AFC East: Roger Goodell

ORLANDO, Fla. -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell provided some closing thoughts on this week’s NFL owners meetings.

Here are some tidbits Goodell offered about the Miami Dolphins:
  • Goodell was pleased with the progress the NFL made this week on locker-room culture. There were several productive sessions to help coaches and general managers be proactive and avoid what happened last year in Miami during the Dolphins' bullying scandal.
  • In terms of suspensions, Goodell said the NFL will not take action until all three players complete their medical evaluations. Goodell announced Tuesday that Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey must seek treatment. “The medical evaluation is a priority for us,” Goodell said.
  • NFL vice president of football Troy Vincent added that the league will “consider everything” when it comes to potential suspensions. Pouncey could be in hot water because NFL lead investigator Ted Wells didn’t find some of Pouncey’s accounts credible, according to the report.

The Dolphins and the NFL leave Orlando with a much better grasp on how to improve locker-room culture, which was a major focus at the owners meetings. The next step for Miami will be awaiting word on Pouncey's playing status for the start of the regular season.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that improving the workplace environment is a major focus for the league moving forward. Goodell said he spoke numerous times to the Miami Dolphins and 40 players total from nine different teams on how to fix the league’s locker-room culture.

“What do we need to do to make sure we have a workplace that we're all proud of?” Goodell said at the annual league meetings. “Those [talks] have been very productive.”

None of this would be possible without the Dolphins. Had Jonathan Martin not left the team on Oct. 29 amid bullying and harassment claims and caused a media firestorm, this topic would not be near the top of the docket at the NFL’s league meetings. That is perhaps the biggest silver lining the Dolphins can take from one of the most controversial chapters in franchise history.

The curtain was pulled back on Miami’s locker-room culture last season and prompted conversation and change. Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito and John Jerry were three players cited for harassment in the 144-page Ted Wells report. That certainly caught Goodell’s attention, and the NFL is examining various measures to prevent another situation like this from happening again.

“We’re trying to get as much input as possible,” Goodell said. “This is a culture change. ... This is more about people understanding the importance of a professional workplace where there’s respect for everybody, whether it’s a teammate, an opponent, game officials.”

In this case, change is good. NFL locker rooms have long been behind the times. The Dolphins just happen to be the team that exposed the need for change. What the Dolphins experienced last year was negative, but learning from it going forward is a positive for the Dolphins and the entire NFL.

According to Goodell, no decisions have been made on potential suspensions for Incognito, Pouncey and Jerry. Goodell said all three players must first go through medical evaluations before the NFL makes a decision.

Brian Hartline's anger is misguided

August, 20, 2013
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MIAMI -- Miami Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline lashed out at Houston Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger on Tuesday after Swearinger delivered a low blow that ended the season of Miami tight end Dustin Keller.

Hartline
Hartline called Swearinger’s explanation for diving at Keller's knee in a preseason game “crap.” As a result of Swearinger's hit, Keller reportedly suffered a torn ACL, MCL, PCL and a dislocated kneecap. He was put on injured reserve by the Dolphins on Tuesday.

“It’s crap,” Hartline said on the “Joe Rose Show” on WQAM in South Florida. “I think that, me personally, if you’re sitting there telling me ‘I’m worried about going high and for the head,’ [that] you consciously went low, then [that] is what you’re trying to tell me.”

But Hartline’s anger towards Swearinger is misguided. Hartline and other offensive players should be more concerned with the NFL's potential to create a growing “low-hit culture” in the league.

The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell are taking a stance that reducing head injuries is the league’s biggest priority. Large fines and suspensions loom for defenders who risk tackling high. The natural by-product is more NFL defenders will hit low to avoid penalties and fines. Swearinger’s hit on Keller is one example -- and it was within the rules.

There is no perfect answer on this low-hit debate. Preventing concussions and head injuries are important, but season-ending leg injuries also are hard to bounce back from. This is another tough dilemma facing the NFL.

AFC East links: Dolphins violated principles

February, 5, 2013
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Buffalo Bills

What does wide receiver Stevie Johnson want for the Bills in 2013? “Playoffs, that’s it,” said Johnson. "For players to be accountable when things go wrong. That way we bounce back faster. I want everybody to compete with each other. I don’t want anybody to be comfortable. How could you be comfortable when it’s been 12 or 13 seasons without playoffs. I want everybody to be accountable for their actions good and bad and we get to the playoffs.”

Although Andre Reed didn't receive enough votes from the Hall of Fame selection committee, his hometown support remains as strong as ever.

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland admitted it was a gamble to draft quarterback Ryan Tannehill. “I think the axiom that you go by in scouting is you like to see a quarterback with 30 starts under his belt before he’s ready to play, and we kind of violated that, our principle,” Ireland said.

Guard Josh Samuda has come a long ways in a short period of time.

New England Patriots

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com has five areas where the Patriots need to improve, starting with the defense. Reiss: "The Patriots should be able to count on a good second-year jump from 2012 first-round draft choices Chandler Jones and Donta' Hightower, but they can't just rely on that. In the words of Tom Brady, 'The mark of any great defense is how quickly you can force the quarterback into making decisions.' The Patriots don't do that enough. Is it more about personnel or scheme? This has been an annual storyline at this time of year, seemingly going back to the team's last Super Bowl victory."

New York Jets

What can the Jets learn from what transpired in Super Bowl XLVII? Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com shares his thoughts.

Gary Myers of the New York Daily News: "Roger Goodell enthusiastically endorsed the New York Super Bowl, so he has a lot at stake next year to make sure the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII and then Super Sunday game day is pulled off without any embarrassing glitches. The game day bar has not been set very high recently in Dallas and New Orleans."
Pro BowlKirby Lee/US PresswireThe NFLPA said the players want the opportunity to continue to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
One question brought the most grumbling, rolling eyes and blank stares in March at the NFL owners meetings: How do you fix the Pro Bowl?

"I don't think you can," Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey told ESPN.com.

"I don't have any thoughts on that," Bills general manager Buddy Nix added.

One NFL general manager, who spoke to ESPN.com on the condition of anonymity, pleaded: "Just cancel it now, please."

The NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL have found ways to make their all-star games interesting and entertaining for fans. Yet the NFL fails to hit the mark year after year with the Pro Bowl.

To be blunt, the game is no longer relevant. The consensus among NFL coaches and front office executives surveyed at the owners meetings is that fixing the Pro Bowl is a lost cause. Perhaps it was never more apparent than this past January in the AFC's 59-41 victory over the NFC. The contest, if you can call it that, had little energy and became a glorified flag football game. Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to cancel the all-star game, but the NFLPA and NFL agreed to bring the game back Wednesday after players promised it would improve.

The Pro Bowl will resume in Hawaii on Jan. 27, 2013, one week before the Super Bowl in New Orleans. But poor timing is the NFL's first mistake. The league should move the Pro Bowl back until two weeks after the Super Bowl. The current format automatically rules out every star player from the AFC and NFC champions. That takes away from the game's credibility and star power. Add to the mix injury withdrawals and players who don't want to show up, and you get a watered down roster of alternates.

The old format used before 2010 was to play the game one week after the Super Bowl. I say move it back two weeks after the big game to give more players a chance to recover from long postseason runs.

The NFLPA and league office are not on the best of terms following many disagreements and a lengthy NFL lockout last year. Boosting player morale is important at this time and keeping the Pro Bowl is one olive branch Goodell was willing to hand out.

"The players have made it clear through the NFL Players Association that they would like the opportunity to continue to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii," NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson explained in a statement. "We will support the players on this initiative to improve the Pro Bowl. We have had many discussions with the players in recent years about the Pro Bowl and they recognize that the quality of the game has not been up to NFL standards. We look forward to working with the players toward the goal of improving the competitiveness of this season’s game."

[+] EnlargeDarrelle Revis
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliDespite the injury risk, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has played in four consecutive Pro Bowls.
While players are in favor of the Pro Bowl, the game is mostly a headache for nervous coaches and general managers, who hope their star players don't get injured in a meaningless game. One freak injury in the Pro Bowl could impact a team's draft plans, free agency and more. That is why the game is coached and played at half speed, much to the dismay of the viewing audience.

"I don't think there's anything that can make the Pro Bowl more competitive," Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said candidly. "Because it's a tough game and guys want to protect themselves. It's a safety issue."

No sport is fun to watch at half speed, especially football. Player safety has overtaken the Pro Bowl's entertainment value. It's a boring, uninspired brand of football, and it's the NFL's duty to find a good competitive balance.

Still, the Pro Bowl remains a major success for television networks, which continue to feed our nation's insatiable appetite for NFL football. The 2011 and 2012 Pro Bowls drew a combined 25.9 million viewers. Despite a lack of quality, football fans still tune in by the millions. The ratings are simply too strong for the NFL and television networks to ignore.

Players also enjoy going to the Pro Bowl. It's a fun and free vacation for players and those close to them. There are also contact escalators involved with being named a "Pro Bowler." Some players earn bonuses from $500,000 to $750,000 for being voted to the team. Playing a quarter or two at half speed in Hawaii is just a minor inconvenience compared to the many perks.

One GM told ESPN.com the best plan is to ditch the game altogether but still give out Pro Bowl honors. That way, players will still be compensated for their stellar seasons.

"Still elect a Pro Bowl team, but just have some kind of ceremony where you recognize the Pro Bowlers," the GM said. "The game itself no longer matters."

But the void must be filled in some fashion. Many have suggested a Pro Bowl skills competition in Hawaii to replace the actual game. But will races or a weight-lifting competition draw 12-13 million viewers each year? Probably not.

For the Pro Bowl to thrive again, the best way to motivate players is with money.

The NFL should increase the purse to $200,000 per player -- winners take all. The current system awards $40,000 to each player on the winning team and $20,000 to each player on the losing team. This is chump change to NFL stars. Effort from players would increase dramatically, particularly in the second half of the game, if one team gets $200,000 and the losing team leaves Hawaii empty-handed. Sure, that's a lot of money to pay out to one side. But if the NFL is serious about making the Pro Bowl competitive, the league will have to show players the money. The NFL, in many ways, gets what it pays for.

Also, add stipulations to contracts that require players to participate in the Pro Bowl to earn their incentives. Currently, players get their Pro Bowl bonuses for being named to the team. They can still dodge the game and collect their bonus money. As we mentioned earlier, some top players have sizable Pro Bowl bonuses. If that player is required to play at least one quarter in the Pro Bowl to earn that bonus, you wouldn't have as many players backing out of the game.

By improving the timing and money aspect of the Pro Bowl, the league should have a better product.

The Pro Bowl should be an avenue for the NFL to showcase its best players, not embarrass them. I would consider getting rid of the game altogether. But if the NFL must continue Pro Bowls, major changes are needed.
Chad Ochocinco is known to be different. When everyone goes right, Ochocinco usually goes far to the left.

Ochocinco
That is why it's no surprise that Ochocinco showed his sincere and heartfelt support for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday. The New England Patriots receiver is one of the few players -- at least publicly -- who backs Goodell 100 percent after a rough year that included a lengthy lockout, increased fines, the bounty scandal and high-profile deaths that may be linked to football-related injuries.

The NFL is booming. But this is an unprecedented time of dissension between current and former players and the league office. The league is facing various lawsuits. Goodell also is tweaking the game -- some believe too much -- in the name of safety. Many players disagree with his methods or motives, or both.

Ochocinco addresses many of those issues in his letter to Goodell, whom Ochocinco refers to as a father figure.

"You are in one big [expletive] catch-22 and quite frankly, I am not sure there is any solution," Ochocinco wrote. "One thing I think can help is killing the NFL PR machine."

Goodell is stern, corporate and to the point. Ochocinco is boisterous and playful. Yet the two always got along, despite several fines Ochocinco has received over the years.

Do not expect many players to follow Ochocinco and write emotional letters in support of Goodell. Right or wrong, Ochocinco is on an island when it comes to player support of Goodell.

Perhaps the end of Ochocinco's letter was most pertinent for Patriots fans. According to Ochocinco, he will have a bounce-back year and plans to do a lot of touchdown celebrations in 2012. Ochocinco scored just one touchdown all last year.

Chad Ochocinco backs Roger Goodell

May, 12, 2012
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In the wake of Junior Seau's suicide, the debate over football safety has reached a fever pitch. New England Patriots wideout Chad Ochocinco joined the fray Friday, pledging his support to Roger Goodell in a letter posted on his website and addressed to the NFL's commissioner.

"I know it has been a rough week, so I wanted to reach out. Players dying, players suing and on top of that my peers are just going off on you in the media," Ochocinco wrote in the letter posted on OCNNReport.com.

To read the full story, click here.
ORCHARD PARK, NY -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is optimistic in the Bills' future in Western, New York.

Goodell, speaking to reporters before Sunday's Bills-Eagles game, said a big key is how the team handles Ralph Wilson Stadium, which has been home of the Bills since 1973.

"If we continue to keep this facility competitive with others, if we continue to support the team, I'm confident we will continue to be successful here in Western, New York," Goodell said.

Goodell made it clear that, at the very least, updates have to be made. Goodell pointed to the new Soldier Field as an example. Lambeau Field is another example of an old stadium that was renovated to remain competitive with the rest of the NFL.

Goodell also is confident the new collective bargaining agreement will keep small-market teams like Buffalo competitive.

"Yes, no question. I have every bit of confidence that small-market teams will continue to be successful," Goodell said. "Again, as long as we continue to have the proper stadiums and the proper fan support, that's what we have to do. We have the structure in place. Now, we have to continue to create the excitement and the passion in the communities."

James Harrison delivers blast to Pats' past

July, 13, 2011
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James Harrison, the combustible Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, delivered a mushroom-cloud interview with Men's Journal.

Harrison blasted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a few other targets, including Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and the surveillance-minded New England Patriots of a few years back.

"I should have another ring," James Harrison said. "We were the best team in football in 2004, but the Patriots, who we beat during the regular season, stole our signals and picked up 90 percent of our blitzes [in the AFC Championship Game]. They got busted for it later, but, hey, they're Goodell's boys, so he slapped 'em $500,000 and burned the tapes. Was he going to rescind their Super Bowls? Man, hell no!"

Bills planting a cleat firmly in Canada

June, 23, 2011
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The Buffalo Bills are living in the moment.

Los Angeles developers are stalking an NFL team for relocation, their owner is 92 years old and reports about the latest labor negotiations indicate small-market teams could have a tougher time competing in the new NFL economy.

Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon claimed they can't afford to worry about the long-term future of the franchise. He said Thursday afternoon "we focus on the here and now."

But it's rather evident by his words the Bills are simultaneously concerned with here and there, straddling the U.S.-Canadian border.

"Regionalization works," Brandon said, "and it will be a linchpin to everything that we do from a business standpoint moving forward."

A news conference to discuss Friday night's unveiling of the Bills new uniform inevitably turned toward this week's lockout talks and how the club could be impacted by the next collective bargaining agreement.

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton has reported the latest proposal framework includes mechanisms that require teams to spend almost all the way to the salary cap in current player payroll. That would make it tougher for the Bills to maintain the profitability it's used to.

Under the previous CBA, teams could spend just under 90 percent to the ceiling in cap figures, which could include dead money being paid to players no longer on the roster.

"I think the response is we just focus here and we focus now on everything that we can control, and that's keeping this building full, keeping all of our business platforms full," Brandon said. "We're a volume business. We're a very affordable business, as you know here with our ticket prices, and that's what we focus on.

"My job and everyone's job in this organization is to focus on this organization and our fans and that’s really what we do on a day-in and day-out basis."

Brandon declined to discuss specifics of the latest CBA proposal, but it wasn't difficult to gather the Bills' viability depends on Canadian interests.

The Bills have been forced to get creative over the past dozen years or so. Brandon said their attempts to regionalize the club have paid off. They moved training camp to St. John Fisher College in the Rochester area in 2000.

The Bills sold off five regular-season and three preseason games to Toronto for $78 million, the annual series running from 2008 through 2012.

Both agreements are likely to continue. Brandon said the Bills' season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since they began playing games in Toronto.

"When you look at it from our standpoint we're always looking to do everything in our power to keep this team viable," Brandon said Thursday, "and as you've heard many times from me: regionalization, regionalization and regionalization.

"When you look at our region of totality it's a very large market, and we're looking to bring fans back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. It's been a very successful venture for us and we're going to continue that process moving forward."

Brandon's comments concurred with sentiments expressed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a conference call with Bills season-ticket holders last month.

"We certainly hope the Buffalo Bills continue to be in Western New York," said Goodell, a native of nearby Jamestown, N.Y. "As a Western New York guy, I know how important it is to that region and how passionate our fans are there.

"The effort we've been going through with the Buffalo Bills and I would call the business leaders in the surrounding areas is to regionalize the team and to draw from a broader area, including Southern Ontario and the Toronto area. I believe that'll be good for the Bills to be successful in Buffalo."

Bills fans ought to get used to sharing. It would be better than waving.

Video: Optimism over latest lockout talks

June, 9, 2011
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NFL labor analyst Andrew Brandt gives an overview of the latest lockout developments. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been among those expressing optimism over recent meetings between the league and the union. Brandt said "I don't think a deal is imminent," but he has been encouraged by the progress.

Video: Latest on lockout meetings

June, 8, 2011
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ESPN's Adam Schefter gives the latest buzz about what this week's meetings mean for the NFL lockout.

Video: Goodell acknowledges fan impact

May, 25, 2011
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks about the impact the lockout has had on the fans.

Goodell's Q&A tour reaches Bills fans

May, 16, 2011
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's tour of season-ticket holders resumed Monday with Buffalo Bills fans.

Goodell
Goodell
The conference call started off poorly. Technical difficulties prevented the second question from being asked until about 15 minutes into the session. Monday's mammoth appellate court ruling that allowed the lockout to endure wasn't discussed. Goodell's answers were dominated by boilerplate spin.

Reporters were allowed to listen in but not participate in the call. Goodell deserves marks for remaining on the line to talk for 46 minutes, but I hung up from the call feeling like I hadn't learned a thing.

Many questions dealt with the Bills as a small-market franchise and wondered how the lockout and new collective bargaining agreement would impact revenue sharing. Predictably, Goodell replied by stating the league's plan would keep small-market teams competitive.

One fan asked if Goodell, a native of nearby Jamestown, N.Y., could ensure the Bills remain in the area. Goodell didn't make any guarantees and emphasized the need to continue playing games in Toronto, a sentiment Bills CEO Russ Brandon delivered March 28. Brandon said the Bills' Southern Ontario season-ticket base had grown 44 percent since the Bills began exporting their games to the Rogers Centre in 2008.

"We certainly hope the Buffalo Bills continue to be in Western New York," Goodell said. "As a Western New York guy, I know how important it is to that region and how passionate our fans are there.

"The effort we've been going through with the Buffalo Bills and I would call the business leaders in the surrounding areas is to regionalize the team and to draw from a broader area, including Southern Ontario and the Toronto area. I believe that'll be good for the Bills to be successful in Buffalo."

Another caller asked about the possibility of a new stadium. Goodell said he wasn't aware of any proposal to replace Ralph Wilson Stadium and used the opportunity to hammer home one of the league's main talking points about the importance of withholding a larger portion of revenues before sharing with the players.

"It's one of the things we're trying to address in the collective bargaining agreement to make sure the Buffalo Bills and small-market teams can be successful is 'How do we encourage those investments in the stadiums, which are more and more being made in part by the private sector, meaning primarily the teams and-or the business community and the fans?' We need to encourage that, but those costs continue to rise, and those need to be recognized in the system."

There wasn't much news to digest, but the Q&A sessions are meant for the fans, not the media.

The conference-call tour is a brilliant marketing move by the league. Even season-ticket holders who don't participate receive advance notice of the option to communicate directly with Goodell if they wanted to.

First round is coming, but at what cost?

April, 26, 2011
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Long/GholstonDoug Murray/Icon SMIBoom (Jake Long) or bust (Vernon Gholston), teams have spent plenty on first-round picks since 2000.
Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix recently said rare circumstances would be required to trade the club's third overall draft choice. He sounded fixed on making that pick, even though he has no idea how much it will cost him.

There's curiosity over what the New England Patriots will do with their abundance of draft assets. They have enough picks that they could trade up into the top 10. Yet they don't know how rich that territory will be.

We know the NFL draft will begin Thursday night. Unclear are the dollars it will take to sign those picks.

Rookie cost controls almost certainly will be part of the next collective bargaining agreement, but will that deal be hammered out before the 2011 season?

If not, then teams might operate under last year's rules. That would mean more outrageous guaranteed dollars to prospects who haven't snapped an NFL chinstrap. A league source calculated NFL teams have committed over $3.154 billion in guarantees to first-round draft choices since 2000.

The Associated Press reported the NFL's proposal for a rookie pay system -- made before the lockout -- included $300 million in diverted funds that instead would go to veteran contracts and player benefits and slow the rapid growth of guaranteed first-round money (up 233 percent since 2000).

The money would be saved by shrinking the already-in-place rookie salary pool system, where the league allocates a certain number of dollars to be spent based on the number of picks and their spots in the order.

Also in the reported proposal: first-round contracts would be capped at five years under the proposal. All other draft picks would be capped at four years. The player's maximum allowable salary would go down if he hadn't signed by training camp, a deterrent to holding out.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan recently estimated the Bills would save roughly $15 million on their No. 3 pick with rookie cost controls. That certainly would make another Aaron Maybinesque pick more digestible.

With all this in mind, let's examine how much guaranteed money AFC East clubs have spent on their first-round draft picks since 2000. Data provided from the aforementioned league source shows the Patriots have spent most efficiently, the New York Jets have spent the most total dollars and the Miami Dolphins have spent the most per player.

The Dolphins have drafted eight first-rounders since 2000 and spent an average of $12.043 million in guaranteed money. That figure ranks eighth among all NFL clubs, but those players averaged only 37 starts for Miami.

Only the Buffalo Bills averaged fewer starts from their first-rounders at 36.2, but the Bills rank 19th in average guaranteed dollars committed.

Left tackle Jake Long's mammoth contract inflates Miami's dollar figure. The top 2008 pick became the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history days before commissioner Roger Goodell said Long's name at Radio City Music Hall. Running back Ronnie Brown was rewarded with $19.5 million guaranteed as the second pick in 2005.

Those picks were successful, but the Dolphins also committed $13.865 million to receiver Ted Ginn, $9.016 million to cornerback Jason Allen and $7.133 million to defensive end Jared Odrick.

The Jets' massive guarantee total includes left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson ($29.6 million), quarterback Mark Sanchez ($28 million), outside whatever Vernon Gholston ($21 million), cornerback Darrelle Revis ($14.7 million) and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson ($14.7 million).

There are a couple royal busts in there, but the Jets still have spent relatively well. Despite picking in roughly the same average first-round slot as the Dolphins and Bills since 2000, the Jets have averaged nearly 61 starts per player.

The Bills' big-ticket items have been running back C.J. Spiller ($18.9 million), left tackle Mike Williams ($14.4 million) and Maybin ($10.9 million).

Buffalo's first-round picks ranked 19th in the NFL when it came to average guaranteed dollars.

The Patriots have committed eight figures in guaranteed money to only two of their 10 first-round selections since 2000 because of their penchant to trade back. Their average first-rounder is taken 20.7th overall.

Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo ($13.8 million) and defensive end Richard Seymour ($11 million) are the Patriots' lone top-10 picks under Bill Belichick and look like basement bargains compared to other names mentioned above.

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