Around the NFL Offseason (there is no offseason)

Jordan Cameron Retires After Four Concussions In Four Years: “I Can’t Risk My Mental Health In The Future”

Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron announced his retirement yesterday at the age of 28. After suffering four concussions in four years, he said that the possibility of long-term health risks was too much. As he told ESPN yesterday:

“I started thinking about concussions too much. You can’t play football like that…. If I didn’t get concussions, I’d probably keep playing. It’s one of those things. I can’t risk my mental health in the future. I don’t have any symptoms now. I’m perfectly fine. But they can’t tell me with 100 percent certainty that if I keep playing and I get more concussions, that I’m going to be okay. I’m not risking that at all. There’s nothing more important than your health. It’s just not worth it to me.”

The Dolphins had expressed concern about his long-term potential in the NFL back in October, a few weeks after his last concussion. He signed with Miami two years ago—then just a season removed from an 80-catch, 917-yard Pro Bowl season with the Browns. But he never reached those heights again and his concussions meant that he only played in three games last year.

 Though he has been cleared by a neurologist to return to play, he’s decided it isn’t worth it. When asked by ESPN if he felt the NFL had properly educated him on the danger of concussions before he was drafted in 2011, he said he personally believed that they’d done what they could at the time: “I want to say I hope they didn’t know the serious implications of these things. I feel like it was just starting, just on the brink of this coming to light and all the seriousness of these things. Now I feel like seven years later people know how serious this can be. Unfortunately it takes people dying to figure that out. That’s the saddest thing in the world to me.”

God Help Them, The Cleveland Browns Are Trying To Outsmart The NFL

Reaction to the Cleveland Browns’ surprising trade with the Houston Texans for Brock Osweiler Thursday ran the gamut from fulsome praise to “Bill Polian Yells At Cloud.” Cleveland indeed waded into new territory (for the NFL) by using its extraordinary surplus of salary cap space to essentially trade for a higher draft pick, with Osweiler serving as simply a means to an end. It’s the latest chip in the Browns’ protracted effort to amass draft capital, and while it’s certainly an innovative approach, it’s still just an early step.

First, a look at the terms:

  • Cleveland receives: Osweiler, 2017 sixth-round pick, 2018 second-round pick
  • Houston receives: 2017 fourth-round pick, $10 million in cap savings

Osweiler sucks and is due $16 million in guaranteed salary, for which the Browns are now on the hook. The trade gave the Texans an easy escape from the laughably bad contract they gave Osweiler last year while also providing them with the flexibility to pursue another experienced starter, most likely Tony Romo. It was quickly reported that Cleveland intended to release or trade Osweiler—moves that would require the Browns to eat all or a significant portion of his 2017 salary—but even that’s in keeping with the grander plan.

When chief operating officer Paul DePodesta and general manager Sashi Brown were hired in January 2016, they made no secret of their intention to take a quantitative approach to Cleveland’s rebuild. DePodesta and Brown began their project last year by letting several in-house free agents (offensive linemen Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz, wideout Travis Benjamin, free safety Tashaun Gipson) walk before twice trading down in the first round of the draft. The Browns were rewarded with four compensatory picks (a third-rounder, two fourths, and a fifth) to add to their boatload of draft choices.

 All told, Cleveland now has 11 picks each in this year’s and next year’s drafts. That haul includes five of the first 65 overall selections this year and four picks in the first two rounds next year. The Browns also maneuvered to set themselves up with a whopping $102 million in salary cap space this year, right when the timing was perfect. The league’s cash-spending rules require teams to spend 89 percent of the salary cap, but only in cumulative, four-year increments. And this is the first year of the latest increment, which runs from 2017 to 2020.

What the Browns did, insofar as Osweiler concerns them, is use some of that surplus cap room toward a sunk cost (Osweiler’s $16 million in guarantees) that allowed them to obtain Houston’s 2018 second-round pick in exchange for flipping late-round picks this year. It’s an NBA-style move that’s drawing comparisons to what Sam Hinkie did with The Process in Philadelphia. ESPN’S Bill Barnwell went deep to try to gauge the relative value of the assets the Browns swapped, in addition to the gray areas of whether a trade like this is even permitted by the NFL, which prohibits dealing players straight up for cash. But the larger question is this: What will Cleveland ultimately do with all these draft assets? They’re worthless unless some of them are used to obtain good football players.

 Stockpiling draft choices is not a novel strategy, even for the stodgy-ass NFL. As Barnwell noted, the Jimmy Johnson-era Cowboys of the late 1980s and early ‘90s did it by trading running back Herschel Walker. The Packers and Patriots have been doing it for years. And from 1996-2014, the Ravens hoarded 41 compensatory picks, more than any team in the league. As Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta told The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas:

“We look at the draft as, in some respects, a luck-driven process. The more picks you have, the more chances you have to get a good player. When we look at teams that draft well, it’s not necessarily that they’re drafting better than anybody else. It seems to be that they have more picks. There’s definitely a correlation between the amount of picks and drafting good players.”

All of the above are success stories, but it doesn’t always work out that way. In 2014, then-Jets GM John Idzik wiped the team’s cap slate clean and entered the draft with 12 picks—a deliberate attempt to mimic the Ravens’ strategy. Idzik was canned at the end of that season in part because he and head coach Rex Ryan had been so horribly mismatched, but also because nearly every one of those 12 picks (Jace Amaro in the second round, Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans in the fourth, to name a few) turned out to be a dud. The Browns have (in theory) set themselves up nicely with a fresh approach into an old system. Actually getting players is when the hard part begins.


Here Is A Thing That Happened In Tim Tebow’s Spring Training Debut

(just seeing if you’re paying attention)

At the start of the bottom of the third inning, New York Mets designated hitter Tim Tebow left the dugout to get some warm-up swings in before stepping into the box. But, strangely, he walked all the way around behind the plate—from the Mets dugout on the third-base side to the on-deck circle in front of the visitors’ dugout, on the first-base side.

Boston’s Rick Porcello, warming up on the mound, said he assumed it was a bat boy. After all, why would a Mets player be over there?

After a few swings, home plate umpire Ryan Additon noticed Tebow in the wrong on-deck circle, and told Tebow to get back to his side of the field. Tebow sheepishly complied.

Afterward Tebow explained his mistake, saying he had always thought that lefty batters warm up on that side of the field no matter which team they play for.

“I thought you walk around because you’re a left-hander. I found out you don’t do that.”

“It looked like he hadn’t played baseball in a while,” Mets hitting coach Kevin Long said.

“He’s so far behind on the nuances of the game,” Mets OF Jay Bruce said.

“Definitely there’s a lot of things I’m trying to play catch-up on,” Tebow said.

Tebow went 0-for-3, with two strikeouts and a grounder into a double play. He reached base when he was hit by a pitch; he was promptly doubled off on a soft liner when he strayed too far from first.

 Here are some highlights:

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