Stephen Ross

AFC East Notes: Watson, White, Pats

The much-discussed Deshaun Watson trade between the Dolphins and Texans never came to fruition, in part because Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wanted Watson to settle the 22 civil suits that have been brought against him. As Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes, Ross also wanted to speak with Watson directly and requested permission to do so, but because there was no chance that Watson’s legal situation would be resolved by the November 2 trade deadline, there was no point in having a conversation just yet.

However, if Houston and Miami reopen talks this offseason, it seems that a sit-down between Ross and Watson will be necessary before a deal can be struck.

Now for more from the AFC East, starting with another item out of South Beach:

  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wonders if the Dolphins will consider parting ways with WR DeVante Parker this offseason. Though Parker has been effective when he has been on the field in 2021, he is now on IR and has played in just five games this year. Plus, the ‘Fins could save $6.2MM by making him a post-June 1 cut, though that would leave the club with even more work to do to address the receiving corps, as Will Fuller and Albert Wilson are not expected to be back. Jackson does believe Mack Hollins will be retained.
  • Jets QB Mike White, who led the club to a surprising win over the Bengals in Week 8 and who was playing well in New York’s Week 9 loss to the Colts before he was forced out with an early injury, is hugely popular in the Gang Green locker room, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. White’s journey and attitude have earned the respect of his teammates and have energized the building, and as Cimini writes in a separate piece, the 2018 fifth-rounder may have already made himself a nice chunk of change. He is playing the 2021 season on a one-year, $850K contract, but he will become a restricted free agent at season’s end. He should at least be in line for an original-round tender of $2.4MM, and he could force the Jets to tender him at the second-round level, which would net him $3.9MM.
  • It certainly didn’t create many headlines, but the Patriots plucked LB Calvin Munson off the Dolphins‘ practice squad several weeks ago. The 26-year-old has only seen action on special teams with his new club, but New England clearly thinks highly of him. Per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, the Pats gave Munson a contract that runs though 2022 and that included a bit of a pay bump. A number of the Patriots’ off-ball linebackers are slated for free agency at the end of the year, so Munson could have a shot at more significant playing time next season.
  • Patriots DL Byron Cowart opened the season on the reserve/PUP list. Though he returned to practice in October, the 21-day window for activating him off the PUP list has expired, as veteran NFL writer Aaron Wilson tweets. As such, Cowart, who started 14 games last year, will be forced to miss the entire 2021 campaign.

Texans, Dolphins Agree On Deshaun Watson Compensation?

Deshaun Watson has informed the Texans he would accept a trade to the Dolphins, and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports the teams have agreed on compensation. Talks between GMs Chris Grier and Nick Caserio heated up last week and are expected to continue through the Nov. 2 trade deadline, but this journey still has ground to cover.

Should this deal go through, McClain notes the Texans are likely to see their asking price of three first-round picks met. But the back end of the deal — Houston’s aim for multiple second-rounders — might not quite meet the Texans’ goals. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross may serve as the key party here, and his current stance is somewhat murky.

[RELATED: Panthers Not Expected To Pursue Watson In 2021]

Reported as being behind a Watson trade before the season, Ross has spoken “excitedly” regarding the prospect of the three-time Pro Bowler coming to Miami, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. However, NBC Sports’ Peter King adds Ross is not believed to be pressuring Grier to complete this deal. That said, McClain reports the longtime Dolphins owner has signed off on his team acquiring the embattled quarterback — with conditions. Those conditions make this deal difficult to finalize by the Nov. 2 trade deadline.

Ross wants more clarity on Watson’s legal situation and how the NFL will proceed regarding a suspension, McClain adds. Twenty-two women have accused Watson of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, with SI.com reporting (via Jackson) three of the 10 women who have spoken to the Houston Police Department have alleged Watson sexually assaulted them. That is a second-degree felony in Texas. Watson has long denied any wrongdoing and does not want to settle cases.

The NFL has not interviewed Watson, and his deposition in the civil suit is not slated to occur until after Super Bowl LVI. This has created a gray area, one that sets up the unusual and optically problematic prospect of Watson playing for another team this season before facing a lengthy suspension in 2022. Watson is not expected to be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, and Roger Goodell confirmed Tuesday night the NFL does not have enough information on these cases to place Watson on the list, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Dolphins (1-6) have quickly stumbled out of playoff contention, so a Watson move would be for the future.

This is not completely viewed as a Miami-or-bust scenario for Watson, with USA Today’s Josina Anderson noting the fifth-year QB is essentially fine with being traded to most of the teams connected to him (Twitter link). This might not include the Eagles, however. Watson invoked his no-trade clause to block a potential Philadelphia trade, McClain adds.

The Dolphins possess three first-round picks over the next two drafts, having acquired the 49ers’ 2023 choice in the deal that allowed San Francisco to move up for Trey Lance. Miami dealt the other first-rounder obtained in the Lance deal to move up for Jaylen Waddle. Still, a three-first-rounder package would be a historic haul and present tremendous risk for the Dolphins, given Watson’s present status. It will also be interesting if the Texans can land three first-rounders from the Dolphins if the Panthers are truly out of mix.

A Watson trade would, of course, bring a quick end to Tua Tagovailoa‘s run as Miami’s quarterback of the future. Though an August report indicated the Texans are not overly interested in Tagovailoa, Watson coming to Miami would lead to Tua becoming a trade chip at some point.

Brian Flores has repeatedly endorsed Tagovailoa as his starter, doing so again Wednesday morning, but Flores is now on the hot seat. The 81-year-old Ross’ win-now mindset may prevail over any PR blowback the Dolphins would face by acquiring Watson. It now looks like the Dolphins represent by far the best chance of Watson being traded this year. If the Texans do not unload the exiled passer now, McClain adds a trade may not happen until near the 2022 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross ‘Really Wants’ Deshaun Watson?

There have been conflicting reports about the Dolphins’ level of interest in trading for Deshaun Watson, and now we may know why. It appears there may be something of a split in the organization, perhaps between ownership and the coaching staff.

Miami owner Stephen Ross “really wants” Watson, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweeted that he’s heard the same, although he writes that the Dolphins “have balked at asking price.” However, he thinks if the team “can get him at good value amid legal uncertainty, that would appeal to Ross.”

That’s not the case, according to sources who spoke with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter links). Any word to the contrary “is inaccurate” because Ross believes in Tua Tagovailoa and “doesn’t force football decisions.”

Meanwhile, we just heard earlier this morning that the Texans won’t be trading Watson today, meaning they’ll be keeping him on their initial 53-man roster. Ross’ desire for the embattled quarterback could put him in conflict with head coach Brian Flores. Flores said on Monday that the team wanted “high character throughout the building,” which many interpreted as him throwing cold water on the Watson speculation.

Of course, the team has Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback right now, and if a trade doesn’t materialize this will have proved to have all been an unwelcome distraction for Flores right before the start of the season.

Whatever the case, it’s interesting to know that ownership is apparently driving Miami’s pursuit of Watson. It’s a dynamic that threatens to throw a wrench in everything, and potentially lead to some messy fallout.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Gilmore, Pats, Tua, Jets

Although the Patriots shopped Stephon Gilmore this spring, they hung onto him at the trade deadline after setting a high price for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. When asked if the Patriots entertained offers for Gilmore, Bill Belichick said he was not aware of that occurring. The Pats gave Gilmore a $5MM pay bump this year but will face a decision on the standout cornerback in 2021. That will be the final season of Gilmore’s five-year, $65MM deal. With Jalen Ramsey and Marlon Humphrey each securing extensions worth north of $19MM per year, thus blowing the lid off a long-stagnant corner market, Gilmore will understandably want to cash in while still in his prime. His potential new contract affected his trade market, Tom Curran of NBC Sports notes. Gilmore will turn 31 just after the start of next season.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Dolphins‘ trove of draft picks in 2021 appears to have affected their decision to move Tua Tagovailoa into their starting lineup now, creating an audition of sorts ahead of what looks like a strong quarterback draft. However, owner Stephen Ross was not behind the decision to insert Tagovailoa into the starting lineup, per the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero. With Ross a major supporter of the quarterback the Dolphins were eyeing for more than a year before this year’s draft, it would certainly be interesting if the team continues to be linked to a potential first-round QB pick ahead of the 2021 draft.
  • With their 0-8 record at the bottom of the league, the Jets will continue to be linked to 2021 QB prospects — namely Trevor Lawrence. Their 2018 first-round draftee’s status will move the Jets closer to the Clemson quarterback. Sam Darnold is now unlikely to play against the Patriots, after suffering a shoulder setback against the Chiefs. Adam Gase said Friday that Darnold told him he was not throwing as well as he hoped, and the Jets on Saturday downgraded their starter to doubtful for Monday’s game. Joe Flacco is in line to receive a third start as a Jet.
  • More trouble for the AFC’s New York franchise. Jets players and their agents alerted the NFLPA recently about cameras existing in the team’s locker room, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Specifically, the NFLPA contacted the NFL about surveillance equipment being hidden in smoke detectors in the Jets locker room, Mehta adds. The league indicated cameras have existed in and around the team’s locker room since 2008 and that the players were aware of them. Per several anonymous current and former players, via Mehta, that does not appear to be the case. No consent form permitting cameras is believed to have been signed, and Mehta adds the NFLPA is “troubled” by the Jets unilaterally placing cameras in the locker room.

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.