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FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2021, file photo, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, left, talks to Aaron Rodgers during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Chicago. LaFleur reiterated his hope that he'd get to continue working with Rodgers this season while offering no news on the quarterback's status. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

NFL big names, big deals

For the most part I've ignored the Aaron Rodger-Packers feud. It has been innuendo and feelings and very little tangible stuff.

Until Monday, when Rodgers skipped a voluntary practice session with the team.

First, Rodgers attended the previous optional OTAs. Second, in the grand scheme of things, voluntary anything in terms of football practices is as voluntary as when you're sitting next to the preacher's wife in the pew and the collection plate gets passed. Doesn't matter if you're a direct deposit or mail month checks, when her eyes meet yours, time to dig into the pocket. And while they'll take the donation that jingles, they prefer the kind that folds.

So Rodgers is miffed.

So too, apparently is Falcons WR Julio Jones, who has been the subject of multiple, salary-cap related trade discussions because the Falcons have the same amount of flexible spending money as a teenage boy with a pocket full of $20s on his senior cruise. Translation: It's all been spent.

So, it being a Tuesday, let's rank the top 5 thoughts and realizations of the two future Hall of Famers being disgruntled and in a place to dominate the NFL-dominated water cooler talk.

First, the cap number is the biggest line item in each of these discussions. It's the biggest obstacle for dealing Rodgers, who certainly would be coveted by a slew of clubs, but is set to make $33.5 million next year. Jones is only on the move because of the Falcons' disastrous cap situation.

Second, the emotions have pushed each scenario into untenable situations. Rodgers has backed himself into a corner that the way-out-of-left-field speculation even includes the possibility of walking away from football to be the full-time Jeopardy! host. Jones lamented to Shannon Sharpe that he's "Outta there" in regards to Atlanta, which caused Adam Schefter's Twitter to melt and Johnny Falcons Fans everywhere to curse Jones. I don't think the latter part of that is fair, since the Falcons have been talking about this for months, and he is the most movable piece considering the options behind him. In some ways, that Atlanta has been upfront with Julio is a testament to the directness of the new regime. And while we're here, if it comes out that Shannon Sharpe did not tell Julio — and apparently the two are friends — that he was on live TV on FOX Monday morning when Julio offered his outta there line, well, then FOX Sports needs to have some ethics classes ASAP.

And now 2.1, the reason Julio was not moved before the draft also had to do with cap considerations. The Falcons can not move him for roster and bonus concerns until June 1 at the earliest. If/when Jones is dealt, if it happened before June 1, the Falcons would be hit with $23.25 dead money on the cap, which would actually make their situation worse. After June 1, dealing Julio would be $7.75 million in dead money but bring with it a cap savings of $15.3 million.

Third, unless either player is willing to take a significant haircut salary-wise, or a willing trade partner has cap flexibility, the details of these deals will be devilish. Take Jones for instance, and his base salary for 2021 is that $15.3 million, and there are only 10 teams in the NFL right now that have that much cap space. As for Rodgers, this scenario is the same in terms of the June 1 dead-cap deadline but even more intriguing. After June 1, the Packers could spread Rodgers' remaining dead cap money (i.e. signing bonus) over the next couple of years. His cap hit — after June 1 — for 2021 is between $14 and $15 million for any potential suitors, which gives Green Bay options.

Speaking of options, that leads us to No. 4. Who wants — and could feasibly get — these future Hall of Famers? Here are the teams with more than $14.8 million in cap space and a QB need/win potential now (cap money in millions): Washington ($20.9), Denver (($20.6), Detroit ($18.7), San Francisco ($17.6), New England ($15.9), Carolina ($15.0), Indy ($14.8). There are some teams that become division favorites and Super Bowl contenders if Rodgers comes to town. As for Julio, some of those same teams have WR needs too. As does the team with the best cap-space spot — Jacksonville with more than $39 million in cap space.

An off-the-wall idea that would stir up sports talk radio at No. 5. Let the Packers deal Rodgers, regardless where it may be — and I do not count out the vengeance factor of Rodgers restructuring a deal and possibly swing a move to a Pittsburgh or a New Orleans and seeing where the chips fall — and save that cap money.

Then as Green Bay deals with the fallout and does everything in its power to give Jordan Love every option to be successful — or risk a revolt from Cheese Heads from Madison to Murfreesboro — they send a second in 2022 and a third in 2023 to Atlanta for Julio Jones.

Because, gang, if Jordan Love can't get the Packers to the playoffs with a top-three offensive line in the NFL, the best WR in the game right now in DaVante Adams, the best wide receiver of the last decade in Julio Jones, a top-five tight end and arguably the best RB situation in the league, well, there you go.    

 

Stealing an idea

Before the season, we shared some of the new ideas across the minor leagues that MLB was tinkering with to increase the action in an ever-stagnating game.

Well, the numbers are in and in some key areas some minor tweaks are making noticeable differences. Sam Dykstra with MLB.com broke down some of the changes and the accompanying changes they have generated.

Let's review.

> In the low-A minor leagues, step-offs and pick-off throws have been limited to two per hitter, stolen bases are up almost a full steal per game (0.83 increase over the 2019 comparative numbers);

> In high-A, where pitchers must step off the pitching rubber to make a pick-off attempt, steals are up 0.8 per game;

> In triple-A, where the bases have been increased to 18 square inches from 15 square inches, steals have increased 0.63 per game;

> In double-A, there were no changes to increase base-stealing and the 2021 average is 0.79 per game compared to 0.76 in 2019.

Granted, more stolen bases is not going to return the interest or the TV numbers to the 1970s apex, but more in-pitch action certainly is more enjoyable.

And it comes at a time when the MLB steals average is at its lowest level (0.46 per game) in more than half a century.

Again, the biggest issue for baseball, in my view is the number of balls in play — especially compared to the skyrocketing numbers of Ks, BBs and HRs — but more action is more enjoyment.

 

Say what?

OK, so I am late to the party, but I thought this was worth discussing this morning.

Yes, the WNBA had a dust-up over the weekend as a white male head coach named Curt Miller complained to the referee that an opposing player was fouling and said along the lines of, "C'mon, she weighs 300 pounds."

The back and forth got salty from there, including the player, Liz Cambage, completely trashing the coach after the fact on social media. I have not heard of any of these folks, and that's OK.

The coach was suspended for a game and fined $10,000. The player, who even went as far to threaten the coach, saying he was "lucky" it happened during the game when she was "doing her job," received nothing and when asked about it, she said that yes, she does trash talk during games but that's different because it's between players.

"But for a coach for another team, to be yelling, like, protected abuse. Because we can't do nothing back. It's just crazy to me," she said.

OK, again, I am far from an expert.

But, big picture, this is part of the confusion of the "we're the same, but we're not" in men's and women's sports, no? Could you imagine LeBron getting bent out of shape because Pop said he's a 285-pound bully with the ball in his hands? Heck, Chuck has made a mint gravitating toward his girth.

I fully appreciate the desire to be kind to one another, the spectrum of grace in the arena — be it coach to player, player to player, fan to player, everyone to referee — is not the realm of Emily Post's Etiquette handbook.

Thoughts?

 

This and that

— Count me 1000% in for the clear and coarse feelings between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau. Here's a recent social media clip of Brooks doing a Golf Channel over the weekend and giving a very golfer-esque answer about having a hard time reading a putt. DeChambeau walks behind him and mumbles something and Brooks unloads to the camera. (Koepka's rant is NSFW.) Koepka said he found it difficult to read and Bryson offers something like "Just gotta start it on the right line." If the U.S. Open has a hair on its tuckus, it pairs those two cats for the first two rounds. And we can all hope they get paired for the final round.

— Monday was Kenny Mayne's final SportsCenter at the mothership. Best of luck Kenny, you were an original, and in this business that's saying something.      

— Here's today's A2 column that further expounds on a conversation we started around these parts Monday about McCallie's right to require the vaccine and parents' rights to decide if it's right for their sons.

— But this tug-o-war between passion and perspective of propriety is hardly limited to Missionary Ridge. Here's a story in which a Michigan school is going to charge non-vaccinated students $80 to attend prom and conversely the state of Texas has said no local school system can require staff, students, parents or anyone to follow a mask mandate. OK, first sketchy idea first: How did they get to $80? Second one: From the very beginning of this, I have always believed that local leadership — state rather federal, city and/or county more than state — is the best qualified to handle specific solutions to the pandemic. The Federal guidelines can't fit North Dakota and California anymore than a Tennessee-wide decision can adequately address Memphis and Perry County, which is geographically socially distanced with an average of 19.2 per square mile.

— You know the rules. Here's TFP sports editor and preps guru Stephen Hargis on Howard coach John Starr leaving after a great run with the Hustlin' Tigers. In my close to 20 years in Chattanooga, he and Alvin Tarver found success in a trying place for a lot of reasons outside of the football field.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the latest UT transfer. We've said it before and we'll say it again, man everyone's going to need a program for the first few UT games. Talk about roster turnover.

— So LeBron can go to a tequila opening and violate COVID protocols and the NBA says no big whoop. Hmmmmmm. This may be the biggest evidence to date that the league's TV numbers — and LeBron's next game after deciding to ignore the protocols was Game 1 of the playoffs Sunday at 3 p.m. on ABC — may be a bigger concern for the league's bigwigs than they let on. And while we're here, Chuck Barkley being Chuck Barkley said the NBA doesn't have the (basket)balls to suspend LeBron. Put that in your clipboard and diagram it Adam Silver.

— Not a surprise. The best-selling jersey in the NFL right now? The No. 85 Tim Tebow Jacksonville Jags jersey.

 

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday after all.

True or false, if Bryson and Brooks are in one of the last groups together at a major, you would pay $9.99 to listen to the players and/or caddies to be micced up for that fireworks display.

True or false, LeBron could punch Adam Silver in the stomach and not get suspended.

True or false, Julio Jones and Aaron Rodgers will be on new teams in 2021.

True or false, stealing bases makes baseball more entertaining.

As for today, May 25, let's review.

A year ago today, George Floyd was murdered.

On this day 67 years ago, Willie Mays made his big-league debut.

Hey, Rushmore of Aaron, because I think Hank and Rodgers are two no-brainers.

CORRECTION: This column was updated at 12:38 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, to state that it was 67 years ago that Willie Mays made his big-league debut, not 670.

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