Happy Thursday, friends. My computer problems continue, and I’m still awaiting a damn Windows 7 restore disk from Gateway. As such, I am typing from my work laptop tonight (Wednesday), which is exactly what I want to do after working on it all day.
That said, I may not have the most stamina for looking at this little screen, so I’m going to get right to this. All I have is Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, my thoughts, and the natural tenacity of a former United States sailor. Ready…. BEGIN!!
1. A lot of interesting stuff has happened lately around the CBA negotiation, and by the time this drops around noon Thursday, what I’m about to say might be really old news, or even outdated. I’m going to go ahead with some thoughts though, as of 8:40 PM Wednesday night.
Have you ever heard of the term “judicial activist?” It always cracks me up when I hear it used, because depending on your political point of view, it seems that it’s only activism if you disagree with the ruling at hand. A lot of people who say Roe v. Wade was judicial activism sure seemed to think it was cool when 2 of the 5 federal judges who’ve ruled on the Affordable Care Act found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional. Conversely, a lot of people who appreciate Roe v. Wade will tell you that the recent rulings by judges Henry Hudson and John Vinson constitute thinly-veiled political hackery by a couple of Republican appointees.
Of course, if we’re going to have any kind of judicial integrity, none of us can have it both ways, even if we all seem to want to, at times. Judges have to be free to rule as they deem appropriate within the law. David Doty, a Ronald Reagan appointee of 1987, is a Senior District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. He’s had jurisdiction over the NFL’s CBA since 1993.
The 1993 CBA ultimately came into being as a result of the NFLPA decertifying in 1987, and filing a series of successful antitrust lawsuits against the NFL. Doty ruled against the NFL at that time, and essentially supervised the formulation of the landmark 1993 CBA, in the sense that he blessed it as being permissible under antitrust laws.
Over the years, the NFL has felt that Doty has been much too player-friendly. Peter King stupidly alluded to that on Twitter Wednesday. (Butt-boy for the NFL; I know, we covered it last week.) The guys at Kissing Suzy Kolber gave Doty their Meast of the Week award, and beat up on PK nicely for his stupid Twitter comments. (As with his recent aspersion-casting upon Cam Newton, Pete seems to like to keep his more inflammatory stuff to Twitter, and then rationalize it later in his column.)
Interestingly, the NFLPA seems to really not want to lose Doty as the judge with jurisdiction, and the fact that they will on Friday, provided the CBA expires may be enough to force the union to decertify, like it did in 1987. That would prevent the owners from locking them out, and it would allow the unrepresented(-ish) players to bring a new federal antitrust suit to Doty’s court. They sure don’t want to go in front of some management-loving judge, and there are a lot of them on the federal bench nowadays. See this excellent article from ESPN’s Lester Munson for more specific legal flavor on what’s going on, and why he’s pretty sure that decertification is coming, and that the players will prevail in a trial.
I initially understood that a decertification would cancel the NFL Draft this year, and I wrote that a few weeks ago, but it seems that that’s not necessarily the case, at least in any automatic sense. The players could sue the NFL and claim that the Draft violates antitrust laws. Doty already ruled that it does, about 20 years ago, so I could easily see him issuing an injunction against this upcoming Draft. I could also see him saying that restricted free agency and franchise tags are beyond the teams’ rights, in the absence of a CBA granting them those rights.
It’s notable that the owners broke Wednesday without voting to authorize a lockout. Their leverage was largely lost with Doty’s decision about their TV network-funded lockout insurance reserve. I can tell you that the owners are now more interested in compromising to make a deal than they were a week ago. I’m hoping, and mostly expecting, that an extension to the deadline will be announced today. If not, get ready for decertification and more lawsuits.
2. Bonus-avoidance cut-down season has been interesting so far, to say the least. Shaun Rogers, one of the best players in the NFL when healthy and motivated, has already signed with the Saints. He’ll be playing for the first winning team of his pro career, and I expect Rogers to have a great year in 2011. He’s a guy who clearly slacks off when his team isn’t doing well.
Some thoughts follow about other players who’ve recently been released:
a. OJ Atogwe – Atogwe is my kind of safety, because he does everything pretty well. He’s not the big-hitting box guy, or a centerfielder only. He’s a guy who tackles well, catches the ball well, and tends to be in the right place. He’ll be seeking pretty big money, and while he’s probably no better than the sixth- or seventh-best FS in the NFL, for a team that has a need at that position (like Denver), the money Atogwe wants will be worth it.
b. Bob Sanders – Even when Sanders was winning Defensive Player of the Year, I was never a huge fan. If you ask me, the Colts have been better off with Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt at Safety the last few years. Sanders is mostly a box guy, but he’s had such major durability problems that it’s hard to count on him to be a starter. If you’re going to consider him as a backup, you’d pause because he probably isn’t going to play in the kicking game. Sanders is like a guy in your neighborhood who’s about 55, and who used to be a B-plus level performer, but who lost his professional fastball, and eventually got laid off when his productivity-to-cost ratio got too low. Now, he wants you to recommend him for employment at your company, but you know you probably shouldn’t, because he probably is what he is at age 55, and if his old company got rid of him, you shouldn’t be that interested either. In either case, the guy would have to work really cheaply to even make the risk worthwhile.
c. Daniel Graham – Graham didn’t have a great 2010 season, and his release on Wednesday was no particular surprise. I saw some chatter about him being the best blocking TE in the NFL, but he isn’t that anymore. He’s more like solid, at this point, and his receiving skills have never been his main allure. It’s funny, because Graham has grown up to be a Patriots type of veteran acquisition; he’ll come pretty cheaply, competently fill a specific role, and be a good team guy with a lot of experience. He wasn’t worth the kind of money he was due to make this year for the Broncos, though.
d. Vernon Gholston – Gholston is made out to be a guy who came out of nowhere with a great combine, and is subsequently portrayed as a cautionary tale about loving measurables too much, but that’s a lot of revisionist crap. He was a productive player at Ohio State, and he had 14.5 sacks as a senior. There was a lot of tape on a guy who started 25 games, and as much as scouts want to distance themselves from Gholston, there wasn’t a lot of talk in 2008 about him being a future bust. He’s a prime example of why I don’t trust Big Ten pass rushers much, because they play against a lot of slow-footed OTs, who make them look a lot better than they are. I’d actually sign the guy to a minimum contract, and give him a shot at responding to different coaching. I’m 95% sure he’s not an NFL football player, but the 5% chance that he is, relative to the cost, would make it a worthwhile gamble.
e. Damien Woody – Woody is a really interesting guy, because he was a first-round pick as a Center, who had a fairly disappointing first eight years of his career as an interior lineman for the Patriots and Lions. The Jets signed him to a 5-year, $25 million contract to play RT in 2008, and it was a major head-scratcher at the time. Woody, though, has been excellent in that position. He’s 33, but he could definitely help a team that does a lot of angle blocking.
f. Tommie Harris – Harris used to be a great player, but now he’s not much more than an average one. Unlike with Shaun Rogers, nobody seems to be beating down Harris’s door to sign him yet. I’ve always gotten the sense that Harris doesn’t really care that much about football, and when Rod Marinelli can’t seem to get you fired up to play well on the defensive line, there may be no hope for you.
g. Clinton Portis – I don’t think Portis is washed up, personally. I think that he’s ready to be part of a tandem, and to have his carries limited a little bit, but he can still play. Remember, he’s not even 30 years old yet, so I think he can play a good couple of years longer. You have to live with his media antics, and disguises, but I’ve always felt like those aren’t that big of a deal. If you want a veteran guy who can still run the ball effectively 15 times a game, and who is still by far the best pass-blocking RB in the NFL, Portis is your guy.
h. Jeremy Shockey – Shockey has a reputation as a big-time receiving threat, but I’d say that he’s a better blocker than receiver at this point. He can definitely be a useful player for somebody, and I’m not at all surprised to see him getting a lot of interest around the NFL.
3. Have you noticed how many of these young franchise-tagged guys are signing their tenders so quickly? Usually, franchise-tagged players complain about it, and wait until after training camp breaks to sign and report to their teams. The young guys, though, like LaMarr Woodley, Paul Soliai, and Haloti Ngata have signed their offers.
The reason why is that nobody knows what the service time requirement is going to be for restricted and unrestricted free agency under the next CBA, and if it stays at six years for unrestricted free agency, teams could theoretically rescind the tags, and tender their players at the restricted amounts. Like the GEICO commercial says, $10-12 million in the hand is a lot better than potentially getting stuck with $3 million in the bush. Or something.
4. I’m trying out a new idea called The Cam Newton Memorial Third-Person Story of the Week, which I hope you enjoy. Here goes...
As Ted writes this paragraph, it’s Thursday morning, and he’s rushing to get this finished so that Doug can edit his work. He’s a bit of an over-user of commas, and while he now usually gets his parentheses use correct, it’s historically been an issue for him as a writer. He often uses the first person in his work, but since he’s not a journalist, he feels that it’s appropriate.
Ted has been thinking about where to live next year a lot, and the main requirement for his new home is that DirecTV must be available there. That will allow him to better serve the readers of It's All Over, Fat Man! because he’ll be able to review film much more effectively, when he records and archives the 30-minute ShortCuts that get played after each week of games. Some negotiations around future housing are underway, so this is an interesting time for Mr. Bartlett.
Tonight, Ted will play in an intramural basketball game, with and against men who are 10-15 years younger than he is. He’ll set picks and rebound, and basically hit people who are quicker than he is. When Ted hits you, you know you’ve been hit. After his team loses this game, Ted will retire to the world-famous Becky’s on 18th and Chester, where he’ll drink Michelob Light and Snakebites, engage in witty banter with his fraternity brothers and other distinguished guests, and attempt to take home women who are 10-15 years younger than he is. Tomorrow, he’ll go to work with no hangover, and dominate like he always dominates, setting the stage for a great weekend, where it’s looking possible that golf could potentially be played outdoors in Cleveland.
He’s not the Most Interesting Man in The World, and he actually thinks Dos Equis sucks, but he is about to get on another interesting conference call, and then go to lunch at an establishment called Lola, which is operated by Iron Chef Michael Symon. Ted thinks that’s interesting enough for one week, and he promises to write more soon, when his schedule opens up a bit.