Roger Goodell

NFL Considering Leaving Anthem Policies Up To Teams?

The latest news out of the league’s effort regarding the player protest movement may be a solution that shifts the decisions about whether or not players are required to stand during the playing of the national anthem up to the teams rather than implementing a leaguewide policy, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports.

Owners are considering going forward with an approach that would leave these decisions up to the 32 franchises, with Maske reporting not enough support among owners appears to exist for a policy that will require players to stand during the anthem.

Set to meet from May 21-23 in Atlanta, the owners are considering this as well as other solutions. Maske reports the pre-2009 policy of keeping players in their respective locker rooms is on the table, as is a more hardline approach of requiring players to either stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room during its playing.

While some owners — most notably Jerry Jones and Bob McNair — have come out against the inequality-based protests, Maske writes that others are opposed to forcing players to stand.

Roger Goodell is also not believed to be prepared to support a decision forcing players to stand, which may open the door to this team-by-team policy becoming the preferred solution at this point. Some around the league said, via Maske, Goodell’s involvement in the 2017 deal between players and owners that allocated funds to player-supported community causes will make it unlikely he’ll support any policy that requires players to stand.

My guess is they will leave it up to the teams,” a high-ranking official with one team said, via Maske.

The NFL’s current policy encourages players to stand for the anthem but doesn’t require it. Jones said last season he would bench players who chose to protest, and the Texans owner said in March NFL fields are “not the place for political statements.” President Donald Trump has consistently weighed in on this issue, most infamously at a speech last year that induced hundreds of players to kneel during anthems in Week 3 of last season, and has communicated with Jones regarding it. The president’s involvement has come up in both grievances from Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick, and a New York Times-obtained recording of last fall’s players-owners summit produced audio of owners expressing concern about the president’s attacks on the league.

Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported last month that Jones will attempt to push through a measure that will require players to stand, but as of now, it doesn’t seem like the Cowboys owner has enough support here. No vote on this issue occurred at the league meetings in March.

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Extra Points: Cowboys, Rams, Brockers, Lions, Dunlap

After much speculation, Cowboys defender Byron Jones confirmed on Monday that he will be switching from safety to cornerback in 2018, the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota writes.

Viewed as a versatile defender coming out of college, Jones played cornerback as a rookie in 2015 and a safety the past two seasons. New defensive backs coach Kris Richard preferred him at the former.

“I think it will be a good move for me and the team. I’m always open to making position changes, as long as I’m in the best position to succeed. If [Richard] believes my best position is corner, then I’m down.”

Richard knows a thing or two about getting the best from bigger cornerbacks. With the Seahawks, Richard oversaw Richard Sherman’s ascent to one of the premier corners in the league. What remains to be seen is if the team prefers him on the boundary or in the slot. In 2017, rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis showed plenty of promise on the outside.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • In a press conference on Monday, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers told reporters he tore his MCL in the team’s playoff loss to the Falcons in January, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. During that game, the sixth-year defender sat out the second half. The good news for Los Angeles is that Brockers took part in team activities on Monday, but they’re not in pads until training camp.
  • If any Lions players are moved in draft-day deals, some of the names that make sense include Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Jake Rudock, ESPN’s Michael Rothstein writes. Those names all come to mind after the team added veterans in LeGarrette Blount and Matt Cassel in the offseason.
  • The goal is for the Bengals to sign both Carlos Dunlap and get a new deal with Geno AtkinsBengals.com writer Geoff Hobson notes in a mailbag. Both Dunlap’s and Atkins’ deals run through the 2018 campaign.
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to be deposed in the next two weeks in Colin Kaeperncik‘s collusion case against the league, USA Today’s A.J. Perez writes. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are also on the docket to be deposed.

NFC Notes: Jerry Jones, Landry, Bruce Allen

Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Star-Telegram writes that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will testify before commissioner Roger Goodell and other owners at an appeal hearing tomorrow in Palm Beach, Florida. Jones is appealing the commissioner’s decision to assess him more than $2MM in legal fees stemming from the federal court case with Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Jones’ opposition to Goodell’s contract extension.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, the fact that Jones is testifying before Goodell means that Goodell has not exercised his right to designate the appeal to someone else, even though not doing so creates obvious conflict of interest concerns. In Florio’s estimation, Jones has strong arguments against fee-shifting for his threat to sue the league with respect to Goodell’s extension, as he never actually followed through with the threat. His arguments against fee-shifting with respect to the Elliott matter is a different story, as the Cowboys clearly provided substantial assistance to Elliott in his battle with the league.

Florio says Goodell has final and binding power to resolve the amount of legal fees to be paid, but the resolution granting him that power does not expressly grant him the authority to also answer the threshold question of whether club behavior triggered a repayment obligation. Goodell presumably will take the position that he has final say in that regard, too.

As the Goodell v. Jones saga drags on, let’s take a look at several more notes from the NFC:

  • Although the Bears have interest in Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune does not believe the team should trade for him. Biggs says Landry does not give Chicago the dynamic, speedy playmaker that it needs, and given that, it would cost too much in both dollars and draft capital to land him.
  • Although most mock drafts have the Lions selecting a RB or DE with their first-round draft pick, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com says the team could target an OLB like Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds to boost its pass rush. Rothstein says the Lions could indeed target a RB with its first draft choice, but it’s a deep class for RBs, and the better value might be found on Day 2.
  • John Keim of ESPN.com says it is unclear whether Redskins team president Bruce Allen is on the hot seat, though Keim believes he should be. Nonetheless, Keim thinks it would take a really bad season, and not just a mediocre one, for Allen to be shown the door.
  • Mike Jurecki of 98.7FM says the Cardinals would like to retain linebacker Josh Bynes as a depth option, but he believes the team will target a linebacker at some point in the draft and/or look to the UDFA market to grab an LB (Twitter link).
  • Earlier today, we took a look at potential QB plans for the Vikings and Giants.

Roger Goodell To Fine Jerry Jones?

Jerry Jones‘ extensive 2017 fight against Roger Goodell about his contract extension looks like it will cost him. Ken Belson of the New York Times reports the commissioner is preparing to fine the Cowboys owner “millions of dollars” for what Goodell deemed an act of sabotage by Jones in attempting derail his extension last year. That and Jones’ ongoing defense of Ezekiel Elliott will lead to this punishment, several sources informed Belson.

This fine will exceed $2MM, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). As Mike Florio of PFT notes, the NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws stipulates that the commissioner cannot fine more than $500K for conduct detrimental to the league. However, the NFL is not technically fining Jones, per veteran reporter Ed Werder (Twitter link). Instead, the league is seeking repayment for approximately $2MM in legal expenses relative to his threats to sue the league.Goodell was initially reluctant to take action, but the NFL Finance Committee and other owners are in support of this plan.

Jones threatened to sue the NFL last year over a matter he said stemmed over Goodell’s contract. He hired an attorney and was prepared to sue the six members of the league’s compensation committee in November, and Belson reports the owner attempted to influence NFL officials during Elliott’s case. Belson reports Jones will be ordered to pay the legal fees the compensation committee spent defending itself as well as the legal expenses the NFL spent “defending its decision to suspend Elliott.”

Goodell’s contract went through, with Elliott serving the six-game suspension that Jones and the NFLPA vigorously fought for months. This extensive process left Jones — who once supported a Goodell extension — at intense odds with the commissioner and the Arthur Blank-chaired compensation committee. And this action — foreshadowed, to some degree, late last year — by the league likely won’t quell the animosity any time soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Front Office Notes: Ravens, Panthers, Broncos

We heard yesterday that longtime Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome will step down from his role following the 2018 season. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun passed along a quote from the executive regarding the move (via Twitter):

“I will remain as the Ravens’ GM through the 2018 season and continue my role directing free agency and the draft,” he said. “After that, Eric (DeCosta) will take over as our GM and assume all the duties that come with that, including heading our personnel department and directing free agency and the draft. I plan to remain with the Ravens in a significant position in personnel and help us win more Super Bowls. We have planned this succession over the last five years.”

Let’s take a look at some more front office notes from around the NFL…

  • The Panthers‘ interview with general manager candidate Martin Mayhew took place on Friday, the club announced today. Mayhew, the Lions’ GM from 2008-15, has spent time with the Giants and — currently — the 49ers since being fired in Detroit. Meanwhile, reports had indicated Titans executive Ryan Cowden may be a candidate for the Panthers’ general manager vacancy, but no interview has been scheduled to this point, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. In sum, Carolina’s contenders include Lake Dawson (Bills), Jimmy Raye III (Texans), Mayhew, and incumbent interim GM Marty Hurney, who is viewed as the frontrunner for the position.
  • The Panthers are seemingly on the market, and commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters (including NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport) that the NFL believes Carolina is a great market. Ultimately, the commissioner believes the organization’s current ownership is looking for a buyer that will keep the team in Charlotte.
  • Goodell confirmed that the Broncos have been operating “in full compliance with league guidelines” in regards to the Broncos’ ownership structure through the Pat Bowlen Trust. “They are in compliance with our rules. They have been very thoughtful. They have done a terrific job of leading that franchise over the last several years as Pat’s focused on his health issues,” Goodell said (via Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com). Bowlen stepped away from his role back in 2014 so he could focus on his fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The trust was established to ensure that franchise would continue to run smoothly in his absence. Goodell did point out the the trustees will ultimately have to decide who the primary owner will be.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

NFLPA Doesn’t See Work Stoppage Being Avoided

The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season, and following its 10-year run, there looks to be a fight between the league and the NFLPA.

This has been rumored for many months, and executive director DeMaurice Smith still cannot see any way around a work stoppage being required prior to the 2021 campaign.

No. We prepare for war,” Smith said (via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com) when asked if any hopes for a smooth CBA agreement exist. “So if we’re able to get a collective bargaining agreement done, that’s great. But all of these men went through a unilateral declared war on players in 2010 and 2011. I think it’s important for [NFL commissioner Roger Goodell] and I to have a wonderful open discussion, but he represents the owners, and we represent the players.”

Smith does not see any circumstances under which he would agree to extend the current CBA, but the recently reelected union boss didn’t close the door on early negotiations after the 2018 season (Twitter links via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero and the Washington Post’s Mark Maske).

This collective bargaining agreement was painfully negotiated at a time when the league secured a $4 billion war chest to basically put us out of business,” Smith said. “There are a lot of great things about the collective bargaining agreement, but whether it’s the great things or the thing that we don’t like, collective bargaining agreements are grinding, exhausting elements that come out of two parties that want fundamentally different things.

So, I could never imagine a world where you would simply put a page on the back of it that says, ‘This document is now extended until 2035.”

Player discipline will be a central issue to the next agreement, per executive committee member Zak DeOssie, as will the resistance of the long-rumored 18-game season. NFLPA president Eric Winston remains opposed, a stance the players have long held.

Smith said he’s engaged in discussions with Goodell about injuries sustained on Thursday-night games. Possible fixes suggested in those talks were possibly scheduling bye weeks in front of teams’ Thursday assignments and implementing unspecified mandatory rest periods for players. Placing byes in front of Thursday games may conflict with the league’s London agenda. Many teams given the England games prefer their bye to come after that trip, so navigating around that could be difficult.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La Canfora’s Latest: O’Brien, Arians, Browns

Earlier today, we learned that Marvin Lewis is planning to leave Cincinnati after 15 years as the Bengals’ head coach, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans and their head coach, Bill O’Brien, could also be headed for a split after the 2017 season. O’Brien has led Houston to three nine-win seasons and two playoff berths, and if rookie sensation Deshaun Watson had not suffered an ACL tear earlier this season, the team might be in playoff contention yet again. However, La Canfora says the relationship between O’Brien and GM Rick Smith has long been complicated, and sources close to the situation foresee a change sooner rather than later. Houston’s head coaching job is an attractive one, largely because of Watson, and O’Brien would be an attractive candidate for one of the multitude of coaching vacancies this offseason. If O’Brien does leave Houston, La Canfora names current defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as a logical internal candidate to replace him.

Now for more from La Canfora’s Sunday morning output, starting with more out of Houston:

  • La Canfora writes that Texans QB Tom Savage remains in the concussion protocol and is unlikely to play again in 2o17. Houston is under fire for the way it handled Savage’s head injury last week, and Savage will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so it is best for all parties involved that Savage simply sit out the last three games of the year.
  • We head back in October that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had not made any decision as to whether his career will continue past the 2017 season, and La Canfora reports that the team is preparing in case Arians decides to call it quits. Sources close to Arians believe he will not be back in 2018, and given the number of teams that will be looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Cardinals must be prepared in case they are also in need of a head coach.
  • The NFL has confirmed the the Browns complied with the Rooney Rule in their hiring of GM John Dorsey, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance is still concerned with how the process unfolded. The Alliance spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell about the matter prior to last week’s ownership meetings, and it emphasized that all interviews with minority candidates should be reported to Alliance or to the league, which Cleveland did not do when it interviewed Doug Whaley for the GM job. Whaley, meanwhile, was reportedly “crushed” by the process, as he believed he had a legitimate shot at the job only to realize that the Browns were interviewing him simply to comply with the Rooney Rule.
  • Goodell’s new extension runs through the 2024 season, but he hopes to have his successor in place by 2020. If that successor has made sufficient progress, it is possible that Goodell steps aside prior to 2024. La Canfora adds that sweeping changes will be made to the league office in 2018, including changes to football operations at the upper-management level across several departments.
  • There is “growing support” among league owners for reverting to the pre-2009 gameday operations schedule, which means that players would not be mandated to be on the sidelines for the national anthem at primetime games. Owners are also considering making the anthem earlier, at a time when the sidelines are often vacant.

Latest On Roger Goodell

On Wednesday, we got some conflicting word on Roger Goodell‘s future plans. First, the league’s spokesperson told reporters that Goodell viewed his new extension, which ends in 2024, as his last contract. Then, hours later, Goodell himself said that he hasn’t “made any determinations” about when he’ll retire as commissioner. Which way will Goodell go? Perhaps neither. Roger Goodell (vertical)

Goodell has told owners that he will step away after he guides the league through the upcoming CBA and TV negotiations, two people familiar with the league’s inner workings tell Mark Maske of the Washington Post. It’s possible that he’ll retire before the conclusion of his new deal, those sources say.

In 2024, Goodell will be 65 and he’ll have served nearly 18 years as commissioner. With tons of money in the bank, it would make sense for Goodell to either retire at that point or get a head start by relinquishing the throne sooner.

I think there is a limit to how many years you should serve in this position,” Goodell said. “That’s a determination that’s made obviously with the ownership and also by yourself and your family. That’s something that we’ve done and I’m prepared and ready to go.”

Goodell’s successor, Paul Tagliabue, retired just before his 66th birthday and served as the NFL’s commissioner for 17 years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Roger Goodell To Retire In 2024

Roger Goodell has himself a new five-year extension. And this deal, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart says, will be his last. In 2024, Goodell will step aside and the NFL will appoint a new commissioner. However, Goodell himself claims he hasn’t “made any determinations” on whether this will be his last contract as commissioner, tweets Mike Garafolo of NFL.com.Roger Goodell (vertical)

Goodell has earned hundreds of millions of dollars as commissioner – not counting his new $200MM deal – and dealt with countless headaches, so it’s no surprise to hear that he has a retirement date in mind. In what is likely a concession towards Jerry Jones, Goodell will not receive post-retirement benefits (via Dan Kaplan of Sports Business Journal, on Twitter) and 90% of his new contract will be incentive-based.

The commissioner must now focus on guiding the league through the next round of CBA negotiations and fixing his legacy. The NFL’s domestic abuse issues brought a great deal of scrutiny on the league office and Goodell’s attempts to counterbalance that with harsh punishments have not always been well received. He also drew fierce criticism for his handling/bungling of the Patriots’ Deflategate scandal.

It may be hard for Goodell to win fans back, but he has about six years to replace those bad memories with good ones. Then again, it’s not necessarily Goodell’s job to win fan approval. Some would say that a large part of Goodell’s job is to be the fall guy for the owners’ controversial decisions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell

Before Roger Goodell formally signed an extension that will keep him as the NFL’s commissioner until the start of the 2024 league year, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones proposed a resolution that would have delayed negotiations for six months, according to a memo obtained by Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com.Jerry Jones (vertical)

The proposal was included in an agenda for this week’s league meetings, per Wickersham, and called for a secret vote on a six-month moratorium on Goodell’s extension. While the resolution obviously failed (and Jones failed to organize any compelling level of anti-Goodell support among his fellow owners), Jones will still be able to voice concerns among Goodell’s contract when the league convenes Wednesday. Indeed, owners are “bracing” for Jones to attempt “one last play” to circumvent Goodell’s deal at the league meetings, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

 “I’m not going to get into details,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “But the resolution I put in is still in place. This is why we have the meetings. I am looking forward to it. It will be a great opportunity. We will able to get some meaningful things done because of what we have been doing over the last few months.”

Jones’ battle against Goodell isn’t a new fight, of course, as the Cowboys owner has claimed the league’s owners were “misled” by the commissioner’s new deal. While Jones’ angst has generally been directed at compensation committee chairman Arthur Blank, Jones is also reportedly upset over Goodell’s decision to suspend Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.