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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The next owner of the Carolina Panthers will set the market for other NFL teams that might go up for sale in the next five years. The next owner likely will not live in Charlotte, even though the team probably will remain here for years because this is where the league wants it. The next owner might even not be among the half-dozen reported potential bidders.

These are things we know.

What we don’t know is who will be the next owner of the organization that founder Jerry Richardson put up for sale after the 2017 season amidst an NFL investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to the use of a racial slur toward a former team scout.

We don’t know when the purchase will be completed, though nothing appears imminent. The bidding process, which league sources say hasn’t officially begun, could take months. Sources tell ESPN that the bidding likely will begin in March and could conclude by the May 21-23 spring meeting in Atlanta.

Richardson can accept or reject any bid, and the process could take several rounds of counter-bids before both sides reach an agreeable price.

Then three-quarters of the 32 owners must approve the sale, and that occurs after approval by the league’s finance committee.

The spring meetings might be an optimistic timeline for approval.

The Buffalo Bills, the last NFL team sold, went on the market following the March 25, 2014, death of owner Ralph Wilson. The sale, for an NFL-record $1.4 billion, didn’t get approval from the finance committee until September and wasn’t finalized by owners until Oct. 8.

In other words, this is a lengthy process just like the sale of any corporation.

The Panthers have been valued at $2.3 billion, according to Forbes. They could be sold for that or more. They also could be sold for less — maybe considerably less.

It all depends on how many legitimate bidders there are to drive up the price. As it is now, there are only two real bidders: David Tepper and Ben Navarro.

Among the potential bidders reported so far, Tepper, the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ minority owner, appears to be the most solid in terms of having the capital to put up the required 30 percent of the selling price. If the team were to sell for $2.3 billion, that means $690 million up front.

Tepper, the founder of the global hedge fund firm Appaloosa Management, has a net worth of $11 billion, according to Forbes. He currently owns 5 percent of the Steelers. He caused an estimated $120 million tax loss for the state of New Jersey when he moved from there to Florida in 2016.

NFL executives have wondered if Tepper will open the floodgates or be a disciplined investor if he wins. The Panthers spent $198 million on the team in 2017, the second-most (the Lions spent $204 million) in the league, according to numbers released Monday by the NFLPA.

Because there appears to be a lack of other solid bidders, Tepper is the front-runner — at least for now.

Navarro, the founder of Charleston, South Carolina-based Sherman Financial Group LLC, was reported first by the Charlotte Observer as a potential Panthers bidder. He has a net worth of $3 billion, but sources tell ESPN that his assets are liquid enough to satisfy the 30 percent outlay.

Navarro could be a solid candidate from a financial standpoint, but he is not ideal from a sector standpoint. Sherman Financial Group and its affiliated companies buy delinquent consumer debt, mostly from credit card bills, in hopes of collecting what is owed and taking a cut.

While it’s a tremendous business that Navarro has built to more than $2 billion in annual revenue, sources tell ESPN that the litigious nature of the debt collection industry has NFL owners concerned about having an NFL owner’s name affiliated with such a business.

In 2014, Sherman had to pay $175,000 after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged the company with unlawful debt collection.

Given all the negative public relations the league has suffered — from safety and health issues to ownership battles and much more — it becomes harder to see Navarro winning. But he and Tepper are the major players known now.

Insiders are aware that multiple NFL teams likely will hit the market in the next five years, which could keep the Panthers’ price below $2.3 billion.

The Tennessee Titans were asking for $500 million for a third of the team last year, according to league sources. They pulled back when they received an offer for only $300 million. That means the market, at least privately, valued the Titans at $900 million instead of the $1.5 billion they hoped. Nonetheless, expect the Titans to be back on the market soon.

The declining health of owners in New Orleans and Denver could lead those teams to be put for sale in the next five years, which means the marketplace could see the Panthers go for lower than expected because there’s an expectation that other opportunities will be out there, including a gem in the Broncos.

While many have fixated on the Forbes number of $2.3 billion, no team in the past five transactions has traded for more than five times revenue. With Forbes putting the Panthers team revenue at $380 million, a five-times revenue evaluation has the team selling for $1.9 billion.

Some of the potential bidders for the Panthers have already taken themselves out of the equation. That is the case for Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, the brothers who owned 80 percent of the Ultimate Fighting Championship before it was sold for $4 billion a year and a half ago.

They expressed initial interest in buying the Panthers, but sources told ESPN they now are out. The brothers engaged Rain Capital to explore the financials of the deal but knew that with their ownership of Red Rock Resorts Inc. — Frank is the chairman and CEO of the casino and entertainment company; Lorenzo is a board member — approval would be tough.

Although the league one day might accept owners who own gambling interests, that time does not appear to be now.

It doesn’t make sense for the Fertittas to liquidate their investment. That said, expect the Fertittas to be bidders for NFL teams in the next five years and, one day, owners.

There also are bit players who are interested in the Panthers but don’t have the financial wherewithal without a majority owner.

Several high-profile NASCAR drivers, including seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, reportedly have expressed interest in being minority owners with a group headed by Felix Sabates, who does not have the capital to be the primary investor.

The same goes for two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, a Charlotte native, who has expressed interest along with rap star Sean “P. Diddy” Combs in becoming a minority owner.

Speedway Motorsports founder Bruton Smith and his son, SMI president and COO Marcus Smith, have said in the past that they were interested in purchasing the team and have done initial research into what it would take. They don’t appear to have the capital to be the majority owner.

The NFL allows up to 25 owners as long as one person puts down 30 percent. Richardson owns 48 percent of the Panthers.

Often in the sale of an NFL franchise, the names of potential owners don’t become known until the bids are in or the sale is close to complete. That means there could be other potential bidders out there.

The Panthers have hired Steve Greenberg of New York investment bank Allen & Co. to help with the process. The banking and legal team have worked to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Nets and other big-name sports franchises in recent years.

That we also know. But there’s still a lot more unknown than known.

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Former Tennessee Titans star Eddie George named Tennessee State Tigers coach

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee State is naming Eddie George its new head football coach, sources told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.

George starred at running back for the Tennessee Titans from 1996 to 2003, and the Tigers hope he will bring a much-needed spark to the program. The school is taking a path similar to the one taken by Jackson State, which hired NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders to take over its program in September. Jackson State is 4-3 in Sanders’ first season as its coach.

Like Sanders, George doesn’t have extensive coaching experience. Since retiring from the NFL in 2004, George has stayed connected to Nashville while also becoming an actor, with performances on Broadway and in film.

George replaces Ron Reed, who had been with the Tigers since 2010 and compiled a 60-69 record.

George has been a mentor for various Titans players, especially Derrick Henry, who credits a heart-to-heart conversation with George as a contributing factor to his breakout season in 2018. The Tigers hope having a big name like George will help recruiting and bring more attention to the university. The coaching staff already includes former NFL cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Prior to his time in Tennessee, George was a star at Ohio State, winning the 1995 Heisman Trophy. His No. 27 is retired by both the Buckeyes and the Titans.

Stadium first reported the news of George’s hiring at Tennessee State.

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New York Jets deal their way into franchise-changing game of ’21’ – New York Jets Blog

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Card shark: Joe Douglas wants to build through the draft. Every general manager says that. When was the last time you heard a GM say, “I don’t care about draft picks. I want to spend a ton of my owner’s money on free agents so we can be in salary-cap hell”?

In Douglas’ case, it’s not lip service.

Because of the Sam Darnold and Jamal Adams trades, he’s sitting on a war chest of draft picks. The Jets have 21 picks in 2021 and 2022; the last time they made that many selections in back-to-back drafts was 1997 and 1998, Bill Parcells’ first two years in charge.

Those 21 choices include seven in Rounds 1 and 2. If the Jets use all those picks, it would be the most in the first two rounds over a two-year period in franchise history. The best comparison is 2000-01, when they made six picks — including four first-rounders in the watershed 2000 draft.

From a leaguewide perspective, this sort of thing doesn’t happen often. In 2018 and 2019, the Indianapolis Colts made eight picks in the first and second rounds — thanks to the Jets, ironically.

The Cleveland Browns also hit the eight mark in 2017 and 2018. Prior to them, you have to go back to the New England Patriots (2010-11) to find a team that reached seven.

All three teams wound up drafting generational-type players — guard Quenton Nelson (Colts), defensive end Myles Garrett (Browns) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (Patriots).

Douglas has no excuses. Whether you liked the trades or not, he set himself up to re-stock the Jets roster with talent. It also affords him tremendous flexibility. If a high-profile player hits the trading block, which is happening with greater frequency, the Jets will have the draft capital to make a deal. Prepare for rumors galore over the next 12 months.

“Ultimately, with the premium picks — your first-, second-, third-round picks — those are the picks you’re looking to become starters on your team,” Douglas said. ” … We do have a lot of assets as we sit here now, but we have to make the most of this opportunity.”

2. Turning three into eight: Douglas knew this was going to be a tough job, which explains why he insisted on a six-year contract. After the Darnold trade, he hinted it’s tougher than he imagined.

“When I walked in this building in June of 2019,” he said, “I never thought we’d be sitting here and talking about … trading Leonard [Williams], trading Jamal. I know Darron Lee was traded before I even took this job. Now, Sam.”

Think about it: Douglas already has traded three former first-round picks, all of whom were drafted by his predecessor. Not just any former first-round picks, but the No. 6 (Williams, 2015), No. 6 (Adams, 2017) and No. 3 (Darnold, 2018) overall picks in their respective drafts. They were 25, 24 and 23 years old, respectively, at the time of the trades.

Mind boggling.

To different degrees, economics played a role in all three decisions. Douglas opted for draft capital instead of investing big money on extensions. He parlayed those three players into eight picks. Using the trade value chart as a guide, and projecting 2022 draft position based on 2020 records, the point total is 2,551. A typical draft for a middle-of-the-pack team is 1,700 points.

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As Patriots’ Bill Belichick turns 69, Marv Levy says there’s no reason to stop now – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Belichick at 69: Coach Bill Belichick will celebrate his 69th birthday on April 16, which highlights his place among a group of the oldest to serve as a head coach in the NFL.

Romeo Crennel (73) became the oldest to do so last season, and is followed by George Halas (72), Marv Levy (72), Tom Coughlin (69) and Dick Vermeil (69). In the current coaching ranks, only Seattle Seahawks‘ Pete Carroll (turning 70 in September) is older than Belichick.

Belichick famously once said he wouldn’t be coaching into his 70s like Levy, but two years ago in a radio interview, backed off that declaration. Levy understands why.

“Age is only an approximate thing. You’re involved and you’re going at it hard, and you love it, that’s it,” the longtime Bills coach, now 95, said in a phone interview with ESPN. “You just coach as long as you love it. I finally retired because the great core of our team had gotten old, and they were all retiring. And I had it finally. I felt I needed some time away.”

That decision, in 1997, wasn’t an easy one for Levy. He said then-Bills owner Ralph Wilson tried to talk him out of it, giving him a week to mull it over.

Levy had no regrets, as it allowed him to write multiple books and travel, but later acknowledged wondering if he made the right decision.

“Maybe a year or two later, to tell you the truth. I said, ‘Wow, maybe I did it too soon’ when I was back rested up. I probably could have done another 3-4 years, easy,” he said.

As for how many more for Belichick — who previously said he enjoyed the book, “Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge — the all-time win charts might provide a helpful guide.

He has 311 victories (regular season and playoffs combined), third all-time behind Don Shula (347) and Halas (324).

If the Patriots average nine-to-10 wins per season, that puts Belichick within striking distance of Shula in about four years, or when he’ll be 72.

2. Carroll counts by fives: Carroll was insightful with Patriots reporters last September on his coaching longevity, saying he was inspired by author David Brooks, the longtime New York Times reporter/op-ed columnist, to take a five-year mindset. So essentially, Carroll said he feels great and each year resets the clock to another five. “Why are you looking year to year?” he asked.

3. Winovich’s weight: Third-year outside linebacker Chase Winovich shared behind-the-scenes insight with Patriots season-ticket members last week on his offseason goal to gain weight. Winovich said a meeting with former Patriots outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich inspired him to do so. Listed on the team’s roster at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Winovich relayed that he has hired a personal chef to help him reach his goal. Of Ninkovich, who advised a weight of 260 to help him set the edge, Winovich said: “I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘I’m going to get my weight right.’ That dude’s words get me fired up.”

4. Deion backs Cam: Count Super Bowl XXXIX Most Valuable Player Deion Branch among those who believe the Cam Newton of 2021 will be markedly improved from the 2020 version. “Given the offseason [he’ll have], I think we’ll see a better Cam,” Branch said at the Patriots’ season-ticket member draft preview. “Everybody is always talking about the 2015 [MVP] Cam Newton, but I’d like to go back to just the 2018 [version] — 67.9% passing, 24 TDs, 13 interceptions. If they can get that type of performance, I think this will be a great year.”

5. Corner market: Top cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson (restricted free-agent tender) have contracts that expire after the 2022 season, so the position is a “sneaky” need for the Patriots. It’s a good year to try to fill it in the 2021 NFL draft (April 29-May 1 in Cleveland, on ESPN and ESPN the App), with South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn (son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn) one notable first-round consideration. “This is a year where you can find corners throughout the entire draft. I wouldn’t be shocked, right now, if 40 corners were drafted,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., said.

6. Draft nugget: If quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance are selected within the top 10, as some project, it would be a first. Five quarterbacks have never been drafted in any 10-pick span in the common draft era (since 1967), according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. The shortest span in which five quarterbacks were selected was in 1992, when five were drafted between picks 220 and 230 — a group that included eventual Super Bowl-winner Brad Johnson.

7. Two tight ends a “must”: Michael Lombardi and Scott Pioli, both of whom have been top personnel men under Belichick, have relayed in their current media gigs how each offseason is spent determining the team’s “musts, needs and wants.” Tight end was obviously a “must” for the 2021 Patriots — as evidenced by the contracts for Jonnu Smith (4 years, $50 million, with $31.25 million guaranteed) and Hunter Henry (3 years, $37.5 million, with $25 million guaranteed). Here is a telling stat as to why: The Patriots ran 3% of their snaps last season with two or more tight ends on the field, easily a league low, followed by the Bills (12%) and Steelers/Bengals (17%). Two-tight-end packages have long been a staple under Belichick, with the Patriots having scored a league-high 271 touchdowns since 2010 with two on the field, followed by the Minnesota Vikings (217) and Philadelphia Eagles (208). Simply, it was a “must” to re-introduce this to the attack.

8. Asiasi as No. 3 TE: While the signings of Smith and Henry could be viewed as a show of little support for 2020 third-round pick Devin Asiasi — the tight end from UCLA — an alternative thought is it could actually be the best thing for him; reducing pressure and expectations in a No. 3 role that could grow into more over time. Because the Patriots love the flexibility to run two-tight-end packages, they’re more likely to keep at least three tight ends on the 53-man roster for insurance. That’s even more important considering Henry’s injury history.

9. Martin’s $591: The NFL Management Council finalized its performance-based-pay payments, which is a collectively bargained fund that provides additional compensation for players based upon their playing time and salary levels. So the lower-salaried players who have the highest total of playing time receive the greatest reward, with guard Mike Onwenu‘s $554,792 leading the way for the Patriots. The lowest figure was center Marcus Martin‘s $591. That was a result of Martin being activated for the regular-season finale in his Patriots debut and playing one snap on the field goal protection unit. Hey, every snap counts.

10. Did You Know: Since Belichick became coach in 2000, the Patriots have had 22 players return for a second stint with the team to play in at least one game after playing in at least one contest for another team. That ties the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for third-most over that span, with the Seahawks (26) and Steelers (24) leading the way. Offensive tackle Trent Brown and outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy will up the Patriots’ total to 24 in Week 1.

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