Vacation’s a few days away for me. So let’s drop some notes here …
• Count me among those rolling eyes at Dan Snyder’s attorney’s contention that a scheduling conflict, as well as the weird idea that testifying virtually would prevent his lawyers from being present, is keeping him from appearing before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
Here’s what a committee spokesperson told ESPN on Monday: “If Mr. Snyder was truly committed to cooperating with the Committee’s investigation, he would have accepted the Committee’s invitation to testify about the Commanders‘ toxic workplace culture. As the Chairwoman’s letter made clear, the Committee has been more than accommodating—even allowing Mr. Snyder to testify remotely from France. His refusal to testify sends an unmistakable signal that Mr. Snyder has something to hide and is afraid of coming clean to the American public and addressing major worker protection concerns facing the NFL. The Committee will not be deterred in its investigation to uncover the truth of workplace misconduct at the Washington Commanders.”
It’s way past time to call Snyder what he’s been the last two years—completely gutless.
As the once proud franchise he bought over 20 years ago has been disgraced over the last two years, Snyder has been totally invisible, refusing to publicly address the nickname change, the allegations of a toxic workplace culture, the accusations made against him personally, or anything else that’s happened. I can’t imagine there’s an owner in sports that’s done more to damage his team’s brand (though I guess the Knicks’ Dolan family might be in the running) than Snyder has since 1999. His lack of accountability makes it even worse.
Along those lines, I’ll be fascinated to see how Roger Goodell handles this in his own testimony.
• Hate seeing Trae Waynes saying, on the Geary and Stein Sports Show podcast, that “in my head, I’m done.” And trust me, I’m not saying that because he’s mulling walking away—because I actually think it’s a healthy thing that players are feeling more freedom now to make that decision earlier in their lives. This one’s sad for a different reason, because it really does feel like Waynes’s career could become a casualty of COVID.
Two years ago, in March 2020, the ex-Viking agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal with the Bengals, but couldn’t get to Cincinnati fast enough to get a physical to finish the deal before the world shut down. Waynes moved his wife and two kids to Cincinnati that May, in part because the Bengals were one of the teams at that point not allowing for third-party physicals to finalize contracts. He thought if he got to town early, even with the team facility closed, he could arrange for the team doctor to meet him off-site to do the physical.
The Bengals wouldn’t do it, so his contract remained unsigned, and Waynes altered his regimen to avoid injury until he could finalize his deal—with a $15 million signing bonus hanging in the balance. So, really, he wasn’t getting ready for contact the way he normally would. He wound up, finally, getting his physical and signing his deal that July. He tore his pec early in training camp that August, missed the entire 2020 season, and all but five games of last year (though he was able to play in the playoffs for Cincinnati).
So in the end, the Bengals spent $31 million over two years and got five games, and four starts, from Waynes. And Waynes, who’d played in 74 of 80 games over five years in Minnesota, saw his love for football killed by a parade of injuries that might have been avoided if not for that squabble over the physical.
No winners here.
• While we’re on the subject of COVID, I find it pretty believable that the Ravens could wind up having a very real No. 1 receiver in Rashod Bateman. Things got funky with his draft stock after a weird final year at Minnesota (he opted out, then opted back in, then opted out again) and some tumult through the spring. But before the 2020 season kicked off, he was seen as perhaps the best receiver in college football.
And with Hollywood Brown gone, he should have plenty of opportunity.
• This morning, we went through Hunter Renfrow’s contract, and while I was digging that one up, I came across the three-year, $80 million extension that Cooper Kupp signed with the Rams. Here’s the rundown on that one …
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2022: $10 million
2023: $15 million (vests next year)
2024: $15 million (vests next year)
2025: $12.5 million
2026: $14.85 million
Roster bonuses (due in March)
2023: $5 million
2024: $5 million
2025: $7.5 million
2026: $5 million
Add it up, and you get to $109.85 million over five years, with the remaining two years and $29.85 million left on his old deal folded in. So what’s interesting here? Really, a couple of things. First, only $35 million is currently fully guaranteed (his signing bonus, his base, and next year’s roster bonus). However, another $35 million vests, going from injury guaranteed to fully guaranteed, next March—his base salaries for 2023 and ’24 and his ’24 roster bonus. And $5 million of his ’25 roster bonus becomes guaranteed in March 2024. Why do this? It keeps the amount of money that owner Stan Kroenke has to put into escrow low (and it’ll be zero for a while), and from the player’s perspective, so long as he’s on the roster nine months from now, his guarantee really is $70 million. And for the team to get out paying a full $75 million, they’d have to walk away having paid $70 million for his first two years.
So here, from Kupp’s standpoint, is how you want to look at it. The Rams are on the hook for $35 million for one year or $70 million for two. If you think it’s unrealistic they’d pay that much and not hold on to him in ’24, then, you understand why that makes sense for him. Plus being cut after either of those years would mean being a free agent at 29 or 30. After ’23, things even out. Kupp’s due $70 million through three years, and the team would owe him the $5 million from the 2025 bonus if it walked away at that point. That might be realistic, if Kupp’s declining by then (because the Rams will have paid $25 million per).
And the one other detail that’s interesting here—there are no offsets on about $60 million of Kupp’s $75 million guarantee, meaning the Rams truly will be responsible for that money, and Kupp would be able to double-dip (getting paid by another team and the Rams) if he’s cut. That’s part of the bargain the Rams routinely make to players to get them to forgo full guarantees at signing.
Of course, doing things that way requires getting it right on the players you pay. The Rams have had their hiccups there in the past, but I’d say, of late, they’ve done well in that area, and they’re plenty confident the guys they just re-upped will keep the streak going.
• One leftover from last week’s conversation with Texans QB Davis Mills—I did ask Mills if he’s heard people say that if had he’d returned to Stanford last year, he’d have been the first quarterback taken, and maybe the first overall pick, in the 2022 draft. He answered that, yes, he had.
“It’s not too big of a deal to me,” he said. “I am where I am. I got drafted to Houston, and I’m Houston’s quarterback at this point. I don’t try to pay that too much attention. I think that’s more for the media to blow up than it’s worrisome to me.”
There are, though, financial repercussions. Mills signed a four-year, $5.22 million contract, with $1.16 million guaranteed, as the 66th pick last year. This year’s first pick, Travon Walker, signed a four-year, $37.4 million deal earlier in the spring. The upshot here for Mills, then, would be that he becomes eligible for a second deal a year earlier, and to free agency two years earlier than he would’ve had he stayed in school. And it’s also worth considering how the Pac-12’s mismanagement of the 2020 season might’ve impacted Mills’s decision.
• The more I heard about North Dakota State’s Christian Watson in the fall, the more it reminded me of what people said about the late Vincent Jackson when he was coming out in 2005—from how raw Watson is, to the size/speed potential he possesses, to his non-FBS roots. And I’m told he had a real solid spring with the Packers, which only bolsters that thought.
I think he can be a real guy for Aaron Rodgers. The question will be how fast it happens.
• Medium take: I’m not sure people are taking the Steelers seriously enough, and too much of it is based on the idea that they’re about to take a step back at quarterback. Did these people see the version of Ben Roethlisberger that Pittsburgh was rolling out there in 2021? I honestly don’t think it’s even a major leap that, out of either Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh might be better at the position this year than they were last year.
And if that happens, there’s still talent on hand there.
• Don’t be surprised that Richard Sherman is leaving the door open for a comeback. We said it a few weeks ago, and I’ll say it again—the plan here is for Sherman to get his feet wet as a broadcaster, and then come the stretch run, see if an opportunity is out there to help a team out in December and January and into the playoffs. So maybe a few months from now, he can be some team’s Eric Weddle.
• The Tony Boselli/Bruce Smith dustup is silly. Smith is upset that people are using the way Boselli played against him in the 1995 playoffs as a reason for his pending induction into the Hall of Fame. I’m not a voter, but I, for one, really never saw that as a factor. I think Boselli’s good enough for induction, and that whether or not he gets in hinges on the value you put on longevity. As such, once Terrell Davis got in, the door for a guy like Boselli was open.
• The MAQB will be on hiatus for a few weeks as my vacation kicks off. Next time we’re back in this space will be July 25. But don’t worry—I still have another mailbag, GamePlan and MMQB for you before I go away.
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