Roger Goodell

Colin Kaepernick NFL Return Gaining Steam?

Although Colin Kaepernick has not played since the 2016 season, the quarterback has remained a fixture in NFL news cycles for most of his free agency stay. And momentum appears to be growing for the former 49ers passer to receive another opportunity.

In discussing Kaepernick with some NFL head coaches, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport indicates there is “far, far more interest” in the 32-year-old passer now than there probably has been since he became a free agent in March 2017 (video link). While a few hurdles would remain — particularly in this coronavirus-marred offseason — Rapoport adds that teams’ interest in Kaepernick for a backup job is “very real.”

It has been well-documented the former Super Bowl starter has received only one opportunity to visit a team; that came with the Seahawks in 2017. Pete Carroll said he now regrets not signing him at that point but added that his team is content at quarterback now. Although a handful of teams stayed in Atlanta for the NFL-organized workout Kaepernick rearranged at the 11th hour last fall, no franchise has brought in the polarizing free agent since the Seahawks did so in during the summer of 2017.

Kaepernick had drifted off the NFL radar to a degree after his workout last year, but the worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality over the past three weeks have reignited the push for the player that started the NFL protests on this front to receive another chance. Roger Goodell called for Kaepernick to be given another opportunity this week.

It will take a team to make that happen, and much like Cam Newton, Kaepernick would likely have to wait until free agents are allowed to visit teams to have the chance to sign anywhere. That window may not open until late July, when training camps begin. That said, recent Jets signee Joe Flacco is not expected to be recovered from neck surgery until at least September. Newton would rank higher on quarterback-needy teams’ pecking orders than Kaepernick, but the former MVP profiles more as a starter — potentially if a team’s QB1 suffers an injury. Kaepernick interest appears to be contingent on a backup gig.

One of the teams connected to Newton this offseason discussed Kaepernick on Wednesday. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said (via Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com) Kaepernick would fit his system but added that such an opportunity would likely be contingent on an emergency-type situation (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Andrew Siciliano). Lynn said he has not spoken with Kaepernick.

While ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes (via Twitter) the Chargers have come up around the league as a potential Kaepernick fit, joining the Titans in that regard, Lynn said he was happy with the three quarterbacks he has. The Bolts — they of a Tyrod TaylorJustin HerbertEaston Stick QB depth chart — having passed on Newton earlier this year provides a pretty good indication they are content at quarterback for the time being.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Season, Super Bowl, Meetings

Late last month, a potential NFL contingency plan involving a mid-October start date surfaced. The league may be willing to further delay its 2020 season, if it means fans can attend games. Two teams estimated a fan-less season would cost each team approximately $100MM, and Albert Breer of SI.com adds that one NFC exec said he does not imagine much debate will ensue if the league is faced with a choice of starting the season on time without fans or moving Week 1 to November with fans if it meant fans could attend. A $100MM per-team loss would mean a roughly $48MM reduction to the 2021 salary cap, which would cause titanic fallout league-wide.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the cap was expected to rise by more than $10MM from 2020-21 and produce greater per-year spikes than the 2011 CBA brought. While Breer estimates the league would make an effort to smooth out a cap decrease so it would gradually decline over multiple years rather than plunge off a cliff in 2021, a fan-less season would have tremendous consequences.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • A delayed season would mean Super Bowl LV being pushed back. Super Bowl sites, however, are required to free up more dates in the event the game must be moved, Breer adds. The NFL moved Super Bowl XVII back a week because of the 1982 strike and delayed Super Bowl XXXVI a week because of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Super Bowl being pushed beyond mid-March would require a negotiation with the NFLPA, since it would conflict with the start of the 2021 league year. The NFL is not at this point yet, but given the uncertainty the coronavirus has injected into other sports’ seasons, the league is preparing for alternate scenarios.
  • Roger Goodell recently reduced his salary to zero dollars, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. The 14th-year commissioner requested to the compensation committee he not take a salary during the pandemic, and Fowler adds that took effect weeks ago. Goodell makes roughly $40MM in salary.
  • Pay reductions have gone into effect at the league level. Various management-level execs at the league office will see their pay slashed by 5-15%, Fowler adds. These pandemic-induced salary reductions follow similar moves made by the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.
  • The next set of NFL owners’ meetings — scheduled for May 19-21 in Marina Del Ray, Calif. — will be fully virtual, per the Washington Post’s Mark Maske (on Twitter). Considering NFL teams remain in virtual mode, this was expected.
  • The NFL will release its schedule Thursday. A full 17-week season will be scheduled, with some games possible to shift to Saturdays. No London games are believed to be on tap this season, however, due to the pandemic.

Latest On NFL’s Virtual Draft Plan

Less than two weeks remain until the NFL’s virtual draft. Some additional details of the unique event emerged Monday.

  • Roger Goodell will announce the picks from the basement of his Westchester County, N.Y., home, Peter King of NBC Sports notes. This will occur on a neutral broadcast, as opposed to ESPN and NFL Network conducting separate airings. ESPN and NFL Network will simulcast the entire draft.
  • Each team will have a designated drafter that will be connected to the league’s encrypted Microsoft Teams channel, King adds. NFL VP of player personnel Ken Fiore will communicate with teams regarding who will be on the clock when while also serving as an emergency contact if a team cannot make a pick through the Microsoft Teams channel. While each team will still have 10 minutes to pick during the first round, King confirms the NFL will be flexible if a communication issue affects a team’s process.
  • A separate, secure line will be in place for draft-day trades, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding that multiple team executives can be on those calls at once. The mock draft each of the 32 teams will go through next week will include fake trades as well to test this system.
  • IT personnel have completed their work, installing cameras in the homes of each GM and head coach, Rapoport adds (via Twitter). GMs are permitted to have one IT person in their home during the draft, per Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff (via King).
  • The league reached out to 58 prospects and a few college coaches, and cameras will be installed in the homes where they’ll watch the draft, King notes. No more than six people can be at players’ respective draft-watching events. This is certainly way down from the number of family members and friends who usually gather for these viewings, but the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed just about everything about the draft — except for the dates — this year.

Pass Interference Won’t Be Reviewable In 2020

The NFL is officially making a big rule change ahead of the 2020 season. Pass interference will no longer be a reviewable foul whenever the league next plays games, a source told Mark Maske of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

Maske reports that owners won’t even take a vote on the issue and the pass interference replay review rule will simply be allowed to expire. In a separate tweet, Maske notes that teams “overwhelmingly indicated” they didn’t want the rule renewed for another season. In a huge move last offseason, the league made pass interference penalties reviewable by coach’s challenges and by the booth.

They made the decision last year at the behest of the Saints following the controversial no-call that likely cost them the NFC Championship Game to the Rams. The rollout was a disaster, and seemingly everyone hated the implementation right from the start. The replay booth was very strict for the most part, but also inconsistent, with what they would overturn.

As for new rule changes that could take effect in 2020, the NFL released the full list of proposed rule changes that owners will vote on at upcoming meetings. Included are the Eagles’ proposals to “provide an alternative to the onside kick that would allow a team who is trailing in the game an opportunity to maintain possession of the ball after scoring (4th and 15 from the kicking team’s 25-yard line),” as well as to make overtime 15 minutes and reduce the importance of the overtime coin toss.

There are a handful of other interesting but less significant proposed changes which you can view in the release. All proposed rules need support from 24 of the 32 owners in order to pass.

Roger Goodell: NFL Planning To Play In 2020

Even amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, the NFL plays to forge ahead with its 2020 season. This week, commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated that stance in a chat with Kairos CEO Ankur Jain. 

The NFL is planning to play,” Goodell said (link via the NFL on Instagram). “That’s our hope, and that’s our planning to date…We can help our country heal. We can help bring our communities together. We can provide hope.”

Goodell also stressed that public safety is paramount to the NFL. Right now, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the NFL launches its season in September exactly as planned. Even if social distancing regulations are relaxed by local and federal regulators, the threat of a new COVID-19 wave will likely linger.

In the meantime, the NFL has drastically altered its offseason plans while mostly keeping the scheduled milestones in place. NFL executives will conduct the NFL Draft at their individual homes. And, between now and April 23rd, they’re conducting interviews with players via video conference.

President Trump has been pushing for the season to start on time, but there are many hurdles to clear between now and the fall. That goes for every city, but it’s doubly true in Los Angeles. SoFi Stadium is behind schedule and less than certain to be ready for Week 1, leaving the Rams and Chargers in limbo.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Might Push Back May Meetings

The NFL recently cancelled their annual spring meeting, an important event where rule changes get discussed among other orders of business, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time they announced those discussions would instead take place at a May 18-20th meeting in California, which had been expanded due to the cancellation.

Now that meeting is up in the air and the league is unsure if it will proceed, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. In follow-up tweets, Maske posted a letter that commissioner Roger Goodell sent to NFL staff that he obtained. “While there have been changes to the way we work and some of our plans, we have an unwavering commitment to upholding the NFL’s legacy and lifting the spirit of America,” Goodell wrote.

We will get through these difficult days together and every one of you should be proud knowing that you have played an important role to help our world emerge stronger and more unified,” he continued. Goodell also said in his letter that the league would use April’s draft “to help support fans and those people impacted in our communities.”

There was initially a lot of talk about pushing the start of the league year and delaying free agency due to COVID-19, but that ended up getting avoided after the players’ union pushed back. If the May meeting does get scrapped, it’s entirely possible the owners will have to debate and vote on rule changes and other important agenda items for the 2020 season remotely.

Owners Hoping CBA Isn’t Passed?

While the NFL’s latest CBA proposal has already been distributed to players, it sounds like some owners are hoping it isn’t passed. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports (via Twitter) that a “number of NFL owners” are hoping the CBA doesn’t pass next week because they believe they can get a better deal in 2021. Specifically, the owners believe they could make a stronger push for an 18-game schedule.

Lawyers for the NFL and NFLPA worked on finalizing language for the CBA on early Thursday morning, and ballots were sent to players later that day. Players will have almost exactly one week to vote on the measure.If more than 50% of the players vote yes, the CBA passes. The NFLPA’s board approved the agreement, by a 17-14-1 vote, on Feb. 26. The union’s executive director, DeMaurice Smithexpects it to pass.

We’ve learned about a number of additional CBA details over the past few days, which we’ve compiled below:

  • Previously, teams were required to spent at least 89-percent of the cap, but the salary floor would be increased to 90-percent under the new CBA. As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out, that’d effectively be an increase from $178MM to $180MM (using a $200MM cap).
  • We heard that the new CBA would reduce Roger Goodell‘s authority when it came to the Personal Conduct Policy, but Florio says the commissioner would still have final say over a punishment. Goodell will also have the right to increase or decrease penalties that were handed out by a neutral arbitrator.
  • If the proposed CBA is ratified, the NFL will no longer suspend players for positive tests for marijuana or other substances of abuse. While this CBA includes a harsher PED policy, the new substance-abuse standards will focus more on treatment. However, Florio writes that the league won’t automatically reinstate already-banned players like Josh GordonMartavis Bryant, and Randy Gregory. These players will still be required to go through the standard reinstatement process.

Latest On CBA Proposal

Earlier today, owners approved the latest variation of the collective bargaining agreement, and reporters have gotten their hands on some of the proposal’s major details:

  • There will be two extra roster spots added to the active roster and two extra spots added to the practice squad. As Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com observes, this would add 128 players to the union. Somewhat related, the league will also have an ” extra offensive lineman” rule that would be somewhat similar to the previous “third quarterback rule.” Essentially, if an offensive lineman is knocked out of a game, a reserve lineman could play (via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter).
  • Going off of that, teams will have an extra $1.25MM to spend on up to two players with four-plus years of experience. This chunk of change won’t count towards the salary cap, making it the NFL’s pseudo-version of the NBA’s mid-level exception (as Pelissero notes). Minimum salaries will also be increased, meaning those fringe players will have additional chances to earn.
  • Roger Goodell will have diminished authority over discipline. The league will implement “a neutral decision-maker for most Commissioner Discipline cases.” As Pelissero tweets, the commissioner will have authority “over integrity of the game matters” (like Deflategate). Personal conduct matters will now be handled by the arbitrator. Further, there will be reduced penalties for THC, and there will be no “game suspensions strictly for positive tests.”
  • Fifth-year options will now be fully guaranteed and tied to performance (as opposed to draft position), tweets NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Specifically, when a team picks up the option, the fifth-year salary will be fully-guaranteed prior to the first rounder’s fourth season, and the value will be directly tied to performance. There will also be performance escalators for second- through seventh-rounders.
  • There are a variety of changes to training camp practices, with a 2.5-hour limit on “padded/full speed practices” (via NFL.com’s Albert Breer on Twitter). There’s also limits to time spent at a team’s facility during a single workday and limits of only 16 days in pads.

Patriots Rumors: Videotaping, Brady, Gronk

The league’s investigation into the Patriots’ videotaping incident is still ongoing, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed on Wednesday. The process has already taken roughly two months and Goodell says he won’t rush things along.

Our responsibility is to make sure we’re being extremely thorough,” Goodell said (via Ryan Hannable of WEEI). “We have a responsibility to 31 other clubs, we have a responsibility to partners, we have a responsibility to fans understand all of what happened, and to make sure that something that we don’t know happened didn’t happen. And so, from our standpoint we want to make sure we are being thorough. Our team has been on it. We have been focused on this. I think it has not been that lengthy of time. We obviously put the focus on it, but we are going to get it right. When we come to a conclusion, we’ll certainly make sure that people are aware of it.”

When the investigation finally wraps, the Patriots may face fines and/or the forfeiture of a draft pick.

Here’s more from New England:

  • During his Super Bowl week media availability, Rob Gronkowski was, predictably, asked about the possibility of returning to football. The longtime Patriots tight end, in turn, gave a predictable answer that won’t do much to silence the speculation. “Oh, man, I don’t know,” Gronkowski said when asked if he’ll ever come out of retirement. “I’m a young guy — 30 years old. I still love to workout, stay in shape. Like I said, I’ve answered this question many, many times. I will never say complete no, because I love playing sports. I love competing.”
  • Meanwhile, Gronk says he supports Tom Brady‘s desire to explore free agency this offseason (via Nick Goss of NBC Sports). “He’s going to be a free agent for the first time ever. Good for him,” Gronk said. “Test out the market, and then do what’s best for himself. That’s the decision he has to make — what’s best for himself, what’s best for his family, what he feels like he’s going to love.”
  • Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia announced that he will retire this offseason. Scarnecchia spent 34 years on the Pats’ staff and served as an assistant for ten of their eleven Super Bowl appearances.

 

Roger Goodell Isn’t Thinking About Retirement

Roger Goodell has frequently come under fire since taking over as the NFL’s commissioner in 2006. He’s also made a fortune in one of the most heavily-scrutinized executive positions in sports, but he doesn’t envision walking away anytime soon. 

“I haven’t thought about retiring, it’s not on my agenda. We have too much to do,” said Goodell.

Atop the list of things to do: Guiding the NFL to a brand new collective bargaining agreement as the current one nears its expiration. But, even after Goodell hammers something out with the players’ union and negotiates new television deals, he doesn’t think he’ll transition from football to daily tee times on the golf course.

Goodell, 60, did acknowledge the need for a succession plan. At this time, there’s no clear internal candidate to take over for the commish, as was the case years ago in the NBA when Adam Silver assumed David Stern’s position. Interestingly, there have been rumblings of big-name candidates from outside the sport over the years – like Silver – and out of sports – like former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.