Tagged in: starter

Carolina Panthers OC Ben McAdoo says QB Sam Darnold is the team’s starter

New Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo emphatically stated “yes” on Tuesday when asked whether Sam Darnold was his starting quarterback and added that the third pick of the 2018 draft was one reason he took this job.

Seconds later, the former New York Giants head coach tempered his yes by adding that coach Matt Rhule has a say over the decision but that “the way it is in the building right now, Sam is our starting quarterback.”

Darnold and P.J. Walker are the only quarterbacks under contract for 2022, and the Panthers are vetting quarterbacks as candidates for the No. 6 pick in the draft.

“One of the things I’ve been working on is being better talking to you people [media], so announcing the starting quarterback here I just put my foot in my mouth,” said McAdoo, who was fired by the Giants after the 2017 season.

“That wasn’t something I should have said.”

But McAdoo has liked parts of Darnold’s game since the New York Jets drafted him No. 3 out of USC.

He told the New York Post in 2018 that Darnold had a “lot of magic in his game,” although he wondered aloud whether Darnold ever would be the franchise-saver the Jets needed him to be. At the time, he couldn’t get past the flaws in Darnold’s throwing mechanics and ball security.

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“I think he’s special,” McAdoo told the Post. “He’s obviously a talented guy, he can make plays with his feet. I’d just have a hard time drafting a guy in the first round where you don’t necessarily like the way he throws.

“He can overcome it, guys have, but that’s something that’s a challenge for me. I’m gonna be looking at that, trying to fix it, because it’s a fundamental flaw, and I believe in the fundamentals. The quarterback, his No. 1 job is to pass the football. If I don’t like the way he throws the ball, I have a hard time picking him, right?”

But in a sense McAdoo picked Darnold when choosing to come to Carolina after spending last campaign as a consultant for the Dallas Cowboys.

“Sam does have some magic in his game,” McAdoo said in his first interview since being hired on Jan. 24. “He’s got some athleticism to him. I’m excited to work with Sam. We’ve been working the last few days here to get up to speed on offense, and he’s shown flashes of being a good player in this league.”

That doesn’t mean the Panthers are more likely to take a left tackle than a quarterback at No. 6. They’ve spent the past few months evaluating quarterbacks and used seven of their 30 official visits on the position.

The Panthers have had visits with — Liberty’s Malik Willis, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe and Nevada’s Carson Strong.

Willis, Pickett and Corral, according to draft analysts, are the most likely to go in the first round, with Pickett considered best prepared to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

McAdoo doesn’t put a lot of stock in being game ready.

McAdoo appears open to Darnold being his starter despite reports the Panthers are interested in trading for Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. League sources told ESPN that the team simply has been doing due diligence on the position and that if such a trade occurred, it would be after the draft.

McAdoo said in the 2018 Post article that Mayfield had an “edge” about him but that he didn’t see “a lot of pro-style football in his tape.”

McAdoo declined to talk about Mayfield on Tuesday. “I’d love to comment on your question, but this isn’t my first rodeo,” McAdoo said. “I’m going to keep the comments to players on our roster right now.”

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Arizona Cardinals release starting inside linebacker Jordan Hicks

The Arizona Cardinals released veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks on Wednesday.

Hicks, 29, played at a high level last season, registering 116 tackles and four sacks, but the Cardinals are making the move to give fellow inside linebacker Zaven Collins, drafted in the first round last year, more playing time.

The Cardinals had told Collins he would be the starter last season after selecting him 16th overall. Hicks said last year he was “pissed off” when initially told he had lost his starting job to Collins.

He requested a trade, which never happened, and the seven-year veteran ended up starting all 17 matches.

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By getting released now, Hicks will be able to sign with another team before free agency officially starts next week.

The move will save the Cardinals $6.5 million on their salary cap but also will leave $3 million in dead money on their books.

Hicks signed with the Cardinals in 2019 and posted more than 100 tackles in all three seasons with Arizona, including a career-best 150 his first year there.

He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, who selected him in the third round of the 2015 draft. He missed 21 regular-season games due to a variety of injuries during his time with the Eagles but didn’t miss a game (all starts) in three seasons with the Cardinals.

Hicks has career numbers of 638 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 11 interceptions.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says fractured toe ‘feels worse’ after record-setting win vs. Bears

It seems that Aaron Rodgers still owns the Chicago Bears but unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback, he also still has a problem with his fractured pinky toe.

Rodgers and the Packers beat the Bears for the sixth consecutive time and Rodgers ran his record as a starter against them to 23-5 — settling milestones and records in the series along the way. But he indicated that whatever healing took place with his toe during the Packers’ bye was wiped out, and then some.

“It feels worse,” Rodgers said after Sunday’s 45-30 victory at Lambeau Field. “I don’t know what kind of setback that I had tonight but we’ll look at it tomorrow. Definitely took a step back tonight.”

Rodgers’ suffered the injury last month during his COVID-19 quarantine and has barely practiced despite not missing any significant game action since he hurt it. It had improved enough last week to the point where he actually practiced for the first time in three weeks.

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During the bye, Rodgers stated surgery was an option and even though he was told it could be done without him missing a game, he elected not to have it. He said Sunday that he was still hoping to avoid the procedure, which would immobilize his toe, but that a decision would be made after he undergoes tests on Monday.

“That would be last resort, for sure,” Rodgers said. “But I’ve got to see what kind of setback it was tonight.”

There was no setback when it came to the Packers’ dominance over the Bears with Rodgers at quarterback.

Two months after Rodgers celebrated a touchdown at Soldier Field by screaming “I still own you” to fans in the stands, Rodgers threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.

This was Rodgers’ seventh four-touchdown, no interception game versus the Bears, the most in NFL history against a single opponent. Rodgers is the only quarterback who also has six — against the Vikings. Next closest is Tom Brady with five such games against the Bills.

Rodgers’ final touchdown of the game — his second of the night to Davante Adams (10 catches for 131 yards) — gave him 61 career touchdowns against the Bears, passing Brett Favre’s 60 for the most all time against Chicago. All of that prompted Packers receiver Allen Lazard to wear a shirt that read “I still own you” — Rodgers’ exact words on Oct. 17 — to his postgame news conference.

At first, only the words, “I still” were visible on Lazard’s shirt but when asked if it said what everyone thought it said, Lazard stood up to reveal the “own you,” portion and said: “It most definitely does.”

Running back AJ Dillon had them made shortly after the first game this season versus the Bears and while Rodgers said he has one, he did not feel compelled to wear his on Sunday.

“I’ve already said what I’ve said,” Rodgers said. “I don’t need to double and triple down. I’ll let those words stand for themselves.”

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Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Angels reach 1-year, $21 million deal

Right-hander Noah Syndergaard and the Los Angeles Angels have agreed to a one-year, $21 million deal, pending a physical, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Syndergaard, 29, spent the first seven campaigns of his career with the New York Mets, making one All-Star team and displaying perhaps the nastiest array of pitches for a starter in the major leagues.

Having pitched only two innings since 2019 because of Tommy John surgery, Syndergaard will join an Angels rotation that was among the worst in the big leagues last season.

The Angels’ pursuit of starting pitching this winter was their top priority, with two-way star Shohei Ohtani coming off a season that will end with the American League MVP award and outfielder Mike Trout returning from an injury-plagued 2021.

The cost is hefty: Beyond the $21 million, the Angels will forfeit their second-round draft pick in 2022 because Syndergaard had been tendered a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer by the Mets. They will receive a pick after the draft’s competitive balance Round B (around 70th overall).

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While some in the industry expected Syndergaard to take the qualifying offer, the market proved healthier. The Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees were among the teams that showed the greatest interest in Syndergaard, sources told ESPN.

All of them saw enough in Syndergaard’s late-September return, which involved a pair of one-inning outings in which he didn’t throw his slider or curveball. Though Syndergaard’s average fastball velocity during the outings was down more than 3 mph from his 2017 peak, the promise of plenty more prompted the Angels to pay a premium.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Syndergaard’s deal, by average annual value, is the largest doled out by the franchise for a pitcher. C.J. Wilson signed a five-year, $77.5 million deal ($15.5 million AAV) prior to the 2012 season.

The Angels’ need for pitching is no secret.

Ohtani led the team with 130.1 innings; no other Angels pitcher exceeded 100. Syndergaard has never pitched 200 innings in a season; he’s made 30 or more starts in a season twice (2016 and 2019).

However, a rotation that includes Ohtani, Syndergaard and left-hander Patrick Sandoval has the makings of something good — particularly if general manager Perry Minasian can complement it with a top-of-the-rotation arm like free-agent right-hander Max Scherzer.

Syndergaard, a 6-foot-6 leviathan nicknamed Thor, looked superheroic early in his career, constantly ripping off 100-mph fastballs and pairing them with 93-mph sliders.

During the Mets’ run to the 2015 National League pennant, Syndergaard was among their best pitchers, and the next year he was even better, posting a 2.60 ERA, striking out 218 in 183.2 innings and looking every bit a star.

When Syndergaard was healthy, he was typically excellent, pairing his strikeout stuff with a tendency to generate groundballs. Over 718 career innings, he has a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 777, walked 166 and permitted just 64 home runs.

His return from elbow reconstruction in March 2020 hit roadblocks and culminated with the September showcases, during which he allowed two runs in two innings. That was enough for the Angels to see — and pay.

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Houston Texans QB Tyrod Taylor ready to return, to start Sunday vs. Miami Dolphins

Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins, coach David Culley said Thursday.

Taylor has not played since the second quarter in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns when he injured his left hamstring. Culley stated Thursday that there haven’t been any setbacks with Taylor’s hamstring injury and that the quarterback is finally healthy enough to play.

From the beginning of Taylor’s time on injured reserve, Culley said that Taylor would return as the Texans’ starter and that he gave Houston the best chance to win.

“Coach [Culley] said early on that I would be the starter when healthy and thankful that he stood by that,” Taylor said.

Taylor has seen the opposite come true too many times before. In 2018, Taylor left a Week 3 game with a concussion and was replaced by then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns won the game, and Mayfield kept the starting job.

And in 2020 with the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor was named the starting quarterback going into the season. Taylor cracked two of his ribs during the Chargers’ first offensive drive in the season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals but finished the game.

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The following week, a Chargers team doctor tried to give Taylor a pain-killing injection just before kickoff and accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung.

Rookie first-round pick Justin Herbert started that game and every other game the rest of the season. He went on to collect Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Taylor said when he suffered his hamstring injury this season, he initially thought about his injury history and the fact it happened again.

“But that thought hasn’t necessarily resonated since then,” Taylor said. “It was unfortunate that it happened … but I can’t control it. You have to shift your mindset to getting back healthy and doing the things day in and day out so you stay on track so I could get back out and still be able to perform at a high level.”

Taylor, who was placed on injured reserve before Houston’s Week 3 game, said he was initially told it would be a four-to-six week window to come back from his injury.

“Hamstrings are tricky,” Taylor said. “Typically, you feel good mentally before you actually feel better physically. So, you try to test it, you do as much as you can, but at the same time, you also have to listen to your body. You don’t want to put yourself at a bigger risk coming back too early.”

Taylor injured his hamstring while running in for a touchdown during the second quarter in Cleveland and said he immediately knew something was wrong.

“I knew that I was injured at the time, tried to jog off the field,” Taylor said. “Still in pain, didn’t necessarily know what it was, just knew that something wasn’t right with the hamstring. Went back on for the two-minute drive. Got flushed out of the pocket one time and tried to accelerate and … just tried to get to the halftime and basically see what the doctor said.

“Obviously, I didn’t want to come out. Coach made the decision, thought it was best before I go out there and injured it even more.”

Taylor returned to practice on Oct. 27 but was not ready to return in Week 8.

Before he was hurt in Week 2, Taylor had completed 70.5% of his passes for 416 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Taylor was replaced by rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who went 0-6 in his six starts and completed 67% of his passes with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Texans have been outscored by an NFL-worst 122 points in eight games this season. Houston’s only victory came against Jacksonville in Week 1 with Taylor under center.

Taylor said it was frustrating being on the sidelines during the losing streak, not being able to do anything about it but “lead in my own way” and help Mills the best he could. On Wednesday, Taylor was able to take part in a full practice in the same way he was before he injured his hamstring.

“I think our trainer told me yesterday … I guess he read our numbers or my numbers from practice and was like you must have been excited yesterday just to be back out there,” Taylor said.

“Yeah, I felt like a little kid running around and being able to just be myself. So, you definitely miss it when you’re not out there.”

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Denver Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson to miss rest of season because of torn right pectoral muscle

Denver Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson, who is the team’s second-leading tackler, will miss the remainder of the season after he suffered a torn right pectoral muscle in Sunday’s 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio stated Monday that tests had revealed the tear. Johnson, who has 32 tackles on the season, becomes the third Broncos defensive starter — and third linebacker — to head to injured reserve in the past four weeks. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb went to injured reserve last month after surgery to remove a bone spur from his left ankle.

Johnson is also the second of those defensive starters, along with fellow inside linebacker Josey Jewell, to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle. Jewell suffered his injury in the Broncos’ Week 2 victory over Jacksonville. Fangio said the team’s medical staff will look at both injuries to evaluate why two players at the same position suffered the same injuries.

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“They’ll look at it, Josey’s was a contact injury, and [Johnson] fell on his,” Fangio said. “But they’ll look at it. It seems to be a more common injury nowadays around the NFL than it has been in the past.”

Fangio isn’t imagining it.

In 2019, the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine did a study to determine whether the number of players suffering torn pectoral muscles was on the rise. And after studying the injuries that had been made public, the report said torn pectorals had increased five times between 2010 and 2017 than had occurred from 2000 to 2010.

Jewell suffered his injury on special teams — covering a punt — while Johnson was injured in pass coverage on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to running back Kenyan Drake.

Micah Kiser entered the match after Johnson was injured and played the rest of the way. Kiser and Justin Strnad are expected to start at the two inside linebacker spots Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns, with Strnad expected to wear the communication earpiece in his helmet during the game.

Jewell had worn the earpiece, and then Johnson did in the weeks following Jewell’s injury.

“That’s the way it will be right now, [but] we’ll see how [Kiser] can do it with it, too, and make a decision by game time,” Fangio said. Fangio stated the Broncos might have to elevate one or two inside linebackers from their practice squad for Thursday’s game. Inside linebackers Curtis Robinson and Barrington Wade are on the Broncos’ practice squad and both were with the team throughout training camp.

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Chicago Bears QB Andy Dalton could miss additional time because of knee injury

Justin Fields made his first NFL start Sunday for the Chicago Bears, and there is an opportunity the rookie quarterback could get the starting nod for another game or two.

Bears quarterback Andy Dalton, who was out Sunday with a bone bruise on his left knee, could miss an additional week or two depending on how quickly he recovers, league sources told ESPN.

Dalton has a bone bruise from his femur and tibia colliding, according to a source. Dalton did not suffer damage to any cartilage or ligaments and does not need surgery, but his return will be determined by how quickly the bone bruise heals.

The Bears have not placed Dalton on injured reserve, which would mandate that the 11-year veteran miss at least three matches. There is hope within the organization that Dalton will return sooner than that three-week threshold.

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Bears coach Matt Nagy stated this past week that Dalton would remain Chicago’s starter when healthy.

The franchise entered the season planning to stick with Dalton as long as possible, allowing Fields time to grow during his rookie year.

Fields, who Chicago selected with the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, stated Wednesday that he is ready to start Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns, emphasizing that he has been “preparing for this moment for a long time.”

Dalton, who turns 34 next month, suffered the knee injury last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals after landing awkwardly on the Chicago sideline following a scramble.

His left knee appeared to buckle, and the three-time Pro Bowler immediately pointed to Fields to enter the game. Fields went 6-for-13 passing for 60 yards with an interception and rushed 10 times for 31 yards versus the Bengals. He threw two passes, both completions, in a Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

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Chicago Bulls exercise contract options on Coby White, Patrick Williams

The Bulls have exercised a pair of rookie scale team options, locking in guard Coby White and forward Patrick Williams for the 2022/23 campaign, the team revealed wednesday in a press release.

While decisions on standard team options are typically due right before free agency begins, teams have to make their decisions on rookie scale team options a year in advance.

By October 31, clubs must either exercise or decline third-year options for first-round picks from 2020 and fourth-year options for 2019’s first-rounders.

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White was a starter for the Bulls this past season, but figures to come off the bench following the team’s acquisition of Lonzo Ball in free agency.

The 21-year-old averaged 15.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 4.1 RPG on .416/.359/.901 shooting in 69 games (31.2 MPG) in 2020/21. His ’21/22 debut may be delayed, since he’s coming off left shoulder surgery.

Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft, was also a full-time starter last season as a 19-year-old rookie.

His role for 2021/22 stays unclear, but the former Florida State standout looks like a key part of Chicago’s long-term plans. He put up 9.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG on .483/.391/.728 shooting in 71 games (27.9 MPG) last season. White’s fourth-year option for 2022/23 is worth $7,413,955.

He’ll now be extension-eligible during the 2022 offseason and would be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023 if he doesn’t sign a new contract next year.

Williams’ third-year option for ’22/23 will pay him $7,775,400. The Bulls will have to decide on his fourth-year option for 2023/24 by October 31, 2022.

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New York Jets OL Alex Lewis, a former starter, decides to retire

New York Jets guard Alex Lewis, who walked off the practice field Aug. 5 with an apparent head injury, has decided to retire from the NFL, a source told ESPN on Wednesday.

By rule, Lewis, 29, was eliminated from playing for any team in 2021 when he was placed last week on the reserve/left squad list. He was aware of that possibility and wasn’t surprised when the Jets used that designation, the source said.

Lewis’ head injury wasn’t the reason he left the team, as the Jets suggested soon after his sudden departure. “He’s going through some things which are much greater than football right now,” coach Robert Saleh said on Aug. 7. “We’re just giving him a chance to kind of sort through it all.”

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Lewis’ retirement culminates a tumultuous year.

The former starter spent time last campaign on the non-football injury list as he sought medical help for an undisclosed condition. That came after a heated practice-field exchange with then-coach Adam Gase.

In the offseason, the Jets replaced Lewis by drafting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round. Lewis wasn’t happy, a source said, prompting him to skip the voluntary portion of the offseason program.

The Jets approached Lewis about a pay cut, and the two sides agreed to a reworked deal in May. His base salary was lowered from $5.8 million to $3 million, and the final year of his contact (2022) was voided, which would have allowed him to become a free agent.

In theory, Lewis could try a comeback in 2022, but “it remains to be seen whether he has any desire to play again,” the source said.

Lewis, a fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, played three years with them before being traded to the Jets in 2019. He did a solid job at left guard and was rewarded with a three-year, $18.6 million contract. He played in 44 career matches, with 39 starts.

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New York Jets’ Zach Wilson signs rookie deal after missing first 2 days of practice

It took longer than expected, but the New York Jets and quarterback Zach Wilson agreed to terms on his rookie contract Thursday.

The first-round pick and presumptive starter, who missed two days of practice as the two sides haggled over technicalities in the contract language, signed a four-year, $35.15 million contract — a slotted deal that is fully guaranteed.

It contains a $22.9 million signing bonus and a fifth-year team option, standard for all first-round picks.

Wilson, who took a red-eye from Los Angeles and arrived in New Jersey on Thursday morning, was the last unsigned first-round selection from the 2021 NFL draft.

The contract includes offset language and the signing bonus will be paid within 15 days, per a source, details that imply that the sides have compromised because those were the sticking points. Originally, the Jets wanted to defer payments into 2022.

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Coach Robert Saleh, speaking to reporters shortly before news of the deal broke, said he talked to Wilson early in the week.

The conversation was strictly about football, not contract-related, Saleh said. He said he wasn’t worried about the stalemate being a disruption to the team.

“It’s more concern for the kid,” Saleh said. “Every rep is important, so my concern is that it’s two days too many for him. But as far as the installs go and the way we’re preparing the rest of the team, that doesn’t concern me.

“But this young man has a chance to do something special around here that hasn’t been done in a while and every rep matters for him.”

Wilson benefited from a heavy workload in the spring. With no veterans on the roster, he took all the first-team reps.

There was an increased sense of urgency to strike a deal because the Jets are counting on him to be their opening-day starter, although they haven’t revealed that. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has regular-season experience. Rookie contract disputes are unusual because the deals are slotted, but teams and agents sometimes haggle over certain clauses.

The Jets include an offset in every contract that has guaranteed money, which provides financial protection if they release the player before the contract is complete. An offset lets a team to cut a player before the end of his four-year contract is completed and have the remaining money reduced by the amount of his next contract.

This isn’t an unusual stance. It’s believed that 30 of the 32 teams use offsets in contracts. The exceptions are the Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the latter having signed No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence to a deal with no offsets.

Without an offset, a cut player collects the guarantee from his old team plus the money he receives from his new team — aka double dipping.

What complicated the Jets’ negotiation was that at least two of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round received deals without full offsets — Lawrence and Justin Fields (No. 11 by the Chicago Bears). Fields received a partial offset.

Interestingly, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, the top pick in 2020 and represented by the same agency that negotiated Wilson’s contract, signed a contract that includes offset language.

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