ZMI ALPHA:Details of NFL’s new TV deal, plus free agency winners and losers, Deshaun Watson now under NFL investigation

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ZMI ALPHA:Details of NFL’s new TV deal, plus free agency winners and losers, Deshaun Watson now under NFL investigation

I have no idea what $113 billion looks like, but the NFL is soon going to know and that’s because that’s how much the league is getting as part of it’s new TV deal that’s going to run through the 2033 season. 

Basically, don’t be surprised if the salary cap goes up to $700 million next year. Unfortunately for free agents this year, the salary cap isn’t anywhere near that number, which has made for an interesting week in free agency. Although there have been some big contracts given out this week, the bigger salary cap has led to some players at certain positions getting squeezed out. For instance, wide receivers aren’t having a lot of luck in free agency right now. 

Speaking of luck, please pray for my NCAA bracket. Every year, I hope that thing is going to be perfect and every year, that hope is out the window by halftime of the third game. Anyway, this isn’t a basketball newsletter, it’s a football newsletter, so let’s get to the football. 

Remember, if you want to stay on top of all the free agent signings that go down this weekend, you’re definitely going to want to click here so you can check out our live blog. If you’re too busy to be following a live blog, you can also click here to check out our free agent tracker that will be updated any time one of the top 100 free agents signs a deal

Alright, let’s get to the rundown. As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link.

1. Today’s show: Recapping Day 2 of free agency


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If you love free agency talk, then this is definitely the week you should have been listening to the podcast. After four straight days of breaking down free agency, we decided to make it five in a row by taking another deep dive into free agency for Friday’s show. 

As always, when we talk free agency, we always hand out our winners and losers, and as always, I’m going to share those with you below. Here are the winners and losers from Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I. 

Winners

  • Wilson: Mitchell Trubisky. He gets to leave Chicago and play for a competent team. 
  • Brinson: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brinson is the biggest bandwagon jumper in the NFL. Two years ago, he loved the Chargers. Last year, it was the Colts. This year, he’s all over Washington and he thinks Fitzpatrick can lead them to the playoffs. 
  • Breech: NFL. The league just scored a new media deal worth $113 billion. If anyone gives you $113 billion for anything, you’re a winner in my book. 

Losers

  • Wilson: JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kenny Golladay. Two of the top receivers in the market haven’t been able to find a job and a big reason for that is because teams just aren’t willing to pay top dollar for a receiver right now, especially with a draft that’s deep at the position. It might be time for these two to lower their asking price.  
  • Brinson: Derek Carr. The Raiders traded away 60% of his offensive line and haven’t exactly replaced them with better players. On the other hand, they are also spending money on positions that they don’t really need to spend money on, like running back. 
  • Breech: This year’s free agents. With the salary cap down in 2021, it’s hard to get big money as a free agent (just ask JuJu or Kenny Golladay). However, the cap is going to shoot up over the next few years thanks to the new TV deal, which means this year’s free agents are getting the short end of the stick.  

To listen to today’s episode — and to subscribe to the podcast — be sure to click here.    

2. Deshaun Watson now under NFL investigation

After watching Deshaun Watson get hit with multiple lawsuits this week that are all alleging sexual misconduct, the NFL has decided to investigate the matter. The league confirmed on Thursday that Watson’s situation is under review for possible violations of the personal conduct policy. 

Although Watson isn’t currently facing any criminal charges, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee has already filed multiple lawsuits against the Texans quarterback. He caught the NFL’s eye when he filed his first three lawsuits, and now, he’s filed four more for a total of seven. The lawsuits are all similar in nature: Watson is accused of trying to sexual misconduct against multiple women after they were hired to give him a massage. 

As far as the investigation goes, Buzbee shared a letter on Thursday that came from NFL senior vice president Lisa Friel, who runs the league’s special counsel for investigations. 

“I became aware of the lawsuits you filed [Wednesday], as well as the one you filed this morning, which contain various allegations of misconduct by Houston Texans player Deshaun Watson,” Friel wrote in a letter that was posted to Instagram by Buzbee (The post has since been deleted). “I am writing to let you know that the League has opened an investigation into these allegations and to request the cooperation of your clients in our investigation.”

If you’re interested in reading about the allegations in the first three lawsuits that were filed, you can find those by clicking here

If the NFL finds that there’s any merit to the allegations and that Watson did in fact violate the league’s personal conduct policy, the quarterback could be staring at a multi-game suspension. With an ongoing NFL investigation, it could become more difficult for the Texans to trade their star quarterback as other teams might want to see how the investigation plays out before making a deal for the 25-year-old. 

3. Details on NFL’s new $113 billion TV contracts

 

The NFL might have lost billions of dollars last season during the pandemic, but you don’t have to go feeling sorry for them and that’s because the league is going to earn $113 billion over the next 11 years. According to the Associated Press, that’s how much the NFL will be pulling in from its media partners between now and 2033 thanks to the new TV contracts.  

The new media deals were announced on Thursday and here are a few highlights: 

  • Monday night games can be flexed. The new media contract doesn’t kick in until 2023, which means we’re going to have to wait two years before this happens, but starting in 2023, the NFL will have the option to flex Monday games beginning in Week 12. 
  • Monday doubleheaders will be happening more often. The NFL has been holding a Monday doubleheader in Week 1 for years, and now, they’ll be adding more to the schedule. Starting in 2023, there will be a total of three Monday night doubleheaders with one game airing on ESPN and one game airing on ABC. 
  • Saturday doubleheader during final week of season. The NFL doesn’t usually play Saturday games during the final week of the season, but that will be changing starting this year. ESPN’s contract now includes two Saturday games with playoff implications during the final week of the season, which means the NFL will likely be flexing games into this spot. 

Both the NFL and the networks are going all-in on streaming with the new contract as there will be nearly 20 games each season that will only be available online. 

  • Thursday Night Football headed to Amazon. The tech giant will be the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football’ starting in 2023. For the next two seasons, Thursday football will be aired on Fox while also streaming on Amazon. Starting in 2023, Fox will be out of the picture and the only way for anyone to watch a Thursday game will be on Amazon (The Amazon games will be available on TV in the home markets of the two teams that are playing)
  • One international game will air exclusively on ESPN+. ESPN’s new streaming service ESPN+ will get to exclusively carry one international game per season, which means you’ll have to have ESPN+ if you want to watch this game. 
  • NBC’s Peacock streaming network will get to exclusively air six regular season games. From 2023 thru 2028, the NFL will be allowing NBC’s Peacock service to exclusively stream one game per season. 
  • Paramount + also coming up big. Paramount+ has been granted new and expanded rights for the streaming service, allowing for the flexibility to distribute NFL games on both the premium tier at $9.99 and the new $4.99 ad-supported tier that will debut in June. The rights begin with the 2021 season and extend throughout the length of the new deal to 2033.
  • CBS, Fox and NBC each get three Super Bowls, ABC gets two. CBS will air the first Super Bowl in the new TV contact, which will take place in February 2024. The rotation for Super Bowls will go like this: CBS, Fox, NBC, ABC. 

The new deal also includes an out-clause for the NFL. As noted by NBC, the league has the right to terminate the contract after seven years. One reason the NFL would think about exercising this right would be if something causes the TV rights to increase in value (Gambling is one thing that could help make that happen). If that were happen, the league could terminate the contract and go back to the negotiating table by 2030. 

4. Top 10 free agents left on the market

Before free agency started, Pete Prisco made a list of his top 100 free agents and after 48 hours of free agency, there’s only one player in his top 23 who hasn’t signed a deal yet and that player is Kenny Golladay. Unfortunately for Golladay — and every other receiver — NFL teams just aren’t throwing money at that position right now. 

Of the 10 best players on Prisco’s list who are still available, three of them are receivers. With that in mind, let’s check out the 10 highest-ranked players from Prisco’s top 100 list who are still available (they’re listed with the team they played for last season): 

1. Kenny Golladay (Lions)
2. Anthony Harris (Vikings)
3. Melvin Ingram (Chargers)
4. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers)
5. Alejandro Villanueva (Steelers)
6. Jadeveon Clowney (Titans)
7. Xavier Rhodes (Colts)
8. Eric Wilson (Vikings)
9. Sammy Watkins (Chiefs)
10. Kevin King (Packers)

Remember, by the time you read this newsletter, there’s a very real chance that someone on this list could have already signed and if that happens, you can find out where they signed by clicking here and checking out our free agent tracker. We also have a live blog that will cover all signings AND trades as they happen and you can check that out by clicking here

5. Bears have an interesting day

No NFL team made more news for more reasons over the past 24 hours than the Chicago Bears. Every time I used the internet yesterday, I felt like I was reading a new story about them and not all of them were good. 

Let’s recap the Bears’ big day: 

  • They cut a key defensive player. The Bears decided to release starting cornerback Kyle Fuller. By cutting Fuller, the team picked up $11 million in salary cap space and they clearly decided that the cap room was more important than keeping Fuller. 
  • Allen Robinson signs his franchise tag. On Thursday morning, it didn’t seem like Robinson was in a hurry to sign his tag, but after news leaked out that the Bears brought in Kenny Golladay for a visit, that seemed to change his mind, because Robinson ended up signing his tag just hours later
  • Andy Dalton is definitely the team’s starting quarterback. After Dalton signed, it was unclear if he was going to be given the starting job or if he was going to have to compete with Nick Foles. Well, we now know that answer to that question thanks to Dalton. “They told me I was the starter,” Dalton said on Thursday. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come here.”
  • Akiem Hicks has permission to seek a trade. If Hicks leaves Chicago anytime soon, it’s because he found a team that actually wants to trade for him. The Bears defensive end has been given permission to shop himself, which means no one should be surprised if he gets dealt between now and the draft. 
  • Mitchell Trubisky finally gone. It’s official: Trubisky definitely won’t be returning to Chicago in 2020. The man who was drafted second overall by the team in 2017 — ahead of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes — is now headed to Buffalo after signing a one-year contract with the Bills

One good piece of news for Bears fans is that the team still seems to be interested in Russell Wilson. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that the team still hasn’t abandoned all hopes of landing the Seahawks star. 

6. Rapid-fire roundup

This has been a busy week in the NFL and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you. 

  • Joe Burrow just got some protection. The Bengals‘ beleaguered offensive line got a huge upgrade on Friday when the team signed former Vikings tackle Riley Reiff. In other Bengals news, the team released three starters from last season in Ryan Finley, Bobby Hart and Geno Atkins
  • Tua Tagovailoa gets a weapon. One of Miami’s biggest needs heading into free agency was at receiver and the team filled that need on Thursday by signing Will Fuller.  
  • Raiders continue to make puzzling moves. If there was one spot where the Raiders probably didn’t need to spend a lot of money this offseason, it was at running back, but they did that anyway by signing Kenyan Drake to a two-year deal worth up to $14.5 million. On the bright side, after trading away 60% of their offensive line, they did finally add a quality lineman in the form of former Texans center Nick Martin
  • Texans adding anyone they can get their hands on. The Texans added three free agents over the past 24 hours with Desmond King, Alex Erickson and Donte Moncreif all agreeing to sign in Houston. The Texans have now already added for more than 20 players since the offseason started. 
  • Chargers replace Hunter Henry. After losing Henry to the Patriots, it didn’t take long for the Chargers to find his replacement. The team signed former Saints tight end Jared Cook to a one-year deal on Thursday
  • Patriots get their center back. After dipping his toes in the free agent waters, David Andrews decided to stick with the team he’s played for his entire career. The center, who has been in New England since 2015, has signed a four-year deal with the Patriots. The Patriots also re-signed kicker Nick Folk and traded tight end Ryan Izzo to the Texans. It was a busy day for New England. 
  • Broncos get Justin Simmons under contract. Simmons was hit with the franchise tag for the second straight year, but this time around, he won’t be playing on a one-year deal and that’s because the two sides are agreeing on a four-year extension that will pay Simmons up to $61 million.  

7. The Kicker: Why Matthew Stafford trade wasn’t announced on first day of free agency

The first day of free agency usually gets pretty crazy and part of the reason for that is because it’s the first time that teams can officially announce any trade that was agreed to during the offseason. For instance, although the Matthew Stafford trade happened on Jan. 31, the Rams and Lions could talk about it until it became official at the start of free agency.  

However, the teams couldn’t even talk about it then and that’s because they waited until the second day of free agency to make the deal official. The reason this happened was so that the Rams would have to pay Jared Goff EVEN MORE MONEY. Goff had a $2.5 million bonus due on the second day of the league year and as part of the trade, the Lions wanted the Rams to pay that bonus, so Los Angeles had to hold on to him until the second day of free agency.  

The moral of the story here is that if someone is willing to pay you $2.5 million to get rid of you, then that means they probably really didn’t want you around anymore. 

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