Curran: The time is now for the NFL to cash out on Deflategate

Curran: The time is now for the NFL to cash out on Deflategate

Instead of taking victory laps on Tuesday, Roger Goodell would have been better off spending his day on the phone telling NFL owners that it was time to cash out on Deflategate.

Now is the perfect time for the NFL to make a deal.

The league has the ruling it needs confirming Roger Goodell can run a sham investigation, frame a player, punish a player and then sit in judgment of that punishment.

That’s what Goodell kept saying the whole court process was about – affirming the power of his office. So why wait for the NFLPA and Tom Brady to make the next move, which will be trying to get this thing heard again? Why take a chance Brady gets his en banc review in front of all the Second Circuit judges and the NFL gets its face pushed in for the second time?

Goodell can look benevolent if he shaves Brady’s suspension down to two, one or no games at all. He can also stop the heavy flow of money that the league’s hemorrhaged in trying to prosecute Brady. And he can redirect attention away from this disaster and back onto the field.

Owners like John Mara were sick of this thing last August. Tie it off now before it extends into this August. The whole NFL gets to chortle this week when the Patriots spot in the first round get skipped. A potentially good player they’d have had for six to eight seasons will never play a down for them. Won’t even exist. The Brady thing? Really, it’s overkill.

Proposing to slice the suspension isn’t going to be met with unanimous approval. Starting within the league office. Lead NFL counsel Jeff Pash, VP of Operations Troy Vincent and league operations people who started bungling this thing at the outset won’t want to see the boot come off Brady’s neck now that he’s pinned under it.

Brady and the union were willing to at least discuss deals last summer but Pash in particular wasn’t having it. “Cop to everything and we’ll see what we can do,” was the demand sent back to Brady and his people. Goodell would love to get up, dust off his jacket, straighten his tie and fix his cuffs then walk away like nothing happen. But Pash – the lawyer that Goodell isn’t – won’t advise that course.

Some of the league’s other owners will resist too. Start with the Bidwills, Pegulas, Stephen Ross and Bob McNair – owners of the teams the Patriots play in the first four weeks. Then skip to addled Colts owner Jim Irsay. Then toss in all the other teams whose football people snipe at the Patriots and whisper to their owners, “Don’t feel bad for the Patriots. Think of all the things they’ve gotten away with.” It’s the football people from the Ravens, Colts and Jets that got this thing started, remember? They’re the ones that put their owners and the operations people on alert, filling their heads with urban legends of warm Gatorade, bugged locker rooms, trash-can pilfering and ball tampering.

Even if Goodell wanted to cut a deal and actually got clearance to pursue one, what would Brady have to say to make a deal palatable?

That he should have cooperated fully at the outset? That Goodell had the right to discipline and didn’t abuse his arbitrator’s power? That would be hard enough for Brady to do. It was already made clear he was fighting for the rights of players when he didn’t cooperate. And Brady’s entire case has been built on proving Goodell’s malfeasance as arbitrator.

Or will the NFL ask for more? Will they really make him go to the league on bended knee? Ask him to give up McNally and Jastremski or acknowledge that footballs were tampered with. That’s not going to happen.

There has to be a “quo pro” if Brady’s going to get his “quid.”

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday that there’s no end in sight. Atallah added that the one conciliator in the league, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, can’t be counted on now.

“The one owner who comes to mind (as being able to broker a settlement) at this point, and he had such sway in 2011, also happened to be on the receiving end of these penalties,” Atallah said of Kraft. “Unless somebody else from that ownership group, from that management council, steps up and shows some necessary leadership here, again, I don't really see how that's going to happen.”

Or maybe it’s time for the Commissioner to lead on something for a change. To realize the game’s integrity is truly compromised when he plays the puppet to a league that wants the best team’s best player erased for a quarter of the season. Or more.

We’ve been talking about balls for 16 months. Now would be an opportune time for Goodell to prove he has them. Figuratively speaking. Of course.


What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?