The Kickoff: There never seems to be a dull moment in the NFL and that is usually just fine with everyone involved in the league. At a time when NBA and NHL teams position themselves for playoff runs and Spring Training has begun in baseball, it’s the NFL that keeps grabbing headlines.
This week, I take a look and three players, one owner, and the upcoming NFL Combine, any single one of which carries more interest in the sports world than the previously mentioned team sports.
One of the best moves the NFL did was start their own network and give coverage to any and all things pertaining to the game, the players, the league, and the owners. With the NFL, we essentially have the ultimate distraction that provides fans not only with exciting seasons and post seasons, but also with fantasy leagues, free agency, the draft, as well as off season nonsense.
All the other leagues have what the NFL has in these areas. The difference is, no one seems to care much. The NBA has turned into constant coverage of LeBron James or whether or not there is a team out there who can dethrone the Warriors. Few other stories hold our attention.
Not nearly as many care about who Bryce Harper signs with as they do about whether or not the Steelers should trade Antonio Bell. Clayton Kershaw has a sore shoulder already and it comes across as a non story outside of L.A. However, how Cam Newton’s shoulder surgery turns out has a huge affect on what the Panthers do this year, who some pick for their quarterback on their fantasy team, and who Carolina looks to sign in case Cam’s rehab takes up most of the season.
The NFL may mean Not For Long if you are a player, but it is a constant drug if you are a fan.
First Down: Antonio Brown: By now, we all know the man wants out of Pittsburgh. However, I do not see a trade happening any time soon primarily because the Steelers are not looking to give him away. Here in lies the problem. Brown sees his dollar value in the Odell Beckham Jr. range which no team will offer him given he is five years older the OBJ. Any team that trades for him has him under lock and key for the remaining three years of his contract and is not obligated to upgrade it.
At 31, teams are not looking to sign him long term and only see him as a way to make the leap from almost good enough to contend for the playoffs to good enough to make it to the Super Bowl. Oakland has enough draft picks to make Pittsburgh happy with an offer, but does anyone see Antonio Brown as the path to a Raider Super Bowl next year? It’s entirely possible the Steelers keep Brown on their roster and watch him sit out like LeVeon Bell did last year. Then, as the trade deadline approaches, they can field offers from teams looking for that final piece and who might be desperate enough to give the Steelers the first round pick they want.
How valuable does Brown think he becomes if he sits out all next year? If he thinks it increases, perhaps he is suffering from CTE. Pittsburgh controls this situation and Brown will either eat his words or lose a ton of money he will never see again.
Second Down: Le’Veon Bell: The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced they will be letting Bell become a free agent and sign with another team. This will land them a third round compensatory pick, which at this point is better than watching him sit out another year. Bell is a good all around running back who was made to look great because he had the best offensive line opening holes for him and played on a Steeler team with a wealth of skill talent. If he becomes the feature back on a team with the talent of the Lions, Bucs, or Raiders, we will see Bell become ordinary.
He seems to be chasing dollars over championships, which I do not blame any player in the NFL, however, any team that signs him needs to question his desire. He has only played one full season, been suspended twice for violating league drug rules, and has a history of nagging injuries. It’s one thing to suck it up and drag yourself out to play when your team is in the thick of a playoff run, but do you see this guy doing it when he plays on a team sitting at 6 and 8?
The Steelers learned last year Bell is replaceable. What’s more important, having one of the best running backs in the league playing for you or one of the best offensive lines? Coaches will always pick the big guys up front because this is where games are won.
Whoever signs Bell had better have a solid team of blockers in place or they are just throwing money away on a player who will not play as well as he did when he played in Pittsburgh.
Third Down: Colin Kaepernick: Now that he and Eric Reid have settled their beef with the NFL owners and commissioner, will we see him play next year in the NFL? Maybe.
First, we have no idea what the settlement included. It’s possible, although his lawyer Mark Geragos claims otherwise, that Kapernick’s settlement includes an agreement to never seek employment again in the NFL. If that is the case, the league likely paid him a TON of money to walk away.
However, I think the league paid him a ton of money never to reveal what he has on the owners and coaches who blackballed him. I also think there are owners and coaches who see the value in signing him this year. Let’s look at a few.
Baltimore: The Ravens are handing their offense over to a smaller and less accurate version of Colin Kaepernick who is on the second year of his rookie contract. The Ravens would be wise to sign him based on his skill set being so similar to Lamar Jackson’s. It also would set well with the city of Baltimore which has seen more than it’s share of police injustice toward African Americans. This makes too much sense not to happen.
Carolina: If Cam Newton needs time to recover from shoulder surgery, then why not sign Kaepernick? Again, a similar skill set means little change to the offense and if he shines, Carolina can bet teams will come calling with nice trade offers when Newton is fully recovered. This could be a great place to get his career back on track. It also helps having his good friend Eric Reid there already.
Jacksonville: Ask yourself, Blake Borttles or Colin Kaepernick?
Tampa Bay: Seriously, another year of Jameis Winston? If I am taking over that squad, I’d rather begin with a hungry Kaepernick than the already stale Winston as my leader.
Washington: Unless they can sign Nick Foles, Kaepernick might make a nice bridge between Alex Smith’s rehab and a rookie drafted who needs time to sit.
Tennessee: Yes, they have Marcus Marriotta, but is he worth signing to a five year, #120 million or more deal after this season? He gets injured a lot, plays great one week and then disappears the next.
Fourth Down: Robert Kraft: What to do with a 77 year old owner who gets caught up in a sex trade sting? Just releasing his name seems like a pretty good punishment. However, the NFL will slap him with the biggest fine they are allowed to, half a million dollars, which is about what he tips the poor lady who has to “massage” him.
Some are demanding Roger Goodell take away draft picks which does not seem right. This punishes the players and not the owner who will still profit financially this coming season. Suspending him for the season and banning him from anything and all things to do with the Patriots is better. The problem is, he will just go back to Florida and probably get into more trouble.
Kraft will go before the owners and Goodell, fall on his sword while denying he did anything wrong, write a large check to a fund that supports women who were once sex slaves, do a carefully scripted interview to tell the world how sorry he is, pay a fine, do some time in Goodell’s time out room, and then live with all the jokes that are bound to follow him for the remainder of his life.
He might also want to make sure Super Bowl ring number six is for a finger and not for another appendage, although, that might become a new marketing tool for the league some day.
Overtime: This is a big week in the NFL (aren’t they all?) and is now well covered via the networks. It’s combine week and the world gets to see over 300 young men lift weights, run drills, do 40 yard sprints, and tell everyone how much it will mean to them to become a professional football player. If you live anywhere near Indianapolis, do not plan to see a doctor as most will be performing physicals on guys looking to get drafted.
Teams will compare the skill results of this year’s players to guys from previous years to better gauge what type of athlete a player is. However, what will really matter is the number that shows up on the scale and how they look with their shirt off because this will let teams see first hand how serious they have taken their time in preparing for the combine.
Then, the player interviews. Teams will ask players a variety of questions seeking to find out what makes this player tick and whether or not they are worth drafting and investing time and money in.
Once the combine is over, players will spend their time crisscrossing the country and holding individual workouts for teams. By the time the draft rolls around, teams will take all the data they have collected and put together their draft boards filled with the names of players they want and where they think they are worth being drafted.
All of this brings me to the ever increasing Mock Drafts that are out there. For the most part, they are pointless endeavors because the person or group putting them together has no idea what the 32 teams in the league know about this year’s crop of guys or how some of their veterans are doing in the off season.
Don’t get too excited about Mock Drafts. There are usually sound reasons why teams select the players they do and often times we have no idea why.
Song Dedication: I thought about dedicating something to Robert Kraft, but after thinking about it, I can’t get myself up to do it. It’s just so hard to decide which song to dedicate to the guy. Instead, I am just going to treat you to this one from a guy whose birthday was today. Happy Birthday George Harrison.
Top photo of Robert Kraft by Claudia Gestro
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.