Category Archives: NFL

Denver Broncos placing franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons

The Denver Broncos are placing the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons for the second successive season, it was announced Friday.

Simmons, who was poised to become an unrestricted free agent, becomes the first player to be tagged this offseason. The Broncos now have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal.

“Designating Justin with the franchise tag is a procedural move that allows us to continue working on a long-term deal,” general manager George Paton said in a statement Friday. We are completely focused on making sure Justin remains a big part of the Denver Broncos for many years to come.”

NFL teams have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET to place the franchise tag on their most valuable player.

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Simmons, the Broncos’ third-round pick in the 2016 draft, played on the franchise player tag in 2020, worth $11.4 million.

He concluded with 96 tackles and five interceptions. It was his third consecutive 90-tackle season. He has consistently been an active player in run defense along the line of scrimmage with the versatility to match up on a variety of players in coverage.

The 27-year-old has the combination of on-field performance and off-field community engagement, given that he has played every defensive snap for each of the past three campaigns and was the Broncos’ nominee this past season for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

When Paton was hired in January, Broncos president of football operations John Elway said trying to re-sign Simmons was “one of the biggest things” Paton had on his to-do list.

Simmons has consistently been one of the most active players in the community and one of the team’s leading voices in social justice initiatives.

He has acquired the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, given out by the Denver chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America each season to a Broncos player to recognize professionalism and depth in interactions with the media. Simmons is the only three-time winner of the award since it started in 2006.

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Ben Roethlisberger signs with Pittsburgh Steelers for 2021 NFL season

Ben Roethlisberger is officially back with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2021 NFL season, the team revealed Thursday.

The Steelers did not disclose the terms, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Roethlisberger willingly reduced his pay to $14 million from $19 million in this final year of his contract and spread the cash payment through 2022. The move lowers the team’s salary-cap hit by more than $15 million.

“It is my greatest honor to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and give my all for this organization,” Roethlisberger said in a statement issued by the team. “I am grateful to be at this stage of my career and more than happy to adjust my contract in a way that best helps the team address other players who are so vital to our success. I love this game and love to compete, and I believe in this team and my ability to deliver when called upon. It all starts with great preparation and I am ready to go.”

Roethlisberger was previously under contract for the 2021 season, although the team made it clear he could not return with the $41.2 million cap hit.

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“We are excited we were able to come to an agreement with Ben Roethlisberger on a new contract for him to return to the Steelers in 2021,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “We know that Ben can still play at a high level and do special things for this team. Our goal remains the same — to put together a roster that will compete for another championship. We are happy that Ben will be one of our leaders to help us accomplish that goal.”

Roethlisberger, who turned 39 earlier this week, threw 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season, his first after major elbow surgery following a season-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2019 season.

He attempted 608 passes in the 2020 season — tied for the second-highest total of his career — and maintained throughout the season that his elbow felt fine and wasn’t affecting his on-field performance, though dismal halves versus the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and even the Cleveland Browns suggested otherwise at times.

Still, Roethlisberger showed an ability to stretch the field late in the season, upping his average air yards per attempt from 6 yards to 8 yards for the final three games.

After the season, Roethlisberger stated he hoped the Steelers would want him back if he opted to return rather than retiring.

Team president Art Rooney II and Colbert made it clear in offseason interviews and statements that Roethlisberger could not come back on his current contract but that they wanted the quarterback to return for one more season — as long as they could free up money to field a competitive team around the quarterback.

With Roethlisberger’s deal, the Steelers are close to cap-compliant for the beginning of the new league year on March 17. Although Roethlisberger’s restructured contract reduces his cap hit, the team still faces a difficult task in re-signing any of its 19 unrestricted free agents, including receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and linebacker Bud Dupree.

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Minnesota Vikings release TE Kyle Rudolph after 10 seasons

The Minnesota Vikings have released veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph after 10 seasons, the team revealed on Tuesday.

The move saves Minnesota $5.1 million against the salary cap for 2021. Rudolph, 31, will become a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.

The former second-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2011 issued a heartfelt goodbye in a story published by The Players’ Tribune reflecting on his 10 seasons in Minnesota.

“I got so lucky, because — I didn’t just get drafted by some team who ‘had a need at tight end,’ Rudolph wrote. “I didn’t just get drafted as, like, the nameless, faceless ‘#1 tight end on the board.’ I got drafted by a team that was all set in terms of need … but then drafted me anyway.

“I’ll always remember that: how the Minnesota Vikings wanted me — and wanted to bet on my potential.” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman weighed in on Rudolph’s release in a statement, calling him “one of the premier tight ends in the NFL and most influential and positive leaders I’ve ever been around.”

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“Kyle and [his wife] Jordan have made such an immeasurable impact on our team and community that may never be matched,” Spielman said. “The energy they have invested in the community, most notably through the End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, is truly remarkable. I admire Kyle and we will miss him and his family. We sincerely wish them the best.”

Rudolph had three years left on the contract he signed in June 2019 after the Vikings approached him to restructure his deal via an extension.

He was in danger of being a cap casualty this offseason with a $9.45 million cap hit and a role that has decreased significantly in the Vikings’ offense over the past two seasons.

Rudolph spoke earlier this offseason about his desire for a bigger role in Minnesota’s offense or elsewhere and said he would not be open to a restructure if the team approached him about taking a pay cut.

“I think I’m worth every dime of my contract,” Rudolph said on the podcast “Unrestricted with Ben Leber” in January.

“That doesn’t mean that I’m used to my potential and I’m used to do what I do well, so it will be interesting over the next few months. Like I said, I have three years left on my contract. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I’ve somehow become a pretty decent blocker because I’ve been forced to. It certainly wasn’t something that I ever did well at any point of my career. Maybe in high school because I was bigger than everyone else, but even then, I just wanted to run around and catch balls.”

Rudolph caught 28 passes on 35 targets in 2020, his lowest output since the 2014 season. He churned up 334 receiving yards and one touchdown, the latter of which was a career low for the former second-rounder.

At 31, Rudolph said he feels he has “a lot of good football left” and will have an opportunity to play for his second NFL team. Rudolph’s impact off the field was well documented throughout his time in Minnesota. The tight end’s work with the Masonic Children’s Hospital led to him being the Vikings’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee three consecutive times from 2017-19.

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J.J. Watt agrees to two-year contract with Arizona Cardinals

Free-agent pass-rusher J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, the team revealed Monday.

Terms were not disclosed, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the deal is worth $31 million and includes $23 million guaranteed.

“I’m excited to get started,” Watt said on the tarmac after the plane landed. “Very excited to get started, get to work, get to know the people of Arizona.”

Watt, 31, was released by the Houston Texans, who granted his request on Feb. 12, ending his 10-year run with the franchise.

Four days later, Watt’s former Texans teammate and current Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins posted a photo of himself and Watt photoshopped in a Cardinals uniform on Instagram with the caption: “Let’s finish what we started…” Hopkins reacted to Monday’s news by tweeting: “Life is good in Arizona!”

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Watt will reunite with Vance Joseph, the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, who was the Texans’ defensive backs coach during Watt’s first three campaigns in Houston.

In Arizona, Watt will be paired with fellow pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who leads the NFL in sacks since he was drafted in the first round in 2012 with 97. Second during that span is Watt with 95.5.

Watt’s addition meant minimal variations to the Cardinals’ odds for the 2021 season from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Their odds to win the Super Bowl stays 40-1 and to win the NFC remain 20-1. Arizona’s odds to win the NFC West moved from 7-1 to 6-1, still the longest odds of the four teams in the division.

“The one thing I can promise you is I’m going to work my ass off every single day to make you proud,” Watt said. “Very proud to be a part of the ‘Bird Gang’ and the ‘Red Sea.'”

In 2020, Watt ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass rush win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He concluded the season with five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception he returned for a touchdown. He has been plagued with injuries recently, having played 16 games in a season only twice since 2015.

After the Texans drafted Watt with the No. 11 pick in 2011, he became the face of the franchise, winning three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2012 to ’15. Watt is one of three players to collect that award three times. A five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first-team All-Pro, Watt was by far the most productive pass-rusher in Texans history with 101 career sacks.

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New York Giants’ Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 after opting out last season

New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder intends to play in 2021 as long as the situation is right, he told ESPN in a phone conversation this week.

Solder, who opted out this past season because of concerns for his family with COVID-19, has yet to have that discussion with the team regarding his future. He was considered a high-risk opt-out and his contract tolled.

He is planned to make $10 million in 2021 while costing $16.5 million against the salary cap this season. The Giants haven’t been in a rush to make any moves with the new league year still almost three weeks away. Like everybody else, they’re waiting to see the official salary-cap number for the 2021 season. Then they’re expected to meet with the veteran tackle.

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Solder, 32, was the Giants’ starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19 after signing a lucrative free-agent contract.

He had spent the previous seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won a pair of Super Bowls.

The decision to opt out last season centered around Solder’s family. His oldest son Hudson has battled cancer. So has Nate. Solder and his wife Lexi also had a newborn.

Solder had stated late last year on the Sports Spectrum podcast with former NFL quarterback Brock Huard that if he had another opportunity to play, he would probably take it. He also noted that he was still working out, but hadn’t prioritized his conditioning and weight lifting like he would during a regular football season.

The Giants now have a decision to make if they are going to move forward with Solder. They would save $6 million this season against the salary cap if he’s released, and $10 million if they made it a post-June 1 cut.

New York drafted a pair of tackles in last year’s draft, including Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia. Thomas started at left tackle and, despite early struggles, got better as the season progressed.

Third-round pick Matt Peart is expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot this year. Cameron Fleming, who started last season, is a free agent.

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Deshaun Watson met with Houston Texans coach David Culley, still wants to be traded

Quarterback Deshaun Watson met with new Houston Texans coach David Culley last Friday, according to sources, and informed Culley that he has no plan of suiting up for the team again.

Upset over the way the organization has operated in recent years, Watson has asked the Texans to trade him and has had very little contact with the team since the season ended.

The conversation with Culley is believed to have been the first between the two. Culley said in his introductory news conference that he expected Watson to be on the team in 2021.

But according to the sources, Watson’s message to Culley in Friday’s meeting was that nothing has changed on his end and he still would like to be traded. So far, the Texans have told interested teams that they don’t intend to trade Watson, who just last summer signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension that runs through 2025.

Trading Watson would cost the Texans $21.6 million in dead money against this year’s salary cap — a significant hit since his cap number if he’s on the team is just $15.94 million.

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Any team acquiring the young superstar would get a tremendous bargain in 2021, as Watson is arranged to earn just $10.54 million in salary this year before that number jumps to $35 million in 2022, $37 million in 2023 and $32 million each in 2024 and 2025.

If the Texans choose not to trade Watson, he could opt not to report to mandatory team activities or training camp, but at a cost.

Houston can fine Watson $95,877 for missing minicamp and can fine him $50,000 per day for each day of training camp missed, plus one week’s salary — $620,000 — for each preseason game missed. In the unlikely scenario that Watson chooses to retire, the Texans can collect $21.6 million.

Watson’s trade request came after he was reportedly unhappy with the process used by the team to hire new general manager Nick Caserio in early January.

Watson set career highs in the 2020 season in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. He also threw a career-low seven interceptions. His 33 touchdowns and 4,823 passing yards were single-season franchise records.

He is the NFL’s career leader in completion percentage at 67.8%, ahead of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. In 2020, Watson became just the 11th player in NFL history to complete at least 70% of his passes in a season.

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Kansas City Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz has back surgery, eyes healthy 2021 season

Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is starting his offseason with a procedure.

Schwartz is undergoing surgery Wednesday after a back injury stripped him of 10 regular-season matches and the entire postseason. The ailment is the only one to hold Schwartz out of any games over his nine-year NFL career, offering an indication as to its severity.

In a social media post Wednesday before the operation, Schwartz said he anticipates returning for 2021, which could provide the first important step toward the Chiefs solving the offensive line woes that played a significant factor in the Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay.

“I was hoping to recover enough to get back for the playoffs/Super Bowl, but that didn’t happen,” Schwartz wrote in his Tweet. “It’s time to address the issue. The recovery process isn’t too long, which is nice. Looking forward to a healthy 2021!” Schwartz, 31, has one year left on a contract that will pay him nearly $10 million.

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When healthy, he has been one of the game’s best right tackles — and before this season was one of its most reliable. In 2019, Schwartz did not allow a sack all season, according to Pro Football Focus.

He missed a snap during the 2019 season for the first time in his career but returned in the same game.

He attempted to play through this back injury in the 2020 season, starting in Buffalo before removing himself from the Week 6 contest. He never returned over the remainder of the season but put off surgery in hopes of a potential Super Bowl appearance.

The Chiefs could have used him. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks and scrambled 497 yards behind the line of scrimmage in an effort to buy more time. The Chiefs were on their third-string right tackle in the game.

Mike Remmers had filled in for Schwartz most of the season — and done so admirably — but when Eric Fisher injured his Achilles in the AFC Championship Game, Remmers moved to left tackle and guard Andrew Wylie kicked out to right tackle.

Both players struggled at their new spots versus the Buccaneers. Schwartz joined the Chiefs in 2016 in free agency, signing a five-year contract that made him one of the most-compensated right tackles at the time. He spent his first four seasons in Cleveland.

The Chiefs have won the AFC West division title every season Schwartz has been on the team.

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Dez Bryant plans to play two more years, but it won’t be with Ravens after his six-game stint in Baltimore

Dez Bryant wants to play two more seasons, but it apparently won’t be with the Baltimore Ravens.

In a series of tweets Tuesday night, the wide receiver explained why he never broke out of a limited role with the Ravens last season.

“I realized quick Baltimore wasn’t the place for me,” Bryant wrote. “No bad blood. That’s their way of doing things so you gotta respect it.”

Bryant, 32, returned after sitting out two campaigns and totaled six catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns in six matches with Baltimore.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant lacked explosiveness with Baltimore and never got consistently open.

He ended as the No. 4 wide receiver for the league’s worst passing attack, ranking below Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV on the depth chart. Bryant managed a total of 129 snaps, or 21.5 per game.

Responding to a fan’s comment that he should’ve been given a better opportunity, Bryant wrote: “It’s hard. I’ve been off almost three years. I flashed my abilities to the point [Ravens coach John] Harbaugh asked was I ready to play because he thought I was ready …You have to learn the playbook … chemistry with the QB have to be on point.”

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Asked if his chemistry was off with quarterback Lamar Jackson, Bryant wrote: “Our chemistry was good on and off the field. But it was guys there before me who understood the offensive concepts better than me. You can’t jeopardize that.”

Bryant became the second Pro Bowl wide receiver to miss two full seasons and return to the NFL since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Josh Gordon was the first.

The Ravens first worked out Bryant in August, but he left without a contract because he was told to improve his conditioning.

Baltimore brought him back and signed him to the practice squad on Oct. 28.

After being elevated off the practice squad twice, Bryant was signed to the 53-man roster on Nov. 28. He never eclipsed more than 28 yards receiving in a game and was held without a catch in the Ravens’ two playoff games.

“I wasn’t bothered about playing time,” Bryant wrote. “I enjoyed myself. I met some great teammates, guys I feel like I will be keeping in contact for a long time. I’m thankful for the opportunity Baltimore gave me.”

The Ravens weren’t expected to bring back Bryant. Upgrading the wide receiver group in free agency and the draft was considered one of Baltimore’s priorities.

Bryant, the No. 24 overall pick of the 2010 draft, played eight campaigns for the Cowboys. In 113 games, he caught 531 passes for 7,459 yards and a Cowboys-record 73 touchdown catches before his release after the 2017 season. When asked if he plans to play in 2021, Bryant wrote: “I plan on playing two more years and that’s it for me.”

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Four-time Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati says he’s retiring after 11 seasons

Four-time Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati, who spent the past two years with the Seattle Seahawks, is retiring after 11 seasons in the NFL.

Iupati revealed his decision in an interview with Spokane newspaper The Spokesman-Review, saying, “My body was telling me it was time to close the door.”

The 33-year-old was a first-team All-Pro in 2012 with the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted him 17th overall out of Idaho in 2010. He made three Pro Bowls in five seasons with the 49ers and one in four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He then played on consecutive one-year deals with the Seahawks, starting 25 matches.

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A model of toughness, Iupati played through multiple injuries in the latter portion of his career, most notably dealing with a chronic neck issue that started in 2015 and ultimately convinced him his time in football was over.

Iupati missed six games in 2020 while dealing with injuries to his knee, back and neck.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll referred to Iupati’s late-season neck injury as a stinger and said it was something he had dealt with earlier in his career. According to The Spokesman-Review, “a chronic neck condition convinced him he needed to give the game up.”

“I know I’m going to miss it,” Iupati told the newspaper about playing football. “But I’m kind of excited. I’ve got four boys and I’m taking care of them every day.”

Iupati told the newspaper his goal was to play 10 NFL seasons. Spotrac.com lists him with more than $50.75 million in on-field earnings over his career. Iupati and center Ethan Pocic were Seattle’s two starting offensive linemen from 2020 who were planned to become unrestricted free agents.

Earlier this month, quarterback Russell Wilson publicly stated his desire for the Seahawks to improve their pass protection.

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Veteran receiver DeSean Jackson released by Philadelphia Eagles

Receiver DeSean Jackson has been released by the Philadelphia Eagles, the team revealed Friday.

“Looking forward to my next chapter,” Jackson posted on his Instagram story before the announcement was made official. “Philadelphia it’s always Love. Appreciate Everything.”

The Eagles acquired the 34-year-old Jackson from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, reuniting the deep-threat receiver with the team that drafted him in 2008.

Jackson fueled the excitement with a pair of 50-plus-yard touchdowns in the 2019 opener versus the Washington Football Team, but injuries limited his overall impact the past two seasons. He played in just three games in ’19 because of a core muscle injury, and he missed 11 matches this past season with an injured ankle.

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Jackson has recorded the most 60-plus-yard touchdowns (24) in NFL history and ranks sixth all time in yards per reception (17.4).

Overall, Jackson has 612 career receptions for 10,656 yards and 56 touchdowns in 160 NFL games since being a second-round choice in the 2008 NFL Draft. He has recorded five 1,000-yard seasons.

Jackson also had rushed for four touchdowns and returned four punts for scores.

By releasing Jackson, the Eagles are expected to get around $6 million in cap relief. Philadelphia is currently projected to be about $50 million over the 2021 salary cap and will continue to shed salary prior to the beginning of the league year in March.

Philadelphia is also expected to part with fellow veteran receiver Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles will be left with a young group at wideout led by Jalen Reagor, the team’s first-round pick in 2020, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins and John Hightower.

Jackson spent three seasons with Washington and two with Tampa Bay before Philadelphia reacquired him prior to the 2019 season.

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