Robert Kraft

AFC Notes: Kraft, Patriots, Bengals

Patriots owner Robert Kraft might not be out of the woods just yet. We heard a few days ago that a judge had ruled in favor of Kraft’s legal team to suppress video evidence in his case that had allegedly been obtained illegally. It was a major procedural win for Kraft, and indicated he might get out of his situation without being convicted of anything. That being said, the government isn’t going down without a fight. Prosecutors are appealing the judges decision, and are looking to get the video evidence reinstated, per T.J. Quinn of ESPN.com.

Kraft’s attorney William Burck celebrated the news, saying it was a sign that the government’s case was very weak without the tape. The lead prosecutor is “acknowledging he has no case without the illegal video recordings that four Florida judges have now found to be unconstitutional,” Burck said. “No evidence means no trial. So the state had only two options — drop the case or appeal. They chose to appeal, but we are confident the appellate court will agree with Judge Hanser and the other judges who threw out their illegally obtained evidence.” Even if Burck is right and the state eventually drops the case, the Patriots boss could still face discipline from the league. How likely Roger Goodell is to issue punishment without a conviction is anyone’s guess. We’ll keep you updated when a ruling on the appeal comes in.

Here’s more from the AFC on a quiet Sunday afternoon:

  • Speaking of the Patriots, they now have a very crowded running backs room. James White, Sony Michel, core special teamer Brandon Bolden (who just got $2MM guaranteed to return to New England), and last month’s third round pick Damien Harris all seem like locks to make the roster and be active on game-days. As such, Rex Burkhead could be the odd-man out, writes Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Howe doesn’t think the Pats will cut Burkhead as long as he’s healthy, but he could be facing an uphill battle to be on the active-46 on Sundays. Howe points out that Bill Belichick is usually pretty steadfast about keeping only four running backs active, but he could make an exception if Burkhead’s special teams prowess is deemed too valuable. Burkhead is heading into the second year of a three-year extension he signed in March of 2018, and it’s not inconceivable he could be cut this offseason. Injuries limited him to just eight games last year, and ten in 2017.
  • John Ross didn’t participate in the Bengals’ veterans voluntary minicamp last month due to “tightness,” per Geoff Hobson of the team’s official site. This isn’t necessarily major news, but it’s notable because of Ross’ lengthy history with lower body injuries. Groin issues forced Ross to miss a few games last year, and he only played in three games as a rookie due to shoulder and knee issues, so it’s troubling he’s dealing with any sort of “tightness.” The ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft has proven he can be a burner, but not much else. We heard back in February the team was shopping the young wideout, but the Bengals pushed back on those reports soon after. New Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor has promised Ross a fresh start, but he’ll need to stay healthy to get that. He’ll have his work cut out for him carving out targets behind A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, who are entrenched as the first and second options. If he wants to avoid being labeled as a bust, he needs a big 2019.

AFC East Notes: Kraft, Jets, Dolphins

The Robert Kraft case took another turn a few days ago, when a judge ruled that video of the Patriots’ owner inside the spa cannot be used in court because it was obtained illegally, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. This doesn’t mean Kraft is out of the woods yet, even though it does improve his legal standing. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, Kraft can still be disciplined by the league under the personal conduct policy, even if he isn’t convicted of a crime. That being said, Volin wonders whether the league and fellow owners really want to punish Kraft.

To that end, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com took a look at where things will go from here, and previewed what is ahead. While noting it’s a “delicate issue,” Florio seems to think the Patriots boss has a decent chance of getting off with no punishment from Roger Goodell. Even if the league finds there is sufficient evidence that Kraft participated in solicitation, Florio writes that it “would be difficult to match the behavior to one of the 13 specific examples of prohibited conduct contained in the Personal Conduct Policy.” There will be backlash no matter what side of the fence Goodell comes down on, and it’ll be very interesting to see how he proceeds. We should have another update soon.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • The Jets have fired Mike Maccagnan and the search for his replacement is underway, with new head coach Adam Gase serving as the interim GM. Gase is widely believed to have won a power struggle, and it seems like he’s more or less in charge in New York. Acting owner and CEO Christopher Johnson will have final say, but the new GM will almost certainly be handpicked by Gase. We’ve already heard a few names the Jets are interested in, and now we have another. 49ers VP of Player Personnel Adam Peters is a name to keep an eye on in the Jets‘ GM search, Manish Mehta of the Daily News tweets. Peters was an exec with the Broncos at the same time Gase was there as the OC, so there’s some familiarity there.
  • The Patriots added to their crowded receiving room last week by signing Dontrelle Inman, and now we have the details on his pact. It’s a one-year deal with a “$200K signing bonus, $100k of his base salary guaranteed, $300k in roster bonuses, and a $100k reporting bonus, in addition to incentives up to $1m,” according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That’s a significant amount of guarantees, and Reiss writes that it “reflects how he had other suitors” and that “this isn’t a minimum-level deal.” It sounds like the Pats could be counting on Inman to play a significant role in 2019.
  • Safety Reshad Jones continued to stay away from the Dolphins during the voluntary portion of their offseason program, but the team expects to have him for mandatory minicamp next month, per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jones had a falling out with the team last season, and it’s been rumored Miami plans on shopping him. Jones is due more than $13MM in guaranteed salary, so he isn’t going to be released. Jones, a Pro Bowler as recently as 2017, is also coming off shoulder surgery.

AFC East Notes: Rosen, Patriots, Darron Lee, Bills

The Dolphins weren’t the only team interested in trading for Josh Rosen, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson writes. Jackson sites an NFL official who was in contact with the Cardinals after the trade was announced, and mention the Patriots as another team that was attempting to acquire the 2018 first-rounder.

Rosen, of course, ended up in Miami, and New England took its own quarterback when it tabbed Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round. In the weeks leading up to the draft, New England was mentioned, along with several other teams, as a potential landing spot for the quarterback.

With other teams being interested, it helps explain why the Dolphins were willing to part with a 2019 second-rounder, and a fifth-round pick in 2020.

Here’s more from around the AFC East:

  • Teddy Bruschi thinks the Patriots might have been led to draft N’Keal Harry in the first round because of the physical presence Josh Gordon brought to the team last year, ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes. “They get him last year, put a 6-3, 225-pound target out there and see what a great piece it was for them, how great it was for Tom Brady,” Bruschi theorized. “Maybe that changed the perception of what they might need.” Of course, the Patriots haven’t picked a receiver in the first round in the Bill Belichick era, so the theory could be accurate.
  • Sticking in New England, the video that led to the arrest of team owner Robert Kraft will eventually be released to the public, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes. The judge ruled the tape can be released in a way that won’t taint the jury pool.
  • The Jets have been shopping linebacker Darron Lee throughout the offseason, and that isn’t expected to stop now that the 2019 draft has concluded, Pro Football Talk’s Darin Gantt writes. Lee became expendable once the team brought in C.J. Mosley.
  • Also in New York, team general manager Mike Maccagnan has reportedly been on the hot seat. If the team does make a change, one exec to keep an eye on is Joe Douglas with the Eagles, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora tweets. La Canfora mentions the Eagles exec has ties to Jets first-year head coach Adam Gase.
  • The Bills made a splash in the undrafted free agent pool, signing local product Tyree Jackson. Buffalo reportedly couldn’t believe the Buffalo quarterback wasn’t drafted, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes“He was on our draft board to be drafted. I’m surprised. You saw his name still sitting there late in the seventh, and you start going, ‘Man, if this kid doesn’t get drafted, we’re going to have to go after him.’ And we did,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. Jackson is expected to compete for the team’s backup spot to Josh Allen.
  • The Dolphins already boast 12 picks in the 2020 draft. General manager Chris Grier says that is to be the rule going forward, the Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley tweets. Beasley predicts the team is expected to use its cap space next offseason to buy even more draft picks rather than signing top free agents.

 

AFC East Notes: Pats, Kraft, Jets, Bills, Fins

Although prosecutors are planning to release video of Patriots owner Robert Kraft soliciting sexual acts at a Florida spa, Kraft and his legal team are attempting to stop the publication. Kraft filed a motion to block release of the video, and the judge overseeing the case has indicated the state may not disseminate the video until after a hearing occurs, as T.J. Quinn of ESPN tweets. The women who allegedly own the spa in question also filed a motion to stop the release, and a judge will hear their case on April 29, according to the Boston Globe, meaning the video won’t be issued until then at the earliest.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Earlier today, we learned Demaryius Thomas‘ one-year deal with the Patriots contains a $150K signing bonus and a $1.2MM base salary, and now Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link) has provided more details on the veteran receiver’s pact. Thomas can collect a $150K reporting bonus and a total of $1.406MM in per-game roster bonuses. Additionally, Thomas can also earn $750K for reaching each of the following incentives: 60 catches, 800 yards, 1,000 yards, and 1,200 yards. Clearly, Thomas isn’t a lock to make New England’s roster, but he can bring in up to $6MM by posting an excellent campaign.
  • Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard met with the Jets today, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com lauds Howard’s size (6’2′”, 322) and ability to “explode out of his stance,” but notes potential concerns about Howard’s level of competition in the FCS. Howard, who could be available for New York in either the second or third round, would be in contention to displace Jets tackles Kelvin Beachum and/or Brandon Shell, if not immediately than in the long-term.
  • In an engrossing profile, Bills executive Lake Dawson reveals to Tim Graham of The Athletic that he turned down the Dolphins‘ general manager job in 2014 following conversations with team owner Stephen Ross. “In terms of commitment,” Dawson said, “they weren’t going to give me the time, and they weren’t going to allow me to hire some of the people that I wanted to hire. The owner wanted a fast change.” Things have clearly changed in Miami, as the Dolphins are now embarking on a serious rebuild. Dawson, for his part, interviewed for the Panthers’ GM job earlier this year.

Patriots Notes: Thomas, Kraft, Brady

Demaryius Thomas‘ deal with the Patriots includes a $150K signing bonus and a modest base salary of $1.2MM, a source tells ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). The wide receiver will have the chance to earn more through incentives/bonuses, however, bringing his cap number to $2.9MM. Reportedly, Thomas can earn all the way up to $6MM if he checks all the boxes.

The low guarantee and base pay of Thomas’ deal suggests that he’s not quite a lock to make the final roster. This makes sense given Thomas’ lack of serious production in recent years and the Patriots’ tendency to jockey playmakers in the late stages of the offseason.

For now, Thomas will focus on recovering from a torn Achilles suffered in December. The hope is that Thomas will be ready for training camp, but nothing is certain just yet.

Here’s more out of New England:

Extra Points: Kraft, Texans, Panthers

Lawyers for Patriots owner Robert Kraft are making a last-ditch effort to save their client. Kraft is refusing to plead guilty and admit he did anything wrong legally, and the government seems to be using the threat of releasing video footage to try and get him to cooperate. Kraft’s legal team has filed a motion to suppress the video evidence prosecutors have and get it thrown out, according to Travis Andersen and John R. Ellement of The Boston Globe. Kraft’s lawyers are apparently claiming that law enforcement officials used a “fake bomb threat” in order to get inside the spa and install hidden cameras.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the situation plays out legally, as it will likely effect what type of punishment Kraft faces from the league. Kraft released a statement apologizing to fans last month, but isn’t willing to admit guilt legally. It’s likely that he’s maneuvering to try and avoid being suspended by the NFL or facing other harsh punishment, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to pull it off. Obviously, the public release of any video evidence would be highly embarrassing to Kraft and the Patriots, so it’s not shocking he’s fighting it vigorously.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of the Patriots, a former coach of theirs has found a new home. Jack Easterby, the former Team Development Director/Character Coach of the Patriots, has been hired by the Texans, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Easterby will get the title of Executive Vice President of Team Development in Houston. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is a former Patriots assistant coach and there’s a lot of crossover between the two organizations, so this move isn’t too surprising. Easterby had been with the Patriots for the past six seasons.
  • A lot of AAF players have been signing NFL contracts since the league folded. One player who could get some interest is running back Jhurell Pressley. But Pressley was hit with a setback as he seeks to get back to the NFL, as the league just suspended him two games for a “pending issue,” according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet doesn’t specify what Pressley did, but says that the issue is why he hadn’t signed yet. Despite the suspension, Rapoport notes that Pressley has two workouts lined up for next week and could be signed soon now that his off-field matters have been resolved.
  • Earlier today, the Jets claimed receiver/returner Quadree Henderson off waivers from the Giants. New York apparently had competition for Henderson’s services, as the Panthers also put in a claim for the return specialist, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Carolina didn’t have a consistent returner last year and instead rotated a string of players, so their interest makes a lot of sense. Henderson was one of the best returners in the nation during his college days at Pittsburgh, and has a good shot to earn the job in New York as the Jets just lost All-Pro returner Andre Roberts in free agency.
  • The Packers cut inside linebacker Antonio Morrison last month, and now we have more clarity on why. A week before his release, Morrison was cited for interfering with a flight, according to Michael Cohen of The Athletic. Morrison, who was traded from the Colts to the Packers before last season, was removed from the flight for “exhibiting hostile behavior” toward a member of the crew, and fined by police. Morrison played in all 16 games for the Packers and started eight of them last season, so his sudden release was somewhat surprising. It’s unclear if the incident actually led to his release, but it’s notable. It was minor enough that he probably won’t face discipline from the league. We haven’t heard of any interest on the open market since his release. He received average marks from Pro Football Focus last year, grading out as their 74th-best linebacker.

Latest On Patriots Owner Robert Kraft

Lawyers for Robert Kraft are taking steps to keep surveillance video allegedly showing the Patriots owner engaging in sexual activity out of court, as Deadspin’s Diana Moskovitz writes. Kraft’s attorneys are also looking to attack the traffic stop that occurred outside of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. 

[RELATED: Bill Belichick Could Become Patriots DC]

Kraft’s lawyers will argue that the video, which was filmed without Kraft’s knowledge or consent, violated legal standards. And, if the traffic stop is also effectively whitewashed, there won’t be much of a case for Florida prosecutors to make.

Recently, Kraft rejected a plea deal that would have called for him to admit that he would have been found guilty in a court setting. Meanwhile, the NFL is keeping a watchful eye on the case. This week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the league’s personal conduct policy will apply to Kraft just as it applies to players.

Goodell stopped short of declaring Kraft will be suspended, but that remains a possibility for the billionaire owner.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Mayo, Kraft, Bills, Fins

Longtime Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo will return to the club as linebackers coach, according to Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. Mayo, 33, retired at the conclusion of the 2015 campaign, and expressed no interest in coaching at the time. Viewed as a cerebral player with a strong work ethic, Mayo appeared in 93 games for New England after being selected 10th overall in the 2008 draft. He’ll be replacing Brian Flores, who was not only the Patriots’ LBs coach but de facto defensive coordinator before taking the Dolphins’ head coaching position this offseason.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Bills general manager Brandon Beane denied that Buffalo was ever close to acquiring wide receiver Antonio Brown from the Steelers, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk writes. “We had productive talks with [GM] Kevin Colbert, with Pittsburgh, but one of the things I made clear with Kevin early on is we would have to be comfortable with where the compensation is going to have to be with AB’s representatives, and that was never something that we were even close on,” Beane said. Brown, of course, was subsequently traded to the Raiders for third- and fifth-round picks, and received a new contract with additional guarantees.
  • The NFL’s personal conduct policy will apply to Patriots owner Robert Kraft just as it applies to players, commissioner Roger Goodell told Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Goodell stopped short of declaring Kraft will be suspended, indicating a need for all the facts of Kraft’s solicitation case to come out. Kraft has rejected a plea deal from Florida prosecutors, and earlier this week pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanors.
  • Although the Dolphins haven’t publicly declared how they’ll use former first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, sources tell Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that the Dolphins prefer to deploy Fitzpatrick as a safety. Fitzpatrick, the 11th overall selection in last year’s draft, can play both cornerback and safety, but Miami already has two safeties — Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald in place. If Fitzpatrick is deployed more in the back end, McDonald could conceivably see action as a sub-package linebacker.

Robert Kraft Pleads Not Guilty

On Tuesday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution. Kraft has denied engaging in any illegal activity and recently turned down a proposed plea agreement that called for him to admit that he would have been found guilty in trial

Florida authorities say they have hidden camera footage showing Kraft receiving sex acts from women working at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. The footage, they say, also shows Kraft handing the women cash after the acts.

The sting, purported to be an undercover operation against human trafficking, has yet to yield any charges of human trafficking. Instead, authorities nabbed Kraft and 24 other accused Johns.

Recently, Kraft issued a statement on the case, though he did not explicitly admit any wrongdoing in his apology.

“I am truly sorry,” Kraft said in the statement. “I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard. Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Patriots Owner Robert Kraft

On Saturday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft released his first statement since being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets

“I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard. Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years.”

Documents released by the Palm Beach Attorney’s Office indicate Kraft visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa twice in a 24-hour span, and on Jan. 20 was videotaped receiving “oral and manual sex” from a woman at the Jupiter, Fla., Spa. According to officials, Kraft gave the woman a $100 bill and another bill before leaving. He flew to Kansas City shortly after this alleged act, being in attendance for the Patriots-Chiefs game later that day.

Earlier this week, the Patriots owner rejected a plea deal that would have had Kraft admit that he would’ve been found guilty had the case gone to court. Kraft and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing at every step so far, and his lawyer William Buck has stated that he believes the video evidence violates the fourth amendment, according to the New York Post’s Emily Smith.

“We’ve looked at…the law around the warrant for the video surveillance inside the spa, and we think it is a violation of the fourth amendment. We also believe the traffic stop [made by police as the men left the spa] was illegal and a violation of the constitution.”

Also this week, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder believes the video evidence will eventually be made public, NBC Sports’ Darren Hartwell writes.

“Once a case is over, it’s not an ongoing investigation,” Snyder said. “There has to be a specific reason not to release a public record. And the fact that there is sexual activity is not an exemption.”

Kraft’s court date is set for March 28. Before he appears, however, he is expected to be in attendance at the NFL’s owner meetings, which begin Sunday.

 

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.