XFL

Extra Points: Suh, OT, Tebow, XFL

As could be expected based on his stature in the league throughout the 2010s, Ndamukong Suh has placed a high value on his services. The defensive tackle still resides in free agency largely because of his asking price, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Because he entered the NFL under the previous CBA, which awarded first-round picks far more lucrative contracts, Suh has never played for less than $10MM in a season. He signed a one-year, $14MM deal with the Rams. After Suh’s strong playoff performance helped the Rams to Super Bowl LIII, the team is nevertheless not expected to bring him back. Suh has not been connected closely to any team this offseason, but the Titans have emerged as a possible suitor. As of 3pm Tuesday, teams can sign free agents without the transactions being tied to 2020 compensatory picks. That will accelerate the action.

Here is the latest from the American professional football landscape:

  • The NFL may be moving closer to a system that would allow both teams to have a possession in overtime. The Chiefs’ March proposal to guarantee both teams an OT possession has gained support among owners, Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up,” Jones said. “It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it.” Although this may come to pass, both Jones and Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said the rule tweak likely would only apply to playoff games — when the overtime clock does not factor into the game. The owners will discuss this further at their latest round of meetings — set for May 20-22 in Florida.
  • Despite the Alliance of American Football being the latest football league to fail, the XFL is barreling forward. XFL 2.0 has reached agreements with multiple networks to have each of its games aired each week. The league will begin play Feb. 8, 2020 — six days after a Super Bowl, as the AAF did this year — have 10 regular-season games and two playoff rounds. Its championship matchup is set for April 26. ABC, Fox and ESPN will televise XFL games — two apiece on Saturdays and Sundays. While this is a similar schedule to the AAF’s, the the 2019 league’s games appeared mostly on TNT and the NFL Network. It’s safe to say the XFL stands to have a greater reach, given its TV partnerships. Here is the full schedule.
  • The XFL reached out to Tim Tebow about reconsidering his stance regarding a football return. Commissioner Oliver Luck said (via SI.com’s Dan Greene) he ran into the former Broncos starter at the NCAA national championship game in January but that Tebow reaffirmed his stance to continue with baseball. He turned down the AAF this year as well. The 31-year-old quarterback-turned-outfielder, though, has struggled in 2019 after showing previous promise in the Mets farm system. After slashing .273/.336/.399 with six home runs in Double-A last season, Tebow has not adjusted to Triple-A pitching. He is hitting .130 in 77 at-bats this season.

Jeff Fisher Talked To XFL?

Buckle up everybody, Jeff Fisher could be back on a sideline soon. A mini Twitter controversy erupted when Fisher himself chimed in to refute a report that he says jumped the gun. It all started when Jason La Canfora tweeted he was “hearing Jeff Fisher is in line to coach Houston of the XFL.”

Fisher then responded with a tweet of his own, saying “false news that I am headed to XFL Houston. Maybe get better sources?” La Canfora stood by his reporting, saying in a second tweet that Fisher “absolutely talked to XFL about the Houston opening, he remains their top choice for that job and the job is still vacant.”

Fisher had previously been consulting for the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, so he clearly is open to the idea of working with an alternative pro league. Fisher has been the butt of many jokes from NFL fans, and has struggled to get back into the league since the Rams fired him toward the end of the 2016 season. Recently, Fisher indicated he would only come back to be a head coach and wasn’t interested in being a coordinator.

At 173-165-1 for his career, Fisher has the 12th-most wins in NFL history. That being said, Fisher hasn’t taken a team to the playoffs since the 2008 season when he was with the Titans. He’s also explored broadcasting opportunities the past couple of seasons, and was rumored to be joining FOX last July. Fisher specifically said “XFL Houston” in his tweet, so it’s possible he’s hinting that he could be joining the XFL in a different city.

In other XFL news, the league has hired Jonathan Hayes to coach its St. Louis franchise, according to Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. The St. Louis team will play in the same stadium the Rams used to play in, so Hayes will be coaching in Fisher’s old stomping grounds. Hayes spent the past 16 seasons on Marvin Lewis’ staff coaching the tight ends with the Bengals, but was swept out when Lewis was fired after this past season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Clark, Cox, Rivers, Lions, XFL

In extending Russell Wilson, the Seahawks took care of their signature piece of offseason business on Tuesday. But more key contract negotiations loom, with Bobby Wagner entering a contract year and Frank Clark having yet to sign his franchise tender. It appears the trade talk surrounding Clark has not totally died down. This week has produced some chatter around the league about a Clark swap, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets. This comes shortly after a report indicated the Seahawks rebuffed outside interest in Clark at the outset of free agency and would only trade the impact defensive end if they were overwhelmed by an offer. Clark has said he will not report to Seahawks training camp without a long-term deal, so this obviously qualifies as a situation worth monitoring.

Shifting first to another NFC team’s defensive line, here is the latest from around the American football universe:

  • Fletcher Cox confirmed (via Philly.com’s Les Bowen) he underwent an offseason surgery to repair a foot injury sustained during the Eagles‘ divisional-round loss in New Orleans. The procedure appears to have been done several weeks ago, and while Cox is out of a walking boot, the veteran defensive tackle looks set to miss Philadelphia’s offseason program. His goal is to return by training camp. Cox is coming off his best NFL season, which featured a career-high 10.5 sacks and his first appearance on the All-Pro first team.
  • Also in the NFC East: Ezekiel Elliott did show up for the first day of the Cowboys‘ offseason program, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. So far, so good on the prospects of the Cowboys avoiding a contract-related holdout with their star running back. An Elliott holdout has been rumored, but for now, the fourth-year back is working out with his teammates.
  • Conversely, Philip Rivers did not show up for Day 1 of the Chargers‘ offseason work, Eric Williams of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). The 16th-year quarterback is entering a contract year, but the Bolts view him as an obvious extension candidate. Though, it is not certain if re-up talks have begun. Nevertheless, this does not appear to be a contentious situation.
  • As the deadline for teams to wrap up pre-draft visits approaches, the Lions squeezed in a meeting with Clelin Ferrell, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes (via Twitter). Detroit’s biggest offseason investment went toward its defensive end corps, in Trey Flowers‘ deal, but the Lions have met with other edge prospects as well. Both Brian Burns and L.J. Collier visited the Lions this month. Like Burns, Ferrell grades as a first-round-level prospect.
  • Former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will resurface in the XFL. The 67-year-old coach will become HC for the XFL’s New York franchise, Jay Glazer of The Athletic tweets. Gilbride has been a head coach twice in his four-decade coaching career, leading the Chargers for 22 games between the 1997-98 seasons and overseeing the Southern Connecticut State program from 1980-84. Gilbride’s most recent NFL role was a seven-year stint as Giants OC, which ended in 2013.

Extra Points: XFL, Rules, CBA

The AAF is no more. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be anymore spring football, as the XFL is preparing to start up early next year. Vince McMahon’s reincarnation of the XFL will be the latest league that looks to supplement fans’ need for pro football. The original XFL debuted in 2001, and lasted just one season. To stand out this time around, they’ll be adding some new innovative rule changes. One of those is adding a three-point conversion, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Teams in the XFL will have the opportunity to go for one, two or three points after a touchdown. The one-point conversion will be from the two-yard line, the two-point conversion will be from the five-yard line, and the three-point conversion will be from the ten-yard line.

It’s an interesting new wrinkle, and means that any time the score is within nine points it’ll still be a one-possession game. While the demise of the AAF will serve as a warning for future spring leagues, the XFL has the potential to be different. McMahon has very deep pockets, and seems willing to spend a fortune to ensure the league succeeds. With his presence, it’s unlikely the league will have any of the immediate financial trouble that the AAF had.

Here’s more from around the football universe:

  • There’s been a lot of talk over the past year about the league’s CBA and the potential for a work stoppage. Owners are widely seen as having won the last round of negotiations, and players will be making much stronger demands this time around. Many believe the owners won’t be willing to meet those demands, which could cause another lockout. But the two sides apparently made some progress in their first round of negotiating meetings earlier this week, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Graziano writes that people involved in the negotiations “believe the owners would like to get a new deal in place prior to the start of the 2019 season.”
  • In a separate tweet, Graziano notes that the fact they’re making progress with this far to go is a positive sign. The current CBA runs through the 2020 season, so we’re still a ways out. “They’re engaging the players in talks with two seasons left, which “indicates a possibility (though not a certainty) that this could be done without a work stoppage,” Graziano writes. Players are likely to seek significant concessions on issues like the guarantees in contracts, and owners have been unwilling to budge in the past. Ultimately players were unwilling to forego any game checks last time around, and it’ll be very interesting to see how far they’re willing to go this time. For what it’s worth, a potential work stoppage could play right into the hands of a league like the XFL.
  • In case you missed it, Reuben Foster won’t be suspended by the league for his latest domestic violence incident, for which charges were dropped.

XFL Not Bound By NFL Draft Eligibility Rules

The XFL won’t compete with the NFL for players, but the league could still gain high-end talent by not being obligated to follow the NFL’s draft-eligibility rules, CEO Oliver Luck told ESPN’s Outside the Lines (Tweet by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert). 

The NFL’s draft rules are well known, as any player who wants to put his name in the pool must be at least three years removed from high school. By not adhering to the long-held practice, the upstart league could be an option for any notable freshman or true sophomore who doesn’t want to wait.

It’s hard to fathom a top quarterback testing the waters, but a high-profile running back trying it out to make the most out of a relatively short professional shelf life is much more feasible. It will definitely be an interesting caveat to watch in the coming years.

In more XFL news, WWE chairman Vince McMahon sold more than three million shares of WWE stock in March with the intention to use the proceeds to fund the new football league, Sports Illustrated’s Dan Gartland writes. The sale netted McMahon just under $272MM.

Obviously, with that type of investment, McMahon is not worried about the failures of the AAF, which recently suspended operations. In response to the league’s folding, the XFL issued a statement (Via Pro Football Talk):

“We have said all along the success or failure of other leagues will have no impact on our ability to deliver high-quality, fast-paced, professional football,” the league owned and operating by Vince McMahon said, via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. “The XFL is well-funded, we have time before kick-off to execute our business plan, and we will soon announce a national broadcast and cable TV schedule that makes it easy for fans to find our games consistently every weekend when we launch next February. There is no doubt that avid football fans want more and we’re excited to get going in 2020.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Tags, Haskins, Jets, Bucs

Both the Chiefs and Texans may be in for grievances. Both teams used their franchise tags on edge defenders — Dee Ford and Jadeveon Clowney, respectively — and each team officially classified its tag recipient as a linebacker. The linebacker tag comes at a $15.443MM price. Both players have cases to be tagged as defensive ends, with Clowney frequently lining up as a lineman for Houston and Ford set to play end in Kansas City’s new 4-3 scheme. The defensive end price: $17.128MM — the second-highest tag figure. Clowney already received just more than $1MM from the Texans to resolve a dispute about what position he was categorized as in regards to his fifth-year option. That may go toward preempting a grievance here, but it’s not certain. A Ford grievance seems likely. He spends more time rushing from the defensive end position in the Chiefs’ sub-packages. Terrell Suggs filed a grievance about a linebacker tag in 2008, and an arbitrator ruled the parties to split the difference between the linebacker and end tags. But this is a case-by-case process.

Here is the latest from the pre-free agency news cycle:

  • While Janoris Jenkins is set to avoid cap-casualty status, another member of the Giants‘ 2016 free agency defender splurge may not. Whether Olivier Vernon is traded or cut, the veteran edge rusher is a near-certainty to be jettisoned from the Giants’ defense, Tom Rock of Newsday notes. As is the case with Landon Collins‘ exit, a Vernon departure would create a massive need on a New York defense that has several need areas.
  • Dwayne Haskins has been a popular mock pick for the Giants, and Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes Big Blue indeed has been “all over” the Ohio State-developed quarterback, researching his viability as Eli Manning‘s successor. Dave Gettleman does not plan to turn the keys over to a later-round pick, with Vacchiano adding the heir apparent will be a first-round choice. So if the Giants balk at a passer with another top-10 pick, they may be willing to roll the dice one more time and wait until 2020.
  • Mike Maccagnan has said the Jets will be aggressive in free agency, which would make sense given the team’s plethora of needs and $100MM-plus in cap space. Gang Green will attempt to find a center and a guard in free agency, per Vacchiano. This comes after the Jets cut 2018 center Spencer Long. There are some interesting center options, with Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse set to hit the market. At guard, there aren’t as many younger free agents; the top options are deeper into their careers.
  • Donovan Smith‘s 2019 cap figure will still be hefty, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN.com, who notes the Buccaneers‘ left tackle will carry a $12.5MM figure next season. Although it is not the $14.1MM figure Smith was briefly attached to via the franchise tag, that is still a large number for a team that does not have much cap space. Smith’s 2020 and ’21 base salaries will be $14.5MM and $14.25MM, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
  • Former Bears head coach Mark Trestman will return to coach in the States. He’s been hired as HC of the XFL’s Tampa Bay team. He joins Bob Stoops, Jim Zorn and Pep Hamilton as coaches to have signed on with the rebooting league. An acclaimed CFL coach prior to his two-season Bears stay, Trestman went back to Canada and was the Toronto Argonauts’ HC for the past two seasons.

AAF Extends Manziel Workout Opportunity

A day after Johnny Manziel‘s CFL exit, the Alliance of American Football is interested to see what the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback can contribute.

Since his dismissal from the Montreal Alouettes/ban from the Canadian league, Manziel has been in contact with the AAF, according to Kevin Allen and Tom Schaad of USA Today. The new league is offering the 26-year-old passer a chance to work out for its teams. The XFL has not been in contact with Manziel, a league spokesperson told USA Today.

However, at this point it remains unknown if the embattled quarterback will decide to take part in such an audition. Although, Manziel tweeted shortly after his release the CFL reinvigorated his passion for football and that he was looking forward to “exploring new options within the United States.”

While the San Antonio Commanders own Manziel’s rights, due to the territorial system the AAF is using in its first year, league chairman Tom Dundon said personnel from all eight of the league’s teams would be invited to Manziel’s workout.

Right now, it’s a decision of the GMs, and they can decide what they want to do,” Dundon said, via Allen and Schaad. “If talent-wise this is close, the negative of him is that there is drama with him and you are trying to win games and build a team. The positive is that he brings in fans and attention.”

The Commanders have not been in communication with Manziel, per a team spokesman, but they would have the first chance to sign him. The other seven teams could then enter the equation if San Antonio passes. Manziel would not receive a larger salary than other AAFers, according to Dundon. AAF players are each attached to non-guaranteed three-year deals worth $250K.

A 2014 Browns first-round pick, Manziel has not been a particularly good quarterback since his Texas A&M days. He washed out of Cleveland, amid persistent trouble, after the 2015 season and threw more interceptions than touchdown passes in his brief CFL run. But Manziel would be a big draw for the AAF, which has gotten off to a nice start (financial issues notwithstanding) without many big names.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

XFL, Colin Kaepernick In Discussions?

Colin Kaepernick is now connected to a third league. On the heels of an unspecified settlement with the NFL, the former 49ers quarterback is in discussions with the XFL, a league spokesman confirmed to Sporting News’ Michael McCarthy.

The 31-year-old passer, who has not played since the 2016 NFL season finale, was in talks with the Alliance of American Football as well.

A report indicated a Kaepernick-AAF relationship was scuttled by the quarterback’s salary demands. Kaepernick was believed to be seeking $20MM to play in the AAF, and McCarthy reports the same figure has surfaced in the XFL talks. Kaepernick, per McCarthy, is targeting $20MM to suit up in the XFL, which is set to respawn in 2020.

With the XFL salaries set to compare to the AAF’s, which has given non-guaranteed, three-year deals worth $250K, Kaepernick’s alleged demand would seemingly be a non-starter here as well. However, the XFL is planning to pay stars “a lot” more.

While anything in the neighborhood of $20MM may even escape the parameters of “a lot”, with McCarthy reporting the Vince McMahon-run operation is eyeing $250K-per-year salaries for starting quarterbacks, the XFL aligning with Kaepernick would obviously put it in position to strongly compete with the AAF and potentially capture interest of a sect of football fans turned off by the former Super Bowl starter’s inability to land an NFL job.

If nothing transpires on the Kaepernick-XFL front, the new league would be in position to woo better quarterback talent compared to the AAF — if, in fact, it can pay $250K salaries to starting QBs.

The word coming out of Kaepernick’s camp has consistently pointed to the passer wanting to continue his career. He has been linked to several NFL jobs, following injuries to starting quarterbacks, but nothing, obviously, led to another opportunity. Kaepernick’s attorney predicted his client would be on an NFL roster soon, even throwing out the Panthers and Patriots as possible landing spots.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: AAF, XFL, Murray

Last week the new league Alliance of American Football, the AAF, received a cash infusion of $250MM from investor Tom Dundon. Dundon, who owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, reportedly bailed the league out of some financial trouble, and effectively assumed control of the AAF. But according to a new report, Dundon may not be as tied to the league long-term as it intially seemed, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.

Apparently Dundon has yet to transfer over all $250MM, and the money will instead be procured over a period of time. Dundon apparently has the ability to pull the plug on the deal and stop funding the league if he determines the investment is no longer with it. None of this means that the league is in any immediate danger or that Dundon has had any sort of change of heart, but it adds another interesting wrinkle to the ordeal. The league has been very tightlipped about the circumstances surrounding Dundon’s investment, and concrete information has been hard to come by.

Here’s more from the football universe:

  • Speaking of alternative pro football leagues, the XFL named its latest head coach, and it was a notable NFL name. Pep Hamilton will be the coach of the league’s Washington franchise, according to Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports. Hamilton was the offensive coordinator of the Colts from 2013-15, and spent the past couple of years as an assistant on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan. He was also an assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach with the Browns in 2016.
  • Kyler Murray spoke to the media today, and elaborated a bit on his decision to play football instead of baseball, per Jake Trotter of ESPN.com. Murray said that while it was hard letting the Oakland A’s know he would be going with the NFL, it was something he’d “known for a while.” He reiterated his commitment to playing quarterback at the next level, and said while the A’s “can hold out all the hope they want to”, he definitely wasn’t going to be changing his mind. It’s unclear exactly where Murray will be drafted, but most current projections have him going sometime in the top half of the first round.
  • In case you missed it, wide receivers Tyrell Williams and Adam Humphries could be in for big paydays when they hit the open market next month.

Extra Points: Bears, NFLPA, XFL, Browns

The Bears are likely to release tight end Dion Sims, NBC Sports’ J.J. Stankevitz writes.

By releasing the veteran pass catcher, the Bears will save $6MM in cap space. The move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as Sims was ineffective when he played, which wasn’t much, as he only saw action in four games and recorded two receptions.

With Sims’ release, the Bears will rely more on Adam Shaheen to produce in 2019 behind Trey Burton. A second-round selection in 2017, Shaheen was injured to start the 2018 campaign and only managed to see action in six games. As high a pick as Chicago invested in the tight end, Shaheen is sure to see more action in his third season with the team.

  • The NFLPA appears to be preparing for a work stoppage in 2021, Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper writes. The PA’s executive director DeMaurice Smith said the union’s job is to prepare for “wars we hope we don’t have to fight.” Smith noted the contracts coaches are signing are indications of a future work stoppage.
  • The XFL will not have a developmental deal with the NFL and wants to be seen as its own entity, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith writes. The announcement doesn’t come as a shock, as the XFL has done as much as it can to distinguish itself from the NFL, which already has a development agreement in place with the AAF.
  • The Cleveland Browns will enter the 2019 season with the most carryover cap space from the 2018 season, boasting a whopping $56.5MM in space, the NFLPA reports [Twitter link]. The Colts (49.1), 49ers (35) and Titans (25.6) are the other teams with figures above $20MM.