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The NFL‘s new labor deal may not make everyone happy, how the coronavirus may alter the draft and why the XFL may finally be getting it right. All of that and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.
1. Peace in our time
Here’s the main thing everyone needs to know about the NFL’s impending new labor deal, which players are voting on now: The agreement is likely to be approved by a significant margin.
By the end of the week, the NFL could have another 10 years of labor peace.
This is a monumental moment in NFL history. The deal promises the league the most treasured of commodities—labor stability. By the time the next deal comes around, there may finally be flying cars. And should the deal pass, the NFL will have secured 43 straight years of uninterrupted regular-season and postseason games. That’s a remarkable streak.
That’s the good news.
This is the bad news: The players might be agreeing to a terrible deal.
Some veteran players like J.J. Watt and Eric Reid say the new CBA would give owners a decisive victory and only strengthen their hand over the players.
On Monday, Reid tweeted a letter from his attorneys, who analyzed the deal and essentially concluded it’s a disaster for players. Particularly troublesome is the fact that the deal has no meaningful opt-out clause, nor does it allow for much of an increase in the players’ share of revenues during the next 10 years.
Critics of the deal say that if television revenues rise significantly during the next decade—which isn’t an unreasonable expectation with a new round of TV negotiations already humming along—owners will make most of that money since players would be locked in at 48 percent of the revenue. (Though the proposal calls for a potential rise to 48.5 percent, it is not guaranteed.) If revenues go up exponentially, there’s nothing in place that would allocate a greater split of the revenue to the players. And that isn’t to say anything of potential revenue from gaming partnerships.
Now, the reverse is true if revenues shrink. But NFL revenues haven’t contracted in years.
The union sent out its electronic ballots last Thursday and gave every player a week to vote. (On Monday, it gave players a two-day extension until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday—probably to give everyone time to start working on the flying cars.) If a majority of players vote in favor of the new CBA, it will take effect immediately.
This is a pivotal time for the league. Yes, there could be labor peace by the end of the week, but there also may be a new set of hard feelings for players. But the tenure of an NFL player is generally short, and the promise of slightly more now versus potentially a lot more later is a hard bargain to turn down, no matter anyone’s feelings.
2. Changes may be in store for NFL draft
As the coronavirus outbreak begins to spread across the country, sports leagues are taking preventative measures to protect their players and fans.
The NFL has said it’s monitoring the situation. In a text to B/R, one team owner said he believes the league is taking a smart and reasoned approach to the potential hazard.
An NFL spokesperson said Tuesday that plans for next month’s draft remain in place for now, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. However, the owner offered an interesting thought.
He explained that if the virus continues to spread, the NFL may have to alter the way the April 23 draft (set for Las Vegas) is run. The league may have no choice but to ban fans and possibly media.
“A few weeks ago, I would have said there was a 5 percent chance the format of the draft would be drastically changed,” the owner said. “I think the percentages are higher now.”
He wouldn’t elaborate much beyond that, but given those remarks, it seems possible that this year’s draft could take place largely on television, with only a minimal audience at the actual event. And that may be only part of the necessary changes.
3. Getting Chase’d
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
There’s a fierce battle taking place heading into the upcoming NFL draft, and the prize is Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young. He’s currently projected to go No. 2 overall to Washington in most mock drafts, but I hear there is a lot of competition among other teams to jump into that slot.
Young spoke last week at a press conference hosted by the Maxwell Football Club at Tropicana Atlantic City, where he received the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player following his junior season at Ohio State. The club’s PR person asked Young several questions on my behalf (thank you, PR person).
B/R: Do you have a preferred landing spot in the draft?
Chase Young: “No, I don’t care where I get drafted. I’m gonna do my best wherever I go.”
B/R: There’s always a learning curve heading into the NFL. Where do you think you’ll need to adapt and adjust?
CY: “I’m not sure yet. I feel like I’m going to have to play the game in the league to find that out, but I definitely am going to take every wall. You know, everybody hits a wall, and I’m gonna take every wall in stride, just like I did in college, and overcome it the best I can.”
B/R: Who was the best offensive lineman you faced in the Big Ten?
CY: “I would say the team that schemed me up the best is probably Michigan. They had a lot of slide protection, chip blocks, triple-teams, and I feel like that’s the best scheme I saw.”
4. Fun times
After watching almost every XFL game over the past few weeks, it’s easy to reach one conclusion: The league is incredibly fun to watch.
The first incarnation of the league was gimmicky and hard to take seriously. This version has managed to walk the thin line between interesting and entertaining. It’s fun while also featuring real football. Something league commissioner Oliver Luck recently pointed out to B/R is also evident.
“I love the passion of our players,” Luck said. “They are playing as hard as any players in any league.”
Luck has been a tremendous positive for the XFL so far in blending smarts, a sense of fun and the communication skills needed to connect with players.
Recently, Luck told the story of a conversation he had with Marquette King, a former NFL punter who’s now playing for the St. Louis BattleHawks. King confided in Luck about how difficult it has been to punt from the midfield sign because it was tough to see the hash marks.
The league will need everyone on board feeling invested in one another for it to succeed.
So far, it’s off to a promising start.
5. Mark your calendar
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press
A number of teams are gearing up for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s upcoming pro day, which is scheduled for April 9.
“We will all be drooling over that one,” one AFC scout said. “It will be one of the more anticipated pro days in a few years. This will be the first chance we’ll get to see him healthy.”
Tagavailoa dislocated his hip in November, but he has resumed “light football-related drills such as dropping back and throwing and low-impact running,” according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Hopefully, scouts will bring their own napkins.
6. Decisions, decisions
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A few days before NFL free agency officially begins, Tom Brady’s future remains a matter of grand speculation.
One source on a team potentially in the hunt for Brady told B/R it’s been impossible to get reliable intel on his intentions.
What is clear, this source says, is that numerous teams are interested in the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer. Whatever he decides to do will have a major domino effect on the rest of the league.
7. No thank you
Brian Blanco/Associated Press
There’s been speculation (both from the media and some NFL teams) that if the Carolina Panthers decide to dump Cam Newton, they should go into full-rebuild mode and trade running back Christian McCaffrey.
Let’s take this apart piece by piece.
First, I can’t find a team that believes the Panthers would actually do it.
Second, if they did put McCaffrey on the market, it would be a remarkable mistake.
The 23-year-old is fresh off becoming only the third player in NFL history (along with Marshall Faluk and Roger Craig) to compile more than 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season.
You do not get rid of that kind of talent.
8. Top-notch Tristan
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs might not be a top-five pick in next month’s draft, but you should watch him closely.
Teams have liked Wirfs a great deal, but as they take a more thorough look at him, they’ve come to like him even more. A superstar at the draft combine last month, Wirfs has impressed with his aggression and athleticism.
Though most mocks have him somewhere near the back end of the top 10, some teams tell me they think he could be the first offensive lineman picked and could go as high as fourth overall to the Giants.
9. Some people never learn
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
Yes, he threw 30 interceptions last season, and the franchise that drafted him has not gone out of its way to express how much it wants him back, but Jameis Winston appears to have a lot of interested suitors across the NFL. Various team officials believe a number of quarterback-thirsty franchises are looking hard at Winston, who will likely enter free agency.
Teams throughout the league remain divided on Winston. Some believe he is interception-prone and can’t be relied on to stay out of trouble off the field. Others think he can be a franchise quarterback if he can cut down on the mental errors.
However, getting Winston to cut back on picks is like asking the Hulk to control his temper. It’s impossible.
Still, some coaching staffs believe they can fix Winston. The problem is, he’s already 26. If he hasn’t changed by now, is there good reason to believe he will moving forward?
10. Tire rotation
Lois Bernstein/Associated Press
The free-agent courting process carries its share of pitfalls, as former Raiders exec Amy Trask detailed in a story this week for The Athletic.
In 1993, the Raiders sent a team executive and the quarterbacks coach to pick up free-agent quarterback Jeff Hostetler at the airport. While driving back to the team facility, their vehicle got a flat tire.
Neither of the Raiders staffers knew how to change a flat tire, but Hostetler did. He changed it, and then the group went on its way. (And Hostetler eventually signed with the Raiders.)
That’s true versatility.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.