New proposal not hostile to players

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New proposal not hostile to players

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
With the suddenly accelerating NFL labor talks moving to an undisclosed location here in Massachusetts on Wednesday,here are afew quick hits on what we've learned so far: 1. It's important to remember that the players are the ones giving something back here. The ownersfelt - rightly - that they got taken to the cleaners in 2006 and wanted the CBA reopened so that they could reshape the percentage of total revenue the players get. So the very fact that there will be some change in the owners' favor makes them "winners." But as the outline of the proposal comes into focus, it seems the players are not going to get beaten about the head and face in the new deal. 2. We've had so many numbers and percentages floated at us since the process began - 60-40, 50-50, 58-42 - it's hard to keep track of what exactly the numbers are. Here's the simplest explanation: The NFL reaps 9 billion in revenue. In the past, credits to the owners for spending on game growth totaling about 1 billion were taken off the top. Of the remaining 8 billion, the players took about 60 percent, the owners 40 percent. That meant the players got about 4.8 billion. That's 53 percent of the 9 billion. In the new proposed model, the players will get 48 percent. The foolish "1 billion off the top then start doing the math" is being tossed. If the revenue were still 9 billion, the players would get 4.3 billion. Yes, that's 500 million less, but remember, at the outset, the players said they'd take a 50-50 split. So the 48 percent works. Why? Read on. 3. ESPN seemed to be the first with the details of the proposal owners discussed on Tuesday. And one of the most beneficial to the players is that teams will be compelled to pay nearly to the salary cap. Previously, there was a "floor" that was significantly lower than the cap. For instance, in 2009, the salary cap was almost 128 million, but the floor was 112.1 million. In the new proposal, even if the salary cap drops to pre-2009 totals - say 120 million (by the way, owners wanted to make it 114 million in 2011 in their final proposal before the lockout), even the poor-mouth teams will be forced to pay close to the cap. The actual numbers aren't yet known. 4. The rising salary floor - and the fact the cap will likely remain in the 120 million range (and continue to rise) - could mean trouble for the lower-revenue teams like Cincinnati and Buffalo. Yes, all teams share in the lucrative TV deals and there will be a windfall when they are next renegotiated but the fiscal realities for places like Buffalo remain unchanged. They don't have a lucrative market to mine like the Patriots, Jets, Giants, Redskins and Cowboys.According to a Forbes study of team valuations in 2010, theCowboys had more than twice the total revenue of the Lions (420 million to 210 million).The cap gobbles up significantly more for those low-income teams, preventing them from realizing the same opportunities to improve their infrastructure, hire more employees, spend more on coaching and scouting. So the playing field will continue to tilt. And if the market isn't going to change in a place like Buffalo, it may be time to change markets. (Los Angeles?) 5. The fact that free agency will be granted after four years is no surprise. It's always been four years. The six-year free agency we saw in the uncapped year was a penalty to the players that was put into the last CBA to force negotiation before the CBA entered its walk year. Why would the owners expect the players to take a penal version of free agency in the new deal? I was surprised people were surprised by that news. 6. Good friend Don Banks of SI.com reported that the meetings in Chicago were short on specifics. Why? It seems that, while some aspects of the deal are locked down, many are still being hashed out and they didn't want factions to form among the owners over things that were still in the womb, so to speak. 7. In order for the proposal to pass with the owners, 24 of the 32 need to be in favor. For the players, it's a simple majority. 8. Prediction? Deal announced by July 8. Free agency begins July 12. Camps open on time.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

First impressions: Mitchell sees season-high in targets with Gronkowski out

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First impressions: Mitchell sees season-high in targets with Gronkowski out

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hit impressions from Sunday's matchup between the Patriots and Rams . . . 

* How will the Patriots offense look without Rob Gronkowski? With a week to prepare for life post-Gronk, the Patriots leaned heavily on their three-receiver sets. That meant plenty of work for rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who saw a season-high in targets with 10. Tom Brady seemed more than happy to throw to Mitchell at the line of scrimmage with the Rams playing off-coverage, leading to relatively short-but-productive gains. 

* Brady seemed to take exception with something he saw from Mitchell during a drive mid-way through the fourth quarter. On the sideline, Brady looked heated while looking over pictures of the drive with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Brady was later caught on the Fox broadcast speaking to Mitchell on the bench. As well as Brady's young lockermate has performed, it was a moment that indicated he isn't doing everything perfectly just yet. 

* McDaniels got creative early with Gronkowski gone. He used the two-back pony set to start the game and handed off to Dion Lewis for four yards. He also found success with LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots running game, using four running plays on the first five snaps of the game. McDaniels then had his offense go five-wide and he sent Julian Edelman in motion. On the subsequent drive, McDaniels turned to the screen game to try to catch Los Angeles' aggressive front off-guard. 

* The Patriots offense stalled at points thanks in part to the Rams' front: Aaron Donald blew up a run play in the second quarter and on the same drive Brady was pressured on back-to-back snaps, leading to a punt. It wasn't an immaculate day from the Patriots offense, but against a talented defensive line, and without their most dynamic offensive player, they'll take it. 

* The Patriots locked things down defensively in what was an all-around dominant performance. Malcolm Butler bounced back after a difficult game versus the Jets, allowing just two catches for 12 yards on five targets until allowing a 66-yarder to Kenny Britt. He broke up two passes and picked off a gift when tight end Lance Kendricks let a pass bounce off of his hands and into the air. Devin McCourty was sound in coverage, breaking up two passes to Britt, a fellow Rutgers product. Britt later got him back for a one-yard garbage-time touchdown. Eric Rowe appeared to play well until suffering a hamstring injury that knocked him from the game. 

* Up front, Alan Branch played with abandon fresh off of finding out that he will not be suspended four games this weekend. He had three hurries, a quarterback hit and a stuffed run to continue his strong season. Rob Ninkovich (two hurries, a hit and a sack), Trey Flowers (four hurries and a hit) and Chris Long (one hurry, three hits and a sack) were pains for rookie quarterback Jared Goff. 

* Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect four-for-four on his field goals, knocking down a 48-yarder and a 45-yarder from the right hash mark and a 45-yarder from the left hash on consecutive drives. He also made both of his extra-point attempts. 

* Some special teams notes . . . Cyrus Jones muffed a punt from "weapon," as Bill Belichick called him this week, Johnny Hekker. The punt-return job was Danny Amendola's until Amendola suffered an ankle injury that knocked him from the game. That could be a critical injury to the Patriots in the kicking game. Amendola has also been a key part of the offense on third downs and in red-zone situations. Jonathan Jones was flagged twice on special teams. 

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Scott Zolak said on Pregame Live Sunday that the Patriots are better-suited to survive a season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski than they were a season ago. 

Zolak said that given the health of Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and the signing of Chris Hogan, the offense has more stability at other positions to make up for the loss of Gronkowski, whose season is over due to back surgery. As for the tight end position, Zolak said he feels the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett to protect themselves against scenarios like the one they currently face. 

“This offseason they [acquired] Martellus Bennett, I think for this very reason: to prepare for what really happens year after year, is some sort of issue comes up with Rob Gronkowski and you have to play without him,” Zolak said.

Bennett was questionable with an ankle injury for this week’s game, but is expected to play. Asked about the health of Bennett, Zolak said that he believes the tight end is good to play, but that his importance to the team with Gronkowski out means the Pats will need to be careful. 

“I think he’s healthy enough to get through about 30-35 snaps,” Zolak said. “They’ve got to balance him now moving forward.”