Stephen Ross

NFL Draft Rumors: Giants, Herbert, Tua

Will the Giants actually consider quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 4 overall pick, even though they already have Daniel Jones under center? The answer is no, according to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, though GM Dave Gettleman has been eyeing him for quite some time. Had Herbert entered last year, he would have been Gettleman’s top choice, Pauline hears.

Here’s a look at the latest draft rumblings from around the NFL:

  • In private conversations, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has indicated that Herbert is not actually in consideration for the No. 5 pick, a source close to Ross tells Pauline. That same source says the pick will either be used on Tua Tagovailoa or a position player, with Jordan Love being selected sometime later. If it’s a non-QB at No. 5, Pauline hears that tackle Andrew Thomas is the most likely choice.
  • Multiple NFL execs tell ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler that the Vikings are looking to move back. The Vikings own Nos. 22 and 25, but they could fill their needs at cornerback and wide receiver later on. In the second round, they should be able to land one of this year’s second-tier corners such as Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, or Alabama’s Trevon Diggs – the brother of former Vikes receiver Stefon Diggs.
  • Based on what we’ve heard, Washington’s Jacob Eason profiles as a Day 2 pick for QB-needy teams like the Patriots. He could also be a fit for teams looking to groom their next signal caller. One AFC exec pondered the possibility of Eason going to the Buccaneers, where the pure passer serve as the heir to Tom Brady. The Bucs own the No. 45 overall pick in the second round and Eason could be there for them, provided that teams like the Colts (No. 34) don’t pounce first.

Extra Points: Dolphins, Tua, 49ers, Vikings

There’s been a lot of buzz about former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa going to the Dolphins in the draft. We heard recently that the southpaw’s family wanted Miami to nab him, and there’s been a connection there for a while. Tagovailoa is obviously dealing with a serious hip injury, and it’s clearly a concern for the Dolphins. Miami’s owner Stephen Ross spoke to reporters earlier today and said “he’s a great player. I just worry about his health,” per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That would seem to indicate Tagovailoa to the ‘Phins is far from a done deal. We heard a couple of weeks ago that Miami wanted Joe Burrow, and that they were willing trade up to go get him. Of course, this all could be some gamesmanship from Ross to throw other teams off the scent. Despite the injury, Tagovailoa will reportedly throw for scouts in a private workout at some point before the draft. That workout will go a long way toward determining where he goes in the draft.

Here’s more from the football world as the Super Bowl approaches:

  • We heard earlier today that the 49ers were considering former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to fill the secondary coach role that is about to become vacant when Joe Woods officially becomes Cleveland’s next defensive coordinator. Richard apparently isn’t the only candidate though, and San Francisco is also considering former Miami secondary coach Tony Oden for the position, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Oden has also coached DBs for the Saints, Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Lions in recent years.
  • Vikings guard Pat Elflein is getting a big raise. His base salary for 2020 was set to be $960K, but that will be bumped all the way up to $2.147MM now due to the NFL’s proven performance escalator, per Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). The program is for players drafted in the 3rd-7th round that are headed into the final year of their rookie contracts, who have received a lot of playing time during their first three years. That certainly is the case for Elflein, who has started at least 13 games in each of his first three seasons. A third-round pick from Ohio State, he was Minnesota’s starting center in 2017-18 before kicking over to left guard last year after the team drafted Garrett Bradbury.
  • In case you missed it, Sammy Watkins isn’t ruling out taking a pay-cut.

Latest On Tom Brady, Dolphins

Tom Brady sparked a frenzy earlier this week when he posted a cryptic photo of himself to Twitter. Although Adam Schefter of ESPN soon clarified in a tweet that it wasn’t a statement on his impending free agency, that didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning. 

The potential new team for Brady “that continues to get the most buzz” is the Dolphins, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. While Brady going to a team that was in a full-blown rebuild this past season wasn’t something anybody has expected, there are at least some connections. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores spent 15 seasons with Brady in New England, and there are other ex-Patriots on staff.

Florio also highlights the presence of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ business partner Bruce Beal. Florio writes that there has been talk of “Beal buying the team and selling a sliver of it to Brady.” One league source told Florio “that a sale to Beal is possible not long after” Miami finishes hosting the Super Bowl. All that being said, Ross himself quickly threw some cold water on all the speculation.

Responding to the report he might sell the team, Ross said “I have no interest in selling the team. Zero. Got it? People can write what they want to write. I’m going to own it until I die,” per David Wilson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Beal still appears to be Ross’ successor as owner, but it doesn’t sound like he’s selling anytime soon. Ross, 79, also didn’t sound overly enthused about the possibility of adding Brady.

Ross said “we’re building” and that “people are writing about it. People need something to write about,” when asked about the Brady rumors, via Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). It would’ve been very entertaining to see Brady stay in the AFC East and play the Pats twice a year, but it doesn’t seem too likely as of right now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Considering Joe Burrow Trade-Up?

Considering how their season started, the Dolphins surprised most by winning five games. As a result, the first of their three first-round picks comes in at No. 5. But the team long expected to draft a quarterback high this year is intrigued by the top prospect available.

The Dolphins covet Joe Burrow, per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who adds owner Stephen Ross is driving the bandwagon for the player expected to go No. 1 overall. This obviously may be academic, with the Bengals also needing a quarterback and fans of the LSU record-setter as well. The Bengals have backtracked on a report they will not trade the top pick, however.

It would take a massive trade haul for the Dolphins to move up to No. 1, but they do have the necessary draft capital to make such a move. The Dolphins also hold the Nos. 18 and 26 picks. However, it is quite possible Tua Tagovailoa — long linked to the Dolphins — will be available at No. 5. The Alabama quarterback has hovered as a top prospect for far longer than Burrow, and the Dolphins may embrace adding him for no extra cost rather than using their draft war chest for a Burrow move.

Miami started 0-7 but rallied to win five of its final nine games, moving the team into a less certain spot to land a quarterback. As it stands now, the rebuilding team may need to pay close attention to the respective draft stocks of Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. Other interested teams will surely consider moving into the Nos. 2-4 spots — occupied currently by the Redskins, Lions and Giants — to trade in front of a franchise known to be fixated on passers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Dolphins, Flores, Grier, Ross, WR’s, Josh Gordon

While Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has played a large role in hiring Miami’s coaches in the past, that wasn’t the case this time around. Ross identified and hired Adam Gase on his own, but had nothing to do with bringing in new coach-in-waiting Brian Flores, sources told Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Instead, it was new GM Chris Grier who is solely responsible for hiring Flores, Salguero writes.

Salguero writes that Grier and Flores are longtime friends, and that now ex-Dolphins coaches told him it was “no secret within the organization that Grier was focused on Flores as the favorite to be Miami’s new coach even before interviews began.” Flores, the current Patriots’ defensive play-caller, and Grier both started as scouts in their respective organizations and Salguero writes that their paths crossed frequently, sparking a friendship. Miami is reportedly all-in on tanking in the 2019 season, and it’ll be very interesting to see how Flores fares.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • While the contract Odell Beckham Jr. signed this offseason “became the new financial benchmark for wide receivers”, it “didn’t dramatically reset the market as some, including myself, anticipated”, opines former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry. In his piece, which is worth a read, Corry breaks down this offseason’s wide receiver market, and he thinks 2019 will be the year the market is truly reset. Corry writes that Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, and Amari Cooper will likely all land new deals this offseason.
  • Speaking of wide receivers, commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about Josh Gordon during his annual Super Bowl press conference. Goodell said ““right now the focus is what can we do to help Josh (Gordon) to get to that place (where he can play football)”, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Goodell’s comments suggest that Gordon, who stepped away from the Patriots earlier this season, could eventually play in the league again even though Goodell slapped him with an indefinite ban. It won’t come easily, but it appears Gordon’s NFL career isn’t dead yet, just on life support.
  • In case you missed it, Goodell also had updates on two more embattled players, Kareem Hunt and Reuben Foster.

Dolphins Will Not Pursue Jim Harbaugh

A report linking another AFC East team to a Jim Harbaugh pursuit emerged, and a second NFL owner is denying that is the case.

Like Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross publicly shot down Harbaugh rumors. Ross told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson he will not make a push for Harbaugh to replace Adam Gase, who is not a certainty to be fired after this season. Ross is a Michigan alum and would prefer Harbaugh stay in Ann Arbor, per Jackson (Twitter link).

This does not, however, mean Gase is safe. The Dolphins are exploring big-picture changes, with those in power attempting to solidify their positions in the event Ross restructures the franchise’s decision-making hierarchy. Another season featuring Gase and executive VP Mike Tannenbaum working together would surprise SI.com’s Albert Breer, who adds Miami is likely to make a change “at some level.”

While it’s not certain which way Ross is leaning here, Breer adds that GM Chris Grier would have a better chance of staying if Gase is retained. Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2000.

As for Gase, the third-year HC said he will not lobby to keep his job. Gase and Ross have not discussed his future, per Jackson. Las Vegas had the Dolphins pegged as a frontrunner for the 2019 No. 1 pick at this season’s outset, but Gase has the team at 7-8. He ended the Dolphins’ lengthy playoff drought in 2016 but has a sub-.500 record since, though many of those games did not feature Ryan Tannehill.

Dolphins Eyeing Major Changes?

While the Dolphins still have a chance at making the postseason, there are whispers that some major members of the organization could still lose their jobs. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes that coaches and front office staff are quietly trying to “solidify their power” in case owner Stephen Ross decides to make major changes this offseason. Sources tell Salguero that vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Adam Gase are among those on the hot seat.

Among Ross’s top trio of football executives, Salguero says Tannenbaum is the most likely to get fired. The 49-year-old joined the organization back in 2015, and he’s been a major “facilitator of what the Dolphins have decided their philosophy will be,” which includes fielding a competitive team while building for the future. General manager Chris Grier reports to Tannenbaum, and the executive “oversees and coordinates the effort of football operations and administration.”

Working against Tannenbaum has been the team’s middling record since he joined the organization; the team is 23-23 since he took on a major role, and the team’s future outlook isn’t all that encouraging. Working in his favor is his relationship with Dolphins vice chairman Matt Higgins, who has the ear of Ross. The two have a relationship dating back to their tenure with the Jets, and Higgins has been Tannenbaum’s “most powerful ally and advocate” in Miami.

Meanwhile, Gase has refused to publicly blame injuries or talent for the team’s 7-7 record. However, sources tell Salguero that the head coach is quietly attributing his team’s performance to injuries, and that has been one of Gase’s main reasons for why he should ultimately keep his job. Gase has the support of both Grier and team vice chairman, president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, and he also has a good relationship with Tannenbaum.

Unfortunately for Gase, he doesn’t have a similar relationship with Higgins, who some believe may be pushing for a replacement. Salguero also points out that Ross wouldn’t be afraid to replace the head coach, even though Gase is still owed millions of dollars.

The Dolphins, who currently sit as the AFC’s ninth seed, will face off against the Jaguars and Bills in their final two regular season contests.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Anthem Issue

Months after the NFL passed an anthem policy without players’ input — one that appeared to reignite the issue and please few in the process — the NFLPA’s grievance caused the league to pump the brakes on it. Now, the old policy is in place after the NFL and the union agreed to resume talks on the issue.

Some new developments surfaced Friday. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to navigate the PR damage his team’s anthem policy — potentially a four-game suspension for players who kneel during the song’s playing, news of which broke before the NFL-NFLPA’s joint statement emerged Thursday night — by saying this course of action was merely a placeholder.

We were asked to submit a form to the NFL on our overall discipline policy prior to the start of the rookie report date. The one-line sentence related to the national anthem was a placeholder as we haven’t made a decision on what we would do, if anything, at that point,” Ross said in a statement (Twitter link).

Giants co-owner Steve Tisch also discussed this issue, coming out on the players’ side of the discussion. Tisch said, via Marc Malkin of the Hollywood Reporter, Giants players will not be disciplined for protesting during the anthem. However, it’s not known if the Giants’ better-known co-owner, the influential John Mara, is fully on board.

We support our players,” Tisch said. “They are not going to be punished. There is not going to be any punitive action taking place against them.”

President Donald Trump (Twitter link) resurfaced with thoughts on this issue, which has become one of his frequent talking points. Perhaps rhetorically, Trump asked if it was “in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart?” No such language exists in any player’s contract. Trump also suggested the NFL first suspend players who kneel during the anthem before calling for Roger Goodell to suspend protesters without pay for the season were they to do so a second time.

The Dolphins’ leaked placeholder policy did not prompt the sides to issue their joint statement Thursday night, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports, adding both sides hope this resolved before Week 1. Maske reports an arbitrator also was not required to produce Thursday’s statement scrapping May anthem policy, pointing out the league and the union have engaged in dialogue since the June grievance emerged.

The NFLPA, not the Players Coalition, is overseeing the talks with the NFL this time, Maske reports.

I know there have been conversations about the grievance. But in terms of sitting down to talk about a resolution with players being involved, there hasn’t been anything yet,” Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, part of the NFLPA’s ruling executive committee, told Maske. “That’s the whole purpose, to have some face-to-face conversations about this. That’s what’s in the works now.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Owner Confirms Trade Back Push

Over the weekend, it was reported that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pushed his front office to trade back in the first round in order to save money. On Tuesday, Ross told Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald that wanted the Dolphins to explore moving back from No. 11, but not for financial reasons. 

Correct,” Ross said in an email when asked about whether he wanted the team to consider alternative strategies. “Saving money will never be an issue when it comes to winning.”

The Dolphins, ultimately, stood pat at No. 11 and selected Minkah Fitzpatrick. Ross didn’t explicitly slam the pick, but he did indicate that he wasn’t sold on the Alabama defensive back, or second round tight end Mike Gesicki, or third round Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker. The Dolphins did not move from any of those Day 1 or Day 2 selections, which seems to bother Ross.

We’ll see,” he said when asked about his team’s haul. “Nobody knows for sure with this stuff.”

Ross says he is hopeful about this year’s rookie class because his people have told him that there is a plan in place for these first-year players. Even if Ross isn’t thrilled about Fitzpatrick, GM Chris Grier is ecstatic about what he can offer.

He’s like a Swiss army knife,” Grier said of Fitzpatrick after selecting him. “He does a lot of things really good. You’ve heard everybody talk, it’s his skill set. He gives your defense a chance to be flexible and do a lot of different things. It’s his football intelligence, his love for football and he’s been a productive player from the minute he stepped on campus at arguably one of the best programs in college football.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Wanted To Trade Back In First Round

There was chatter before the draft that the Dolphins could move up in the first round to select a quarterback who could take over for Ryan Tannehill in the near future. However, when Miami was on the clock with its No. 11 overall selection, team owner Stephen Ross stepped in and implored his team to trade back, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

Volin reports that Ross wanted the Dolphins to acquire additional draft capital and to save money on the first-round selection (and, as the top four QB prospects were off the board by that time, perhaps he felt it made more sense to trade down). Ultimately, however, Ross’ football people talked him out of it, and the team turned in the card to select Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Time will tell whether the pick was a good one, or whether the Dolphins should have made more of an effort to land a signal-caller, but it cannot be argued that Fitzpatrick’s upside and versatility make him a logical fit for the Fins. Indeed, Miami needed help all over its defense, and the Crimson Tide standout — who can play safety or cornerback — was one of the best defenders in his class. He is also a playmaker, having recorded 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, and one interception in his last collegiate season to go along with two pick sixes in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Even if they had traded back just one spot, Fitzpatrick may not have been on the board for Miami. The Buccaneers, who were sitting at No. 12 after trading its original No. 7 overall selection to the Bills, were in the market for a high-end DB, and many mock drafts had Fitzpatrick going to Tampa Bay at No. 7.

It is also unclear if the Dolphins actually had an offer for their No. 11 overall pick, or if Ross wanted them to work the phones more to seek out a deal.