Tagged in: NFL

Raiders to host Saints in Las Vegas regular-season debut on Monday Night Football

The Las Vegas Raiders will make their regular-season home debut Sept. 21 on Monday Night Football versus the New Orleans Saints, a match that will be simulcast on ESPN and ABC, according to the full 2020 NFL schedule released Thursday night.

The matchup will introduce the country to the Raiders’ new home at Allegiant Stadium, where they have relocated after a 25-season run in Oakland, California.

The Saints, meanwhile, are one of nine teams that will make multiple appearances on Monday Night Football. In addition to their Week 2 match at Las Vegas, they’ll also host the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5.

The NFL revealed its full 2020 schedule in anticipation of playing a typical season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Roger Goodell told teams in a memo this week that adjustments will be made if necessary.

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“We will continue to work in a deliberate and thoughtful way to plan for the 2020 season, including with [Thursday’s] schedule release,” Goodell wrote, “and we will be prepared to address any contingencies as they arise.”

Other highlights of the Monday Night Football calendar include:

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will travel in Week 3 to play the Baltimore Ravens, the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed in 2019.

In their most recent matchup against each other, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes overcame the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson 33-28 in Week 3 of last season.

The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will travel in Week 3 to play the Baltimore Ravens, the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed in 2019. In their most recent matchup against each other, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes overcame the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson 33-28 in Week 3 of last season.

Quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make two appearances, in Week 8 at the New York Giants and in Week 11 at home against the Los Angeles Rams.

Two AFC East-related appearances by the New England Patriots, who bid farewell to Brady and are on track to start second-year player Jarrett Stidham in his place. The Patriots will play at the New York Jets in Week 9 and then host the Buffalo Bills in the final Monday Night Football match of the season, in Week 16.

A Week 1 doubleheader Sept. 14 that will pit the Pittsburgh Steelers at the New York Giants at 7:15 p.m. ET, followed by the Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos in a 10:10 p.m. ET kickoff.

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NFL to release regular-season schedule Thursday

The NFL will release its regular-season schedule on Thursday night, the league reported Monday, as it continues conducting business mostly as usual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The schedule will be disclosed in a three-hour telecast on NFL Network starting at 8 p.m.

Thus far, the league has not announced any major updates to its schedule as a result of the pandemic, which has brought most organized sports around the globe to a halt. NFL training facilities are closed because of the pandemic, leading to the league’s first-ever “virtual offseason,” but the league still plans to start the campaign on time while playing in teams’ home stadiums.

Opening day for the 2020 season is Sept. 10, with the season set to finish with Super Bowl 55 on February 7, 2021. The NFL also held last month’s draft on time while canceling all in-person events. The draft had been set for Las Vegas; instead, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced picks from his home.

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Should the pandemic force major changes to the season, the league is considering alternatives including empty stadiums, neutral sites and getting rid of bye weeks, league executive Troy Vincent told The Associated Press last week. Any such changes would have to be approved by the players union.

Earlier Monday, the NFL announced it was moving its five matches scheduled for London and Mexico City this season back to U.S. stadiums.

The league has evaluated contingency plans should the pandemic intensify, working in conjunction with the NFL Players Association and medical experts on a set of protocols.

The league is evaluating when players can re enter team facilities. The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to keep buildings closed until every state in which a team resides lifts its stay-at-home mandate. Teams are conducting organized team activities virtually.

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Bears Decline Fifth-Year Option on QB Mitchell Trubisky, Reports Say

In a not-so-surprising move, the Chicago Bears are apparently declining their fifth-year contract option for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Trubisky, the team’s first round draft pick in the 2017 draft, could possibly become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

“The team has liked Trubisky’s attitude since the Nick Foles trade, and it’ll be an open competition,” Pelissero said. “A chance for Trubisky to make himself a lot of money before his contract expires next March.”

The Bears were fast approaching a deadline to determine whether they would pick up Trubisky’s fifth year option.

By declining the option, the Bears quarterback could potentially become a free agent after the 2020 season, but if he has a successful year, the Bears still have options to keep him, as they could either re-sign him to a new extension or apply the team’s franchise tag to him, preventing him from seeking a contract with another team.

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In three campaigns with the Bears, Trubisky has compiled a 23-18-0 record, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 8,554 yards and 48 touchdowns. He has also thrown 29 interceptions and been sacked 93 times.

The 2019 season represented a step back for Trubisky, as he completed a lower percentage of his passes and threw for seven fewer touchdowns than he had in the previous season, despite throwing 82 more passes.

Earlier this offseason, the Bears sent a fourth round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire Foles, who will compete with Trubisky for the team’s starting job.

Bears G.M. Ryan Pace has drafted four players in the first round of the NFL Draft, and is now 0-for-3 on keeping players beyond their first contract. The team also declined the options on wide receiver Kevin White and linebacker Leonard Floyd, and will face a decision next season on the contract of linebacker Roquan Smith.

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Dolphins agree to trade edge rusher Charles Harris to Falcons

When Brian Flores took the reins as head coach of the organization in 2019, things didn’t exactly get off to a roaring start. The end of the campaign showed a sparky Dolphins team that could actually make some waves in the AFC East, but they would have to move around some pieces to become actual contenders. Their latest one comes at the expense of Charles Harris, a veteran pass rusher who was the team’s first-round pick in 2017 out of Missouri. 

Harris has allegedly been traded to the Atlanta Falcons, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, ending his time in South Florida and starting his next chapter in North Georgia, and in exchange for only a seventh-round pick.

The Dolphins are trading Harris only one day after they released Taco Charlton, another disappointing first-round pick from the 2017 draft class — a selection that hangs like an albatross around the neck of the Dallas Cowboys — as Flores and the Dolphins look to juice up their defensive front.

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They signed both Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson in free agency and grabbed three defensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft, hinting at more changes to come.

The NFL deadline for exercising a former first-round pick’s fifth-year option was rapidly approaching, but the Dolphins opted to move on instead. Harris joins a Falcons defense looking to bolster its pass rush, but one that also waved off exercising the fifth-year option on its own former first-round pick in Takkarist McKinley, making it a rough go as of late for pass rushers taken in that round, that year — although McKinley has had much more success at the NFL level than Charlton and Harris combined.

Harris and McKinley are slated to now be teammates in Atlanta for at least the 2020 campaign, assuming the Falcons don’t eventually ship the latter away down the road via trade. The former is set to earn $1.943 million in base salary this coming season, barring any changes to his roster spot or contract with the Falcons.

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Patriots sign receiver Marqise Lee to one year deal

The New England Patriots are signing former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee to a one-year contract, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Thursday.

Lee became a free agent on April 20, when he was released by the Jaguars.

Lee, 28, has battled injuries throughout his career and never became the game-changing player the Jaguars hoped he would be when he was drafted in the second round in 2014.

He played in only six matches and had three catches for 18 yards after signing a four-year contract worth $34 million with $16.5 million guaranteed in March 2018. He missed the 2018 campaign after suffering a torn ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee during the preseason.

The signing of Lee is consistent with an approach the Patriots have taken under Bill Belichick, identifying a once highly-touted player whose value on the open market wasn’t what it previously was due to injuries or other factors.

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Lee joins a Patriots wide receiver corps headlined by Julian Edelman, 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry and veteran Mohamed Sanu.

Speedster Damiere Byrd, who played last season for the Arizona Cardinals, agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $2.3 million to join the Patriots early in free agency, and 2019 undrafted free agents Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski also return this year.

The Jaguars drafted Lee with the 39th overall pick in 2014, and he struggled with injuries early in his career, missing nine games in 2014 and ’15. He played every match in 2016 and missed only two matches in 2017. He re-signed with the Jaguars in March 2018 after the team was unable to reach a deal with Allen Robinson, whom they also drafted in the second round in 2014.

Lee has 174 catches for 2,184 yards and eight touchdowns in 59 career games.

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Bears release TE Trey Burton

The Chicago Bears are releasing tight end Trey Burton, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

According to The Athletic’s Adam Jahns, the Bears plan to designate Burton as a post-June 1 release, which means that it will save money against the salary cap. But Burton will cost the Bears $7.5 million in dead money and free up just $1.05 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.

In 2018, Chicago signed Burton to a four-year, $32 million contract, which included $22 million guaranteed. While Burton had a career-best season with the Bears in 2018 — 54 catches for 569 receiving yards and six touchdowns — it was ultimately his lack of availability that was his downfall.

After warning the team that he had a groin injury the night before Chicago’s wild-card playoff game versus the Eagles, Burton never recovered. In 2019, he only played in eight matches, tallying 14 catches for 84 yards, before landing on injured reserve.

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The Bears had the worst group of tight ends in the NFL last season, and it’s no wonder the position has been an area of focus for general manager Ryan Pace.

Chicago signed former Packers tight end Jimmy Graham to a two-year deal last month, and that raised a question about Burton’s future with the Bears.

The Bears now have nine tight ends under contract, and it wouldn’t be shocking for Pace to add another in the NFL Draft next week.

Burton, 28, had been the third and fourth tight end with the Eagles and a special teams standout. But he took advantage of his opportunities on offense during the 2017 season and became part of Eagles lore when he threw a touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles on a play called “Philly Special” in the Super Bowl LII victory over the Patriots.

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Rams center Brian Allen tested positive for coronavirus

The 24-year-old is the first active NFL player to publicly recognize that he tested positive for the virus.

Allen, who is preparing for his third campaign in the league, was spending his offseason at the Rams’ training facility to undergo rehabilitation treatment on a knee injury when he started to feel symptoms three weeks ago.

The Rams’ training facility was closed for two weeks and cleaned thoroughly, according to a Rams spokesperson. Players who must undergo rehabilitation returned this week.

Allen told Fox Sports that he lost his sense of smell and taste and had a sore throat, fatigue and headaches. He is expected to be cleared of the virus this week.

Rams coach Sean McVay told Fox Sports that he has spoken with Allen, adding that the offensive lineman is “feeling good, he’s healthy, and he’s on the road to recovery.”

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McVay said the team’s facility was closed as soon as Allen notified the Rams that he had tested positive for the virus in an effort to ensure no one else was potentially exposed.

The symptoms lasted for three or four days when he decided to return to his doctor last week and was re-tested.

Allen tested positive again, but because of how long he has had it, doctors say he should be in the “all clear” this Thursday. Doctors have reportedly told Allen that he will regain his sense of taste and smell in the next six or eight months. 

A fourth-round pick from Michigan State in 2018, Allen played a limited role on offense as a rookie. Last season, he took over as the starting center and started nine matches before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He has appeared in 22 games in his two seasons.

Although no active NFL players previously said they tested positive, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and one unidentified member of the Los Angeles Chargers organization tested positive, and two others on the Chargers have shown symptoms.

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Panthers make Christian McCaffrey NFL’s Highest-paid RB

Days after indicating the Carolina Panthers were “obviously” aiming to extend Christian McCaffrey with a new contract, general manager Marty Hurney has done just that. As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Panthers have signed McCaffrey to a new deal worth $16 million per season, resetting the RB market and making McCaffrey the highest-paid back in NFL history.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has echoed Schefter’s report, noting that McCaffrey’s new contract is a four-year, $64 million deal. While the total value of the extension doesn’t top that of the six-year, $90 million deal Ezekiel Elliott signed with the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the 2019 season, the $16M average annual salary ranks first in the league, just ahead of Elliott ($15M).

Lucrative RB contracts have become increasingly polarizing as the league seemingly devalues the position, what with the New York Jets apparently looking to trade Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell less than a year into a $52.5M deal and the Los Angeles Rams this offseason cutting ties with Todd Gurley two years after providing him $45M guaranteed.

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McCaffrey, however, might be one of the few exceptions when it comes to RBs worth a big-money extension.

The Stanford product has demonstrated just as, if not more, dangerous as a pass catcher than as a traditional ball-carrier, breaking the NFL record for receptions by a RB in back-to-back campaigns. Drafted eighth overall by the Panthers in 2017, he’s had two straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons to go along with two straight 100-catch performances, totaling nearly 2,400 total yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019.

Still just 23, McCaffrey figures to be a centerpiece of new coach Matt Rhule’s rebuild.

“I’m so excited to continue my career in Carolina,” the RB told ESPN. “I want to thank Mr. (David) Tepper, Marty Hurney, and Coach Rhule for the opportunity to help lead this great franchise, and to all my teammates for their help along the way.”

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Free-agent RB LeSean McCoy wants to play 2 more years

LeSean McCoy isn’t ready to retire despite his decline in production the past two campaigns. In fact, he believes he has multiple seasons left in the NFL.

“I really just want to play two more years,” McCoy said Friday in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I talked to Frank (Gore) about this. He always tells me, ‘never put a ceiling on your career. Hey, if you feel good and you do well, do another one year and vise versa. If it doesn’t go well, just let your body talk to you.’ My body feels fine.”

The 31-year-old free-agent running back, who finished his 11th NFL season in 2019, added: “My body feels good. So I will let my body speak for when I want to be done.”

McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, said he has “a couple teams that I’m looking at” as possible fits for himself.

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“I’m just waiting for the right moment. This stuff is tricky now, because there’s no visits. There’s no real activities with the teams as much as it used to be. The thing I can control is just making the right choice, going to an offense that fits. I want to go to a team that’s a winning franchise that has all the right pieces that’s waiting for me. That veteran running back to help the room out. To add a spark. The teams I’m looking at right now are those teams,” he said. “I won’t discuss who they are. I look forward to probably after the draft or right before the draft, signing on with a team.”

McCoy’s playing time with the Kansas City Chiefs diminished as last season went on and he was inactive for the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIV but that didn’t diminish his satisfaction at finally being on a Super Bowl winner and he said in the interview he was happy to cross that off his “bucket list.”

McCoy said he embraces his role as a veteran mentor just like Brian Westbrook did for him when he was a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.

“If I could be that guy to help that young superstar to emerge into that superstar superstar, I would love to do that,” he stated.

After rushing for 465 yards last campaign, McCoy is ranked third among active players with 11,071 career rushing yards, behind only Gore and Adrian Peterson. Gore also is a free agent and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told NFL Network last month that his client plans to play in 2020.

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Rams trade Brandin Cooks to Texans

The Los Angeles Rams are trading receiver Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the teams hadn’t informed the trade. The NFL Network reported the Rams will get a second-round pick while sending a future fourth-rounder to Houston.

Cooks will help the Texans replace DeAndre Hopkins, who was shockingly traded to the Arizona Cardinals last month for running back David Johnson and two draft picks.

While Cooks hasn’t matched Hopkins’ superstar play, Cooks is a fast, steady deep threat who has five 50-reception seasons over his six-year career. Cooks posted 1,000-yard seasons for each of his first three NFL teams: New Orleans, New England and Los Angeles.

Cooks, a California native who spent his first three campaigns with the Saints, played the past two years for the Rams after they acquired him from the Patriots. Los Angeles gave him an $81m contract extension through 2023 before he played a game for the team.

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Cooks played in back-to-back Super Bowls, suiting up for New England in early 2018 and for the Rams in early 2019.

He caught 80 passes for 1,204 yards and five touchdowns in 2018 with the Rams’ NFC championship team.

But Cooks managed a career-low 42 catches for just 583 yards last season while overcoming the latest in a series of concussions. He had only 15 catches after Week 7, and he sat out for two games after incurring a concussion during the Rams’ game against Cincinnati in London.

Cooks has incurred at least five concussions during his NFL career. He didn’t play for four weeks after his most recent concussion, seeking additional medical help during that stretch.

Although Houston still has receivers Kenny Stills, Will Fuller and Randall Cobb, the Texans clearly wanted another veteran target for Deshaun Watson after they moved on from Hopkins and his steadily spectacular production. Hopkins, who has five career 1,000-yard seasons, caught roughly one-third of Watson’s completions over the past three years.

Cooks joins running back Todd Gurley in the offseason exodus of veteran talent from the Rams. Cooks and Gurley, the former AP Offensive Player of the Year, were essential components of coach Sean McVay’s offense over the past two seasons.

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