Eagles

NFL moving quickly to reverse halt on Ezekiel Elliott's 6-game ban

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NFL moving quickly to reverse halt on Ezekiel Elliott's 6-game ban

FRISCO, Texas -- The NFL moved quickly Monday in hopes of reversing a federal judge's decision that has blocked the league's six-game suspension of star Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott over a domestic violence case in Ohio.

The league asked the judge who ruled in Elliott's favor to stop the preliminary injunction that cleared last year's NFL rushing leader to play while the case is in court. A notice of appeal was also filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The NFL's latest filings came about 12 hours after Elliott rushed for 104 yards in the Cowboys' 19-3 season-opening win over the New York Giants at home Sunday night.

"Just relieved from the fact that I finally get a fair trial," Elliott said after the game in his first public comments since before the Cowboys reported for training camp in July. "I finally get a chance to prove my innocence. And I'm just happy I'm able to be with these guys for as long as it's permitted and just not having to miss time and not being away from them."

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell last month, and attorneys with the NFL Players' Association contended in a lawsuit that Elliott didn't get a fair hearing in an appeal that was denied.

Elliott had already been cleared to play in the season opener when U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant granted a temporary restraining order and injunction blocking the suspension Friday.

The case could play out for months.

New England quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension over "Deflategate" was delayed by a year when a federal judge ruled in his favor. Brady served the suspension to start last season after an appeals court reversed the ruling and backed Goodell's authority to suspend him.

If Mazzant denies the emergency request to put his own ruling on hold pending further hearings, the NFL could make a similar argument to the appeals court in hopes of getting a hearing within days after Mazzant decides.

Without an NFL win on an emergency request in either court, the timeline likely would clear Elliott to play his entire second season after he led the league in rushing as a rookie.

The case apparently will stay in the Texas court for at least a week after Mazzant gave Elliott's side until Wednesday to respond to the NFL's request for a stay. The NFL would then have until Friday to respond to arguments from Elliott's legal team before Mazzant rules on the motion, presumably next week.

"It may be difficult for the NFL to convince the 5th Circuit that this is truly an emergency," said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane University Law School. "The argument here is that the NFL could later enforce the suspension."

Elliott was suspended by Goodell in August after the league concluded he had several physical confrontations last summer with Tiffany Thompson, a former girlfriend. Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided about a year ago not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence.

The NFL kept its investigation open, and said its conclusions were based on photographs, text messages and other electronic evidence. The league has argued that it acted within the parameters of a labor agreement that gives Goodell broad authority to suspend players. The league also said the appeal process was consistent with its personal conduct policy.

"As far as the argument to the court of appeals, we think the scope and review in labor arbitration is very limited and we believe the judge went well beyond what is permitted as far as scope," NFL vice president of communications Joe Lockhart said.

Mazzant's ruling took aim at appeal hearing officer Harold Henderson and the NFL, saying decisions not to allow Goodell and Thompson to testify at the appeal were among several factors unfair to Elliott. The running back denied the allegations under oath during the appeal.

The judge also faulted the league for what he saw as several efforts to conceal the opinion of co-lead investigator Kia Roberts. She testified at the appeal that she didn't think Thompson was credible and didn't support any punishment for Elliott.

Three years ago, the NFL stiffened penalties in domestic violence cases after getting sharply criticized for its handling of former Baltimore running back Ray Rice.

Elliott had 1,631 yards rushing last season, helping Dallas to the best record in the NFC at 13-3. He had another 36 yards receiving in the opener against the Giants as the Cowboys beat the NFC East rival that swept them last season.

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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