– ESPN’s Chris Mortensen has backed off an earlier report that a player vote “appears likely” for Friday, now suggesting an agreement won’t come until this weekend. NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith is at the funeral of Patriots owner Bob Kraft’s wife Myra in Boston Friday. Negotiations on outstanding issues will hit the back burner while player reps review the owners’ proposal. Should the vote be delayed until Saturday or Sunday, the proposed free agency process also figures to be pushed back.
– The proposed CBA approved by the owners allows for all teams to begin negotiating with restricted, unrestricted, and college free agents this Saturday. That 72-hour window for teams to sign their own free agents won’t include “exclusive” negotiations. This change, as pointed out by PFT’s Gregg Rosenthal, will go a long way toward eliminating the NFL’s perennial tampering problem. The upshot is that there’s nothing stopping a team like Denver or Miami from recruiting DeAngelo Williams as early as Saturday — as long as the players approve the CBA on Friday. One team cannot sign another team’s free agent before Wednesday, however.
– WR Braylon Edwards pleaded guilty Friday to a DWI charge stemming from last September’s arrest. Edwards’ attorney says the receiver is looking forward to free agency and wants to put negativity behind him. He will be subject to a $500 fine and 6-month license suspension. More importantly, Edwards will be entered into the NFL’s substance abuse program. He was already under probation in Cleveland for his role in a 2009 fight outside a nightclub, so there could be an NFL suspension forthcoming.
– Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson revealed that the Panthers plan to be “very aggressive” in free agency, especially in re-signing their own players. ”When we get the green light we will be going wide open. We’re going to concentrate on our own first. … We are prepared to do what it takes to put the best team together as quickly as we can.” Charles Johnson and DeAngelo Williams will likely be the highest priority.
– Saints’ RCB Tracy Porter (left knee) underwent offseason microfracture surgery. The procedure was used to “stimulate healing.” Porter played on a torn lateral meniscus for much of last season, and he fell from 20th in 2009 to 42nd in Pro Football Focus’ pass coverage ratings for cornerbacks. His interceptions also dropped from four to one. Porter’s trainer says he is currently “ahead of schedule.”
– The NFL’s free agency and opening of training camps are scheduled to kick off Wednesday, July 27. Both are contingent on players ratifying the global agreement Thursday night and recertifying by next Tuesday. Commissioner Roger Goodell and attorney Jeff Pash are proceeding as if there is an understanding on both sides. College free agency and the conditional signing of rookie draft picks are scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 23.
– According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes has been narrowed down to five teams. That would be the Red Sox, Giants, Phillies, Braves and Rangers. Olney reports the Pirates and Indians are “basically out of the conversation.”
– According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, “some rival executives” think the Cardinals may still be willing to deal OF Colby Rasmus ahead of next Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline despite GM John Mozeliak’s insistence to the contrary. Rasmus’ stock is at an all-time low in St. Louis. It still doesn’t seem likely the Cardinals would be willing to move someone that’s under team control through 2014 and still ticketed for eventual stardom. It’s believed the Rays are the frontrunners for Rasmus if he is moved.
– The NBA and NBPA issued a joint press release detailing that basketball-related income (BRI) was up 4.8% in 2010-11, but player salaries were down $100M from the previous year. The decrease in revenue comes from teams like Sacramento, Detroit and Minnesota cutting payroll, but the percentage increase in BRI during the worst economy since the Great Depression shows that the NBA has actually grown. It’s also more evidence that, if the NBA is hurting, it has less to do with player salaries and more to do with non-player expenses, and that large market owners do not want to share with small market owners.
– Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that top player agents met with NBPA executive direction Billy Hunter on Friday, with decertification of the union as the top agenda item. WoJo reports Hunter is becoming “more open-minded” about decertification, which eliminates the union legally and exposes the league to player antitrust claims. Hunter likely wanted to wait and see how the NFLPA decertification played out, and with that case all but set to be settled without a full ruling from the courts, the threat of decertification is very close to what it was when the NFLPA made their move — and could favour the NBPA. Stay tuned.
– Lakers’ G Kobe Bryant will reportedly meet with Besiktas officials during the first week of August to discuss playing for the team. President Yildirim Demiroren will be in the U.S. for the Deron Williams press conference, and it looks like they’ll try and get Kobe to sign given they can secure a sponsor to pay Kobe’s salary.
– F Alexei Yashin and the Islanders have began exploratory discussions about the possibility of him rejoining the team. New York bought out Yashin’s contract and he has spent the last four seasons playing in the KHL. Yashin’s agent, Mark Gandler, said that the talks have been “growing in seriousness.”
– According to G Evgeni Nabokov’s agent, Don Meehan, his client is committed to playing in the NHL next season. Meehan said in May that Nabby was willing to report to the Isles’ training camp, and if he follows throug, New York will have three goalies signed a 1-way contracts. Nabokov, signed a 1-year/$570K, remains a very likely trade option.
– According to the PWInsider, as previously reported, there are people in WWE who are very interested in bringing in experienced soap opera writers to join the company’s creative tam. One of the big reasons behind this push is that the soap opera industry is in very bad shape and they can likely sign some talented writers for much les than they could have 2-3 years ago. Additionally, WWE wants to improve its storylines and present compelling personal conflicts. An example of this would be the Vince McMahon – Triple H segment that ended this week’s RAW.
– Former WWE champion John Cena wrote the following on Twitter on Thursday regarding his match against The Rock next year at WrestleMania and Vince McMahon being forced out of power by WWE’s board of directors:
“CeNation. Back to work and so happy. Rock, you got you’re wish. Ill be there April 1, just make sure you bring it. ….I also wouldn’t count VKM out yet. I know he was emotional on mon, but doesn’t seem the type to just ‘give up’. Time will tell.”
– As the coach of Tough Enough and one of the biggest superstars in the history of the industry, it’s safe to say that WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has an eye for talent. In a tweet posted on Thursday night, Austin urges WWE to sign TNA star Samoa Joe when he becomes a free agent and give him a chance to shine:
“WWE should sign @SamoaJoe as soon as his TNA contract is up. One of my favorite workers in today’s game. Needs a full green light push.”
Joe has since responded to Austin’s suggestion. He tweeted on Friday morning:
“@steveaustinBSR Much appreciated. *tips cap”
– SmackDown’s Money in the Bank winner Daniel Bryan has been training with Neil Melanson, the head grappling coach at the Xtreme Couture MMA school based out of Las Vegas. Bryan said he’ll be incorporating some new submission holds into his in-ring offense in the coming weeks:
“Just finished a grappling session with Neil Melanson. Expect more and more submissions all the time on Friday Night Smackdown!”