Tagged in: franchise

Jets trade QB Sam Darnold to Panthers for package of NFL draft picks

The New York Jets seem to have cleared the way for the franchise to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick and turn the keys over to him on Day 1.

The Jets have traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second-round and fourth-round picks, the Panthers announced on Twitter.

The Jets traded up in 2018 to use the No. 3 pick on Darnold. But the USC product had anything but a smooth transition to the NFL, and much of it had to do with the constant state of turmoil that the Jets have found themselves in. Already, he has played for two head coaches in three campaigns. 

In 2019, the Jets replaced Mike Maccagnan, who drafted Darnold, with current general manager Joe Douglas. “I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets,” Douglas stated Monday in a statement. “He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet.

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While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him.

We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”

The Jets fired Todd Bowles following Darnold’s rookie year and this offseason dismissed Adam Gase after two turbulent seasons. Robert Saleh was hired as head coach, and Darnold faced an unclear future with the organization holding the second overall pick and positioned to take one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft.

Jets brass, including Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, attended BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s impressive pro day two weeks ago.

It’s expected that the Panthers will exercise the fifth-year option on Darnold’s contract, giving him two seasons to work to reboot his career with Carolina.

Offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who is considered one of the NFL’s bright, young minds, will be tasked with helping Darnold, who ranked 35th in the league in 2020 with a passer rating of 72.7, live up to the potential that he boasted coming out of college.

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Detroit Lions plan to release slot cornerback Justin Coleman

The Detroit Lions have informed slot cornerback Justin Coleman he will be released by the franchise, a source confirmed to ESPN on Thursday.

Coleman is the second Detroit defensive back to learn of his pending release this offseason, joining Desmond Trufant. Earlier this month, when head coach Dan Campbell was asked about Coleman’s and Trufant’s futures with the club, he stated those decisions would be coming. Now they have and both players will be elsewhere in 2021.

Coleman had been scheduled to count $11.029 million against the cap in 2021, and depending on how he’s designated upon his release, the Lions might save up to $9 million if he’s declared a post-June 1 release. If not, the Lions would save $6.971 million, according to Roster Management System.

Releasing Coleman now also keeps the Lions from having to guarantee $1.1 million of his $8.95 million base salary, which would have happened on the third day of the new league year, which starts March 17.

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The Lions will carry $4.058 million in dead money due to Coleman’s release, sending the team’s dead money total for 2021 well over $30 million — largely due to the $19 million from the Matthew Stafford trade that will be official when the new league year begins.

Detroit is now thin at corner with the Coleman and Trufant departures.

With just Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah and recently re-signed Mike Ford at the position with significant experience playing for Detroit last year.

The 27-year-old Coleman signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the Lions during free agency in 2019, making him one of the league’s highest-paid slot corners at the time.

He started 16 matches — mostly in the slot — since his arrival in Detroit, breaking up 14 passes with one interception. He also had three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, all in 2019.

Coleman went undrafted out of Tennessee and has played two seasons each in New England, Seattle and Detroit, appearing in 79 games (29 starts) and breaking up 41 passes with four interceptions and two returned for touchdowns. He also has forced 4 fumbles, recovered 4 fumbles and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery.

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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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Tua Tagovailoa believes he’s Miami Dolphins’ franchise QB, but says he must ‘prove’ it

Tua Tagovailoa considers he can be the Miami Dolphins’ franchise quarterback but knows he has to prove it with better play in Year 2.

Tagovailoa is coming off a rookie season where he went 6-3 with a 64.1% completion rate, 14 total touchdowns and five interceptions. But the former Alabama star was substituted twice in the fourth quarter by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and struggled at times to throw the ball effectively downfield.

With the Dolphins in the thick of offseason quarterback speculation for the second straight year, Tagovailoa was asked whether he is convinced that Miami is all-in on him as the franchise quarterback.

“In my mind and in my heart, I would hope so,” Tagovailoa said Monday during an interview with Sirius Mad Dog Radio. “With the way things went last year, you always have to prove yourself to do better, and I want to do better.”

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Dolphins coach Brian Flores told ESPN last month that he’s “excited about the future with Tagovailoa,” and the Dolphins believe in him. Dolphins general manager Chris Grier also said last month that Tagovailoa is their starting quarterback and they are happy with his development.

This offseason will prove if the Dolphins’ strong public commitment to Tagovailoa matches their actions, with multiple options potentially available, including unhappy Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported that Watson has requested a trade, while ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Watson has Miami high on his preferred trade destination list.

The Dolphins are one of the few teams with the draft capital to potentially entice a Watson trade.

Tagovailoa told Sirius Mad Dog Radio that he hadn’t heard the Watson trade rumors until his agent told him about them, but “that’s something that would be out of my control regardless.”

“That would be a decision of the Dolphins organization,” he said. “I have to control what I can control — work hard and do well next season.”

Tagovailoa was also honest in his evaluation of his 2020 season, saying he “would describe my rookie season as below average. This past season wasn’t up to the expectation that I have for myself.”

If the Dolphins do move forward with Tagovailoa, as is their existing plan, the focus would be on his Year 2 improvement. He told the Dan Patrick Show that there’s a “big difference” in his health this offseason compared to last year, when he was coming off serious hip surgery, and he can focus this year on improving mental elements of his game.

The Dolphins already have made it a focus to build around Tagovailoa early in the 2021 offseason, including hiring his former Elite 11 high school camp coach Charlie Frye as the their quarterbacks coach.

They also spent significant time at the Senior Bowl getting to know Alabama star receiver DeVonta Smith and running back Najee Harris; both are fits for the Dolphins’ offensive needs, have a great relationship with Tagovailoa and could be options for Miami to select with each of their first-round draft picks (Nos. 3 and 18).

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Dallas Cowboys fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will not be returning to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2021 campaign, the team revealed Friday.

Last season, the Cowboys (6-10) allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and concluded 31st in the league in run defense. In the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, they allowed 23 points, including 20 in the first half, to an offense that had not scored more than 19 in five weeks.

The unit played better down the stretch with 12 takeaways in the final four matches after getting just 11 in the first 12 games, but that was aided in part by facing backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”

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Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas at different times during the season, owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones lamented the jarring scheme switch — from a 4-3 look to a hybrid look — made by the Cowboys during an offseason in which the coaches could only meet virtually with the players.

Unable to get hands-on experience until the start of an abbreviated training camp, the Cowboys defense struggled badly. They finished 23rd in yards per game (31st vs. the run, 11th vs. the pass) and 28th in points (29.6). The Cowboys allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more, including 51 passes and 18 runs.

In the three other times the Cowboys allowed a franchise record in points, the organization either made a scheme modification or a coaching change.

After allowing 436 points in 2010, Jason Garrett was named the full-time head coach after taking over for Wade Phillips at midseason, and he hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. In 2013, they allowed 432 points in Monte Kiffin’s first year as coordinator, and he was replaced by Rod Marinelli. After giving up 405 points in 2004, Bill Parcells switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme but kept Mike Zimmer as his coordinator.

McCarthy and Nolan have a long background together.

In 2005, Nolan hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, which helped propel him to earning the Green Bay Packers head job a year later.

But the defense could not find its footing. While they suffered some injuries to Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone, ankle), Trysten Hill (knee) and Trevon Diggs (foot), they were not hit as hard as the Cowboys’ offense.

Their bigger free-agent pickups were either hurt in training camp (defensive lineman Gerald McCoy), did not make the team out of camp (safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), were traded (Everson Griffen) or were released because of poor play in the middle of the season (defensive tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Daryl Worley).

If the Cowboys look in-house for a substitute, George Edwards spent the year as a senior defensive assistant. He was Zimmer’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2019.

But the first question that must be answered is what type of scheme the Cowboys want to use. In Green Bay, McCarthy employed a 3-4 scheme for most of his tenure. If he wants to continue with the hybrid look Nolan attempted to use, adding players to fit the scheme will be an offseason priority. In all but three years of his time in Green Bay, the Packers used a 3-4 scheme.

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