Forbes devalues new Bills owner’s fortune by $800M

Pegula

In October, Terry Pegula bought the Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion. Five months later, Forbes has devalued Pegula’s net worth by $800 million.

Harsh.

Of the other 12 NFL owners listed in Forbes’ Top 400 ranking of American billionaires, released Monday, each saw his net worth rise or remain the same.

Understand that these valuations are all guesswork on Forbes’ part. Indeed, its estimates last year regarding rocker Jon Bon Jovi’s net worth and initial bid amounts in the Buffalo Bills sale were considerably off the mark.

Last September, about the time Pegula and wife Kim won the bidding for the Bills, Forbes listed the 63-year-old’s net worth at $4.6 billion. On Monday, Forbes lowered it to $3.8 billion without clearly explaining the drop.

Pegula’s updated bio does point out that this decade he has dropped $189 million on the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, an NFL-franchise-sale-record $1.4 billion on the Bills and $172 million on downtown Buffalo redevelopment.

Pegula made a fracking fortune in the oil and gas industries, specifically on drilling and property acquisitions.

Oddly, one of the two known bidders Pegula was said to be far richer than during the Bills sale process last year — New York entrepreneur Donald Trump — is now worth more than Pegula, according to the financial-news website. Trump is worth $4.1 billion, up $100 million from September, and sits 131st in the Top 400. Pegula is at No. 151.

Only three NFL owners were worth more than Pegula at the time he bought the Bills, per Forbes: Seahawks owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen ($17 billion then, $17.6 billion now), Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($6 billion then, $6.5 billion) and Rams owner Stan Kroenke ($5.7 billion then, $6.3 billion now).

Today, three more NFL owners also are worth more than Pegula, per Forbes: Jaguars owner Shahid Khan ($4.5 billion), Patriots owner Robert Kraft ($4.3 billion) and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ($4.2 billion).

The collective net worth of the 13 NFL owners who made the new Forbes Top 400 is $61.23 billion, a rise of $2.93 billion since September. If the NFL’s other 19 owners are worth an average of only $1 billion each (an unlikely lowball estimate), then the league’s ownership collectively has a net worth of about $80 billion.

Yet they always claim they desperately need the public sector to pick up most of the tab on constructing all these new stadiums dotting riverfronts, lakefronts and downtowns across America.

Sure, right.

 

 

MONDAY  NOTEBOOK

Dez, Demaryius among 5 franchise-tag recipients

Two elite receivers, two elite pass rushers and one of the NFL’s best placekickers got slapped with franchise tags by Monday afternoon’s deadline.

Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Kansas City outside linebacker Justin Houston, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski will remain with their teams for at least one more season.

A bunch of star players who were not tagged on Monday become free agents on March 10 at 4 p.m. EST, unless their teams work out new deals with them in the interim.

These players include Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Buffalo outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, Dallas running back DeMarco Murray, Denver tight end Julius Thomas, Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb, Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron, New England safety Devin McCourty, San Francisco guard Mike Iupati and Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Monday’s franchise-tagged players received the non-exclusive kind. It gives them a lucrative, position-specific, fully guaranteed one-year salary. Bryant and Thomas each get $12.823 million in 2015, Houston $13.195 million, Pierre-Paul $14.813 million, Gostkowski $4.126 million — amounts determined by annual calculations set forth in the collective bargaining agreement.

All five players technically are free to sign elsewhere starting March 10, but that won’t happen. That’s because the offering team would owe the player’s current team (should the current team opt not to match the offer) two first-round draft picks as compensation.

No NFLers except, perhaps, a few top quarterbacks are worth that, and such players never would be dangled like this anyway.

Taggers can still sign their taggees to a long-term deal, but only until July 15. Some teams apply the tag merely to gain time for this purpose past the opening of free agency. The Patriots announced Monday that that “is the goal” in Gostkowski’s case.

Chiefs GM John Dorsey said the same thing about Houston, the NFL’s leading sacker last season with 22.

“We will continue to discuss long-term options with him and his agent,” Dorsey said in a statement. “Our goal is to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial. We want to keep Justin in a Chiefs uniform for years to come.”

No players this year received an exclusive franchise tag. One player, Miami tight end Charles Clay, received a transition tag. Salary amounts in this option are lower compared to non-exclusive franchise tags ($7.071 million for tight ends, compared to $8.347 million), but any team that should sign Clay by the transition-tag deadline of July 22 would owe the Dolphins nothing.

 

CAP RISES: The NFL announced that the team salary cap for 2015 is $143.28 million. That’s a rise of $20.3 million since 2013, or 16.5%. Because teams can carry over unused cap room, the specific cap for each team varies. See the list at NFLplayers.com.

 

CAP CASUALTIES: Monday’s list included Steelers WR Lance Moore, Giants C J.D. Walton and Dolphins CB Cortland Finnegan (one year after the Rams cut him in a cost-saving move) and OT Nate Garner. Last week the cap-strapped Dolphins cut WRs Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson.

 

DRANK, DROVE, DROPPED: The image-conscious Ravens aren’t screwing around anymore, following the Ray Rice disaster of last September. On Monday they waived CB Victor Hampton, a down-roster free agent they’d just signed in January. He was arrested on the weekend and charged with driving while impaired, speeding at 160 km/h, reckless driving and being in possession of an open alcohol container.

 

EXTRA POINTS: WR/KR Jacoby Jones, cut last week by the Ravens in a cap move, reportedly visited the Bengals and Titans … The Eagles signed LB Brad Jones to a two-year deal. He was cut by the Packers on Feb. 20 after six years in Green Bay.

 

 

 

‘Air Canada’ takes flight toward realizing NFL dream with ‘strong’ throwing performance at combine

BRANDON

INDIANAPOLIS – In showing off a strong arm, a quick release and improved footwork on Saturday at the NFL scouting combine, Brandon ‘Air Canada’ Bridge impressed top draft analysts on Saturday.

And took a big step toward realizing his NFL dream.

“I thought that Brandon Bridge got himself drafted today, I really did,” Rob Rang, Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Sports Xchange and CBSSports.com, told Sun Media.

“I thought that he had a strong performance. He and Jerry Lovelocke (of Prairie View A&M) both stepped up and showed that they have legitimate NFL arms, and therefore in a quarterback class as weak as this one, why not gamble on a guy with a big arm?”

Bridge is a 6-foot-4 3/8, 229-pound passer from the University of South Alabama. He was born in Toronto and raised in neighbouring Mississauga, and is hoping to become the first Canadian quarterback taken in the NFL draft since Jesse Palmer in 2001.

“I thought I did pretty well,” Bridge texted Sun Media on Saturday night. “Threw the ball well for the most part.

“Teams say they like me but anything can happen between now and draft day.”

The 22-year-old threw in the first of two quarterback/receiver groups on at Lucas Oil Stadium. The other passers in his group were UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Duke’s Anthony Boone, Nevada’s Cody Fajardo, East Carolina’s Shane Carden and Southeastern Louisiana’s Bryan Bennett.

Greg Cosell, the respected analyst for NFL Films and NFL Network, observed from the field. Although he has yet to analyze Bridge’s game tape from South Alabama, or from his previous college stop at Alcorn State, Cosell said Bridge more than held his own.

“I thought he threw it well,” Cosell said. “He was in the first group, which I didn’t think was a very good group. I think he stood out.

“With his size and the way he threw it, he stood out.”

That’s not a backhanded compliment, because many analysts have UCLA’s Hundley rated as the No. 3 quarterback in this draft class, after everybody’s Top 2: Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

Gil Brandt, the “Godfather” of the scouting combine and former long-time Dallas Cowboys front-office executive, told Sun Media he thought Bridge “threw the ball pretty good. He’ll be a free agent, at least, in somebody’s camp.”

Even by Bridge’s own admission, he still has work to do to clean up his unpolished footwork. With most throwers, accuracy is proportionate to footwork sophistication, and Bridge was only a 50% passer in two years at South Alabama.

I was fortunate to be one of only 15 members of the Pro Football Writers of America permitted to watch Bridge’s group throw, from a luxury box. I was expecting Bridge to have much sloppier footwork, based on what he and others had said about it.

But it’s not that bad.

He told me on Thursday he’s been working hard under quarterback guru Steve Calhoun in California to fix his footwork woes from the fall, when Bridge told me he was always throwing “all arm,” off his back foot.

Bridge has a quick delivery and, without any question, possesses an NFL-strength arm. On some routes on Saturday, such as the five-yard slant-left, 12-yard curl-right and 10-yard out-right, Bridge was consistently accurate, ripping the ball into his receivers’ hands on tight spirals.

On others — such as the 10-yard out-left and 18-yard in-left — he was hit-and-miss, with the occasional ugly miss.

On go-route throws left, and post-corners right, he threw two good throws for every bad one. But that’s to be expected when working with unfamiliar receivers on such long tosses.

“Brandon Bridge is who I thought he was: a tall drink of water with a whip (for an arm),” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told me at his late-afternoon news conference. “He hasn’t got much of a clue about footwork, he gets out of position a lot, his accuracy is all over the place, but he’s the kind of guy you’d like to work with.”

Bridge did OK in the speed and agility drills earlier Saturday morning. He placed sixth of 13 quarterbacks in the 40-yard dash (4.72 seconds) and sixth in the first 10 yards (1.68 seconds). He was also sixth in vertical jump (33 inches) and ninth in broad jump (9-foot-2).

“He’s got some athletic ability,” Rang said, “and there’s just a hunger about him. If he isn’t drafted, then he certainly got himself into a camp (as a free agent) with how he performed. And that’s really all you can ask for is an opportunity.

“Based on physical talent, he showed that he has at least a chance to make an NFL roster.”

 

 

 

NFL coaches warming to idea of expanding video reviews to include at least pass interference — but will rule change?

INDIANAPOLIS – NFL coaches are warming to the idea of expanding video replay to include pass-interference calls, if not all judgment penalties.

“Yeah, we got a sense for that,” St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, a leading member of the NFL’s competition committee, said at his Friday morning new conference at the NFL scouting combine.

Whether reviews will be so expanded next month at the league’s annual meeting in Phoenix is conjecture at this point.

Another coach on the competition committee, Marvin Lewis, suggested Thursday that such a rule change is unlikely.

Regardless, based on what Fisher and some of his colleagues said this week, more coaches are coming around to that way of thinking.

Fisher is the foremost coach on the competition committee, which each year at the combine consults coaches and GMs on potential rule changes. The committee meets a week or two after the combine to consider all proposals, then submits a final list of rule and by-law changes to owners for their consideration at the NFL’s annual meeting.

This year’s annual meeting is March 22-25 in Phoenix.

“There are a number of proposals this year, probably the largest number that I can remember with respect to instant replay,” said Fisher, expanding on what NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said three days before the Super Bowl.

“A number of those proposals involve including penalties. So that will all be discussed. We’re scratching the surface on this now. We’ll look at it in detail.”

Fisher did say that expanding reviews will be “one of the major topics of discussion” when the competition committee meets next week in Naples, Fla.

With stricter enforcement in 2014 of two rules preventing contact with a receiver five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, angst about pass-interference calls and non-calls proved a constant source of grief to players, coaches, team execs and fans.

League execs felt especial heat after the NFC wild-card playoff game between Detroit and Dallas, when a flag for pass interference at first was thrown, then picked up. Southeastern Michigan is still slow-burning over it, after the call helped the Cowboys knock off the Lions.

The NFL would be following the CFL by one year if it allows coaches to challenge pass-interference calls or non-calls in 2015.

According to Winnipeg Sun colleague Kirk Penton, CFL coaches in 2014 challenged 55 such plays in the 18-game regular season. The CFL’s centralized video-review command centre overturned 17 calls — or 31% of the time.

Blandino told me last month he spoke with his CFL counterpart, Glen Johnson, about how the rule change went over. Coaches, players, executives and fans in Canada all seemed to be happy with it.

“I think the coaches appreciated the ability to at least challenge those calls,” Blandino said following his Super Bowl availability.

This week we asked several NFL head coaches at their combine news conferences for their thoughts on whether replay reviews should be expanded to include PI calls or non-calls.

“Yeah, last year I thought it was kind of a weird recommendation that everything be reviewable,” Arizona’s Bruce Arians said. “I’m kind of believing (New England) coach (Bill) Belichick now, where everything should be reviewable but you get three (challenges) — you pick and choose, whether it’s holding or any play that judgment was involved in.

“I think I’m going for that one now.”

Buffalo’s Rex Ryan and Tampa Bay’s Lovie Smith both dropped strong hints that they are now in favour.

Said Ryan: “Before, I wasn’t a big proponent of it, because you don’t want to slow the game. I think the game is so good right now that you don’t want to change things. But as what happened to me last year with a couple of things, certainly would I like a chance to review them.”

Said Smith: “I have definite opinions on that. I think the rules we have in place right now are there for a reason. But I think any way that you can make a wrong a right during the course of a game — whether it be penalties, any part of the game — I think that eventually will help our game.”

Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley said he’s ambivalent, but edging toward change.

“I think there are pluses and minuses,” Bradley said. “I hate to be vague on it, but I think there are advantages and disadvantages to it.

“But ultimately you want to get it right. And that’s what I think, from most people’s mindset, is to try to expand it to make sure we get it right … I think that’s ultimately our whole mindset: just to find a way to get it right.”

Cincinnati’s Lewis said not so fast.

“No one is in favour of expanding judgment calls, because we work in a system right now with high-definition television, and guys are literally making split-second determinations,” he said. “And more than 90 percent of the time they’re getting them right. I don’t think we want to fool with that.”

Is that how the whole competition committee feels?

“Pretty much, yes,” Lewis said. “But that’s not for me to speak for the competition committee. It’s under discussion. It will continue to be under discussion. We had four days of discussion of it over here. We will discuss it again and make proposals to the ownership when we go to the March meeting.”

 

 

Bills, Jerry Hughes talking long-term contract + why franchise tag makes no sense

Jerry

INDIANAPOLIS – Buffalo Bills GM Doug Whaley said Thursday that talks to strike a long-term deal with free-agent-to-be Jerry Hughes have heated up over the past two days.

In his two years in Buffalo, Hughes has blossomed into a top-shelf pass rusher.

He registered 10 sacks in 2013 in Mike Pettine’s 3-4 defence, and 9.5 sacks this past season in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3.

“We’ve sent a proposal over to his representatives,” Whaley told Bills beat writers. (My photo of him, above, before 2014 home opener.)  “His representatives have sent a counter-proposal. I just got off the phone with (VP of football administration) Jim Overdorf, who talked with their representatives at length last night.

“There’s an open line of communication.”

Whaley added that the two sides were set to meet again Thursday.

The Bills surely don’t want to slap a franchise tag on the fifth-year veteran, because the non-exclusive tag amount for his position probably will work out to about $15 million.

“We’re trying to avoid that,” Whaley said, “because we’re trying to get him long-term for sure … so they (can say), hey, we got a good deal, and we say as the Buffalo Bills we got a good deal.”

This season the Bills already are scheduled to pay their other three defensive-line starters a fortune, precisely $33.9 million against the cap: $19.4 million for end Mario Williams, $8.1 million for tackle Marcell Dareus and $6.4 million for tackle Kyle Williams.

Even though, as Whaley pointed out, the Bills have more freedom to spend big on defenders because so little (at this point) of their cap is devoted to quarterback pay, it’s almost inconceivable that Buffalo or any NFL team would devote about a third of its cap space (about $49 million) to but four D-line starters.

Signing Hughes to a long-term deal can backload a lot of the money, rather than have all of his 2015 pay count toward the 2015 cap, as happens when you tag a player.

The GM did say that approaching Mario Williams to restructure his contract “as of now” is not what the club is considering, but “it’s something in our back pocket.”

Whaley sounded much less optimistic about re-signing running back C.J. Spiller, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and safety Da’Norris Searcy.

What best-of-the-rest combine QBs say is their best strength, biggest weakness

MOBILE, Ala. – For the third straight year, Sun Media asked Senior Bowl quarterbacks two questions:

1)   What’s the one attribute that makes you most NFL ready?

2)   What’s the thing you have to work on most?

All six passers who worked out last month in front of NFL talent evaluators at the Senior Bowl (a college all-star game) accepted invitations to the NFL scouting combine. The combine began Tuesday and concludes Monday.

It’s always interesting to hear how quarterbacks answer the first question.

Some pick a physical trait, such as arm strength, or accuracy. Some cite their familiarity with the pro-style passing game. A few even cite leadership and competitiveness, such as EJ Manuel two years ago.

“I think mainly just a winning mindset,” told Sun Media then, in answer to Question 1. “Obviously, my physical skills kind of speak for themselves. I have the size, and I can throw, I can run. But I think mainly it’s the pedigree in my mind.”

The Florida State product at the time didn’t rank on any draftniks’ Top 5 lists. But a month later at the combine, Manuel blew away teams’ GMs, coaches and scouts in his interviews.

Manuel’s draft stock skyrocketed, and he wound up being the first quarterback taken three months later, 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills.

Here is how this year’s six Senior Bowl quarterbacks answered the two introspective questions (with my photos from Mobile, accompanying):

 

BRYCEBRYCE PETTY

Baylor

Midlothian, Tex.

6-foot-2¾, 230 pounds

BEST ATTRIBUTE: “I think leadership, toughness, competitiveness.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: “Footwork. That’s all it is. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid in peewee football or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning — those guys are always working on their footwork. It’s not something you can ever totally master … Accuracy is tied to footwork. It’s huge. I think if you have calm feet, you make great throws. Good feet lead to good throws.”

 

BLAKEBLAKE SIMS

Alabama

Gainesville, Ga.

5-foot-11½, 223 pounds

BEST ATTRIBUTE: “Personality — the willingness to do whatever I’ve got to do to play in the game.”

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: “Just footwork. That’s the main thing, I think. It’s the only thing I need to work on.”

 

GARRETTGARRETT GRAYSON

Colorado State

Vancouver, Wash.

6-foot-2 1/8, 215 pounds

BEST ATTRIBUTE: “Playing in a pro-style system. We had reads that, you know, if they’re in cover-2 it’s one read but if they switch to cover-3 it’s a totally different read. You still have to go through your progressions, and I think that gives me a leg up on everyone, having gone through that. That’s helped me out a ton, and that played a big part in me going to CSU. Steve Fairchild (CSU’s head coach, 2008-11) was there running a pro-style system. I just looked at guys through the years who have gone on to have success at the next level, and they went through a pro-style college. That was a system I wanted to play in.”

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: “Being under centre. At CSU we were about 50-50, centre-gun, until this last season, when we were about 90% gun. So just getting those drop(back)s from under centre, making my sure my hips are right when I’m throwing to my left, things like that. They’re definitely fixable.”

 

SEANSEAN MANNION

Oregon State

Pleasanton, Calif.

6-foot-5½, 229 pounds

BEST ATTRIBUTE: “I think my throwing ability, and what I mean by that is my accuracy and arm strength. I feel like I can make any throw in any offence. That being said, you can always improve your accuracy. I hold myself to a high standard in terms of putting the ball in the right place, and putting it there on time.”

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: “I think just working on getting the ball out of my hand on time. The timing and the speed of the game is at a whole other level in the NFL, and I think it requires the quarterback to play fast and get the ball out of his fast on time. You want to sharpen up the physical side of it, in terms of when you put your foot on the ground, and that the ball’s coming out right away. So that’s part of it. But it’s also the mental aspect. Not just going through your reads quickly, but making the right read, and quickly. It’s two sides of the same coin. We ran a pro style system, so we had a lot of similarities in terms of concepts in the passing game with what we’re doing this week. But the detail is just a whole other level.”

 

BRYANBRYAN BENNETT

Southeastern Louisiana (transferred from Oregon)

Granada Hills, Calif.

6-foot-3, 215 pounds

BEST ATTRIBUTE: “I think my arm strength is something that I’ve been able to show here, especially when I tie my feet to my arm. I usually am pretty accurate and have the strength to make every throw.”

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: “I think I need to just keep working on throwing in the pocket, and being accurate through the pocket. There was one play today where I started running and may have gained a couple yards, but if I got my eyes up there might have been a touchdown (pass) there. So just working on little things like that.”

 

ShaneSHANE CARDEN

East Carolina

Houston, Tex.

6-foot-1¾, 218 pounds

BEST ATTRIBUTE: “Dealing with adversity. I wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school. I spent two years on the scout team just battling for jobs. I’m just a fighter, man. I’ve been through a lot and I’m going to continue to fight through and figure out a way to be successful. I honestly believe I’ll figure out a way to be successful in this league. Physically, I feel it’s my feel in the pocket. This past off-season I really spent a lot of time working on that. It’s hard to do when you’re not playing in a game.”

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: “Just my footwork. Being consistent with dropping back, getting my feet underneath me and using them to get power on the ball.”