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Big Ten Division previews/predictions

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

A Guest Blog By Tyler Fenwick:

With the heat of August drawing ever so near, that can only mean one thing in the world of college football: camp. So, with that in mind, I have decided to take this opportunity of hype and anxiety to reveal both my previews and predictions for the Leaders and Legends divisions.

So here you go:

Leaders Preview

Illinois: The Fighting Illini will finally be able to offer some stability from both sides of the ball this season. With Nathan Scheelhaase returning to run the spread, and an improving defense, I would look out for the Illini to maybe take some upsets this year.

Indiana: The Hoosiers are looking to rebuild. Especially now that Ben Chappel has gone to the NFL, I can’t see a situation where this team finishes with more than 5 wins. However, Coach Kevin Wilson has already proven he can draw in some talent to Bloomington. So it may not be long before we see a contending Hoosier football team.

Ohio State: The Buckeye football program doesn’t have a lot going for them right now. The usually strong recruiting base has started to find homes elsewhere in places like Michigan and Michigan State. But not everything is lost for the Buckeyes this season. If Luke Fickell can find the right man to put behind center, we could still see a contending Ohio State football team.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are an annoying kind of lucky. With two great options at quarterback, it seems like they will be set, no matter which direction they end up going. Defense may be shakey at times, but in the end, I expect them to be able to get the job done when it counts most.

Purdue: The Boilermakers are looking to make some bigger strides in 2011 than they did in 2010. After the season came to another disappointing end with no bowl bid, Coach Hope made it very clear that we could start counting on a change from West Laffayette.

Wisconsin: The Badgers have a lot to prove after last year’s Rose Bowl defeat to TCU, but many things are going their way right now, including the transfer of Russel Wilson, which will hopefully take some of the blow away from the departure of Scott Tolzein.

Three Games To Watch:

1. Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (October 29)
2. Penn State vs. Illinois (October 29)
3. Purdue vs. Illinois (October 22)

Leaders Prediction

1. Wisconsin
2. Penn State
3. Ohio State
4. Illinois
5. Purdue
6. Indiana

Five Players To Watch

1. Dan Herron (Ohio State)
2. Russel Wilson (Wisconsin)
3. Nathan Scheelhaase (Illinois)
4. Edward Wright-Baker (Indiana)
5. Robert Marve (Purdue)

Legends Preview

Iowa: If the Hawkeyes can find a way to lessen the impact of a departing Ricky Stanzi, you can look for Iowa to be a serious contendor for the Legends Division this season, despite some question marks on defense.

Michigan: The Wolverines are looking to come out strong in Brady Hoke’s first year as head coach. Denard Robinson will be leading another talented offense, and the defense is making improvemnts.

Michigan State: Kirk Cousins is on a lot of people’s watch list to take home Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and for good reason. The Spartans are considered to be the second-favorite, next to Nebraska.

Minnesota: In Jerry Kill’s first year as coach, I can’t see the Gophers getting much done that would spell “success” for most people. But if he can pull out a 5 win season, he’ll be heading in the right direction.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are looking to make some big noise in their first year with the Big Ten, and they have the tools to do so. With a rising quarterback like Taylor Martinez, and a shut-down defense, it’s easy to see why they are favored to win the Legends Division.

Northwestern: The Wildcats could very well be a sleeper this year in the Legends Division. Dan Persa is coming off of a season-ending injury to his foot. And if the defense can cover up some holes, this is another team that could surprise a lot of people.

Three Games To Watch

1. Nebraska vs. Michigan State (October 29)
2. Michigan State vs. Michigan (October 15)
3. Iowa vs. Northwestern (October 15)

Legends Prediction

1. Michigan State
2. Nebraska
3. Michigan
4. Northwestern
5. Iowa
6. Minnesota

Five Players To Watch

1. Denard Robinson (Michigan)
2. Dan Persa (Northwestern)
3. Kirk Cousins (Michigan State)
4. Taylor Martinez (Nebraska)
5. Edwin Baker (Michigan State)

Conference Overview

Overall, the conference is looking very strong from both divisions. If I had to pick the stronger one, though, it would have to go to the Legends Division. But the number one thing I am looking out for isn’t even within the divisions; it’s the “cross-over” matchups that have me the most excited. Of course, there is always the Michgigan-Ohio State game. And then there are games like Ohio State-Nebraska and Michigan State-Wisconsin that are also going to be very good.

So who will win the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil? Well, I have Michigan State and Wisconsin squaring off in that game. And I have to give the edge to the Badgers. With the Russel Wilson transfer and a very strong backfield, I think we will be seeing a lot of what we saw last year.

Don’t Be Surprised If…

Don’t be surprised if a team like Northwestern or Penn State somehow make it out of their respected divisions. It certainly wouldn’t be easy, but crazier things have happened.

So there you have it. Hopefully I was able to break everything down that you need to know for the upcoming Big Ten Football season!

Discussion Question: Other Trades Before Deadline?

July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Phillies just completed a trade for Hunter Pence.  But there's still time and prospects left before we reach the MLB Trade Deadline.

So what other trades do you see going down?  Which teams would you be surprised if they did NOT make a trade?  Which players would you be surprised if they were NOT traded?

With days before the deadline, this is the place to discuss what you think could still happen!

Discussion Question: What team or teams have had the best offseason?

July 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

We are now 3 days into the offseason and some teams are jumping in full-steam ahead, while other teams are sitting on sidelines? What teams do you think are the early winners and losers of the offseason?

Ozzie Newsome Has Resume to Be Successful in Brief Offseason

July 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

By Guest Blogger Alanzlot:

Since the NFL players association voted to approve the new collective bargaining agreement on Monday, ending the NFL’s 136-day lockout, it is a fair assessment to say that the Baltimore Ravens have made a lot of headlines with their roster moves.

Realizing that they were $1 million over the $120 million salary cap, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the rest of Baltimore’s front office started the brief off-season by cutting four important veterans.

Fan favorite and long time nose tackle Kelly Gregg along with running back Willis McGahee became the first victims of the Ravens salary cap slash. Baltimore followed up a few hours later by cutting the top two pass catchers in team history, tight end Todd Heap and wide out Derrick Mason.

Not all of the news has been bad for Ravens fans as yesterday they re-signed one of their own. A player thatPeter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC ranked as the second best free agent lineman available behind Matt Light of the New England Patriots.

The second-richest deal ever given to a Ravens offensive lineman, behind future Hall Of Famer Jonathan Ogden’s contracts, belongs to the versatile guard/tackle from Iowa, Marshall Yanda.

Marshall Yanda

According to SI.com and the Baltimore Sun, Yanda agreed to five-year, $32 million deal that includes $10 million signing bonus. He will receive $21 million in first three seasons. Yanda started all 16 games last season at right tackle after Jared Gaither missed the entire season with a back injury.

The Yanda signing is cause for celebration as the Washington Redskins were expected to back up an armored car for him. Daniel Snyder and Mike Shanahan obviously like the Ravens roster of 2010 as they have reportedly signed cornerback Josh Wilson and wide receiver Donte Stallworth

The Ravens possess one of the front offices that analysts and pundits said would have an advantage headed into the brief off-season.

I do not ever remember thinking or saying to myself over the last ten plus seasons, “what were they thinking” during the Newsome/Modell/Biscotti era. The Ravens have always been on top of the situation and they will continue to be.

The Baltimore Ravens will be a Super Bowl caliber team when they take the field on September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baltimore’s front office is as experienced as they come and Monday is a great example of that.They can say all they want about how hard it was to cut Heap, Mason, Gregg, and McGahee but the fact remains that nobody at the lavish Owings Mills, Maryland training complex known as “The Castle” blinked an eye in doing so.

Sure, the Ravens will try to re-sign all of them but McGahee to cheaper deals but do not be surprised if only Heap returns. There are simply too many other options available and many of them are better than a 37-year-old wide receiver and an injury prone 12-year veteran nose tackle.

As a Ravens fan I loved watching Mason and Gregg but as we are reminded by the players and front offices around the league during every off season, this is a business first and because we have been reminded so frequently, the moves to cut the fan favorites stung at first but I’m over it.

I was happier about the Yanda signing than I was upset over the cuts and it’s not just because the NFL has programmed their fans to be this way with this is a business first mentality. I have faith in the Ravens front office and you should too.

I am anxious for the next move. I am signed up for Ravens texts alerts and anxiously await the next beep on my phone to see whom the purple and black have signed or cut. My previous channel button on my remote thinks it is September already as I am constantly jumping back and forth between ESPN and the NFL Network.

There will be low points like former Terrapin Josh Wilson agreeing to play about 45 minutes down I-95 for about $4.5 million to $5 million per season. However you must say to yourself, ” big deal and good luck Josh Wilson”. The Ravens have Ozzie Newsome and the Redskins charge $20 to watch training camp.

The Ravens will replace Wilson and any other player that eludes or leaves them. History says they will. However, to expect the Ravens to sign the top free agent on the market, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha would be foolish.

The reason is because a good front office like the Ravens knows that by being close to the salary cap, one player could severely limit their ability to continue to fill in pieces of a Super Bowl puzzle that they are very close to completing. Even if that player fills a need it is important to remember it is just one need, no matter how big.

The Ravens front office knows that Asomugha money could sign two quality DB’s or one DB and a good O-lineman. The Ravens will sign a few free agents and possibly one big name but it will not be Asomugha.

I do believe the Ravens need to focus on bringing back Dwan Landry and Chris Carr but if they cannot, then Newsome and company will find a way to replace them. The Ravens will also count on their philosophy of next man up.

Many fans in Baltimore clamor to have what their hated rivals; the Pittsburgh Steelers have in terms of championship hardware. For years now, the Steelers have allowed players to go via free agency and have been fine in the process. They always find the next man.

In fact, one of those players, James Harrison, was on the Ravens roster after failing as a Steeler in his first attempt. Although Harrison struggled mightily during the early stages of his career, the Steelers needed him to be the next man when Clark Haggans was injured in an offseason weightlifting accident and the rest, including his 99 yard INT return of a Kurt Warner pass in Super Bowl 43, is history.

The Ravens will still be a Super contender headed into the season with or without Heap and Mason. You must simply have faith that Ozzie and company will do the right thing. Newsome and his staff have earned your trust with their years of success.

The Ravens have on many occasions been one of the highest rated teams following the NFL draft and on just as many occasions have been considered one of the top winners during the off-season in free agency.

Shannon Sharpe

Remember last year when they inked Anquan Boldin, or the year they signed Steve McNair and you can even go all the way back to Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe. Newsome will find a way, he always does.

The players believe in their front office but they also know what is expected of them. They believe in the principals and philosophy surrounding Ravens football.

Speaking to reporters the Baltimore Sun quoted Ravens running back Ray Rice when he was asked about the veteran cuts,”Going into my fourth year, when you take away certain guys like that — all your leaders— it’s always ‘next man up,”. I think my time is now when I can become one of the vocal leaders on this team and this offense.

“The young rookies are going to miss that [veteran] leadership, but we do have a guy like Anquan Boldin, who has been at the Super Bowl and played in one, and we still do got that guy like Ray Lewis on the defense and Ed Reed and those kind of guys who are going to mold this team together. But me, Michael Oher, Joe Flacco…there’s going to be a lot of, you know, not pressure, but a lot of leadership responsibilities put on us.”

This is good news that the next man up philosophy is coming from the mouth of Rice. Believe me; many teams around the league would love to have a young player like Rice talking this way after the cuts that were made on Monday.

This week is unprecedented in terms of the NFL off seasons. At no other time in NFL history, has five and a half months of off-season activities been conducted in just 10 days. General Managers cannot call retired GM’s for advice because there is none to give.

The Ravens have a plan and the fans in Baltimore must simply have faith that Ozzie Newsome and his staff have one of the better plans in the league.

I would not be doing my job if I did not inform you that there will still be plenty of lows in the next few days, as players slip away and free agents sign elsewhere. However, there will be highs and because of Newsome and his staff those highs will ultimately outweigh any low, as the Baltimore Ravens head into the 2011 season after another successful, albeit brief, off-season.

 

 

Baseball Stadium Review

July 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

By Rob Yunich:

It’s always fun to review baseball stadiums, so here’s my latest take. (It’s categorized by active and inactive parks.)

Still In Use:

1. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore: Excusing the hometown bias for a second, this is the best of the ones I've ever seen in person. The warehouse, Boog’s Barbecue, and its charm set it apart from the others. We’re lucky to have it nearby. Next season will be the 20th year of baseball there and it continues to be the best of the lot.

1b. Fenway Park, Boston: A really close second, Fenway provides a true baseball experience. It’s sold out every game, nearly every fan is into every pitch, and the atmosphere in and around the ballpark is electric. It may not have the features of a modern stadium, but it is impossible not to look around and remember history. The retired numbers, the pennants from the franchise’s long history, the Green Monster, and the unique configuration all provide chills.

2. AT&T Park, San Francisco: An absolute gem that sits on McCovey Cove and has great views. I was there in August 2002, right after Barry Bonds hit his 600th career home run and before any steroid or BALCO allegations were being thrown around. The Montreal Expos were in town and it was a Hall of Fame ceremony — with Frank Robinson (then-Expos manager), Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron all present. Simply awesome — and very windy.

3. Minute Maid Park, Houston: It may have the most changed name around, but it’s really a gem to visit. We got lucky and sat about 10 rows from the field and even got on the big screen a few times. The atmosphere was great (the roof was closed that night), the fans really get into it, the sound system is fantastic, and the train above the left field wall (filled with oranges) really takes the cake.

4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh: Even though the Pirates are consistently horrible (although they’re better this season), their ballpark is amazing. The view of the Pittsburgh skyline is awesome and good tickets are relatively inexpensive and easy to get. I’ve actually been there twice, and both times were thoroughly enjoyable. Next time you’re in the mood for a baseball adventure, make the four-hour drive (from the D.C. area) to the Steel City. It’s worth the trip.

5. Nationals Park, D.C.: Although it’s a marked improvement over RFK Stadium, the Nats’ current home is a bit of a letdown. The sightlines at the park are very good — but the view of the U.S. Capitol is obstructed. The seats aren’t that comfortable, which is surprising. Overall, there isn’t that charm that you want from a ballpark.

6. Jacobs Field, Cleveland: The park built a year after Oriole Park does not compare. Although it’s very nice, it doesn't quite have the atmosphere of other parks. The upper deck seems a lot higher than the others and the sightlines are not as good. That being said, it’s worth the trip to see it and there are some very nice features, including its proximity to downtown and Quicken Loans Arena.

7. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland: I was there in 1989 (six weeks before the earthquake) and it was an afternoon matinee against the Cleveland Indians. I believe the final score was 2-0 with Dennis Eckersley getting the save. A very nice park but there clearly is a need for a new home for the hometown Athletics.

Not in Use:

1. Memorial Stadium, Baltimore: Full of fond memories, but not amenities.

2. Busch Stadium, St. Louis (the original): A really nice ballpark — and I understand the new one is awesome.

3. Shea Stadium, New York: My friend called the former home of the Mets “our dump” and, although I think more highly of it than that, the time was long overdue for a new ballpark when CitiField was finally built. It wasn’t a bad place to visit. We were there in June 2006 and the only downside was the direct sunlight we faced for the first five innings. The seats are comfortable, but their layout is extremely confusing. (I also was there in 1986.)

4. Yankee Stadium, New York (the quasi-original): It’s fitting that the Evil Empire used to play in a dump. The stadium was old and decrepit and its only saving grace was the history. Enough said.

5. RFK Stadium, Washington: They did a nice job to fix up RFK for baseball, but it still showed its age. I saw a Redskins game there back in the day, and a few Nats games during their inaugural season.

6. Veterans Stadium: A dump that needed to be closed. But it was a fun game against the Braves in 1993 — with fans in center field getting on Deion Sanders’ case by doing their own form of the chop. (Use your imagination.)

NFL Offseason Open Thread:

July 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

It all starts today, undrafted free agent signings, trades, cuts (actually those started last night) and free agent visits all begin today! I will keep updating this post with the latest information, and post all comments and questions here!

NFL Releases Free Agent List- NFC Outlook

July 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

The offseason has officially begun and the NFL has released their official Free Agent list. While names will added as more players are cut I wanted to take a look at the list as it relates to each team:

NFC EAST:

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have a number of free agents along both lines, but none bigger than LT Doug Free. The Cowboys don't have money under the cap, so they are expected to cut a number of players to make a run at Free and some top free agents.

New York Giants: New York is another team without a lot of money to spend, and unfortunately for them they have a lot of their own players they need to resign. Their 3 biggest losses could be WR Steve Smith, TE Kevin Boss, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw. In addition they have a couple starters and significant contributors who are free agents on defense. New York will need to make some major cuts to find the necessary cap room to re-sign and restock this team.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles don't have any major starters who are free agents, but they have a number of significant contributors. While they have some cap room to play with, they are expected to pursue a number of big name outside free agents.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins look to be in a very healthy cap position, and are likely to re-sign only one of their major free agents (Santana Moss). Rex Grossman is another likely player to resign, as well as a few backups. The Skins are likely to make a number of big cuts/trades to free up even more money to be extremely aggressive on the open market.

NFC: South

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have 3/5ths of their offensive line headed into UFA, and will need to either resign them or sign replacements. They will likely look to a mid-range defensive end and a few other defensive pieces as they make a serious run this season.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have a number of defensive free agents, but none bigger than star end Charles Johnson. It is unclear if the Panthers can hang on to Johnson, but one way or another they are expected to be aggressive in free agency.  On offense the Panthers look to lose DeAngelo Williams.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints have a large number of free agents, but few big names that they need to resign. Lance Moore is probably the biggest name they want to bring back, but they are deep enough at WR to not be dragged into a bidding war.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs have a ton of money, but there track record is usually to play it safe on the market. While I expect them to resign G Davin Joseph and a few other guys, I don't see them landing any of the big names.

NFC North:

Chicago Bears: The Bears don't really have many free agents of note, and are likely to use most of their money on bringing in outside FAs. Look for a WR and DL to be at the top of their to do list.

Detroit Lions: The Lions don't have many big names with the only one they will make a priority, CB Chris Houston. The Lions are likely to be active on the defensive side of the ball in free agency and could look to add an OT as well.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have a couple big free agents in DE Cullen Jenkins and WR James Jones. Given their cap situation and depth, both of those guys are likely to leave, but the Packers should have enough to sign some depth free agents.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are likely to lose both Ray Edwards and Pat Williams along their defensive line, while WR Sidney Rice is their biggest potential loss on offense. If anyone resigns I'd imagine it to be Rice. The Vikings have some money to spend so they could get aggressive on the market.

NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals: The Cards don't have many big name FA's, but they are expected to go hard after their Center Lyle Sendlein. They are also likely to bring in a QB and some offensive linemen.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have a couple depth offensive linemen, and veterans on offense. Defense on the other hand is an entirely different matter. They have a number of starters and contributors that they will need to resign or replace, and are expected to lose Aubrayo Franklin and possibly Manny Lawson as well.

Seattle Seahawks: The real question will be what the Seahawks do at QB, where Hasselbeck is a free agent and they look to add a better fit. In addition the Seahawks have a number of major contributors and starters that will need to be resigned or replaced. They are likely to lose DT Brandon Mebane who will leave a huge hole in their lineup.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams don't have a ton of money to spend, but the good news is they don't have any major guys they need to resign. I would expect them to pursue a top WR and some safeties as well.

What the New York Jets Should Do with Their Free Agents This Offseason when the Lock Out Ends

July 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

A Guest Blog By Howard Ticker

The New York Jets have a huge off season ahead of them with the amount of free agents they have. Most of them have been key contributors to their past 2 season’s playoff runs. In a perfect world, most of them can get resigned, but realistically there isn’t a way they can hold onto all of them.

First I will go into the Quarter Back position. They already have Mark Sanchez who isn’t going anywhere. They also have Mark Brunell who is a solid back up for the next season or so. They drafted Greg McElroy and have Kevin O’Connell as well. Their only free agent Quarter Back is Kellen Clemens who I think they should let leave to try and get more playing time somewhere else.

The Jets have no free agents at Running Back but there is talk the Jets may release LaDainian Tomlinson to give Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight more carries. I think they should hold onto him one more year though to give him a chance to win a ring and help mentor newly drafted Bilal Powell.

At Full Back, I believe it is a simple decision. As much as I love Tony Richardson, it is time to let him go and let “The Terminator” John Connor be the starter.

Then there is Wide Receiver which is probably going to be the toughest decisions the Jets need to make this off season.  Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Brad Smith are all receivers. They are their number 1, 2, and 4 receivers respectively. Jericho Cotchery is their number 3 who can be a number 2 on most teams.  It will be extremely hard to hold onto all 3 of them. They drafted wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and Scotty McKnight in case they lose some of their free agent receivers. I really like the Kerley pick. First off, the Jets need to do everything in their power to resign Santonio Holmes and keep him happy. He came up with big play after big play for them this season. Braylon Edwards has a huge season for the Jets and improved his hands. As much as I would love for Edwards to resign, I do not think they have the money. It is more realistic for them to resign Brad Smith with Holmes even though I would much rather have Edwards than Smith. Brad Smith who is also a free agent is not only big for the Jets in their offense, like in the Wild Cat formations, but he is also huge on Special Teams returning kicks.

Next they have a few free agent Offensive Linemen. They released starting right tackle Damien Woody so they need someone to step in there. I wouldn’t mind if they resigned him for a cheaper price but I think they will give 2nd year guard Vladimir Ducasse a chance to move there. Wayne Hunter is also a free agent who is a solid back up tackle that I would like to see get resigned. Robert Turner is a free agent center. He plays behind Pro Bowler Nick Mangold. I wouldn’t mind them resigning him but he can easily be replaced if he signs elsewhere.

Now to defense, where we will start with Defensive End. Shaun Ellis is a free agent. He has played all 12 of his seasons with Jets. He is getting old but the Jets love him and so do the fans so they will probably try and work out a short term contract. They need a Nose Tackle because of Kris Jenkins retiring. I believe rookie Defensive Tackle Muhammad Wilkerson and Nose Tackle Kenrick Ellis can come in and get playing time. They also have versatile defensive linemen Sione Pouha and Mike Devito. They shouldn’t try and resign Trevor Pryce. I know he knows Rex Ryan’s system from when they were with the Ravens but he didn’t do much last season.

Now to linebacker, where they only have one key player who is a free agent. Middle Linebacker Davis Harris was franchise tagged but he should get a huge contract extension. He was team MVP and always makes huge plays against the run. I always believed he was an underrated player and never gets enough credit. Also, I think they should let Jason Taylor go so he can either retire or sign with another team. He had a few big plays this past season but he is not the same player he once was.

Now to Corner Back where the Jets have a few free agents. To start, they already have arguably one of the top 3 corners in the game in Darrelle Revis. They also have Dwight Lowery who had a pretty good season and last year’s rookie Kyle Wilson. I think the reason for Lowery’s success is because of free agent to be Antonio Cromartie.  He had a great season last year and I think they will do everything in their power to resign him. They will definitely need him to come back because Kyle Wilson has a poor rookie year. Another free agent corner is Drew Coleman who I think they will let go, even though he had a pretty decent season.

At safety, the Jets currently have only one man on their roster. That man is Jim Leonhard whose season ended early with an injury. The Jets free agent safeties are Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, and Jame Ihedigbo. All 3 of them should be resigned because they shouldn’t cost too much money. Pool had a pretty good first season with the Jets. Smith is a solid back up who played well once Leonhard got hurt. Ihedigbo is another solid back up who plays well on special teams as well.

Kicker Nick Folk was way too inconsistent and I do not think the Jets should bring him back. Punter Sam Weatherford should be brought back but I won’t be too upset if they fail to do so.

I can’t wait for the lock out to end so I can see all of the excited player movement that normally stretches out over the whole offseason only happen in a few weeks. I hope my predictions and suggestions are correct because I would hate to see some of these guys go.

The End Of The Lockout:

July 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now it appears that all major sources are reporting that the lockout is over, and football will commence this week. After months of in-fighting and he said, she said, it appears to be all over. According to reports any votes this week are a formality as both sides are in complete agreement. While both sides lost money in this deal, both sides won in the end.

The Players got the benefits and insurance for their retired and injured players. They kept free agency under the same principal rules (from the old agreement), and received major concessions in workout structure. They got all of that while eliminating the desire for an 18 game schedule and transparency in the revenue sharing. Not a bad deal considering they lost their court case, and dragged this into the summer.

The Owners reduced the rampant salary inflation (basically set the clock back to 2009), and got a larger percentage of the pie. They also got more cost control and certainty among rookie contracts, and essentially took that money and gave it too the veterans and retirees. The Owners also got more salary cap flexibility and a 10 year agreement with no opt out. That kinda stability should allow the league to grow substantially in the next decade (which of course benefits the players as well). The Owners also will get the players to reorganize as a Union and stop these lawsuit attacks.

Overall, and I realize I'm probably in the minority on this, but I think major credit should go to the Owners for the way they handled this. I know that many people will want to side with the players and their 'plight', but the reality is the players are the biggest reason that this lockout lasted 4 months. The Owners might have started the process, but it was the players who turned this into a protracted court battle. A lawsuit that if won, could have eliminated all rules and restrictions regarding player acquisition, which would have been a death blow to multiple franchises (note to to the Players, you just had a Super Bowl between the Packers and the Steelers, two iconic teams, but in poor markets that couldn't survive without the protection of the salary cap and draft).  While the NFL was reducing the top salaries of their employees, such as Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash (who both reduced their salary to $1), the Players top lawyers and DeMaurice Smith were raking in the millions. It was the NFL that conceded their top discussion point, the 18-game schedule, as a necessity in the deal back in March, while the Players have fought tooth and nail on every little point.  It was the Owners who finally stopped this madness and forced a vote, instead of kowtowing to the Players sensibilities any longer. And Finally it was the League that refused to go for the coup de grace despite coming out ahead in the courts. They could have continued to force matters and basically force the players to whatever terms they dictated if they were willing to lose a season. Instead they were magnanimous and conceded on a number of the players issues to get an agreement in place. And they guaranteed a salary cap this year, despite all the lost offseason revenues and the lost Hall of Fame Preseason game.

While the sides both won the financial aspect, the reality is the NFL showed themselves to be the more sound organization and did more to ensure their fans wouldn't lose a season. There is no doubt they have a financial motive as well, but their play it safe approach means there will be football this fall, and for that I'm thankful.

My Take On Some Of the Issues Holding Up the New CBA:

July 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

There are still a few issues holding up the Players side of the new CBA and I wanted to give my take on these issues:

1. The minimum team expenditure is only 89% of the cap:

This allows some teams (cough Buffalo, Tampa, Cincinnati…among others) to just spend at the minimum level, which means the players aren't getting all the money that they could get (not should but could). I understand this is an issue, but the Players also have to realize that their attempt at a legal case, is why this lockout is so protracted. Had they stayed at the negotiating table this might have been over in April. Tens of millions of dollars have been lost b/c of that battle (to say nothing of the legal fees), and with the Hall of Fame game now canceled and week one of the Preseason in jeopardy, it is hard to complain that teams aren't spending enough when you are costing them millions of dollars. Maybe you can get them to add a couple % points over the next few years, but the best thing is to get back to work and get the Sponsorship dollars rolling back in.

2. Workout Bonuses being paid if the player reports on time:

Since the offseason workout program has been non-existent, it is impossible for some players to earn their bonuses. The players want a one time fix to this where a player just needs to show up and practice to earn his bonus. Overall I'm okay with this, again this battle was far too protracted, but since the owners initiated the lockout, they shouldn't have to duck these bonuses.

3. An escalator to push rookie salaries to the lowest possible restricted tender offer in year 4:

I don't think this is a horrible concession by the league, as it wouldn't be a huge salary increase for the teams. If the league got their stronger holdout measures and the escalator is reasonable, so that not just everyone is eligible for it then I don't see an issue here.

4. The amount that players are guaranteed in the 2nd and 3rd year after a catastrophic injury:

I'm unclear if the players want a total of $3 million guaranteed or $3 million for each year.  While the Owners are proposing $1.5 combined for the two years. If the Players are just looking for $3 million total than I'd say call it $2.5 (slight win for the players in splinting the difference). Now if the players want $6 that could be an issue. This shouldn't be that much of an issue and I'm sure it will be resolved soon.

5. The Players want an Option to Opt out (supposedly after 7 years):

I don't enjoy the idea of another labor battle in 7 years, but I understand where the players are coming from, since it gives them some protection. I don't think much in the way of compensation will need to be changed in the next 10 years, but structure of things (roster size, number of draft rounds, OTA's etc.) could necessitate a negotiation on those points. At the same time though the league is going to be looking to finalize mega TV deals in the next year or two (which is a huge benefit to the players as well) and those are going to be a harder sell if they have to worry about another potential labor battle. I'd look to forego an opt out, but if you need one push it back to year 8.

6. Repayment of benefits:

The players are claiming that the league didn't maximize their TV revenue, due to this lockout and that the Players are due some compensation. While some of that could be true, I think it is a tough sell when you are costing the teams and league millions of dollars in merchandise, NFL.com, ticket, and other preseason revenues (local Radio/TV rights, sponsorship rights etc.). I know both sides are responsible, but the court case took about 4 months to decide what was already known, and that is that the NFL did have the right to collectively bargain their franchise, and have crazy things like the draft and salary cap, that have turned the league into the nation's most profitable sports league. I think the Players are going to have to eat this, and should based on their reckless behavior this offseason.

7. Settlement of the Anti-Trust lawsuit must be separate:

Not sure how I feel about this as I need more details, but it doesn't seem to make much sense. The Players lost, and for months we heard how this lawsuit was for all the players, but now apparently the 'Solidarity Movement' has fallen by the wayside.

8. Players can be Franchised only once in their career:

I understand it can cause some issues to be franchised year after year, but I'd change this to players cannot be Franchised in successive seasons. This way Drew Brees can still be Franchised by the Saints, despite the Chargers putting the tag on him a couple years ago. And Manning can get the tag again. But what it does mean is that if Manning plays out this season under the tag, then he is a UFA next year (or more likely the Colts hand him 50% of the franchise since his leverage is off the charts).

9. Creation of a short term injured reserve and 47 man active roster on game days:

I think both make a lot of sense and hope both get created. A short term IR is good because a lot of times a player is out for maybe 3-4 weeks, but not the full season. So you either play down a man, or put a player on IR. Now you could call someone up from your Practice Squad or sign a street FA to give him a month long look. There would need to be some restrictions in place to ensure teams don't abuse it (i.e. stash guys on IR, just so they can sign a guy off another team's practice squad to learn the playbook). Also adding an extra game day roster space is beneficial for depth.