If the NFL Draft Scouting Combine in Indianapolis is the league’s annual convention, the League Meetings are its Spring Break. Here in Phoenix, owners lounge by the pool with their grandkids, coaches eat nachos with their assistants, agents puff their chests and writers mill around the lobby in polo shirts and khaki shorts, looking for the next big scoop. In addition to seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick chat with Marvin Lewis, you can see Greg Schiano, John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, and Mike Shanahan having lunch — as they did on Monday.
Here were Day 1’s 5 Biggest Takeaways:
1. The Oakland Raiders are headed in the right direction.
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is excited about the future of the Oakland Raiders. Seriously. And after speaking with McKenzie on Monday, he’s got reason to be optimistic about the team. In signing free agent linebacker Nick Roach, the Silver and Black added a player that McKenzie’s had his eye on since he was in the Green Bay front office.
“Anytime you can add a good, solid football player. That’s what we’re looking to do. It’s not all about ‘the guy.’ It’s about how you’re going to make that defensive unit a team. And when you get them all playing together, then you’ve got something.”
McKenzie’s never had a draft selection as high as No. 3 and he’s looking forward to the opportunity of picking in the third spot in April’s NFL Draft. “We didn’t have a first or second round pick a season ago, and our third round pick was a compensatory one at the end of the third round. There’s a lot of good, promising young talent we’re looking at.”
Asked about the quarterbacks, McKenzie acknowledged that there may not be an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in this draft, but the class does have some promise. Two Raiders scouts attended Geno Smith’s Pro Day last week. McKenzie said he plans on attending Matt Barkley’s Pro Day at USC on March 27th.
2. The Patriots did not want to see Wes Welker go.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was surprisingly candid in response to questions around Wes Welker’s leaving New England on Monday. Standing in front of the Biltmore hotel, Kraft came out swinging: “Everyone in our organization wanted Wes Welker back. Anyone who doubts that, or thinks we weren’t serious, just doesn’t get it.”
The owner took some not so subtle shots at Welker’s agents, Athletes First, explaining, “I really believe in this case, his agents misrepresented, in their mind, what his market value was. When you come right down to the bottom line, he accepted a deal in Denver which is less money than what we offered him. In fact, he has a one-year deal in Denver for $6 million. Our last offer, before we would have even gone up and before we thought we were going into free agency, was a $10 million offer with incentives that would have earned him another $6 million if he performed the way he had the previous two years. But in Denver, he’s going to count $4 million against the cap this coming year and $8 million the second year. There is no guarantee that he plays the second year there. He will get $6 million the first year. Our deal, he would have gotten $8 million the first year – our last offer to him."
Kraft went through a brief timeline of events, detailing how Danny Amendola became the Patriots new slot receiver, instead of Welker suiting up in 2013.
“When free agency came, and his agents kept on insisting on a very high number that was beyond our number, we had to go work alternatives,” Kraft said. “Our second alternative was Danny Amendola. He had offers from other teams. So we made a judgment that Wes, unfortunately probably wouldn’t be with us. We made this commitment to Amendola.”
“Wednesday, I personally got a call from Wes and he told me about this offer from Denver. He called Bill as well. We met and we chatted. We have a lot of people, we’ve committed a lot of money to this inside position – you have Gronk, you have Hernandez, you have Danny [Amendola] now – it was just unfortunately a little bit too late.”
Asked whether quarterback Tom Brady — a very close personal friend of Welker’s — had spoken with Kraft about the decision, the owner answered, “I don’t answer to Tom Brady. He’s an important member of the team and we’ve chatted. He did what he did to put us in the best position to build a team around him and win games. We’ve chatted about it. But he has never … it has been reported that he, or people close to him, have made certain comments. None of that is true. I’ve spoken with him directly. Whomever is creating that impression is mistaken.”
Kraft finished by noting, “Wes, I used to speak to him in the locker room and say, ‘You and I have to be smart here to make both sides make it happen.’ The agents are doing their job and trying to do the best job they can. But I just think it was a miscalculation of value here, and playing poker, and unfortunately the player and the team both got hurt.”
The Patriots play the Broncos this season in Denver. The TV ratings for that one probably won’t be too terrible.
3. Some sport called baseball may cost the Ravens their opening night home game.
My apologies to Ken Rosenthal, Jon Morosi, and the rest of the fine folks who cover the game of baseball for FOXSports.com, but the NFL is the real "American pastime," right? OK, maybe not everyone agrees with that. But in the case of sporting events on the night of Sept. 5, we have ourselves quite a power struggle between the nation’s leading two sports.
In short, the defending Super Bowl champions have hosted a Thursday night game to start the season every year since 2004. The announcement of who the team is playing against usually comes during Commissioner Goodell’s press conference at the League Meetings. That press conference came and went today and there was no announcement made. Why? A scheduling conflict. The Baltimore Orioles, who could very well be in a pennant race at the time, have a 7:05 p.m. home game against the Chicago White Sox scheduled for Sept. 5. Major League Baseball is reportedly hesitant to cancel or change the timing of the game because both teams have road games the night before.
So, why not just play the game on Wednesday, like the Giants and Cowboys played last season due to the Democratic National Convention? No go. It’s the Jewish high holiday Rosh Hoshanah, and Goodell said Monday, that’s not a possibility. What about Friday? No go. Both teams play at 7:05 p.m. that Friday, too.
“We’ve talked to Major League Baseball,” Goodell said. “I called Bud Selig twice and spoken to him about that, trying to work out an accommodation to allow the Orioles game to happen earlier in the afternoon and the Ravens to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with their fans at home. We think that’s the right thing. “We’ve agreed to move the game a little bit later to accommodate the baseball game. We think it would be a great day.
“As a kid who grew up an Orioles fan, to have an Orioles game in the afternoon and then go to the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship celebration for the kickoff game would be a great day. We hope that’s the way it happens.”
Could the Orioles play in the early afternoon and the Ravens play a little later than the usual 8 p.m. kickoff time? A league source told me that’s possible, but Major League Baseball holds all the cards in the situation. Their game is already scheduled and baseball — including Orioles ownership — has no incentive to move the game. “And what if there’s extra innings?” asked the source. “The Orioles played a bunch of extra inning games last year. What happens then?”
Another possibility? The Ravens opening the season that first Thursday night on the road. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly doable. Baltimore’s supposed to play in Denver this season. After their classic AFC Divisional round game last January, it’d be awfully interesting seeing Joe Flacco and the Ravens going back into Denver to start 2013.
Again, not ideal … but a solution.
More to come on this front in the coming days.
4. If Jake Long’s healthy, the Rams got a bargain.
Though it may have felt like it lasted forever, Jake Long’s courting period in St. Louis really only lasted a few days. Remember, Reggie White took 37 days before he signed with the Packers in 1993. A few days? That’s nothing.
Late Friday night, Long inked a four-year, $36 million deal to join the Rams as their new starting left tackle. He chose the Rams over the Dolphins.
“They really made me feel welcome, my wife and I,” Long told the St. Louis Post Dispatch early Monday morning. “It was such a great family atmosphere. It was something I wanted to be a part of. But in the end I wanted to think it through, make the right decision because Miami was amazing to me. Took me No. 1 [in the 2008 NFL draft]. Mr. [Stephen] Ross [the Dolphins owner] and I have a great relationship. This was my home for the last five years, and I just wanted to make sure I made the right decision.”
Long got a text from Sam Bradford, the quarterback he’ll be protecting for the next four seasons and potentially beyond.
Rams officials indicated that Long had a thorough physical examination by the medical staff last week and passed. When healthy, he’s still one of the most dominant tackles in the game. In an NFC West division that includes three of the best pass rushing defenses in the NFL, the Rams saw upgrading at left tackle as a top priority this week.
Long, at the numbers he’s going to be making, will cost St. Louis roughly the same amount of money Will Beatty will make from the Giants and Jermon Bushrod will make from the Bears.
Long’s better than those two players. If healthy — again, that’s the big wild card — that’s a tremendous bargain.
5. I don’t think Darrelle Revis is getting traded this month.
Many of the NFL’s power agents were on the grounds at The Biltmore on Monday and several were saying the same thing — there’s not much of a market for free agent cornerbacks this year. Some of the deals inked last week — Sean Smith to Kansas City, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Denver, Cary Williams to Philadelphia — came in a little lower than the general consensus expected they would prior to the start of free agency.
“There just isn’t a big buyer’s market this year,” one agent told me. “Teams just aren’t lining up to drop huge money on this crop of free agent cornerbacks. It is what it is."
This leads me to believe that the Jets aren’t being bombarded with offers for Darrelle Revis, either. That could benefit New York in the long run.
Though there have been reports all week that Revis would be swapped to a list of teams, I think the Jets will wait until April before trading their All-Pro cornerback. From a trade perspective, it’d be wise to see Revis working out at full strength, in some capacity, to show that his ACL is back 100 percent (or close to it). If there are any questions at all about his health, the market for Revis will only heat up after he shows what he can do on the field in workouts. He’s getting there, I’m sure, but until teams see it — they’re not going to pay what they would have prior to the injury for the Jets star.
I still believe Revis will be traded this off-season. I just think that the trade will be executed closer to the Draft.
And if I’m wrong on this one, several of my sources are too.
Sorry, Buccaneers fans, I just don’t see Revis in pewter and black … yet.