Martin, Dolphins working toward offseason trade

Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin’s interview on NBC with Tony Dungy on Tuesday night is part of a progressive plan to help him return to the NFL, although not with the Miami Dolphins. Despite the fact the team recently hired Dennis Hickey as general manager, Martin is still not expected to return to the team.

At the same time, Martin has no plans to sue the team or seek any other action. Instead, Martin wants to work with the team so that he can be traded to a team with earnest interest in him. The Dolphins can’t trade Martin until after the beginning of the 2014 league year in March.

While Martin is not expected to get a lot in return for the Dolphins, two general managers said last week at the Senior Bowl that Martin would probably worth something.

“You can play the game with them a little that they’re probably going to have to cut him if they can't trade him, but then he goes through waivers and you have to compete with other teams in that process. If you trade for him, you get him on a decent contract,” one general manager said.

More importantly, both GMs said that Martin has value because he is an offensive tackle and possesses rare physical traits.

“He’s not a great player, but there aren’t many people who can play the position. Unless something else comes out that we don’t know about, he’s going to be playing next season,” the GM said.

A report compiled by attorney Ted Wells about the incident between Martin and former teammate Richie Incognito is expected to be released after the Super Bowl.

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NFLPA debating whether to use $2M option on cap

The NFL Players Association is debating whether to use a $2 million per team option to help increase the salary cap to more than $128 million in 2014 and end a string of four consecutive years in which the cap has been below its high-water mark in 2009 under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Spending on players has been below $128 million per team in 2009, the final year of the cap under the previous CBA. A new CBA was agreed upon in 2011 in which players took a significant decrease in compensation.
In addition, the union is hoping to reverse two years of uncomfortable negotiations aimed at boosting the cap and avoiding player unrest. The union has had to fend off a possible decrease in the cap from 2011 to 2012 and then get a $3 million increase from 2012 to 2013.
In 2012, the union agreed with owners to move the payment of certain benefits to later years of the CBA and move that money to salary compensation. In the process, the union also agreed with the owners not to bring any charges of collusion against the NFL for actions prior to the current CBA. That was despite the fact that owners have acknowledged that they made an agreement in 2010 among themselves not to spend more than $120 million per team in the uncapped year.
In 2013, the union also agreed to defer the payment of performance-based pay to all players, causing a negative reaction in the agent and player community.
This year, the salary cap is preliminarily expected to increase to $126.3 million, which would mark the fifth straight year that the cap was below the 2009 level, when current NFLPA Executive Director De Smith was elected. The good news for the union is that the projected increase of $3.3 million is considered a conservative estimate.
However, if the cap comes in at the current projection, the union could use the $2 million option to boost the cap to at least $128.3 million.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah declined to say whether the union would use the option.
“The new economic model places an emphasis on cash spending to players not on cap, which is the highest it has ever been. Any report on what the salary cap will be next season is speculative because we will not know until mid-March. No decisions can be considered until then. Any reporting on the salary cap without the context or understanding of how the new system works is incom-plete,” Atallah wrote in an email.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the option exists, but deferred any question about what the union would do to the union.
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Ravens to hire Kubiak today

The Baltimore Ravens have hired former Houston coach Gary Kubiak to be their next offensive coordinator, replacing Jim Caldwell, according to multiple reports. Kubiak is expected to be joined by former Houston assistants Rick Dennison and Kyle Shanahan, although those hirings have not been finalized.

Kubiak was the head coach of the Texans for eight years and built one of the league’s most consistent offenses until the team was undermined by injury and inconsistent play this season. In particular, quarterback Matt Schaub had his worst season. Kubiak was fired with three games left in the season after Houston fell to 2-11. However, his teams were a combined 22-10 the previous two years before losing in the playoffs.

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Report: Ravens trying to hire Kubiak, Shanahan

ESPN reported Monday morning that the Baltimore Ravens are trying to assemble an offensive coaching staff that would feature former Houston coach Gary Kubiak as the coordinator with Kyle Shanahan and Rick Dennison as his top assistants.

Shanahan was the offensive coordinator under Kubiak in Houston before going to Washington to work with his father. Dennison joined Kubiak in 2010 as Houston’s offensive line coach, but worked with Kubiak as both an assistant coach and as a teammate during more than 15 years together in Denver. Shanahan and Dennison also know each other well. Dennison worked under Mike Shanahan with the Broncos.

Prior to Monday, Ravens assistant coach Jim Hostler was considered the favorite to get the offensive coordinator job.

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Goodell impressed by Pro Bowl

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had a favorable reaction to the new format and competitiveness of the annual Pro Bowl. In the game played on Sunday in Honolulu, Team Rice beat Team Sanders 22-21.

“You have to admit it was very competitive,” Goodell told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning on Monday. “Exciting. Fun. I think the players played much harder … I believe it was a very, very positive step. I salute the players.”

Over the weekend, NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth said Goodell came close to canceling the annual all-star game. Foxworth made suggestions to the format, such as changing the AFC vs. NFC format and turning the game into a draft to help amp the competitive-ness of the game.

The suggestions seem to have worked for now, but the NFL remains concerned about whether the game will be taken seriously by fans.

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A storm is brewing

The star-studded class of the 2011 draft had to put off guaranteed money when the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed that year.

But three years later, when players such as Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green and J.J. Watt have established themselves, don’t expect the top players from that draft to make serious money.

And maybe not for a while.

In a survey of 10 NFL general managers and/or salary cap specialists, all of them said they expect almost every player from the first round in 2011 to be tendered for a fifth year in their contract rather than sign a long-term extension this year. Simply put, a system that was advertised as a way to reward players who perform has instead turned into leverage against the players.

Or as one team executive put it: “Why wouldn’t you just put the option on them?”

In response, numerous agents said the system is clearly broken.

“The (NFL Players Association) sold the best players in the draft down the river,” one agent said. “And the worst part is they don’t understand the ripple effect. If star players like Newton, Peterson and Watt don’t get paid, how is anybody else supposed to get paid? You base the value of contracts on what the stars make and work your way down.”

According to data produced by the website and confirmed by many executives, the fifth-year salaries for most players from the 2011 draft are expected to be so inexpensive that there is almost no reason for teams to want to renegotiate right now. In addition, those salaries aren’t guaranteed for anything more than injury until the beginning of the player’s fifth season, putting the team in almost no risk.

For instance, standout defensive ends Watt, Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan and Muhammad Wilkerson project to have fifth-year salaries of only $5.25 million in 2015, according to figures. While several executives said the number will probably be a little more than $6 million by the time new figures come in, the salary is still relatively small.

And not guaranteed. Beyond that, those players can be franchised in 2016, giving teams ample control of them through the 2016 season.

In the case of Watt, who is due to make just over $1.9 million this season, if his fifth-year option is $6 million and the franchise tag is $12 million for him in 2016, the Texans essentially have him under contract for three more years at only $20 million. On the open market, Watt might be worth double that.

“If I was Houston and had Watt or I was the Jets with Wilkerson, why do anything right now?” one executive said. “What’s the pressure on the team? Sure, if you get a good deal and you can buy out three or four more years, essentially buy his whole career, maybe.”

Thus, a player like Watt would be lucky to get $20 million guaranteed on a six-year, $60 million deal that would mean the first nine years of his career would be with Houston. Compare that to defensive ends Jared Allen (six-year deal for $73.2 million with $31 million guaranteed) or Mario Williams (six years, $96 million with $50 million guaranteed).

Even teams like Tennessee, Jacksonville and Minnesota, which took quarterbacks Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder, have little risk in putting a tender on those players.

Cam NewtonCam Newton took a big step forward in 2013, but it's unlikely that he will be fairly compensated for his efforts.

To many people in the industry, that’s an indication of how lopsided the rules on paying rookies – and top rookies, at that – have become under the new CBA. In 2011, the owners recoiled at signing bonuses that reached upwards of $50 million for players such as 2010 No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. Other players in the top 10 picks were regularly getting $25 million and $30 million guaranteed before playing a down in the NFL.

At the same time, the idea at the time was that players who prove themselves deserved to get paid sooner. Rookie contracts were reduced from a maximum of six years in the first round to only four (players drafted after the first round still only can get a four-year max contract). The catch is that NFL teams have the option to exercise a fifth season on first-round picks. This is the first year under the new system in which teams can exercise the option.

With the exception of a team such as Green Bay with injury-ravaged offensive lineman Derek Sherrod, just about every team is expected to exercise the option. Even Tampa Bay, which has disappointing 2011 first-rounders Adrian Clayborn and Gabe Carimi, is likely to exercise the options because the contracts aren’t guaranteed.

“You’d rather have control than not because there’s very little risk. What if Carimi comes in and plays really well? You have him under contract for $5 or $6 million in 2015. Do it. Same goes for Clayborn,” one source said.

Even flop quarterbacks such as Locker and Ponder could get the option, several GMs said.

“You’d probably have to alter the contract a little so that you could buy insurance for the season against an injury, but that’s not expensive. If you’re talking about a $13 or $14 million salary, the insurance is about $150,000 and you’d get the cap credit back,” an NFC executive said.

Even someone like Newton, who has performed better than Bradford to this point, is unlikely to get a contract commensurate with other quarterbacks. Bradford received a six-year, $78 million deal.

If Carolina wants, it can wait on Newton. Under the current system, Newton is due an option salary of $13.6 million according to’s numbers and a $16.4 million franchise salary in 2016. Add that to his original four-year, $22 million contract and Newton will make roughly $52 million over his first six years.

And at a time when quarterbacks such as Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo are getting in excess of $50 million over the first three years of their new contracts, Newton is due to make roughly $35 million over his next three years.

Or as one agent put it: “Think about that. As good as Newton is when you compare him to those guys, he has no leverage. This system was supposed to give guys leverage if they played well. It has failed. Absolutely failed.”

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Ray Farmer pulls out of Dolphins GM search

Cleveland Assistant General Manager Ray Farmer has pulled out of the running for the Dolphins general manager job, according to CBS Sports reporter Jason LaCanfora. Farmer had been expected to get a second interview for the position.

Farmer pulling out leaves the Dolphins with in-house executive Brian Gaine, Tampa Bay’s Dennis Hickey, Omar Khan of Pittsburgh and Lake Dawson of Tennessee as remaining candidates who have interviewed for the job.

However, candidates for the job have expressed concern about power structure within the front office, saying that owner Stephen Ross has been non-committal about the structure.

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Goodell comments on Richard Sherman's rant

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reacted to cornerback Richard Sherman’s postgame rant on Sunday during an interview with CBS This Morning, saying that he hoped Sherman would pre-sent himself in the “best possible way” and defending Sherman’s character.

“It’s an emotional game, and you see a young man who comes off the field and he’s pumped up, and there’s so much excitement in the stadium, but no, I’m not cheering for that because he’s a great young man, he’s extremely well spoken, does great things off the field, obviously a great play-er on the field. I want him to present himself in the best possible way, and make sure that he’s re-flecting on himself and his family in a positive way. He took away a little bit from the team. That was what he said yesterday. I thought that was a very interesting comment and I think it’s fair,” Goodell said.

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Suh fired agent at Pro Bowl

Two agents currently in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl confirmed that Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is there to play in the game, has told them that he has fired agent Eugene Parker and is interviewing candidates to represent him. Suh is entering the final year of his deal and has a $12.5 million base salary. The Lions are expected to renegotiate with Suh on a new contract this off-season to both reduce his salary cap number and keep him with the team long-term.

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Harbaugh says sideline collision unintentional

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday that the NFL has been in contact with the team about a collision between an assistant coach and Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane on the sideline as Lane was covering a punt Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.

Lane was knocked down on the play as it appeared that the assistant coach, who Harbaugh would not identify, went to hit him. Harbaugh said the coach was merely trying to defend himself as someone ran toward him.

“I think there has been some contact there. (General Manager) Trent’s (Baalke) talked to them about that. I do have a perspective on that because I did see it. I was standing closer to the sideline than the person that got run into,” Harbaugh said. “I saw Jeremy deep into our box and I turned around. What I saw was our guy do the exact same thing. I was practically in his shoes because we both turned around and saw the same thing. And he did run into our guy and kind of stumbled down to the ground. But our guy was in a spot back where he was supposed to be. I saw it with my own two eyes. I saw the same kind of reaction. He made the same reaction that I did. So, it was bang-bang. I could be called for a witness on that because I saw it.”

The collision was reminiscent of a sideline incident in 2010 in which then-New York Jets assistant strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Miami coverage man Nolan Carroll. Alosi was eventually fined $25,000 and suspended for the rest of the season. The Jets were also fined $100,000.

Harbaugh said this situation was not the same as the Jets-Dolphins incident.

“Yeah, you don’t know which way to go other than just hold your ground and protect yourself. Which was his reaction. It would have been mine as well. But I think I would be welcomed to be called and say the same thing on the record,” Harbaugh said.

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