Tagged in: NFL

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller ‘at peace’ if this is final year with team

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller reported for his 11th campaign Tuesday, and while he has always hoped to be a “Bronco for life,” he says as he enters the last year of his contract that he wants to play several more years and is “at peace” if that is eventually somewhere else.

“I would like to keep playing. Whether that’s here with the Denver Broncos or somewhere else, I’m totally at peace with that,” Miller stated as the Broncos’ veteran players reported Tuesday for training camp. “I want to play five to seven more years, I think I said that a couple weeks ago.”

Miller, who was the Broncos’ first-round pick in the 2011 draft, is the team’s longest-tenured player. The Broncos engaged his contract option for the 2021 season in March, the last year of the six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed in 2016 several months after he had been named MVP of Super Bowl 50.

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He turned 32 in March, is about to be a father and said he wants to keep playing so his future son will be able to see him play.

But after worrying about his future for most of the summer of 2020, Miller said he’s taking a calmer approach this time around, even as he hopes to finish his career with the Broncos.

“I’m not really thinking about this is the last year of my contract, [or] will I be with the Broncos,” Miller said. “Last year, to be honest, that was really on my soul. I really wanted, I really wanted — of course I want to be here. I want to stay here for the rest of my career, but getting past that is kind of a release for me.”

Miller had powered through a bevy of offseason workouts in 2020 in hopes of leaving his eight-sack season in 2019 behind and helping end the current Broncos playoff drought, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury days before the season opener and did not play in a game. His eight-sack total in ’19 was the lowest since 2013, when he had five.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has already predicted Miller is again poised to have a big year in 2021, and general manager George Paton said picking up Miller’s option was an easy decision. “We wanted Von to be a Bronco … he’s going to have a Pro Bowl-type season,” Paton said earlier this year.

“Sitting out last year, it really helped me be at peace,” Miller said Tuesday. “Being at peace and being content, they are two totally different things. I feel like you can be at peace with whatever happens, but you still want to go out there and lead the league in sacks, you still want to get Defensive Player of the Year, still want to get all this crazy stuff, but I’m at peace with whatever happens.”

With 106 sacks in 135 career matches, Miller is the Broncos’ all-time sack leader, and he enters the 2021 season as the league’s active sack leader, five ahead of J.J. Watt.

Since Miller missed the 2020 season and Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb missed most of the 2019 season with a knee injury, Miller has plenty of optimism for what the two may be able to do together in the defense this year. Chubb was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.

And in the 20 games Miller and Chubb have played together, they have combined for 29.5 sacks.

“He looks ready to go, I’m ready to go, this might be the one … I’m excited to see the things me and Bradley can do,” Miller said. “I feel great … I’m still running the same, still lifting the same as those guys. …” Miller added later.

“I’m hoping to play another five to seven years, maybe even more. I don’t want to put a number on it — if it’s less, it’s less. I’m at peace I’ve played in the league long enough. I’ve been in the league 11 years, so every single year after this is just a true blessing. I want to play a long time.”

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Chris Hogan reaches deal with New Orleans Saints

After moonlighting as a lacrosse player this summer, veteran wide receiver Chris Hogan will return to the NFL and try to help the New Orleans Saints make up for the absence of injured star Michael Thomas.

Hogan, 33, agreed to a deal with the Saints on Monday, a source told ESPN’s Mike Reiss, confirming an NFL Network report.

As expected, Thomas was formally placed on the physically unable to play list Monday to start training camp. He is expected to miss time at the beginning of the regular season after having ankle surgery in June.

Hogan (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) will compete for a roster spot along with Saints receivers Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway and others in a position group that is thin on proven talent after New Orleans released veteran Emmanuel Sanders this offseason.

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Hogan won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots during a nine-year career that also saw him play with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.

But after playing in just 12 total matches with the Panthers and Jets in 2019 and 2020 while battling injuries, he briefly decided to switch careers this offseason and play in the Premier Lacrosse League before the Saints lured him back.

Hogan was a standout lacrosse player at Penn State before he spent a year playing football at Monmouth and joined the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012.

He was mostly inactive during his time in the PLL, starting with the Cannons before being traded to the Whipsnakes. Back in the NFL, Hogan brings versatility along with his experience.

He has lined up almost equally in the slot and out wide while catching 216 passes for 2,795 yards and 18 touchdowns in the regular season. He has another 34 catches for 542 yards and four TDs in the playoffs.

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New Orleans Saints agree to deal with free agent cornerback Brian Poole

The New Orleans Saints have agreed to a deal with free agent cornerback Brian Poole, pending a physical, a source confirmed.

Terms of the agreement were not instantly known. NFL reporter Josina Anderson first reported that Poole stated he intends to sign a one-year deal with the Saints on Monday.

Poole, 28, spent his first five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets after going undrafted out of Florida.

The 5-foot-10, 213-pounder established himself as one of the NFL’s top slot cornerbacks before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 9 last year.

Poole had two interceptions, one sack and seven pass break-ups in his abbreviated 2020 season with the Jets. He has seven interceptions and six sacks in 70 career games.

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Cornerback has been a pressing need for the Saints ever since they released veteran starter Janoris Jenkins during a salary-cap purge at the start of the offseason.

Poole is a curious fit since he primarily plays in the slot – where New Orleans has other proven options like safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and cornerback Patrick Robinson. But the increased depth and talent can’t hurt.

The Saints, who recently created more than $10 million in cap space through revised contracts, could also look to add more veteran help at wide receiver and defensive tackle as they head toward the beginning of training camp this week.

Poole is known for his physical coverage against slot receivers, yet he was called for only three penalties in 2019 and none in 2020, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

He spent his first three years with the Falcons, and quickly became an integral part of the defense. As a rookie, he saw significant playing time on their NFC championship squad. In 2018, he struggled at times in pass coverage, prompting the Falcons to set him free by declining his restricted-free agent tender.

Poole proved to be a solid, cost-effective acquisition for the Jets, first signing a one-year, $3 million deal in 2019, then a one-year $5 million deal in 2020.

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New England Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore reports to training camp

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had skipped June’s mandatory minicamp, reported to the team on Thursday, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. Gilmore was subsequently placed on the active/physically unable to perform list due to a partially torn quad sustained in December.

While the majority of Patriots players report for training camp on Tuesday, quarterbacks and players recovering from injuries were booked to arrive Thursday.

There was a question whether Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, would report. He had stayed away from voluntary practices in the spring, as well as mandatory minicamp, while publicly expressing a desire for the team to upgrade his contract.

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Gilmore is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million in 2021.

The Patriots had advanced him $4.5 million of his 2021 salary last year, contributing to the under-market wage for this season.

Gilmore, who turns 31 in September, is in the final year of the five-year, $65 million contract he signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2017. The deal included $40 million in injury guarantees and $31 million fully guaranteed at signing.

At the time, a contract with those guarantees and an average of $13 million per season was viewed as a strong deal. The cornerback market has since exploded, with Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams topping it with a contract averaging $20 million per season.

“I just want what I’m worth, however that plays out. Every player should be paid what they’re worth. That’s just how it is,” Gilmore told longtime NFL reporter Josina Anderson earlier in July.

Of his quad injury, Gilmore told Anderson: “I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt since the surgery. I’ve been running a lot, building full speed.”

Gilmore was one of eight players placed on the PUP list on Thursday, with quarterback Jarrett Stidham another notable player on the list.

Outside linebacker Chase Winovich, defensive tackle Byron Cowart, linebacker Terez Hall, tight end Dalton Keene, core special-teamer Brandon King and wide receiver Devin Smith were the other players placed on the PUP list.

Running back Rhamondre Stevenson (fourth round, Oklahoma), linebacker Cameron McGrone (fifth round, Michigan) and safety Joshuah Bledsoe (sixth round, Missouri) were rookies previously placed on the active/non-football injury list.

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Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers agree on 5-year, $95 million extension

The San Francisco 49ers took care of their final piece of big offseason business Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Fred Warner on a contract that will make him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in NFL history, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Warner and the Niners agreed to a five-year, $95 million deal that contains $40.5 million guaranteed, sources told Schefter. The $19 million average annual value surpasses the previous high of $18 million per year held by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Warner’s $40.5 million is the second-highest guaranteed total for an off-ball linebacker, trailing only the New York Jets’ C.J. Mosley’s $51 million, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

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The deal comes six days before the 49ers are booked to report to training camp and 10 days before they start practice on July 31, which was always viewed as an unofficial deadline for Warner and the team to complete a deal.

Warner, 24, left little doubt that he wanted to get a deal done this past May during organized team activities, when he said he wants “to be a Niner for life.”

A third-round pick in the 2018 draft, Warner ranks seventh in the NFL in tackles (366) and is one of two players with 250-plus solo tackles (252) and 15-plus pass breakups (16) in that time, along with Wagner.

Warner ended last season with 125 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions as he earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods along with the Niners’ two most prestigious team awards.

Warner joins tight end George Kittle and left tackle Trent Williams in landing record-setting contracts for their position in the past year.

Kittle re-signed just before last year’s training camp, and Williams agreed to his deal with the Niners in March.

Getting Warner’s deal done now also helps reset the market for his position, as the Indianapolis Colts’ Darius Leonard and Chicago Bears’ Roquan Smith are also due for lucrative extensions.

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Kansas City Chiefs re-sign defensive end Alex Okafor to 1-year deal

Veteran defensive end Alex Okafor has signed a one-year contract to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, just days before the first players start reporting for training camp.

The Chiefs did not disclose financial terms in announcing the deal Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Okafor has 30 sacks and 183 tackles in eight NFL seasons, including the past two with the Chiefs. He joined the club as a free agent from New Orleans in March 2019, signing a three-year, $18 million contract.

Okafor made an immediate impact in helping rebuild the Kansas City defense, recording five sacks and 21 combined tackles in 10 games. A torn pectoral muscle in Week 15 forced him to finish the season on injured reserve. He missed playing in the team’s triumph over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV.

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The veteran signed a restructured contract in August 2020 that reduced his salary cap figure for that upcoming season by $2 million and voided the final year of his original three-year deal.

A hamstring injury limited Okafor to 11 games last season.

He finished with three sacks and 16 total tackles. He contributed in a backup role during the team’s playoff run, picking up five total tackles in three postseason contests, including one stop versus Tampa Bay in the team’s 31-9 loss in Super Bowl LV.

Okafor expects to compete for a backup role behind anticipated starters Frank Clark and Chris Jones as the team’s edge rushers. Competition at defensive end also includes veteran Taco Charlton, second-year pro Mike Danna and 2021 fourth-round draft pick Joshua Kaindoh.

Clark was charged in California with felony possession of an assault weapon stemming from a traffic stop in March. In June, he was arrested in Los Angeles after police said they saw a submachine gun in his car. Chiefs players begin reporting to training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph on Friday.

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QB Trevor Lawrence signs $36.8 million rookie contract with Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence signed his four-year rookie contract Monday, clearing the way for him to attend the start of training camp in three weeks.

Under the NFL’s rookie slotting system, Lawrence’s deal was projected to be worth $36.8 million and included a $24.1 million signing bonus. He will count $6.7 million against the salary cap in 2021.

The contract also incorporates a fifth-year option that is attached to every rookie deal for first-round selections.

A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that details of the contract includes: Lawrence’s signing bonus will be paid within 15 days and the quarterback is deemed to have passed his physical for signing bonus purposes.

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There is no offset language in the contract, meaning that he would still receive the full amount of guaranteed money left in his contract even if he were to be released and sign with another team.

The majority of Lawrence’s compensation will come in his roster bonuses in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

He will earn that bonus if he is on the 90-man roster on the third day after the mandatory reporting date.

Lawrence will earn his roster bonus even if he is on the active non-football injury list.

With Lawrence under contract, Jacksonville has now signed six of its nine draft picks. Running back Travis Etienne (first round), cornerback Tyson Campbell (second) and offensive tackle Walker Little (second) remains unsigned.

Lawrence is anticipated to be an immediate starter in Year 1. He went 34-2 at Clemson, recording the third-best winning percentage by a starting quarterback (minimum 30 starts) in college football since 1978.

He finished his college career undefeated in regular-season play and led the Tigers to the national championship as a freshman in 2018.

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Agent requests WR N’Keal Harry be traded by New England Patriots

Wide receiver N’Keal Harry’s agent said in a statement Tuesday that he has formally requested the New England Patriots trade his client.

“For the past several months, I have been working in cooperation with the Patriots behind the scenes to put a plan in place to let N’Keal to thrive in New England. Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college.

Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client,” agent Jamal Tooson said in the statement.

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“N’Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity. He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury. His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it.”

The Patriots picked Harry with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Injuries limited him to seven matches in his rookie season, in which he caught 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Last season he had 33 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.

The Patriots added receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency, pushing Harry further down the team’s depth chart. He appears to be set to compete for the No. 4 or 5 role behind both those players and Jakobi Meyers, who led the Patriots in receptions (59) and receiving yards (729) last season.

Also Tuesday, rookie quarterback Mac Jones, selected 15th overall by the Patriots in the 2021 draft, officially signed his four-year, $15.6 million deal that also includes a fifth-year option.

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Slater hits late 2-run homer, Giants beat Diamondbacks 6-5

San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler opted to have Austin Slater to pinch hit for Alex Dickerson to lead off the fifth inning.

Slater ended up grounding out, but he made up for it with a big blast at a crucial moment.

Slater hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning, Mike Yastrzemski also had a two-run shot and the Giants rallied to defeat the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5 on Saturday night.

“We depend on Slater and I thought that was an important enough at-bat to get him into the game,” Kapler said. ”Obviously, he got the biggest hit of the night for us.”

The Giants hit three homers to end a season-long four-game losing streak in an 11-4 victory Friday and again took the Diamondbacks down with the long ball.

Arizona went up 5-4 on David Peralta’s bloop single in the fifth inning, but Slater fouled off a couple of good pitches from Ryan Buchter (0-2) before hitting a 463-foot homer to center.

San Francisco has scored 214 of its 405 runs (52.8%) of its runs this season on homers.

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Dominic Leone (2-0) struck out two in the seventh inning and Jake McGee worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances, improving the Giants to a majors-best 52-30. San Francisco overcame a season-high three errors and Thairo Estrada getting picked off first in the eighth.

“I don’t think we played our crisp brand of baseball defensively or on the bases,” Kapler stated. “We weren’t at our best and are going to need to be better than that.”

Nick Ahmed hit a two-run homer to help Arizona rally from an early four-run deficit, but the bullpen had another letdown.

The last-place Diamondbacks have lost six of seven.

“We fell down four runs, fought back and tied it, and took the lead,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We just got clipped. We just have to do a better job on the mound.”

Diamondbacks starter Jake Faria permitted a run in four innings versus St. Louis on June 28 in his first big league start since 2018. The right-hander escaped a jam in the first inning against the Giants, but couldn’t wriggle out of trouble in the third.

San Francisco wore red caps as part of Major League Baseball’s Fourth of July promotion, a glaring change from the Giants’ usual black.

Yastrzemski hit his 12th homer, a two-run shot, followed by Brandon Crawford’s run-scoring triple and Donovan Solano’s RBI single.

“He was OK,” Lovullo said of Faria. “I think the line score was little worse than what it was. He attacked the zone, had real good spin on his secondary pitches and he competed.

Giants starter Sammy Long couldn’t hold the lead.

Asdrubal Cabrera and Christian Walker each had run-scoring singles in the third inning, and Ahmed tied it at 4 with a two-run homer just over the wall in right in the fourth.

“I was just trying to stay through the middle of the field and got just enough of the barrel on it,” Ahmed said.

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New Orleans Saints signing RT Ryan Ramczyk to five-year, $96 million extension

The New Orleans Saints have not yet identified their next quarterback after Drew Brees’ retirement. But they ensured that he will be well protected on Wednesday by signing All-Pro right tackle Ryan Ramczyk to a five-year extension.

The Saints revealed Wednesday that they had signed Ramczyk to a five-year extension but did not disclose financial terms.

The deal is worth $96 million in new money ($60 million guaranteed), a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which makes Ramczyk the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL.

The $19.2 million average per year in Ramczyk’s extension sets the standard for NFL right tackles, surpassing the $18 million average per year in the deal Lane Johnson signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019.

It makes sense, because Ramczyk has been among the league’s elite linemen since being drafted with the 32nd pick out of Wisconsin in 2017. He was named first-team All-Pro in 2019 and to the second team in 2018 and 2020.

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“It’s a huge relief. I’m extremely happy with how everything played out,” said Ramczyk, who was asked what it means to him to be the highest-paid right tackle in NFL history.

Ramczyk also said that he reflects “quite often” on how far his “unique journey” has taken him.

He quit football for a year after high school and briefly considered becoming a welder before realizing how much he missed playing.

He wound up attending five different schools (Winona State, Madison Area Technical College, Mid-State Technical College, Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin) before becoming a first-round draft pick.

“There’s not a lot of guys who kind of go through what I did,” Ramczyk said. “But I think it was necessary for me, and I think everything played out obviously really well. And I wouldn’t change a thing looking back on it.”

Signing Ramczyk long term was a no-brainer for New Orleans, even at this hefty price tag. All-Pro left tackle Terron Armstead is also heading into the final year of his contract, which could lead to a tough financial decision next year.

But the Saints certainly couldn’t afford to lose both as they build for the future behind quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill and/or a candidate to be named later.

Ramczyk, 27, was due to earn $11.064 million in the final year of his contract this campaign. But the Saints could actually save some needed salary-cap space in the short term, depending on how they structure the deal.

The Saints had about $5 million to $6 million in cap space before Ramczyk’s new deal. They should now have room to add some veteran help heading into this season, with potential needs at cornerback, receiver, defensive tackle and possibly linebacker.

Ramczyk and Armstead have formed an elite duo over the past four years, while the Saints have won four consecutive NFC South titles and produced the league’s best regular-season record.

Ramczyk was part of New Orleans’ superb 2017 draft class, which also includes running back Alvin Kamara, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Marcus Williams and defensive end Trey Hendrickson. Kamara signed an extension last year, and Williams or Lattimore could be next.

The Saints placed the franchise tag on Williams this year and have until July 15 to reach a long-term extension. Lattimore has one year left on his rookie deal. Hendrickson signed a lucrative deal with the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason.

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