For the first time, the NFL is partnering with bookmakers in the U.S., another big step in the league’s acceptance of sports betting.
The NFL on Thursday announced multi-year agreements with Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel, making the sportsbook operators the first Official Sports Betting Partners of the NFL.
The partnerships are for five years and, according to a source familiar with the deals, and combined are worth just shy of $1 billion. The source said the revenue structure of the deals were not tied to the outcome of bets on league games and was comparable to traditional sponsorship partnerships. The NFL has exit options at the end of the third and fourth years, the source said.
As part of the deals, the three bookmaking companies receive the right to integrate sports betting content directly into NFL Media properties, including NFL.com and the NFL app. Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel also will each use the NFL’s official data feed.
Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel also will collaborate with the NFL on intelligence sharing, advocacy efforts and responsible gaming education.
It’s a big change for the NFL, which for decades adamantly opposed sports betting over fears that it would damage the league’s integrity. The NFL, along with the NCAA, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, fought New Jersey’s efforts to authorize sports betting for six years, before ultimately losing a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. Three years later after the ruling, more than half the states in the U.S. have passed sports betting legislation.
“As the sports betting landscape has continued to evolve in the United States, we have been thoughtful with our strategy and are excited to announce three partners who share the NFL’s vision and goals,” Renie Anderson, NFL chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL partnerships, said in a release announcing the deals. “Working closely with Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel, we will provide fans new and different ways of interacting and engaging with the sport they love.”
While other major professional leagues moved quickly to partners with sportsbooks in the U.S., the NFL held off and watched as the sports betting market evolved. Anderson said used what it learned from its involvement in the daily fantasy industry to shape its timing and decision on entering the sports betting industry in the U.S.
“We know it’s going to continue to evolve and change, so as we continue to learn how this really amplifies that engagement, which is really the core, key priority why we’re in this business, engaging the most rabid fan base on the planet,” Anderson told ESPN. “We’re excited about that and think through data and a variety of other areas we’re going to learn a lot and continue to evolve the space and grow that key point of engagement for our fans.”
Lions releasing running back Kerryon Johnson, per reports
Detroit drafted the former Auburn standout in the second round in 2018. Johnson became expendable after the team drafted D’Andre Swift No. 35 overall in 2020, signed free agent running back Jamaal Williams in March and drafted Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson last week.
Johnson ran for 1,225 yards and eight touchdowns over three seasons. He also has 61 career receptions for 527 yards and three scores.
Last year, he had 181 yards rushing and two scores on 52 carries. and had 19 receptions for 187 yards receiving and a touchdown.
NFL Network first reported that Johnson would be waived.
The Lions also added a player in free agency, signing tight end Darren Fells on Wednesday. The move gives the team a veteran at the position it can put on the field with Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson.
The 35-year-old Fells has 123 career catches with 1,483 yards receiving and 21 touchdowns. The previous two years in Houston, he had a combined 55 catches for 653 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Fells has started 76 games — including 13 with the Lions in 2017 — and played in 102 games with Arizona, Detroit, Cleveland and the Texans. He was a rebounding standout at UC Irvine and played basketball in Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, Finland and France before playing in the NFL.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
QB Blaine Gabbert re-signing with Tampa Bay Buccaneers on 1-year, $2.5 million deal, source says
TAMPA, Fla. — Once again, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has kept his word.
Days after saying the Bucs would work to re-sign Tom Brady’s top backup, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the team is indeed re-signing Gabbert to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
Gabbert, who has played in 60 career games with 48 starts, previously earned $1.187 million in 2020 and $1.6 million in 2019.
Last season, Gabbert, 31, completed 9 of 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, with all but one of those pass attempts coming in the second half against the Detroit Lions in Week 16, when Arians opted to rest Brady.
The Bucs selected quarterback Kyle Trask in the second round of the NFL draft last week, but Arians said that would not preclude them from re-signing Gabbert. The team also re-signed Ryan Griffin, who was last year’s third-string backup, earlier this offseason.
Gabbert enters his third season with the Bucs, after spending 2018 with the Tennessee Titans, 2017 with Arians and the Arizona Cardinals, 2014-16 with the San Francisco 49ers and 2011-13 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gabbert has had an eventful offseason. In addition to attending the Kentucky Derby with Brady and Griffin on Saturday, he married longtime sweetheart Bekah Mills in Paradise Valley, Arizona, in March.
NFL sends memo reminding clubs the league will not pay players who suffer injuries away from facilities
The NFL reminded teams Wednesday that they are not obligated to pay players who suffer an injury away from the team facility, an issue that moved this week to the center of an ongoing dispute between the NFL and NFL Players Association over in-person participation in offseason workouts.
The memo, obtained by ESPN, was prompted by several prominent players who were surprised by media reports about Denver Broncos offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James, who tore an Achilles tendon this week while working out on his own and could miss the 2021 season. NFL contracts have long classified such injuries as “non-football,” because they happen away from the team environment, and they are not covered by typical injury guarantees. As a result, the Broncos could withhold James’ salary for as long as he is sidelined. More than $10 million would have been guaranteed if the injury had occurred at the Broncos’ facility.
The NFL has noted this contractual leverage multiple times during negotiations with the NFLPA, which has advised players to skip the voluntary portion of in-person offseason training unless they stand to lose workout bonuses.
“According to the media coverage,” the NFL wrote in its memo, “several players have expressed surprise that Mr. James’ injury was not covered by his Injury Guarantee, although this point has been made frequently in our discussions with the NFLPA about the offseason program. Clubs are encouraged to remind players of the significant injury-related protection provided if they choose to work out at the club facility and the risks they undertake in choosing to train in non-NFL locations.”
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