Robert Kraft

AFC Notes: Bridgewater, Pats, Dareus

Teddy Bridgewater has looked very good in OTAs, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, and if his strong performance continues, the Jets could be faced with a difficult decision. They could trade Bridgewater — which was the plan when they signed him — or they could name him their starting QB for at least the beginning of 2018 while they continue to groom Sam Darnold. Starting Bridgewater would likely mean keeping three quarterbacks on the roster, as the nearly 39-year-old Josh McCown doesn’t really have any trade value. But head coach Todd Bowles, who is coaching for his job this year, will want to start the best quarterback he has, and he is a big believer in Bridgewater.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors and notes from the AFC:

  • Cimini also details Christian Hackenberg‘s last few months with the Jets before he was shipped to the Raiders. We already knew that Bowles was not aware Hackenberg changed his throwing motion until after the fact, but Hackenberg first approached Jets QB coach Jeremy Bates about making the change, and Bates was skeptical. That caused some friction between the two men, and it forced Hackneberg to go outside the organization to seek help with his mechanics.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out how Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady continue to (needlessly) fan the flames of controversy that owner Robert Kraft keeps trying to extinguish, and that the apparent tension between Belichick and Brady may be one of the reasons why Brady has not attended spring practices. However, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Brady’s absence has not created as big of a leadership void as one might expect, as younger players are taking a more active role in that regard and veteran players like Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower are back after their 2017 season was marred by injury.
  • The Broncos released C.J. Anderson last month, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the top candidates to become the team’s next No. 1 RB. However, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post says Royce Freeman, whom the team selected in the third round of last month’s draft, has the durability and history of production to suggest he can be an every-down back at the next level, and he will get a chance to make a major impact right away. His heavy collegiate workload could have contributed to his falling to the third round.
  • Marcell Dareus more than wore out his welcome in Buffalo, leading the Bills to ship him to the Jaguars before last year’s trade deadline. Dareus, though, found new life in Jacksonville, and per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Mike Kaye of First Coast News), Dareus continues to be a good soldier for the Jags. Head coach Doug Marrone said, “I’m very happy with the way he’s worked, the way he has come into camp. I think those are things he has done a much better job of than what maybe he had done in the past. I can appreciate that and see that in him.” That is not an insignificant statement, as Dareus’ effort in Buffalo seemed to evaporate after he signed his big-money extension, so perhaps he has matured and will continue to be a solid contributor to Jacksonville’s talented defensive front. Marrone, of course, was also Dareus’ coach in Buffalo during Dareus’ best two seasons to date (2013-14), so he has a pretty good reference point.

Patriots Notes: Kraft, Kaepernick, Brady, Gronk

Add Robert Kraft to the list of executives and coaches who have been deposed in the collusion grievance filed by Colin Kaepernick. TMZ reports that the Patriots owner gave his deposition to lawyers yesterday. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were deposed earlier this week, as was Broncos general manager John Elway.

We learned back in October that Kaepernick had planned a grievance against the NFL, claiming that teams conspired to keep him out of the league. The whole situation stems from the quarterback’s decision to kneel during the national anthem back in 2016. A five-year starter in San Francisco, the 30-year-old was unable to find a gig during the 2017 campaign.

While the Broncos and Seahawks had been connected to Kaepernick, the Patriots never showed any reported interest in the embattled quarterback. Of course, Kraft has enough clout around the NFL, so he could provide lawyers with valuable information. While Kaepernick was present for previous depositions, it’s uncertain whether he attend Kraft’s.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of New England…

  • Tom Brady has yet to attend the team’s voluntary OTAs, and ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes that his absence shouldn’t be cause for concern. Former Patriots players Matt Chatham and Rob Ninkovich said Brady’s decision to spend time with his family “isn’t a big deal,” although it might be notable if the quarterback misses the “third phase” of the workouts. As Reiss writes, this is the point of OTAs that Brady generally builds a rapport with his new wideouts. With three new receivers on the roster (including Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, and rookie Braxton Berrios), it might be telling if Brady also sits out this portion of OTAs.
  • The Patriots adjusted receiver Phillip Dorsett‘s contract earlier this week, but Reiss writes the move “shouldn’t have a trickle-down effect” on a Rob Gronkowski extension. The Patriots saved around $300K thanks to the new contract, and the renegotiation was more about Dorsett’s standing on the roster. The organization could have easily cut bait with the wideout, but the reduced salary means he can stick around and compete for a roster spot.
  • In case you missed it, the Patriots signed offensive lineman Jason King yesterday. This is the Purdue product’s third stint with the organization, and he was waived by New England only last week. To make room on the roster, the team waived wideout Chris Lacy. The Oklahoma State product had joined the team as an undrafted free agent earlier this month.

East Notes: McDaniels, Patriots, Z. Jones

Two of the Giants‘ top choices for their head coaching vacancy, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, are reportedly set to accept jobs elsewhere. Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, however, says that Big Blue fans should not count out McDaniels just yet. One team source says the Giants have not been informed that McDaniels is out of the mix, and while it has been reported that McDaniels wants more control over personnel than New York is willing to allow, the team feels it can resolve that issue.

Nonetheless, Vacchiano concedes that Patricia is off the table, and if McDaniels does indeed take the Colts’ job, that leaves the Giants with Pat Shurmur and Steve Wilks as their top remaining targets. But Vacchiano says Shurmur appears to prefer the Cardinals’ gig, and Arizona is apparently prepared to offer it to him. So it appears that things may be coming full circle, with Wilks looking increasingly like New York’s next head coach.

Now let’s take a look at more notes out of the east:

  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) reports that Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady will meet this offseason to clear the air and to resolve whatever tensions exist among themselves. While reports of discord within the organization were likely overblown, Rapoport says there is indeed some tension within the triumvirate, and since Belichick and Brady are not going anywhere until they choose to leave, it makes sense that the three men would want to hash out their issues.
  • Bills WR Zay Jones reportedly played his rookie campaign with a torn labrum, and his father, former NFL linebacker Robert Jones, told Robert Quinn of the Bills Wire that his son will have surgery on Tuesday to repair the injury. Zay Jones finished the 2017 season with 27 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns.
  • The Dolphins will not retain defensive line coach Terrell Williams, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Williams coached the team’s D-line for the past three seasons, and his unit experienced mixed results in 2017. Jackson adds that former offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen has indeed been reassigned to a new role within the organization, as was expected after Miami hired Dowell Loggains as its new OC earlier this month.

Latest On Reported Patriots Turmoil

The in-depth ESPN.com report detailing a rift in the Patriots’ power structure has triggered a fallout in New England. The Patriots have already released a statement attributed to Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and Kraft further addressed this situation further on Saturday.

Kraft told SI.com’s Peter King he did not meet with Belichick and call for the coach/GM to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, whom the Pats had held onto despite rampant trade rumors throughout the offseason. The owner said Belichick informed him about the Garoppolo trade.

Until Monday at the trade deadline — I believe that was Oct. 30 [31st] — the last time I talked to Bill about Jimmy’s situation was in a group with Bill, [team president] Jonathan [Kraft], [director of player personnel] Nick Caserio … a small group of us, I think in June. That is the last time I talked to Bill about it,” Kraft told King.

The next time I spoke with Bill about it was the Monday before the trade deadline. He called me on that Monday and said he got a deal with San Francisco, Jimmy for a second-round pick and Brian Hoyer. Turns out they had to cut Hoyer and then we got him. But really, this was basically a second-round pick and Brian Hoyer for Jimmy. Bill asked me if I was OK with this. I was really taken aback a little bit. I wanted to think about it. I talked to Jonathan, who was okay with it, and I called Bill back and said, ‘OK.'”

Seth Wickersham’s report placed Garoppolo at the center of the dissent, with Belichick being against the trade and Brady not exactly embracing the current 49ers passer as his heir apparent. Kraft said the franchise tag, which Garoppolo is expected to receive as a 49er, would have come into play had the Patriots tried to keep both quarterbacks. Previous reports indicated Belichick “desperately wanted” to keep Garoppolo and that some in New England aren’t on board with the new Garoppolo-less future.

Kraft added he “absolutely” believes Belichick will be back for a 19th season coaching the Patriots in 2018.

This comes after a New York Daily News report connected Belichick to the Giants’ vacancy. Belichick began his head coaching career with the 1991 Browns after a successful run as Big Blue’s DC under Bill Parcells. The Daily News’ Gary Myers spoke to a source who said the 66-year-old Belichick “sees an opening to get to the Giants” and added that, should the Patriots indeed separate this power structure, “The Giants are the only place he wants to be.”

The Giants have interviewed both of Belichick’s top lieutenants — Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia — for their HC job thus far.

Brady is under contract for two more seasons, and Belichick is believed to be under contract beyond this campaign, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports. Sources informed Maske a Patriots breakup may not commence “in the immediate future.” Maske also reports Belichick and Kraft met over the summer and resolved to try and sign Garoppolo to an extension. At that point, Maske reports, the coach and owner discussed a contract that would pay him to be Brady’s backup going forward but one that would spike once he became the starter, an element also present in Wickersham’s piece.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, however, reports neither Belichick nor Caserio ultimately proposed an extension to Garoppolo, whom Wickersham reported was offered a deal worth around $18MM AAV with playing-time escalators. The Boston-based reporter adds Brady did not ask Kraft to trade Garoppolo.

As for another Brady/Pats pact, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports the sides have discussed a deal that would take him past 2019 — which would be the all-time great’s age-42 season. These talks, per Howe, began last year and would be aimed at reducing Brady’s $22MM cap hits in 2018 and ’19.

There figures to be more fallout regarding this report, one that comes barely a week before the Patriots begin their 15th playoff run in the Belichick/Brady era.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Report Fallout

A surprising report dropped earlier this morning from Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com detailing the apparent rift between long-time Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and franchise-changing quarterback Tom Brady. Since then, those men along with owner Robert Kraft have released a statement pushing back on the reports that the leader of his football team and legendary signal caller are currently on bad terms.

“For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship. In recent days, there have been multiple media reports that have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate. The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united.”

It seemed reasonable that the Patriots would come out in some way considering the many shocking revelations that were published about the two key members of the franchise. The Patriots have made it a habit of shifting focus away from distractions and to next week’s opponent. That sentiment will be pushed to the test next weekend even if the three men have provided a statement that the report released today is false.

  • Out of the three key members of the organization, it would seem that Belichick would be the most likely to leave if the feelings reported within the Pats power structure are true, opines Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. Breer outlines that obviously the owner is not going anywhere and with Brady still playing MVP caliber football without a true successor behind him, it would be difficult to see the team moving on from him either. He notes that Belichick is 65 years old and clearly didn’t want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo as he reports that the team flat out told potential bidders the young backup “wasn’t available” when trade talk swirled during last year’s NFL Draft. Breer summarizes that the Patriots latest moves to trade Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett this season don’t jive with Belichick’s thoughtful style in which he builds for now and the future. This could be foreshadowing that should the bombshell report turn out to have a lot of truth to it, then it seems the five-time Super Bowl winning head coach could move on from the team before his quarterback.
  • However, there was no mandate to trade Garoppolo midseason, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Mike Florio of PFT. This news completely contradicts Wickersham’s reporting that Brady “won” in convincing Kraft to trade Garoppolo against the wishes of his head coach. Florio continues that the team instead pushed their backup to take an “under the bridge” type deal that would pay him “very well to be a backup and then starter money”. The reporter also speculates that if a mandate was given, it would have come during this past offseason when teams were offering better picks for Garoppolo.
  • Another factor in this story was the relationship between the Patriots and Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero. According to this morning’s story, many players felt uncomfortable if they rejected to use Brady’s “TB12” training program to use team doctors. This allegedly contributed to the uncomfortable feeling around the locker room. Guerrero has since released a statement in response to the report in which he basically defends his work with the Patriots and Tom Brady over the years. Read the full statement here via Doug Kyed of NESN.com.

Patriots Owner Regrets Garoppolo Trade?

The Patriots stunned many this year when they traded quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick. In a lengthy piece detailing a growing rift within the Patriots organization, ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham writes that owner Robert Kraft forced Bill Belichick to make the deal. However, after watching Garoppolo excel in San Francisco, Kraft has “confessed to people in the building that trading Garoppolo might have been a mistake.” Robert Kraft (vertical)

Previous reports indicated that Kraft may have pressured Belichick to part ways with Tom Brady‘s heir apparent. However, the ESPN story hints at a much bigger problem within the organization. Brady, who turns 41 in August, seemed to be elated in the wake of the Garoppolo trade. Belichick, meanwhile, only requested a second-round pick in exchange for Garoppolo, Wickersham hears. Wickersham also hints that Belichick steered Garoppolo to the 49ers out of respect for Kyle Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan.

Before the trade, the Patriots worked hard to keep Garoppolo in the fold. Wickersham hears that the Pats “repeatedly” offered up four-year contract extensions, in the $17MM-$18MM per year range plus increases for if/when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo’s camp rejected those offers, likely because he preferred the possibility of immediately becoming a starter elsewhere and earning $25MM/year or more on his next contract.

The story, which we recommend reading in full, hints at a potential end to the Patriots structure as we know it. Some within the organization apparently wondered if the Pats’ Week 17 game against the Jets could be Belichick’s last regular season game as the Patriots’ head coach.

Meanwhile, the agent for Brady (and Garoppolo) has moved to cast doubt on the report.

I don’t really know what to say — it’s tough to have a response since it didn’t appear to me to have one on-the-record quote,” Don Yee said in a statement. “All I can suggest is don’t believe everything you read.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Colin Kaepernick

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Texans owner Bob McNair, amongst others, will be deposed and asked to turn over all cell phone records and emails in relation to the Colin Kaepernick collusion case against the NFL, a league source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Facebook link). Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and owner 49ers Jed York are also among those on the deposition list, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) hears.

Other owners, team officials, and league officials may also be deposed, but those are the individuals confirmed for now.

Here’s more on Kaepernick:

  • Colin Kaepernick’s attorney believes that the quarterback will sign with an NFL team soon. “I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,” Mark Geragos told Adam Carolla earlier this week (transcript via BleacherReport.com). “I think somebody’s gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.” Geragos may have confidence, but there’s no reason to expect a Kaepernick signing anytime soon. A potential spot opened up this week when Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a season-ending ACL tear, but Houston opted to sign Matt McGloin and T.J. Yates. For now, Tom Savage is the starter in Houston and there are no known plans for the team to audition Kaepernick.
  • NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart deferred to the NFLPA on the topic of having Kaepernick at the next meeting between players and owners (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). “We’d welcome his participation, but that’s an issue for the players to determine,” he said.

NFL Helped Raiders Secure Vegas Funding?

When the Chargers announced in January they were taking the NFL up on its offer to join the Rams in Los Angeles, the NFL foresaw a possible route to San Diego for the Raiders. The league did not want that, so it shifted focus from helping the Raiders procure a new stadium in Oakland to making sure the Las Vegas deal didn’t fall though, Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN.com report in an expansive story chronicling the Raiders’ move to Sin City.

As the Raiders’ Vegas deal was flailing after the departures of Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs in during the winter, league executives joined Raiders president Marc Badain in contacting Bank of America, according to Van Natta and Wickersham. The company soon replaced Adelson as a backer, injecting new life into the Raiders’ Vegas venture, and pledged a near-$1 billion line of credit to cover cost overruns from the impending stadium construction project.

Jerry Jones also played a role in this key chapter of the Raiders’ relocation process. Mark Davis said to Jones at one point last year, “you screwed me on L.A.” and Jones began to act feverishly to help the Raiders relocate. The Cowboys owner put his full support behind the project, something the league and the Raiders appreciated, according to the ESPN reporters, and attempted to procure financing for the endeavor. But some around the league are concerned with the fallout.

Jones’ push helped bring some owners off the fence, paving the way for the 31-1 relocation vote. But it irked another influential owner. Robert Kraft took exception to Jones’ stake in Legends Hospitality, a merchandise and concessions company that could stand to benefit from the $1.9 billion stadium deal.

Sources told Wickersham and Van Natta that Legends emerged as a contender to partner with the Raiders for nonfootball revenue. Kraft spoke to Adelson, a longtime friend who played a key role in helping secure the Raiders the record $750MM in public money before stepping aside due partially to a falling out with Davis, and told him “Jerry is running wild; I can’t believe this.” Adelson, according to the ESPN reporters, then said he would “kill” the Raiders’ deal in Vegas if Kraft wanted. But Kraft, who had been a backer of the Raiders’ effort, did not want to exercise that prospective option.

Kraft wasn’t the only high-powered NFL figure who was suspicious of Jones’ help here. The Dallas owner helping sway his peers while potentially factoring into the stadium’s finances would cause “a major conflict of interest,” a longtime aide to an NFL owner told ESPN, who added the question of “won’t Mark Davis always be beholden to Jerry Jones?” Bank of America has served as the Cowboys’ bank for 25 years, along with a team sponsor. It’s also the Raiders’ longtime bank.

Davis and NFL executive VP Eric Grubman were working toward different goals, with Davis concentrating solely with Vegas and Grubman working to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Grubman, who also attempted to work with St. Louis last year while Stan Kroenke set his sights on Los Angeles, concluded in December — according to ESPN — Oakland did not have a viable proposal. At that same December league meeting, Badain called Oakland’s proposal a “political, cover-your-ass joke” and said in October, per ESPN, “it would have been better if (Oakland) had offered nothing.”

The stadium proposals received from Oakland are dependent on various contingencies and involve a number of significant uncertainties that membership concluded cannot be solved in a reasonable time,” the league’s statement on the Raiders’ relocation reads (via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, on Twitter), also citing the lack of Oakland progress in a two-year period after the league denied relocation applications in 2015 and placed the Raiders behind the Rams and Chargers in the Los Angeles pecking order a year later. “The proposal to relocate to Las Vegas involves a clearly defined and well-financed proposal for a first-class stadium.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Broncos, Colts, Titans, Brady

Following news of Von Miller‘s record-breaking extension with the Broncos, we’ve started hearing reactions from several of the player’s teammates.

Cornerback Chris Harris appeared on NFL Network earlier this week, and the veteran said he believed Miller’s threats of holding out.

“I believe him,” he said (via Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post). “You’ve got to take his word for it. It would be hard for me to sit out, missing out on $14 million, but I think Von is serious in what he’s saying. I think he truly, this whole time just talking to him, he hates the franchise tag. I definitely think he won’t sign it.”

Meanwhile, offseason addition Mark Sanchez stated his excitement for Miller’s return

“Happy the deal was done in time for camp,” the quarterback said. “I knew both sides had the same goal and now we can start camp with the whole squad.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC…

  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com says safety Mike Adams‘ two-year, $4.3MM contract (with $1.2MM guaranteed) is the best on the Colts. Meanwhile, tight end Dwayne Allen was said to have the team’s worst contract at four years and $29.4MM (with $11.5MM guaranteed).
  • After Delanie WalkerCraig Stevens, and Anthony Fasano, the Titans could keep up to two additional tight ends, writes Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. Phillip Supernaw is currently slotted as the team’s fourth tight end, but Wyatt notes that the team will be eyeing the waiver wire for reinforcement.
  • Meanwhile, Wyatt doesn’t envision undrafted kicker Aldrick Rosas unseating starter Ryan Succop.
  • When it comes to the ‘Deflategate’ fiasco, Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe writes that “the Patriots dug their own grave by behaving like a guilty party from the jump.” The writer notes the hypocrisy of owner Robert Kraft, who initially touted Roger Goodell as commissioner. Quarterback Tom Brady announced yesterday that he wouldn’t be appealing his four-game suspension.

AFC East Notes: Brady, Jets, Bills, Bush

In response to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady abandoning his Deflategate fight on Friday and accepting his four-game suspension to begin the season, owner Robert Kraft issued a statement blasting the NFL for its handling of the matter. Kraft expressed frustration with the notion that Brady “was denied his right to a fair and impartial process. The League’s investigation into a football pressure matter was flawed and biased from the start, and has been discredited nearly unanimously by accredited academics and scientists.”

Kraft continued: “The penalty imposed by the NFL was unprecedented, unjust and unreasonable, especially given that no empirical or direct evidence of any kind showed Tom did anything to violate League rules prior to, during or after the 2015 AFC Championship Game. What Tom has had to endure throughout this 18-month ordeal has been, in my opinion, as far removed from due process as you could ever expect in this country.”

Unsurprisingly, Kraft went on to pledge both his and the franchise’s full support to Brady, saying, “This entire process has indelibly taken a toll on our organization, our fans and most importantly, Tom Brady. His reluctant decision to stop pursuing further action and to put this situation behind him is what he feels is best for the team in preparation for this season and is fully supported by me and our entire organization.”

Here’s more from around the AFC East, whose three other teams are likely feeling a little better about their chances in light of the Brady news:

  • Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson‘s stunning Friday extension with the Jets could spell trouble for Sheldon Richardson‘s long-term prospects with the club, opines CBS Sports’ Joel Corry, who wonders if the latter will end up on the trading block next year (Twitter link). Richardson, 25, is signed through the 2017 campaign at less than $10MM in combined salary, and he has palatable cap hits of $3.115MM and $8.069MM, respectively.
  • On the other hand, Albert Breer of TheMMQB (on Twitter) expects Richardson to stay with the Jets through at least his current contract. The Jets would then have an opportunity to decide whether to go forth with Richardson or Wilkerson, who has $37MM in guarantees coming his way through 2017, or even both. Gang Green will also have further time to develop fellow lineman Leonard Williams – its first-rounder last year – during that period, Breer points out.
  • Thanks to Karlos Williamsfour-game suspension, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (via Twitter) looks for the Bills to pursue free agent running back Reggie Bush. With Williams set to miss a quarter of the season and fellow backup Jonathan Williams dealing with his own off-field issues, the Bills suddenly don’t look nearly as deep in the backfield, though they’re still positioned well with LeSean McCoy, 2015 breakout Mike Gillislee and Dan Herron in the fold. Bush, meanwhile, hasn’t yet found work since tearing his ACL as a member of the 49ers last November.