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Lions agree to deal with ex-Packers WR Geronimo Allison


The Detroit Lions have agreed to a contract with wide receiver Geronimo Allison, the team announced Sunday.

Allison has agreed to a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum of $910,000, a source confirmed to ESPN. NFL Network first reported the terms of the deal, adding that Allison will also get a $137,500 signing bonus.

Allison spent the 2019 season with the Green Bay Packers, who had brought him back on a one-year, $2.8 million deal with the thought that he could move into the No. 2 wide receiver slot vacated by Randall Cobb. But Allison never took the jump they hoped.

Despite playing every game, Allison, 26, finished sixth on the team with 34 receptions and had four drops, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

He was on injured reserve during the 2018 season, undergoing surgery to repair a groin injury. He began that season as the Packers’ No. 3 receiver and caught 20 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns in five games. He also missed two games due to concussion.

The undrafted free agent signed with the Packers in 2016, catching 89 passes on 146 targets for 1,045 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Allison could end up being Detroit’s No. 4 receiver — or at least competing with Marvin Hall and Chris Lacy for the spot behind likely starters Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Allison, though, doesn’t have a ton of special-teams experience — 232 snaps over four seasons in Green Bay — which could be something to watch as he pushes for a roster spot.

It’s possible the Lions could envision him like they did Jermaine Kearse last season before his season-ending injury — a reliable veteran backup from whom they know what they can expect.

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein and Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.



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Redskins get former Eagles corner Ronald Darby

The Washington Redskins, who have already unloaded their top two corners from last season, turned to a division rival to help fill a void, signing veteran Ronald Darby, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Darby signed a one-year deal worth $4 million.

The Redskins cut Josh Norman before free agency and traded corner Quinton Dunbar. Darby won’t automatically replace one of them in the starting lineup, but he does provide an intriguing option. The Redskins also signed Kendall Fuller in free agency. They also have veteran Fabian Moreau and second-year Jimmy Moreland among others who can compete for starting jobs or key roles.

Darby, who turned 26 in January, was arguably the Eagles’ most gifted cornerback during his three-years in Philadelphia, which included a Super Bowl run in 2017, but injuries kept him from being a consistent force.

He missed 28 of a possible 48 games over the last three seasons, including eight games in 2018 after tearing his ACL. He returned for the start of this past season but was in and out of the lineup and finished with two interceptions and 11 passes defensed over 11 games.

A second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2015, the 26-year-old Darby started 29 of 32 games during his two years with the Bills. With 21 passes defensed and a pair of interceptions, he finished second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind Marcus Peters.

Darby was traded to Philadelphia before the start of the 2017 season for receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick.

He has eight interceptions and 65 passes defensed in his five seasons.

Information from ESPN’s John Keim was used in this report.

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Tom Brady is the signing of a lifetime for long-suffering Bucs fans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog


(Editor’s note: ESPN’s Bob McClellan grew up in Central Florida, and his father bought six Buccaneers season tickets in 1976. His brother maintains four of them to this day.)

The GOAT chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He wasn’t traded there. It wasn’t for lack of options. Yet Tom Brady signed a two-year deal.

You can’t understand how much the New England Patriots quarterback coming to Tampa Bay means to a Bucs fan.

And by Bucs fan, I’m speaking to those of us who’ve had season tickets in our families since the franchise started in 1976. (We started in the west stands, about the goal line, six seats, six rows up on the aisle. Baseball Hall of Famer Al Lopez and his family were in the row in front of us. A quiet, sweet man.)

The Bucs haven’t fared well chasing big names. They were snubbed by Hall of Fame coaches Bill Parcells (twice) and Bill Cowher. A 2008 trade for Brett Favre fell through at the last minute. And for years players have wanted to do whatever they could to get out of Tampa. Bo Jackson famously never came, even after the Bucs chose him No. 1 overall.

The defense has had great players. Three of them — Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks — are already in Canton.

But the offense … my God, the offense. How best to explain the futility we have seen under center? Try this on:

Brady has been to 10 more Pro Bowls than all other Bucs quarterbacks. In the 44 seasons of the franchise.

Brady has been named to the Pro Bowl 14 times. Bucs quarterbacks have been named four times — one each for Jameis Winston, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Garcia and Brad Johnson.

Let’s have some more fun with numbers.

The four quarterbacks who have started the most games in Bucs history are Dilfer (76 starts), Vinny Testaverde (72), Winston (70) and Doug Williams (67). They made 284 starts. Brady has made 283.

TB12 has won 219. QBucs4 won 123 (Dilfer 38-38; Williams 33-33-1; Winston 28-42; Testaverde 24-48). Brady’s winning percentage is .774. The Bucs’ quartet was .433.

Brady has 541 touchdown passes and 179 interceptions. The QBucs4 (Williams, 73-73; Dilfer, 70-80; Testaverde, 77-112; Winston, 121-88) had 341 touchdown passes and 353 interceptions.

I had to read that a few times myself just to digest it without throwing up on my Derrick Brooks jersey. Tom Brady has 200 more touchdown passes in one fewer game than the QBucs4.

And you thought Winston threw interceptions at an alarming rate. He has the best TD-INT ratio of the QBucs4 by a country mile.

The first NFL game I went to was at Tampa Stadium. Steve Spurrier was the quarterback. The Bucs went on to go 0-14. Spurrier made 12 starts and had seven touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. It was the start of an alarming trend.

Brady has been in the league for 20 years. He never has had more interceptions than touchdown passes in a season. Never even close. In Tampa, we celebrated when a QB had more TDs than picks.

Here is a list of guys I saw play QB in person in Tampa, all of whom started games. You are totally forgiven if you don’t recall any. I wish I didn’t.

  • Randy Hedberg

  • Jeb Blount

  • Parnell Dickinson

  • Jack Thompson

  • Gary Huff

  • Mike Rae

  • Jerry Golsteyn

Without checking with ESPN’s Stats & Information group, I’m pretty sure the Bucs are the only team to start a Parnell and a Jeb at QB.

Williams was the quarterback I saw in person the most. Absolute cannon for an arm. Didn’t always know where it was going. Tough as nails. I was upset when the Bucs let him go.



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Stephon Gilmore takes the Patriots’ offseason changes in stride – New England Patriots Blog


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

1. Gilmore “not surprised” at Brady’s departure: When reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore was talking on the other end of the telephone late last week, he wasn’t alone. His son, Sebastian, kept calling out to him to kick the soccer ball with him.

In that sense, Gilmore, currently at home in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife, Gabrielle, and their two children, is like many of us in these uncertain times.

“You kind of have to alter your time, with the kids at home 24/7. So I try to work out earlier in the morning, or when I put them down for nap time. You have to get creative, where you can’t go to a training gym and be around a lot of people,” he said. “Luckily it’s more open here and it’s not like I’m in a big city.”

Gilmore has kept close tabs on everything unfolding with the Patriots — another offseason of more defections than additions — but true to his personality and approach, he has kept an even keel.

His reaction to quarterback Tom Brady signing with the Buccaneers?

“Not surprised,” he said. “A player like him, playing somewhere that long, you never can see it, but it shows you that in the National Football League it can be anyone going somewhere. It’s a business, and that’s how you have to look at it.”

As for the business of replacing Brady, the Patriots have 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham, 11-year veteran Brian Hoyer and four-year veteran Cody Kessler on the quarterback depth chart. Gilmore, entering his ninth NFL season, became familiar with Stidham from competing against him during practice last season.

“He came in and worked hard and got better and better as the year went on. He has a strong arm,” Gilmore said. “He makes some tough throws. Definitely made it hard on me in practice each and every week, going against whoever I was covering, making some great throws. It allowed me to get better in practice to prepare for the games.”

One of the other hot-button questions surrounding the Patriots is how the leadership void will be filled with an 18-year captain no longer part of the mix. Captain Devin McCourty made the point last week that Brady’s presence might have led some to overlook the team’s other leaders.

“You have to earn that leadership and earn that trust every year — leading by example, leading by making plays,” Gilmore said. “That’s the type of thing once you come together, and see what type of team you have, you can see who can be that guy.

“You don’t know what you have until you actually get there. Everybody, it’s a clean slate right now. Everybody has to prove themselves, each and every year. No matter where you’re at, it starts over every year.”

2. Cap crunch dictates what’s next: With 67 players at the moment, the Patriots have 23 spots to fill on their 90-man roster. But with about $26 million in dead charges on their salary cap, and about $1 million in overall available space, the moves they can make are limited at this time. That’s why any talk of free-agent quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Jameis Winston possibly landing in Foxborough — before even considering how they would fit scheme-wise — seems misplaced. The majority of the 23 open roster spots will be lower-cost rookies (the Patriots have 12 draft picks), but the bottom-line finances still dictate that more cap space is needed. Gilmore ($18.6 million cap charge), left guard Joe Thuney ($14.78 million) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower ($12.4 million) are prime candidates for extensions, while it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team explore how amenable right tackle Marcus Cannon ($9.6 million) and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu ($6.5 million) might be to pay reductions.

3. From the suggestion box on a possible tight end trade: The Patriots still have a glaring hole at TE, and with free agency not providing many attractive options, the other two avenues in play are trades and the 2020 NFL draft. So file this one in the “suggestion box” category: Give a call to Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace and see if Adam Shaheen might be available for a late-round pick. Chicago surprisingly gave veteran tight end Jimmy Graham a two-year, $16 million deal with $9 million guaranteed; signed Demetrius Harris (who played under coach Matt Nagy in Kansas City); and has the well-compensated Trey Burton on the depth chart along with (mostly) special-teamer Ben Braunecker, among others. The 6-foot-6, 257-pound Shaheen, a 2017 second-round pick from small-school Ashland (Ohio), has been a disappointment to date. He might be fighting for a roster spot. The Patriots have a history of identifying undervalued players and then bringing out the best in them with their system. Maybe Shaheen could fit that mold.

4. McCourty brothers had different votes on CBA: Twin brothers Jason and Devin McCourty might look alike and share many of the same beliefs, but one of the most interesting things I heard from the Patriots defensive backs over the past week was that they voted differently on the collective bargaining agreement. Jason voted no, Devin yes. While acknowledging that he had many of the same concerns with the CBA as his brother, Devin explained it this way on their “Double Coverage” podcast: “I didn’t like a lot of the deal. But I felt as players from a holistic standpoint, when I thought about every player, 2,400 members, I thought the best thing was to continue to play and not have a work stoppage.” Both stressed the same message: Because the vote was so close, there is a lot of work to be done among players over the next 10 years to best position the union for the next negotiation.

5. “Well done better than well said” meets Bruce Arians and Bucs: Of the many intriguing aspects of Brady’s beginning with the Buccaneers is how their culture contrasts with what he has lived the past 20 years. One culture doesn’t fit all, as different approaches can be successful, and Brady could find himself refreshed by a change. One example of the differences that stood out to me over the past week after Brady talked was about one of his favorite sayings — “well done is better than well said” — and a few days later Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians was pumping up Brady’s deep-ball capabilities by challenging those who think it’s a weak spot in Brady’s game. Arians is one of the game’s great talkers.

6. The one game Brady was the holder: Talk to almost any player who has shared a locker room with Brady and he will relay how Brady is one of the greatest teammates he has had. It’s those connections with teammates that Brady referenced as probably the greatest gift football has given him, which he highlighted in a salute to released kicker Stephen Gostkowski last week in an Instagram story. The picture sparked a question: When did Brady hold for Gostkowski? Other than the preseason, the only time was the divisional round of the 2013 playoffs against the Colts — on two point-after attempts in the fourth quarter — when Ryan Allen was injured.

7a. Players adjust with training: With no traditional offseason training options available to them because of the coronavirus pandemic, players across the NFL have had to get creative with their workouts. Former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins told Detroit media that growing up in the country, he’s used to doing that. Devin McCourty, for one, said the Peloton bicycle he purchased this year has been important for him, while former Patriots offensive lineman Ted Karras made me chuckle when he described how he’s managing. “I’m here in just a little town outside of Foxborough — my neighbor has a [weight] rack in his garage right across the street [and] I’m just running up and down the street,” he told the Miami media. Picturing the 305-pound Karras doing sprints up his street, after opening his neighbor’s garage door to lift some weights, brought a smile amid these challenging times.

7b. Patriots’ theme — together while apart: Nice touch from the Patriots, who launched a page on their official website dedicated to COVID-19. The theme is “together while apart”, promoting the idea that everyone in the organization, including its fans, can navigate through these challenging times as a team.

8. Shelton vs. Allen contracts: One day after the Patriots lost defensive tackle Danny Shelton to the Lions on a two-year, $8 million deal in free agency, the team reached an agreement with Buccaneers defensive tackle Beau Allen on a two-year contract with a maximum value of nearly $8 million. On the surface, that sparked a question as to why the Patriots would extend for Allen, but not Shelton, who played well for them last season. As always, the answer is in the details, with Allen having to perform to earn the full value. So that protects the Patriots more financially, as they obviously are projecting Allen can perform at a close enough level to Shelton.

Shelton’s contract:

Allen’s contract:

  • Signing bonus: $1.7 million

  • 2020 base: $1.3 million

  • 2021 base: $2.2 million

  • 2020 roster bonus: $900,000 ($56,250 per game)

  • 2021 roster bonus: $900,000 ($56,250 per game if 16 games)

  • 2020 incentives: $250,000 (playing time)

  • 2021 incentives: $250,000 (playing time)

9. Did You Know: Recently signed Patriots outside linebacker Brandon Copeland, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, has been a co-professor of a class at his alma mater: URBS 140 — Inequity and Empowerment: Urban Financial Literacy. Students refer to him as “Professor Cope.”

10. Final word: “Of course, it was a great award, but you have to put it behind you. You have to prove yourself every year. No one cares what you did last year. I try to take that mindset each and every year, and show everyone that I can be the player I want to be.” — Gilmore, on wiping the slate clean after being named 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.





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How 2019 NFL first-round draft picks fared, what’s in store in 2020


The 2020 NFL draft is less than a month away. With that in mind, we wanted to look back to last season’s draft and assess how each first-rounder played.

In addition, we will look ahead at expectations for 2020. Will Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones take the next step for the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants, respectively? How about Josh Jacobs? Will the running back continue to thrill Raiders fans in Las Vegas and fantasy football managers alike?

NFL Nation reporters assess how every first-round pick did in their first season and then project what 2020 will bring on this scale:

  • He’s a star

  • On his way

  • He’s a starter

  • Has lot to prove


Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Analysis: Murray lived up to the hype and expectations by winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. His numbers weren’t jaw-dropping (3,722 yards passing, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), but he steadily improved. What stood out most was Murray’s ability to learn and adapt. Instead of taking unnecessary sacks, he started to throw the ball away. When he was losing unnecessary yards, he just sat down. He showed a maturity beyond his years. Next season, Murray is expected to take the proverbial Year 2 leap. He’ll have an even better command of the offense and how to handle the rigors of an NFL season. That could prove dangerous for the competition.

Rating: He’s a star. — Josh Weinfuss


Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Analysis: Bosa was the difference-maker the Niners hoped he would be, transforming their defense by showing off the strength and technique that made him one of the most polished pass-rushing prospects to enter the draft in a long time. Bosa was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording nine sacks and 60 quarterback pressures, second most among all NFL players. The key for Bosa has been and remains staying healthy, something he did in 2019. If he can do the same in 2020, he should only continue to improve, though he will have a bigger challenge without DeForest Buckner lining up next to him.

Rating: He’s a star. — Nick Wagoner


Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Analysis: It was a nondescript rookie year for Williams, who failed to live up to his collegiate reputation as a disruptive interior force. He finished with 2.5 sacks, six quarterback hits and four tackles for loss. He played only 47% of the defensive snaps, but that actually ranked second among the team’s defensive linemen. It was a learning year for Williams, who has tremendous upside. Not many 300-pounders possess his quickness and athleticism, but he needs to get stronger and do a better job of reading blocking schemes. The physical talent is there; now it’s on him to put it all together.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Rich Cimini


Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Analysis: Did the Raiders reach for Ferrell at No. 4 overall? Perhaps — when you consider his relative lack of production, including 4.5 sacks, as compared to fourth-rounder Maxx Crosby‘s 10 sacks. But he would not have been available at No. 24, when the Raiders next picked, and Ferrell did so much more for the Raiders’ D-line with his versatility than any stat sheet would show. In fact, he played much of the first half of the season out of position in the interior. With the free-agent acquisition of pass-rushing tackle Maliek Collins and further development by Maurice Hurst inside, Ferrell can focus solely on the edge going forward as a foundation piece.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Paul Gutierrez


Devin White, ILB, LSU

Analysis: Had it not been for a severe bout of tonsillitis that forced him to stay in the hospital overnight in Week 1 and a sprained MCL in Week 2, White could have been the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. In Weeks 9 to 17, he recorded 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, an interception and two defensive touchdowns. He forced six turnovers over the final five games of the season. The Bucs are absolutely in love with White’s work ethic and leadership, believing he can help change their losing culture. Few people possess the ability or will to run at 21.8 mph after Chris Carson for 50-plus yards to make a touchdown-saving tackle. White has it all, and he could have a Luke Kuechly-like impact on this franchise for many years to come.

Rating: He’s a star. — Jenna Laine

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Analysis: Here’s what we know with certainty about Jones: He is at least an average starter. That is something considering that draft busts at quarterback, even in the first round, aren’t uncommon. Jones flashed enough to provide hope he can become much more than an average starter. He threw 24 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions in 12 starts. It’s simply a matter of whether Jones can cut down on the turnovers (23). Some of that can be attributed to rookie mistakes, but there are NFL talent evaluators who believe it’s an innate trait and his weakness. He should only get better in Year 2.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jordan Raanan


Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky

Analysis: Allen led the Jaguars with 10.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. He slipped to No. 7, and the Jaguars subsequently altered their plan to take tight end T.J. Hockenson. Allen might be the Jaguars’ most important defensive player in 2020 — because the team traded defensive end Calais Campbell, and there’s no guarantee defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will sign his franchise tender or even be on the team. Allen is going to have to carry the pass rush.

Rating: He’s a star. — Michael DiRocco


T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Analysis: Hockenson was having a decent 2019 season (32 catches, 367 yards, two touchdowns) before going on injured reserve Dec. 2. They aren’t big numbers, but the flashes of potential were there. There’s reason to believe as long as he has recovered from his right ankle injury that he’ll grow in Year 2. His receiving skills were obvious, and his blocking was coming along before he was hurt. As the team’s likely No. 1 tight end, he’ll need to be a big part of the offense in 2020 for it to be successful.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Michael Rothstein


Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Analysis: Oliver took a midseason demotion in stride and turned in the fifth-best pass rush win rate among all eligible defensive tackles last season. He should be the focal point of the Bills’ defensive line next season, when teams will not only have to contain him but also new teammate Quinton Jefferson — who owned the NFL’s fourth-best pass rush win rate in 2019.

Rating: He’s a star. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

Analysis: The Steelers traded up to draft Bush last year, and despite some expected growing pains, he turned in a solid season with two interceptions and four fumble recoveries — including a scoop-and-score against the Chargers. He played 82% of the defensive snaps last year, and he has the added benefit of learning from Ryan Shazier. Coming off a season in which he earned the team’s newcomer award, Bush’s performance gave the Steelers enough confidence to release veteran inside linebacker Mark Barron. The position is a thin one for the Steelers, but Bush is the star of the group.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Brooke Pryor


Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Analysis: Williams didn’t see the field in 2019 after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He was eventually cleared to return to practice toward the end of the season. Given the Bengals’ record, there was no sense in pushing him back early. In his first full season in 2020, Williams will be asked to be the team’s starting left tackle. Offensive line coach Jim Turner has high hopes for the former Alabama standout. Williams is expected to be a cornerstone of that offensive line for years to come.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Ben Baby


Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Analysis: The Packers didn’t need much from Gary because of how well the Smiths — Za’Darius and Preston — performed last season. It allowed them to bring Gary along slowly, and he played 22% of the snaps despite being healthy. Speaking of health, his recurring shoulder injury from college wasn’t an issue, so that’s a plus. But the biggest question about him coming out of Michigan — why he wasn’t more productive despite off-the-charts athletic skills — remains a question in the NFL. He played more with his hand on the ground in college, but the Packers tried to convert him to a stand-up edge rusher. They’ve said they remain committed to that, although it’s worth wondering if we might see him play more inside in Year 2.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Rob Demovsky


Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Analysis: Wilkins didn’t make many eye-popping plays or impress with a big sack number, but the Dolphins are happy with how he is progressing as a pro. Wilkins led all interior defensive linemen in tackles as a first-year starter in 2019, and he has a defensive tackle spot locked down for the foreseeable future in coach Brian Flores’ multiple defense. Wilkins needs to take a step forward in the pass rush and in his run-stopping ability. That means forcing more double-teams, making more explosive plays and becoming a greater focal point for offenses to stress about going into games.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Cameron Wolfe


Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

Analysis: Lindstrom’s growth was stunted last season when he suffered a broken foot in the season opener, causing him to miss 11 games. When he returned for the final four contests, he showed signs of being the star right guard the Falcons expect. Former Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper told ESPN he expects Lindstrom to be the best offensive lineman in the league one day. The Falcons need Lindstrom to be a consistent force on the offensive line in a critical must-win year for coach Dan Quinn.

Rating: On his way. — Vaughn McClure

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Analysis: He will almost assuredly start this season, unless losing the offseason puts him too far behind Kyle Allen‘s knowledge of the offense. But the plan for now is to start Haskins. The Redskins were excited by how Haskins finished last season, saying some of it stemmed from receiving more intense attention from the coaching staff. He posted a combined 73.0 total QBR in his final two starts and didn’t look as lost as he had earlier in the campaign. But the Redskins have not promised him anything. While they often praise his talent, they want to learn more about his leadership and work ethic.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — John Keim


Brian Burns, DE, Florida State

Analysis: His rookie season was hampered by a right wrist injury suffered — this is true — when he banged his fist on the turf after narrowly failing to block a punt during a game early in the season. He was hindered by having to wear a protective device, but Burns still had 7.5 sacks. He was signed by the former staff to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but as the season went along, he also played end in a 4-3 — as he did at Florida State. With veterans Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin gone in free agency, Burns will get a chance to become a full-time starter and a legitimate pass-rushing star.

Rating: On his way. — David Newton


Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Analysis: Lawrence had a strong rookie season in the middle of the Giants’ defense. He had 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the 19th-best interior defensive linemen, tops of all rookies. Lawrence should only get better this season. Playing alongside Leonard Williams on a strong defensive line should only help. Lawrence’s ceiling will be determined by his ability to get after the quarterback. It was pedestrian as a rookie. His 5.3% quarterback pressure rate tied him for 43rd among all interior linemen, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Rating: On his way. — Jordan Raanan


Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State

Analysis: Bradbury had the type of season you’d expect from a rookie facing the likes of Grady Jarrett, Akiem Hicks and Kenny Clark. Pass blocking was a struggle at times (26 total pressures allowed, including four sacks) for the young center, who was drafted with the intention of filling an immediate need. Minnesota knew there would be ups and downs for Bradbury, who was long considered slightly undersized for the position — even in a zone-blocking scheme — throughout the draft process. But that’s why the outlook for him in 2020 and beyond is promising. Another year to develop in an NFL weight-training program and the experience gained calling 18 games as a rookie will help him as his career progresses. Bradbury is still a work in progress, but he is headed in the right direction.

Rating: On his way. — Courtney Cronin


Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Analysis: Simply having Simmons playing as a rookie was a win for the Titans after he tore his ACL during training before the draft. Simmons had an impact from the moment he took the field with his first career sack in Week 7 against the Chargers. He finished with two sacks and 32 tackles, including four tackles for loss, but Simmons’ impact went beyond the stat sheet. Simmons’ ability to collapse the pocket from the interior and impact the quarterback helped create turnovers. The departure of defensive lineman Jurrell Casey will lead to a bigger role for Simmons this season.

Ranking: On his way. — Turron Davenport

20. Denver Broncos (from Pittsburgh Steelers)

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Analysis: After a rather rocky start, including a three-drop game against the Chiefs in early October, Fant flashed plenty of potential with two of the Broncos’ five 100-yard receiving games in 2019. His speed makes him a difficult matchup, especially in catch-and-run situations. His development into a potential Pro Bowl-level player will hinge on his ability to expand his route tree. At the moment, he doesn’t show top explosiveness and flexibility in his hips when he comes in and out of breaks, so his impact in the middle of the field, against zone defenses, is muted at times. If he can expand his ability to get in and out his breaks a little better, with a little more pop, he will become a more involved player in the team’s passing attack. Fant works hard, and his ability to bounce back from his early difficulties shows resiliency.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jeff Legwold


Darnell Savage, S, Maryland

Analysis: A strong start was slowed by an ankle injury that kept Savage out of two games, but there’s no reason to think he can’t ascend to the star category. He picked off two passes and forced a pair of fumbles on the way to making the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. If the Packers were to re-draft the first round from last year, it’s a good bet general manager Brian Gutekunst would once again trade up from No. 30 to take him.

Rating: On his way. — Rob Demovsky


Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

Analysis: Dillard was up and down during his four starts in 2019, showing off good feet and technique in pass protection — but also the need to get stronger and, some believe, nastier. There were people in the building in favor of keeping Jason Peters for another year to protect quarterback Carson Wentz‘s blind side while Dillard develops, but the call was made to allow Peters to test free agency and hand the keys to Dillard. There’s a leap of faith involved that might not have been made if Dillard wasn’t a first-round pick. But he has the ability to become a high-end player if he can put it all together, and he should be a capable starter in the meanwhile, given his natural gifts.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Tim McManus


Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State

Analysis: After spending training camp and Week 2 at guard, Howard started at right tackle in Week 3. He impressed in seven starts at right tackle before partially tearing his MCL and ending the season on injured reserve. Howard is spending this offseason rehabbing. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said at the combine he thought Howard would “be able to do some things in the offseason program.” Regardless of whether there is a spring program this year, Howard should be ready to go for training camp, and he is expected to be Houston’s starting right tackle across from Laremy Tunsil in 2020.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Sarah Barshop


Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Analysis: Many see the elusive yet powerful running back as having been robbed of the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. All he did was carry the Raiders’ offense (on a broken shoulder, nonetheless) to 1,150 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games. Alas, he did miss three of the Raiders’ last four games with that shoulder injury, which occurred on the first play of a Week 7 game at Green Bay. Jacobs averaged 4.8 yards per carry and showed a Marcus Allen-like leap at the goal line, and he will be more of a threat in the Raiders’ passing game in 2020.

Rating: He’s a star. — Paul Gutierrez

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Analysis: “Hollywood” Brown flashed star potential despite being less than a year removed from foot surgery. He made a splash in his NFL debut, becoming the first player in league history with multiple 40-yard touchdowns in his first game. Brown finished with 584 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches. He was the fastest target for quarterback Lamar Jackson last season, reaching 20 mph on three catches. The Ravens expect an even more explosive second season from Brown, who had a screw removed from his foot and should be fully recovered by the start of the season. “This year, he’s going to be dangerous,” Jackson said.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jamison Hensley


Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Analysis: Sweat displayed his speed and length, but he has a bit to learn about rushing the passer. However, he performed well versus the run and improved as the season unfolded. Under first-year Redskins coach Ron Rivera, Sweat will move to a 4-3 defensive end in Washington’s base package, which will keep him from dropping like he had to at times in a 3-4. And he could be a bookend with Chase Young if the Redskins select him at No. 2. Don’t be surprised if Sweat ends up having a strong season.

Rating: He’s a starter. — John Keim


Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Analysis: Abram played in only one game, having suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener against the Rams. Known as an intimidating hitter as a safety, the biggest blow he delivered came inadvertently against one of his own teammates, cornerback Gareon Conley, who had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. The Raiders are depending heavily on Abram to be a foundation piece. “I don’t like Abram; I love Abram,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “I think Raiders fans are going to love him, but he’s got to be on the grass. The most important ability is availability.”

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Paul Gutierrez


Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

Analysis: Tillery struggled in his rookie season, playing 15 games — but starting only three — while being on the field for just over one-third of the snaps. Tillery hit a low point in Week 14 when he was a healthy scratch. He finished the season with two sacks. Tillery must prove in 2020 that he has the playmaking ability that prompted the Chargers to select him in the first round. If he is able to do that on a consistent basis, he should see increased playing time.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Lindsey Thiry


L.J. Collier, DE, TCU

Analysis: Collier needed all the offseason reps he could get after only one year as a full-time starter in college, so it was a significant setback when he sprained his ankle early in training camp. He missed the season opener, then produced next to nothing when he returned: three tackles in 142 snaps over 11 games. He was a healthy scratch six times, including both playoff games. The Seahawks need Collier to take the kind of second-year jump they just saw from Rasheem Green, who had four sacks after a nondescript rookie campaign. Quinton Jefferson’s departure should open the door for Collier to see more playing time as an early-down end who can move inside in passing situations.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Brady Henderson


DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia

Analysis: Baker’s rookie season was rocky, to say the least. At one point, he got called out in a team meeting, and his seven touchdowns allowed as the nearest defender was tied for fourth in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats. There are questions about Baker’s desire to be great. Sleeping in meetings was not uncommon. But considering he improved on the field as the season progressed, he should be better with experience. How much? It helps that new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham had his cornerbacks in press coverage for more than 50% of the snaps last season. That plays to Baker’s strengths. He was in press coverage 26.7% of the time his rookie year.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Jordan Raanan


Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington

Analysis: McGary’s career got off to a bit of a rough start, as a minor heart issue — something he had dealt with in the past — resurfaced. After a procedure, McGary went on to have a rather solid rookie season at right tackle. He has a nasty edge to him that really shows up when he is blocking downfield in the running game. McGary has to polish his hands and footwork in order to deal with speed rushers. The Falcons need him and draft-class partner Chris Lindstrom to hold up strong on the right side of the line to protect Matt Ryan and open holes in the running game.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Vaughn McClure


N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Analysis: Because Harry missed the first half of the season on injured reserve, and then was put in the challenging spot of having to integrate into the Tom Brady-led complex offense, his impact was limited. But Brady himself has said that he thinks Harry has a bright future ahead of him. So if Harry is healthy, he has a chance to become a starting-caliber target in the Patriots’ offense, as he has a rapport with projected starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham from their time as roommates as rookies.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Mike Reiss



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Ex-Broncos DE Derek Wolfe, Ravens agree to 1-year deal


‪Former Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe has reached an agreement on a one-year deal worth up to $6 million with the Baltimore Ravens.

The deal includes $3 million guaranteed, with $3 million in incentives.

The addition of Wolfe comes one day after the Ravens were unable to finalize a deal with Michael Brockers. There was an issue with Brockers’ injured ankle, and the sides couldn’t agree on a revised deal, a source said.

Baltimore has made it a priority to reshape its defensive front. The Ravens acquired defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars, traded defensive end Chris Wormley to the Pittsburgh Steelers and watched defensive tackle Michael Pierce sign with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.

Wolfe should help improve the pass rush for the Ravens. Baltimore’s defensive linemen totaled four sacks in 2019, the fewest by any team.

Wolfe finished his eighth season with the Broncos in 2019 and was one of the longest-tenured players on the team’s defense; only cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Von Miller had played on the defense longer. Harris recently agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, leaving Miller as the only defensive starter from Super Bowl 50 still with the Broncos.

Coach Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme turned out to be perfect for Wolfe, as he had one of his best all-around years in 2019, with 34 tackles and a career-best seven sacks. Wolfe has 33 sacks in his career.

Wolfe’s high-motor play has been a key part of the defensive front, and Miller credits Wolfe for many of his sacks “because of what Wolfe does next to me. He’s a beast.”

That intensity has come at a physical price at times, as Wolfe has battled through some injuries throughout his career, including neck surgery. He has played 16 games three times and went to injured reserve this past season after 12 games with a dislocated left elbow.

Wolfe, who turned 30 in February, was a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2012 — the team had traded out of the first round that year — and he immediately started 16 games as a rookie for a team that won the AFC West. He started every game he played in for the Broncos, 108 in all.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.



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Bobby Hebert Sr., father of former Saint and Falcon Bobby Hebert Jr., dies from COVID-19


Bobby Hebert Sr. — the father of former New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Bobby Hebert — died Saturday at the age of 81 after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Hebert Jr., a Southern Louisiana native, works as an analyst for WWL Radio in New Orleans. He and his wife, Jojo, said in a statement that “our hearts are broken” and that Hebert Sr. was “the reason I made it” to the NFL.

Hebert Jr.’s son T-Bob, who played center at LSU, described his grandfather on Twitter as “the wisest, kindest, and most tactful person I have ever known.”

Hebert Jr. broke down crying in a recent appearance on WWL while describing his father’s battle with the virus. He described his father as a “fighter” who survived colon cancer, multiple strokes and a birth defect that required open heart surgery.

But, Hebert Jr. said, “You can be tough and the virus can still overwhelm you,” before insisting that people heed the advice of health officials because “it’s an unseen enemy.”

Hebert Jr. also wrote in his statement about the “magic twinkle” in his father’s eye and his lifelong passion for the LSU Tigers.

“I’m kinda numb and shocked,” Hebert Jr. said in the WWL interview. “You get numb and then sometimes you don’t want to accept reality and what you’re dealing with.”





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Chiefs re-signing WR DeMarcus Robinson for one year, source says


The Kansas City Chiefs are re-signing wide receiver DeMarcus Robinson to a one-year contract, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Robinson’s production increased each season after cracking the Chiefs’ receiving rotation, going from 21 catches and 212 yards in 2017 to 32 and 449 in 2019. He started 23 games over three seasons, mostly when the Chiefs opened in three- or four-receiver formations.

Robinson, who turns 26 in September, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2016 and played mostly on special teams as a rookie.

His big game with the Chiefs came in Week 2 of last season. With Tyreek Hill out with an injury, Robinson made the most of the opportunity with six catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Raiders.

NFL Network first reported that Robinson was returning to the Chiefs.



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2020 NFL free agency – Five value signings that could be steals


There are deals to be found in NFL free agency‘s bargain bin. It’s just a matter of finding them.

That’s what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did with Shaquil Barrett last year. They paid a discount price — one year, $4 million — for a part-time player who flourished in a new system and larger role, leading the NFL in sacks in 2019 with 19.5.

Who is this season’s Barrett? That’s where the data comes in. We’re using the quantitative tools at our disposal — many of them powered by NFL Next Gen Stats data — to try to figure out which of the many small- and medium-money contracts doled out by teams this offseason will look like a steal a year from now. Value today leads to wins in the fall.

Here are five players the numbers love at their relative cost.

The deal: One year, $9.5 million

Why the numbers say this is a value deal: There’s a pretty decent chance that the Falcons’ secondary was the real culprit behind Beasley’s low sack totals over the past couple of seasons. He had eight last season, and five in each of the previous two, after recording 15.5 in 2016.

But Beasley’s pass rush win rate (PRWR) — an ESPN Stats & Information metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats player tracking — ranked 15th among qualified edge rushers last season, just one spot below Yannick Ngakoue with a very similar double-team rate. A year ago, Beasley ranked fifth in the same category (while Ngakoue was 27th).

To me, this says a one-year, high-upside $9.5 million risk on Beasley is absolutely worth it. While the situations aren’t exactly the same — Beasley is a former first-round pick with a 15.5-sack season under his belt and is being paid more — if anyone is most likely to pull off a Barrett-style breakout on a one-year deal this season, it’s Beasley.


The deal: One year, $6 million

Why the numbers say this is a value deal: Though Chris Jones was far and away the defensive tackle prize of the offseason, from a pass-rushing perspective our metrics indicate that Collins was the next-best bet. The former Cowboy ranked fourth in pass rush win rate among defensive tackles last season. But what makes that particularly impressive is that he did so on a Dallas defense that didn’t blitz a ton, so he was double-teamed at an above-average rate compared to his defensive tackle peers.

This plot hammers home the point: Collins was at roughly the same PRWR level as Arik Armstead and Quinton Jefferson but was doubled more than either of them.

Though he had only four sacks last season, he did have seven sacks created — a stat in which we attribute credit for a sack to the player who earned the first pass-rush win on the play rather than the one who finished the sack. Only 12 other players had three-plus more sacks created than sacks last season.

Of course, pass rushing is only a part of the equation for a defensive tackle, but at one year and $6 million, Collins is an easily identifiable bargain even looking at just pass-rush ability. And the cherry on top is that Collins is reuniting with Rod Marinelli in Las Vegas after playing so well under the former Cowboys defensive coordinator last season.


The deal: One year, $5 million

Why the numbers say this is a value deal: Based on NFL Next Gen Stats’ completion probability, Poole allowed minus-98 air yards over expectation (CAYOE) last season, which trailed only Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson for best among cornerbacks — and it was the best overall among slot corners.

Watching his targets defended, there were times when he got lucky and earned credit on plays that he deserved to lose on. Specifically, there were at least three occasions against New England when he was beaten by Julian Edelman but the veteran wide receiver either dropped the ball or Tom Brady‘s pass was off target.

Even with that, Poole’s strong CAYOE number seems like a good sign. But that’s also all it is — a good sign and nothing definitive. We’re still in the nascent stage of being able to quantify defensive backs with player-tracking data. CAYOE is quantifying only part of a corner’s performance. For example, not attracting a target can also be a positive sign for a corner. And early indicators are that metrics like these for corners are, at best, weakly correlated with future performance in the same statistic (and we’re not the first to determine this). On the other hand, we’re also working with a limited sample of data, going back to just 2017.

Still, there are other circumstantial pieces of evidence that suggest Poole’s 2019 season could have been a real breakout. His Pro Football Focus grade, a qualitative measurement, concurred that he had a strong 2019. And his CAYOE has improved every year from 2017 to 2019. He was in the fourth season of his career, and it was his first on a new team.

We might not know exactly how predictive past cornerback performance is for the future, but taking a very cheap bet on a player who played well in the same defense last season seems like a wise move.


The deal: Three years, $30 million

Why the numbers say this is a value deal: This is more money and a higher-profile deal than the rest on this list. But locking up a high-end tackle for three years and $30 million is a bargain (and Los Angeles can get out of the deal at two years and $19 million, too).

Bulaga ranked 11th in pass block win rate (PBWR) last season but was fourth in 2018. In both of those seasons, he received a below-average amount of double-team help. The downside is age (31) and an injury history, but the upside is he’s an absolute proven commodity at right tackle.

Bulaga’s average of $10 million per season is tied for just 21st among tackles (despite an ever-rising salary cap), per OverTheCap.com. So all things considered, this is a nice deal for the Chargers.


The deal: Three years, $18.6 million

Why the numbers say this is a value deal: The Jets strike again with another bargain re-signing. Perhaps PBWR’s most contrarian take was that the Jets’ offensive line was not particularly bad last season. No one is denying that Sam Darnold was under fire, as his 35% pressure rate was third-highest among qualifying quarterbacks.

But Darnold also held the ball for a long time (2.91 seconds, the fifth-highest rate in the league). And that’s how we end up with a disparity between Darnold’s under-pressure rate and the Jets’ No. 16-ranked pass block win rate, which is based on blocking performance in only the first 2.5 seconds. In other words: Darnold or the Jets’ offensive scheme is mostly to blame for the high pressure rate.

So back to Lewis, who was part of the more-solid left side of the Jets’ line. He ranked 12th in PBWR among guards and second among guards in the last year of their contract, behind only New England’s Joe Thuney (who was assigned the franchise tag by the Patriots). It was an improvement from the season prior, but he was still pretty solid in 2018, too. With Baltimore that season, he was a roughly average pass-blocker.

All the Jets are paying is $6 million to find out if Lewis really broke out in 2019. If it wasn’t a true breakout, that’s all they’ll have paid him on this contract. But if it was, they effectively have two club options for roughly $6 million more per year to reap the rewards.

Paul Sabin contributed to this story.





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Deshaun Watson’s cryptic updates and more NFL social media rumors


Does the trade of DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals have Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson evaluating his options? A few cryptic updates in the aftermath of the trade of his All-Pro receiver have to make Houston fans wonder.

Watson isn’t the only NFL player making waves on Twitter. Recently released quarterback Cam Newton is practicing with (at the moment) Los Angeles Chargers starting QB Tyrod Taylor. Could this be the future of the Chargers’ quarterback room?

Also, could Philadelphia become a “Shady” city again? It seems like LeSean McCoy wouldn’t mind.





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