presents a Hmmm moment. Stay tuned.

4. Quit Clowning Around

Despite the intrigue about who would be taken first in the draft, I think Jadeveon Clowney’s status as the top pick in 2014 had been all but cemented for almost two years. It is hard to think of anything, barring serious injury, that would have changed the script.

Many people have complained about the NBA’s “one-and-done” requirement; yet the NFL three-year requirement dwarfs basketball’s restriction, blocking players, Like Clowney, who are clearly ready to play professionally.

I have heard the argument from both NFL and NCAA executives: many underclassmen are not ready for the physical and emotional stress of professional football. Some like Clowney, however, clearly are and they’re sacrificing a precious year (or more) of earnings in an-already short career. No other collegiate sport (or academic major) requires such a waiting period.

5. Kelly’s Truth

I thought Chip Kelly’s arrival into the NFL last season was a breath of fresh air, representing a change agent for a profession sorely in need of one. Kelly further impressed me this week with his candid comments about the process of taking Marcus Smith as his first-round pick.

Kelly eschewed the usual coach-speak about how Smith was the player they really wanted and how lucky they were to get him. He admitted there were six players the Eagles had targeted with the 22nd pick, and all were taken by the time the pick arrived. The Eagles thus moved back and selected Smith. Very few general managers, coaches or scouts are ever as frank about their draft process.

6. The Dolphins’ Non-Democracy

Pouncey and Jones. (Lynne Sladky and Alan Diaz/AP)
Mike Pouncey (l.) and Don Jones. (Lynne Sladky and Alan Diaz/AP)

The Dolphins are the latest team to prove that the NFL is not a democracy. While a down-the-roster player, Don Jones, was suspended for insensitive tweets regarding Michael Sam, the more valuable Mike Pouncey appears to be immune from discipline for his continued insensitivity.

Pouncey was identified as a key lieutenant in Richie Incognito’s cabal of intimidators in the Wells Report. As the team continues to try to move past the saga, Pouncey reacted to the drafting of first-round offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James with a tweet: “Great pick! I can’t wait for our gifts he’s getting us lol.” Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey, commenting on the tweet and a subsequent conversation he had with Pouncey said, “We’re all good there.”

I am not suggesting that NFL teams become the Twitter police. I do believe, however, that Pouncey’s actions would have merited a stronger response from the Dolphins had he, like Jones, been a less important player. In the NFL, more talent equals more leeway.

A quick note on Michael Sam: any “first” receives extra attention, extra scrutiny and, fair or not, extra ridicule. But the next openly gay football player to kiss his partner won’t receive so much attention, and the next man after that even less. Compared to the kiss, it’s interesting to note how little attention was paid to the fact that Sam and his boyfriend are an interracial couple. In our fast-paced world, changes come sooner than we think.

7. Teddy’s Option

Three years ago during the lockout, the Vikings selected quarterback Christian Ponder, unaware that a fifth-year option on first-round contracts would become part of the new CBA. And while the Vikings declined that option on Ponder, they wisely moved into the last pick of the first round this year to have that opportunity with Teddy Bridgewater. In the event that Bridgewater becomes the player the Vikings envision, Minnesota could have him at a fixed rate for five years rather than four, while preserving the ability to apply a Franchise Tag in his sixth year. Unlike the timing of their 2011 choice of Ponder, the Vikings are fully aware of the option’s potential impact on Bridgewater.

8. No Increase

Speaking of rookie contracts, the 2014 draft’s signing bonus amounts will be the same as 2013, which were the same as 2012, which were the same as 2011. Only minimum salaries have risen in rookie contracts since the start of the CBA.

Why? I asked the NFLPA and got this response: “We had to borrow against future rookie pools to allow for the $15,000 per year increase in rookie minimums.” In other words, overall salary cap increases to date have not justified annual $15,000 minimum salary increases for all rookies, leaving nothing for rookie bonus increases to this point.

The new CBA’s rookie pay system is, for NFL teams, the gift that keeps on giving.

9. Running Away

2014 NFL Draft

Catch up on The MMQB’s draft coverage, including Greg A. Bedard’s film studies, Andrew Brandt’s front office insights and dispatches from Radio City Music Hall. Click here for our draft hub.

The devaluation of the running back continues. In the past three drafts, the top running back selected has fallen from 3rd (Trent Richardson in 2011) to 37th (Giovanni Bernard last year) to 54th this year with the Titans’ selection of Bishop Sankey. Tennessee now downsizes costs at the position from Chris Johnson, who was scheduled to make $8 million before being released, to Sankey, who is scheduled to make $3.7 million over four years.

Unlike the veteran market, the rookie running back devaluation is not due to “tread on the tire.” Indeed, rookie contracts are the “golden years” for running backs. Time will tell who among this crop will receive a lucrative second contract.

10. The Year of Sherman

Finally, speaking of lucrative second contracts, a note about a familiar player from the 2011 draft and a fellow columnist for The MMQB. Last week, just days after Richard Sherman was name-dropped by President Obama while attending the White House correspondents dinner, the Seahawks cornerback signed a striking $56 million contract extension, with $40 million guaranteed.

Though Joe Haden received a larger overall contract, signing a $65 million extension on Tuesday, Sherman’s “new money” average of $14 million per year is higher than Haden’s ($13.8 million per year) and eclipses all previous cornerback contracts (save the now-terminated $16 million per year Darrelle Revis contract with the Bucs). And Sherman’s three-year payout of $35 million is second only to Nnamdi Asomugha’s $36 million with the Eagles from 2011-2013.

In securing Earl Thomas and now Sherman, the Seahawks continue to leverage their spending window with Russell Wilson still on restricted earnings. (The CBA requires three seasons prior to renegotiating rookie deals, and Wilson just finished his second.) While other teams manipulate their roster around $15-$20 million quarterback allocations, the Seahawks can, at least for the time being, reward other core players.

Sherman is that rare young player who cashes in prior to his rookie contract expiring. First-round picks of any value from Sherman’s 2011 draft class are saddled with a fifth-year option; none have received an extension. Sherman, a fifth-round pick, has proved special enough to evade the ever-expanding economic control of young players. His meteoric rise to stardom in now complete.

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38 comments
shonuffharlem
shonuffharlem

I love love love your columns, but sometimes you make no sense. How does the reduced rookie bonuses/salaries be a gift that keeps giving to NFL teams? All that matters is their TOTAL Payroll - and Payroll has gone UP, with a big jump for the 2014-15 season. It's a gift for VETERANS - the money was just shifted from rookies to Veterans. If I spent (for example) $110 million salary cap pre-new CBA, and $120 million salary cap a few years after new CBA - the rookie salary changes didn't affect me as an owner at all.  

EarlineJSmith
EarlineJSmith

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Buck2185
Buck2185

Nice cover picture for the story - a picture of a hopped out on Adderral, loud mouth punk Richard Sherman, in an obviously induced state.....

DrAstroZoom
DrAstroZoom

To be fair, blatant homophobia seems more actionable than joking about hazing -- even in light of last year's scandal.

amolad
amolad

"Some like Clowney, however, clearly are....."


Huh? There is NO possible way you could know this.

KBowen7097
KBowen7097

Jones didn't listen to his scouts. His scouts had Manziel at the top remaining position on the draft board.

Bernard4195
Bernard4195

I enjoy Mr. Brandt's articles more than most given his insight into the workings of NFL front offices.  His thoughts on a 7th round draft pick starring in a reality series, while at the same time trying to make an NFL roster, would make for a very interesting article. 

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan
Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan

It should be as clear as day that Brady will not be around forever.Perhaps not even beyond the 2016 season.But the only way I can see the far-off possibility of Brady serving as a backup in 2015 or beyond is by looking through the Hubble Space Telescope.In other words, and these are the words:It isn’t happening under any business model.

Brian114
Brian114

What happened to "Trust the Board". According to many reports Manziel was the highest rated player on the board for

Dallas. The financials obviously play into an inability to cut Romo for the next two years. But you might want to sit him a 

year anyway and who knows what happens after that. Injury for example, or poor performance putting Romo on the bench.


If Manziel turns out to be a star then Jones will regret his prudence. No matter how much praise he is getting for it now.

He probably already regrets the loss of the marketing machine than Manziel has been so far for Cleveland.


jimmyflex
jimmyflex

There's some talk floating the Greater New Orleans about possible trade talks between the Saints and Texans... Involving Mark Ingram and Marcus Colston in a deal for Andre Johnson. True, that Ingram could be a good partner for Foster with their very effective zone blocking system, and Mark is clearly not a fit for the Saints multi-back system. And Marcus has long been a reliable and very productive receiving target and a quality NFL receiver. I'm not sure how the $ work out but it would more than likely be a wash... So, if Andre's desire is to play for a contender, I think it would be safe to say that the Saints are in the "Win-Now" mode and no doubt, Drew Brees would be quite capable of getting him the ball... Best wishes to Andre no mater whatever happens...

life_is_a_sport
life_is_a_sport

Isn't Pouncey the bro with the Free Aaron Hernandez hat? That's more offensive to me than that tweet.

el80ne
el80ne

Dolphins - proves that all that talk about changing the locker room culture by Stephen Ross and Philbin was purely crises management PR lip service. Incognito's star still burns brightly with Pouncey proud to bear his torch to break in new generations of rookies in the proud Dolphins tradition.

Ciscos
Ciscos

Cowboys - Jerry Jones got out of his own way and they actually did pretty good in the draft. 

Vikings - I don't believe the Vikes were that sold on Manziel. If they were they would have drafted him. Besides Zimmerman isn't about to put the keys of his coaching future in the hands of a wildcat.

Raiders - Reggie actually went smart and they had a nice draft. I'm not sold on Mack as the next best, but after him down, I'm good.

Browns - On the surface, they don't appear to be your father's Cleveland Browns. We'll see tho, but otherwise nice draft for them too.

Rams - Rams didn't draft Michael Sam to make a statement. They drafted him because he was defensive player of the year in the SEC. I'm not an SEC chest thumper, but last I checked, they don't give that award to dudes that can't play.

Mike26
Mike26

Mike Pouncey has been and likely always will be a punk and Brandt is completely correct - the Dolphins look foolish for allowing he garbage without reprimand or consequence = just like other teams that allow certain folks to do whatever they please.  Pouncey really strikes me as guy that is going to die young because some day he'll run into someone that either bigger, faster or just better armed that's not going to put up with his thug mentality.

Mike26
Mike26

What a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to allow players to into the NFL after 1 years of college.  Clowney was NOT ready two years ago and may/may not be ready now.  The NBA is the #3/#4 sports organization in the USA with that policy, the NFL is #1 with theirs.  The NFL DRAFT outdraws viewers of NBA PLAYOFF games.  The NFL has no business changing ANYTHING when it comes to player eligibility.

Bernard4195
Bernard4195

@Buck2185 That's Mr. Sherman to you, arbiter of all that is good and fair in today's NFL and America's race relations.

el80ne
el80ne

@DrAstroZoom I'm not saying he should necessarily be punished. But seriously, after all that don't you think it would at the very least warrant the team have him put out a statement reassuring the public he made a joke in poor taste and that he would personally make sure there was no rookie hazing going on anymore?


As it stands right now the new GM just appears glad that Pouncey deleted his twitter account so he won't have to sweat future PR debacles from his misguided center. But there's really no indication that anything about their 'locker room culture' has really changed. It doesn't even seem like they've bothered sitting down their star center and having a serious talk with him about how he should conduct himself. There's no reason to think anything has changed there.

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan He should have been gone a few years ago. People have figured out his, and Belicheats, pick and slant, little girl short passing game a long time ago. The POS can't get out of football soon enough...

el80ne
el80ne

@Brian114 If Jones regrets his prudence, then he's a complete idiot since that would obviously be learning the wrong lesson. He should be regretting his fiscal idiocy instead where he kept mortgaging Romo's contract to the point where he made him irreplaceable.

el80ne
el80ne

@jimmyflex At this point I think it's safe to call Ingram a bust. Actually, first round duds like Ingram and Richardson have greatly contributed to the devaluing of running backs and why they aren't considered first round worthy any more. He'd also rounding into the last year of his rookie deal. Not sure why anyone would want him, least of all the Texans who have Arian Foster.

Mike26
Mike26

@jimmyflex  I would say no thank you.  Andre's frustrated but he's a consummate pro and smart guy that's not going to ruin his legacy in town.  He'll be OK come August.

Zeshan
Zeshan

@life_is_a_sport  To whatever extent lessens that offense (read, barely any at all), Pouncey and Hernandez were teammates and friends at Florida. None of this stops him from being a tool, of course.

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

@Mike26  I don't think the NBA draft policy has anything to do with it being the #2 or #3 sport in this country. The NBA Finals outdraws the World Series so the NBA does not necessarily have a problem either. It will never catch the NFL.

EasyGoer
EasyGoer

@Mike26  The policy has little to do with which sport is number one. The NFL has always been bigger than the NBA. You may be correct about Clowney not being ready for the NFL two years ago but he was ready last year and he probably dogged it a little to guard against injury. I don't blame him one bit.

Mike26
Mike26

@EasyGoer @Mike26  I believe that Clowney will be an impact player this season as a rookie.  I don't believe for a second that just because someone has good build, strength, height, etc. that they are automatically ready for the league.  So much of pro sports is the mental toughness required to be successful - something 18-19-20 year olds don't possess.  Most NBA 19-year-olds don't either - and it shows.  Yes, the NFL has always been bigger but it's also much more demanding physically than any other professional sport too.  I have no problem with 3rd year college players going pro if that's what they feel is best for them.

el80ne
el80ne

@Buck2185 @Bernard4195Wrong sport bucko. It's Mr Sherman to you. Don't forget to cast your vote for him to be the cover of Madden '15. That way if he has a down year you can take a tiny fraction of credit for having caused his demise.

comments
comments

@Mike26 @adoseofdoby  

SO very wrong Mike. An NFL game usually involves 60 minutes of football in which any given player is on the field roughly half the time, at most. This 60 minutes is played out over the course of at least 3 hours! It is in no way, shape, or form as demanding as MMA. Hockey probably about even.

Mike26
Mike26

@adoseofdoby @Mike26  Hockey, yes.  Others no.  All are physical sports - football is the most physically demanding major sport by far.  Do you prefer that statement better?

adoseofdoby
adoseofdoby

@Mike26 Have you ever played hockey? "Much more physically demanding compared to any other professional sport,", you said this eluding to football. That's mind-blowing to me. Have you ever boxed or fought MMA? Those are three sports that stack right up to the physical demands of football, and if you say otherwise I'm calling you a fraud.

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