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INDIANAPOLIS — Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon didn’t hold back his frustrations about not getting enough carries early in his rookie season.

It appears the Bengals plan to give him what he wants.

Bengals player personnel director Duke Tobin said that Mixon will be the lead running back next season, and they plan to lean on him heavily. This isn’t a surprise considering Mixon began getting double-digit carries when Jeremy Hill went on injured reserve late in the season. It does essentially seal Hill’s imminent departure, however. Hill will be a free agent in March, and has already posted his goodbyes to Cincinnati on social media. He was not even mentioned during Tobin’s news conference at the NFL scouting combine Wednesday.

That departure has been a long time in the making after the Bengals took Mixon in the second round of the 2017 draft. Running back usage was frustrating for both Hill and Mixon for much of the year. At the beginning of the year, Hill was often given the first series of each half, but didn’t have any snaps other than that. Against the Steelers in October, the team went away from the run entirely, causing Mixon to voice his opposition to the group’s lack of carries. Juggling three running backs between Hill, Mixon and Giovani Bernard wasn’t feasible with the team’s lack of offense last year.

“Joe really came on for us in the later part of the year, second half of the season. He’s going to be our bell-cow running back,” Tobin said. “We are going to combine him with [Giovani Bernard] and we really feel good about that position group.”

Mixon finished the season with 626 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in 14 games.

Also on Wednesday, Tobin said he plans to get pass-rusher Carl Lawson on the field more after Lawson was mostly limited to third down and nickel packages in 2017. Lawson still managed 8.5 sacks as a rookie despite relatively limited playing time.

“We felt strongly when we took him,” Tobin said. “If the draft were going to happen again, he’d be selected much higher. He came on for us in a big way. Last year we were low in quarterback pressures. So it was something we went into the offseason to attack. We doubled up at the defensive end spot, or the pass-rusher spot, and both of those young guys came in and gave us what we were looking for. They gave us a spark. Carl‘s going to build on that. We’re going to expand his role. As he goes forward, he’ll be on the field a little bit more. Talking with coach [Teryl] Austin, he’s excited to work with him. We’ve got a lot of regard for him. We think he’s going to be a big-time player for us.”

As for 2017 first-round pick John Ross, Tobin said they expect him to have a big year. Ross came into the offseason rehabbing from shoulder surgery, played less than 20 snaps, and ended the season on injured reserve.

“We’ve had a run here where our first-round picks are hurt. William Jackson bounced back this year and became what we thought he was but he missed his whole rookie season,” Tobin said of the team’s 2016 first-round pick. “John [Ross] did not get off to the start he wanted. Injuries played a big part in that. We expect big things from him coming on in the future. He’s going to be a big part of what we do. But it’s hard to predict injuries. He got a slower start than what he wanted.”

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Gardner Minshew’s mullet is no more

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Mondays are heavy days historically, but this one is particularly so because Gardner Minshew II‘s mullet is no more.

Yeah, Minshew may have gotten a hair cut yesterday, but this is the first I’m learning about it. So the pain is as fresh as if the stylist had just swept the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ backup quarterback’s fallen locks from the floor.

In what feels like the last remnant of a phenomenon once known as “Minshew Mania,” the former pride of Duval County chopped off his power source:

At the risk of sounding rash, it seems to me Trevor Lawrence came to town and basically told his new QB2 that there wasn’t enough room for both of their glorious heads of hair in that town and, well, we know who won that battle.

To be fair, I sort of knew this was going to happen as soon as Tim Tebow signed with the Jags.

Tebow, Lawrence’s mane AND one of the defining mullets of our generation? That’s just too much juice for one team.

Now, let us take one last look at Minshew’s former masterpiece for posterity:

In the haunting words of Michelle Branch: “Goodbye to you, goodbye to everything that I knew.”



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Minnesota Vikings expect DE Danielle Hunter at mandatory minicamp, source says

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings expect to have defensive end Danielle Hunter back in the fold this week during mandatory minicamp, a source told ESPN, after the Pro Bowl defensive end missed the team’s entire voluntary offseason program.

Hunter, 26, sat out the 2020 NFL season with a herniated disk that required surgery last October. At the time of his surgery, it was reported that the defensive end was unhappy with the state of his contract and wanted a reworked deal ahead of the 2021 season.

NFL Network, which first reported that Hunter planned to attend minicamp, is reporting that the Vikings and Hunter have agreed to terms on a reworked deal that will give the defensive end $5.6 million of the $12.75 million he is set to make in 2021 as a signing bonus. Hunter now has an $18 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

With $14.272 million in cap space, the Vikings moved up a significant amount of money to satisfy Hunter’s desire for more compensation in the short term while allowing both parties the time to work out a long-term extension following the 2021 season, NFL Network reported. The Vikings will need to make a decision on Hunter’s future by the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

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CB Stephon Gilmore doesn’t report for New England Patriots’ mandatory minicamp, source says

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, did not report to mandatory minicamp that began Monday, a source confirmed.

Gilmore could be making a statement about his contract, as he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million in 2021.

The Patriots had advanced $4.5 million of Gilmore’s 2021 salary to him last year, leading to this year’s low figure.

Gilmore, who turns 31 in September, is in the final year of the five-year, $65 million pact 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.

Acknowledging they didn’t have specifics of the situation, teammates noted Gilmore’s absence in the locker room Monday, as well as on the practice field.

“I support my brother. I wish he was here, but I support him all the same,” veteran safety Adrian Phillips said. “What he has going, whenever he gets back here, he’ll let you know how it went.”

Longtime captain Matthew Slater added: “That’s a situation I don’t want to get too far into, because it’s frankly none of my business. Obviously you support all your teammates, whether they are here or not.”

Head coach Bill Belichick deflected questions on Gilmore earlier Monday and wouldn’t reveal whether he has given him (or any player) an excused absence. Players who don’t report for mandatory minicamp can be fined up to $93,085 — which breaks down to $15,515 for the first missed day, $31,030 for the second missed day and $46,540 for the third missed day.

Gilmore partially tore his quad in a Week 15 loss last season, landing on injured reserve.

The Boston Globe first reported Gilmore’s absence.

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