Patriots draw a bead on smooth spending


Patriots draw a bead on smooth spending

PALM BEACH - The NFL salary cap went bye-bye for a year in 2010. When it returned in July 2011, it had lost some size since the last time we'd seen it in 2009 - from 123 million to 120 million.

This, one would imagine, was not what the players had in mind. But the NFL owners - savvy businessmen that they are - weren't going to make the same mistakes in 2011 that they did in 2006.

Back then, their revised CBA agreement with the players saw per-team player spending balloon from 84 million to the aforementioned 123 million in five years.

Now, the owners have more cost control. Robert Kraft spoke about this Tuesday at the NFL's Annual Meetings at The Breakers.

"I think what you'll see over the next five to six years is a smoother growth in the salary cap," said Kraft. "It won't be the kind of jump that you saw in '06 and so I think it'll require that people manage the resources they have as intelligently as they can."

Kraft then uttered a hard-to-follow sentence, saying, "I think there will be a lot of free agents in the market that just have to manage your cap wisely if you want to be competitive year in and year out."

Was that a false start on making a comment about free agent players? On keeping costs down? Both? Neither?

Clearly, the Patriots are extremely cost-conscious in free agency generally. They've appeared to be even more so this season with short, cost-effective deals to mid-tier free agent targets.

But the teams that have gone in big with deals have at least had the assurance that, when the new TV contracts are signed, more money will come into the league coffers and the salary cap will rise. In other words, the deal that looks fiscally risky because of the cap room it eats up today will look reasonable tomorrow.

Not so fast, said Kraft.

"People are assuming that because the TV spikes, that's all going to get paid. The networks aren't looking to pay us a lot of money right up front. They also smooth out how they pay us out, so I would think the later years of the deals would have higher payments," Kraft explained. "That's the reason for that. They agreed to these long-term commitments but they also smooth out. Part of doing long-term deals allowed for payments that (are gradual). They have to show their stockholders that they did a wise deal so... The good news is we have growth, we have it long-term and everyone's going to benefit by it. But it's not going to be Spikes that will not be good for planning. This way, people can plan."

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

With the NFL facing more PR issues by the day, Randy Moss has identified what he feels is wrong with a league that can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

In wake of the Josh Brown situation, which saw the NFL blame the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office for the lack of initial punishment given to the Giants kicker for domestic violence, Moss said on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that commissioner Roger Goodell is the league’s biggest problem. 

“[This is] a bad time to show up now, breast cancer awareness month where we’re supporting the women, and then you come up with this Josh Brown, where it doesn’t seem like we are supporting women,” Moss said. “I think the NFL needs to take a deep look. I think the owners are mad, and Roger Goodell, he is the biggest reason to all of this stuff that’s fallen downhill with the NFL. I have to agree with that.”

Brown was initially given a one-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy stemming from his 2015 fourth-degree domestic violence charge. On Friday, the 37-year-old was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. 

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.