- nflplayers.com: Lockout Steps
- usatoday.com: Timeline of NFL Labor Disputes
- Charles Baschnagel, Williams College: An Analysis of the Effects of the 1993 NFL Salary Cap on Competitive Balance and League Revenue
I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.-- Benjamin Franklin
In 1992, the Honorable David S. Doty, S.S. District Judge, District of Minnesota, saved football. In March of 2011, he might have done it again.
Nearly twenty years ago, Judge Doty found for the collective NFL players (having already decertified their union) in their anti-trust lawsuit against the league, forcing NFL owners to come back to the negotiating table. This paved the way for a new era of free agency, a league-wide salary cap (and floor), and an instant boost in league-wide parity.
The owners had one major trump card heading into these "negotiations" with the players, and that was the big cornucopia of guaranteed TV money spilling into their coffers regardless of whether or not football was actually played over the next two seasons. Billions of dollars. Money for nothing. Written in black and white in their contract: "in case of lockout."
This so clearly violated common sense as to be ludicrous. Whether you side with players or owners in the long-term distribution of revenue -- and I can see legitimate arguments for both the need to generate higher operational profits from your enterprise at the height of its populatiry, and for the rights of players to earn every penny they can in their body-breaking, brain-rattling career -- there was simply no logical reason why one party should be pulling in new revenue and the other not if there was no actual product being delivered to the fans.
And in a rare moment of serendipity, legal opinion and common sense actually agreed. According to Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal, the court's ruling states: "The record shows that the NFL undertook contract re-negotiations [with the TV networks] to advance its own interests and harm the interests of the players."
So here's to you, Judge Doty. If not the only voice of common sense left in the land, at least the only one powerful enough to force both sides to listen.
Additionally, the "deadline" at midnight tonight isn't quite what it seems. According to Jeff Pash, general counsel for the NFL, if significant progress is made in today's negotiating sessions -- perhaps the first one undertaken in full sincerity -- the NFL could "stop the clock" on the deadline.
But then again, sometimes when you're cornered and you're on the edge of that cliff, you can't fight the urge to just go ahead and drive off. Somebody keep Jerry Richardson away from the wheel, that's all I ask.
For a month of mock drafts, Julio Jones safely slid down to the Rams at #14 as various scouts and bloggers and such touted and jostled various players in and out of the top ten Everyone acknowledged that Jones, a top-ten talent, was falling a bit past his player rating, but team needs were coming first. And the Rams were such a perfect fit...
After this weekend's rockstar combine performance by the Alabama wideout, though, he seems almost guaranteed to have his name called before the Rams get on the clock. It's a nightmare scenario for Rams fans like me with their hearts set on getting a foundation WR in this year's draft.
What did he do that was so special? He set a combine record in the broad jump (11'3"), rocked the 40-yard dash in 4.39 (top five among all receivers), and hit 38.5" in the high jump. Oh, and his ego-free demeanor killed in interviews. TST's VanRam, who had previously advocated using the draft slot on Missouri DE Aldon Smith, was on the scene and came away more than impressed.
His cocky-free confidence made me wonder whether or not this guy was actually a receiver (does he not have an end zone celebration planned yet?) but a safety that somehow stumbled into another role. The Rams need to draft this kid.
Whether it was your first combine or twenty-first, Jones' performance was eye-opening. “Jones ran faster today than I think anyone thought he would,” former NFL general manager Charley Casserly said, as quoted by NFL.com. “I don’t think people thought this guy would run a 4.43 (the unofficial time on his first run). He doesn’t play that fast. But he’s a big guy who is physical."
The Rams will have a little bit of leverage to move around from the #14 pick than they have in the last few years, suffering the "losers' curse" and picking from the immovable #2, #2 and #1 spots overall. However, according to the draft value chart, the highest the Rams can move while at most sacrificing their own 1st and 3rd round picks would be from 14 overall to 10.
And who's sitting at #10 overall? The receiver-poor Washington Redskins.
Like I said, it's a nightmare scenario. No way does Billy Devaney want to give up his 2nd round pick, which is a GM's gold mine and has produced two anchor positions for the Rams: starting middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and starting left tackle Rodger Saffold. But anything other than Jones feels an awful lot like a consolation prize at this point...
We haven't done much writing about Julio Jones here at the Herd, perhaps because we don't want to jinx the potential of the Rams taking him at #14. After all, we started writing about Danny Watkins last month at the Senior Bowl, and his draft stock has soared to the point that he may no longer be around by the middle of the 2nd round.
And of course, there is a legitimate undercurrent of discussion about whether the Rams should even prioritize WR in this year’s draft, as we covered this week. But the temptation is so strong to match up the best available edge talent with your budding superstar quarterback.... So strong that regardless of the shuffling up and down of various prospects -- is Nick Fairley #1? Cam Newton? Da’Quan Bowers? Who’s rising? Who’s falling? -- Julio Jones to the Rams at #14 may be the single most consistent pick across all mock drafts out there.
Oh, and Jones appears to be every bit the real deal. His physicality and aggressiveness jumps off the screen when watching his highlight videos. Paired with Bradford, visions of the next Terrell Owens start dancing in my head. And the pre-Combine hype is not slowing down at all.
Or this, from a six-year member of the NFL's Draft Advisory Committee...
“Some scouts like Green better than Jones but if I needed a wideout and both were there, Jones is my guy.”-- Greg Gabriel, National Football Post
We're getting to the point in pre-draft coverage where, for a player as heavily scouted and touted as this, the scouting reports themselves all converge on similar points. He "has the size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and toughness to be a nightmare after the catch" and "will make the tough catch with defensive backs draped on him, especially in the end zone." He "will run routes across the middle with no fear" and "is one hell of a downfield blocker." And he's a "tough player who has proven an ability to not only play through injury, but play well."
The downsides? He has "just average speed," his hands aren't elite, and he isn't yet a polished route-runner. Watching his highlight reel though, those negatives seem easily brushed off.
All of this is essentially public record at this point; these bullet points are trotted out in any barstool or Twitter debate. We know what kind of prospect Julio Jones is -- a damn good one. The question is, why does the debate against picking Jones seem to be growing stronger?
The NFL Combine is gearing up with 330 draft-eligible players vying for something fewer than 250 draft spots, with fractions of measurement potentially making the difference between a first rounder and a second, or between being drafted and getting a workaday job while waiting out a potentially protracted CBA negotiation.
All of these players have been scrutinized on tape, but for most, this week may be the last chance before draft day to make an in-person impression, for better or for worse, on the men ready to hire them into the NFL. Typically, the Rams don't publicly shower prospects with a lot of attention, but there are a few positions of need that bear watching. One is the "change of pace" back -- they guy who might only get 10-12 touches per game but could be a game-breaker.
Here's a quick profile on three names that intrigue: two that will be at the combine, and one that won't, but could still be a dark horse candidate to be called by the Rams on draft day.
This year's closest thing to Dexter McCluster -- who was a big-time pre-draft crush here at the RamsHerd last offseason -- is Oregon State Beaver Jacquizz Rodgers. Standing only 5'7", he seems to quiver on the surface of the field like a drop of quicksilver on glass, and is about as hard to stop. Like he was a pair of eyes attached to pure fast-twitch muscle.
Unlike what you'd expect from a player of his size, Rodgers doesn't shy away from inside running. He lowers his pads to squirm through holes; defenders at the second level have a difficult time wrapping up, because he keeps his legs moving and the core of his body well behind his pads and hard to reach.
Like each of the runners listed here, Rodgers has great hands and instincts in the open field, tools that could be very valuable in a Josh McDaniels offense. One intangible that sets Rodgers apart is the Oregon State connection, which may endear him to big papa bear Steven Jackson. (Jackson is known as an unselfish player and a team leader, but as a player whose leadership is often shown with ball in hand, may be a little reluctant to welcome competition with open arms.)
Collective bargaining agreement be damned, Billy Devaney and the Rams are working to bring Mark Clayton back before the NFL's year (and ability to negotiate with our own free agents) ends March 4th. The fact that the Rams and Clayton like each other and have been talking isn't news. "We've had dialogue with Mark really since the time he got here," says money man Kevin Demoff. But showing a little urgency and getting a deal done before the deadline would cement an important piece of the puzzle and provide some insulation against the possibility of an offseason nuclear winter.
As we've written in the past, Clayton's experience in multiple offenses and proven ability to master a new playbook with frightening speed, his immediate chemistry with Bradford, and his locker room leadership of an otherwise very young group make re-signing him an easy decision. He also adds an interesting wrinkle to the Rams' depth chart at WR.
While the Rams have obviously been aggressive in upgrading the roster, the urgency for Billy Devaney to acquire Clayton from the Ravens didn't come about until Donnie Avery went down to a patellar injury in the preseason game versus New England. (Clayton succumbed to the same injury in Week 5... but we can't blame the Ed Jones turf any more. Both injuries happened on the road.)
If both receivers come back, and the Rams draft Julio Jones, then suddenly the Rams have a problem of a different kind, which became a hot topic of conversation with the Pro Football Focus crew...
When Oshiomogho Atogwe came back to the Rams after his free agent odyssey, the deal was originally announced as a "long term deal" -- a five-year, $32 million dolar contract. Soon after, though, the structure of the deal came out and it became obvious that this was anything but. In fact, only $4 million for the 2010 season was truly guaranteed, with an $8 million dollar bonus due this February on top of his salary. If the Rams decided to pick up that bonus, they would be committing to pay the remaining $28 million over the next four seasons. If not? Welcome back to free agency.
Now we know, facing an $11.5 million payday with no guarantee of a season to play, Devaney and the Rams chose "not." That doesn't necessarily close the door on Atogwe returning to the Rams. But with the Colts releasing Bob Sanders, the Texans releasing Eugene Wilson, and teams like the Jaguars and Cowboys in need of defensive playmakers, the number of teams potentially in the bidding is higher this year than last. (BIG ASTERISK: *IF* THERE IS FREE AGENCY IN 2011.)
This leaves Rams fans and players alike spread across the classic "stages of grief," as we deal with the loss of the anchor of our defensive backfield.