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LeSean McCoy, other options for Eagles to replace Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles Blog


PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles lost lead running back Jay Ajayi to a torn ACL this week, stripping an already sputtering offense of one of its primary weapons. Led by one of the most aggressive personnel men in the business in Howie Roseman, and with hopes of a Super Bowl repeat still alive in Philly, speculation is running wild as to whether a trade for a running back is in the cards between now and the Oct. 30 deadline.

Let’s take a look at some of the big names being thrown around, as well as some under-the-radar options provided by our NFL Nation reporters.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (26 years old)

The big fish. It’s easy to see why the Eagles, or any team for that matter, would be interested in perhaps the best back in the NFL. He’d instantly improve the ground game and the passing game, both as a receiver and in pass protection, while adding an explosive, dynamic back who would open things up for his teammates and instantly lift this offense off the ground. Roseman and Co. are always on the lookout for market anomalies: How often does a player of this caliber become available? From that perspective, a talent like Bell has to be intriguing.

The Eagles recently restructured Fletcher Cox‘s contract to create cap room, but according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, they have not pursued a trade for Bell and do not have plans to do so at this time. The Eagles will need a portion of that cap space to re-sign some of their in-house players over the next couple of seasons — Carson Wentz is going to get a massive contract before long — and it would be difficult to re-sign Bell, who is in the last year of his deal, to a massive new contract given their financial situation.

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (30 years old)

Reports surfaced Tuesday that the Eagles have checked in on McCoy’s availability since news of Ajayi’s injury came down. That makes sense, given McCoy’s familiarity with the Eagles organization (he spent his first six seasons in Philadelphia) and experience in systems similar to coach Doug Pederson’s. McCoy is 30 years old, and perhaps the Buffalo Bills want to get some value for him as they look to replenish the roster. The flip side is that McCoy is currently one of the Bills’ top players. Sitting at 2-3, they probably aren’t looking to throw in the towel on the 2018 season. The asking price might not match the level of interest. The Eagles would also have to be comfortable with their research into off-the-field matters surrounding McCoy of late.

Under-the-radar backs

We asked our fellow NFL Nation reporters for backs on their teams who could potentially be available Here’s what came back:

Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions (25 years old)

“The Lions’ starter last year, Abdullah has yet to have a carry in a game this year and was inactive the first four weeks of the season. He can be a multi-purpose back and has returner value. Also in the last year of his contract.” — Mike Rothstein

Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks (25 years old)

“He’s been Seattle’s No. 2 back for the last few weeks behind Chris Carson and ahead of top pick Rashaad Penny. Had 101 yards and two TDs two weeks ago with Carson out. Seahawks are about to have a bit of a logjam at RB with J.D. McKissic set to come off IR, and you figure they’ll want to get Penny more work than he’s been getting. Davis is 25 and playing on a one-year deal worth $1.35 million. Not a bad special teams player either.” — Brady Henderson

Detrez Newsome, Los Angeles Chargers (24 years old)

“Newsome is on the Chargers practice squad, but made the active roster out of training camp. He also can return kicks.” — Eric Williams

Other names to consider

ESPN’s Dan Graziano posted a list of backs the Eagles could take a look at:

Tevin Coleman, 25, share carries in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith. He is in the final year of his rookie contract. LeGarrette Blount, 31, was the Eagles’ top rusher last season (766 yards, 2 TDs) during their Super Bowl run. He fit into the locker room well and would be able to acclimate quickly.

Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears and Seattle’s C.J. Prosise Jr. were also recently floated as possibilities.

In-house options

With three weeks remaining before the trade deadline, the Eagles can take some time to see how their own backs perform before making a move if they wish. It will likely be a committee approach between Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles, when healthy, with rookie Josh Adams sprinkled in. Sproles has been sidelined since Week 1 with a hamstring injury and did not practice on Tuesday. Clement (quad) has returned to action after sitting out the last couple of games.

From a fantasy perspective, Clement would be the most appealing option, followed by Smallwood, though it would probably be best to wait and see how things shake out over the next couple of weeks.

The search for help likely won’t be limited to running back. The Eagles could use help at receiver and in the defensive secondary as well. Roseman will be working the phones to see if there are deals out there that make sense.





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Fantasy football – Top fantasy football streaming options for Week 2


Each week of the NFL campaign we sift through the deeper options at each position with an eye on identifying streaming fantasy commodities with valuable matchups to consider.

Even in these first weeks of the season, you might require replacement options for injured or suspended players, or are you merely dealing with depth issues heading into the season? We have some choice names to consider for those seeking widely available options at each position.

Quarterback

Case Keenum, Denver Broncos

The sample size is decidedly small, but last week’s strong fantasy performance suggests Keenum’s statistical success last season can be sustained outside of a Pat Shurmur offense. A crew of capable skill players in Denver, if not quite at Minnesota’s level, can help buoy Keenum to another QB1 performance at home. The Mack-less Raiders elevate to Denver on a short week after creating pressure on just 14.7 percent of the Rams’ dropbacks in Week 1, third lowest in the league. Just last week, Keenum threw a touchdown on nearly 9 percent of his unpressured drops, suggesting his ceiling remains impressive for this fantasy-friendly division matchup.

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

I swear this has nothing to do with being a season-ticket holder in South Philly. Nothing. Really though, a thematic part of my strategy for identifying streamers is facing defenses that don’t create pressure. It’s a simple sifting tool that can then deduce the handful of worthy candidates each week. Last week, NFL quarterbacks threw a touchdown on 4.9 percent of dropbacks with a healthy 8.1 yards per attempt, compared to a 2.3 percent touchdown rate and 7.2 yards per attempt when pressured. Foles didn’t look good in the preseason or against Atlanta last week, there’s no doubt about that, but we also know this is a highly variant player with a lofty ceiling. If the Bucs appear bent on winning shootouts, as their lack of pass-rush pressure could indicate, this could be a fun trip to Florida for Foles’ fantasy investors.

Running back

Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens

Never the most exciting name on the draft board or waiver wire, “Buck” Allen continues to consume a rewarding portion of the Ravens’ passing game. The change-of-pace specialist could be the most bankable of Baltimore’s seeming committee in PPR formats; he ran the fourth-most routes on the team and was targeted on a team-high 31.6 percent of his routes in Week 1. The Bengals have ceded the most receiving yards per game to tailbacks since the start of last season, thus both usage and matchup align to make Allen a respectable flex asset.

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts

An early-summer sleeper, and then apparently on the roster bubble in the preseason, Hines has regained lost luster with a target-filled debut for the Colts. Andrew Luck‘s new agenda appears to be matriculating the ball down the field with a series of quick-hitting, high-percentage targets to his backs and tight ends. Luck averaged 5.53 air yards per target in Week 1, with only Derek Carr and Alex Smith registering shorter average depth of target rates. This scheme plays well into Hines’s skill set; he tallied 89 catches with 10.5 yards per catch at NC State.

Wide receiver

Mike Wallace, Philadelphia Eagles

Yes, I’m essentially touting a streaming stack of Foles and Wallace in deeper and multi-quarterback formats. While bold, the premise has some merit; Wallace was 24th last week among all skill players in air yards with 109, ahead of the likes of T.Y. Hilton and Allen Robinson. This doesn’t suggest he’s in the same overall usage tier as those players, but rather, there is a good bit of big-play potential for Wallace as the field-stretcher for Philly. The Bucs’ secondary can be exploited at outside corner, indicating Wallace is an intriguing deep-league flier and DFS target.

Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets

The national audience witnessed the rapport Enunwa has with rookie signal-caller Sam Darnold. After missing last season with a neck injury, it was great to see Enunwa productive as a key cog for the Jets. Enunwa led the Jets with 21 routes and was targeted on a robust 42.9 percent of his routes. We likely underpriced or ignored this offense too often in drafts but can get shares of the widely available Enunwa for what should be another busy outing against the rival Dolphins.

Tight end

Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers

A sleeper at the position for several seasons now, McDonald has yet to wake up just yet but is arguably in the best spot of his career as the potential top receiving tight end in Pittsburgh. It was a one-game window, but McDonald netted 16 targets and 10 catches in the playoffs last season. Game script was decidedly favorable for such a busy day, as the Steelers trailed big to Jacksonville, but it’s impressive to see wideout-like attention for a “move” tight end like McDonald. If he can make it through the week of practice and suits up against the Chiefs, one of the more suspect pass defenses in the league, McDonald makes for a solid streamer at this increasingly shallow position.

Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers

We’re going deep into fantasy free agency to pull Thomas, the rookie understudy for Greg Olsen. With the veteran tight end unfortunately injured again, the team turns to this unique athlete at the position; he tested in the 91st percentile in SPARQ for this recent rookie class, second only to Mike Gesicki in this regard. We clearly don’t know what percentage of Olsen’s market share Thomas will inherit, but at this almost absurdly shallow position, it’s worth being early on potential-laden players such as Thomas. Per this week’s matchup and his stock as a streamer, Thomas faces a suddenly depleted Atlanta defense that could be without their best coverage linebacker and safety at the same time.

D/ST

Washington Redskins

Facing Luck isn’t exactly an ideal streaming strategy in the macro sense, but if we look deeper in to the matchup metrics, we find the Redskins are first in the NFL in creating pressure on opposing passers. With some potential for sacks and increased turnover upside, rolling out the Redskins in leagues of at least 12 teams could prove prudent.

Individual defensive players

Linebacker

T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

The box score can’t do Watt’s awesome opener justice. That’s not true, he had four sacks! J.J.’s baby bro has emerged as one of the more exciting edge rushers in the AFC, if not the league. The Chiefs allowed pressure on Pat Mahomes on 44.8 percent of his dropbacks in Week 1, the third-highest rate in the league. This could be fun.

Defensive back

Bradley McDougald, Seattle Seahawks There just isn’t a way for McDougald to fully replicate the real defensive impact Kam Chancellor provided for years in Seattle, but there is a good chance he can approximate Chancellor’s fantasy value. In a busy role in both stopping the run and policing the passing lanes as Seattle’s strong safety, McDougald is in a nice spot to chase down the Bears’ collective of running backs and tight ends on Monday night.

Defensive line

Sheldon Richardson, Minnesota Vikings

On the field for 42 of the team’s 61 defensive snaps in Week 1, Richardson delivered awesome fantasy results in his debut with the Vikings. With strong run-stop skills and the potential to get both coverage and complementary sacks in addition to simply getting to the quarterback all by himself, Richardson is the rare defensive tackle with a reasonably high floor.



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Newly signed Seattle Seahawks WR Brandon Marshall says he didn’t have a lot of options


RENTON, Wash. — When Brandon Marshall visited the Seattle Seahawks as a restricted free agent in 2010, the team flew him into its lakefront headquarters via a seaplane. It was a pull-out-all-the-stops move by Pete Carroll, who, in his first season in Seattle following nine at USC, was tapping into his recruiting background to try to woo one of the best available receivers.

The Seahawks didn’t need a seaplane to land Marshall eight years later. At 34 years old and coming off a pair of surgeries, he feels grateful to have another shot. He’s getting it in Seattle after signing a one-year deal that was agreed to on Tuesday.

“I didn’t have a ton of options,” Marshall said Wednesday following the Seahawks’ fifth organized team activity. “I think the sentiment around the league is that I’m done, and I get it. Rightfully so. When you get on the other side of 30 and your production slips and you have a big injury, people just count you out. So it was an interesting process. It was a humbling process, to say the least. There were some really tough days that I had to push through, mentally and physically, so for this to be an opportunity and come to [fruition], you can’t ask for a better situation. You’ve got probably a top-three quarterback, you’ve got one the best franchises, you’ve got a young nucleus, guys that are hungry and ready to compete.”

Marshall took part in Wednesday’s practice, sporting the No. 15 that he has worn for most of his NFL career. He caught some passes from Russell Wilson and Seattle’s other quarterbacks during positional periods, but he didn’t take part in any of the 11-on-11 drills.

“We just had to just ease him in today,” Carroll said. “Just get him started, get him on the field with us and Friday we’ll do a little bit more, just keep growing with it.”

Marshall’s contract can be worth up to $2 million with incentives, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That may seem like a pittance for someone who’s been one of the most productive receivers of his era. Marshall has topped 1,000 yards in eight of his 12 seasons, most recently in 2015 with the New York Jets, and his six seasons with at least 100 catches are the most in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But that price is reflective of his age and health. His 2017 season ended after five games because of an ankle injury that he had surgically repaired, leading the New York Giants to release him in April with a failed-physical designation. Marshall revealed Wednesday that he also had surgery to fix a toe injury that had been bothering him since midway through the 2015 season, saying he had previously intended to put it off until he retired because it came with such a long rehab but that the ankle injury gave him that time.

Marshall said he was first able to run without pain again a few days after the Giants released him in April. His recovery from the toe surgery, he said, has taken the longest.

“I feel good. I don’t feel great,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and get into some football shape. Since the end of October, I was working with Coach [Aaron] Wellman, our head strength and conditioning coach with the Giants, and we’d been doing a lot of rehab, fixing things. So now the last couple weeks, I’ve finally got an opportunity to go into training, getting better at catching the ball, getting better at route-running, getting better at decelerating and all those little things that make you a great wide receiver.

“So I’m excited about the process. I’m not where I want to be, not even close, but my goal is to be in midseason form come camp.”

The Seahawks are Marshall’s sixth team. In addition to his 2010 visit as an RFA with the Denver Broncos, Marshall said the Seahawks had interest in him in 2015 following his three seasons with the Chicago Bears and last year after his two-year run with the Jets ended.

Alluding to a past that includes several run-ins with the law, an NFL and a team suspension as well as a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, Marshall said the screening the Seahawks put him through during his latest visit earlier this month was more intense than the TSA line.

“They did their due diligence, to say the least, and they really broke down everything since I’ve been in the league, and we had some great conversations, some transparent conversations and some challenging conversations,” he said. “I had to answer some tough questions. But I think the biggest thing that they wanted to see was me run around. At this point [in their careers], a lot of guys would say, ‘I’m 34 and I’m established. Why do I have to work out?’ So I think my workout was good. It wasn’t great because of where it was in my rehab process, but I was proud of it. Just two weeks before that workout, three weeks before that workout was the first time I was able to even get on the field and run full routes pain-free.”

Marshall felt so good about his workout that he bought some Seahawks apparel at the airport on his way home. That included the bright green T-shirt he was wearing in the picture he posted to Instagram to announce his deal with the Seahawks.

As for that seaplane in 2010?

“That was fresh off the recruiting trails,” Carroll said, “so I think we flew him in, flew him into the dock or something silly like that. It was crazy. We never did it again. But we went all out. It didn’t work out. So since then … we’ve had our eye on him for a long time because of his style of play. Very aggressive, can be the big receiver in the offense and his playmaking has always been something that we’ve kept an eye on.”

Marshall confirmed that he won’t resume his analyst duties on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” citing the long travel between Seattle and New Jersey, where the show is taped. But he may take part remotely on occasion.

“At this point in my career, I’m just focused on going out the right way and being a football player,” he said. “Those opportunities will be there when I’m done.”

Marshall and the Seahawks hope he’s not done just yet.

“He’s a big receiver, he’s a physical guy, he works well in close areas, working off of defenders and all that,” Carroll said. “The fact that he’s been a go-to guy in his past, there’s those kinds of thoughts out there. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know. We’ll see how he fits in. Really, he’s like the rest of the guys. He’s got to battle for every step of the way, and he knows that. I was very emphatic about how this is going to work out, and he was fired up about it and ready to go.”



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Fifth-year contract options: Why 20 were picked up and 12 weren’t – NFL Nation


Picking up the fifth-year option on 2015 first-round draft picks is a big decision for NFL teams. Do you guarantee millions of dollars toward the 2019 season or do you let a first-round pick, in whom you’ve invested time and money, hit free agency? Here’s a closer look at those decisions and what that player has to do to earn a second contract with his current team.

Click the link after each team to view the full post.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West

NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


AFC East

The Bills had no first-round pick in 2015, trading it to Cleveland in 2014 to move up to draft Sammy Watkins.

WR DeVante Parker

Why his contract was picked up: Parker has not met expectations since being selected 14th overall, but there is still hope that he can blossom into a No. 1 receiver after the trade of Jarvis Landry this offseason. Parker’s $9.4 million salary in 2019 is guaranteed only for injury until the start of the next league year, so the Dolphins can still decide not to pick up Parker’s option — as long as he is healthy — if he does not improve in 2018.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Take advantage of a jumbled Dolphins depth chart at receiver and take the lead in replacing the production of Landry — 112 catches for 987 yards and nine touchdowns last season. At 6-foot-3, Parker has a chance to stand out over a group of smaller receivers in Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. He also can benefit with the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill from an injury last season.

LB Stephone Anthony

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Anthony showed promise as a rookie after being selected 31st overall by the Saints in 2015, leading all rookies in tackles with 112. However, he has made just 30 tackles since then, and New Orleans dealt him to Miami for a fifth-rounder last year. He played in eight games last season with Miami, with much of his time coming on special teams and on obvious passing downs. His production didn’t show he’s worth the $9.6 million that he would have received with the option.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: With Lawrence Timmons gone, there is an opportunity to earn playing time at outside linebacker in 2018, but Anthony also will have to beat out rookie Jerome Baker, a third-round pick. If Anthony can bounce back to the form he showed as a rookie, he could boost his value significantly. — Mike Rodak

DT Danny Shelton

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: The fifth-year option was worth $7.1 million, and nose tackles who come off the field in passing situations generally don’t make that type of money.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Shelton should get a second contract, it just might not be at that financial level. If he shows he can be a valuable pocket pusher in passing situations, the value of his contract will rise.

WR Phillip Dorsett

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Dorsett was acquired in a trade with the Colts for Jacoby Brissett and while his smarts and speed give him a chance to possibly carve out a larger role in 2018, the Patriots weren’t going to commit a fifth-year option north of $9 million for him.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Dorsett has value on a team’s roster as a depth option, so he should get a second contract; but at this point, it would be at a much lower financial level than $9 million.

DT Malcom Brown

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: This is similar to the Patriots’ thinking with Danny Shelton, as the fifth-year option was worth $7.1 million and nose tackles who come off the field in passing situations generally don’t make that type of money.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Brown has shown a knack to penetrate and rush the passer at times, and expanding that part of his game would help him land his next contract at a nice salary. — Mike Reiss

DE Leonard Williams

Why his contract was picked up: Quite simply, he’s one of the best players on the team. Even though his sack total dropped to two last season, Williams — drafted sixth overall in 2015 — is part of the team’s foundation. He has plenty of talent, and he does everything the right way, on and off the field.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Play like he did in 2016, when he had seven sacks and made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. The Jets have every intention of signing him to a long-term deal, but they probably will wait until after the season. One concern: The defensive line is rebuilding with young players, which means Williams could see an inordinate amount of double-teams. That could affect his stats, which in turn, will have an effect at the bargaining table. — Rich Cimini

AFC North

WR Breshad Perriman

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Perriman ranks as one of the biggest busts in the franchise’s 23-year history. He struggles catching the ball, can’t stay healthy and doesn’t play as fast as his 4.24 speed in the 40-yard dash. In 27 games, Perriman has managed 43 catches for 576 yards and three touchdowns.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Perriman might not even make it to the preseason, much less get a second contract. He is due a $649,485 bonus on the third day of Baltimore’s training camp, and the Ravens could decide to cut him before paying him that. It seems like Baltimore already has prepared to move forward without Perriman, after signing three wide receivers in free agency: Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. — Jamison Hensley

OT Cedric Ogbuehi

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Ogbuehi was supposed to be the heir apparent to left tackle Andrew Whitworth, but he barely even saw the field until his second season, when he struggled at right tackle. Ogbuehi said left tackle was his natural position, but he struggled there too, and the writing was on the wall when the Bengals traded for Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn this spring. Ogbuehi will now go into OTAs as a backup.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Ogbuehi would have to either find a way to move inside or beat out Jake Fisher as starting right tackle and make a significant improvement. If he doesn’t, he’ll likely be a free agent in 2019. — Katherine Terrell

FS Damarious Randall

Why his contract was picked up: The Browns needed a safety to roam the middle of the field and allow Jabrill Peppers to play in his more natural spot closer to the line. They made Randall that player when they acquired him from Green Bay in March. Randall needed a fresh start and will get one roaming the deep middle for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. (Note: Neither of the Browns’ two first-round picks from 2015 are with the team; Cam Erving is in Kansas City, Danny Shelton in New England.)

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Play the position that he says is his natural one with savvy and smarts. Williams asks his free safety to roam the deep middle; if Randall protects against balls going over his head and comes up with some turnovers, the Browns will be happy to give him a new deal after 2019. — Pat McManamon

OLB Bud Dupree

Why his contract was picked up: The Steelers believe Dupree is an ascending player despite totaling 14.5 sacks over three years. He has played through various injuries. And he was explosive when utilizing his high-level size and speed. General manager Kevin Colbert tipped his hand in March by saying that Dupree was “just scratching the surface” of his potential.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Put together a complete season. Dupree can look dominant one game and simply blend in the next. Staying healthy and contending for a season of double-digit sacks would quell any concerns about Pittsburgh investing long term. Creating a few more turnovers wouldn’t hurt, either. Dupree has one forced fumble and zero interceptions. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC South

CB Kevin Johnson

Why his contract was picked up: The Texans are hoping Johnson’s struggles over the past two seasons have been because of injuries and that he can turn it around with a healthy 2018. The Texans had inconsistency at cornerback last season, and they hope Johnson’s $9.06 million fifth-year option provides them some depth at the position.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Johnson has to stay healthy and have a much better season than he did in 2017. The Texans’ top three corners are Johnathan Joseph, Aaron Colvin and Kareem Jackson. Jackson is in the final year of a four-year deal, and Joseph has one more year after next season, so the Texans could bring Johnson back on a team-friendly deal if they do not re-sign Jackson and they see enough from Johnson that they believe he’s worth investing in. — Sarah Barshop

The Colts traded 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots in 2017.

DE Dante Fowler Jr.

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Fowler isn’t a dynamic pass-rusher and has started just one game in the past two seasons. He missed his rookie season with a torn ACL and since then has been behind 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue on the depth chart. Fowler has 12 sacks and 21 quarterback hits in his two seasons, as compared to Ngakoue’s 20 and 37. That doesn’t warrant a $14.2 million salary.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: The Jaguars do view Fowler as an ascending player, but he’s going to have to put up double-digit sacks and get more consistent pressure on the quarterback in 2018. To do that, he needs to add another pass-rush move, because he’s limited in what he does. His two sacks in the AFC title game show he can make big plays when it counts, but he can’t disappear for long stretches. — Michael DiRocco

QB Marcus Mariota

Why his contract was picked up: This was an easy decision for Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who believes that Mariota is a franchise QB and one who can eventually lead them to a Super Bowl. Mariota’s numbers were bad last season under an inflexible offense, but he still led the Titans to their first playoff win since 2003. Mariota still has plenty to prove, but there wasn’t much of a consideration of declining the option.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: First, play better than last season and make sure the Titans don’t take a step back as a team. If Mariota has a successful Year 4 (say, 3,500-plus total yards, 25-plus total TDs and 12 or fewer interceptions) under new Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, the 24-year-old signal-caller will likely receive a nine-figure contract extension next offseason. — Cameron Wolfe

AFC West

OLB Shane Ray

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: The biggest reason stands 6-foot-4¼ and weighs about 268 pounds. When the Broncos used the No. 5 pick of this year’s draft on Bradley Chubb, the dynamic changed in the Broncos’ defense. Chubb, unless things don’t go as expected, will start at outside linebacker; and the Broncos will simply want to see more production from Ray.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Get to the quarterback. After a frustrating 2017 that featured three wrist surgeries and just one sack, Ray can now essentially bet on himself and put up the numbers as he goes into free agency next March poised for a payday. And if the Broncos like what they see, they can still write the check. — Jeff Legwold

OT Cam Erving

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: With Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz solid as the starters, Erving will be the Chiefs’ third tackle this year. Picking up his fifth-year option at more than $9 million wouldn’t make sense for a backup. Erving was acquired in a trade with the Browns shortly before the start of last season.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: It’s not out of the question that the Chiefs will try to re-sign Erving. They like his skills and potential, and he won’t turn 26 until August. But it won’t be at a steep cost, unless an injury to Fisher or Schwartz provides an opening for Erving and he proves deserving. — Adam Teicher

RB Melvin Gordon

Why his contract was picked up: After a rough start, the Wisconsin product proved his worth, totaling 1,581 yards from scrimmage (No. 5 in the NFL) and 12 total touchdowns in 2017. Only Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott (25) have more touchdowns than Gordon’s 24 total touchdowns in the past two seasons, as Gordon emerged as a focal part of the Chargers’ offense.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Gordon still has two years left on his rookie contract. If he puts together a season in 2018 similar to last year’s production, the Chargers could look to sign him to a multiyear deal that keeps him with the organization during the offseason in 2019. — Eric D. Williams

WR Amari Cooper

Why his contract was picked up: Simple, as coach Jon Gruden said: Cooper will “be the focal point of our pass offense” in 2018. “He’s got tremendous quickness,” Gruden said. “I think he’s smart, he’s versatile, he’s a gamer, he likes the bright lights and he’ll be the headliner in our offense.” The No. 4 overall pick of the 2015 draft is just the third player in league history with at least 70 catches and at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Prove that last season’s regression to 48 catches for 680 yards was a fluke and improve on his drop rate. Still, Cooper did have a career-best seven TD catches in 2017, and the Raiders expect the arrival of veteran Jordy Nelson to have a calming influence on him. “He had a lot of injuries last year, and that impacted him,” Gruden said. — Paul Gutierrez

NFC East

DB Byron Jones

Why his contract was picked up: There wasn’t a reason to not pick it up. It’s guaranteed only for injury, and Jones has not missed a game in his career. He has started 43 of 48 games in his first three seasons, and he spent the past two seasons as a starting safety. The Cowboys want more takeaways, but he is a dependable player.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: He has two interceptions and two forced fumbles in his career. He has to make more plays on the ball. The move to cornerback under new defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard should give him that chance. If he can make the big plays for the defense, then the Cowboys would want to make him a cornerstone piece to the defense for the long term. — Todd Archer

OT Ereck Flowers

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: He simply did not play well his first three years. The Giants paid Nate Solder $65 million just to make sure Flowers wasn’t their left tackle this season. Flowers also isn’t especially popular in the offensive line room and within the building, especially after deciding not to attend this season’s voluntary offseason workouts.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Mend some fences and play significantly better. The Giants are trying to clean up the locker room, and Flowers has to prove he’s on board with the new regime. Then he needs to show he can be a competent right tackle, where he is expected to compete for a starting job, rather than a liability to quarterback Eli Manning‘s well-being. — Jordan Raanan

WR Nelson Agholor

Why his contract was picked up: He found his footing this past season after a slow start to his career, catching 62 balls for 768 yards with eight touchdowns for the Super Bowl champion Eagles. The former Southern California star took over as the team’s slot receiver when Jordan Matthews was traded to the Bills. The role proved to be a perfect fit for his skill set, and he took off.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Agholor fought past the confidence issues that held him back in 2016 and took a big step toward reaching his potential. As long as the arrow continues to point up, he’ll get paid. — Tim McManus

RG Brandon Scherff

Why his contract was picked up: Because he has lived up to being the fifth overall pick, having made two Pro Bowls already. He has established himself as one of the best guards after only three seasons, with his ability to block in space yet play with power.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Stay healthy and just do what he has been doing. It’s really that simple. One reason the Redskins didn’t want to pay Kirk Cousins more than $22 million to $23 million a year is to allow them to extend the contracts of players such as Scherff. He’ll be a mainstay in Washington for a long time. — John Keim

NFC North

WR Kevin White

Why his contract wasn’t picked up: White has appeared in just five career regular-season games because of multiple leg and shoulder injuries. Even when healthy, White — the seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft — hasn’t looked overly impressive. The 25-year-old wideout only has 21 career receptions for 193 yards and zero touchdowns.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Play a full, 16-game schedule. White’s main problem — aside from always being on injured reserve — is that he never learned how to run professional routes in college. White’s primary responsibility at West Virginia was to beat the defender in front of him by any means necessary. That really doesn’t work in the NFL. White’s limited route tree has been compounded by the fact that he’s rarely on the field. How can he learn to run routes the proper way if he’s not physically able to run routes? For White, the key to a possible comeback is to stay healthy. — Jeff Dickerson

The Lions’ first-round pick in 2015, offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson, was traded to San Francisco in August for a fifth-round pick in 2019.

The Packers traded their 2015 first-round pick, Damarious Randall, to the Browns in the DeShone Kizer deal in March.

CB Trae Waynes

Why his contract was picked up: Waynes played a big role in the league’s second-best pass defense, which allowed 192.4 yards per game last season, and he has only gotten better as he has continued to develop under coach Mike Zimmer’s tutelage. When teams decided not to throw toward Xavier Rhodes, that meant Waynes was going to be put to the test often. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks threw 102 times in Waynes’ direction, and he allowed only three touchdowns and made 11 pass deflections and two interceptions. The Vikings’ secondary is loaded from top to bottom, and along the lines of Zimmer’s philosophy on cornerbacks, a team can never have too many. Picking up Waynes’ fifth-year option keeps that group intact through at least 2019.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: The type of improvement Waynes showed in Year 3 might foreshadow another level he’s about to take his game to in 2018. He has earned his reputation as one of the best run-stopping corners in the league. If he can become a better coverage corner, like Rhodes, there’s a chance Waynes could command big money in free agency in two years and choose to sign with a team other than the Vikings. — Courtney Cronin

NFC South

DE Vic Beasley

Why his contract was picked up: The Falcons obviously have a lot of faith in Beasley, the former eighth overall pick out of Clemson. He led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016 and showed the knack for the sack-fumble. Beasley’s speed and overall athleticism can overwhelm those trying to block him.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Beasley wasn’t nearly as dominant last season, for several reasons. First, he had a nagging hamstring injury that led to some missed time. Then he was asked to take on more responsibilities, playing strongside linebacker and dropping in coverage. But Beasley will line up strictly at defensive end moving forward. So to secure a lucrative, long-term deal, he simply needs to get after quarterbacks in the same manner he did during his Pro Bowl season. And Beasley needs to turn sacks into turnovers with those sack-fumbles. — Vaughn McClure

LB Shaq Thompson

Why his contract was picked up: This was a no-brainer. Thompson is the heir apparent to Thomas Davis at outside linebacker. He’ll replace Davis in the first four games this season while Davis serves a four-game suspension. But Thompson has proved to have the speed and versatility to rush the quarterback, be effective against the run and drop into coverage.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Just progress as he has the past two seasons and this also will be a no-brainer. — David Newton

G Andrus Peat

Why his contract was picked up: The former Stanford left tackle has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber left guard for one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. His career got off to a slow start when he struggled with his conditioning as a rookie, and the Saints tried him out at several different positions. But the massive 6-foot-7, 316-pounder has steadily improved each year, and he gives the team added value as a backup left tackle when needed.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: More of the same. The Saints have a ton invested in their offensive line, so in theory, they might not be able to keep re-signing everyone. But they made those investments by design, which led to them leading the NFL in both yards per rush and yards per pass attempt in 2017. And the 24-year-old Peat is first in line for the next contract extension. — Mike Triplett

QB Jameis Winston

Why his contract was picked up: This was fully expected, and he will be getting a second contract that will top more than $20 million annually. It’s simply par for the course for a quarterback picked first overall who, two seasons ago, led the Bucs to a 9-7 finish.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: He took a few steps back last year when he suffered a shoulder injury that had an impact throughout the 2017 season, and he’ll want to cut down on turnovers — he has 59 in 45 games — to evoke more confidence from fans that the Bucs are making the right move. — Jenna Laine

NFC West

LT D.J. Humphries

Why his contract was picked up: Aside from quarterback, Humphries plays the most valuable position in football: left tackle. He might have durability concerns, but he’s still a living, breathing, healthy (for now) and talented left tackle, and teams would have to be out of their minds to not keep those around for as long as possible — especially on a rookie contract.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Stay healthy. If Humphries stays healthy, he’s all but guaranteed to get a second deal from Arizona because of the reasons listed above. He’s athletic and quick, and he likes to talk about how he loves to block the run. But the biggest difference in Humphries getting a second deal is how he focused himself and shed the reputation for being immature. He grew up, and it’s paying dividends. — Josh Weinfuss

RB Todd Gurley

Why his contract was picked up: Aside from star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Gurley is the best player on the team. He struggled behind a bad offensive line and an anemic passing attack in 2016, but he bounced back brilliantly in 2017, leading the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,093) and touchdowns (19) while on his way to winning the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Gurley has emerged as one of the most complete running backs in the league.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Be patient. The Rams have other, more pressing business to handle with Donald and wide receiver Brandin Cooks on track to be unrestricted free agents next offseason. They also need to get a better sense for the running back market, which won’t happen until Le’Veon Bell gets a deal. Gurley is worthy of a big extension on talent alone, but are the Rams willing to commit so much long-term cap space to a running back? Most of this is out of Gurley’s control.

CB Marcus Peters

Why his contract was picked up: Peters leads the NFL with 19 interceptions in the past three seasons. The Rams gave up a future second-round pick to acquire him from the Chiefs this offseason because they see him as more than a one-year rental.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Behave. Peters has a history of being a problem in the locker room, from getting dismissed by the University of Washington to being handed a one-game suspension by Chiefs coach Andy Reid this past season. But if he stays in line and plays the way he is capable, the Rams would certainly be interested in a long-term commitment. — Alden Gonzalez

DL Arik Armstead

Why his contract was picked up: Given Armstead’s injury history and lack of production, it was a bit of a surprise that the Niners picked up his option. They also know they could find themselves in a worse spot next offseason, when they’d have to use a tag on him to ensure he doesn’t hit the open market if he plays well in 2018.

What he needs to do get a second contract: Armstead is moving to the “big end” spot, which would seem to be a better fit for his skill set than his previous positions. If he can stay healthy and stop the run while offering occasional pass-rush help, he could be in the long-term plans.

G Laken Tomlinson

Why his option wasn’t picked up: Simply put, the cost of the fifth-year option outweighs his production. The fifth-year formula doesn’t separate positions on the offensive line, meaning Tomlinson is lumped in with tackles and centers, as well, which means his fifth-year option price tag would approach $10 million.

What he needs to do to get a second contract: Tomlinson didn’t join the Niners until just before last season, and he struggled adjusting to their scheme early before a strong finish. With a full offseason at his disposal, the 49ers believe he can improve, and general manager John Lynch already has said discussions have begun to retain Tomlinson at a more palatable price tag. — Nick Wagoner

The Seahawks didn’t have a first-round pick in 2015 after trading it to New Orleans for tight end Jimmy Graham.



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Dallas Cowboys’ options at receiver following Dez Bryant’s release – Dallas Cowboys Blog


FRISCO, Texas — Following the release of Dez Bryant on Friday, the Dallas Cowboys now lack the resume of a wide receiver with No. 1 skills.

The last time Bryant put up No. 1 receiver stats was in 2014 when he led the NFL with 16 touchdown receptions and caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards. After he signed a five-year, $70 million deal, injuries, ineffective quarterback play in 2015 and a philosophical switch offensively following Tony Romo’s back injury in 2016 contributed to Bryant’s declining numbers.

By cutting Bryant, the Cowboys showed they believe they won’t have to replace the receiver who caught 41 touchdown passes from 2012-14, but rather the receiver who caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns in 2017.

The Cowboys currently have eight receivers on the roster, but only two (Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley) have caught more than six passes in a season wearing the star on their helmet.

Here is a look at who remains with Bryant gone, while acknowledging the Cowboys very well could take a receiver in the first two rounds of the upcoming NFL draft.

Terrance Williams: He is recovering from a broken foot suffered while working out earlier in the offseason but should be cleared to do at least some on-field work in June. He caught 53 passes for 568 yards last year, but for the first time in his career did not record a touchdown catch. He is durable, having never missed a game in his career, and has made big plays in big moments, but he does not have a 1,000-yard season to his credit.

Cole Beasley: In 2016, he was Dak Prescott‘s favorite target, catching a team-high 75 passes for 833 yards and five touchdowns. But 2017 was a complete mystery as to how Beasley became a forgotten man. He caught just 36 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns. His yards per catch was lower than Jason Witten‘s. Teams clamped down their coverage on Beasley and the coaches could not create ways to get him the ball.

Allen Hurns: He signed a two-year deal worth as much as $12 million after he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. At present, he looks like the receiver who will step into Bryant’s role. He has one 1,000-yard season, posting 64 catches for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015. Over the last three seasons (36 games) he has 138 receptions for 1,992 yards and 15 touchdowns. In 38 games over the last three seasons, Bryant caught 150 passes for 2,035 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Deonte Thompson: He caught a career-high 38 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns for the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season. In 11 games with the Bills, he caught 27 passes for 430 yards and a touchdown. He is the speed threat the Cowboys felt they lacked and signed a one-year deal worth a max of $2.5 million that included a $1 million signing bonus.

Ryan Switzer: A fourth-round pick last season, Switzer was mainly a return specialist as a rookie, taking one punt back for a touchdown. He caught six passes for 41 yards, working mostly behind Beasley in the slot.

Noah Brown: A seventh-round pick last season, Brown caught four passes for 33 yards but served mostly as a blocker. A great athlete, the Cowboys like his potential to develop as he enters his second season.

Lance Lenoir: He spent most of last season on the practice squad before a Week 17 call-up for the season finale. He caught six passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.

KD Cannon: After a prolific career at Baylor, Cannon went undrafted last year and bounced around a few teams before joining the Cowboys’ practice squad for the final week of the season. He was signed to a futures deal in January.



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Ranking the Jets’ quarterback options, based on fit and potential – New York Jets Blog


The top quarterbacks have been analyzed and over-analyzed, and they’ll be overly over-analyzed during the final run-up to the NFL draft. You’ve heard from the draft experts, so now it’s time for my take.

This is a fascinating quarterback class because it’s top heavy with good prospects, but there’s no can’t-miss star. Each of the top prospects has obvious flaws, some more worrisome than others. Their games and personalities are so different, which adds intrigue to the selection process. The New York Jets, who own the third pick, aren’t just picking a guy who throws the football. They’re anointing a future face of the franchise, a player whose leadership style will set the tone for the entire organization.

Not too much pressure, right?

Anyway, here’s how I’d rank them, based on their potential fit with the Jets:

1. Sam Darnold, USC: He’s the most complete prospect because of his ability to extend plays, an important trait in today’s NFL. Darnold’s play slipped last season, but you saw in 2016 a player with franchise-changing ability. Dude went 20-4 in two seasons, and it’s not like the USC offense was loaded with NFL talent. Yeah, the turnovers are a concern — tied for the FBS lead with 22 — but people said the same thing about Matt Ryan when he came out in 2008. Darnold isn’t a rah-rah leader, but he endears himself to teammates with a gym-rat work ethic and a personality that is SoCal cool. The Jets would be lucky to get him, but it’s unlikely unless they trade up.

2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: There are reasons not to like him: He’s cocky, he’s a shade under 6-foot-1 and he comes from a spread offense. Ordinarily, that combo isn’t a recipe for NFL success, but Mayfield is an exception. He dominated for three years at the highest level of college football, posting ridiculous passing numbers and winning 33 of 39 starts at Oklahoma. His arm is plenty strong enough and his accuracy is uncanny, which should make him an ideal fit in the Jets’ West Coast scheme. Some believe he could be a handful in a big market like New York, but he has presented himself well during meetings with the Jets, I’m told. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and maybe it’s about time the entire Jets’ organization developed that mentality.

3. Josh Rosen, UCLA: In an interview with ESPN The Magazine, Rosen described himself as “monotonously consistent.” After decades on the quarterback rollercoaster, the Jets would sign up for that. Rosen is a gifted pocket passer whose cerebral approach makes him the most pro-ready of the top quarterbacks. If he’s picked by the Jets, he’ll look fantastic in the spring and training camp, prompting a “Make-Rosen-the-starter” groundswell from fans and media. That said, I have him below Mayfield and Darnold because he’s not efficient outside the pocket and because of questionable durability (missed eight of the last 19 games). His leadership traits also have been questioned.

4. Josh Allen, Wyoming: He has the highest ceiling, but the lowest floor among the quarterbacks. When you’re picking third overall, it’s best to avoid that kind of risk-reward scenario. Allen can throw it like nobody’s business. His arm is so strong that fans will be clamoring for “Hail Mary” situations just to see how far he can sling it. Unfortunately, there’s the accuracy issue (56 percent completion rate), and that can’t be ignored because history shows it won’t improve in the NFL. Some evaluators also have questioned his ability at the line of scrimmage. Allen is a project and you wonder if he’d be ready to take over in 2019. His intangibles are good and his physical ability is off the charts, but he still hasn’t put it together.



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Geno Smith, Austin Davis among Seattle Seahawks’ backup QB options – Seattle Seahawks Blog


Here’s a look at the Seattle Seahawks‘ depth chart at quarterback two and a half weeks into free agency: Russell Wilson.

That’s it.

Wilson stands alone after Seattle waived Trevone Boykin earlier this week in the wake of a domestic violence allegation that resulted in a charge of aggravated assault. The Seahawks got to work on finding a backup quarterback by bringing in Geno Smith for a free-agent visit, sources told ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.

Really, though, the Seahawks were already going to be in that market before moving on from Boykin. Last year’s No. 2, Austin Davis, remains unsigned. And Boykin was so erratic during his first two seasons — on and off the field — that there was no way the Seahawks were going to feel content with him as their lone backup option. They were going to add at least one more option by the time organized team activities begin in late May, be it a low-cost veteran and/or a rookie.

But waiving Boykin brings the backup quarterback conversation to the forefront.

And that conversation includes buzz around whether Colin Kaepernick could be an option. The Seahawks brought the former 49ers starter in last May for what remains his only known visit since he became a free agent earlier that offseason. They opted not to sign him for reasons that still aren’t completely clear and instead signed Davis a week later.

Also uncertain is whether the Seahawks would entertain the possibility of signing Kaepernick now, but indications are that another veteran, such as Smith or Davis, is more likely.

That wouldn’t preclude the Seahawks from drafting a quarterback or signing one as an undrafted rookie. Surprisingly, Wilson is the only quarterback the Seahawks have drafted under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. But given the current situation, this might be as good of a year as ever to do it. That Wilson is a year away from what has the potential to be a tricky extension negotiation could only give the Seahawks more incentive to have a young quarterback in the pipeline.

As far as veterans, something to keep in mind is that Wilson has been remarkably durable in his career, never missing a game in his six seasons. Because of that, the Seahawks may not feel compelled to spend as much on a backup as a team less certain in its starter’s availability might. It would be a surprise if they spent much more than $1 million on one, especially with the bargain-shopping approach they’ve taken in free agency this year.

Here are four names to keep in mind, three of which have strong ties to new Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer:

Geno Smith. The 2013 second-round pick threw 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions during a four-year career with the Jets that never really got off the ground. He spent last season backing up Eli Manning with the Giants on a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. His minimum salary for 2018 would be $790,000. Smith, 27, hasn’t worked with Schottenheimer in any of his five NFL seasons, but he does have one connection to Seattle’s offensive coaching staff in new line coach Mike Solari, who was with the Giants the past two years.

Austin Davis. He spent his first three seasons with the Rams while Schottenheimer was the team’s offensive coordinator. The 28-year-old Davis made eight starts in 2014, one of which was a victory over the Seahawks. He beat out Boykin to be Wilson’s backup last season after a strong and steady performance over the summer. His deal with Seattle was worth $855,000.

Mark Sanchez. Schottenheimer was the Jets’ offensive coordinator when they drafted Sanchez in 2009 and made consecutive AFC Championship Games in his first two seasons. Carroll was Sanchez’s college coach at USC, and while there may have been some awkwardness over Carroll publicly disagreeing with Sanchez’s decision to turn pro early, that hardly seems like something that would get in the way of a reunion almost a decade later. Sanchez, 31, has bounced around since his time with the Jets. He made 10 starts with the Eagles between 2014 and ’15 and has been with the Cowboys and Bears since then. His deal with Chicago last season was worth $2 million.

Kellen Clemens. He spent his first five seasons (2006-10) with Schottenheimer in New York and two more (2012-13) with the Rams, meaning they’ve been together for seven of Clemens’ 12 years in the NFL. Clemens, 34, made nine starts for the Rams in 2013 and hasn’t started a game since then. He has spent the past four seasons with the Chargers and made $1 million in 2017.



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Nevada Gaming Control Board expands betting options for NFL draft


Will Sam Darnold get picked before Josh Allen in the NFL draft? How many spots will Saquon Barkley go ahead of Baker Mayfield?

You’ll be able to bet on it in Las Vegas.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Monday granted permission to the state’s sportsbooks to offer betting in next month’s NFL draft. It’s the second straight year that participating Nevada sportsbooks will take bets on the draft, and this year, they’ll have expanded options.

The NGC listed 32 different types of wagers that could be offered on the draft, nearly twice as many as were allowed last year.

Some new additions:

• Player X or player Y drafted first with odds.

• Player X with draft position handicap versus player Y.

• More offense players than defensive players drafted.

Since the 1980s, Nevada Gaming Control had restricted betting to events that took place on the field. The NGC loosened its rules in recent years and began allowing wagering on events like the Heisman Trophy and the draft.

Multiple sportsbooks that took bets on last year’s draft said the betting interest exceeded expectations.

The 2018 NFL draft will take place April 26-April 29 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Nevada sportsbooks will be required to halt betting on the draft at the close of business April 25.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Las Vegas is among the finalists to host either the 2019 or 2020 NFL draft. The Oakland Raiders are expected to begin playing in Las Vegas around the same time.



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Green Bay Packers look for other options to replace Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers Blog


GREEN BAY, Wis. — Those who didn’t see it coming when the Green Bay Packers released Jordy Nelson last week were like the defensive backs who didn’t think there was any way he could beat them deep.

They were in denial.

Nelson deserves to be in the conversation with the best receivers in team history — and it’s an illustrious group that starts with Don Hutson and includes James Lofton, Sterling Sharpe, Antonio Freeman and Donald Driver. But the old NFL adage that it’s better to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late held true, especially considering Nelson was owed $10.25 million if he were on the roster this season.

The Packers reportedly gave him a low-ball pay cut offer, but it was probably a deal they knew he wouldn’t accept.

Take nothing away from Nelson’s stellar career, but the man who once played with the best body control of perhaps any receiver in recent team history clearly wasn’t in the Packers’ plans.

They must have felt that the tape from late last season showed what they thought he had become — a receiver who, despite remarkable chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, lacked explosiveness. Nelson averaged just 2.45 yards after the catch, the lowest of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And that had little or nothing to do with Rodgers’ injury that cost Nelson his quarterback for half of the season.

This will take some getting used to: Nelson will no longer catch passes from Rodgers. By definition, the Packers haven’t signed anyone to replace Nelson, although new tight end Jimmy Graham will give Rodgers a new option from another position. Still, the Packers might have to use one of their early round draft picks on another receiver.

“We’ll start looking at a number of options,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said after cutting Nelson. “He’s a good player, and those shoes will be hard to fill. But we’re going to work really hard to try to do that.”

Here’s a look at the Packers’ receivers:

Davante Adams: The former second-round draft pick is the next Nelson. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged last season that Adams had supplanted Nelson as the team’s “best perimeter player.” Days later, Adams signed a four-year, $58 million contract extension that put him among the highest-paid receivers in the league. Adams was the only receiver whose production remained high after Rodgers’ collarbone injury. He tied for second in the league with 10 touchdowns and led the team with 74 catches and 885 yards, despite missing the final two games of the season because of his second concussion of the year. His concussion history is about the only concern the Packers could have.

Randall Cobb: With a salary of $9.5 million and a salary-cap charge of $12,718,750, Cobb — and not Nelson — could have been the one to go. But the Packers decided that there’s more left in Cobb, who will turn 28 in August, than there was in the soon-to-be 33-year-old Nelson. The more versatile Cobb — a slot receiver who also can play outside and in the backfield — hasn’t come close to replicating his career year of 2014, when he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s in the final season of a four-year, $40 million deal.

Geronimo Allison: The former undrafted free agent enters his third season but didn’t take as big of a jump as expected last season. He caught 23 passes for 253 yards without a touchdown after 12 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie. He ranked fourth among Packers receivers in snaps played last season (343). The Packers gave him the minimum salary for a third-year player as an exclusive rights free agents.

Trevor Davis: The fifth-round pick in 2015 hasn’t been able to move ahead of Allison on the depth chart. He played in every game last season but played just 103 snaps on offense. He might be the fastest receiver on the roster, but he hasn’t been able to put that to use on offense. However, he ranked third in the NFL in punt return average (12.0) last season with a long return of 65 yards.

Michael Clark: The undrafted free agent might be the most intriguing prospect on the roster. At 6-foot-6, he’s a former college basketball player who played only one season of college football before entering the NFL. He wasn’t promoted from the practice squad until Dec. 1 and played in only the final two games. He made an impact with four catches for 41 yards in 75 snaps but needs to clean up his drops. That should come with more experience.

Jeff Janis: An unrestricted free agent, the former seventh-round draft pick played just 50 snaps on offense last season. He never built on his two-touchdown performance against the Cardinals in the playoff loss in January 2016. However, he carved out a role as one of the core special teams players, which could be a reason the Packers bring him back.

DeAngelo Yancey: The fifth-round pick last year spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad in 2017. He has decent size (6-1, 220) but started slowly in training camp last summer.

Colby Pearson: He was an undrafted free agent who was in training camp with the Packers last summer and then signed to the practice squad for the final three weeks of the season.

Jake Kumerow: Signed to the practice squad in Week 17, the former UW-Whitewater standout spent parts of two seasons on the Bengals practice squad (with a week on the roster as well) but has never appeared in a game.



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What are Bills’ options with Tyrod Taylor and his looming bonus? – Buffalo Bills Blog


The past two seasons have seen the debate about Tyrod Taylor shift. What was once discussion about whether Taylor is the Buffalo Bills‘ franchise quarterback has now become conversation about his immediate future with the team.

The downward trend of Taylor’s statistical performance since he won the Bills’ starting job in 2015 has made it increasingly difficult to argue Taylor is worth a long-term deal in Buffalo. However, his strengths relative to other options at quarterback still make Taylor viable as the Bills’ starter in 2018.

Clarity about Taylor’s status seems to be on the horizon. Taylor is due a $6 million roster bonus March 16, which is a checkpoint for Buffalo’s interest in keeping him next season. Free agency begins and trades can be executed the same week, which would be an opportunity for the Bills to find a replacement for Taylor on the veteran quarterback market.

In the almost seven weeks since the Bills’ season ended with a playoff loss to Jacksonville, there has been extensive analysis about the possibilities should Buffalo decide to trade or release Taylor.

But what if the Bills decide to keep Taylor?

Keeping Taylor on the roster March 16 and paying his bonus would not necessarily guarantee he is the starter next season, nor would it preclude Buffalo from swinging a trade to select a quarterback high in April’s draft.

Theoretically, the Bills could pay Taylor his bonus as insurance against not finding another quarterback this offseason, and later trade or release him if a better option is acquired.

Here are some pros and cons to consider under each scenario: the Bills trading or releasing Taylor, the Bills paying Taylor his bonus but later moving on, and the Bills keeping Taylor as their starter.

Trade or release Taylor before March 16

Pros: The Bills would avoid an unnecessary $6 million salary-cap charge (Taylor’s roster bonus) in 2018, when the team is somewhat limited against the cap. Trading or releasing Taylor before the roster bonus would free up $10 million in cap space, and the team could push another $5.6 million into 2019 by designating him as a post-June 1 cut. Doing so would cause Taylor’s entire $18 million cap number to count until June, but the transaction should help Buffalo either use the extra cap space to help fill holes on a thin roster or roll over the cap space into 2019.

After more than a year of uncertainty about his future, Taylor likely would appreciate the opportunity to find another team in March when starting jobs are open as opposed to being traded or released later in the offseason when teams already have set their quarterback plans. Much like the firing of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison last month, the Bills moving on from Taylor would probably receive a positive reception from fans looking for an upgrade from the NFL’s 31st-ranked passing offense last season.

Further, making a move with Taylor now would make the Bills a more attractive landing spot for a veteran free-agent quarterback. It is unlikely Buffalo would pursue Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum, but lower-cost options would see Buffalo as a much better fit if Taylor was not in the mix. Waiting to trade or release Taylor until later in the offseason could leave the Bills without a capable veteran in the quarterback room.

Cons: The Bills risk moving a chess piece without a plan for the next move. Executing a trade of Taylor might be difficult in the 32-hour window between the start of the free-agent signing period and when his roster bonus is due. Teams pursuing free-agent quarterbacks might not be ready to trade for Taylor until they learn whether they can make another signing. That could leave the Bills in a more desperate position to take a lesser deal for Taylor before the roster bonus is due, or could result in them releasing him without anything in return.

In the case of either a trade or release, the Bills would have a need for a veteran quarterback, which will eat into their salary-cap savings from Taylor. Letting Taylor go, not signing a top veteran free agent and missing on a top quarterback prospect in the draft would leave Buffalo in a precarious spot.

Pay Taylor his roster bonus but later trade or release him

Pros: The Bills would be eating $6 million of Taylor’s 2018 salary-cap charge, which could make him more attractive for a trade partner that would then only be inheriting a one-year deal with a $10 million salary and only $1 million guaranteed. While there are several options on the quarterback market this March that could make Taylor less valuable in a trade, there could be fewer players available in August in the event of a training camp injury. Such desperation allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to net a first-round pick from the Minnesota Vikings in September 2016 for Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater‘s knee injury. The Eagles turned the offense over to then-rookie Carson Wentz, and the Bills could theoretically start a rookie if Taylor is traded late in the offseason or preseason.

Taylor also would act as insurance in case the Bills cannot acquire a quarterback they desire in the draft.

Cons: Buffalo might eventually be able to trade Taylor later in the offseason, but they would be essentially paying $6 million for a potentially higher return on the trade, which might not be worth it. Trading or releasing Taylor after June 1 would ensure that $5.6 million of his dead money hits the salary cap in 2019 and not 2018, but overall the Bills would still be paying $6 million more in dead money. With needs across the roster, that could be viewed as a waste.

Waiting until later in the offseason to make a move with Taylor also could preclude the Bills from adding a veteran in the spring. That means, without Taylor by September, the Bills could be left with only a rookie and Nathan Peterman under center — or be searching for another option.

Keep Taylor as the starter in 2018

Pros: This is what the Bills opted to do after exploring their options last offseason. It was the safe route, and whether Buffalo would have been better off transitioning to a younger quarterback is still up for debate. But the decision to keep Taylor steadied the Bills’ ship under first-year coach Sean McDermott and contributed to a playoff berth.

Because of Taylor’s restructured contract, the Bills have no commitment to him beyond 2018. That could make him an attractive bridge option who starts this season and eventually yields the job to a draft pick. The Bills might be able to find a cheaper quarterback to fill that role on the free-agent market, but that might either cost more or result in a less talented player. Taylor’s cost is still aligned with his value.

Cons: Fan sentiment can be hard to measure, but keeping Taylor for a fourth season as the starter could be a hard sell for a fan base that generally seemed anxious for change by the end of last season. Taylor has not shown he can help the Bills take the next step, and after seven seasons in the NFL, it is fair to question whether Taylor will get any better. McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane helped create a sense of progress around the Bills last season, but keeping Taylor could cause stagnation to creep in.



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