According to the Gazette's former Broncos reporter and current Air Force beat guy Frank Schwab, defensive lineman Ben Garland has passed on the opportunity to enroll in the Air Force's pilot training school in order to eventually pursue an NFL career. According to Schwab, in a year's time Garland can submit request that his military commitment be converted to a longer reserve assignment, and which if granted would allow him to join the Broncos in 2012 ala former LB Steve Russ (also an Air Force alum and special-teams stalwart on both of Denver's SB-winning teams and now the LB coach for Wake Forest). Garland is a native of Grand Junction, CO and was signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent on April 26 of last year.
Current Bronco and former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins spoke with Tim McManus of Philly Sports Daily recently and addressed the serious issue of concussions both mild and severe. Frighteningly, Dawkins told McManus it's impossible to keep track of all the mild head injuries he's suffered throughout his career that didn't take him off the field. Meanwhile, the notoriously hard hitter said he believes he's suffered four concussions that have knocked him out cold and/or caused him memory loss. Dawkins said,
It’s a concern, and it should be a concern to everybody...We have to make sure that the men who play the game are protected for long after they are done so that our legends can be living legends.
According to a multitude of reports on Twitter, the owners have accepted the players' offer to extend the CBA talks for another seven days. The new deadline will be next Friday (March 11) at 5pm ET, and mediated negotiations will resume on Monday. This extension is purely for the sake of working toward a new CBA, so no player transactions will be permitted.
The Broncos have announced via Twitter that veteran defenders Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams have been released just a year after both were originally signed as free agents. Bannan earned $10.5 million in guarantees as part of his deal with Denver and was due a $500,000 roster bonus and $3.5 million salary in 2011. Williams received $7 million in guarantees with his contract and according to Mike Klis was set to earn a $1 million roster bonus an $4.2 million in salary. Along with the release of Daniel Graham yesterday, Denver has cut $14.4 million in salary and bonus obligations from their 2011 payroll. See Andrew Mason's latest entry for more details.
Also, the Broncos have chosen not to tender RB Laurence Maroney, who was acquired midseason with a sixth-round pick from New England in return for a fourth-rounder.
Update 5:38PM ET - As for the CBA negotiation: according to Jim Trotter via Twitter,
the sides have agreed on the 24-hour extension. they're awaiting approval from judge doty. should be a formality.
Tight end Daniel Graham has been released by the Broncos today after four seasons with the team. Meanwhile, Denver extended qualifying offers to several veteran players - right tackle Ryan Harris, placekicker Matt Prater, defensive linemen Marcus Thomas and Kevin Vickerson, and linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
UPDATE 10:13PM ET - According to Klis, Woodyard and Prater received second-round tenders worth $1.835 million, while Harris, Thomas and Vickerson received original round tenders worth $1.2 miliion. However, in the likely case that the next NFL season is played under a new CBA, those latter three players will all be unrestricted free agents.
7:48PM ET - Via Josina and Twitter, Marcus Thomas' agent says the player will not be signing his tender and wants to test unrestricted free agency, for what that's worth...
Judge David Doty has tonight dealt a serious blow to NFL owners in their negotiations with the players over a new collective bargaining agreement. Doty ruled that the financial protection the owners had built into their most recent television contracts did not align with their stated desire to avoid a player lockout. In the event of a lockout, the networks which broadcast NFL games had agreed to still pay the owners $4 billion, although much of it would have been offset in future seasons. Doty's statement reads, in part:
The court overrules the special master's findings as to the NFL's breach of the (Collective Bargaining Agreement) relating to its contracts with DirecTV, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN, and holds that the NFL breached the (CBA) as to those contracts.
Mediator George Cohen released a statement today regarding the labor negotiations between the NFL and the players' union, which will resume next Tuesday:
I can report that throughout this extensive period the parties engaged in highly focused, constructive dialogue concerning a host of issues covering both economics and player-related conditions...At bottom, some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties...During the intervening weekend, the parties have been asked by us to assess their current positions on those outstanding issues.
John Elway has announced via Twitter that the Broncos have agreed to a new contract with Champ Bailey:
We are thrilled to announce that the Broncos have agreed to terms on a new four-year contract with cornerback Champ Bailey. Champ is truly one of the NFL's elite players, a 10-time Pro Bowler who is playing at the absolute highest level. The commitment and loyalty that Champ has shown to the Broncos, the city of Denver and this region is exemplary. We're fortunate to have Champ with the Broncos for a long time. This is a GREAT day for our entire organization and our fans.
According to the Denver Post, Bailey has given the Broncos what is quite clearly a hometown discount - only $15 million is guaranteed over the life of the four-year deal. He will receive a guaranteed $11 million salary in 2011, with $4 million of his 2012 compensation guaranteed. Frankly, this is a stunningly favorable deal for the team which Bailey has been a part of for seven seasons now. The retention of the 10-time Pro Bowl cornerback promises Denver some stability at a position that was suddenly looking thin considering the legal issues of rookie Perrish Cox and the until-now murky status of Bailey.
NFP's Wes Bunting tweeted the following this morning:
Hearing the Broncos are starting to lean more toward DE Da'Quan Bowers with that number 2 pick, move to 43, he makes perfect sense
In a followup tweet, Bunting wrote,
Got to think the Broncos would look Fairley at 2, if Bowers is gone, got to put together their 4-3 front
Yesterday, Champ Bailey and his agent Jack Reale won the PR side-battle that today typically accompanies any significant contract negotiation. A statement presumably from Reale expressed the player and agent's frustration with the lack of progress on the guaranteed-money front and was followed by Champ's pronouncement that he would be propping a "For Sale" sign out front of his Littleton home. The latter message prompted a small grassroots campaign to rally fans for the two sides to come to an agreement.
Today, John Elway has responded via Twitter:
We've been working with Champ Bailey's representative this week on a new contract, which is an important priority for us. Our conversations have been constructive, and we'll continue those talks in the hopes that we can reach an agreement. Champ's an elite player who means a great deal to our entire organization and our fans. We want Champ to finish his Hall of Fame career as a Denver Bronco.