As the NFL turns its attention to the draft and free agency, Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer, Washington Redskins reporter John Keim, Philadelphia Eagles reporter Tim McManus and New York Giants reporter Jordan Raanan look to the 2018 season with a series of questions this week.
Tuesday’s question: How will Alex Smith‘s addition to the Redskins impact the division?
Keim: The Redskins internally say they’ve upgraded at quarterback. Of course, that could be justification for going in a different direction — toward Smith and away from Kirk Cousins — as not everyone in the NFL agrees with them. But for part of the season Smith was in the MVP discussion, and if nothing else, he and Cousins are at a comparable level. Smith offers the ability to make more off-schedule plays — it’s how he helped the Chiefs beat Washington last season, and that’s always a plus. But here’s the biggest plus for Washington: Smith is a lot cheaper. And that’s how he’ll impact the division. The only way Washington could have retained Cousins was via one of the tags. Let’s say it opted for the transition tag, the cheaper of the two. Washington would have paid Cousins $28.8 million. Smith will count $17 million on the cap this season. So the Redskins will have around $34 million to spend on other players rather than just $23 million, giving them the ability to retain some of their own free agents, extend young players or sign others. Smith’s presence alone isn’t enough, but his ability plus the extra cap room will allow the Redskins to build — if they spend wisely.
McManus: I don’t think it moves the needle drastically in either direction. They aren’t identical in their playing style, but Smith and Cousins are similar. They are both quality quarterbacks capable of winning (and even winning big) in the right system with a strong supporting cast, but in a tier below the magic-making QBs who can throw a franchise on their shoulders. Smith has completed 67 percent of his passes with an average of 20 touchdowns to seven interceptions over his last three seasons; Cousins also has a 67 percent completion rate over that span while averaging 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Cousins is more aggressive as a passer, and Smith is a bit more active with his legs. It’s close to a wash in my view. If anything, Washington may have weakened itself at quarterback considering Cousins has more upside at this stage and is 29 years old. Smith is 33. The Redskins have a chance to find success under Smith — and who knows, maybe he’ll be a better fit for coach Jay Gruden — but the move from Cousins to Smith heightens the urgency to find the quarterback of the future.
Raanan: Not much. He’s a competent quarterback no doubt but a downgrade in my estimation from Kirk Cousins. Smith is going to be 34 years old by the start of the season. This will be the homestretch of his career and he’s never thrown 30 touchdown passes in a season. He doesn’t strike fear into opposing defenses, especially with his limitations throwing the ball deep downfield. The Redskins can win with Smith if they have the right pieces around him. But do they? They need a running back. They need a No. 1 wide receiver. They need to keep tight end Jordan Reed healthy. They need to upgrade their defense. If they can do most or all of those things in the next year or two then the Alex Smith move can make waves in the NFC East. Otherwise it seems like a shortsighted move for an above-average quarterback in his final few productive seasons. The rest of the division should barely pay it any attention right now.
Archer: From a Cowboys’ perspective, seeing Cousins out of the division isn’t a good thing. He had some big passing days against the Cowboys but a 1-6 record. To me, Smith can be more dynamic than Cousins because of his ability when things break down. Yes, he is older, but he has not shown a signs of unwillingness to leave the pocket to make plays. He is also risk averse. In his five-year run with the Kansas City Chiefs, he did not have more than eight interceptions in a season. His best season was 2017, with more than 4,000 yards passing, 26 touchdown passes and five interceptions. But he won’t have Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill or Kareem Hunt around him. Coach Jay Gruden wanted Cousins to pull the trigger more, especially down the field. It will be interesting to see if Gruden will get frustrated by Smith in the same manner. First, the Redskins will have to give Smith more skill players, especially at receiver, where they were still waiting for Josh Doctson to break out. If tight end Jordan Reed can stay healthy, that would help. And an improved running game would also help. Smith isn’t a carry-the-load type of quarterback like, say, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but he can win games.
‘I don’t feel valued, or respected’
“I don’t feel valued, or respected, by the Dolphins,” Howard said. “Just like they can take a business-first approach, so can I.”
Howard reported to training camp Tuesday but was frustrated all summer that Miami would not adjust his contract.
In 2019, Howard signed a five-year, $75 million deal that, at the time, made him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. But he is due $12 million in non-guaranteed money this year while coming off a 10-interception season (the most in the NFL since 2007) that earned him an All-Pro nod.
Howard’s contract now ranks sixth in per-year average, and he switched agents recently to navigate his push for a stronger deal.
“I’m one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and the tape backs up that claim,” Howard said. “Yet, I’m the second highest paid cornerback on my own team, and it’s not even close.”
Byron Jones, the corner opposite Howard, earned a five-year, $82.5 million deal in free agency last year.
Howard and his new agent, David Canter, never requested a new deal but instead offered solutions such as more guaranteed money on a reworked contract, Howard said. The organization refused those pitches, and “I don’t feel the organization has dealt with me in good faith,” the cornerback said.
“That’s why I want to make it clear I’m not happy, and have requested a trade,” Howard said. “Until that trade happens I am just here so I don’t get fined, and will handle myself like professionals do.”
Howard has what teams covet: the ability to play press-man coverage and get the ball. He has 22 interceptions and 55 pass deflections since entering the league out of Baylor in 2016. Only the Baltimore Ravens‘ Marcus Peters (23) has more picks during that span.
The last time Miami traded an elite player, it acquired two first-round picks in exchange for left tackle Laremy Tunsil in 2019.
‘Ball’s in his court’: Larry Fitzgerald missed on first day of Cardinals’ camp – Arizona Cardinals Blog
GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds walked to his room at the Renaissance Hotel in Glendale on Tuesday to prepare for the first day of training camp, he noticed he had the same accommodations as the last couple seasons.
But something was missing this year.
In the past, Larry Fitzgerald‘s room was near Edmonds’ — but not this camp. Someone else is occupying that room.
For the first time since 2004, when he was negotiating his rookie contract, Fitzgerald wasn’t at the first day of Cardinals’ training camp. The 37-year-old is a free agent and hasn’t publicly announced his plans for the near future: Come back and play an 18th season — with the Cardinals or someone else — or retire.
“Ball’s in his court,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We’ve left it in his court. He’s earned that. That’s how we felt as an organization. And so that’s where it’s at.”
His absence was felt Tuesday by those Cardinals who played alongside Fitzgerald in the past.
Fellow wide receiver Christian Kirk sat down at his locker inside State Farm Stadium on Tuesday morning to prepare for the annual conditioning test that kicks off camp, and for the first time in his young career Fitzgerald wasn’t next to him.
“It definitely feels weird without him,” said Kirk, who was Fitzgerald’s teammate from 2018 to 2020. “There’s definitely going to be a little bit of an adjustment period for me.
“He’s been around here, a part of this organization for so long, not having him here on the first day is a little weird.”
The reality of that hasn’t sunk in for Kirk.
“I’m not sure I really had time to you know really process that,” Kirk said. “The immediate reaction to it, it’s just a missing face, something that is so constant.”
Kirk has missed Fitzgerald’s attitude and personality this offseason from his humor to how he flips the proverbial switch to being serious on the field.
Edmonds was going to send a text message to the group chat he’s in with former teammate Trent Sherfield, Fitzgerald and Kirk with a simple message: “We miss you.”
Questions about Fitzgerald’s playing future have been the hot topic during the past five offseasons. Not knowing which season was going to be Fitzgerald’s last led Kirk to being more appreciative of Fitzgerald.
“Because you never knew going into a new year with him if he’s gonna retire or if he’s not — never to take any moment around him for granted,” Kirk said. “And I always made sure to cherish whether it was the last game, last practice, last time sitting down eating dinner, whatever it was, just to make sure I cherish those moments.”
However, the Cardinals aren’t closing the door just yet on the Larry Fitzgerald Era.
Kingsbury said the organization has a plan ready regardless of what Fitzgerald decides. Either way, there’ll be a few major decisions about the makeup of the Cardinals’ receiving room, one that currently includes DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella. Tuesday wasn’t the time to discuss that — and, anyway, Kirk said he doesn’t get paid to make those decision.
Both Kirk and Edmonds said Tuesday that they haven’t asked Fitzgerald what his plans are for 2021. Kirk wasn’t surprised that Fitzgerald has handled his playing future like this. Edmonds called Fitzgerald a “grown man” who’s “been around the block a few times.”
That didn’t stop the question from being asked to Kirk: Is Fitzgerald coming back or not?
“That’s the million dollar question.”
WR Randall Cobb expects trade back to Green Bay Packers, source says
The Packers were on the verge of re-acquiring Cobb late Tuesday afternoon. A source said Cobb expects to be back with his old team once the final details of a trade with the Houston Texans were completed.
Cobb, who will turn 31 on Aug. 22, played his first eight seasons in Green Bay, where he was one of Rodgers’ go-to receivers — especially in the slot.
He left in free agency following the 2018 season and spent one year with the Dallas Cowboys. He then signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Texans, where he played in 10 games last season — one more than he did in his final season in Green Bay, when he battled lingering hamstring problems. He suffered a toe injury in Week 11 last year and missed six games. He finished with 38 catches, 441 yards and three touchdowns.
Rodgers hasn’t had a true slot receiver since Cobb’s departure. To fill that void in their offense, the Packers drafted Amari Rodgers in the third round of this year’s draft.
Apparently, Rodgers-to-Cobb had a better ring to it than Rodgers-to-Rodgers, but it’s unclear if bringing back Cobb was a condition of Rodgers’ return or merely a suggestion that the Packers decided to honor. When Cobb left the Packers, he did so ranked sixth in franchise history with 470 catches and 11th in both receiving yards (5,524) and touchdown catches (41). His best season came in 2014, when he caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. That was one of two seasons in his career in which he did not miss a game.
While Cobb’s role is yet to be determined and could hinge largely on his ability to stay healthy, Cobb also could help mentor Amari Rodgers. There’s already a connection between the two; Rodgers’ father, Tee Martin, coached Cobb in college at Kentucky.
The trade no doubt will include a contract restructuring for Cobb, who was scheduled to make $8.25 million this season.
In an unrelated move, the Packers released two quarterbacks: veteran Blake Bortles and Jake Dolegala. Bortles signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with no guarantees on May 24 in the midst of Rodgers’ absence from the offseason program. Dolegala signed with the Packers following a tryout during the June minicamp.
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