Franchise Monday

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Today’s 5pm deadline for franchising players has brought a  whole slew of activity from various teams from around the league. Franchising a player means a player is slapped with the franchise tag. It gives the team essentially one year to wait to go into further contract negotiations. It is a guaranteed amount of money for the player. It is a win-win situation. Some of the key franchise tag uses of the day include:

  • According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Colts used their franchise tag on DE Robert Mathis. Mathis is a huge part of that vaunted Colts passrush. If the Colts are to successfully rebuild their team, then they will need veterans like Mathis to guide younger talent.
  • Lost in the talk of heroes from Super Bowl XLVI is Giants punter Steve Weatherford. Weatherford’s punting was nothing short of phenomenal on Super sunday. He consistently put the Patriots in bad field position. That forced the Pats to go the length of the field to score rather than quick strikes. It was his first quarter punt that helped lead to the first points of the game, a safety.
  • Another key special teamer getting the tag is Broncos kicker Matt Prater. The fifth-year kicker might have the strongest leg in the league. He was instrumental in some of the comeback wins for the Broncos and maybe does not get his due credit. I don’t see why after all of the game winning or tying kicks he made this season. Might I also add that those kicks were not chip-shots either. The Broncos just ensured themselves a clutch boot for at least another season.
  • Speaking of the Super Bowl the Patriots just gave Super Bowl goat  veteran WR Wes Welker the franchise tag. It is apparently worth over $9 million dollars. Welker is one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets and bringing him back made too much sense. It gives Welker another chance at a dropped pass Super Bowl championship.

This deadline also brought with it some key free agent signings. The big signing of the day is, of course, the Texans resigning star RB Arian Foster. To say that Foster has been a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. Foster was a beast in only 13 games last year where he piled up 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Fantasy owners in the Houston area are rejoicing.

The deal is for five years and is worth $43.5 million overall; $20.75 million of that is guaranteed. Beyond the obvious of this giving the Texans a chance at repeat postseason appearance, this signing (as well as one other) may have implications for other big-name free agents. The other signing is Bills WR Steve Johnson getting a five year, $36.25 million contract.

The player most likely affected by these deals in Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace. The Steelers did not give the franchise tag to Wallace. that puts them in a big hole for resigning the young wideout. Wallace will most likely demand more money than what Johnson received from the Bills. That is not money that the Steelers can pay. It entirely possible that no team will try for Wallace.

Although not likely.....

It is also possible, with the Pats tagging Welker, that they are trying to keep room open for Mike Wallace. Wallace would the Patriots a scary group of targets for Brady and something they have not had in while: a deep threat. The Bengals are also another team that may have interest. Since the Steelers are only putting a franchise tender on Wallace, that gives these teams an opportunity to go after the speedster (did I mention that he’s fast?).

The Steelers are only $10 million under the cap limit thanks to the plethora of cuts they have made in the last week. Even with that kind of money it is not a given that the Steelers can compete with the Bengals or Patriots in a bidding war over Wallace. Time will tell, but the hits may be far from over for the Steelers organization.

Bounty Hunters

I know that there has been a lot of talk in recent days about the New Orleans Saints and their bounty program. Believe me I will be covering it. I am just soaking in the details and waiting for me concrete details to come out. If it is true then its truly one of the more despicable things to come out of the NFL in recent years.

The concept of paying a player extra money to injure someone goes against everything sports should stand for. I will not speculate in this blog what potential repercussions should be for the Saints. But I will say this: if the allegations are true (and it looks like they are) then the Saints need a clean house. Now.

I will be posting more on this in the coming days. And yes, ESPN, this is worse than Spy Gate. I would rather see a team cheat then do this. But more on that later. Until then, have a happy Monday everyone!

And so it begins……the search for answers……..

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When Tom Brady’s last-gasp Hail Mary fell incomplete, the 2012 NFL offseason began. Super Bowl XLVI will go down as a very good installment in the greatest sporting event on the American Sports calendar. With the beginning of the offseason comes slew of rumors, heresay,, and oddball news. The shocker of the past week goes to Roger Goodell for talking about closing down operations for the Pro Bowl.

In this Pro Football Talk post,  it says the Goodell met with DeMaurie Smith to talk about closing it down. This is a very usrpring move, if it is done, by a league that is headed down the path of high TV and flag football a more passive style of play. The rules in recent years have been adjusted so that:

  1. Quaterbacks are well protected. These are priceless commodities and the NFL simply cannot have guys like Brady, Brees, and/or Rogers go down like the older Manning brother did.
  2. Offenses could score a boatload of points. The new way of NFL fans love high-scoring games. A lot. Which is funny because the NFL playoffs this season featured one game in which both teams were in the 30s in points.

Now the NFL is nowhere close to ending the Pro Bowl.  Even still, what is the big deal if the NFL All-Star game is a bust? It is only a pointless football game played between the Super Bowl and Conference Championship Sunday. But that might be one of the game’s current downfalls. No matter what game or games are in that two week gape before the super Bowl, the focus will always be on the Super Bowl.

Or a member of the Manning family (more on this later). http://blogcertified.com

More to the point: the ratings were up for the Pro Bowl this season. According this article, the ratings were the higest of any program on TV that night and day. this is due largely to the popularity of the NFL and not the interest of the game. Fans are still excited to see some of the games super stars . The problem is that some of the stars fans want to see are in the Super Bowl.

If the game already means nothing, then moving it . There are only two options moving forward for the NFL: make it matter or make it fun. The fun aspect is probably the more important of the two. I do not see a way for the NFL to make it matter in terms of post season play. Beyond just conference pride and money, there is not much there.

Although the game is not going anywhere any time soon, here are some things I believe would improve the quality of the game:

Move it to the end of the season

The NFL is one of the few sports that has its all-star game at or near the end of the season. Moving it back to the week after the Super Bowl gives the season a nice fun closing act. It reinstates players who would normally miss due to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are two names this seasons Pro Bowl desperately needed. Not only do these players provide better entertainment but they are bigger names.

No offense to Andy Dalton, but he is not biggest draw in the world. What he did as a rookie was phenomenal, but he has a ways to go in terms of Marketabilitiy. The point of an all-star game is to conceivably have all the good eggs in one basket. Although ratings have been good, if every player the fans voted in played, then TV ratings might just rise.

Pay these men

I know it is their job to play football and that some players have contract clauses with Pro Bowl benefits. I get that. But sometimes it seems like the players are lolly gagging out there. Aaron Rogers blasted his NFC teammates for their lack of effort. If that is the case, then there need to be added incentives outside of just conference pride. These men need a payday.

the NFL is a billion dollar franchise that can throw money at teams for a new stadium. I think they can provide money to get the effort of players up. But in case that does not work……

Insert some real football rules

Having real football being played is a key. The game has just gone too vanilla with simple plays that even the dumbest coach would not call during a preseason game. The current rules take any intensity out of the game. Let the defensive players run wild and hit people. After all that is their job and why they were selected.

Let them play! Let them play! Let them play! http://media.sacbee.com

People still talk about the hit that Sean Taylor (may he rest in peace) put on former bills punter Brian Moorman. It was a vicious hit and (while yes it was on a punter) it is something this game needs.I know it kills some of the more intense players like Patrick Willis and James Harrison that the game has gotten soft.

While player safety is important, so is their right to play. They know full and well what it could mean to their health to to play this game. So in that case, just let them go out there and play. They do not need to loosen up the rules to playoff level, but do not make it so we are one unnecessary roughness away from touch football. That is no fun.

Keep it in Hawaii and broadcast it on ESPN

When people think of the Pro Bowl, I can almost garauntee that the first image that pops into their head is Alhoa Stadium in Hawaii:

It is simply a beautiful venue for a sporting event. The weather is almost always perfect down (unless there’s a hurricane). So why would the NFL change it to where the game is being played at the same site of the Super Bowl? For marketing purposes alone, the NFL just needs to keep it in Hawaii.

However, the NFL is once again messing with the location. Pro Football Talk is reporting that the game is in talks to be held in New Orleans, the site of Super Bowl XLVII. changing sites like this is a bad idea when the appeal of Hawaii is so much greater.

If they do not stick with one site, then they need to stick with on broadcast station: ESPN. Look at the last time the game was on ESPN. It set a ten year record for the Pro Bowl. MLB and the NBA both use ESPN as an outlet to broadcast their respective all-star games from. It is time for ESPN to buy the exclusive rights of that game. The fact that ESPN’s one-year stint as the game’s outlet should have sent a huge signal to the NFL.

Instead they kept experimenting with different locations, times, andgimmicks. I mean what was having players tweet from computer kiosks supposed to do? It is not like we were likely to see Megatron tweet something outrageous. This was a lame attempt at connecting with an audience the NFL thinks it is bound to lose.

I'm sure fans were dying to know what players had to say........ http://media.whosay.com

They will not lose them if they make the experience fun for the fans. Think of the MLB and NBA all-star games once more. Major League Baseball has the Homerun Durby and the Celebrity All-Star Game. The NBA has the Dunk and Three-point contests. That is exactly what the NFL should be doing.

Fun and creative events and challenges during the week leading up to the game

Why exactly did the NFL get rid of the strongest man contest again? I thought fans loved that stuff. where is the NFL’s version of the Homerun Derby? They should be pitting Maurice Jones-Drew against Clay Matthews in an Oklahoma drill with no blockers. They should be having foot races between Devon Hester, Mike Wallace, and DeSean Jackson. They should be having Brees, Rodgers, and Brady go head-to-head in passing competitions.

Alas, they are not doing these things to engage fans. They sit and watch while the game’s popularity and positive PR goes out the window. If the NFL really cared about this game, then it would be exerting every creative juice it has to make it better. It is a profitabe product and if they insert some of these modifications, it might make it better. One can only hope.

P.S.: I also hope that the competition committee will consider revoking the defensive rules put in place last year. But that won’t happen.