Each week, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske provides in-depth Monday morning NFL analysis with “First and 10,” a dissection of the league’s most important developments from a weekend of action.
It once would have been practically unthinkable for the NFL to even consider allowing a franchise to be based in Las Vegas, given the league’s longstanding and once-unwavering opposition to sports gambling.
But now, with the Oakland Raiders contemplating the potential of a future move to Sin City to play in a proposed $1.4 billion domed stadium, there are indications within the NFL’s ownership ranks that such a Vegas relocation scenario might not be quite so far-fetched any longer.
One owner said last week that he was “not sure” whether such a move, if proposed by the Raiders at some point, would be ratified by the other owners.
“A few months ago, I would have said it was highly doubtful,” the owner said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “But if the deal we’ve read about is real, then they have a chance. [It] seems like nothing will get done in Oakland.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis is making no secret about his consideration of Las Vegas as an alternative if a stadium deal cannot be struck to keep the team in Oakland. Is that consideration as sincere as Davis makes it sound? Or is it, at least in part, a negotiating tactic to attempt to secure stadium financing in Oakland? It’s impossible to say at this point in the process.
But the Raiders already have made one recent attempt to move, applying for a relocation to Los Angeles. They were denied when the owners chose the Rams and their Inglewood, Calif., stadium project in January over the Carson stadium proposed by the Raiders and San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders remain in the L.A. mix. The Chargers have the first option to join the Rams in Inglewood, but if the Chargers choose to stay in San Diego, that Los Angeles option would pass to the Raiders either early next year or in 2018. So there still is time for all of this to play out. Davis has said that the Raiders could remain based in Oakland, where they have a one-year stadium lease plus team options through 2018, in the interim.
Under NFL rules, a relocation application for the 2017 season could not be submitted until after the 2016 regular season, anyway. Davis and the Raiders may have other relocation options as well, if they choose to pursue them. The team previously has explored the possibility of a move to San Antonio. The St. Louis market is also open following the Rams’ departure to L.A.
The owners control the relocation process, as the L.A. deliberations underscored. Any franchise move must be ratified by at least 24 of the 32 owners. The owners took the Los Angeles decision into their own hands, picking Inglewood and the Rams even after the league’s L.A. committee recommended the joint bid by the Chargers and Raiders in Carson.
The NFL always has held sports gambling at arm’s length, opposing measures that would enable it to occur legally in places where it currently is illegal. But the ongoing debate over daily fantasy perhaps has forced a reexamination of that relationship. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN Radio last month that views within the sport about gambling have “evolved.”
Whether that evolution ultimately will involve serious consideration of a Raiders move to Las Vegas remains to be seen.
… AND TEN
1. Bradford’s situation
Quarterback Sam Bradford blinked last week in his staredown with the Philadelphia Eagles, dropping his trade demand and joining the team for voluntary offseason workouts.
Bradford demanded to be dealt and had stayed away from the workouts temporarily after the Eagles traded up to select quarterback Carson Wentz second overall in the NFL draft.
Bradford’s approach was misguided. He had signed a lucrative contract with the Eagles before free agency, but it was for only two years. The Eagles were justified to make a move with an eye toward the future at quarterback, and they weren’t obligated to give advance notice to Bradford about it. Moreover, there’s little to indicate that Wentz will be ready to play immediately as a rookie, giving Bradford a chance this coming season to play his way into a 2017 starting job either in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
So now that Bradford is back, can things be worked out?
Very little damage seems to have been done by Bradford’s mini-protest. He missed nothing that matters for a veteran quarterback. His absence was brief, and his fellow veteran teammates don’t appear to have been particularly miffed about it. So his standing within his locker room and his offensive huddle doesn’t seem to have been diminished.
The fact remains that he likely will be the Eagles’ starter at quarterback on opening day and for much, if not all, of the 2016 season. If he plays well, there will be a starting job somewhere for him after that, even when Wentz inevitably takes over in Philadelphia.
2. Eagles and Wentz
According to a report by Pro Football Talk, the Eagles received verbal commitments from Wentz and Jared Goff before the draft that each quarterback would accept offset language in a contract if Philadelphia traded up and selected one of them.
Wentz’s contract with the Eagles, as it turns out, indeed includes offset language that lessens the team’s financial burden if the player is released before the deal expires and he signs elsewhere. (The Eagles, of course, will have far bigger issues than the remainder of Wentz’s rookie contract if they have to release him before it’s up.)
The question is whether the Eagles’ approach violated NFL rules, which allow only the team with the No. 1 overall selection in the draft to negotiate a contract with a player before the draft.
It is an interesting question, actually. Where does the line fall between gathering pre-draft information about a player (“If we end up drafting you, would you agree to this in your contract?”) and actually negotiating a contract?
The NFL has given no indication to this point that it intends to pursue the matter. But if the Kansas City Chiefs can be punished for impermissible direct contract with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin during the free agent negotiating window last year, why shouldn’t the league at least look into whether these discussions were proper?
3. Replay deliberations
It remains unclear whether the NFL’s competition committee will make a replay-related proposal to the owners when they meet next week in Charlotte. Committee members are scheduled to speak via conference call this week to make a determination. The proposal, if made, would expand the scope of plays subject to prospective replay reviews and have to be ratified by 24 of 32 owners to go into effect this season.
The Baltimore Ravens made a similar proposal that the owners considered but put aside at the annual league meeting in March in Boca Raton, Fla. Competition committee members said then that they were intrigued by the Ravens’ proposal and would study the possibility of making another proposal to the owners this month.
4. Super Bowls
Whether or not they consider a replay proposal, the owners are scheduled to award three Super Bowls to host cities during the Charlotte meeting. Next year’s Super Bowl is to be in Houston, and the 2018 game is in Minneapolis. The owners will vote on the 2019, 2020 and 2021 games. The contenders include Atlanta, South Florida, Tampa, New Orleans and Los Angeles.
5. Hardy’s next team?
It might be time to begin questioning whether a team will sign Greg Hardy for the 2016 season.
The Dallas Cowboys decided against bringing back Hardy after he recorded six sacks in 12 games for them last season. The Cowboys signed him last offseason after he missed all but one game for the Carolina Panthers in the 2014 season, having agreed to be placed on paid leave while facing domestic violence charges related to an incident involving his former girlfriend.
Hardy received another chance from the Cowboys in large part because he was, at that point, considered a talented, productive and potentially dominant player after posting 15 sacks for the Panthers in 2013. But now teams no longer view Hardy as that same dominant player. He totaled three sacks in his first two games for the Cowboys but managed only three more thereafter. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has demonstrated a willingness to give further chances to talented but troubled players. If even Jones no longer wants Hardy around, other teams seem to be reasoning, why would someone else bring him in?
6. Manziel’s next NFL step
Is it a foregone conclusion that quarterback Johnny Manziel won’t be in the NFL in the 2016 season?
Manziel has been indicted by a Dallas grand jury for misdemeanor assault related to family violence, based on allegations from earlier this year involving his former girlfriend. His attorneys say they believe he will be acquitted, but he faces up to one year in jail if convicted, and disciplinary measures levied by the NFL also are possible.
The former first-round draft choice remains unsigned following his release from the Browns. He has been dropped by two agents this offseason. Players, coaches and executives around the league are reluctant even to speak publicly about Manziel these days. A team actually considering signing him seems a long way off. It does not appear that he will be in any team’s offseason program, so his potential on-field value to a franchise in training camp or during the season will be diminished. The off-field considerations for any team that even mulls the possibility of signing Manziel would be considerable.
Clearly, Manziel must resolve his legal issues, get his life in order and go through the NFL’s disciplinary process before any team would even contemplate adding him to the roster. At some point, he must get a new agent and work toward attempting to return to the NFL. He has talent, even if it’s not clear that his skills can be incorporated into an effective NFL offense. It’s not out of the question that he would be given another chance at some point. But that point, given the current circumstances, probably is not in the foreseeable future.
7. Hayne’s exit
It would have been interesting to have seen what Jarryd Hayne could have become as a football player in his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. That won’t happen now, with the 49ers and Hayne announcing Sunday that he’s retired from the NFL to go back to his previous sport, rugby, and pursue an opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
“I am retiring from the NFL because the Fiji Rugby Sevens team reached out to me about the opportunity to join the team for the upcoming Olympics, and I simply could not pass that chance up,” Hayne said in a written statement released by the 49ers. “The Olympics has been something I have admired since I was a little boy, and it is an opportunity I feel very similar to me joining the NFL.”
Hayne certainly was not a great football player in his rookie season with the 49ers. He rushed for 52 yards on 17 carries as a running back, had six catches for 27 yards and totaled 76 yards on eight punt returns. But it was a compelling story to watch him attempt to make the transition from rugby to football, and there were reasons to believe that he indeed would have taken a big step forward in Year Two.
“We would like to thank Jarryd for his contributions to the San Francisco 49ers organization and our community over the last year,” General Manager Trent Baalke said in a written statement. “Jarryd is a tremendous example of what can happen when you commit to a goal and do everything in your power to make it a reality. He earned the right to wear a 49ers uniform and compete alongside the best in the game. We fully support Jarryd’s decision to pursue another dream — representing the Fiji Rugby Sevens team in this summer’s Olympic games. We look forward to watching him in Rio and wish him continued success.”
8. QBs who stayed put
The Buccaneers’ Mike Glennon, the Browns’ Josh McCown and the Rams’ Nick Foles are among the backup quarterbacks who stayed put despite having their names come up in recent trade speculation.
Glennon’s case is particularly intriguing. He is stuck behind Jameis Winston in Tampa, but a good case can be made that he is worthy of a starting opportunity somewhere in the NFL. He had 29 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions and a passer rating of 83.7 while playing in 19 games, with 18 starts, over two seasons with the Buccaneers before Winston’s arrival.
Could he do for a team what Kirk Cousins did in Washington last season? Perhaps. But for now, it does not appear that Glennon will get that chance.
9. No rush on Fitzpatrick
The New York Jets look to be taking the approach that re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick is their top option at quarterback. Fitzpatrick continues to have a lack of viable alternatives on the free agent market. And yet a deal continues to not get done. Little to nothing has been lost, of course. Fitzpatrick was a successful starter for the Jets last season, and he probably doesn’t need a full offseason program— or even an entire training camp — to remain in sync with the remainder of the team’s offense.
But, really, what is either side gaining at this point by waiting any longer?
10. Bears and Kevin White
One story worth following this summer is that of wide receiver Kevin White and his return to the Chicago Bears. White was taken seventh overall by the Bears in last year’s draft but missed his entire rookie season after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his leg.
He has enough NFL promise that there was considerable pre-draft debate whether White or the Raiders’ Amari Cooper was the top wideout in the draft class. Cooper quickly became an NFL standout. Now it’s White’s turn.