Wed Jun 22 1:42pm ET
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots on Jan. 9, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The NFL and six of its teams have formally moved in a New York court to force a lawsuit alleging that they engaged in racial discrimination into arbitration where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would be the arbitrator. The league and the teams filed papers Tuesday, June 21, 2022, with a judge presiding over a lawsuit filed by Flores after he was fired in January as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
NEW YORK (AP) The NFL and six of its teams have formally moved in a New York court to force a lawsuit alleging that they engaged in racial discrimination into arbitration where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would be the arbitrator.
The league and the teams filed papers late Tuesday with a judge presiding over a lawsuit filed by Brian Flores after he was fired in January as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The NFL said employment agreements with teams signed by Flores and other coaches contain provisions that require the arbitration of all disputes.
Flores now works as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He alleged in his lawsuit that has since been joined by two other Black coaches that the league engages in racist hiring practices despite its claims to the contrary.
The NFL has insisted the lawsuit is ''without merit,'' although Goodell said before the Super Bowl that ''all of the allegations, whether they were based on racism or discrimination or the integrity of our game, all of those to me were very disturbing.''
A Manhattan federal judge is unlikely to rule on the arbitration issue until late summer, at the earliest.
David Gottlieb, a lawyer for the coaches, said Wednesday that moving the case to the secrecy of arbitration was, in effect, ''stripping our clients of their rights.''
''Arbitration is privatizing the judicial branch,'' Gottlieb said. ''All we're asking for is an open and fair process.''
He said lawyers for the coaches will argue that the lawsuit against the league belongs in federal court because any agreements calling for arbitration were signed with the teams rather than the league.
In March, Flores attorney Douglas Wigdor wrote a letter to Goodell, saying ''arbitration is not transparent'' and urging him to let the lawsuit stay before a judge.
In its papers, the league argued that the discrimination lawsuit's claims were not properly before the Manhattan court because multiple arbitration agreements signed by the coaches require arbitration.
The league also defended its record on fighting discrimination, saying ''diversity, equity and inclusion are core NFL values.''
It cited its implementation nearly two decades ago of the ''Rooney Rule,'' which now requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates for any head-coach opening and at least one candidate in person.
In his February lawsuit, Flores said the league remained ''rife with racism'' and continues to deny Black coaches positions for racial reasons, making it difficult for them to become general managers, head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches in particular.
His lawsuit sought class-action status and unspecified damages. In their papers Tuesday, the league, along with the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and the Tennessee Titans, insisted that arbitration agreements will require the coaches to assert their claims individually.
The filing came hours before a House committee released a document alleging Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder conducted a ''shadow investigation'' to discredit former employees who claimed workplace sexual harassment. The document said private investigators were hired to intimidate witnesses and an overseas lawsuit was used as a pretext to obtain phone records and emails.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is looking at an indefinite suspension. The league is pushing for it, and if successful, it would keep the signal-caller off the field for an undetermined amount of time, potentially for the entire 2022-23 campaign. Of course, the NFL Players Association will fight it. However, it likely won't do any good. The situation may also have contract implications, depending on the length of the sentence, meaning Cleveland could still receive his services for five years. Nevertheless, nobody knows when Watson will be back on the field, so it may be a good idea for managers to stay away from him altogether during fantasy drafts heading toward Week 1. A suspension could also mean the Browns may be unwilling to part ways with Baker Mayfield, who recently re-emerged on the Seahawks' radar.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert is viewed by head coach Todd Bowles as a "security blanket." Although Gabbert and Kyle Trask are expected to battle for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Tom Brady during training camp, it appears the former has the clear edge. The veteran, who inked a deal this offseason to return to Tampa, hasn't lived up to expectations since entering the league in 2011. However, with Brady potentially calling it a career (again) after this season, there could be a slight chance Gabbert may get some consideration to start for the Bucs moving ahead. That won't do anything for his draft stock heading into 2022-23. Yet, it may make him a stash option in dynasty formats.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones hasn't had the best NFL career thus far. Since entering the league in 2019, Jones has thrown for 8,398 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 29 picks while completing just 62.8% of his throws. However, legendary signal-caller Eli Manning recently spoke up in defense of the 25-year-old, indicating that constant coaching changes have severely hindered his development. Still, with New York declining Jones' fifth-year option, he will likely have one more chance to prove his worth under new head coach Brian Daboll. He will also have to convince fantasy managers in all formats he's worthy of a roster spot, which won't happen until he turns things around.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) remains on schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery and for his timetable to resume throwing, according to a source. The expectation is that Garoppolo will throw over the next few weeks, starting in early July per head coach Kyle Shanahan, and that plan remains in place. The 30-year-old had surgery in each March, but he's expected to be ready to take part in training camp, whether it's with the Niners or another team. He hasn't done any offseason workouts, but the 49ers are likely to get serious about trading him again once he resumes throwing. Although there have been whispers that second-year signal-caller Trey Lance might not be ready for the starting job, Jimmy G is still more likely to be traded than to remain with the team for the 2022 season.
Washington Commanders wide receivers coach Drew Terrell said that he could not find any negative plays on rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson's college game film. The 16th overall pick in the draft stood out in both organized team activities and mandatory minicamp due to his refined skills and renowned hands. "He's a smooth cat," Terrell said. "He's what we expected him to be thus far in terms of his being a route-runner, his ball skills, his demeanor, not flinching from the moment and being able to come out here and gain confidence every day and execute every day." Dotson has developed instant chemistry with quarterback Carson Wentz as well, but fantasy managers need to keep in mind this has all been without pads and with top wideout Terry McLaurin holding out. The first-rounder's stock is certainly rising, but he should still only be a late-round upside pick in standard-sized leagues.
The Chicago Bears signed second-round cornerback Kyler Gordon to a rookie deal on Saturday, which brings 11 of the team's 12 draft picks under contract. With the Bears in transition, especially on defense, Gordon figures to be a big part of their future, and he's already been impressing the coaching staff. "Kyler's been lighting it up the last two days, I'll just tell you that," head coach Matt Eberflus said following a practice during the Bears offseason program. "The guy's got tremendous ball skills. He's been playing defense the right way and we're very impressed with him." Safety Jaquan Brisker, who came off the board nine picks after Gordon, is the Bears' lone unsigned rookie from their 2022 draft class.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield remains on the roster heading toward training camp. While the 27-year-old has been a desired commodity by clubs around the NFL, a deal hasn't gotten done. However, according to Josina Anderson, the Seahawks have expressed "a high-level of interest" in trading for the signal-caller and are also prepared to give him a contract extension. Seattle has remained one of the favorites to acquire Mayfield's services throughout most of the offseason. But it appears things may be moving in the right direction for all involved. Although anything can happen regarding Mayfield's future, a move to Seattle would be positive news for the former Oklahoma Sooner as well as D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Noah Fant, primarily since all three are currently in line to receive throws from either Geno Smith or Drew Lock in 2022-23.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has more than enough hype as he enters his third year in the NFL. The former LSU Tiger had a spectacular sophomore season. He recovered from the season-ending knee injury that cost him the remainder of his rookie year and also led the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance. However, while the debate continues regarding who is the most promising up-and-coming signal-caller going, ESPN's Dan Orlovsky recently named Burrow the "best young-gun" in the league, age 25 or younger. Although Justin Herbert may have something to say about that, Burrow certainly has an excellent chance of being one of the most potent fantasy options in any format imaginable, especially with Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon at his disposal.
New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (hip) sat out during the team's final OTAs while missing minicamp with an undisclosed injury. However, it was recently revealed the rookie sustained a "tweaked hip" this spring. Fortunately, the ailment isn't considered serious, although head coach Brian Daboll couldn't answer if the former Oregon Duck would be ready for training camp. Thibodeaux, who was selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, had 19 sacks throughout his collegiate career. While the hip injury is something for managers to monitor, it shouldn't stop anyone from taking him early in IDP fantasy formats, at least unless things take a turn in the wrong direction moving forward.
Dynasty | Saints running back Alvin Kamara is bracing for at least a six-game suspension Dynasty Analysis: As Mike Florio points out in the linked video, the personal conduct policy baseline for the incident that Kamara was involved in outlines a six-game suspension. The "or more" reference seems to still be in play as well, making for significant 2022 risk for those drafting Kamara ahead of the official announcement. Kamara, soon to be 27, had a dismal 2021 relating to expectations and a significant amount of missed time in 2022 lessens his value for what would be an age-28 campaign in 2023, a point at which where running backs begin to decline. Undoubtedly, the dynamic back still has tremendous upside when on the field, and the sooner we know how many games will be missed, the sooner dynasty coaches will be able to more accurately reflect the risk-reward potential. Now ranked as DLF's RB15, Alvin Kamara is clearly a back best owned by competitive dynasty teams looking for two-to-three more years of production.
Dynasty | Ravens rookie tight end Isaiah Likely drew praise from Lamar Jackson and veterans for his minicamp performance Dynasty Analysis: Likely displayed sure hands and a rapport with Jackson during camp which had veterans talking. The 2022 fourth-round selection will now try to carry the momentum into training camp in July for a team who badly needs receivers to step up to fill the hole left by departed wide receiver Marquise Brown (ARI). As for Likely, he projects best as a 'move' player due to limited size but playing behind top option Mark Andrews will provide a long runway to add further strength, weight and development while waiting for greater snaps. Isaiah Likely is unranked on DLF's tight end rankings and is a compelling target to watch as training camp plays out.
Dynasty | Texans receiver Brandin Cooks could be in-line for a career year in 2022 Dynasty Analysis: It's all guess work of course but it stands to reason that career marks across the board would be possible for Cooks, now in his third year with the team. Despite the team turmoil in 2021 and lack of consistent quarterback play, Cooks still managed a 90/1,037/6 stat line. When considering his career-high marks across multiple seasons of 84 receptions (2015), 1,204 yards (2018) and nine touchdowns (2015), it's not out of the realm of possibility given sophomore quarterback Davis Mills' development and more stability across the offense and coaching staff. Predicting the Texans' offensive production in 2022 is not an easy exercise and, regardless whether or not Cooks does have a career year, he's undoubtedly the WR1 for a team which will be relying heavily on its passing attack. The perennially under-appreciated receiver is ranked as DLF's WR44.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is likely to miss time heading into next season. The stud running back is bracing for a suspension of at least six games. Kamara is facing felony battery charges for allegedly throwing some punches at an incident in Las Vegas. The NFL normally waits until the criminal process has concluded before announcing any disciplinary action. As of right now, Kamara appears to be a risky fantasy option heading into the season. Although, Mark Ingram II should see his stock rise as he's the projected backup to Kamara.
Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young (knee) is not expected to be ready for the beginning of the season. The former No. 2 overall pick is recovering from an ACL tear that he suffered in Week 10 of last season. Since then, the organization has not placed a timetable on Young and said he'll likely enter training camp on the PUP list. That being said, it seems highly unlikely that Young is ready by the regular season. It's possible that Young enters the new season on the injured reserve. That means, Young would miss at least the first four games of next season. The young stud pass rusher is expected to return at some point next season, but who knows when exactly that will happen.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (finger) is expected to begin the new season on the PUP list. The former first round pick is expected to take the field in Week 1 despite having his pinkie finger amputated. Fantasy managers are going will have to wait and see what happens when training camp begins later this summer. Davenport has not played more than 13 games in a single season since entering the NFL in 2018. Although, Davenport recorded a career-high nine sacks through 11 games last season. The Saints could certainly use Davenport to begin the season, but we'll see what happens.
There is concern from the NFL Players Association that the league will look to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for the entire 2022 season, if not indefinitely, according to sources. If that were to happen, the Browns are expected to move forward with Jacoby Brissett as their starting QB rather than try to reconcile with Baker Mayfield. Watson reportedly has settled 20 of his 24 sexual-misconduct cases, but that matters little to the NFL. The situation should be resolved soon, and it seems like things are leaning towards Watson getting hit with a lengthy suspension in 2022 and possibly beyond. We should have a resolution to this saga before most fantasy managers conduct their 2022 drafts.
The Athletic's Kevin Fishbain didn't include Chicago Bears defensive end Robert Quinn on his 53-man roster projection after he chose to skip mandatory minicamp. Quinn missing minicamp allows for speculation that he might not want to be a veteran on a rebuilding team. If Chicago moves on from him, they might want to add another edge rusher to compete on their defensive line. The 32-year-old pass-rusher made his third Pro Bowl in 2021 while recording a career-high 18.5 sacks, so even though he's on the wrong side of 30, teams would likely be interested in acquiring him if the Bears show that they are serious about trading him.
Chicago Bears cornerback Thomas Graham was one of the big revelations of mandatory minicamp and spent most of the spring as the first-team nickel corner. Graham was a fan favorite last year and appears to be entering training camp ahead of veterans Tavon Young and Duke Shelley. A sixth-round pick last year out of Oregon, Graham played a limited role in his rookie season and finished with 13 tackles (six solo), one tackle for loss and four passes defensed in four games (one start) for the Bears. Considering Chicago is rebuilding, it makes sense for them to hand Graham a much bigger role in his second NFL season to see if he's going to be a part of their long-term future.
Buffalo Bills tight end Tommy Sweeney will likely stay on the 53-man roster for depth and locker-room reasons, but he could be vulnerable if the Bills need another roster spot for flexibility. Sweeney will be inactive on game days behind Dawson Knox and O.J. Howard, and he's right on the bubble heading into training camp in July. In his first two seasons with the Bills, the 26-year-old has 17 receptions on 25 targets for 158 yards and one touchdown in 19 games (four starts), and he'd need injuries to both Knox and Howard to become fantasy relevant in 2022.
Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (foot), who is in a protective boot after suffering a foot injury on the final day of mandatory minicamp on June 16, said he'll "be good" for training camp next month, although he was hesitant to say he'd be ready for the start of camp. Ward described his injury as a sore left foot. The 25-year-old was named to his second Pro Bowl in 2021 after he recorded 43 tackles (34 solo), three interceptions (one for a touchdown), 10 passes defensed and half a sack in 15 starts for Cleveland. It led to a five-year, $100.5 million contract extension in April. Ward's foot doesn't have any structural damage, so as long as he doesn't have a setback in training camp, he should be ready for Week 1.