Let’s get this out of the way early — I think we’re all in agreement that Twitter is a toxic environment that has had an overall negative impact on society. However, Twitter is great for one thing: immediate access to breaking news from sources, both verified and unverified.
With the NFL in particular and the start of a new league year, Twitter becomes a must-watch platform to stay informed and up-to-date on player movement. You have the Adam Schefters, Ian Rappaports and Josina Andersons of the world who are plugged into major media outlets and have longstanding credibility because of the access they’ve cultivated through years of networking and solid journalistic work. If you’re a casual fan, it stands to reason that would be where your consumption stops. You check with those three — maybe the ESPN main account — and call it a day. If you’re more entrenched in sports Twitter, there are plenty of other underground sources who seemingly have the story long before the major pundits, and every offseason there seems to be a new emerging star.
This year’s newcomer is CJ Golson (Twitter).
I found CJ very early on in free agency when a tweet of his about Jonnu Smith signing with New England was shared in a group in which I participate. I’m not a Pats fan, and the Ravens weren’t in the market for TE, so I didn’t really care about the content, but more the fact that CJ had nailed the destination, the years and the dollar amount of the agreement hours before the big guns had it. Jonnu Smith was the first major shoe to drop in Free Agency, and so CJ having it cold before anyone else piqued my curiosity from there.
If you scroll through CJ’s Twitter during free agency there have been more hits than misses so far. He seems to be pretty in tune with Patriots goings-on, and has even been the first to report things like Will Fuller to Miami; the Golladay/Giants agreement being finalized days ahead of other reporters; and even Curtis Samuel to WFT. The Ravens continue to be in talks with the Bears about Orlando Brown, Jr.; CJ reported the Ravens and Bears had been in touch about Allen Robinson, and it makes sense the two stories are related.
Fellow nzone writer Will was in on CJ from the start as well, coining the #GolsonGang movement, which we got trending for a while. CJ doesn’t have the big media company backing that some of the more widely-accepted insiders get, but if you look at the track record, CJ seems to be plugged into the football world on a deeper scale than he gets credited.
What has really pushed CJ to the forefront of the breaking news game is his pretty public feud with Tony Khan, the son of Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan.
I would venture to guess that if you aren’t a regular reader of nzone and you found this article, it’s because you decided to search up CJ after seeing the ongoing exchange between the two.
Early on in Free Agency, CJ reported the Ravens and Jaguars were nearing a deal centered around Orlando Brown Jr and DJ Chark. On paper, the deal makes sense: Orlando Brown, Jr. wants to play LT, and get paid appropriately like a LT. The Jaguars are poised to take Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall, and getting a cornerstone LT to shore up the line for a rookie phenom QB makes a ton of sense. The Jaguars also have a later first-round pick this year from the Jalen Ramsey deal, and the top tackles are surely going to be off the board by then, but there is a ton of talent at WR this year that will be there to replace Chark.
On the Ravens side, this is a win-win deal: you get a proven WR in Chark, and you hold onto the 27th-overall pick that could definitely be used to beef up the offensive line. This report from CJ made the rounds on the internet, finding its way to Tony Khan, who felt the need to publicly refute the rumors on multiple occasions.
In fact, since Free Agency started, Tony Khan has only tweeted about two Jags-related topics. The first was a generic tweet looking to hire a web designer for the team. The second topic has been refuting CJ’s reporting, which he has since circled back to and continued to discredit.
CJ has doubled down saying that Tony blocked the trade, and he is publicly trying to protect the organization’s relationship with DJ Chark.
If Tony Khan’s name rings a bell, it is probably because of his public spat with then-Jaguars pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue about his request to be traded. Tony notoriously stated that Yannick wasn’t going to get traded without “fair compensation,” and then turned around a few months later and traded the top-end 25-year-old pass rusher for a 2nd-and conditional 5th-round pick. You may also remember Tony Khan for his statement that the Jaguars would not trade Jalen Ramsey “even for five 1st-round picks” about three weeks prior to trading him to the Rams for two 1st-round picks and a 4th-round pick.
In both instances, the players involved had publicly requested trades — and in both cases, trades that Khan said wouldn’t get done, actually ended up getting done.
For reference, Khalil Mack, on the franchise tag along with a 2nd-round and 7th-round pick, was traded to the Bears for two future 1st-round picks, a future 3rd, and a 6th-round pick. At the time of the deal, Mack was 26 years old, and had played 64 games for the Raiders. He had 40.5 career sacks, 9 forced fumbles, and 1 INT.
At the time of the trade to Minnesota, Ngakoue, also on the franchise tag, was 25 years old with 37.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, and 2 INTs in 62 career games.
Looking at the Yannick Ngakoue deal, it’s pretty clear the Jaguars didn’t get that “fair compensation” for a young star pass rusher that Tony Khan claimed they were holding out for. The Ramsey situation is pretty cut-and-dry: telling the AP that you wouldn’t ever move Ramsey because keeping him was the best thing for the organization, only to turn around and move him a few weeks later, is blatantly lying to the fans.
I find this exchange interesting on multiple levels.
First and foremost, it shows the power of social media and this new wave of underground reporting. For the brief time that the DJ Chark story was trending, a lot of pundits were — at the very least — acknowledging the report’s existence. It’s not abundantly clear who or what tipped Tony Khan off, but he is very active on social media, and the fact an owner/executive saw and felt the need to publicly comment on the story says a lot.
For me, the entire exchange gives CJ some credibility.
As I stated earlier, CJ is clearly tapped into a network of NFL sources. The sources may not always be right — and CJ isn’t out here breaking every story first with 100% accuracy — but he’s done enough to show that he is plugged in. Tony Khan weighing in, and doing what can only be interpreted as damage control, is very telling.
To the best of my searching ability, Khan has only ever actively discussed trade requests/rumors twice, both times clearly lying to the Jags fans, saying one thing and then the opposite being done a short time later. Will the Chark/Ravens trade happen? I’m not sure; things can shift in two weeks. Khan squashing the trade on March 15th might have forced the Ravens to go in a different direction, but I am very confident in saying that CJ was onto something.
I think the most intriguing part of the CJ story is that he kind of represents what we’re trying to do here at nzone.
I have spoken with CJ privately about his sources and, more generally, his online presence. His career path has been within the sports industry; he got his start as a betting analyst and has done some reporting for a fairly major publication. He’s still got connections in the industry, but he is trying to branch off on his own, and do his own thing. You can follow him for picks, you can follow him for scoops, and either way, you’re getting good content.
People like CJ are the future of media. With Twitter becoming such a huge news source, and guys like CJ able to put out stories quickly without going through some of the red tape that a guy tied to ESPN or NFL Network would, the future of the breaking-news biz is with people like him.
CJ has gained about 2k followers since free agency started, so there is still a chance for you to get in on the ground floor of the #GolsonGang.