NFL notebook: Panthers sale could be a record amount

Purchase price for N.C. NFL team has reportedly reached $2.5 billion

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson watches his team during the first quarter Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. (Jim Dedmon / USA TODAY Sports)

Potential buyers are coming and going as the potential sale price of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers soars to record levels. Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the price tag of the franchise has reached $2.5 billion, prompting Philadelphia e-commerce innovator Michael Rubin to drop out.

Sources told the Charlotte Observer that Rubin, whose minority partners reportedly include entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and businessman Joseph Tsai, remains interested at the right price.

The paper reported that the bidding process may conclude by the end of the month and that a vote to approve the sale could take place during league meetings May 21-23.

A $2.5 billion sale would set a record for a U.S. franchise. Basketball’s Houston Rockets sold for $2.2 billion last year, while baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers sold in 2012 for $2 billion. In the most recent sale of an NFL team, Terry and Kim Pegula paid $1.4 billion for the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

• Ndamukong Suh canceled a planned free agency visit with the Oakland Raiders and was returning to the Portland, Ore., area.

NFL Network and ESPN reported Suh’s travel itinerary change, which followed sitdowns with the New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams. NFL Network reported a great visit with the Rams was the reason Suh ran a reverse on the Raiders.

Suh, 31, was released by the Miami Dolphins on the first day of free agency in what was openly described as a “culture change,” coupled with the departure last October of running back Jay Ajayi and a trade this month that sent wide receiver Jarvis Landry to the Cleveland Browns.

• Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold performed at the university’s pro day on Wednesday with all 32 NFL teams in attendance.

Darnold, regarded as the No. 1 quarterback in the draft, dined on Tuesday with representatives from the Browns, including general manager John Dorsey and owner Jimmy Haslam. Haslam sat with Darnold’s family during the workout in Los Angeles. Darnold said after the workout he not only met with the Browns, but also the New York Giants, who have the No. 2 overall pick in next month’s draft.

Prospects are rarely measured by performances at pro day workouts, scripted exercises that are often position-specific and overly rehearsed with familiar teammates. But Darnold had something to show scouts because he chose not to participate in passing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, where likely first-round picks such as UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield were on the field.

• Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, had a workout with the Dolphins as he continues to make the rounds ahead of next month’s draft, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Mayfield, who threw for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdown passes in 2017, will also visit the Browns on Thursday and the New York Jets on Saturday, the report said. He visited the Bills on Monday.

Widely expected to go early in the draft, Mayfield’s schedule puts him in front of teams with high draft picks and potential need at quarterback. The Browns have the first and fourth picks and the Jets have the third. The Dolphins and Bills pick at No. 11 and No. 12, respectively.

• After multiple controversies in recent seasons, the NFL appears ready to make changes to its rules about what is and isn’t a catch.

Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, said the league’s competition committee will recommend simplifying the language of the catch rule and that the proposed changes will be presented at next week’s league meeting.

The proposed rules defining a catch are: control of the ball; two feet down or another body part; and a football move such as a third step, reaching for the line to gain or the ability to perform such an act.

• Former NFL players seeking assistance as part of last year’s class-action concussion suit settlement are accusing the league of trying to avoid paying medical benefits, according to multiple reports.

In a court filing this week, lawyers for the players said 1,113 of the 1,712 medical claims made since a Supreme Court ruling in January 2017 are seeking benefits related to dementia, but only six of those claims have been paid out for $4.85 million. The filing argues those numbers fall far short of projections of 430 approved dementia claims for $72.3 million originally issued by the NFL.

“The NFL seeks to rig the Settlement system,” attorney Gene Locks wrote in the filing. “Historically, it has always engaged in scorched-earth litigation, and that is what the League is doing here, making it a Settlement in name only.”

• West Coast teams are asking the NFL to schedule them for fewer early starts in regular-season road games beginning with the upcoming season, reported.

The report said the Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals are behind a proposal that would limit teams to three games per season “with a scheduled kickoff time prior to 1 p.m. in the time zone of their home stadium (without consent).”

Instead, teams coming to the Eastern or Central time zones would play more of their away games in the 4:05 p.m. or 4:25 p.m. slots. The three teams seeking the change were a combined 5-10 last season in road games that kicked off at 1 p.m., which feels like a 10 a.m. game to them.

• Running back Marshawn Lynch restructured his contract with the Raiders on Saturday, just ahead of the team paying him a $1 million roster bonus on Sunday, according to an NFL Network report.

Lynch had been due to make $5.9 million this season, but he agreed to a $500,000 pay cut that essentially guarantees he will receive at least $4.5 million, per the report. With incentives, he potentially can make $9.25 million on the new deal.

The move would indicate Lynch will be Oakland’s lead back in Jon Gruden’s first season back as coach, a decision that had been in question after the Raiders picked up former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin in free agency.

• While the Indianapolis Colts’ leading rusher from last year, Frank Gore, remains a free agent, the team is bringing back running back Christine Michael, who missed all of 2017 due to injury.

A second-round pick by the Seahawks in 2013, Michael bounced to the Dallas Cowboys and back to Seattle before joining the Green Bay Packers in 2016 and signing with Indianapolis last offseason. His 2017 campaign ended two weeks after he signed with the Colts when he went down in a heap during practice, though the specific injury remains unspecified.

The Colts also retained offensive guard Jack Mewhort — who agreed to a one-year deal reportedly worth $1.5 million with an additional $1.5 million available via incentives — a day after signing offensive lineman Matt Slauson, formerly of the Chargers.

• The Detroit Lions signed defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and tight end Luke Willson to one-year contracts, the team announced.

Williams made 20 tackles but no sacks in 15 games at nose tackle last season with the Tennessee Titans, and he has 114 tackles and six sacks in 75 career games. He was released from a three-year, $16.5 million contract by the Titans last week.

Willson caught 89 passes in five seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. NFL Network reported his contract is worth $2.5 million.

• The Denver Broncos signed former Buccaneers defensive tackle Clinton McDonald to a two-year deal, the team announced.

According to a 9News Denver report, the agreement is worth $7 million, with $4 million due in 2018.

McDonald, 31, was a full-time starter in Tampa Bay from 2014 to 2016 before moving to a rotational role in 2017. He finished last season with 29 tackles and 5.0 sacks while playing 43.5 percent of the defensive snaps.

• The Kansas City Chiefs signed defensive tackle Xavier Williams, the team announced.

Williams was a restricted free agent who played for the Cardinals last season, but the team declined to match the Chiefs’ offer.

Williams, 26, is a 6-foot-4, 310-pound nose tackle who grew up in a Kansas City suburb. Undrafted out of Northern Iowa, he joined the Cardinals in 2015 and saw action in 23 games over the last three seasons. He has 20 tackles in 11 games last season, with one start.