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Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman has always been generous with his thoughts whether we want him to be or not. The Stanford-educated All-Pro is back on his pulpit once again to encourage NFL players to go on strike. The reason: Money. Of course, it’s always money. This time the money they seek comes in the form of fully guaranteed contracts.

A bit of jealousy has emerged from NFL players after seeing the kind of money that has been doled out to NBA players during the current free agency signing period. Most notably, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors just became the first NBA player to cross the $200 million dollar mark when he signed a five-year deal worth $201 million dollars.

Listen to Shermans’ take on the subject in the clip below:

NBA players signed deals worth close to one billion dollars in the first 24 hours of the NBA free agent signing period. Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward recently signed a four-year/$128 million dollar deal with the Boston Celtics.  Kevin Durant took less than maximum money so the Golden State Warriors could bring back free agents and he still fetched a two-year deal worth $53 million dollars. Point guard Kyle Lowry re-signed with the Toronto Raptors on a three-year/$100 million deal.

Deals like these have NFL players green with envy and Sherman isn’t the only one letting their jealousy air in social media.

All the players see are dollar signs. There are plenty of good reasons fully guaranteed contracts wouldn’t work in the NFL. The main reason is the physical pounding is not comparable on any level. The injury risk is infinitely higher in a full-contact sport like pro football compared to the NBA where even hand-checking a player is grounds for a foul. The NBA doesn’t have the violent collisions the NFL has on every play.

The next big reason is the sheer size of the leagues. In the 2016-17 NBA season had a total of 449 players on the opening day roster. There is a minimum 12 to a maximum of 15 total players on an NBA team. Compare that to the 53-man rosters (plus a five-man practice squad) of the 32 NFL teams and now you’re talking nearly 1,700 players, not counting the practice squad players. That’s literally four times the size of the NBA and now everybody gets a guaranteed contract?

If the NBA were the size of the NFL there wouldn’t be guaranteed contracts there either. Those guarantees would wreck the ability of a team to re-sign players or sign replacements when one of those high-dollar players get injured. Small-market teams would be forced to fold because large-market teams with huge bankrolls and multiple revenue streams could outbid them. The NFL would contract because the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans of the world would not be able to afford to stay in business.

Sherman says the only way to get guaranteed contracts is to strike. Players have to be willing to give up game checks to make it happen. Will the rookies be willing to pass up their prime years to get it? Would mid-level players who won’t break the bank be willing to do it? There is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots in the NFL and fully guaranteed contracts won’t bridge that gap for them.

Enjoy the upcoming season, if we have one. If Richard Sherman gets his way, there will be a long, cold winter without football if players decide to unite on this matter.

What do you think? Ludicrous or long overdue?

 

The Greg One

 

#ApplesandOranges

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The stalemate between the Pittsburgh Steelers and franchise running back Le’Veon Bell continues with no signs of progress. Bell has yet to sign his one-year franchise tender worth a cool $12.1 million dollars. From the looks of things, the mercurial all-purpose running back seems willing to bet on himself in hopes of securing a fat, long-term deal in free agency next summer.

According to numerous reports, the Steelers are willing to make the 25-year old Bell the richest running back in the league with a deal averaging $10 million per year. Bell wants more in the ballpark of what he’ll make this year, per year. Which side will budge first?

The answer will come by Monday, July 17. That date is the deadline for the Steelers to lock Bell into a long-term contract. If the deal does not get done, the franchise tender goes into effect and both sides would have to do this contract dance again next season. If the Steelers decide to franchise Bell for a second year, it would be at a 20% pay raise so Bell would make over $14 million. If not, he will enter the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Without a signed deal in place, Bell can wait until a few days before the start of the regular season to appear and still get paid in full. What player wouldn’t love the idea of skipping all of training camp knowing they won’t get fined? He has yet to appear at any team function while the contract game of chicken plays out.

From the Steelers standpoint, they have reason to be cautious. Bell has an injury history that can’t be ignored. He has only played a full 16 games only once in his four seasons. Ankle injuries have kept him off the field on numerous occasions. A groin injury occurred at the most inopportune time, in the midst of their playoff run, last season. The now surgically-repaired groin is reportedly back to full strength.

They are also taking note of the pounding he’s already taken. Bell has already logged 908 carries and 227 receptions in his short career. Given the shelf life for an NFL running back is averaging a paltry 3.1 years, could this be the beginning of Bells’ decline? Lest we forget he has had two violations of the NFL Substance Abuse policy, the latest indiscretion cost him the first three games of the 2016-17 season.

From Bells’ standpoint, the numbers don’t lie. Over 1100 touches have accounted for over 4,000 yards rushing and over 2,000 yards receiving and 31 touchdowns. Two-time Pro Bowler. Two-time All-Pro. He is clearly one of the top five running backs in the league and he deserves to be paid as such.

We’ll see who wins this tug-of-war soon enough but whose side are you on? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

 

 

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After a dismal 2016-2017 season, it is easy to start drawing conclusions. If any team has any sort of negative turnaround there starts to become speculation because well, it’s easy. One of the main questions that circles the Arizona Cardinals is, Does Carson Palmer have enough left in the tank? In an interview with “Tiki and Tierney” on CBS Sports, head coach Bruce Arians had something to say about that.

“Physically, body-wise, it’s like he’s 28 right now,” Arians said. “Sports science is amazing right now. He can play easily until he’s 42 if he wants to. He is hungry as hell right now. I wouldn’t let him go in OTAs. It was like taking candy away from a kid.” Arians continued.

As a coach dubbed “the quarterback whisperer”. I think he knows what he is talking about. Just in case, let’s see the numbers from last season. Carson finished the year with 26 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, amassing a total of 4,233 yards on the season. He finished the year ranking ninth in yards and tenth in touchdowns among active quarterbacks. So even though the Cards had a bad year, he is still a top-ten quarterback.

Palmer is not stopping the Cardinals from reaching the next level. There needs to be a certain level of veteran leadership on any elite team. The only people that are in the way of that happening is themselves. Football is just as much of a mental game as it is physical.

Coach Arians blames the entire season on one game, the week one loss against the New England Patriots. Why?

“I think a lot of it goes back to the New England game,” Arians said. “Had we won the game like we should have, with the field goal, I think the whole season is different. Why we didn’t finish the (Week 4) Ram win? Those first two losses at home set us way back for the season, because you had to fight from the back end of the hole the rest of the way.”

The issue for the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 was not Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, the offensive line, or the defensive line. It was the inability to win close ball games. If Arizona won those two close games like they should have against a Tom Brady-less Pats team and the over-hyped Los Angeles Rams, the Cardinals would have made the post season as wild card team.

The 2016 season was a fluke for the Arizona Cardinals. Even with it being a fluke, they still finished second in the NFC West. This season they are going in with a completely new mindset and after some exciting picks in the draft and because of that, the Arizona Cardinals and their fans will be able to forget about last season completely.

Rattlers

 

What is it that the 1991-1998 Chicago Bulls, 1993-1996 Dallas Cowboys, 2014-current Golden State Warriors, 2011-current Arizona Rattlers and the New York Yankees have in common besides championships? They created a culture that breeds championships by rewarding not only performance on the playing surface, but also made it rewarding to be a part of that franchise as a whole.

“We have to have a commonality and purpose. We have to understand that each of us is dependent on the success of the others in the organization to reach the goals we’re trying to accomplish. It’s never an easy thing.” -Rick Welts, President and COO of the Golden State Warriors speaking about the importance of off court culture.

See the Warriors built a culture of accountability, oftentimes we see in pop culture and maybe on our own sports teams how just one players ego can completely destroy any hopes of a championship. Yes, in sports we reward the most valuable players, but if you really think about what TRULY makes those players valuable, a lot of times you realize that they are not selfish and they focus on building up their teammates to their level of play. Notice the difference between the 2015 and 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, they tanked in the 2015 finals following the famous “i’m the best player in the world” speech from Lebron. Then the following year, they began to realize everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, in turn causing them to perform the greatest comeback in NBA finals history.

Sports are not numbers games, one can not predict the champion based off of numbers and averages. Why? That is because sports are played by humans, not robots. Numbers show the past results, but not the future. Humans are able to adapt and change based on their given situations. One example of this, is a team that was run completely based off of numbers, did not win a championship. People may have seen the movie called, Moneyball. The film is about the 2002 Oakland A’s, a team that needed a way to start filling seats and rebuild after losing a few of their star players. So they turn to analytics which wins them the division. However, the team that actually ended up winning the world series that year? The Anaheim Angels. A team that did not rely 100 percent off of pure numbers and who truly understood that there was a human element to the game.

So, what sort of things are needed to actually create championship culture?

Jeff Janssen, owner of the Janssen Sports Leadership Foundation and someone who also has a Masters in sport psychology, studied all of the historic championship franchises in all sports found six components.

  1. Credible Leaders
    1. This does not only apply to coaches, it applies to everyone who holds a leadership role in an organization. From managers to the CEO, there needs to be someone who can move on and take credit when there is a mistake. It is terrible to have a leader that tries to push on failures to everyone but themselves. Bad leaders, create losing seasons.
  2. Clear and Compelling Vision
    1. Yes, every teams ultimate goal is to win a championship. This component is more about buying into a vision, for a case study, please look into the 2016 Chicago Cubs.
  3. Core Values
    1. There is an old song that talks about, “If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Even in sports this rings true, in order to create culture, there must be non negotiable values.
  4. Standards of Behavior
    1.  Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski  stated, “A major part of becoming a team is the establishment and collective acceptance of your standards, based on your team’s makeup and centered on your unique goal. Once a group of individuals formulates and agrees to their standards, they become united, single-minded in purpose.”
  5. Aligned Systems
    1. Jeff Janssen writes, “Championship Cultures create several specific systems for selection, enculturation, execution, evaluation, recognition, correction, and succession. All of these various systems are developed, tweaked, and perfected over time to promote and support the Vision, Values, and Standards of your program on a daily basis. By developing and aligning your systems, you build a sustainable, self-perpetuating, virtuous cycle that ensures you get, develop, and keep the right kind of people and practices within your culture.”
  6. Committed and Unified Team Members
    1. This one should be self-explanatory, if someone does not buy into the vision? They will not perform to their full potential.

These six traits can be seen through any championship organization. Is it important to have good players? Yes, but numbers do not tell the whole story, and sometimes players who are terrible in the club house, can kill championship hopes without even playing one down.

 

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On Thursday the news broke that the Oakland Raiders had made their quarterback, Derek Carr, the highest-paid player in NFL history. The new deal is for five years and $125 million, a cool $25 million dollars per season. Carr will receive $40 million guaranteed at signing and $69 million guaranteed over the first three years of the deal.

The deal is a huge leap of faith for the Raiders but they feel they finally have their franchise quarterback in the fold. Quarterback has been the most glaring weakness of this team for almost two decades. The last time they had anyone that could be considered franchise quarterback quality would have been the Rich Gannon years from 1999-2004.

Carr is coming off of a breakout season in 2016 in which Oakland went 12-4. In his three seasons as Raiders quarterback, Carr has a 22-26 win-loss record and is barely over a 2.5-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 81 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

Now the league will be watching to see if Clast season was a fluke or if he truly is ascending to the elite level of NFL quarterbacks. He is certainly paid as if he is elite. To their credit, the Raiders have built a championship-caliber defense. The offense is taking shape with Carr, standout wide receiver Amari Cooper, veteran wideout Michael Crabtree and blossoming tight end Clive Walford as an impressive assortment of weapons for Carr. Add the newest addition in legendary running back Marshawn Lynch to bolster the running attack and you have a scary unit, at least on paper.

While Carr is the richest player in the league at the moment, it won’t last long. Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are all in line for raises next offseason. Skill position players such as Le’Veon Bell and Odell Beckham Jr. will also be looking for mega-millions sooner than later.

What do you think? Was the the right move for the Raiders? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

 

 

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News out of the AFC West has seemed to dominate the NFL headlines this week. Part of it is due to the fact the league is at it’s quietest point of the entire year as this is the space in time between the end of OTA’s and the start of official training camp. Players and coaches are taking time away leaving only a light drizzle of news to satiate the football-hungry masses.

On Thursday, the Oakland Raiders announced the long-term deal of quarterback Derek Carr at 5-years/$125 million. Also on Thursday, the Kansas City Chiefs announced they had extended Head Coach Andy Reid for five more years. (Terms undisclosed). Additionally, the Chiefs announced they had parted ways with General Manager John Dorsey.

In the opposite world that is Kansas City, the timing seems to be odd. The Chiefs are enjoying their best success in recent memory as they have made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and won the AFC West last season with a 12-4 record. Their Wild Card round playoff win over the Houston Texans last season was their first playoff win in 22 seasons.

Why let the GM, who has been the architect of that success, go now? Usually the Head Coach is shown the door before the GM or they are let go simultaneously so the new GM isn’t stuck with a coach he doesn’t like.

Whether Dorsey was fired or whether it was a mutual decision seems to be dependent on who you ask but the answer will be evident if Dorsey accepts another front office position within the next season or two. Regardless, his stamp on the team will resonate for many seasons hence as the young players he’s drafted mature.

Eyes will be on the Chiefs to see if they can maintain their recent success without Dorsey and what will become of the Chiefs’ bold move to trade up (from slot 27 to 10) in the 2017 NFL Draft in order to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The end to quiet time could be coming to an end sooner than we think… Can the Chiefs maintain and stay at the top of the AFC West? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

Russell Wilson, Melvin Ingram

 

On Sunday, June 11, the Chargers locked up a clutch piece of their young up-and-coming defense in Melvin Ingram.

The former Gamecock signed a big four-year, $66 million deal, ending what could have been an annoying contractual standoff, and Chargers got it done far before the mid-July deadline.

As mentioned from the Chargers’ front office, both sides were eager to get a deal done and wasted no time agreeing on numbers. This proves to be very big for the Chargers because this means Melvin will be there for all of mini-camp and training camp.

On February 27 2017, the Chargers placed the always nagging Franchise Tag on Ingram, thinking it would take an extended amount of time to come to terms, but doing so in four months is extremely beneficial for both parties and to the chemistry of the defense.

Ingram was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft and was supposed to be a impact player right away. The South Carolina product had a slow rookie year and the next two seasons after that he only played in 13 games out of 32.

However, he bounced back his last two seasons, playing in all 32 games notching 18.5 sacks, 11 pass deflections and seven forced fumbles. He proved that, when on the field, he can play at a high level. He developed an early reputation his first couple of years as an “almost” player; almost getting sacks, almost affecting plays. But he has shown the past two seasons that he’s more than learned how to impact games and get to the quarterback more efficiently.

The drafting of Joey Bosa last year has helped him because teams must worry about not one explosive motor but now they must gameplan for two pass-rushing freaks of nature. The two didn’t get a chance to play together in all of the games cause of Bosa’s contract issues. During the 12 games the duo did play together in ’16, they combined for 18.5 sacks.

It is going to be really interesting to see how they fare with an entire offseason and season together. It seems they both complement each other well and, in that, their numbers will only get better. Ingram also was tied for 6th in the league with QB hurries (29) and producing a team-high 23 QB hits. That is pretty damn good for an “Almost player.”

The Bolts adding Gus Bradley as their defensive coordinator means a switch from 3-4 to 4-3, meaning Ingram will have plenty of chances to knock opposing signal callers on their asses.

As a fan, we hate seeing big money contracts given out, especially because injuries can happen at any given time. But Ingram has earned it. Now, let’s see him terrorize offenses for a full 16 games, thus leading the team formerly located in America’s finest city back to the postseason dance.

One more thing: can we possibly get Melvin to make a theme song for the Chargers going forward? I, for one, think it would be extremely dope! Maybe we can all ask him on twitter and get it going?!

There is a link below to one on Melvin’s tracks:

 

 

 

Thanks for checking out my article. I appreciate all of y’all for doing so.

Charlie LaFurno

@CharlieMack29

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New York Giants All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. plans on sitting out offseason training activities while waiting on a new contract. This season, Beckham is scheduled to make $1.8 million. The 12th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Beckham is finally able to talk money with the organization as he heads into his fourth season on the team. Under his current deal, he is the 64th highest paid receiver in football.

The problem for Beckham is the Giants have all the leverage in the situation. He is locked in to playing for $1.8 million this season. They will certainly pick up his fifth-year option since he was a first round pick. The fifth-year option will pay the average of the third though 25th players selected in his draft year (approximately $8.5 million). For the record, the wide receivers that fall into that category are Sammy Watkins (selected 4th), Mike Evans (7th) and Brandin Cooks (20th).

Beckham is, whether he likes it or not, locked in for the next two seasons at $10.3 million. Even after the next two seasons are over, the Giants could franchise tag their franchise player for two more seasons. The risk is having a player who is already at the top of the list when you think of NFL divas turning into a complete malcontent and disruption in the locker room.

In addition, players around the league will be watching this situation to see how the Giants’ front office conducts their business. For all the drama and hype Beckham brings, there is no question he is one of the first names you think of when you list the best wide receivers in the NFL today. If the Giants aren’t willing to pay a bona fide superstar what he’s worth, why would a free agent consider going there?

The only recourse Beckham has is to sacrifice his pocketbook. While reports indicate he will be present at mandatory training camp, if he is truly adamant in his desire to get a new long-term deal this year he must sit out indefinitely. The outcry from the fans and local media has worked in the past but what resonates more is when the absence affects wins and losses. If Beckham stays home after the season begins his absence will directly impact wins and losses. The more they lose, the more pressure the front office will feel to get him in house.

Despite his paltry NFL salary, Beckham won’t be hurting for money. He already is a well-known pitchman for Head & Shoulders, Foot Locker and Lenovo. In May, he signed a massive endorsement deal with Nike for five-years/$25 million with the potential to reach eight-years/$48 million if certain benchmarks are met.

In the end, the logical scenario if for the Giants to acquiesce and pay Beckham like the legitimate superstar he’s become. To draw out his big mulit-year payday will only hurt the franchise in the long- and short-term. Without a deal, Beckham will most likely feel extremely disrespected and that feeling is likely to manifest itself on the field.

To nickel-and-dime Beckham will reflect badly not only to potential free agents but to the players on the roster now. How will Sterling Shepherd feel when his time comes? How will the other leaders on the team feel when it is time to talk extension if the Beckham saga drags on for the next four seasons?

We all know how great a receiver Beckham is and so do the Giants. Keeping him on the cheap is good business until it hurts your business. The right thing to do (which is why it probably won’t happen) is to follow the iconic words of Teddy KGB from the movie Rounders and…

KGB

 

The Greg One

 

#OffseasonShenanigans

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On Thursday, the New England Patriots officially extended the contract of wide receiver Julian Edelman. The nine-year veteran received a two-year, $11 million dollar deal with $9 million in guarantees, per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. This season was the last of his current contract. Edelman would’ve been a free agent next offseason and possibly could have been able to earn more money on the open market.

The Patriots are loading up at wide receiver for another Super Bowl run. Add Edelman, 31, to new addition Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola and Tom Brady will have no shortage of playmakers out wide. By the way, Rob Gronkowski is fully healthy and participating in all team workouts.

The Evil Empire of the NFL is only getting better….

 

The Greg One

 

#WhoCanStopThePatriots

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Earlier this offseason, the NFL decided to eliminate the middle roster cutdown from 90 players to 75 players. With only one mass cutdown from the 90-man roster to the 53-man squad that will kickoff the season, news of roster cuts will come fast and furious. Every year, players we thought would live on with their current teams get unexpectedly cut and this year is no different.

Last weekend, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin became the first big name player to get the June axe. Maclin had only finished the second season of the five-year/$55 million contract. The 29-year old Maclin is currently unsigned but has made visits to Buffalo and Batimore. So far, he hasn’t agreed to terms with either team.

Money is the key factor in Maclins’ case. How much will a team be willing to pay? This season, Maclin was set to make over $9 million with Kansas City and he may be looking for similar numbers. Last season he suffered from numerous injuries resulting in four games missed completely and a precipitous drop in stats from his first season in KC. His catches were halved (from 87 to 44), his yardage was halved (from 1,088 to 536) and touchdowns dropped 75% (from 8 to 2).

The New York Jets made news this week when they announced wide receiver Eric Decker would be traded or released. The move leaves the Jets receiving corps with no veteran presence as the longest-tenured Jets receiver award goes to Quincy Enunwa with a whopping two seasons of service.

Decker has been in and out of the lineup due to injuries. The Baltimore Ravens are again in the mix for Decker and reports indicate they are willing to work out a trade if Maclin opts to play elsewhere. Decker missed all but three games last season after going under the knife for two surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his hip and a torn rotator cuff.

While they were in the veteran cutting mood, the Jets also decided to cut locker room leader David Harris. The middle linebacker was the longest-tenured Jets player with ten seasons under his belt. He leaves New York as the second-most prolific tackler in Jets history with a whopping 1,260 tackles. He led the Jets in tackles for nine of his ten seasons in Kelly Green, including last season.

Harris also compiled 37 sacks, six interceptions, eleven forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Originally drafted by the Jets in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Harris wants to keep playing but is considering retirement. The Jets will save over $13 million  in salary and cap space once Harris and Decker are off the payroll.

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Ravens announced veteran tight end Dennis Pitta has been released. Per ESPN, Pitta is currently still hospitalized after suffering a dislocated hip during practice this past Friday. Per an injury waiver clause in Pitta’s most recent contract, the team does not owe him any more money. The hip injury is Pittas’ third since 2013.

These are the first pebbles to fall in what will soon become an avalanche of veteran free agent roster moves. Would you like to see any of these players on your favorite team? Who is next on the chopping block? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The Greg One

 

#MakingMoves

 

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