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Michael Thomas Signs NFL Record Contract, Others Still in Hold Outs.. So What’s Next?

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Wednesday morning, news broke that the New Orleans Saints reached a 5 year, $100 million deal with wide receiver Michael Thomas, $61M of which was guaranteed. That makes him the highest paid non-Quarterback offensive player in NFL history. Thomas caught an NFL record 85% of his targets a year ago, has only dropped 2.76% of passes thrown his way in his career, led the NFL with 125 catches last season, and was the fastest ever to 300 catches. Needless to say, Thomas is the best paid wide receiver in the NFL because he, statistically, has been the best wide receiver in the NFL. The former USC Trojan has become a favorite target of the Saints’ future hall of fame quarterback, Drew Brees, and hopes to bring the Saints a happier season end than they’ve had the last two seasons. In two different, memorable endings, the Saints may have had the hardest final minutes of the season. Thomas signing for a longer extension ought to help relieve that pain for Saints fans.

That said, several key NFL playmakers are still holding out, as NFL teams are entering their second week of camp.

Melvin Gordon, of the San Diego Chargers, has asked the club to either pay him or trade him. As a runningback near the end of his rookie contract, Gordon may be about to sign the biggest contract he will ever sign with an NFL franchise. Analytics have shown that the average runningback’s production trends downward after their rookie deal, usually due to the wear and tear of the position. Gordon is a better than average back by most statistical measures, but he has already seen some major injuries in his knees… which predictably has made the Chargers uneasy about paying him what he wants.

Gordon is under contract, and thus cannot sit games as effectively as Le’Veon Bell. The Chargers can, and likely will, continue to fine Gordon for missing. Further, as we saw with Bell, sometimes that contract after sitting out isn’t as high as the player would hope. We’ll see if he suits up in LA this fall, and in the bigger picture, if he is still on the Bolts come mid season and beyond.

Yannick Ngakoue has become an important corner stone for the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. He’s averaging just under 10 sacks a season, and has capitalized in his role next to Calais Campbell. Ngakoue is only supposed to earn $2 million this season, considerably less than other defensive linemen with his statistics, talent, or projected future.

Deals as relatively cheap as Ngakoue’s are how the Jaguars have built a strong defense and afforded Nick Foles in free agency this summer. Further, they have the most expensive defensive line unit in the NFL. Slowly they’ve cut down on some of that spending, but what they do with Ngakoue will signal if they believe that philosophy can work or if they’re moving away from it.

Additionally, the Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey let it be known that he wants more money as well. Sure, he showed up to camp… but he did so in an armored truck. The Jaguars may control their spending, in an effort to afford Jalen Ramsey’s contract, and Ngakoue may be the casualty of that decision making.

Jadeveon Clowney has also been to training camp yet. The three time pro bowler is only 26 years old, and has been given a franchise tag for the 2019 season. Clowney would like a long term deal, and multiple reports say the Houston would like to reach one with their star pass rusher. Clowney has become a staple in a strong defensive front in Houston, and has consistently made defenses pay for focusing all of their attention on JJ Watt.

While long term interest on keeping Clowney a Texan are apparent, there hasn’t been a deal struck for further than this year. Houston is stuck, and may be forced to trade him. Again, it’s not necessarily that Houston doesn’t want Clowney, but fitting his desired contract in may be challenging. And, if they can’t make it work, he can walk away next spring and Houston would get nothing back. If a trade goes down, Clowney hopes to end up on a contender and have an impact, even if he’s traded late in the off season, like Khalil Mack proved is possible a year ago.  

Of course, there would be no NFL off season without Dallas Cowboys news and drama. This off season, the drama has surrounded superstar runningback Ezekiel Elliot. Much like Gordon, Elliot is looking to restructure and extend his rookie contract, knowing that his big pay day may be soon if it ever happens. And, unlike Gordon, the Cowboys don’t have a lot of great backup runningbacks to play if Elliot misses games. Further, while he was suspended for 6 games in 2017, Elliot has not missed time due to injury in his three year career.

What he has done in three years is be the clearcut MVP of the Dallas Cowboys. The entire team, both offensively and defensively, is built on the offensive running game being productive, milking the clock, and wearing down their opponents. Owner and GM Jerry Jones has been open about that a team “doesn’t need the NFL rushing leader” to win a Super Bowl… even though the last time Dallas won a Super Bowl, it was behind NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith.

Sure, Jones is right in that modern football is different than it was in the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys… but teams do need an offensive system to win. And Dallas’ is all set up for Ezekiel Elliot to be workhorse of that offense, both in the running and passing game.

What makes Dallas’ situation unique, and worth a larger discussion, is that it leads to a larger discussion on football. The Cowboys have several key players entering the last year of their contracts, and will likely be shelling out money in some waterfall of distribution in the next 6 -18 months. Quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, cornerback Byron Jones, inside linebacker Jaylon Smith, and offensive tackle La’el Collins all will be asking for new contracts in that window, and are also important to Dallas’ success.

Each of these athletes know their careers in the NFL may have a short life, and that they need to get paid because there’s little guarantee of another contract, much less a big one.

These discussions are often pitted as fan base and ownership vs. an individual or two that comes off as greedy for wanting more money. But why is that? In the aforementioned situation in Dallas, Jerry Jones owns the highest valued sports franchise in the world. The Cowboys, per Forbes, come in at $4.8 Billion. Based on the last CBA, the current salary cap is $177.2 Million. That is to say the players within the $4.8 Billion enterprise, all put together, get roughly 1/27th of what the team is worth.

So does Ezekiel Elliot want his fair percentage of the pie? Absolutely. Does  Dak Prescott? Definitely. Amari Cooper? Byron Jones? La’el Collins? All certainly do. Professional athletic careers are, with incredibly rare exceptions, short.

Situations like Dallas become game changers come the next collective bargaining agreement. Dallas had an incredible off season in the summer of 2016. Now, they’re realizing they have to find a way to fund all of the talent they acquired cheaply then.

Why is it that fans tend to side with the Owners when it comes down to this transaction? Is it that the laundry is familiar? Are fans more likely to fight for the star than any player that wears it? Maybe. But one things for certain…

Zeke wants his money. Dak wants his money. Amari wants his money…

Yannick wants his money. Melvin wants his money. Jadeveon wants his money.

And the money is there, even if it outside of the salary cap.

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Basketball

WTF Baron Davis | Season 1 Episode 1

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It appears to be a normal day at the Davis household. Then Brandon “B-Dot” Armstrong storms in ready to make his entrepreneurial dreams a reality only to find Baron working on a wolf puzzle with his next door neighbor Kenny, a tech wizkid living under the thumb of his leech parents. Baron also introduces B-dot to Ron, a political strategist whose strategy appears to be eating Baron’s cereal and roasting B-dot. 

We also meet Baron’s team: Andy, an exuberant and enthusiastic business manager who knows absolutely nothing about basketball (and potentially nothing about business) and Zoe, Baron’s ever-unimpressed publicist who’s just trying to pick up her paycheck. 

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Basketball

Charles Barkley Selling MVP Trophy and Other Memorabilia to Build Affordable Housing in Alabama

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Before he was a Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley was just a kid growing up in Leeds, Alabama.

Barkley went from being an unheralded prospect in high school, to a star player when he attended college at Auburn University. He later left Alabama when he was drafted fifth overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and went on to have an incredible NBA career.

Still, Barkley has never forgotten where he came from. Now he has made the decision to sell some of the most prized collectibles from his career to give back to the community that raised him.

In a radio appearance on The Roundtable on 94.5 WJOX on Friday, Barkley announced that he would be selling some of his prized collectibles from his career to raise money for affordable housing in Leeds, Alabama.

Barkley will reportedly auction the MVP trophy from his 1993 season, when he led the Phoenix Suns to an NBA-best 62-20 record. That year, Barkley averaged 25.6 points on .520 shooting, 12.2 rebounds and a career high 5.1 assists per game.

The MVP trophy alone is worth anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000 according to Barkley. He will also auction off one of his gold medals and a flag signed by the infamous Dream Team.

Barkley is often remembered for the fact that he never won an NBA championship during his playing career.

While he never reached that particular mountaintop, Barkley was on the best players in NBA history and won gold medals in the 1992 and the 1996 Olympics.

Still, Barkley’s greatest achievements may be some of the things he has done off the court, as he is going out of his way to make the lives better for the people living in poverty in his hometown.

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Culture

Austin Declares ‘Local Disaster’ Cancelling SXSW Due to Coronavirus

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For the past 34 years, South by Southwest has taken place in Austin, Texas, bringing tens of thousands of people to the city for an annual tech, film and music conference.

Now the annual proceedings have been disrupted for the first time, as city officials have decided that it would be irresponsible to continue on with the events due to fear of spreading the coronavirus.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a local disaster in a statement issued on Friday, as they look to prevent anyone from getting the COVID-19 virus that has affected over 100,000 people globally.

While the city of Austin is taking every precaution to control this matter, there has still been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Travis County, where Austin is located.

The cancellation of SXSW is a devastating blow to the city, as local businesses would have reaped the benefits of the thousands of patrons that would have flocked to Austin for this conference.

Last year, there were 73,716 attendants of SXSW, with 19,166 of them coming from outside of the country.

The sheer amount of people and the diverse locations they would be traveling from are also what caused the concern that led to the cancellation of this event, as 40,000 people signed a petition urging the city to take this action.

One of the unfortunate ramifications of cancelling SXSW is that it effects creators who were hoping to use the conference as a springboard to bring their content to the mainstream.

Hopefully the fears and concerns that have come with the outbreak of the coronavirus can be quieted soon and other events won’t meet a similar fate as South by Southwest.

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