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.
Rockers Kings of Leon to perform on first night of NFL draft
CLEVELAND — Kings of Leon will help kick off NFL draft activities on a stage close to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame later this month.
The Grammy Award-winning band will open the festivities on April 29 with a performance as the draft returns to a more normal state after being held virtually in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to being a top-selling act, lead singer Caleb Followill, his brothers Nathan and Jared and cousin Matthew are also football fans and have closely followed Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield‘s career since he was a star at Oklahoma.
Hall of Fame rock singer Ann Wilson of Heart will sing the national anthem before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell begins calling the names of the league’s newest players. Goodell hosted the event last year from his home.
A massive stage is under construction near the Rock Hall and FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns’ downtown home.
Cleveland will be represented by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s All-City Choir, which will sing a special rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The local cover band The Sunrise Jones will serve as the house band for the first two nights of the draft.
Headlining musical acts for the second and third days of the draft will be announced in the coming weeks.
The draft will be held from April 29-May 1.
Browns banking on dominant Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garrett pairing – Cleveland Browns Blog
BEREA, Ohio – Next season, the Cleveland Browns‘ defense will feature two former No. 1 overall picks off the edge. And they’re banking the All-Pro they drafted four years ago will help unlock the vast potential of the one they just signed.
Wednesday, Cleveland further bolstered its budding defense in free agency, inking Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal worth up to $10 million.
Unlike Myles Garrett, Clowney has yet to live up to the billing of being the No. 1 pick. But now healthy again, he sees playing in Cleveland alongside Garrett as an opportunity to finally do so in his eighth season in the league.
“I just want to show that I’m still an elite player,” Clowney said Wednesday. “And prove to other people that I’m still out here and can dominate.”
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Clowney is coming off a season with Tennessee during which he did anything but dominate. He played eight games with the Titans without notching a single sack, before missing the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Since becoming the first pick in the 2014 draft, injuries have continually hampered Clowney, beginning with his first career game, which ultimately led to a microfracture in his right knee. Clowney passed a physical in Cleveland on Wednesday on both knees, clearing the way for the Browns to finally sign him.
“I don’t think everybody (has gotten) to see the person they drafted yet,” said Clowney, who has still made three Pro Bowls. “I think I’m working back towards that – I’m well on my way now.
“With my potential and the way I play the game – if I can stay healthy – I shouldn’t be far away from being Defensive Player of the Year. I think I have that potential, and I can do it.”
The Browns already boast a player who was in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation just last season in Garrett. Before contracting COVID-19 in late November, Garrett was leading the NFL with 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Despite missing two games with the virus and laboring with his breathing after returning, Garrett still was named a first-team All-Pro.
Clowney, himself, has commanded plenty of attention from opposing offenses in the past, even with his injury history and inconsistent production. In fact, since 2018, according to ESPN Stats & Info, only Michael Bennett and Za’Darius Smith have been doubled-team more often.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Clowney, who, despite the constant double teams, still owns one of the five-best pass-rush win rates since 2018. “You game plan all week to go against one person, watch him all week to get pass-rush reps — and then you go into the game, and all of a sudden, it’s two people in front of you or somebody there to chip you the whole game.”
In Cleveland, however, Clowney could see the fewest double teams of his career, lining up opposite Garrett, who faced the third-highest rate of double teams last season.
“I’m looking forward to playing with somebody who is dominant on the opposite side like a Myles Garrett, who can draw a double team,” Clowney said. “Maybe I can go one-on-one more.”
Without a doubt, Clowney will see more one-on-one opportunities. And having already landed edge rusher Takkarist McKinley in free agency this offseason, Cleveland could deploy Clowney in the pass rush in a variety of creative ways.
“We love his relentless style of play,” general manager Andrew Berry said in a statement. “He’s one of the more disruptive players in the game and we think he’s going to add an element of ruggedness along our defensive line.
“The other thing we love about Jadeveon is his versatility, his ability to play all across the front and impact the game regardless of his alignment.”
Berry has been busy this offseason upgrading every level of a defense that ranked just 19th in efficiency in 2020 but for a team that still won 12 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Last month, the Browns landed arguably the top safety available in free agency in John Johnson III from the Rams. Berry also added three other potential defensive starters in linebacker Anthony Walker, nickelback Troy Hill and defensive tackle Malik Jackson.
Clowney, however, has enough talent to elevate the Browns’ defense to yet another level. Especially if he, in his own words, proves that he can be a dominant player once again.
“That is all I am here to prove this year,” he said. “We’re going to see this season.”
Seattle Seahawks extend team president Chuck Arnold through 2027
SEATTLE — The Seahawks have extended team president Chuck Arnold through 2027, they announced Wednesday.
Arnold is entering his 28th season with the Seahawks and his fourth in his current role. As president of the Seahawks and First & Goal Inc., which operates Lumen Field, he oversees the organization’s business and financial operations, sales, marketing and administration.
“Chuck continues to do an exceptional job working with and supporting the football operation while assuring that the entire Seahawks organization remains an engaged and invested community leader unafraid to tackle tough challenges in our region,” Jody Allen, chair of the Seahawks, said in the team’s release. “Stability, quality, and consistency of leadership is a key ingredient to our continued success and winning culture. I remain excited for the future of this organization both on and off the field.”
Arnold’s extension means more stability at the top of the organization. In January, the Seahawks gave general manager John Schneider an extension through the 2027 draft. Coach Pete Carroll was previously extended through the 2025 season.
A native of Tacoma, Washington, and a graduate of Washington State University, Arnold began his career with the Seahawks as an intern in 1994. He was their COO from 2013 to 2018 before replacing Peter McLoughlin as team president.
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