Dolphins’ tampering shows plenty, Deshaun Watson suspension and more

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 24: Owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier of the Miami Dolphins prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 24: Owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier of the Miami Dolphins prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Miami Dolphins were hammered with penalties for tampering on Tuesday afternoon, and it shows why the organization has been in disarray for years.

The Miami Dolphins had a very bad week. For many reasons.

On Tuesday, the Dolphins were found guilty of significant tampering charges by the NFL, and were docked a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 third-round choice, $2 million in fines and saw owner Stephen Ross suspended from the club until Oct. 17.

All this for apparently having impermissible conversations with quarterback Tom Brady dating back to 2019, spanning time with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Dolphins also tampered with former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.

For his part, commissioner Roger Goodell said the tampering was “unprecedented” in scope.

Somehow, despite all its efforts, Miami landed neither Brady or Payton. Brady chose another Florida team in 2020 free agency, while Payton is working a cushy job with FOX Sports as its lead color analyst for the upcoming season.

And incredibly, none of this is the worst news for Dolphins fans.

While the NFL was investigating the tampering charges, it also said it found zero evidence of Miami intentionally losing games, as former head coach Brian Flores claims in his ongoing lawsuit. Flores’ specific charge was Ross offered him $100,000 per loss, in an effort to see the Dolphins land the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, the NFL did find Ross made these comments, but it’s believed to have been said in a non-serious manner.

Frankly, this feels like the league protecting itself from a massive scandal. With billions of dollars pouring in via gambling, the NFL can’t have an owner who wants to lose games. Ross, whatever his intent, was reckless in his actions. Flores should feel vindicated.

Ross has owned the Dolphins since 2009, and Miami’s record under his stewardship is 96-113 with three winning seasons, one playoff appearance and zero postseason victories. Flores, who delivered two of those winning campaigns including a 9-8 mark last year, was ousted after three seasons.

The Dolphins have been one of the league’s perennial afterthoughts under Ross, and while there’s excitement around the current edition following the trade for receiver Tyreek Hill and the hiring of head coach Mike McDaniel, you’ll excuse the skeptics who want results before providing applause.

One last note about all this. With the Dolphins being stripped of a first-round pick next year, they’re losing considerable draft capital to move up the board for a top quarterback should Tua Tagovailoa struggle this season.

With four other teams having multiple first-round picks — the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions — who could all need quarterbacks, Miami is going to have a brutal time getting near a top signal-caller unless it’s surprisingly terrible this year. And in a class expected to be flush with top quarterback talent, that’s a potentially brutal blow to the Dolphins.

Last week was a very tough one in myriad ways for Miami. Of course, the same could be said for almost every year since 2009.

Power rankings

10 longest current playoff victory draughts 

1. Detroit Lions (1991)
2. Miami Dolphins (2000)
3. Las Vegas Raiders (2002)
4. Washington Commanders (2005)
5. New York Jets (2010, AFCCG)
6. Chicago Bears (2010, NFCCG)
7. New York Giants (2011)
8. Arizona Cardinals (2015, NFCD)
9. Carolina Panthers (2015, NFCCG)
10. Denver Broncos (2015, SB)


"“I always think it’s good for backs to carry the ball in the preseason. There’s a lot of things that happen when you’re getting tackled and hit that you can’t simulate in practice. I think all our guys had the ball tonight. I think all our guys either caught it or were handed the ball and had to get tackled. We can’t really simulate that or rep that in practice.”"

– Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels on running back Josh Jacobs playing in the Hall of Fame Game

McDaniels could be telling the truth. He could also be trying to showcase Jacobs for a trade after Las Vegas’ new regime declined Jacobs’ fifth-year option this spring. It’s something to watch if the Raiders feel they have quality depth at the position.


Still on vacation, but Stacking The Box will be returning on Aug. 16!

Random stat

Last season, the only receivers to have at least 120 targets but less than 1,000 receiving yards were D.K Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks, and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Marvin Jones.

Info learned this week

1. Deshaun Watson situation only heating up with NFL

On Monday, the long-awaited Deshaun Watson verdict finally came down. Six games.

Turns out, though, the NFL isn’t pleased. And the bad news for Watson? Commissioner Roger Goodell has unilateral power to appeal Disciplinary Officer Sue Robinson’s decision. On Wednesday, Goodell did so before appointing former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey to hear said appeal.

While Goodell isn’t hearing his own appeal — as he could by the rules laid out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement — he’s bringing in a friendly face to do so. This doesn’t bode well for Watson and his Cleveland Browns, with a very real possibility looming of being suspended for most of, or the entire 2022 season.

Furthermore, while Robinson only recommended six games, her findings were damning of Watson. In her written decision, Robinson stated Watson’s actions were egregious and he shows no remorse, while also stating he should be limited to team-employed massage therapists only for the remainder of his career. Robinson also found Watson perpetrated non-violent sexual assault.

The bottom line: Robinson’s decision sets the bar but Harvey’s will determine the actual suspension length. And the NFL hand-picked Harvey.

2. Steelers’ QBs uneven early in camp practices

It’s a new era for the Pittsburgh Steelers. So far, the new era is a struggle.

Throughout the early weeks of training camp, it’s reportedly been a tough time for veteran Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett. Trubisky has endured an especially tough time at the goal line. In what is known as a Seven drill — the offense moves to the 2-yard line and tries to score — the veteran free-agent signing went 0-for-16 at one point.

Meanwhile, Pickett began his time in Latrobe slowly but seems to be improving. Maybe this is the start of Pittsburgh’s first-round pick understanding offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s scheme. If Pickett continues to progress while Trubisky is stuck in neutral, it could be an indication we’ll see the youngster soon, if not at the outset.

For Pittsburgh, Pickett should get the nod if the race is even remotely close. Trubisky is a bridge, not an answer. Head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan understand this. If Pickett is capable of climbing under center in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals, there’s no reason to not go that direction.

3. What Tim Patrick being out for season means in Denver

Last week, the first major AFC injury. Unfortunately, it’s Tim Patrick.

The Denver Broncos lost one of their starting receivers in Patrick for the season, after he sustained a non-contact torn ACL. Without Patrick, the Broncos still have Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy on the outside, with K.J. Hamler working his way back from a torn ACL for a possible Week 1 return.

Still, the loss of Patrick can’t be understated. Denver’s hopes in 2022 largely rest on quarterback Russell Wilson and his star receivers to make big plays. Behind Sutton, Patrick was the most-accomplished pass-catcher of the bunch. Now he’s gone, and the Broncos need a rehabbing Hamler to come in and make plays, after posting 455 receiving yards over his first two seasons.

More than ever, the Broncos need Sutton, Jeudy and Hamler to produce and stay healthy, with the latter portion having been an issue for all three at times. Without Patrick, Denver has no margin remaining.

4. Stafford’s elbow is significant concern for Rams

The Super Bowl champs aren’t having an ideal time of things with Matthew Stafford this summer.

Stafford, who dealt with elbow pain last year en route to a championship, had an injection in the problematic throwing elbow this offseason. However, he remains in pain, and hasn’t thrown in team drills throughout training camp. Based off head coach Sean McVay’s previous preseasons, it’s also unlikely we’ll see Stafford until Los Angeles welcomes the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 to kick off the new NFL season.

While Stafford has largely been durable throughout his career (only eight missed games since 2011) and the pain might be manageable with continued treatment, it’s worrisome. Stafford is 34 years old and received a four-year, $160 million extension this winter.

For now, the Rams are just saving Stafford’s bullets and letting the elbow rest. But if the elbow deteriorates as the seasons wares on, the concern will only grow for Los Angeles.

5. A note on the preseason

With the Hall of Fame Game behind us and Week 1 of the preseason ahead, a few words.

First, don’t worry about records. The teams themselves don’t care if they win.

Second, don’t get enamored with stats. Last year, the individual preseason leaders in passing yards, rushing yards and receiving yards were Nathan Peterman, Rhamondre Stevenson and Malik Taylor, respectively.

Third, keep in mind only one thing matters: health. If your team gets to September healthy, they win. It’s the only important takeaway.

That said, there’s plenty to watch for. For young players, watch for technique. Watch for the order in which players come into the game. It’s an insight into the depth chart. Look at who is playing special teams, and you’ll be looking at which reserves have an inside track to the 53-man roster.

There’s plenty to discern from the preseason, but none of it comes from the scoreboard.

Two cents

Another day, and another night with Jimmy Garoppolo still with the San Francisco 49ers.

While there’s been talk about his potential fit with the Browns, Texans or Giants, the eventual move seems to increasingly be trending towards a release. Unless a team loses its quarterback to injury over the next few weeks, San Francisco general manager John Lynch might be forced to set Garoppolo free, getting nothing for him while saving $25.5 million this year. It should be noted that’s important, as it can be rolled over into 2023.

Garoppolo doesn’t make much sense for any team right now. The Giants are trying to see what they have in Daniel Jones on the final year of his rookie deal. The Texans are evaluating Davis Mills after a promising rookie season. The Browns are awaiting the final verdict on Watson, and even if he’s banned for all of 2022, they are still paying him, Jacoby Brissett and the majority of Baker Mayfield’s contract.

If Garoppolo is released, he can wait for the right situation. Teams can also wait until the second week of September when his contract would be non-guaranteed for the year.

There’s a push-pull as usual with these situations, but for the 30-year-old, hitting the market appears the best scenario.

Inside the league

The Los Angeles Chargers are still waiting for star safety Derwin James to practice while he awaits a new contract. When he finally gets one, pay attention to structure and guarantees.

In recent years, Chargers owner Dean Spanos has incurred a rash of large costs. To relocate in 2016, Spanos paid $650 million. Over the past two offseasons, Los Angeles has spent both via trades and free agency, taking on major contracts. I wrote about them earlier this offseason:

"Meanwhile, the Chargers have also spent lavishly on center Corey Linsley, corner J.C. Jackson, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, edge rusher Khalil Mack (trade), guard Matt Feiler, tight end Gerald Everett, defensive tackle Sebastian Austin-Day and the re-signing of receiver Mike Williams. Those pacts come to $325.9 million, with $134.5 million guaranteed."

Now, James. He’s a fascinating study, considering through four years, James has played in 36 games and missed 29 due to injuries, and that includes a fully-healthy rookie season. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, James is holding in for an extension, one which likely makes him the highest-paid safety in league history.

So what would such a deal look like for the two-time Pro Bowler? The historical high-water marks for safeties are $84 million in total value (Landon Collins), $18.4 million annually (Minkah Fitzpatrick) and $38 million guaranteed (Jamal Adams).

For James, that could mean something such as five years, $93 million and $40 million guaranteed. That would be historical in all three main aspects. For the Chargers, they could front-load the guaranteed portion, and essentially make the extension two years and $40 million with minimal dead money over the final three campaigns.

Ultimately, this would protect general manager Tom Telesco against sunk costs if James can’t shake the injury bug, all while giving him what amounts to three team options.

Additionally, front-loading James would be wise with Justin Herbert’s upcoming mega deal. Herbert is eligible for an extension this offseason and speaking to multiple high-powered agents around the league, they believe Herbert could command $55 million annually on a new deal if he has another quality season. Yet Herbert’s extension won’t kick in until 2025, which means James’ guaranteed money wouldn’t overlap with Herbert’s increase.

The numbers are important on James’ deal, but structure and guaranteed are even more paramount than usual.

History lesson

From 1965-78, the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Vikings made the playoffs every year. Green Bay won three NFL titles from 1965-67, becoming the only team to ever win three consecutive championships.

Parting shot

With this past weekend seeing a new class enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I wanted to highlight three players often forgotten who should eventually see induction.

1) Maxie Baughan, LB, Philadelphia Eagles/Los Angeles Rams

Baughan is criminally overlooked. A nine-time Pro Bowler in the 1960s, Baughan somehow didn’t make the decade’s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team.

A First-Team All-Pro in 1964, Baughan was one of the league’s best for a decade, consistently recognized as one of the league’s best despite competing with Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson, Joe Schmidt and others at the position.

Thankfully, Baughan is currently a finalist for the Senior Committee in 2023. Three senior candidates can be enshrined.

2) Tommy Nobis, LB, Atlanta Falcons

Nobis gets forgotten more than most because he played on a horrid team his entire career. Spending 11 years with the Falcons from their inception in 1966 through ’76, Nobis made five Pro Bowls and was a First-Team All-Pro. He also named Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers Association and most-importantly, earning a spot on the ’60s HOF All-Decade Team.

It’s fair to wonder if Nobis had played on a better team with more national exposure in an age with very little of it for bad squads, if his accolades list would be far longer based on his play.

Like Baughan, Nobis on the final list for the Senior Committee in ’23.

3) Otis Taylor, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Taylor has a different case than Nobis. He largely played on good teams throughout his career, reaching two Super Bowls and winning one in Kansas City.

A star receiver from 1965-75 with the Chiefs, Taylor was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro, while leading the NFL in receiving yards in 1971. In his day, Taylor was among the league’s best alongside Fred Biletnikoff (Oakland Raiders), Don Maynard (New York Jets) and others. His career numbers of 7,306 yards and 57 touchdowns pale in comparison to today’s pass-happy statistics, but in his day, few were better.

Taylor was a semifinalist this year for the Senior Committee but didn’t make the final cut. Perhaps he’s gaining momentum.