Month: June 2022

Extension Candidate: Jeffery Simmons

It’s no secret that Jeffery Simmons is interested in a new contract. The fourth-year defensive tackle staged a “hold-in” at the Titans’ mandatory minicamp this month. A “hold-in” is where a player attends the required sessions without competing in any of the drills. It’s meant to act as a hold-out without triggering any of the fines that would come along with not attending the required sessions.

Now both Simmons and the Titans’ coaches deny that the “hold-in” has anything to do with any contract issues. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel attributed his lack of participation to “the plan laid out by the team” in order for him to be ready for training camp, according to Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com. Regardless, Simmons and Tennessee are going through the process of determining what the future holds for their union and it will likely require some negotiation.

Tennessee drafted Simmons out of Mississippi State with their first pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Simmons had a slow start at the pro-level. A torn ACL suffered during draft prep kept him on the reserve/non-football injury list until mid-October of his rookie season. He promptly recorded a sack in his NFL debut, but only finished the season with 2.0 sacks, 4.0 tackles for loss, and 2 quarterback hits.

In his sophomore season, Simmons claimed his role as a full-time starter in the middle of the line, thanks in part to the departure of veteran Jurrell Casey to Denver. In his first full NFL season, Simmons showed improvement in his ability to apply pressure in the backfield with 14 quarterback hits, but struggled to convert those into strong finishes, only totaling 3.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss by the end of the year. He did display a talent for batting balls at the line, a highly sought after trait for defensive linemen, recording 5 passes defensed in his second season.

2021 saw a breakout year for Simmons. Starting all 17 games of the newly-elongated season, Simmons recorded career-highs in sacks (8.5), total tackles (54), tackles for loss (12.0), quarterback hits (16), and passes defensed (6). Simmons was named a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro.

While this was clearly a great season for Simmons, the best of his career, he still has a ways to go to reach the heights of the best athletic defensive tackles in the league. His pass rushing numbers are nowhere near those of the highest paid players at his position such as Aaron Donald, DeForest Buckner, or Chris Jones. Due to the room he still has to grow, it’s hard to imagine a long-term deal for Simmons reaching the heights of $20MM+ like the players listed above.

When looking at what a long-term deal for Simmons might look like, better comparisons would be players like Javon Hargrave, Cameron Heyward, and Jonathan Allen.

Hargrave had been drafted by Washington two years before Simmons entered the league. Hargrave ended up signing an three-year extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $13MM at around the same point in his career that Simmons is in now. While Hargrave’s best season wasn’t quite what Simmons’ is, Hargrave had put together two consecutively strong seasons that led to a bit of a shorter extension but still rewarded his talent.

Heyward had a few more impressive seasons than Simmons when he signed his four-year deal with an AAV of $16.4MM. The reason why Heyward is still comparable despite his superior output is that he was 31-years-old when he signed his contract. His advanced age likely caused a slight drop in his overall value.

Allen may be the best comparison for Simmons’ current situation. 11 months ago, Allen signed a four-year extension with an AAV of $18MM. Allen was 26-years-old when he signed the deal and had two strong seasons with very similar statistics to Simmons’ best year.

With the combination of Simmons’ production and the fact that he’ll turn only 25 next month, an attempt can be made to try and estimate what an extension for him at this point might look like. Considering that the Titans would probably like to hold on to Simmons and that NFL salaries are constantly inflating, a reasonable extension would look something like a four-year, $76MM contract. More generally, expect a three- or four-year deal with an AAV of $18-19.5MM.

Now a new deal is not immediately necessary. Simmons is heading into his fourth year in the league and, as he was a first-round pick, the Titans had a fifth-year option on his rookie-contract which they exercised back in April. Still, the Titans would like to secure Simmons long-term and Simmons would like to cash in on his best season to date, as he’s only set to make $2.2MM on his base salary this year.

Simmons doesn’t have an agent, but instead refers to a “team” meant to deal with his contract. “I’m not talking to (the Titans) about my contract. I have a team in place that, if it is my contract, they’re going to talk to whoever upstairs,” Simmons told McCormick about the negotiation situation. While his contract “team” handles his potential extension, Simmons will be focused on his on-the-field team.

“My job is to be a leader, be a player and not just on the field but in the weight room, the locker room, or whatever it may be,” Simmons pronounced. “I’m on the plan and I’m sticking with it, and I’ll see you guys in camp.”

QB McCarron Ready For Return To NFL

Former Alabama star quarterback A.J. McCarron has created value for himself as a reliable backup quarterback in the NFL. When a job isn’t determined by consistent on-field production, it can be difficult to leverage new deals after an injury. After spending the 2021 NFL season recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the preseason, McCarron is ready to contribute again, according to Mark Inabinett of AL.com. 

The last time McCarron really carried a team through a season was back in college. As a freshman at Alabama, McCarron sat behind senior Greg McElroy before taking over as a sophomore. With McCarron at quarterback for those three years, Alabama only lost four games. Over his collegiate career, McCarron had a completion percentage of 66.9% while throwing for 77 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions.

The Bengals used a fifth-round pick to select McCarron in 2014, intending for him to serve as a back up to starter Andy Dalton. He didn’t see any time on the field during his rookie year. A combination of the team signing free agent quarterback Jason Campbell before the draft and some shoulder soreness resulted in McCarron spending most of the year on injured reserve.

After the departure of Campbell the next year, McCarron beat out Keith Wenning and Terrelle Pryor for the backup quarterback position during training camp. When Dalton suffered a broken thumb late in the season, McCarron heard his name called. McCarron started the last three games of the season for Cincinnati winning two of them, which, with the assist of an 8-0 start to the season, was enough to get the Bengals into the playoffs as the AFC North division winner. McCarron started the Wild Card game for Cincinnati against the Steelers, as well, and was minutes away from giving the Bengals their first playoff victory in 25 years if not for a late-game rally by Pittsburgh.

When Dalton recovered and returned for the next season, McCarron reverted back to his back up role. McCarron was nearly the prize of a mid-season trade with the Browns, who intended send a second- and third-round pick in the following draft in exchange for the fourth-year quarterback. Unfortunately, the Brown failed to file the paperwork before the trade deadline and the trade never went through. McCarron then filed a labor grievance against Cincinnati claiming that he had been healthy enough to be removed from the non-football injury list as a rookie and that the season should count toward his accrued season total. He won the grievance and, as a result, became an unrestricted free agent the following year.

McCarron signed with the Bills and entered a quarterback competition with Nathan Peterman and then-rookie Josh Allen. McCarron was injured during the preseason and Peterman won the competition, before promptly being benched in Week 1 in favor of Allen. With Peterman and Allen set as the starter and back up, the Bills decided to get some value out of McCarron and traded him to the Raiders for a fifth-round pick. He spent the season backing up Derek Carr before being released at the end of the year.

McCarron signed with the Texans and ended up making a start in a season finale game, after it was determined that Houston would be locked in as the 4-seed. After two years in Houston, McCarron signed last offseason with the Falcons to back up Matt Ryan. The ACL tear in the team’s second preseason game would end his season prematurely.

In an interview on NFL Network, McCarron claimed that he felt great, saying that he “got cleared at four-and-a-half months out from surgery, so (he’s) just been working on the strength and getting everything back normal.”

“You never know what your future holds, what it is in this game,” McCarron said. “So I’m just ready, waiting for a call.”

As teams begin to go into camps, arms will certainly be needed. It’s hard to imagine that an eight-year veteran with plenty of practice and camp experience will have to wait very long for that call.

Offseason In Review: Denver Broncos

After making five straight playoff berths from 2011-15, a stretch that included four consecutive AFC byes and two Super Bowl appearances, the Broncos have drifted well off that pace. Years in quarterback wilderness followed Peyton Manning‘s 2016 retirement. But the 2022 offseason represents a significant step toward the franchise moving back onto the contender track.

This season should feature the Broncos as a more formidable operation, and it doubles as a chance to see how promising Denver’s oft-discussed skill-position corps really is. A loaded AFC West hovers over Denver’s offseason rise, but the franchise has clear reasons for optimism. A team frequently labeled as a QB away from mattering in the grand scheme now has its coveted passer.

Trades:

Linked to Aaron Rodgers for nearly a year, the Broncos began this offseason’s trade avalanche by completing a deal for a quarterback five years younger. Denver was never linked as a true Deshaun Watson suitor, and its 2021 Matthew Stafford offer was far less enticing than the one the Rams made. But the Broncos had also not been closely connected to Wilson, who left the team off his list of acceptable trade destinations during the 2021 offseason but included them (albeit quietly) later in the year. He will now have a chance to craft an interesting second act.

The Seahawks bailed midway through their franchise quarterback’s third contract, not eager to pay the new going rate for the 33-year-old star whose current $35MM-per-year deal topped the market at the time (April 2019). This opened the door for the Broncos to fill one of the NFL’s longest-standing needs. Other teams pursued the decorated QB — from the Panthers to the Eagles to the Commanders, with Washington offering three first-rounders — but Wilson only ended up waiving his no-trade clause for the Broncos.

If 2020’s Kendall Hinton-quarterbacked contest is counted, the Broncos match Washington with an NFL-most 11 starting QBs since 2016. An inability to generate above-average QB play through trades (Joe Flacco, Teddy Bridgewater), free agency (Case Keenum) or the draft (Lock, Paxton Lynch) dragged Denver from an AFC power to a team with a lower-middle-class ceiling. This descent prompted second-year GM George Paton to fork over one of the biggest trade hauls in NFL history — though a package not quite as valuable as some expected — to make a clear upgrade.

The quarterback that helped Seattle decimate a depleted Denver team in Super Bowl XLVIII, Wilson grew into a top-flight passer in the years that followed. While the Seahawks transitioned from a team built around the Legion of Boom to a Wilson-centric operation, Pete Carroll insisted on keeping a run-oriented offense in place. The Seahawks also frequently skimped on offensive line investments. The Broncos do not boast a high-end O-line, either, but this could be the deepest collection of skill-position talent Wilson has enjoyed. Injuries and inconsistent QB play have limited Denver’s armada of highly drafted receivers (feat. steady ex-UDFA Tim Patrick) from making much of an impact. The Courtland SuttonJerry JeudyK.J. Hamler trio appears set for its most relevant NFL stretch.

Coming back after just three games from his right middle finger tendon rupture, Wilson did not look himself for much of the season’s second half. He finished with a career-low 54.7 QBR, but the ex-Seattle cornerstone represented the main reason the post-Super Bowl XLIX Seahawk editions remained contenders. Wilson put up his first two 4,000-yard seasons in 2019 and ’20 and eclipsed 30 touchdown passes from 2017-20, topping out with 40 in 2020. The Broncos have surpassed 20 TD passes as a team just once in the past seven seasons. They have not ranked in the top half of the league in scoring or total offense in that span. These stats may well come up during Wilson extension talks.

Set to tailor their offense to the relocated passer’s strengths, the Broncos will bet on Wilson bouncing back in a Nathaniel Hackett-led attack likely to feature more passing opportunities compared to the future Hall of Famer’s previous setup. From 2012-21, the Seahawks ranked 32nd in pass attempts — by a wide margin — with 30.4 per game. This season will double as a referendum on the Seahawks’ Wilson-era strategy, at least in the years since Marshawn Lynch‘s prime ended, and a chance for the 11th-year QB to show he is capable of thriving in a pass-first offense for an extended stretch.

Notable signings:

Last year’s Von Miller trade afforded the Broncos flexibility to reach deep into their draft assets to acquire Wilson, but it left the team with its most glaring edge need since Miller’s 2011 arrival. While rumors emerged about the Broncos pulling a Yankees-like Aroldis Chapman maneuver — trading a player at the deadline and then re-signing him the following offseason — they went with Gregory at a lower rate. Gregory reneged on a Cowboys contract at the 11th hour, spurning his seven-year (off-and-on) employer due to language that made it easier to void guarantees.

Signing the former suspension mainstay is a gamble for the Broncos; the 2015 second-rounder has been banned four times for substance-abuse policy violations. Between the 2016, ’17 and ’19 seasons, Gregory combined for two games. This could give him a “young 29”-type presence, due to limited wear and tear, but Gregory also missed time with a calf injury and has been limited this offseason due to shoulder surgery. Still, Gregory’s early-season surge in 2021 (five sacks, 11 QB hits and two forced fumbles in a four-game span), before his calf issue paused that stretch, created a live market. How Gregory lives up to his first notable NFL contract will determine the Broncos’ post-Miller pass-rushing outlook.

The Broncos now feature an interesting edge situation, one that houses former top-five pick Bradley Chubb, frequent fill-in starter Malik Reed and second-round pick Nik Bonitto. But if Gregory cannot recapture the near-All-Pro-caliber form he showed early last season, Denver’s plan could crumble. If Gregory can craft a post-Dallas prime arc, the Broncos having him tied to a $14MM-per-year pact — at a time when 21 edge rushers out-earn him — would present a roster-building advantage.

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NFL Push For Year-Long Deshaun Watson Ban Ended Settlement Talks

Disciplinary officer Sue Robinson will hear arguments from the NFL, NFLPA and Deshaun Watson‘s camp Tuesday. That will precede an initial decision on the punishment, if any, the veteran quarterback will receive ahead of his first Browns season.

But the NFL or NFLPA can appeal Robinson’s verdict. That appeal would be decided by the league, which is believed to be pushing for a significant suspension. The league and the union entered settlement talks about a Watson punishment earlier this month, but those negotiations broke down. The NFL’s push for a year-long Watson ban is believed to have led to the parties shutting down the settlement talks, Albert Breer of SI.com reports.

The NFL has met with several of the women who have accused Watson of sexual misconduct and/or sexual assault, and the league will focus on five of those cases when it makes its case to Robinson, Breer hears. The five accusers with the most evidence to include in a presentation — from texts to social media messages to payment records, etc. — will be prioritized, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com notes.

The league has been connected to pushing for an indefinite suspension of Watson — one the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Beaton notes would be for at least a year. This would help give the NFL an avenue to keep Watson suspended into 2023 based on new civil lawsuits. This would stop the league from having to suspend Watson twice, a prospect that was loosely floated earlier this offseason. The league has also spoken with women who did not sue the quarterback, Breer adds.

A civil suit against the Texans surfaced Monday. It came from one of the four women who has not settled her own suit against the former Houston quarterback. The lawsuit against Watson’s former team reopens the door to additional suits against him.

It is now known that in many of Watson’s multiple massage interactions, more than massage therapy occurred — indeed, with at least thirty different women, the ‘more’ that occurred included unwanted sexual advances and outright sexual assault by Watson,” the suit states, per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. “Each of those thirty-plus women, most of which are complete strangers to one another, experienced strikingly similar conduct from Watson.”

Twenty of the QB’s 24 accusers have settled. More women coming forward with accusations would put the proceedings in a murky place, if Robinson’s decision and/or an appeal lead to Watson not receiving an indefinite suspension.

Dan Snyder Resisting House Oversight Committee Subpoena?

Last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing featured Roger Goodell taking a few bullets for Dan Snyder, who did not comply with a testimony request. The committee then indicated a Snyder subpoena was forthcoming. The longtime Washington owner cited an out-of-country trip as the reason he would not testify along with Goodell.

The embattled Commanders owner may be taking it a step further this week. Snyder is resisting the subpoena, according to a committee spokesperson. The committee asked Snyder attorney Karen Patton Seymour if she could accept service of the subpoena Monday, according to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, Liz Clarke and Nicki Jhabvala, but Seymour is now out of the country. As such, no resolution on this matter has emerged. Goodell said last week he has no authority to force Snyder to testify.

Mr. Snyder has so far refused to accept service of the Committee’s subpoena,” a committee spokesperson said in a statement Monday (via The Athletic’s Ben Standig, on Twitter). “While the Committee has been, and remains, willing to consider reasonable accommodations requested by witnesses, we will not tolerate attempts to evade service of a duly authorized subpoena or seek special treatment not afforded to other witnesses who testified in this matter.”

For his part, Snyder said (through a spokesperson) he has not refused to appear for a deposition, via Jhabvala (on Twitter). Per Snyder, the committee has offered only one date (June 30) for testimony. He said his attorney will be out of the country on that date. Snyder took a similar path to passing on the committee’s initial request.

The committee has been investigating Snyder and his franchise since last fall, with that probe beginning shortly after the NFL’s investigation did not produce a written report. The then-Washington Football Team was fined $10MM, with Snyder ceding day-to-day control of the franchise. Snyder quickly pushed back on having done so, and his involvement has been in question since. Potential Snyder evasion tactics should not be expected to work, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who expects the owner to testify before the committee.

Snyder has run into recent trouble on other fronts as well — from the discovery of a seven-figure settlement paid to a woman who accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment to allegations of financial impropriety to his conducting a shadow investigation of ex-employees and journalists amid the NFL’s probe — but he has thus far avoided other NFL owners seriously considering his removal.

49ers Plan To Let Jimmy Garoppolo Negotiate Contract With Teams

Jimmy Garoppolo remaining on schedule to resume throwing puts the prospect of a near-future trade on the table. But the ninth-year quarterback’s 2022 salary will be an issue for teams in an extreme buyer’s market.

The 49ers QB is due a $24.2MM base salary this season. Garoppolo’s injury-prone San Francisco career now including a throwing-shoulder surgery, along with the fact most quarterback-needy teams filled their needs months ago, limits the four-plus-year starter’s options. But the 49ers plan to give Garoppolo every opportunity to secure a trade.

The 49ers are planning to allow Garoppolo to negotiate his contract with other teams ahead of any potential trade, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Only two teams could even absorb Garoppolo’s contract without making other moves, and neither the Browns nor the Panthers would take the 49ers QB’s salary as is. Carolina is not planning to trade for Garoppolo.

His contract is the lead issue here, though some in the NFC South team’s organization are leery of the veteran passer’s injury history. But the Panthers and Seahawks, whichever team does not acquire Baker Mayfield, would be interested in the former Super Bowl starter as a free agent. The Texans have moved forward with Davis Mills, but a mid-draft report linked them to Garoppolo, who has a lengthy history with Nick Caserio. The second-year Houston GM has not shown much shyness about acquiring midlevel veterans on short-term deals, either.

A move by the 49ers to give Garoppolo a chance to reduce his 2022 cap number is not surprising, considering the alternatives. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan said for months the plan is to move Garoppolo, and that will require a contract adjustment. An extension, one that would drop Garoppolo’s 2022 cap number, could be palatable to teams. But the group of prospective suitors also could wait out the 49ers, who would see Garoppolo’s $24.2MM salary go from non-guaranteed to fully guaranteed come Week 1. That opens the door to the scenario in which the team releases Garoppolo. Cutting the QB before Week 1 would tag the 49ers with barely any dead money, leaving the $25.6MM in additional funds — which could go to Deebo Samuel and/or Nick Bosa extensions.

Garoppolo serving as overpriced Trey Lance insurance does not appear in the cards, though it will still be interesting to see how the second-year QB looks in training camp. The 49ers could also benefit by an injury at another team’s camp. Then again, the Browns loom with their QB trade chip. Cleveland and Carolina have been discussing how to split up the four-year starter’s salary for weeks. The 49ers will attempt to give Garoppolo’s camp the opportunity to do that on its own, adding another wrinkle to a complicated quarterback offseason.

Unsigned Second-Rounders Pushing For Additional Guarantees

While all 32 first-round picks have signed their rookie contracts, most of the players chosen just after this group have not. The first player in this draft sector to sign — Texans safety Jalen Pitre, the No. 37 overall pick — has created an issue for other teams to navigate.

Only 17 of this year’s 32 second-round picks have signed their four-year deals. That includes just two of the first 11 players chosen in the round. Pitre receiving three fully guaranteed years on his deal looks to have led to the slowdown here, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes.

The NFLPA has made steady gains on the guaranteed front. Last year, only seven second-rounders received even a partial Year 3 salary guarantee. Only the first two picks in that round — the Jaguars’ Tyson Campbell and the Jets’ Elijah Moore — secured three fully guaranteed years. Last year’s No. 37 overall pick (Eagles guard Landon Dickerson) received only 40.72% of his third year guaranteed, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Pitre’s 100% guaranteed has almost certainly called for the players drafted in that vicinity to ask for the same setup.

Titans cornerback Roger McCreary (No. 35), Jets running back Breece Hall (No. 36) and Falcons edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie (No. 38) are unsigned. Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon (No. 39), however, did agree on his rookie deal. How Chicago sorted his guarantees should have an impact on the unsigned players shortly after that draft slot (Seahawks edge Boye Mafe, Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker Jr., Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth and Giants wideout Wan’Dale Robinson). The Texans gave No. 44 overall pick John Metchie two years fully guaranteed and 56% of third year guaranteed. No. 46 overall pick Josh Paschal received a partial third year guaranteed, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Only seven second-rounders saw any third-year guarantees last year.

The Texans can be credited with injecting some drama into a fairly routine process, and Pitre’s three guaranteed years illustrates the gains the players’ side has made since the 2011 draft reshaped rookie contracts. Only 21 first-rounders that year received fully guaranteed deals. This year, all 32 did. Every second-rounder should also receive two fully guaranteed years, with the Broncos doing so for the final pick in that round — edge Nik Bonitto.

NFC West Notes: Benjamin, Robinson, Hawks

The Cardinals saw some shuffling in their RB room this offseason, with James Conner getting a new deal, but Chase Edmonds signing with the Dolphins in free agency. That left the No. 2 role up for grabs, making the role one of the roster battles to watch throughout the offseason.

Arizona added quality depth at the position by signing Darrel Williams late last month. The former Chief had by far the best season of his four-year career in 2021, posting more than 1,000 scrimmage yards and scoring eight total touchdowns. The small workload he handled in his three previous campaigns suggests he would be well-suited to a significant backup role behind Conner.

However, an in-house option is currently in the lead for that spot. ESPN’s Josh Weinfus reports that Eno Benjamin has “caught the eye of” head coach Kliff Kingsbury with his work during the spring. The 2020 seventh-rounder saw a limited role behind Conner and Edmonds last season, receiving just 34 carries. Weinfus nevertheless tabs Benjamin as the “frontrunner” for the No. 2 job heading into training camp, where he will compete with Williams to determine the final pecking order.

Here are some other notes from around the NFC West:

  • The Rams made a widely applauded move in free agency by signing wideout Allen Robinson as a replacement for Robert Woods and, potentially, Odell Beckham Jr. According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the team consulted Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp before finalizing the deal, an interesting tidbit on their decision-making process and confirmation, as Breer writes, of how the pair “will be invested in seeing that Robinson succeeds” in Los Angeles.
  • The Seahawks have made a pair of front office hires, both in the analytics department. ESPN’s Seth Walder tweets that Seattle is bringing in Becca Erenbaum, who had most recently served as a basketball insights associate with the New York Knicks. She will have the title of senior football research analyst in her new home. The Seahawks are also hiring Peter Engler as a football research assistant. He previously worked with the Charlotte Thunder of the American Arena Football League and the 33rd Team, a front office-driven analysis website.

First Deshaun Watson-Linked Case Filed Against Texans

The Deshaun Watson situation is set to begin its next phase tomorrow, but there has also been a significant development in another aspect of the ongoing saga. Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing Watson’s accusers, has issued a statement that the first case against the Texans related to Watson’s alleged sexual misconduct has been filed (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jake Trotter). Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today reports that the suit is being filed by one of the women suing Watson who has yet to settle her case against him. 

The statement indicates that this case is “the first of what will likely be many” filed against the team. “Suffice it to say,” it continues, “the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson’s behavior is incredibly damning. We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson’s conduct.”

It came out earlier this month that Watson’s former employer would be included in the litigation he is facing. The Texans are being brought into focus as a result of their alleged actions to facilitate Watson’s message sessions, including providing him accommodation at the Houstonian Hotel as well as non-disclosure agreements to bring to those sessions. The timing of these alleged actions (which are detailed in the New York Times report that shed further light on the scope of Watson’s behavior) is significant, as the suit argues that the Texans were aware of Watson soliciting massages online as early as June 2020 (Twitter link via Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports).

Per USA Today’s Josina Anderson, (on Twitter), the Texans have released a statement in response to today’s development: “We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today. Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization.”

As Trotter illustrates, the new suit also contradicts the Browns’ claims of conducting due diligence on Watson before agreeing to trade for and extend him (Twitter link). It has already been reported that the Browns are not looking to void the 26-year-old’s deal, leaving them fully committed to him, even if he is suspended for the 2022 campaign.

More will be learned on that front as early as tomorrow, but regardless of the punishment handed down to Watson individually, the Texans are apparently in line for a significant legal battle of their own.

NFL Attempts To Move Brian Flores Lawsuit To Arbitration

The latest development in the ongoing legal dispute between Brian Flores and the NFL is a notable, if unsurprising, one. The league formally requested a federal court send the matter to arbitration, as detailed by Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic

The move was widely expected, as the NFL clearly stated its intentions of doing so much earlier in this process. As its filing indicates, arbitration is the “preferred venue” for the league to settle disputes such as this one. It argues that little precedent exists for courts to handle the internal matters of sports leagues, which, it further states, is the purview under which Flores’ bribery allegations against Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (along with his other claims) should fall.

The league is also attempting to get former coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton – who joined Flores’ suit as co-plaintiffs in April – to “sever their cases and file separate arbitration claims.” Just as those decisions come as little surprise, so to does the response made by Flores himself.

“With forced arbitration, my case will be litigated behind closed doors, confidentially and without transparency, essentially done in secrecy,” he said in March, knowing arbitration would be a strong possibility. Given the scope of his allegations made against the league in general, and the Dolphins, Texans, Giants, Broncos (and, after the addition of Wilks and Horton, the Cardinals and Titans), public proceedings would understandably be the plaintiff’s preferred avenue.

Flores was hired by the Steelers as the team’s linebackers coach in February, less than a month after his lawsuit was filed. Kaplan notes, however, that his contract has yet to be formally signed off by commissioner Roger Goodell, something which is standard practice for NFL employment contracts. He adds that the pact “had a minor adjustment [made to it] shortly before the filing, but nothing that will hold it up.”

As a busy offseason for the league continues with respect to off-the-field issues, this legal battle could take a notable turn in the near future if its move for arbitration is allowed to go through. Even in that event, this appears set to remain a significant storyline.