Mar 122013
 

Mike WallaceWe will continue updating this article for the next few days until may of the top tier free agents have landed. Some may get their own article, but this spot will keep track of the major comings and goings of players as the free agency period begins.

 

Tuesday, March 12

– Prior to the start of free agency today, the Jets released defensive tackle Sione Po’uha, who had a base salary of $4.9 million for the upcoming season, creating $3.8 million in cap space. No word yet on whether or not he is expected to re-sign at a lower price.

– The Panthers released linebacker James Anderson, whom they had overpaid for last season to the tune of 5 years and $22 million.

– The Chargers released tight end Randy McMichael.

– The Rams released safety Quintin Mikell, and have now parted ways with both starting safeties from last season.

– Word is that Wes Welker is still waiting to hear the Patriots’ first contract offer before free agency begins.  Tom E. Curran suggesting it is hard for the Patriots to know what the market for Welker will look like, but Welker is likely to wait for offers to increase his leverage. The soft market for wide receivers doesn’t help the Patriots. The Colts and Broncos may well rival the Patriots for Welker’s service. The Pats are risking not making the highest offer to Welker, and it might come back to bite them. Perhaps the Patriots are heading in another direction? One thing is for sure… Bill Belichick has ice water in his veins.

Tony Gonzalez looks like he is heading back to the Falcons.

– The Texans have released receiver Kevin Walter.

– The Vikings have re-signed receiver Jerome Simpson for one year. Meanwhile, the Steelers are giving Plaxico Burress another shot (drum roll).

– Safety James Ihedigbo has re-signed with the Ravens, insuring another year of him being able to drop to the ground in pain after every play.

– Linebacker Larry Foote has worked out a deal to stay in Pittsburgh. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley has also agreed to restructure his contract.

Santonio Holmes has worked out a deal to restructure his contract and remain with the Jets.

– Cornerback Antoine Winfield has been released by the Vikings.

– Running back Beanie Wells released by the Arizona Cardinals.

– The Rams reach a deal to keep defensive end William Hayes in St. Louis.

– As expected, the Eagles have released cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha from their famous “Dream Team”

– Prediction 14 minutes before free agency begins, though not a stunner. Wes Welker is not returning to New England, and the Patriots don’t appear too concerned about losing him, despite numbers that put him on a path to the Hall of Fame.

– Giants sign cornerback Aaron Ross, who did not have to wait for free agency to begin as a result of being released by the Jaguars and going unclaimed.

– Vikings keep tackle Phil Loadholt just before free agency begins.

And now free agency begins…

Paul Kruger looks like he is headed to Cleveland… major surprise that the Ravens couldn’t get this one done. New word is that he has officially signed.

– The Bengals re-sign defensive end Robert Geathers.

– The Broncos steal away guard Louis Vasquez from the Chargers.

Mike Wallace appears set to make $13 million a year with the Miami Dolphins.

– Tight end Delanie Walker agrees to a deal with the Titans.

– The Bills have cut quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. I guess that prank phone call caused some embarrassment in western New York. Talk about addition by subtraction.

– The Chiefs have agreed to a deal with tight end Anthony Fasano.

– The Alex Smith to Kansas City trade is now official.

– Are the Colts set to steal both Talib and Welker from the Pats? A tweet from the Colts’ bizarre owner seems to go in this direction.

– Former Bills guard Andy Levitre headed to Titans on a six year deal.

– Or is this what Irsay was talking about? The Colts have reached agreement with offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus. Does he really merit that many exclamation points?

– Quarterback Chase Daniel agrees to terms with Chiefs.

– No, this is why Irsay is excited. The Colts have agreed to terms with cornerback Greg Toler. It’s a good move by Grigson.

– The Colts are on a roll. Linebacker Erik Walden has left Green Bay to join the Colts. Good moves by Indy, even if they aren’t sexy.

– Ah, the Colts did steal a Patriot! Guard Donald Thomas is headed to Indy.

– Punter Sav Rocca is staying with the Redskins.

– Elvis Dumervil now appears willing to take pay cut from Broncos; the two sides are apparently negotiating according to Ian Rapoport.

– Another Ravens loss: Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe reaches agreement in principle with Miami Dolphins.

– Colts make it five Day One signings as they pen linebacker Lawrence Sidbury from the Falcons. Busy day for the Colts.

Taking a dinner break now… will be back later.

Back from a long dinner break, and lots more has happened…

– Safety Darius Butler will be remaining with the Colts.

Martellus Bennett has landed with the Bears, with the tight end signing a four year deal.

– The Ravens signed defensive lineman Chris Canty to a three year deal.

– The Vikings re-signed fullback Jerome Felton to a three year deal.

– The Dolphins dumped linebacker Karlos Dansby, who started all 16 games last season playing with a torn biceps muscle and racking up 134 tackles. Ouch. They added linebacker Phillip Wheeler and re-signed safety Chris Clemons.

– The Rams are poised to sign the coveted tight end Jared Cook, formerly of the Titans.

– The Eagles get into action by signing former Patriots’ safety Patrick Chung (good riddance) and former Panthers’ linebacker Jason Phillips, as well as tight end James Casey from Houston.

– The Eagles keep it coming with former 49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoga and former Rams’ cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

– The Raiders released receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and safety Michael Huff.

– The Chiefs have stolen away a Jets’ favorite by signing defensive tackle Mike DeVito.

– Apparently Warren Sapp doesn’t think much of covering Bill Belichick on the NFL Network. Or maybe he just doesn’t think.

– The Browns get another one with the signing of defensive tackle Desmond Bryant.

The pace is slowing down a little at 8:30 pm Central, but there may still be a few transactions before the end of the night. In the meantime, the free agents that we are waiting to see what transpires with on this thread include (in no particular order):

Cliff Avril (Det / SEA)
Wes Welker (NE / DEN)
Jake Long (Mia)
Greg Jennings (GB / MIN)
Aqib Talib (NE)
Dashon Goldson (SF / TB)
Osi Umemyiora (NYG)
Steven Jackson (StL / ATL)
Ed Reed (Bal)
Danny Amendola (StL / NE)
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Phi / DEN)
Sebastian Vollmer (NE)
Connor Barwin (Hou / PHI)
Adrian Wilson (ARI / NE)
Andre Smith (Cin)
Cary Williams (Bal / PHI)
Brian Urlacher (Chi)
Dustin Keller (NYJ / MIA)
John Abraham (ATL / NE)

– Last one for tonight – offensive tackle Sam Baker is staying with the Falcons, signing a six year deal. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 13

A few early tidbits before the action begins again in earnest.

Wes Welker and the Patriots are described as very far apart on terms, with the Patriots maintaining an offer on the table. It will be interesting to see how this develops between now and the weekend.

– The Redskins signed defensive tackle Kedric Golston to a new three-year contract on Tuesday.

Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma are taking big pay cuts to stay in New Orleans.

– The Chargers signed former Eagles tackle King Dunlap to a two year deal.

– The Browns signed free agent linebacker Quentin Groves, who played in Arizona last season.

– The Jets housecleaning is in full swing. And even with Revis likely on his way out of town, it didn’t stop the the Jets from restructuring the contract of cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Baby Mamas should beware.

More to come as the day develops!

– The Ravens have just released safety Bernard Pollard. Is he worth a look in Foxboro?

Mike Giardi is tweeting that Wes Welker drew some attention, and those offers have impacted negotiations with the Pats. Expect the Patriots to move on and find a new slot receiver.

– The Lions have re-signed cornerback Chris Houston.

– The Broncos have guaranteed the salary of Peyton Manning for the next two seasons.

– Linebacker Manny Lawson has signed a multi-year deal with the Buffalo Bills.

– Some very interesting chatter about where Wes Welker may be going. Due to the source I won’t share where, but this is going to be a very interesting thing to watch. Plus I am going to lay $5 on my info.  I know, I know… big spender. :-)

– The Steelers have signed quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year deal.

– The Jaguars have waived wide receiver Laurent Robinson one year after signing the former Cowboy to a huge deal.

Wes Welker’s agent has described the Patriots’ offer to the wide receiver as “laughably low.” Sounds like all sides are ready to move on.

– The Giants have signed kicker Josh Brown.

– Former Colts’ receiver Donnie Avery is joining the Kansas City Chiefs.

– The Ravens have re-signed offensive guard Ramon Harewood.

Reggie Bush is the new lead back for the Detroit Lions.

– Word is that the Patriots offered 4 year, $32 million to Wes Welker and the Welker camp is unhappy. Suitors may be down to the Broncos and Pats, though I am hearing there are two dark horses, at least one of which has made a better offer than New England.

– The Arizona Cardinals agree on a one-year deal with former Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall.

– A big one is off the market; the Rams have signed offensive tackle Jake Long to a contract. Update: Correction; an offer has yet to be made or accepted (as of 1:56 pm Central).

– It looks like the Broncos are working hard to get a deal with Wes Welker done today. I’m going to lose my five bucks.

– The Detroit Lions have added safety Glover Quin, formerly of the Texans; this is a big upgrade in their secondary.

– The Buccaneers have signed former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson to a five year deal.

– The Jaguars signed former Bears free agent linebacker Geno Hayes to a one-year deal.

– The Wes Welker to Denver deal is looking close to done.

– The 49ers have agreed to a contract with former Chiefs defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

– The Titans have reached agreement on a three-year, $10 million deal with former Jets’ running back Shonn Greene.

– According to WEEI, Wes Welker’s camp has brought the Broncos’ offer back to the Patriots to give New England a chance to match. My guess is no, but this shows where Wes’ heart really is.

– The Broncos announce one-year deal with linebacker Stewart Bradley.

– Running back Lex Hilliard has signed a one year deal to stay with the Jets.

– Cornerback Drayton Florence has agreed to a one year deal with the Panthers. It looks like the corners are now going to start to go.

– Defensive tackle Samie Lee Hill has reached agreement on a three-year, $11.4 million deal with the Titans.

Wes Welker has agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos. Clearly, the Patriots declined the offer to match. It is only a two year deal, so it must be coming down to guaranteed money. Waiting for the details.

– Details on Wes Welker… it is “only” two years, $12 million. Must be fully guaranteed, and it must be that the Patriots set a value for the position and would not exceed it.  Sounds like the Patriots had already determined that Welker was no longer “Plan A.” Patriots have yet to make major moves, but it’s in the air. The next couple of days should show us the Pats’ off-season approach.

According to Greg Bedard, Patriots initial offer to Wes Welker was two years and $10 million with incentives. Albert Breer accurately notes that the Pats likely see Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker as redundant, and Hernandez is much younger and at least as difficult to cover. This deal underscores how much the Miami Dolphins, who have agreed to shell out $30.55 million over five years for Brian Hartline, overpaid for a number two receiver.

– Quarterback Drew Stanton signed a three year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s hoping they don’t trade for Tim Tebow.

– The Broncos have signed former Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.

OK… time for another dinner break… and to make sure I move the Wes Welker to the back of my closet.

– The Oakland Raiders signed linebacker  Kaluka Maiava and defensive tackle and defensive end Pat Sims, as well as defensive end Jason Hunter.

– The Arizona Cardinals signed cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Yeremiah Bell.

– The Seattle Seahawks have landed defensive lineman Cliff Avril, who provides an instant upgrade to the Seahawks’ pass rush.

– Not waiting long to respond to Wes Welker’s deal with Denver, the Patriots have signed wide receiver Danny Amendola to a five year, $31 million deal,, with $10 million guaranteed.

– The Titans signed linebacker Moise Fokou, formerly with the Colts.

– The Broncos complete a successful day by reeling in cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a one year deal.

– The Colts have signed former Jets free agent safety LaRon Landry

That’s all for tonight…. more to come on Thursday!

Thursday, March 14

I’m expecting today to be a little bit slower as the agents and teams take a breath and assess where they are, and as remaining players line up visits with teams.

– Former Seahawks’ running back and return man Leon Washington will visit the patriots, who just lost their punt returner yesterday (what was his name again?). Washington has also been connected to talks with the Bucs.

– Cornerback Derek Cox has signed a four year, $20 million deal with the San Diego Chargers.

– Running back Chris Ogbonnaya will be staying in Cleveland, agreeing to a two year deal.

Greg Jennings will be visiting the Minnesota Vikings, who seem to be the front runners (along with Green Bay) to land the veteran wide receiver.

– A mystery suitor for Wes Welker has been revealed by Adam Schefter.. the Tennessee Titans. I rather suspect we will learn of one or two more teams in the coming days.

Great article from Mike Reiss details that Wes Welker went back to the Patriots with the Broncos’ offer, only to be later informed that the Patriots had already made a commitment to another player (Danny Amendola).

– The Chiefs have released Matt Cassel. Is a homecoming a possibility in Foxboro?

– The J-E-T-S are trying to build leverage by suggesting that they are not actively trying to trade Darrelle Revis.

– The Panthers are keeping quarterback Derek Anderson for another year.

– Cornerback Sean Smith has found a new home in Kansas City, agreeing to a three year deal.

– It turns out that the Patriots signed Danny Amendola on Tuesday, a full day before the Wes Welker drama took place. Anyone else think the team hadn’t already decided to move on?

– The Redskins and offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood have reached a deal.

Kevin Kolb is about to be released by the Cardinals, and his next destination appears to be the starting quarterback of the J-E-T-S.

Ricky Jean Francois has agreed to a four-year, $22 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

– The Vikings have landed quarterback Matt Cassel, who was just released from the Chiefs.

– The Eagles have added cornerback Cary Williams and safety Kenny Phillips .

– Cornerback Keenan Lewis has agreed to terms with the New Orleans Saints on a five year deal.

– The Falcons have landed running back Steven Jackson to replace Michael Turner in Atlanta.

– Linebacker Connor Barwin leaves Houston for Philadelphia and a six year deal.

– The Patriots have landed kick returner and running back Leon Washington.

– The Buccaneers have signed wide receiver Kevin Ogletree.

 Friday, March 15

We’ll wrap this thread up with a recap of last night’s signings and some look at today.

– The Jets are close to signing running back Mike Goodson. UPDATE: Goodson has signed.

– Defensive end Michael Bennett has agreed to a one year, $5 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers may be an early favorite for the Super Bowl, but right now they appear to have serious competition to win the NFC West.

– Former Vikings’ linebacker Jasper Brinkley has agreed to a two year deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

– John Elway says that defensive end Elvis Dumervil’s salary is “out of whack.” From a business perspective Elway is right, but does anyone seeing a change of location coming for the pass rushing star?

– The Jaguars re-signed cornerback Antwaun Molden to a one-year veteran minimum deal.

– The Rams have re-signed defensive end William Hayes and defensive tackle Jeremelle Cudjo.

– The Bears re-signed defensive tackle Nate Collins to a one-year contract.

– Former Bears’ linebacker Nick Roach has joined the Oakland Raiders.

– Adam Schefter is expecting cornerback Aqib Talib to return to the Patriots, as the cornerback market is not drawing the same dollars it was just a year ago.

We’ll keep updating the list presented at the end of Day One, but we will only be posting updates for bigger news the rest of the way out.

– OK, this is worth an update. According to PFT, the 49ers are in “serious discussions” with cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Charles Woodson.

– The Patriots have signed former Bills’ wide receiver Donald Jones.

– Tight end Dustin Keller has joined the Miami Dolphins, who appear to be cementing second place in the AFC East.

Kevin Kolb is being released in Arizona. Is New York next?

– Cornerback Kyle Arrington has re-signed with the Patriots and a four year deal.

– Running back Danny Woodhead has signed to two year deal with the San Diego Chargers.

– Offensive Lineman Willie Colon has joined the Jets.

– Safety Louis Delmas has signed back on with the Detroit Lions.

– Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy has a one-year deal in Arizona.

– Huge drama surrounding Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil agreed to a salary reduction but the paperwork did not get filed on time by his agent. The Broncos were seven minutes late filing, and Dumervil has been officially released. The release, along with Welker’s new deal, has just created a cap problem in Denver. The Broncos can likely still work out a deal, but they now have a huge financial mess on their hands. UPDATE: The release creates $4.87M in dead money for this season, meaning Denver will be hard pressed to bring Dumervil back. Question: Why are teams in a multi-billion dollar industry still relying on fax machines?

– While fax machines are being flung out windows in Denver, defensive end John Abraham officially becomes a member of the New England Patriots.

– Eagles announce they acquired wide receiver Arrelious Benn, a former 2nd-rd pick, and 7th-rounder from Tampa Bay for a 2013 6th-rounder and 2014 conditional pick.

– Wide receiver Brandon Gibson is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.

– Running back Justin Forsett has agreed to terms with the Jaguars.

– Big news breaking that the Patriots have signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, which is undoubtedly front-loaded with case. The cap-strapped Pittsburgh Steelers now have a chance to match the offer. It’s been a big day for the Patriots.

– The Cardinals agree to terms with cornerback Antoine Cason on a one year deal.

– Safety Adrian Wilson has signed a three year deal with the New England Patriots. Right now Bill Belichickk is looking like a salary cap genius.

– Big news in Minnesota… the Vikings have signed wide receiver Greg Jennings away from Green Bay.

– The Jets signed defensive tackle Antonio Garay to a one year deal. That’s two good moves in the same day, Jets’ fans.

– The Ravens signed defensive lineman Marcus Spears to a two year deal.

Saturday, March 16

– Per Adam Schefter, the Patriots have not signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet… yet. They are mulling over the possibility. That may be a cap issue, or it may be an issue of whether or not they believe they can fit Sanders in with Lloyd, Amendola, Jones, Gronk, Hernandez, and Balllard. The Pats have also been quiet on the re-negotiations with Lloyd, so that may be part of the calculus.

– Hearing that something is likely forthcoming on cornerback Aqib Talib’s return to the Patriots. All is still quiet on the Sebastian Vollmer front.

Dec 112012
 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was dealt a serious blow today when former Commissioner and current arbiter Paul Tagliabue determined that, while the New Orleans Saints were clearly operating a bounty program that was in violation of league rules, the case against the players was “contaminated” by Saints’ coaches and others, suggesting that any discipline beyond fines was unfair, and all discipline against individual players was vacated.

“Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects,” Tagliabue said in a statement released by the league. “My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

In response, the NFL issued a statement which said:

“We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. (Tagliabue) as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer.

“… The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.”

Predictably, the NFLPA also issued a statement claiming victory, which rings closer to the truth than the NFL’s statement.

“We believe that when a fair due process takes place, a fair outcome is the result,” the statement said. “We are pleased that Paul Tagliabue, as the appointed hearings officer, agreed with the NFL Players Association that previously issued discipline was inappropriate in the matter of the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty program. Vacating all discipline affirms the players’ unwavering position that all allegations the League made about their alleged ‘intent-to-injure’ were utterly and completely false. We are happy for our members.”

While the NFL is seeking to put a face of victory on this news, Goodell knows that this is a blow to his status as Commissioner. Tagliabue seems to try and let Goodell off the hook, while also trying not to help Jonathen Vilma’s defamation case against Goodell, by blaming those within the Saints’ organization for corrupting the case, but in truth the “we were just following orders” defense rings hollow; the reason that player discipline had to be vacated was because the Commissioner’s office botched the case, and Goodell himself acted as though he was accountable to no one.

In the end, it seems fair to conclude that a strong message has still been sent to all 32 teams that bounties will result in serious disciplinary action against the organization and its staff. It also seems fair to conclude that Roger Goodell will not be allowed to act as the tyrant that he has been trying to be. If the owners are smart, they will force the Commissioner’s office to develop better systems for the conduct of investigations and disciplinary proceedings, while looking for a successor to a flawed and damaged Commissioner.

Jun 192012
 

Sometimes people just don’t know when to quit.

I think most football fans are just about sick of the Bountygate story and the continuing denials emerging from current and former members of the New Orleans Saints. It has already been established by Sean Pamphillon that Drew Brees, Scott Fujita and the NFLPA have worked together to seek to pin all of Bountygate on the coaches. Jonathan Vilma seems to have taken point on criticizing Roger Goodell and the NFL, but Drew Brees has been sure to get his shots in where he can. Such was the case this Monday on Twitter, where Brees wrote, “If NFL fans were told there were “weapons of mass destruction” enough times, they’d believe it. But what happens when you don’t find any????”

Drew Brees is making the comparison of Bountygate to the falsified evidence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Seriously.

Whether or not he believes the nonsense he is spewing, Brees is now elevating his hyperbole to a disturbingly alarming level. Where do we even begin to de-construct the myth that Brees is seeking to create?

Do we start with the ludicrousness of comparing a sports situation to a predetermined political decision by former President George W. Bush that resulted in an illegal invasion, the deaths of 4,409 American servicemen and women, and an estimated 109,000+ deaths overall? Does Drew really want to compare his alleged plight to the millions of people who had their lives ended or disrupted as a result of armed conflict? Really?

Even if you excuse Brees’ bravado, the pieces of information available to us prior to this week’s hearings as well as the information released yesterday simply do not support the idea that the players stand falsely accused. As I detailed on June 7,  the Saints had engaged in an historic use of bounties and had been repeatedly warned by the league to discontinue the practice. Players were documented as having contributed and receiving bounty money for various impact plays and a ledger was even found with proof of payouts to players. There is zero question that the Saints, over a long period of time (multiple seasons), maintained a pay for performance system that is explicitly forbidden under NFL rules. And the players were so brazen about the practice that in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Mike Hargrove (one of the players implicated in the scandal) can be heard running off the field shouting, “Pay me my money” after he believed that he had injured Brett Favre. Couple all of this with admissions from the New Orleans Saints and their coaches, and the assertions of Brees and others simply don’t add up. And that was before new evidence was released at the hearing yesterday.

To be sure, the NFL has entirely botched the release of supporting information. I am not sure where they are getting their advice on how to present a case, but they would be well served to take another approach. Although the NFL released only 200 pages of an estimated 500,000 page collection, much of the information released (according to Mike Florio at PFT) was in essence irrelevant. But a few key points were not, and Brees is not choosing to address these points because he knows damn well that it does not support his attempt to create a distraction to draw people’s eyes away from the facts of the case. But among the pieces of information released yesterday, we did learn that several players offered money to make plays on Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, and that this included Jonathan Vilma offering $10,000 for anyone who could take Favre out of the game.

Other evidence? One document noted that Charles Grant offered $10,000 for a quarterback takeout pool, while Scott Fujita and Will Smith both contributed money to what was known as a “general pool.” Darren Sharper also contributed money for Pick-6’s and QB hits. Another document had Vilma, Smith, and Grant down for contributions, as well as Scott Shanle, Leigh Torrence, and Troy Evans. An even more disturbing document tallied “Kill the Head” (undefined) totals in 2010, with Vilma leading the way with 62 tallies. And another document recorded the awarding of $1,000 to Roman Harper for a “cart-off.”

Finally, a slide included in the NFL’s presentation contained a photo of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” with the notation “Must suspect be delivered dead or alive?” Even the NFLPA knew this piece of information looked bad, as they referenced the photo as “a poorly chosen and ironic example to use.” That’s putting it mildly.

It is with all of this information in hand that Drew Brees wants us to believe that the evidence against the players is no better than falsified information that led to an American war. Riiiight.

Until recently, I saw the Bountygate scandal as an unfortunate blemish on a touching, feel-good story for the Saints and the city of New Orleans. But it’s never the crime that does the real damage; instead it is always the cover up. And that is the case here as well. The continued proclamations of unfairness by the NFL made by Scott Fujita, Janathan Vilma, and Drew Brees have, at least for me, forever tarnished the accomplishments of the Saints franchise and their Super Bowl win. I will stop well short of calling for an asterisk like many unthinking fans will, but it is simply unforgivable in my view for the players to continue acting like six year old children standing over a broken lamp proclaiming, “I didn’t do it.” When pressed, the six year old insists they didn’t do it and that they don’t know who did… it might have been the dog or the lamp fairies. Well Mr. Brees, there are no lamp fairies. And just like the 6 year old who eventually admits their misdeeds, I rather suspect there will be a long delayed but inevitable admission on the part of some of the players involved. Just because you can fight a public relations battle with the National Football League doesn’t mean you should.

Now Mr. Brees, please shut up and go stand in the corner.

UPDATE: Brees has apparently figured out that the WMD analogy was not a good idea. Five hours ago, he sent the following tweets:

– My WMD comment has nothing to do with politics or our brave military. Merely an analogy to show how media influences public perception

– I apologize if the WMD comment offended anyone. Especially our military. There is no one I respect more than our service men and women

At least he realizes that his comment may have been offensive. However, the tweet really was not critical of the troops, but could instead be interpreted as being critical of the Bush administration and/or seeking to trivialize an event that led to the deaths of more than 100,000 people. In any event, Brees has once again proven the adage that it is better to be perceived as a fool versus opening one’s mouth (or Twitter account) and removing all doubt.

Jun 072012
 

I really enjoy Pro Football Talk (PFT). While most football blogs are nothing more than a mere regurgitation of  news items, PFT engages in thoughtful analysis and explores the implications of various situations and actions in the NFL. In some ways, PFT was a spark for our writers to pull together and create Gridiron Rats. We want to see more of a fan perspective, while also being thoughtful, analytical, and fun. But we will always tip our hat to Mike Florio for creating a wonderful site which has now become a part of NBC Sports.

Still, I sometimes think that Florio’s training as a lawyer can be his undoing. Early this morning, Florio posted an article suggesting that the most recent Bountygate report, involving the injury to Lions’ tackle Jeff Backus, might somehow undermine NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s assertion that the Saints used a pay for injury system. This was based on an earlier story on Yahoo! by Mike Silver noting that Sean Pamphilon had provided evidence of payments being made for clean hits in last year’s Saints wildcard playoff win over the Lions. The logic that Florio draws out is that because cash was paid for clean hits, but that no cash was paid out for an injury (torn biceps) to Backus, then the bounty system allegations are undermined because whoever injured Backus should have been paid.

Really, Mike?

Perhaps Florio is merely playing Devil’s Advocate, as his legal training has taught him to do. And that is certainly my hope. But in reading his site, I have sometimes found Florio’s logic to be more twisted than a carnival pretzel. So let’s help Mike remember why this most recent article does not undermine Goodell’s conclusions, and in this case I need look no further than one of the people who commented on Florio’s article.

Here is what we know about the Bounty allegations:

1. Roger Goodell and the NFL had warned the Saints not to use a bounty system on at least three occasions over a period of three years.

2. As recently as the 2011 system, the Saints were paying bounties despite those warnings.

3. Gregg Williams is on tape urging the infliction of injuries.

4. In the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Mike Hargrove (one of the players implicated in the scandal) can be heard running off the field shouting, “Pay me my money” after he believed that he had injured Brett Favre.

5. A ledger was discovered documenting payment to players. Additionally, Sean Pamphilon watched some of those payments being made.

6. Denials from players are carefully parsed. Players claim that they never paid money nor ever intended to pay money. But players are not alleging that they were never offered money.

7. The New Orleans Saints have acknowledged using a bounty system and apologies have been offered by both Gregg Williams and Sean Payton.

8. Early statements from players acknowledged a bounty system, but then were recanted as misquotes.

I work in an area where civil law applies, and I have had plenty of opportunities both to present cases and to rule on cases involving complicated fact patterns. Anyone familiar with the civil law system knows that it functions on the basis of a preponderance of the evidence, or what is more likely than not to be true (the 50.1% standard). In layman’s parlance, if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then we call it a duck.

This case is a damn duck.

The Jeff Backus injury is a red herring, and Florio (and others) should know this. According to Backus, a defensive player made a move to the inside and Backus hooked him, causing his bicep to pop. Thus, it was an accidental injury not caused by a Saints player. Exactly why would a payment be made? And then by extension, how would an absence of a payment undermine any of the information detailed above? I don’t need all eight of the points above to be able to conclude that it is far more likely than not that the Saints employed a bounty system. In truth, the first five are sufficient in my view to be able to reach a reasonable conclusion that such a system was being employed as late as last season. But #7 (the admission) is where this case becomes academic. Any protests of innocence by the players fall on deaf ears when the organization itself has admitted its misdeeds.

We therefore arrive back at my impatience and displeasure with current and former Saints’ players who try to deny the existence of the bounty system, as well as for all of the Saints fans who would prefer to deny evidence and simply conclude that the rest of the world is ‘hating on” the Saints. I have newsflash for those people. As a Patriots fan, I can appreciate the world ganging up on your team without a rational review of the evidence. Spygate was made out to be a “Patriots only” sin, when in fact the incident in question was a retaliation for earlier videotaping by the New York Jets, and was considered to be a widespread practice throughout the NFL. To call three Super Bowl championships into doubt as a result of Spygate is preposterous, and in my view is nothing more than hatred and jealousy being directed towards a successful organization. But I can never claim that the Patriots did not knowingly engage in a practice that they knew to be a violation of league rules, and it would be disingenuous for me to do so. Similarly, it is disingenuous of any current or former Saints’ player or any Saints fan to look at this evidence and suggest that no bounty system was employed.

Getting back to PFT, any suggestion that the failure to pay a bounty to the Saints defender who was involved on the play where Backus was injured is both illogical and unconnected to the rest of the facts in the case. I love reading Mike Florio’s work, but this one was a pretty bad reach and forgets the context of the overall case. I rather suspect that this is born of the frustration that the league has until now not come forward to make its case to the public, which would please many people, especially those of us who write about the NFL.

Perhaps, if this case were being tried in a criminal court, a conviction that the Saints employed a bounty system might not be forthcoming. Whether by some technical rule or by the opinion of one juror in twelve, it is not hard to imagine the organization or the players being cleared of wrongdoing in criminal court. But this is not criminal court, and the same rules do not apply here. And much to the displeasure of Saints players (and their attorneys), this case is quacking.

Jun 042012
 

The attorney for Jonathan Vilma thinks we’re all just being unfair.

When faced with damning evidence that his client paid up to $1000 for hits resulting in an opponent being carted off the field, Peter Ginsberg engages in a clumsy bit of rhetorical slight-of-hand. When required to say something that is a bald-faced lie:

“The truth is that Jonathan Vilma gave no money, incentive or encouragement ever — not at any time in his eight-year career — to injure or knock out of any game any player…”

It’s a simple matter to qualify said statement just enough to make it not a lie:

“…with a dirty or unsportsmanlike hit.”

This is, of course, entirely true. Vilma (and others on the Saints) are not accused of paying bounties for hits that are illegal; they are accused of paying bounties for hits that cause injury. Whether or not the hits were technically “legal” is beside the point. By the same token, this is a true statement:

“The truth is that O.J. Simpson did not kill his ex-wife and her friend…”

If you qualify it properly:

“…with a gun.”

Sadly, Yahoo! Sports goes along for the ride:

“According to STATS, LLC, Vilma has played in 42 games since 2009 and has been penalized three times in that span. Two-thirds of NFL defensive players who played in 40 or more games during that same period were penalized more than Vilma.”

Oh, well, that’s alright, then. A slightly better than average linebacker has committed slightly fewer than average penalties. Therefore, he couldn’t possibly have paid others for knocking opposing players out of games.

Seems legit.

Jun 042012
 

Lots of little stuff to cover today.

First, some quick NFL snippets that caught my attention this weekend:

  1. At least the Cleveland Browns can be happy that they didn’t draft Justin Blackmon. The fifth overall pick of this April’s draft (Jacksonville Jaguars) was arrested for an aggravated DUI in Oklahoma. He blew a BAC of 0.24, or three times the legal limit on Oklahoma. It’s the second time he has been arrested for DUI. He now joins a long line of other Jaguars receivers who have also run afoul of the law (Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, Jimmy Smith, and RJ Sowad). From my perspective, it’s time for Justin to either change his lifestyle (especially if he wants to stay in the NFL) or get the hell off the road. Right now, despite this kid’s obvious talent, I am not sure that he is going to make it.
  2. Bad news for AFC defenders; Rob Gronkowski’s ankle is coming along just fine.
  3. Is anyone else completely sick of Jonathan Vilma, Scott Fujita, Drew Brees, and all of the other players who are denying that the Saints used a bounty system? At this point, I am pretty convinced that we could be presented with a video of Vilma saying “I will pay ‘x’ amount for anyone who makes sure the quarterback is carted off the field” and they would still come up with some half-ass denial as to why that does not constitute proof of a bounty system. However, the NFL for its part has not done a good job of managing the PR aspect of this. The league should simply come forward and present all of the facts that were used to reach their determination. While I respect that there may be legal implications that I am not considering, leaking the ledger news to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports was never going to settle questions; it was only destined to raise more. Enough already. As for the players, I think when your coaches go and ‘fess up that there was a bounty system being used, you should probably just shut up already. The players seem to be forgetting the First Rule of Holes; when you’re in one, stop digging.

On to the site, where we have several articles on the way that I expect will be posted this week. In addition to the writers that have already posted, Country Preacher and Flip Strickland will be introducing themselves to the readers as well. I have also secured commitments from three other people to contribute, and more information will follow on them.

On  a personal note, readers that know me know that I just bought a house and am in the process of moving in. Right now it is piece-meal moving, and the movers will be in on June 14th to bring the furniture over. That means June 13-15th there may be some disruption in being able to get articles posted while I try to get all of my technology hooked up at Helm’s Deep. Yes, I am such a Lord of the Rings geek that I have named my house after my favorite battle from the movies. No, it’s not the media bunker in West Virginia that another, far more famous football blogger has, but it suits me, and will be a wonderful place for my fiancée and I to call home.

Speaking of the woman in my life (who officially becomes my wife on July 6th), our readers are going to get to hear from her directly soon. I will leave the specifics to her to disclose, but Rat’s Widow (no, she isn’t planning to kill me; yet – it’s just her moniker on this site) has determined that she wants to play, and I couldn’t be happier, especially given the unique perspective that she will bring to this site. So welcome, my love!

That’s all for today. Remember to share our articles with your fiends and “Like” us on Facebook.