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2018 NFL free agency reset

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Thursday was the second day of NFL free agency. It felt like the 10th, mostly because the first day felt like the ninth — on account of the wild negotiating period feeling like Days 1-8.

So already, it’s time to reset the market and understand what’s left. Roughly two-thirds of our top 100 free agents had agreed to contracts as of Thursday evening. Another 19 players had been involved in more than a dozen trades, with more potentially on the way.

Let’s dig in, starting with the best available players.

Quick links: Barnwell’s grades | Schefter’s news | Signings by team


Best of the rest

Here are the 10 highest-ranked free agents from our top 100 who are still on the market. Note that ages are heading into the 2018 season:

Rank: 6 | Age: 31

The New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks are among the teams interested.

Rank: 7 | Age: 27

He spent Thursday visiting the Minnesota Vikings, who have an opening at their 3-technique defensive tackle.

Rank: 8 | Age: 26

After refusing a pay cut from the Arizona Cardinals, Mathieu is looking for a team willing to take on a talented but injury-prone playmaker who is still only 25.

Rank: 18 | Age: 26

It’s no surprise to see an undeveloped market for Fuller after the Bears made him a transition player, giving them the right to match any offers he might get.

Rank: 20 | Age: 26

If Reid has drawn significant interest, it hasn’t been reported — a suspicious development given his prominent role in player protests the past two seasons. He tweeted Thursday night that teams would be wrong to lowball him “not because of my skill set but because I’ve protested systemic oppression.”

Rank: 27 | Age: 27

Among teams interested are the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rank: 29 | Age: 30

Maclin has many fans throughout the NFL and still can contribute in the right offense.

Rank: 30 | Age: 30

The Oakland Raiders didn’t have a use for Crabtree in their new West Coast scheme, but the Baltimore Ravens are quite interested in a player who has scored 25 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

Rank: 31 | Age: 29

Pryor has had trouble finding significant offers after an injury-shortened 2017, but he remains a fountain of potential.

Rank: 33 | Age: 28

Pugh has visited the Cardinals amid reports of interest on both sides.

Honorable mention:


The new benchmark

NFL contracts can be compared in a variety of ways, but the simplest way is to measure by the annual average of the deal. The key number to remember from the early stages of the 2018 market is $28 million.

That’s the record set in Kirk Cousins‘ three-year, $84 million agreement with the Minnesota Vikings, and it’s what agents will seek to surpass in the coming months and year. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, both of whom are due for new contracts soon, are prime candidates to do it.

For now, here’s the hierarchy in the entirely irrelevant (except to owners and agents) world of NFL contract benchmarks:

1. Kirk Cousins ($28 million)
2. Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5 million)
3. Matthew Stafford ($27 million)
4. Drew Brees ($25 million)
5. Derek Carr ($24.969 million)


What free agency has told us about QB draft

A total of 11 prominent quarterbacks have changed teams, some to start and others to serve as backups. When the music stopped, it was possible to deduce the teams that will enter the draft in the quarterback market. They include:

Cleveland Browns

A team could do worse than Tyrod Taylor, whom the Browns acquired via trade. But it’s almost impossible to imagine the Browns passing on a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.

Denver Broncos

Free agent Case Keenum signed a two-year contract, a day after Broncos general manager John Elway attended the pro day of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Elway, who has the No. 5 overall pick, is still looking.

New York Jets

Yes, the Jets re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater to a roster that includes Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. But if you have four quarterbacks, you have none. Only the unlikely acquisition of Kirk Cousins would have kept the Jets out of the draft market.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are trying to sign oft-injured Sam Bradford and oft-intercepted Mike Glennon. They might need to maneuver up from their current spot at No. 15, but the need remains.

Buffalo Bills

Trading Taylor to the Browns, and signing former Bengals backup AJ McCarron, suggests the Bills are planning a big move up to the top of the draft. They own the No. 12 and No. 22 picks.

Read more on the quarterback dominoes from Dan Graziano here.

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Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson backs QB Carson Wentz

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PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles are in an early hole and the play of quarterback Carson Wentz has contributed to those struggles, but coach Doug Pederson is not considering pulling Wentz from the lineup.

“No. You don’t go there. That’s a knee-jerk reaction,” Pederson told 94.1 WIP on Monday when asked what it would take to look at options at QB outside Wentz. “Carson’s our quarterback. We’re going to get it fixed. He is going to get it fixed.”

Philadelphia tied the Cincinnati Bengals 23-23 on Sunday and now sits at 0-2-1. This is the first Eagles team to be winless through three games since 1999, when Pederson was the team’s quarterback for over half the season.

Wentz helped force overtime with a diving touchdown late in regulation but had a shaky day overall, going 29-of-47 for 225 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He is tied for the most interceptions in the NFL with six through three games, is 29th in completion percentage (59.8) and is last in QB rating (63.9).

The rough start has some fans calling for second-round pick Jalen Hurts to take over. Hurts has been sprinkled into the offense over the past two weeks. He played three snaps Sunday and handled the ball twice, resulting in a first-down run and a fumble that Philadelphia recovered.

Pederson suggested benching Wentz would be giving in to the “aura” in the city right now as opposed to acting on the team’s beliefs.

For his part, Pederson expressed regret for deciding to punt late in overtime on a fourth-and-12 in Cincinnati territory, assuring a tie, rather than giving his offense a chance to go and win it.

“Looking back, you probably put it in your quarterback’s hands to win the game,” he said.

Despite the poor start, the Eagles remain just a half-game out of first place in the bumbling NFC East — something Pederson mentioned as part of his response to the question about benching Wentz.

“We have a long season. … The whole division right now is not playing very good football,” he said. “We’re not that far off.”

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Why Patrick Mahomes makes his home in Kansas City, not New York City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes was just 5 years old in 2000 but still recalls the reaction of the fans at Shea Stadium when his father, Pat, with an ERA of over 5.00, would come in to pitch for the New York Mets.

It made an impression on the younger Mahomes that maybe the big city wouldn’t be the best place for him if he someday played sports professionally.

“He started pitching badly, and right away when he got in the game, he started getting booed,” Mahomes said. “I got to see that firsthand as a young kid.”

When Mahomes signed his 10-year contract extension over the summer, it almost guaranteed he would play most — if not all — of his career in Kansas City, one of professional football’s smallest markets, with a metropolitan population of 2.14 million people. After Green Bay, Kansas City is perhaps the closest thing the NFL has to an anti-New York, and it could be the home of one of the league’s biggest stars through the 2031 season.

In fact, Mahomes — a regular around town — has expanded his involvement in the city with his 15 and the Mahomies Foundation, which benefits Kansas City-area children, as well as becoming a part owner of Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals.

Mahomes signed such a long extension for football reasons, of course. In February, the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years and appear set for a dynastic run. Mahomes loves playing for coach Andy Reid and with this group of teammates. He said he has faith that 42-year-old general manager Brett Veach will continue to build a championship team around him after all of his teammates have moved on and even if the 62-year-old Reid decides at some point in the next 12 years to retire.

But as part of the deal, he’s also getting Kansas City. It’s a town where he says he can still go out at times without being bothered. He’s choosing Kansas City over places such as New York, Los Angeles and even Dallas, which isn’t far from his hometown of Tyler, Texas. He said he’s fine with that part of it, too.

“People have been generous here,” Mahomes said shortly before the Chiefs started training camp. “They’ve been nice to me and my family, and so I’m excited to have my future here. You go to some sports cities and if you’re playing badly on Sundays, it’s like they hate you and your family. Then you come to Kansas City and it doesn’t even matter. They care about the person you are and how you treat other people. It’s cool to be in a city like this.”

Mahomes could be paid as much as a half of a billion dollars over the 12 years of his contract, and that still might end up being a steal for the Chiefs. Not just because of Mahomes’ talent, but because the quarterback salary market might have left his deal far behind by 2031. But Veach and the Chiefs didn’t have to talk Mahomes into staying. It was something he wanted.

“He understands that there needs to be a sense of long-term thinking,” Veach said. “[He said,] ‘I want to win a long time here in Kansas City. There are only certain ways that this can be possible, and this is what’s important to me. I know I’m going to be taken care of the rest of my life, but I want to leave behind a legacy. And Kansas City is the place I want to do it.'”

Mahomes, whose face can be seen during commercial breaks on Sunday almost as often as during Chiefs games, wouldn’t be the first top NFL quarterback to play most or all of his career in a smaller city and still enjoy plenty of national attention. Brett Favre played 16 seasons in Green Bay. Peyton Manning spent much of his career in Indianapolis. Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers. In terms of national popularity or endorsement opportunities, those players were not hurt by playing in a smaller market. It didn’t harm the league, either. At Super Bowl LIV, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked what he thought of Mahomes’ playing in Kansas City.

“Patrick Mahomes anywhere in the NFL is good for me,” Goodell said. “Not only is he an incredible player, but he is an incredible young man. Wherever he plays in the NFL, he’s going to have an impact. I’m proud to have him as a Kansas City Chief. I guess there are 31 other teams that wouldn’t mind having him, either.”

Mahomes has been such a success during his two full seasons as an NFL starter that it’s easy to conclude he could thrive playing anywhere, including New York. In 2018, his first season as a starter, he made the transition with ease. He became only the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, and was named the league’s MVP.

Last year, his stats were more modest, but he was spectacular in the playoffs and in Super Bowl LIV, where he was named the game’s MVP.

Playing in Kansas City could give Mahomes a better chance to succeed long term. Dick Vermeil, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles and later the Chiefs, recently said the fan bases of the teams are similar with regard to their passion and loyalty. The difference, he said, is that Chiefs fans are far more forgiving when the local team loses and the star players don’t fare well.

Reid coached in both cities, as well. He was with the Eagles for 14 seasons and is now in his eighth season with the Chiefs.

“I know he loves it here,” Reid said. “He understands the benefits of community. We saw that when he came here and how he reached out and put himself out there with the community. It’s a great place for him to live. I think the fans respect him, and when he needs a little space, he can get the space, but at the same time, he can still be the quarterback of this franchise.

“He could survive anywhere. He’s wired that way. But this is a good place for him. I think he’ll thrive here.”

Mahomes began to take over Kansas City not long after he replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback in 2018. He appeared in local television commercials and on cereal boxes. Before the pandemic, Mahomes could be seen around town at baseball or soccer games, NASCAR races or concerts. This summer, he got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Brittany, in one of the suites at Arrowhead Stadium.

Mahomes further planted a flag in Kansas City over the summer by purchasing a piece of the Royals. And it’s not like the Royals and owner John Sherman, who took over the team in 2019, went looking for Mahomes. It was Mahomes who contacted Sherman.

“He saw this as a way to double-down on Kansas City,” Sherman said. “When we acquired the team last November, we put together a great ownership group here … all people who loved baseball and loved Kansas City. Patrick kind of met that criteria. He did it for the right reasons. I felt like it was good for Kansas City, good for the Royals and also good for him. He’s got an interest in the game, and I think he also sees this also as a way to learn a little bit about the business of the game.

“He comes from a baseball background. He clearly loves the game. He chose football for his profession, but he’s certainly embracing Kansas City in a big way. That means a lot to us.”

Mahomes could have asked to join the ownership group of 29 other baseball teams. But he said he wasn’t interested in owning a team anywhere besides Kansas City.

“One hundred percent,” he said. “I’m going to be here a long time. I want to keep doing what I can to put roots down and trying to make the franchises, the Chiefs and the Royals, the best they can be. I wanted to be a part of the Royals baseball team. Being at the games, knowing the atmosphere in Kansas City, how much everybody loves the Royals and the Chiefs. I thought it was a good fit.

“I’m going to be in Kansas City for a long, long time, and I want to make sure that people know that as much as they’re passionate about the Chiefs and how we play, I’m passionate about being a part of Kansas City. If that’s through my foundation, trying to help the kids in Kansas City, playing game days here at Arrowhead Stadium or just being a part of things like the Royals, I want to find ways I can ingrain myself into the city that has shown me so much loyalty and passion every Sunday.”



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Allen Lazard shows he can catch, Packers show they can’t tackle in win over Saints – Green Bay Packers Blog

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This is why the Green Bay Packers didn’t draft a receiver this year.

More specifically, Allen Lazard is the reason.

Six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown is the reason.

Without Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams (held out because of a hamstring injury), quarterback Aaron Rodgers went to his No. 2. And yes, Lazard proved in Sunday night’s 37-30 win at the New Orleans Saints that he’s worthy of No. 2 status.

While his Hall of Fame counterpart Drew Brees dinked and dunked his way down the field, Rodgers aired it out.

Lazard caught a 48-yarder that traveled 52.2 yards in the air. He topped that with a 72-yarder in the third quarter on a pass that carried 52.3 yards in the air. Lazard is the only player this season with a pair of catches of air-distance throws of 50-plus yards in the same game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research and NFL Next Gen Stats.

Rodgers’ success deep through three games has matched his total from all of last season. He improved to 5-of-7 on throws this year with an air distance of 50-plus yards. He was 5-of-22 on such passes all of last season.

Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense has become so dynamic that Adams seemingly hasn’t been missed when he’s been out. The Packers, 3-0 this season and 16-3 in LaFleur’s first 19 regular-season games as a head coach, went 4-0 last season while Adams sat because of turf toe.

Those who pined for more help for Rodgers perhaps should have wished for help on the other side of the ball. Had they found someone who could tackle Saints running back Alvin Kamara, it wouldn’t have been as close as it was Sunday night. Exhibit A was Kamara’s 52-yard touchdown catch-and-run — with the emphasis on run. Brees, like he did most of the game, dinked a short throw to Kamara in the flat. Five missed tackles later — including one by Will Redmond that could have stuffed it for little or no gain — Kamara tied the score at 27-27.

The Packers’ defense forced just three punts. Their biggest play came from Za’Darius Smith, who forced and recovered a fourth-quarter fumble by gadget quarterback Taysom Hill.

Breakout performance: Kingsley Keke showed flashes of an improved pass rush during the abbreviated training camp when he posted the fifth-best winning percentage among Packers defensive players in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill, winning nine of 19 reps (47.4%) in a drill that favors the offensive player. With Kenny Clark (groin) inactive for a second straight game, the second-year defensive tackle saw his playing time spike. So did his production. He recorded the first two sacks of his career — both in the first half, and one came on third down. Last year, Keke played 108 snaps all season.

Promising trend: Even when he doesn’t put up massive yardage totals — like he did last week with 236 total yards from scrimmage — running back Aaron Jones manages to find the end zone. He showed off the power aspect of his game when he barreled into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on the opening drive of the third quarter. It was his fifth touchdown of the season and his 24th since the start of last season, most in the NFL. The Saints ran their streak of consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher to 46 games, but Jones still made an impact with 86 total yards and a touchdown.

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