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INDIANAPOLIS — The Washington Redskins don’t anticipate using the franchise tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said Wednesday that he doesn’t think they would try to tag Cousins for a third straight season. The idea, if they did, would be to then trade Cousins, hoping to get more than just the possible compensatory pick they would receive in 2019 if Cousins signs with another team.

The Redskins moved on from Cousins on Jan. 30 when they traded for Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith, a move the team can’t discuss until it becomes official on March 14. Multiple reports after the deal stated the Redskins would consider tagging Cousins.

“I don’t think so,” Williams said of such a move. “But it’s not too late. But we haven’t really talked about that. The media had come up with those scenarios more than what we’ve talked about it because I can’t remember one meeting where we talked about the possibility of tagging him.”

Tagging Cousins would have been a risky endeavor. If he did not sign the franchise tender, the Redskins would be unable to trade him — and he would cost $34.5 million on the cap when free agency began. If he did sign the tender, he would let teams interested in trading for him know that he would not sign a long-term deal. That could block a deal, leaving him on the Redskins roster.

Though Williams couldn’t discuss Smith, he did respond to why the team opted not to try negotiating one more offseason with Cousins. The sides had discussed long-term deals each of the past two offseasons, though there was never much traction as both sides rejected overtures by the other.

Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012, started the last three seasons, twice setting franchise records for passing yards.

“Kirk has been here for six years and I’m sure there have been opportunities that deals could have been worked out,” Williams said. “It hasn’t worked out. As a team you’ve got to always put yourself in position where in case what might not happen. We can’t afford to let it come to the 12th hour and Kirk decide not to come back and leave us with the bag. We got to make decisions that are best for the organization and whatever decision we make or made, that’s what we’ve got to live with.”

The Redskins also didn’t want to have too much money tied up in one player — unless it was for a quarterback at the level of an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. Smith, once he joins the Redskins, will count $17 million against the cap this season.

Cousins could end up as the highest-paid player once he signs in free agency, with an annual salary that might hit $30 million.

“It’s about winning,” Williams said. “The guy that played the Super Bowl and was the runner-up [Brady] makes about $15 million dollars, which is a lot of money. But you get to the point, it’s about the team. … When you got a team around you, you have to look at the team as a whole and find out how much it’s gonna take and what this is about, is this a team sport? I’m not saying giving a hometown discount or anything like that, but you’ve got to be real about the team, too. If you get all the money and you got nobody to play with, what good is playing?”

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Jason Witten retiring from NFL after 17 seasons, plans to do so with Dallas Cowboys

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FRISCO, Texas — After 17 seasons, Jason Witten is retiring from the NFL. He intends to sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in March when his contract with the Las Vegas Raiders expires at the end of the league year.

Witten, 38, played 16 seasons with the Cowboys and spent 2020 with the Raiders. No tight end in NFL history has played more games than Witten’s 271, and only Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez has more receptions and yards at the position.

“A coach once told me, ‘The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example,'” Witten told ESPN. “As I hang it up, I walk away knowing that for 17 seasons I gave it my absolute all. I am proud of my accomplishments as a football player on the field and the example I tried to set off of it. Football is a great game that has taught me many valuable lessons, and I look forward to passing on that knowledge to the next generation.”

Witten first retired after the 2017 season and spent 2018 as an ESPN Monday Night Football analyst but opted to return to the Cowboys in 2019.

A third-round pick in 2003, Witten developed into one of the best tight ends in NFL history. He was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times, tied with Hall of Fame defensive lineman Bob Lilly for the most in Dallas history, and was considered a complete tight end because of his ability as a blocker in addition to his pass catching. In 2012, he was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year winner for the work he and his wife, Michelle, have done with their foundation.

Witten is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receptions (1,215) and yards (12,977) and is second in touchdown catches (72). He had four 1,000-yard seasons, and in 2012 he set the record for catches in a season by a tight end (110) — a record that has since been broken (Zach Ertz, 116).

He played in a team-record 255 games, including a franchise-record 245 starts, missing just one game in his career because of a broken jaw as a rookie. He had 13 catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns for the Raiders but was lauded by coach Jon Gruden and fellow tight end Darren Waller for his mentorship.

Coaching has long been mentioned as a possibility for Witten’s next move. He has been linked to opportunities in the NFL and college levels immediately should he want to start down that path. Undoubtedly he will be inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, and he will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2026.

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Source — Green Bay Packers fire special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers have fired special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga after two seasons in that role with the team, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Mennenga was part of coach Matt LaFleur’s original staff when he was hired before the 2019 season.

There was no immediate word on the status of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whose contract expired after this season. Pettine was meeting with LaFleur on Wednesday to discuss his status.

Pettine opted not to sign an extension after last season, sources said. Most Packers’ coordinators and position coaches always have two years on their deals, but Pettine chose to go into the last year of his contract and see how things played out.

Despite the Packers’ 13-3 regular season and berth in the NFC championship, they struggled on special teams throughout the season.

Blocked kicks, long returns allowed and an ineffective return game overshadowed a near-perfect season by kicker Mason Crosby, one of the few bright spots on special teams.

The Packers ranked 29th in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings, widely considered the gold standard for special teams evaluation around the league. Green Bay was 26th last season.

Mennenga inherited the worst special teams unit in the league from 2018, when they ranked 32nd under former coordinator Ron Zook. The Packers also ranked last in the league in 2014 under then coordinator Shawn Slocum. The club’s highest ranking on special teams between 2014 and 2020 was 16th in 2017.

Among the Packers’ issues on special teams this season were:

  • Two punt returns allowed for touchdowns (a 91-yarder in Week 10 by the Jaguars and a 73-yarder by the Eagles in Week 13)

  • A fourth-quarter fumbled kickoff return by Darrius Shepherd in what as a tie game during Week 11 against the Colts that the Packers went on to lose in overtime

  • A blocked punt in Week 9 by the 49ers

  • A bad snap on an extra point in the divisional playoff game against the Rams that led to a scramble situation on which holder JK Scott panicked and threw the ball to Crosby, who suffered a shoulder injury

  • An inconsistent season punting by Scott

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst used draft picks in 2018 on Scott (fifth round) long snapper Hunter Bradley (seventh round), and neither has performed up to standards.

NFL Network first reported the news about Mennenga’s firing.

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With QB vacancy needing to be filled, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says team ‘close’ to Super Bowl

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INDIANAPOLIS — Colts owner Jim Irsay has gone from not having to really worry about the quarterback position for nearly 20 years to now heading into his second straight offseason not knowing who will be the starter in 2021.

“The type of team we have, it would really benefit us most if we could have someone who can come in and play at a high level, with a veteran vision,” Irsay said Wednesday.

The Colts have a young and talented roster led by linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Quenton Nelson, but they have a substantial void at quarterback. Veteran Philip Rivers, 39, led the Colts to the playoffs for just the second time since 2014, but he announced Jan. 20 that he was retiring after 17 seasons.

Rivers’ retirement means the Colts could have their fifth different Week 1 starting quarterback in 2021 after they had Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck basically from 1998 until 2019. Rookie Jacob Eason is the only quarterback currently under contract for the Colts. Jacoby Brissett, who started Week 1 in 2019, is scheduled to be a free agent.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s belief is that a team is not all about the quarterback; it’s about having a complete roster. But there has to be stability at quarterback, as the four teams that reached the NFC and AFC Championship Games — Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Buffalo — all have that.

“Our belief is we’re close, that we have a tremendous nucleus of players that are capable of competing for the Super Bowl very soon,” Irsay said. “Ideally if you can get someone to come in this year who’s ready to go, it gives you your best opportunity.”

The Colts are projected to have around $69 million in salary-cap space, but it’s not really a hot free-agent market at quarterback, as players like Cam Newton and Jameis Winston highlight that group. Ballard didn’t sound optimistic about finding a quarterback at their current position, No. 21, in the first round of the draft either.

The other option is the trade market, where Detroit‘s Matthew Stafford continues to be linked to the Colts as a possible destination.

Irsay acknowledged that the franchise would gladly welcome back Luck, who suddenly retired in August 2019, if he decides to resume his career. The two haven’t discussed a possible return, but the owner did joke that he will continue to look at his fax machine in case the quarterback decided to take a page out of Michael Jordan’s book by sending a message that simply said, “I’m back,” like Jordan following his first retirement from the Chicago Bulls.

“He knows how much we’d love to have him be our quarterback, there’s just no question about that,” Irsay said. “But at the same time, we know for it to work out, he has to be the one that says ‘You know what? I’m ready. I want to really create a little bit of history, in unprecedented aspects.'”

Irsay added, “I don’t know if we’ll see that. I think he’s happy. He’s raising his daughter. He has a wonderful family. He’s a great Colt and he knows that can come back any time he wants, but at the same time, we respect that he’s made that decision.”

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