Tuesday, August 9, 2022

NFL drops hammer on Dolphins for tampering with Tom Brady, plus Deshaun Watson could face longer suspension

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

It’s been a big day in my house and that’s because my 2-year-old just headed off to her first day of school. I haven’t gotten any calls yet from the school so I’m assuming that things are going well. The two of us had Mickey Mouse waffles for breakfast and that’s what I’ll be using as energy to power my way through today’s newsletter. 

Speaking of today’s newsletter, it’s going to get a little crazy. We’ve got the Dolphins getting docked draft picks for tampering with Tom Brady. We’ve got more Deshaun Watson news and we’re going to take a look at the NFL‘s most valuable franchises. 

You know what, I’m going to stop babbling now so we can get to the rundown. 

As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link.

1. Today’s show: Breaking down the Deshaun Watson suspension

Cleveland Browns Madatory Minicamp

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The only NFL news that anyone has been talking about for the past 24 hours is the Deshaun Watson suspension, so that’s exactly what Ryan Wilson and Will Brinson spent all their time talking about for Tuesday’s episode of the Pick Six Podcast. 

Both Wilson and Brinson felt that the suspension was probably too short, but Wilson did defend the ruling from former federal judge Sue Robinson. 

“On some level, I think Sue Robinson’s hands were tied,” Wilson said. “There’s no rule of law in the NFL.”

Wilson then pointed out that Robinson made her judgement based on precedent and you can’t really get mad at judge for doing that, because that’s what they do. As for whether the NFL will appeal the decision, Wilson thinks the league is watching closely right now and taking notes on how the public is reacting to the six-game suspension. 

“I do think that the NFL wants to see which way the wind is blowing PR-wise and they will determine whether they appeal based on that,” Wilson said. 

Brinson and Wilson spent nearly 30 minutes touching on every possible topic about the suspension, including why you shouldn’t compare Watson’s suspension to the ban given to Calvin Ridley

If you want to listen to the entire episode, be sure to click here. You can also watch today’s episode on YouTube by clicking here.  

2. Why the NFL might appeal Deshaun Watson’s suspension — and win the appeal

Now that the suspension decision is in, the NFL now has until Thursday to decide whether it wants to appeal the six-game punishment given to Deshaun Watson. One reason the league might NOT appeal the suspension is because it would undermine Sue Robinson in her first case as the NFL and NFLPA’s jointly appointed disciplinary officer. 

However, if the NFL does decide to appeal, that would almost certainly be bad news for Watson because the league has a lot of ground to stand on. 

Here’s why an NFL appeal could lead to a lengthening of Watson’s suspension: 

  • Roger Goodell becomes the de facto judge in an appeal. We mentioned this yesterday and it’s definitely worth mentioning again: Although Sue Robinson ordered the six-game suspension, Roger Goodell will ultimately have the final say in this case if the league files an appeal. If the appeal does happen, Goodell (or someone he designates) would get to oversee the appeal process. Basically, the NFL would file the appeal knowing that Goodell will either make the final decision on the case personally or designate the person who will. If that happens, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the NFL doesn’t add games to Watson’s suspension. 
  • How an appeal works. If the NFL does appeal, the league can only use the evidence that was presented in the original hearing. This is important, because even though Watson was facing a civil lawsuit from 24 different women, only four of those cases were taken into consideration by Robinson. The NFL presented a low number of cases at the hearing because the league believed that those four specific cases had the strongest evidence against Watson (The league actually presented five cases, but Robinson only took four of those into consideration). 
  • Why the NFL could win the appeal. The problem for Watson is that Robinson essentially agreed with everything that NFL argued during the hearing. In her 16-page ruling, Robinson wrote that Watson’s conduct violated three provisions of the NFL’s personal conduct policy “by engaging in: (1) sexual assault; (2) conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and (3) conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.”
  • Why Robinson only suspended Watson for six games. If Watson was essentially found guilty on all charges, you might be wondering why his suspension was only six games and that’s due to precedent. Robinson noted in her ruling that the longest punishment ever given to a person who commits a “non-violent” sexual assault is just three games. Robinson didn’t feel there was precedent to suspend Watson for an entire season, so she gave him six games, which she felt was justified since it doubled the number of the previous record for longest suspension. 
  • Why the NFL will now have a strong argument. The most controversial part of Robinson’s ruling is definitely the part where she seems to downplay Watson’s actions because it involved a “non-violent sexual assault.” The NFL could latch on to that and say there’s no such thing as “non-violent sexual assault.” The league could also point out that the three-game suspension — the previous longest for a non-violent sexual assault — was given to Jameis Winston, who was only facing accusations from one woman. Watson is facing accusations from 24 women. Although the NFL can only use four of those accusations in the appeal — since they only used four in the original hearing — that’s still four times the accusations that Winston was facing, so a suspension that’s four times longer than Winston’s could easily be justified. 

No matter what happens, we won’t have to wait long to find out because the NFL only has until the end of the business day on Thursday to file the appeal. 

3. NFL drops hammer on the Dolphins

The NFL’s investigation into the Dolphins is finally over and it definitely didn’t go so well for Miami. During the seven-month investigation, the NFL was looking into two things: Whether Stephen Ross asked Brian Flores to intentionally lose games by tanking and whether the Dolphins were guilty of tampering during their alleged pursuit of both Tom Brady and Sean Payton. 

The tanking allegation was found to be partially true while the tampering allegation was proven to be totally true, and because of that, the NFL has dropped the hammer on the Dolphins with a big punishment that includes: 

  • The Dolphins will forfeit the club’s first-round selection in the 2023 NFL draft and third-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.

  • Ross is suspended through Oct. 17, 2022. During this period, he may not be present at the Dolphins’ facility and may not represent the club at any team or NFL event. He also may not attend any of the NFL’s league meetings prior to the Annual League Meeting in 2023. Ross has also been indefinitely removed from all league committees and fined $1.5 million.

  • Bruce Beal, the Dolphins’ Vice Chairman/Limited Partner, has also been punished. Beal may not attend any league meetings for the remainder of the 2022 season and he’s been fined $500,000.

According to the NFL, the Dolphins were docked draft picks for their brazen pursuit of of both Brady and Payton. Here’s what the league had to say about that part of the investigation: 

  • The Dolphins had impermissible communications with quarterback Tom Brady in 2019-20, while he was under contract to the New England Patriots. Those communications began as early as August 2019 and continued throughout the 2019 season and postseason. These numerous and detailed discussions were conducted by Mr. Beal, who in turn kept Mr. Ross and other Dolphins executives informed of his discussions with Mr. Brady. 
  •  The Dolphins again had impermissible communications with both Mr. Brady and his agent during and after the 2021 season, while he was under contract to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those discussions began no later than early December 2021 and focused on Mr. Brady becoming a limited partner in the Dolphins and possibly serving as a football executive, although at times they also included the possibility of his playing for the Dolphins. Both Messrs. Ross and Beal were active participants in these discussions. 
  •  In January 2022, the Dolphins had impermissible communications with Don Yee, the agent for New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, about having Mr. Payton serve as Miami’s head coach. Miami did not seek consent from New Orleans to have these discussions, which occurred before Coach Payton announced his decision to retire as head coach of the Saints. Following that announcement, Miami requested permission to speak to Coach Payton for the first time, which New Orleans declined to grant.

As for the tanking allegations, the NFL found that once the Dolphins were hopelessly out of the playoff race in 2019, Ross wanted the team to improve its draft position by losing, but he never made a $100,000 offer to Brian Flores, as the former Dolphins coach had claimed. The NFL also pointed out that not only did the Dolphins not tank in 2019, but they actually won two games late in the season that ended up hurting their draft position. 

The most interesting thing in this investigation is the level of detail involved with the Brady tampering. There had been reports all offseason speculating that the Dolphins had hoped to land both Brady and Payton this year. The fact that Brady had been talking to the Dolphins all the way back in August 2019 means that he was willingly playing a part in the tampering even though he was still a member of the Patriots. 

In a twist, Brady will actually be practicing against the Dolphins next week when Tampa Bay and Miami get together for two days of joint practices (Aug. 10 and 11). 

4. Most valuable NFL franchises revealed: Cowboys top the list, Bengals at the bottom

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints

JONATHAN BACHMAN / Getty Images

Jerry Jones might not know how to build a Super Bowl-winning team, but if the NFL ever decides to give a trophy out to the team that turns the biggest profit, Jones will probably get one of those. In the latest ranking of the most valuable NFL franchises, the Cowboys topped the list and it wasn’t close. According to Sportico, the Cowboys are worth an estimated $7.64 billion, which is $1.73 billion more than the next team on the list (Rams). 

Although the Cowboys haven’t been to a Super Bowl in more than 25 years, that doesn’t seem to be hurting the value of a team that has basically been printing money for Jones since he bought them for $140 million in 1989. 

Overall, a total of 16 teams are worth $4 billion or more. 

The Cowboys ($7.64 billion) are worth nearly $2 billion more than the two least valuable franchises combined. The two bottom teams — the Bengals and Lions — have a combined value of $5.7 billion. Apparently, the Bengals run to the Super Bowl didn’t help their valuation at all. Cincinnati finished in dead last with a franchise value of 2.84 billion. The Bengals were one of just four teams with a value under $3 billion. Also, the most valuable division is the NFC East, which has all four of its teams ranked in the top nine. 

Here’s a look at the list of the NFL’s 10 most valuable franchises. 

NFL’s 10 most valuable franchises 

1. Dallas Cowboys ($7.64 billion)

2. Los Angeles Rams (5.91 billion)

3. New England Patriots ($5.88 billion)  

4. New York Giants ($5.73 billion)

5. San Francisco 49ers ($5.18 billion) 

6. Chicago Bears ($5.00 billion) 

7. New York Jets ($4.80 billion)

8. Washington Commanders ($4.70 billion) 

9. Philadelphia Eagles ($4.7 billion)

10. Denver Broncos ($4.65 billion)

To see the entire list from Sportico, be sure to click here.  

5. Big week for kicker and punter contracts

For the roughly three people out there who have been begging me for special teams coverage in the newsletter, we have some big ones today with Chris Boswell and Jake Bailey both landing monstrous new contracts over the past 24 hours. 

Here’s a look at the deal that each player signed: 

  • Boswell gets record-setting extension. The Steelers have given Boswell a four-year extension worth $20 million. At $5 million per year, Boswell is now tied with Justin Tucker as the highest-paid kicker in NFL history. Boswell is also getting $12.5 million in guaranteed money, which is also tied with Tucker for the most given to a kicker. 
  • Why Boswell deserved the raise. Boswell has hit 90% or more of his field goals in each of the past three seasons, which makes him the ONLY kicker in the NFL who has pulled that off. Boswell has also NEVER missed a single field goal in the playoffs. Over the course of his career, Boswell is 16 of 16, which is the second most field goals in postseason history without a miss.  
  • Jake Bailey gets a new deal. Bailey and the Patriots have agreed to terms on a new four-year contract. The new contract, which runs through 2025, is worth up to $13.5 million and includes $6.5 million in guarantees. Although that amount of money doesn’t sound huge, it’s an incredibly high sum for a punter. The total amount of the deal makes him the second-highest-paid punter in the NFL, behind only Seattle’s Michael Dickson, who signed a four-year, $14.7 million deal with the Seahawks in June 2021. Bailey’s average annual salary of $3.375 million per year and his total guaranteed money of $6.5 million also rank second in the NFL behind Dickson. 

Bailey was the ranked the seventh best punter in the rankings I put together back in June. As for Boswell, I had him ranked as the second-best kicker, so I’m not surprised to see him getting paid as much as Tucker. Boswell gets overshadowed because he plays in the same division as Tucker, but he’s definitely one of the best kickers in the NFL.  

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Trevor Lawrence won’t play in Hall of Fame game

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp

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It’s been a wild 24 hours in the NFL, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you. 

  • Jaguars benching Trevor Lawrence for Hall of Fame game. Football will be returning on Thursday with the Hall of Fame game, but when it does, you won’t be seeing very many starters. Jags coach Doug Pederson has already announced that Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne won’t be playing. The Raiders will likely also be benching most of their starters, but they haven’t made an announcement yet. 
  • Cowboys suffer big loss at receiver. James Washington is likely going to miss the first few games of the season after fracturing his fifth metatarsal on Monday. According to NFL.com, the receiver is expected to miss six to 10 weeks. If he misses the full 10 weeks, there’s a chance that Washington might not be able to return until mid-October. That’s bad news for a Cowboys team that has almost no depth at receiver right now. As a matter of fact, CeeDee Lamb is the only healthy receiver on the roster who has caught at least one TD pass in the NFL. 
  • Van Jefferson to undergo minor knee surgery. Rams coach Sean McVay revealed that Jefferson will be undergoing surgery this week after tweaking his knee. It’s not clear how long Jefferson will be out, but McVay did seem hopeful that his receiver would be available for the Rams’ opener against the Bills. “There’s definitely a chance for that, but we’ll see how the surgery goes and kind of have a better feel,” McVay said.

  • Matthew Stafford’s elbow is still bothering him. Stafford has been dealing with an elbow issue all offseason and as of Monday, it continues to linger. The team lightened his workload on Monday to help him deal with the pain. Sean McVay doesn’t sound concerned now, but that could change if the elbow is still bothering Stafford in three or four weeks. “We could certainly push and he could really grind through this, but that’s not the goal with somebody like him. It’s not something that we’re concerned about. We just want to be really smart with somebody that is as important as our quarterback is.”

  • Kyler Murray and Pete Carroll test positive for COVID. The NFC West is going to have a slightly different look this week with both Murray and Carroll sitting out of training camp. Both men tested positive for COVID on Monday, which means both of them will be required to miss at least five days (They can return after five days as long as they’re no longer showing symptoms). 

  • Deebo Samuel has $1.95 million tied to his production a running back. Samuel put up impressive numbers as a running back last season and thanks to his new contract, he’ll be rewarded if that happens again. In the new deal, Samuel will get a $650,000 bonus in any season where he goes over 380 rushing yards. He’ll also get a $150,000 bonus in any season where he scores three or more touchdowns, according to ESPN.com. Samuel can only earn up to $650,000 per season and $1.95 million over the course of the contract. 

  • DirecTV nearing deal to air ‘Thursday Night Football.’ As things currently stand, the only way to watch ‘TNF’ this season will be on Amazon, however, that could soon change. According to the Sports Business Journal, DirecTV is nearing a deal that would allow the company to air ‘TNF’ in restaurants and bars. Basically, this means that if you don’t have Amazon prime, you could go to a bar or restaurant to watch the game. 

  • First trailer for ‘Hard Knocks’ has been released. The Detroit Lions are the featured team on “Hard Knocks” this year and if you want a taste of what things are going to be like during the five-episode run, then you’re going to want to watch the first trailer, which you can do by clicking here. The show will be debuting on Aug. 9 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO. 
  • Broncos add Lewis Hamilton to ownership group. The Broncos have been busy adding new people to their ownership group over the past few weeks. First, it was Condoleezza Rice, and now the team has added seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton. Russell Wilson already seems pretty excited about the new addition. 

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