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.

XFL Markets Leaked Ahead Of Impending Announcement

The XFL was expected to make an announcement next week about the locations of its inaugural eight teams, which will begin play in 2020. However, the league inadvertently released the information on its website on Saturday, which was captured in a screenshot by WrestleZone.com and posted on Instagram.

The cities captured in the screenshot are Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C., and included phone numbers for each franchise. In addition to the markets, the sites for each team began trickling out shortly after the leak.

The Tampa Bay franchise was confirmed by Thomas Bassinger of The Tampa Bay Times, which called the number associated with the team and received a recorded message from XFL commissioner Oliver Luck stating:

“Hello, this XFL commissioner Oliver Luck. Thanks for calling XFL Tampa Bay. We’re excited to call Raymond James Stadium home when the league launches in 2020, and we appreciate your support.”

Raymond James Stadium, of course, is the current home of the Buccaneers, who declined to comment on the situation.

The Washington franchise will reportedly play its games at Audi Field, Rick Maese of the Washington Post writes. As the league is expected to kick off its 10-week schedule in February 2020, the field will serve both football and soccer for a time due to the stadium’s main tenants, MLS franchise D.C. United, beginning their schedule in March.

The Dallas franchise could potentially wind up playing its home games at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas Rangers beat reporter Evan Grant writes for the Dallas Morning News. The park will host its final game at the end of the 2019 season, leaving it vacant for a potential XFL team for the following February.

The league has declined comment since the leak.

The original XFL operated in 2001, when World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon partnered with NBC to form the league. The broadcast corporation pulled out after one season and the league folded soon after.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: XFL, Helmet Rule, Bucs, Bears

Although fewer details are known about the XFL’s relaunch compared to the Alliance of American Football’s debut, XFL 2.0 have an edge on the AAF when it comes to adding talent. The previous figure that’s surfaced regarding XFL salaries has been $75K, but league commissioner Oliver Luck said recently (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk) that exceptional players could earn more than $200K per season. (The NFL’s 2018 league minimum is $480K for rookies.) The AAF plans to structure three-year, $250K contracts. Both the XFL and AAF plan to have outs in deals in order to allow for players to try and make NFL rosters. Length of these contracts will vary from player to player, per Luck.

Additionally, the XFL plans to move forward with its location unveilings later this year. The AAF will station teams in Atlanta, Birmingham (Ala.), Memphis, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and San Diego. It would stand to reason the XFL will choose other markets, but that’s not certain at this point. But this will also be an eight-team league. Both the XFL and AAF will feature 10-game seasons.

Shifting back to the NFL, here’s the latest:

  • The NFL’s helmet rule has probably been the most discussed topic during the preseason slate, and the competition committee convened this week to discuss the radical change. However, the committee determined the rule will not be tweaked at this time, despite the rule enduring scrutiny from all sides. NFL executive VP Troy Vincent added (Twitter link) instant replay will not be permitted to review these calls, but the committee did review feedback from players, coaches and referees. Additional video tutorials will be provided for what may be the defining component for the 2018 season.
  • Perhaps the 2016 and ’17 seasons’ defining sequences, the racial inequality-themed protests continue to spur meetings. Some NFLPA executive committee members will meet with a few owners Monday at the Giants’ facility to discuss the anthem controversy, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken has called plays during Tampa Bay’s preseason, but Dirk Koetter will take back the reins once the regular season starts, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Koetter enters the season on one of the hottest seats in the league, and his play-calling will go a long way toward determining if the Bucs can improve and if he’ll be given a fourth season as head coach. The Bucs have ranked 18th in scoring in each of Koetter’s two HC seasons.
  • Vic Fangio‘s coached pro football long enough he has USFL experience, and he had options to leave Chicago as new Bears coach Matt Nagy formed his staff. However, he returned in part because the Bears’ front office “badly” wanted him to stay, NFL reporter Adam Caplan tweets. Despite not having many household names on its 2017 unit, the Bears’ defense ranked as a top-10 group in both total and scoring defense. While Nagy and Ryan Pace made wholesale changes on offense, Fangio’s defense remains largely the same — albeit with Roquan Smith in the picture now.

John Fox, Jim Caldwell To Work With XFL

The two coaches fired from NFC North teams this offseason will resurface in one of the two leagues set to spawn soon.

Both John Fox and Jim Caldwell have agreed to work with the XFL as consultants, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. The Bears and Lions axed Fox and Caldwell in January, respectively.

Fox was linked to coaching offers shortly after being fired, and it’s likely he will return to coaching at some point. But for now, he’ll work with the XFL. It’s possible Caldwell will provide input from an offensive prospective, with the defensively oriented Fox being brought in for defensive views.

The league plans to restart in 2020, after what will be a 19-year hiatus, and it’s still in the process of determining rules. However, the XFL looks to have greater financial backing this time around.

Oliver Luck is signed on as commissioner and will receive $20MM guaranteed in that role, and the league has raised more money in advance of its rebirth than what the Alliance of American Football has. However, the AAF’s brought in bigger coaching and personnel names thus far. No coaches or teams have been announced for XFL 2.0 yet.

Caldwell, 63, has been an NFL coach for 17 straight seasons and hasn’t taken a season off since breaking into the profession in the late 1970s. Fox has been affiliated with an NFL team every year since 1989. His only coaching break came in 1996, when he was a Rams consultant. Fox, 63, has experience working in other pro football leagues, having coached in the USFL during the 1985 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: XFL, AAF, Agents, Supplemental Draft

One of the main reasons for the initial demise of the XFL was its relative lack of funding. The low amount of initial startup funds plagued the league from the beginning and forced them to offer low salaries and no insurance benefits to players. Founder Vince McMahon is taking precautions to ensure the new iteration of the XFL is much more successful, and is spending a lot more money according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com.

Rovell reports that McMahon is planning on spending $500MM over the first three years of the league. A lot of the money will be going to player and coaches salaries, and the league is planning on paying players a base salary of $75,000 with stars earning a lot more. Rovell also hears that it’s significantly more money than the rival upstart AAF has raised. It should be interesting to watch how these two new professional football leagues continue to battle it out.

Here’s more from the football universe:

  • Speaking of the XFL and AAF, Jason Fitzgerald of Overthecap.com notes that while the XFL will offer more money, the AAF will be more open ended and potentially provide more opportunities for players to enter the NFL. He also points out that neither league’s salary will match that of an NFL practice squad (Twitter link).
  • Oregon State linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu announced recently that he was joining the 2018 Supplemental Draft, and now he’s had his Pro Day. Six teams, the Packers, Seahawks, Patriots, Saints, Bears, and 49ers, attended his Pro Day, where he ran a 4.97 40-yard dash according to DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline (Twitter links). The Supplemental Draft will take place July 11th.
  • The NFL announced a while back they were having a very controversial “continuing education” exam for the league’s agents, and now the results are in. Many agents opposed the test, which could strip them of their certification if they failed, but the vast majority passed, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). La Canfora hears that around 95 percent of agents passed, as only 30 out of 651 failed the exam.

Extra Points: XFL, 2019 draft, Beal, Seahawks, Carroll

For draftniks and hardcore fans of the NFL, it’s never too early to start looking at next year’s draft. That’s why Matt Miller of Bleacher Report recently broke down who NFL scouts see as the best prospects in 2019. Miller noted scouts are busy “building profiles, researching backgrounds and character and talking to college coaches about top players” before he gave an “early look” at the consensus top 10.

Defensive end Nick Bosa, younger brother of Chargers pass-rusher Joey Bosa, unsurprisingly checks in at number one. Bosa has dominated for Ohio State the past two seasons and is almost a lock to turn pro after his upcoming junior season. A scout told Miller, “I love Nick Bosa. I wasn’t 100 percent sure on Joey coming out (stupid me), but I won’t make that mistake twice. He’s the real deal. Excellent instincts and feel for the quarterback as a young rusher.”

It wouldn’t be at all surprising to hear Roger Goodell call Bosa’s name as the number one overall pick in 2019. After you’ve finished checking out the rest of the list, here’s more from around the football world:

  • Many wondered why Oliver Luck would leave his cushy job as an executive with the NCAA for a seemingly risky position as CEO and Commissioner of the upstart XFL. That question has apparently been answered now that it’s been reported Luck was offered a guaranteed $20MM from the XFL over a period of a few years that has a chance to grow to $30MM depending on the success of the league (Twitter link via the Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Bachman).
  • Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal, who recently announced his intention to enter the NFL’s 2018 Supplemental Draft, will have his Pro Day on June 28th (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network). Rapoport notes that the event “should be well-attended” by scouts. Adam Schefter of ESPN recently tweeted that Beal could be the highest player selected in the Supplemental Draft since the Browns used a second round pick on Josh Gordon in 2012.
  • In a recent column, Albert Breer of SI.com writes that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is taking a positive view on the departure of a slew of veteran players from his roster saying Carroll views it as “a chance, at age 66, to sell the bedrock of his program—competition—all over again. It got a little hard, as the above core came to prominence, to keep selling the idea that every spot was up for grabs. It’s not so difficult to sell anymore.” 

Extra Points: XFL, Luck, Kaepernick

This week, Vince McMahon’s XFL appointed Oliver Luck as its new commissioner and CEO.

The XFL will be a labor of love as I get to combine my experiences as a player and executive,” Luck told ESPN.com in an email. “I’m thrilled to have this unique opportunity to reimagine the game that has been a constant in my life for 40 years.”

Luck, the father of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, will relocate to Connecticut as he gears up for the league’s launch in 2020. That also means leaving behind his previous job with the NCAA, in which he oversaw eligibility requirements and academic affairs.

I always felt there was an opportunity for another pro league as long as it had the key ingredients, and I found all those ingredients present in the new XFL,” Luck said. “There was the leadership and vision from Vince [McMahon] who is a tremendous entrepreneur with a solid track record and there is a potential to have good quality football if it is well capitalized, which of course it is.”

Here’s more from around the world of football:

Alliance Of American Football To Launch In 2019

WWE boss Vince McMahon is planning to re-launch the XFL in 2020, but he’ll have some serious competition in his bid to become the nation’s top competitor to the NFL. Charlie Ebersol, who directed a documentary on the XFL last year, has founded the Alliance of American Football, a league that will debut on Feb. 9, 2019. 

Unlike the XFL, Ebersol’s league already has a television deal in place. The league’s first game and championship games will air on CBS, while the CBS Sports Network will carry one game per week. Other games will be available via the AAF’s app.

The league, which will host its first game one week after Super Bowl LIII, will have a 10-week season and 50-man rosters. The players will be cast from the NFL’s scraps, meaning that it can be a way for those on the fringes of the league to showcase themselves for 90-man roster spots in the NFL.

Former NFL GM Bill Polian and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu are involved in the operations side while former NFL players Hines Ward and Justin Tuck will serve as advisors. Charlie’s father, famed television producer and former XFL partner Dick Ebersol will also serve on the advisory board.

Many football leagues have come and gone over the years, but the younger Ebersol says that he is taking a long-term approach.

I think where businesses like this fail is that they expect to have ludicrous and unrealistic ticket and media deal projections in Year 1,” Ebersol said. “Our investors here understand that it’s a seven- to 10-year plan.”

Vince McMahon Announces XFL Reboot

The XFL is back. Roughly 17 years after its closure, WWE boss Vince McMahon announced that he is making a new foray into professional football.

In a press conference, McMahon declared that the XFL will return in 2020. Much like the first incarnation of the XFL, the introductory presser was sparse on details. However, as McMahon noted, the league is giving itself significantly more time to plan for the launch.

The league, McMahon says, will have fewer commercial breaks and move faster than the NFL’s version. The XFL will “start conservatively” with eight teams and 40-man rosters, but host cities for the teams have not yet been identified.

Surprisingly, McMahon’s “re-imagined” brand of football will not feature him as a brand ambassador. The WWE CEO vowed to bring in experienced football executives to run the show and said that the press conference might be the last we see of him with regards to the league. He added that there will be no crossover of talent from the wrestling organization to the football league, a stark difference from 2001 when Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler served as a commentary team.

There was some speculation that McMahon could position the league as a more patriotic alternative to the NFL, but he says the league “will have nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with social issues.” Instead, McMahon says the league will focus on its on-field product, though he was non-committal when asked if standing for the anthem will be mandatory.

Already, former University of Kentucky star Jared Lorenzen has volunteered his services for the XFL. “Well well well, how are you doing over there [Vince McMahon] and [Alpha Entertainment]?,” the Hefty Lefty wrote (on Twitter). “I see you may be looking for some athletes. I got ya. May be I do have 1 more comeback left me. #HeAteMe

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vince McMahon Planning XFL Reboot?

In 2001, the WWF and NBC attempted to go toe-to-toe with the NFL. Despite a debut broadcast with tremendous ratings, the XFL quickly fizzled and folded after just one season. It now appears that wrestling magnate Vince McMahon could be ready to take another shot at professional football. Rod Smart (vertical)

Vince McMahon has established and is personally funding a separate entity from WWE, Alpha Entertainment, to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football,” the wrestling organization said in a statement issued to David Bixenspan of Deadspin (Twitter link). “Mr. McMahon has nothing further to announce at this time.”

McMahon’s first try at football wound up costing his company tens of millions of dollars. If there is a second act for McMahon in football, he is making it known that it will not affect the WWE’s bottom line or impact its shareholders.

It’s not immediately clear how serious McMahon is about restarting the XFL or when the league might re-emerge. The WWE filed for two new XFL trademarks this year, according to Bixenspan, though it is common practice for companies to renew their trademarks when they come due.

The first time around, viewers found the on-field quality of the product to be poor and the off-field branding overtly crass. McMahon could try a different spin on marketing his league, but there’s no realistic way to increase the talent level without some type of partnership with the NFL. In the recent ESPN documentary on the failed league, McMahon hinted that a potential reboot “would tie in either with the NFL itself or the owners,” but it’s hard to imagine Roger Goodell & Co. going down that path.