NFL

Colin Kaepernick ends battle with NFL, Joe Flacco trade and more

On Friday, Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and the NFL settled their collusion case. While many claim victory for Kaepernick, the truth is much more nuanced.

One hyphenated phrase may make it forever impossible to intelligently argue who won the collusion case between Colin Kaepernick and the NFL: Non-disclosure agreement.

The two sides settled on Friday for an unknown sum of money. Supporters of both sides have and will claim victory. The answer is truly unknown as of now, but is probably somewhere in the middle. That’s the nature of a settlement.

For Kaepernick, the decision to settle was surprising. At 31 years old, Kaepernick is the face of a national movement around the belief that black Americans are brutalized by the police. Born from his stance to kneel during the national anthem in 2016, Kaepernick created ample discussion in barber shops and restaurants, on television and across the internet.

Now, by taking money to satisfy his lawsuit, many see him as a fraud.

The reality is twofold. Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid were going through arbitration with the NFL for damages of past, present and future, believing they were collectively blackballed by the league. When Reid signed a three-year, $22 million extension with the Carolina Panthers earlier last week, a source close to the situation believes Kaepernick’s case was significantly hurt.

With the suit entering the discovery phase, the proverbial cards were about to be on the table.

The league would have likely had any internal emails, texts, memos and other communications made public throughout the case’s progression, potentially damaging its reputation further. If ever the NFL was going to offer a settlement, it was now. Once the discovery phase began, there was no reason for the league to pay. It would be to their advantage to let the case play out as long as possible, essentially waiting out Kaepernick.

At the same time, Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, likely realized proving collusion would be nearly impossible unless he had a smoking gun. If Geragos took this case on a contingency, he may have pushed for a settlement if he felt his case was a losing one. Geragos also has two prominent cases on his desk, the wrongful death suit of actor Kristoff St. John’s and the class-action lawsuit involving the Fyre Festival.

While Kaepernick’s lawsuit and movement belong in two separate corners, history won’t remember it that way.

Kaepernick earned more than $43 million in NFL contracts. Taking more money instead of exposing the league will be seen by many as a pure money-grab.

Even if Kaepernick lost the case, he could have continued down this road for a few more years in hopes of furthering social justice issues. If the NFL did have dirty laundry, perhaps it was willing to pay an enormous price to avoid discovery.

If that was the reality, Kaepernick chose money over movement. If the NFL wasn’t hiding something, the payout was likely to make the case go away.

Power rankings

Top 10 Super Bowl winning QBs to be traded

1. Joe Montana – 49ers -> Chiefs (1993)
2. Johnny Unitas – Colts -> Chargers (1972)
3. John Elway – Colts -> Broncos (1983)
4. Steve Young – Buccaneers -> 49ers (1987)
5. Brett Favre – Falcons -> Packers (1992)
6. Joe Namath – Jets -> Rams (1977)
7. Ken Stabler – Raiders -> Oilers (1980)
8. Eli Manning – Chargers -> Giants (2004)
9. Jim Plunkett – Patriots -> 49ers (1976)
10. Jim McMahon – Bears -> Chargers (1988)

Quotable

“Ownership has spoken on that before, I’m not going to be the spokesperson for the organization with regards to that.”

– Cleveland Browns GM John Dorsey, when asked where team stands on violence against women

After signing Kareem Hunt, the Browns knew they would take heat. Hunt, 23, was of course shown on videotape shoving and kicking a 19-year-old woman at a Cleveland hotel in February. He was subsequently released by the Chiefs upon the tape’s release.

GOING DEEP: Dorsey is setting Hunt up to fail by bringing him home

Dorsey, who drafted Hunt in 2017 for Kansas City’, believes Hunt deserves a second chance. Fine. What’s appalling is stating that you won’t be a spokesperson on where the organization stands on violence against women. Dorsey doesn’t have to give an elongated answer to that question, but he needs to reiterate that it’s intolerable.

Then again, that’s a rough stance to take when you’re signing Hunt before the NFL has even doled out punishment.

Podcast

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Random stat

Running backs Lydell Mitchell and Chuck Foreman were men before their times.

Unlike most running backs prior to the West Coast offense spreading throughout the NFL, Mitchell and Foreman were dominant pass-catchers. In fact, Mitchell became the first runner in NFL history to lead the league in receptions, notching 72 catches in 1974 for the Baltimore Colts.

The following year, Foreman totaled 73 receptions while scoring nine receiving touchdowns to boot.

To this day, Mitchell, Foreman and 49ers’ legend Roger Craig are the only running backs to lead the league in catches.

Info learned this week

1. Broncos land Flacco in trade that has ripple effects

The Denver Broncos trading for Joe Flacco didn’t impact two teams. It upset the entire NFL ecosystem.

When the Broncos acquired Flacco on Wednesday from the Baltimore Ravens for a 2019 fourth-round pick, shockwaves were sent through the league. For a month, one of the worst-kept secrets in football was Denver’s intense interest in Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. Lock, strong-armed albeit inconsistent with the Tigers, is expected to be a borderline top-10 pick. The Broncos pick 10th.

While the door remains open for Denver to draft the quarterback of its future, the mind and track record of general manager John Elway suggests otherwise. Elway believes in winning now and worrying about tomorrow later. Following that logic, the Broncos will select an impact player at No. 10 knowing Flacco is there for at least one season if not longer (his contract runs through 2021). Bet on the Broncos taking a pass rusher (Elway has drafted Von Miller, Shane Ray and Bradley Chubb in three of his previous eight drafts).

With that in mind, there are a host of teams impacted by the move. Now that Flacco isn’t a free-agent option, the only attractive quarterback on the market will be Nick Foles, with Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill and Case Keenum also likely to garner tepid interest as starting options.

FanSided recently reported that the Philadelphia Eagles are trying to keep Foles from joining the New York Giants, who may have interest in replacing one Super Bowl MVP with another. If that should happen, Eli Manning would make a bevy of sense for the Tom Coughlin-led Jacksonville Jaguars, but that’s a column for another day.

GOING DEEP: Flacco deal throws QB market into flux

In the draft, it’s Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray and Lock as the probably first-round choices. Haskins and Lock appear certain to go early, with Murray’s stock highly-dependent on his showings and measurables at the combine and subsequent Oklahoma pro day.

Should the Miami Dolphins either strike out in free agency or purposefully eschew it for a more permanent answer to their unending question under center, they bear watching in the draft. Picking 13th-overall, would the Dolphins try to leapfrog the Jaguars and Giants for their guy?

Finally, the Washington Redskins. Washington owes Alex Smith $41.8 million over the next two years. If he can’t play again due to his gruesome leg injury, Washington’s cap is a mess. The only answer would be drafting a quarterback who can play on a cheap rookie contract until Smith’s deal can be scrubbed from the books.

One move. A hoard of teams affected.

2. Brown continues to hurt value in quest to leave Pittsburgh

Antonio Brown is taking a flamethrower to his relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He thinks he’s helping his cause. He’s not.

Brown, 30, sees himself as an elite receiver in the prime of his career. Despite missing a game last season, the five-time All-Pro caught 15 touchdowns. He believes any team in the league must want him because of his undeniable talent.

The first part of the paragraph is true. The last is becoming more false by the tweet.

Over the course of last week, Brown liked a tweet which depicted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as a rapist. On Tuesday, Brown tweeted a farewell video to Steeler Nation.

On Saturday, the mercurial receiver accused head coach Mike Tomlin of telling the team Brown quit on them during Week 17. The reality is that Brown threw a well-documented fit in practice on Wednesday, was excused from practice on Thursday and didn’t come back to the team until Sunday for the final game, only to find out later he was inactive. Brown left the stadium at halftime.

Because of all his high-volume antics, Brown is becoming less attractive to outside clubs. With the inherit risk of toxic behavior permeating his next locker room, any team inquiring about his services will use the recent nonsense as a reason to lower the return for Pittsburgh. Throughout this ordeal, a source familiar with the situation has told FanSided the team remains open to mending the relationship, and will only trade Brown if it feels due compensation is being returned.

Furthermore, the Steelers hold a lot of leverage in this situation. If Brown doesn’t show up for training camp, he must return portions of the signing bonus he received. That would be $3.8 million chunks for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Brown truly believes he’s punching his ticket out of town. He may be doing the exact opposite.

3. With tag window opening, Texas teams have decisions to make

On Tuesday, teams can begin designating franchise and transition tags. Two of the more intriguing situations to monitor are that of DeMarcus Lawrence and Jadeveon Clowney.

Speaking with multiple NFL sources, Lawrence is considered the top free agent available. It would be a stunning if he gets away from the Cowboys, who could either sign him long-term or give him the tag for a second straight season. Dallas would be wise to reach a multi-year agreement for multiple reasons. The Cowboys would save money against the cap this year by doing so — even if the contract comes in north of $100 million as expected — and it would be taking care of a player who has endured multiple back surgeries to become a two-time Pro Bowler.

GOING DEEP: Cowboys would be making big mistake by not paying Lawrence

Players notice when ownership takes care of guys who perform through injuries. They also notice when the team doesn’t. When teams don’t take care of players who get injured, other players understand that they shouldn’t push themselves as hard to play when hurt.

Meanwhile, it’s almost a certainly that the Texans will franchise Jadeveon Clowney. The 2014 first-overall pick, Clowney has developed into a terrific, versatile player who still has room to grow as a pass-rusher. If tagged, Clowney could sign long-term before the July 15 deadline, but a source with knowledge of the situation believes the Texans will play it out into 2020.

4. Bengals having brutal time finding defensive coordinator

With the combine beginning in eight days, the Bengals are in a full-court press to land a defensive coordinator.

Cincinnati officially hired head coach Zac Taylor the Monday after Super Bowl LIII. Despite a litany of interviews and interview requests, Taylor hasn’t been able to nail down the top spot on his defensive staff.

The Bengals have tried to lure Dom Capers, Dennis Allen, Todd Grantham and others, but no success thus far. Cincinnati requested permission to interview Aaron Glenn, but the current defensive backs coach with the New Orleans Saints was denied the interview by his current team. Glenn, who has only five years as an assistant, would have been an aggressive hire.

In short, the Bengals must figure this situation out immediately. While base schemes aren’t as important anymore with the increase of subpackages, the overall scheme of the coordinator is paramount when determining which players fit a defense.

5. With Murray declaring, Cards might be in catbird seat

The Cardinals hold all the, well, cards.

Going into the two months prior to the NFL Draft, Arizona has options galore laid out before it.

    • The Cardinals could take Heisman-winning quarterback Kyler Murray and trade incumbent Josh Rosen for additional draft capital.
    • They could take a defensive star to pair with Chandler Jones and stick with Rosen.
    • They could trade out of the pick entirely and gain assets

With a new head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals have reaffirmed their commitment to Rosen through statements on social media and to the press. Still, with the history of Kingsbury — during his coaching days at Texas Tech — saying he would take Murray with the first-overall pick, rumors are swirling.

A source with knowledge of the situation stresses that the Cardinals love the crop of pass-rushers. Still, would that be enough to make those other options moot?

The other question is whether Murray is going that high. The combine will tell us more, but he is expected to check in between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10. For a player of that height to succeed, he would need terrific blocking to provide clean throwing lanes. For Murray, any interior pressure and the angles are off.

Last year, the Cardinals arguably had the league’s worst offensive line. Additionally, trading Rosen would be tough for general manager Steve Keim, who moved up to land him last April.

History lesson

Tom Dempsey played with half of a right foot. He still holds a share of the longest field goal ever made at 63 yards.

Dempsey, who was born with half-limbs on his right side, made the kick in old Tulane Stadium in Nov. 1970, helping the New Orleans Saints defeat the Detroit Lions. To fit his toe-less foot, Dempsey wore a shoe that was squared off on the front. Oddly enough, in 1977, the NFL outlawed the equipment moving forward, with some believing Dempsey had an unfair advantage. In time, science would prove that to be a myth.

Dempsey was more than a one-moment wonder, though. The Milwaukee native lasted 11 seasons in the league, kicking for the Eagles, Rams, Oilers and Bills before retiring in 1979.

Parting shot

The NFL’s decision to bar Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson from the Scouting Combine is the bad result of a good thought.

In January, the league relayed information to clubs that should a background check reveal a felony of misdemeanor conviction on a player, they would not be allowed to participate in Indianapolis. Ferguson was convicted of simple battery as a freshman for a scuffle in McDonalds, thus taking him off the combine list.

Ferguson, the NCAA’s all-time leader in sacks, is projected as a high Day 2 selection. At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, the Bulldogs star impressed, earning a litany of kind comments from scouts throughout Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Now, he’s being penalized for a fight during his formative years.

The NFL is correct in wanting to crack down on potential employees with violent pasts. By the letter of the law, Ferguson is such a man. However, the league would do well to review each situation individually. The 23-year-old isn’t likely to see his stock drop from this, and so it would have been beneficial for both him and potentially interested parties to have him stand up and account for his actions.

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