Around the League: NFL Update

Dylan Pulver

Combine Winners and Losers             

At the conclusion of another NFL Scouting Combine, some players have increased their stock in what is thought to be the deepest draft class in recent memory, while others have raised significant questions with their performances. Among the winners of the combine not named Jadeveon Clowney were Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson. Manziel posted impressive numbers in the 40-yard dash with the fastest unofficial time of 4.53 seconds, the quickest amongst quarterbacks. In addition, Manziel posted the second shortest short-shuttle time by a quarterback since 2006 with a time of 4.01 seconds. Manziel also impressed many teams with stellar interviews, significantly progressing his desire to calm looming questions of character. Robinson cemented himself as an impressive physical specimen and a legitimate top-five pick. At 6’5″ and 332 pounds, Robinson posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.92 seconds and a blazing 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds. Along with his impressive quickness, Robinson displayed great strength, managing 32 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press with his colossal 35-inch arms.

Arguably the two biggest losers of the Combine were Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. At the beginning of his senior season, Kouandjio appeared to many as a definitive top-five draft pick, however, this sentiment was largely displaced by inconsistent play and seemingly untapped potential. Kouandjio’s draft status further slipped at the combine, where several teams failed him on his physical after finding a severely arthritic knee, a result of failed surgery. Bridgewater, who entered the combine as a potential first overall pick, raised questions about his competitiveness by refusing to throw and run the 40-yard dash. Bridgewater also opted out of most drills, effectively doing nothing to cement his status as a top overall pick.

Veto of S.B. 1062 May Have Saved Super Bowl in Arizona

Facing a significant outcry, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed controversial Arizona S.B. 1062, a proposed law which, if enacted, would effectively allow businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers. Arizona is slated to host Super Bowl XIX and, coincidentally, two of the most noteworthy critics of the bill were the NFL and Super Bowl Host Committee. As Michael Sam moves to redefine professional sports as the first openly gay NFL player, both bodies face significant public pressure to maintain a positive image with regards to sexual inclusivity and tolerance, a stance that was affirmed in their reaction to the bill. According to the Host Committee, “We share the NFL’s core values which embrace tolerance…we do not support this legislation. Instead, we look forward to continuing to promote the NFL’s values while focusing on the economic momentum apparent in Arizona and capturing the positive worldwide attention associated with hosting Super Bowl XLIX.”

The veto represents a Super Bowl-saving move for the state of Arizona, which has faced a similar situation before. In 1993, then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue relocated the Super Bowl in response to the state’s refusal to adopt Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. Another such occurrence would have negative economic implications for the state. Instead, Arizona business owners and those in opposition to the bill can release their collective breath.

Free Agency Update

NFL Free Agency does not officially start until March 11; however, rumors are already widely circulating. Starting with franchise tag candidates, ESPN reported on Monday that Greg Hardy of the Panthers and Jimmy Graham of the Saints received franchise tags from their respective teams. This means that each player will remain with each organization for another year while making 120 percent of his original salary, or the average of the top five salaries for players at that position. Other candidates that received the franchise tag were Brian Orakpo of the Washington Redskins and Nick Folk of the New York Jets.

Speaking of the Jets, Rich Cimini of ESPN indicated that there is a “20 to 30 percent chance” of Mark Sanchez returning to the Jets, likely marking the end of his up-and-down career with the team. The decision might be influenced by the increase in cap room. This year, the NFL salary cap has gone up 10 million dollars to 133 million dollars per team. This increase in cap room should give teams increased flexibility in the free agency market.

Contact Shane Sullivan at [email protected]