City Of London

Extra Points: Super Bowl, London, Callaway, Browns, Cooper, Cowboys

There’s been a lot of talk about the NFL and London recently. There were rumors earlier this month that the Jaguars were eyeing a move to London in the near future. Just days later, the NFL’s vice president of international said the league was ready for a team across the pond right now. While Jaguars owner Shad Khan recently pulled his offer to buy Wembley Stadium, throwing cold water on the rumors for now, the NFL is still very invested in expanding the game abroad.

One possibility that’s been suggested is holding the Super Bowl in London. While Roger Goodell is acknowledging that it’s “been talked about a lot”, he said the league currently isn’t planning on doing it anytime soon, according to Nick Shook of NFL.com. Goodell said the Super Bowl is supposed to be a reward for fans, and that he won’t look to put a Super Bowl in London until London has its own team. Overall, Goodell’s comments suggest the league still plans on having a franchise overseas sooner rather than later.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Browns receiver Antonio Callaway has a well-documented legal history. He dealt with lots of off-field issues while at Florida, then was arrested this summer and reportedly didn’t tell the Browns about it until it was reported in the media. Now, Callaway was pulled over for speeding on his way to the team’s game against the Chargers a couple of weeks back, according to Robin Goist of Cleveland.com. It’s a very minor incident, but still worth noting due to Callaway already being on thin ice with the team. Callaway’s role has been reduced in recent weeks, even with injuries piling up to the Browns’ pass-catchers, and it seems like he’s in the doghouse with the coaching staff.
  • The Cowboys had been looking for a number one receiver for a while before trading for Amari Cooper, Cowboys VP Stephen Jones said, per Jon Machota of Dallas News (Twitter link). Jones revealed the team heavily pursued Sammy Watkins in free agency but missed out. Since then, they didn’t find a possibility they liked until Cooper became available.
  • In case you missed it, a breakdown of all the recent drama surrounding ownership of the Denver Broncos.

NFL Aiming To Expand London Schedule

The NFL remains intent on gauging whether or not a franchise could function as a full-time London operation. To measure this, the league wants a team to play in multiple London games during a season.

NFL executive VP of international Mark Waller said more games coming to London in subsequent seasons, with as many as eight regular-season contests potentially on tap for England in the near future. Along with that, Waller told CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora he would like to see a team play in more than one England contest in a season.

I’d like to do both of those. I don’t think you have to go four games, five games, six games, seven games, eight games,” Waller said, indicating the league could soon see a multi-game jump for future London itineraries instead of a one-game increase like this season brought.

I think we’ve shown by the strength of the foundation that the demand is there, and I definitely think you could play across a full season [eight regular-season “home” games] and slate the games and I definitely agree you’d want to see a team coming over and playing two or even three games, and then going back to the States and seeing how that works.”

Waller, though, told Albert Breer of SI.com an increase beyond four London games is unlikely to occur next season. But it’s clear bigger plans are in the works.

As far as the effort to simulate a team playing in London full-time, Waller said he would like to see a team play in England in back-to-back weeks. He appears to envision that happening this decade.

I don’t think you could expect a team to travel backwards and forwards every week,” Waller said, via La Canfora. “So we’d like to see what it’s like to play here back-to-back weekends, and I’m sure we’ll get to that in the next couple of years.”

Winners over the Ravens on Sunday, the Jaguars lead the pack in terms of London participation. They’ve played an England game in each of the past five seasons. And Waller expects the team to extend its agreement — one that stipulates the franchise plays at least one game in London per season — past 2020. Naturally, this would lead to speculation the Jags would be the guinea pigs for the multi-London-game experiment and loom as the franchise most likely to relocate to England down the road.

Obviously, they’ve still got three years to run on that agreement,” Waller told La Canfora, “and I’m sure after this year we’ll start the conversation there. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t want to continue. It’s worked, I think, incredibly well for them in London, and I believe it’s really helped the city of Jacksonville gain visibility and exposure, and even inward investment into Jacksonville as a result, and it’s work fantastically for us. So I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t an extension to that arrangement at a minimum.”

Regarding a potential timetable for a London relocation, Waller told Breer the goal when the NFL began the International Series in 2007 was to have a team stationed in London by 2022. Waller believes that date remains realistic, also noting that giving the London franchise a second base of operations in the Eastern part of the U.S. would be under consideration to help with logistics.

If the team had a second base on the East Coast, and when they came over to the States they were going back to a familiar place, there’s a general feel [among teams] that it would solve a vast number of the operational issues,” Waller said, via Breer. “Whether it’s transportation issues, talent issues and making sure week-in, week-out, you have the talent you need on hand, increasingly there’s belief that’s the right solution.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Potential London Team

Naturally, the latest London game brought more discussion of where the NFL bringing a team to England on a full-time basis stands. When the subject of a London Super Bowl surfaced, Roger Goodell pumped the brakes on such a maneuver until the NFL has a team stationed in London, via James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter).

As far as the seemingly monumental task of relocating a team to London, or installing one there as an expansion outfit, more emerged on that front as well. Jim Irsay is in favor of a London team but notes it can only be a worthwhile venture if a forward-thinking owner runs it with an understanding of both the American and European market.

That’s my goal as an owner, to find the right owner and the right team to come here,” Irsay told George Bremer of the Herald Bulletin (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). “… We look forward to having a permanent NFL team here.”

Smith points out the NFL remains serious about a London team. Several owners believe this is the league’s popularity apex in the states and the only way for the game to grow further would be a move overseas. While the right owner would help, it wouldn’t solve the logistical issues that continue to plague it. This makes Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star doubt this long-rumored London project will happen.

We heard in June the owners discussed this issue in-depth at a meeting, right down to what a playoff bracket would look like if a London trip was involved. But what did not come out of those meetings were how a London team would affect regular seasons and the players who uprooted to Europe to play for this hypothetical franchise.

Doyel doubts a London team could field the same kind of talent due to the life-changing relocation it would require and doesn’t think the NFLPA would back the move, as it would have to. Additionally, Doyel points out the team’s division mates would be at a disadvantage in having to make the trip annually — not to mention the actual London team’s road games occurring between five and eight hours apart from its time zone, with only one bye week to help for restoration purposes.

That would be tough,” Colts defensive end Kendall Langford told Doyel regarding being on a London-stationed team. “It would be tough for me, especially when you have to go to the West Coast. (But) anything is possible in this league.”

Nevertheless, this will continue to be a key topic in league circles, especially during weeks the league’s London showcase opens its Sunday slate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

London Discussions Continue To Progress

A long-discussed future endeavor, the NFL slotting a franchise in London appears to be still on the minds of the league’s decision-makers. But the specifics of such a progression now have taken an interesting turn. 

At last week’s owners meetings in Charlotte, the subject of a London franchise became a key talking point, enough so that several owners, according to CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora, are “more convinced than ever” that the league bigwigs want this to happen.

The last news coming out of the NFL-to-England front came during Roger Goodell‘s pre-Super Bowl press conference, with the commissioner wanting to expand the London itinerary beyond three games. But at the latest owners summit, the owners discussed numerous details about the prospect of a London franchise, La Canfora writes.

Subjects like the prospect of convincing coaches to move to London or attracting free agents were broached, along with how employees would be paid. While unlike anything close to the type of expansion the NFL has seen, La Canfora categorizes these seemingly key issues as labor matters that wouldn’t serve as deal-breakers.

However, the major point of contention that came up in Charlotte stemmed from what would happen if the London team qualifies for the playoffs.

Illustrating perhaps how far these talks have gone, the league is concerned about that prospect and the opponent being from the Western part of the United States. Teams in recent years received byes coming out of their complex travel requirement to the United Kingdom — although the Colts won’t receive said luxury this season — and the Grenwich Mean Time Zone resides eight hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone. With post-week byes not existing during the playoffs’ initial two rounds, that could pose another deterrent to a London franchise formulating.

That was the thing they seemed to have the most difficulty figuring out,” a team exec who closely watched the North Carolina session told La Canfora. “They aren’t sure how to handle that from a competitive standpoint, but judging from how (Mark Waller, the head of the NFL international arm) spoke about, it’s definitely something they are spending a fair amount of time working on.”

In speaking to teams on how best to handle this as-of-now hypothetical instance, La Canfora hears the idea of giving the road team the option of playing the game a few days early or a few days after the usual weekend date may be the eventual scenario.

La Canfora notes that these ideas becoming relevant to the actual schedule are years away, but with the NFL condensing its London slate to resemble a mini-regular season this October for European fans and expanding to a second site in Twickenham Stadium, this prospect continues to gain steam.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images

Extra Points: Manziel, Schwartz, London

Long thought to be Johnny Manziel‘s career lifeline, the Cowboys may not have been interested in the embattled quarterback at all, Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Team sources told Hill the Browns quarterback who could be facing legal action for his potential role in a domestic assault wasn’t on the Cowboys’ radar even before the ex-Heisman Trophy winner’s latest off-the-field occurrence.

Hill writes the same personnel who advised Jerry Jones to pass on the polarizing Texas A&M quarterback in favor of Zack Martin are still in place. The Cowboys remain very much in search of a quality backup quarterback, but Manziel doesn’t fit that profile and appears to be a non-starter in Dallas.

The Browns are expected to cut Manziel before the new league year begins.

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • The NFL’s tri-annual showcases in London continue to generate buzz on a franchise spawning in the United Kingdom’s biggest city, and Roger Goodell isn’t doing anything to squelch that notion. “We are considering playing more games in the U.K. It’s a balancing act with our schedule. … As far as a franchise, let’s continue to grow. Let’s continue to see that excitement and enthusiasm, passion and support continue to develop. If it does, I think that’s a realistic possibility,” Goodell told media, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. The obvious logistical issues remain, as London is an eight hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone, and such an expansion would be the most daring step among the four major American sports leagues.
  • Goodell stands in favor of the league pursuing a policy that will automatically eject players after they receive their second personal foul in a game, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports. “I believe that that’s consistent with what we believe are safety issues,” the commissioner told media at his yearly address, “but I also believe it’s consistent with what we believe are the standards of sportsmanship that we’ve emphasized. We should take that out of the hands of the officials.” Any rule change must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners. John Mara wants such a rule to be clear as opposed to a gray area regarding low-end personal fouls. “To me, it’d have to be severe enough personal fouls as opposed to something like an incidental facemask,” Mara told Maske. Following the actions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Vontaze Burfict within a span of three weeks, the league would appear to have momentum to pass legislation of this sort.
  • Geoff Schwartz would be hesitant if the Giants were to pursue his free agent brother Mitchell Schwartz, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports. The Giants are in need of a right tackle after turning to journeyman Marshall Newhouse last season, and the 26-year-old Mitchell Schwartz is arguably the best available. The Browns’ right-edge presence graded as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-best tackle this season. “I don’t know if we would get along too well playing next to each other for a while, just because of our personalities,” Geoff Schwartz said. “Maybe after a week or so, we’d kind of get tired of each other. He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong. He’s the best right tackle this year, I hope he goes somewhere and gets every cent he can get. I just don’t know if the Giants are in position to pay a right tackle eight-and-a-half-, nine-million dollars.” Geoff Schwartz stands to make $3.9MM in base salary if the Giants bring the injury-prone guard/tackle back for a third season. He does not, however, want his brother to re-sign with the rebuilding Browns. “Obviously, you want to get your money, but you want to win. You don’t want to be on a losing team. He’s had four offensive coordinators in four years. He’s had three or four GMs, three head coaches. I mean, you can’t win that way,” Schwartz said.
  • Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman did not activate the brakes when his Dodge Ram collided with a Honda Civic in October, injuring the other driver, according to the Seattle Times’ Lynn Thompson. Coleman, who played in a career-most 14 games for the Seahawks this season, was going 60 mph in 35-mph zone at the time of the crash, one that left the driver of the Honda Civic with a concussion and a broken collarbone. Coleman suffered a concussion in the accident while losing his hearing aid. Coleman told police he’d smoked a form of synthetic marijuana, not illegal in Washington, an hour before the collision.

Extra Points: Goodell, Raiders, Jags, London

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell conducted his usual pre-Super Bowl press conference today, and even though he took questions from reporters for nearly 45 minutes, he didn’t provide many noteworthy updates. Goodell did drop the occasional interesting nugget, announcing that the Raiders and Texans will play in Mexico City on November 21, and revealing that he has recommended to the competition committee that a player who commits two person fouls in a game is automatically ejected.

When it came to questions about the NFL’s PSI study, stadium plans for San Diego and Oakland, potential changes to the league’s drug policy, and the NFL’s investigation into Al Jazeera’s HGH allegations, Goodell declined to get into specifics, offering only general answers. According to Goodell, the PSI checks didn’t turn up any violations, the NFL wants to keep the Chargers and Raiders where they are, the league doesn’t expect any marijuana-related policy changes, and the HGH-allegation investigation (in conjunction with WADA and other leagues) is ongoing.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NFL:

  • NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the union will reach a resolution with the NFL over a change in Goodell’s role in player discipline, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports tweets. The commissioner was characteristically evasive today when asked about that issue.
  • Smith also projected another $10MM boost for the league’s salary cap in 2016 (Twitter link via Stephen Holder of Indianapolis Star), and and singled out the Raiders and Jaguars as two teams that are well below the 89% cash spending floor. According to Smith (link via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press), Oakland is $41MM below the threshold and Jacksonville is $28MM below. Those teams could be active in free agency this offseason to get to the necessary level, but they don’t have to be in compliance until March 2017, so extensions next winter for 2014 draftees like Derek Carr and Khalil Mack (Raiders) or Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson (Jaguars) could do the trick.
  • Sheldon Adelson, the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has installed Craig Moon as the paper’s publisher, and Moon’s early editorial decisions have had an impact on stories about Las Vegas’ proposed stadium, according to Politco’s Ken Doctor. With Adelson hoping to lure the Raiders or another NFL team to the proposed stadium, the Review-Journal has been forced to edit or kill stories about what could turn out to be a $600MM public investment.
  • The NFL came close, in recent weeks, to adding a fourth London game to its 2016 schedule, a source tells Albert Breer of the NFL Network (Twitter links). However, scheduling conflicts – not to mention the challenge of finding a fourth team willing to give up a home team – forced the league to put that plan on hold.

Community Tailgate: Where Will Raiders Play?

As the NFL offseason nears, there are plenty of topics and storylines to discuss, and PFR’s Community Tailgate is designed to address those stories. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. We’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

Of course, while the debate may get spirited, we ask that it all stays respectful. If you need a reminder of our rules, please check out our commenting policy. Basically, we ask that you refrain from inappropriate language, personal insults, and attacks. Speaking of commenting: we’ve made it much easier to leave a comment here at Pro Football Rumors. You are no longer required to be a registered user – simply put in your name, email address, and comment and submit.

As we enter February, two of the three NFL franchises that faced major uncertainty last month have some sort of resolution for at least the short term. The Rams are heading to Los Angeles immediately and will play at the Coliseum until their brand-new Inglewood stadium is ready in a few years. The Chargers will play the 2016 season in San Diego before making a final decision on their long-term future.

The only team without any short-term certainty is the Raiders, who appear likely to return to Oakland for at least one more year, but don’t have an agreement in place to play at O.co Coliseum at this point. The stadium, which the Raiders share with MLB’s Oakland Athletics, isn’t exactly the NFL’s most impressive venue, but it’s fine as an interim home, and I expect the Raiders to play there in 2016 while the franchise considers its long-term options.

Owner Mark Davis is in the process of considering those options as we speak — Davis paid a visit to Las Vegas last Friday to meet with a group of investors proposing to build a $1 billion domed stadium near UNLV. Additionally, ideas such as the Raiders building an NFL stadium in San Antonio or sharing Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers have resurfaced in recent weeks as the Raiders mull their next move.

Of course, there are as many cons as pros for most of the Raiders’ potential homes. There’s major skepticism that the NFL would allow a team to relocate to Las Vegas, America’s gambling capital, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Texans owner Bob McNair would likely push hard to keep the Raiders out of Texas. As for sharing a stadium with the Niners, Davis has shown no interest in such a partnership.

Los Angeles is a possibility for the Raiders, but only if the Chargers ultimately decide to pass on a partnership with the Rams, and Davis would still have to reach his own agreement with Stan Kroenke in that scenario. If the Chargers head to L.A. in 2017, San Diego could be in play for the Raiders, though there’s some uncertainty about how the NFL and Chargers owner Dean Spanos would feel about that possibility.

London and Toronto have frequently been cited as potential homes for NFL franchises as well, though there’s no indication that Davis has explored international options yet. St. Louis, having just lost the Rams, would appear on the surface to be a logical match, but Davis has said he’s not considering St. Louis, and mayor Francis Slay doesn’t appear interested in pursing another team.

Oakland may be the best home for the Raiders in both the short- and long-term — Mayor Libby Schaaf expressed optimism for that outcome during an appearance on KTVU on Sunday night, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk details.

According to Florio, Schaaf hopes to secure a renewal of the Raiders’ lease at O.co Coliseum and then move on to negotiations on a “permanent, beautiful home for those Raiders.” That’s easier said than done though, and so far none of the discussions between the Raiders and the city of Oakland have resulted in any sort of viable stadium plan. It’s not clear whether the NFL committing an extra $100MM to the project will change that.

What do you think? Should the Raiders do everything they can to make it work in Oakland, or is there another city that makes more sense for them? Where do you think the Raiders will ultimately end up, and where do you think they should end up?

76ers Owners Interested In London NFL Franchise

The NFL has repeatedly maintained that having a franchise in London, England is something that remains in the league’s long-term plans. For now, the NFL appears content to increase the number of individual contests played per season in the U.K., but as that schedule expands, the league will get a better idea of whether it’s feasible to play games on consecutive weeks in London stadiums, and how it’ll work to have a team play back-to-back games overseas.

With that in mind, Philadelphia 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer are hoping to become the owners of the first NFL franchise in London, sources tell Mitch Lawrence of Forbes. According to Lawrence, the owners of the NBA’s last-place team have become major investors in the Crystal Palace Football Club in London to get to know the market and to get a footing in London. Eventually, the duo wants to make a bid to own an NFL expansion team in London.

The idea of getting an expansion team in London is easier said than done. In addition to all the roadblocks the NFL has to work through to determine whether it’s feasible to have one of its franchises play eight home games overseas, it’s not clear if the league is actually interested in expanding. The Jaguars have begun playing one home game per year in London in an attempt to create an overseas fanbase, and if the NFL decides to put a team in London, it may make more sense for Shad Khan‘s franchise – or another club – to relocate, to avoid expanding the league beyond 32 teams.

In any case, Harris and Blitzer seem to be devoting plenty of time, money, and effort to assessing the London market with an eye toward eventually owning an NFL team there. As they shift their focus overseas, their ownership in the NBA’s 76ers may become less of a priority, as Lawrence writes.

“They’re more interested in getting the NFL in London than they are in the NBA,” a source tells Lawrence. “Their No. 1 goal is to get the NFL team in London. They want to flip the Sixers anyway.”

The NFL, of course, is focusing on Los Angeles relocation in the short-term future, so there’s unlikely to be any progress on this situation anytime soon. But it looks like one worth monitoring in the coming years.

La Canfora’s Latest: McDermott, Lions, Kroenke

Let’s take a look at some of the latest notes and observations from CBS Sports scribe Jason La Canfora:

  • Both La Canfora and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com have delved into some of the most notable names who will be connected to head coaching vacancies this offseason. Rapoport mentions Bears OC Adam Gase, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Jaguars offensive line coach Doug Marrone, and Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable as veterans of the head coaching interview circuit who will be generating plenty of buzz this offseason. Other less familiar candidates who have also piqued the interest of teams around the league include Panthers coordinators Mike Shula (offensive) and Sean McDermott (defensive), and Bills RB coach Anthony Lynn (all Twitter links). La Canfora explores the case for McDermott in more detail, noting that Carolina’s defense under McDermott’s watch has been among the league’s best for some time, but given the Panthers’ success this season, McDermott has been getting more attention around the league. La Canfora says it would not be a surprise if McDermott met with four to six teams during wildcard weekend, which is likely to be a bye week for the Panthers. Per La Canfora, a team that hires McDermott would do well to add current Chargers head coach Mike McCoy as its offensive coordinator. McCoy is rumored to be on his way out of San Diego at the end of the year, and he and McDermott share a “mutual admiration” for each other. The addition of McCoy would also help to alleviate concern regarding McDermott’s abilities on the offensive side of the ball.
  • La Canfora also has a look at potential candidates for the Lions GM job, noting that the team may have difficulty courting some of its top choices given the questions concerning team ownership and the fact that new team president Ron Wood is an unknown commodity in football circles. However, the Lions’ resurgence in recent weeks, the talent on the roster, and the fact that the club has a history of “unwavering loyalty” to its front office executives could allow the team to nab a prized candidate. Those candidates include names like Seahawks pro personnel director Trent Kirchner, Packers player personnel director Eliot Wolf, Patriots director of pro scouting Bob Quinn, and Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta. Of those names, Quinn may be the most likely option, considering that Wolf and DeCosta are both fairly comfortable in their roles as GM-in-waiting for their current clubs, and Kirchner will be the top candidate for a number of teams.
  • If Stan Kroenke‘s plan to move the Rams to Los Angeles falls though, La Canfora identifies several other options for the St. Louis owner. The league knows that if Kroenke loses out to the Chargers and Raiders in the race to LA, it would have to work actively to find other solutions for Kroenke, with London and Denver representing two such solutions. Kroenke–who remains focused on LA at the moment and has not actively considered any alternatives–has business interests in England and owns Premier League powerhouse Arsenal. Colorado, meanwhile, serves as Kroenke’s base, and his family owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. La Canfora’s sources indicate that Kroenke could purchase the Broncos at some point down the road–La Canfora writes that team ownership will be in flux when Pat Bowlen passes on–and sell the Rams to an investor looking to keep the team in St. Louis. However, Broncos Vice President of Public Relations Patrick Smyth took to Twitter shortly after La Canfora’s report, tweeting that the plan is to keep ownership of the Broncos in the Bowlen family.

 

NFL To Play Games At Twickenham Stadium

The NFL continues to add more games to its upcoming London slate, with Chris Lehourites of The Associated Press reporting that the league will begin playing games at Twickenham Stadium, the home of England’s national rugby team, during the 2016 season. The NFL has since confirmed the agreement with the Rugby Football Union.

The partnership is for three years, and it’s a good bet that if it goes well, the two sides will extend it beyond 2018. For now, the NFL is scheduled to play one game per season at Twickenham Stadium from 2016 through 2018, though the agreement gives the league the opportunity to stage two additional games there over that period.

“We are committed to continuing to grow our sport in the UK and believe that adding Twickenham Stadium to our roster of host venues in London is further evidence of that commitment,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international, in a statement. “We are very excited to give our fans the opportunity to enjoy NFL action at another world-class venue famous for attracting loyal and passionate fans from across the globe.”

In addition to the games at Twickenham Stadium, the NFL will also play at least two games per season at Wembley Stadium through at least the 2020 season, and will begin playing at least two games per year at Tottenham’s new soccer stadium in 2018.

In 2018 then, there will be at least five London games on the NFL’s schedule, with a good chance for more. The league has also indicated a desire to play games in countries beyond the U.K., such as Mexico and Germany, as early as next season.