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Patrick Mahomes dominoes – Barnwell on the Chiefs’ options, AFC playoff picture

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Thursday night saw just about every NFL fan’s worst nightmare come true. Patrick Mahomes dislocated his right kneecap on a first-half sneak during Kansas City’s win over Denver. The injury is expected to keep Mahomes out for at least three games after an MRI showed no additional damage, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Friday. Mahomes was replaced by backup quarterback Matt Moore on Thursday night.

It’s a crushing blow to a 5-2 Chiefs team expected to compete for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and a trip to the Super Bowl. Their path to those goals is now murkier. Even if you’re a fan of a rival team, Mahomes is unadulterated football joy. It’s awful to see that taken away.

Everyone loses, at least on some level, with Mahomes sidelined. You don’t need me to tell you that the Chiefs are a drastically different team without their star passer. In taking a step back and trying to look at the big picture, I’d like to get a sense of what might happen next and how the 2019 season might shift after the Mahomes injury. Let’s start with the Chiefs and work our way out:


The Chiefs will move forward, at least at first, with Moore

If you’re a Chiefs fan looking for some vestige of hope, let me start with this: Moore has generally been an underrated quarterback during his time in the NFL. He was basically a league-average player on a middling Dolphins team in 2011, only for ownership to push for a more exciting option the following offseason to help sell tickets, which led the franchise to draft Ryan Tannehill. Moore then spent four years on the bench, but when he came back in for an injured Tannehill in 2016 and then Jay Cutler in 2017, he was again generally a competent quarterback, with one bad start against the Ravens as an exception. With better luck, Moore might have had a few seasons as a viable starter. That’s not Mahomes, but it’s better than most teams have waiting in the wings.

It’s fair to note that Moore is 35 and was starting to work as a scout for the Dolphins before the Chiefs signed him in August as a replacement for the injured Chad Henne. I’d also make the case that Moore didn’t get to spend his career playing under Andy Reid, who has made backups like A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb look like viable starters while coaxing career seasons out of Alex Smith and Michael Vick.

Moore looked bad for most of his debut Thursday night, which isn’t necessarily surprising. He likely hasn’t had any reps with the first-team offense. Research I’ve done in the past suggests that backups tend to play better when they start a game from the beginning (and presumably have had some practice time with the first team) as opposed to coming in off the bench, which usually results in about a 10% penalty in terms of effectiveness. Moore didn’t throw at all during the 2019 preseason and sat out the 2018 campaign, so he hadn’t thrown a competitive pass since November 2017.

If any quarterback was going to come off the bench and take over a job, it’s difficult to imagine a friendlier situation than the one Moore inherits. The Chiefs have arguably the most creative offensive mind in the league with Reid. I ranked Kansas City’s weapons as the second best in the NFL before the season, and that was before they acquired LeSean McCoy, who has added depth to their running back room. Sammy Watkins is dealing with a hamstring injury, but when you start your receiving corps with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, it’s going to make your quarterback’s life easier.

Of course, Moore might be toast. Losing your starting quarterback also doesn’t just mean that you’re down to your second-string passer; it means that you’re one hit away from relying on your third-string quarterback. While I recognize that the Steelers just won a game with Devlin Hodges, nobody hoping to compete for a playoff spot wants to rely on their third-stringer. The Chiefs can hope to get by with Moore for the weeks while Mahomes is missing, but that’s a dangerous game to play, to which the Steelers can attest.

The Chiefs have undrafted rookie Kyle Shurmur — yes, the son of Giants coach Pat Shurmur — on their practice squad. They probably don’t want to be one moment away from turning things over to Shurmur for any length of time. With that in mind …

They should look into adding a veteran quarterback

There are actually quite a few veteran options the Chiefs could plausibly consider acquiring via trade. They have a full complement of 2020 draft picks minus a fifth-round selection, which went to the Jets for Darron Lee. They’ll send the Seahawks a second-round pick for Frank Clark, but they’re due a second-rounder from the 49ers as part of the Dee Ford trade. Both picks appear likely to come in the bottom of the round.

Whom could the Chiefs target? The short list starts with a familiar face:

Nick Foles. Reid drafted Foles in Philadelphia, and the former Super Bowl MVP credited Reid with saving his career after his disastrous stint with the Rams. The 30-year-old never really got started in Jacksonville, as Foles went down with a broken collarbone after two drives in Week 1. Gardner Minshew has won hearts and minds since taking over the starting job, and it’s unclear whether the Jaguars will hand the job back to Foles when he returns from injured reserve. It’s easy to put two and two together here.

Foles is a great football fit, but the timeline doesn’t make sense here. If his initial timeline was accurate, he won’t be back until Week 11. The Chiefs likely expect to get Mahomes back at or around that time, at which point they could move forward with Mahomes as their starter and Moore as the backup. They realistically need a quarterback who can at least step in on an emergency basis for Moore now. Foles also doesn’t make financial sense, given that he has $20.1 million in practical guarantees coming due next season.

Marcus Mariota. Timing is everything! The Titans benched their longtime starter for Tannehill this week in the hopes of sparking an offense that has scored one touchdown in its past five halves of football. Mariota has produced a pair of impressive performances against the Browns and Falcons this season, and he has thrown only two interceptions on 159 pass attempts, but the hyperconservative Mariota has averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt in four Tennessee losses.

Mariota is in the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, and as the former second overall pick, it’s a significant chunk of change. The Titans owe him $13.5 million in prorated guaranteed salary over the remainder of the season, all of which would come off the books if he were traded to another team. That’s too much to pay, given that Mahomes could be back in a month.

The Titans organization might not love the optics of trading a guy who had been considered a franchise cornerstone for a late-round pick. The good news, at least relative to Foles’ deal, is that Mariota is in the final year of his contract.

The Titans also likely still fancy themselves as contenders in the AFC South, and if they do, they probably don’t want to rule out the chances of Mariota playing again this season. Tannehill hasn’t completed a full 16-game season since 2015. He’s hardly a sure thing to start all 10 of Tennessee’s remaining games. Tennessee didn’t frame Mariota’s benching as a permanent decision, and if Tannehill struggles, I suspect the Titans would want the option of turning back to Mariota. If coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson have decided that they’re truly done with Mariota, it’s only then that I would figure a Mariota trade makes sense.

Andy Dalton. The Bengals are 0-6 and going nowhere. Playing behind a porous, injury-riddled offensive line and without star receiver A.J. Green, the 31-year-old Dalton is having his worst season since 2011 by both passer rating and adjusted yards per attempt. Dalton has $10.4 million in prorated base salary remaining in 2019 and $17.5 million in unguaranteed salary waiting in 2020, the final year of his extension.

The Bengals will presumably pursue a quarterback with their 2020 first-round pick, which would likely bring an end to Dalton’s tenure in Cincinnati. They also moved up in the fourth round this year to draft Ryan Finley, so it would make sense for the Bengals to move on from Dalton and evaluate Finley over the rest of the 2019 season, albeit behind a compromised offensive line.

I can’t see the Chiefs wanting to spend that much money for a quarterback who might not be that much better over the next few weeks than Moore, given that the latter already knows the playbook. The Bengals typically don’t sell veterans during losing seasons and have publicly disavowed any interest in trading Green, so I wonder if they would be inclined to move on from Dalton.



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EA delays first look at Madden NFL 2021 to help ‘drive change’ amid protests

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EA Sports is postponing a first look at Madden NFL 2021 planned for Monday in light of the protests in Minneapolis and around the country over the death of George Floyd.

“We stand with our African American / Black community of friends, players, colleagues and partners,” EA Sports said in a statement on social media Sunday. “Our immediate attention is on actions we can take to drive change against the unjust treatment and systemic bias that is plaguing the nation and our world.”

Floyd, a black man, died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

EA announced last month that Madden NFL 2021 will be released on next-generation video game consoles but gave no more information about the game. Monday’s event was slated to give fans a first look at the latest installment of the iconic franchise.

“We’ll find another time to talk football with you. Because this is bigger than a game, bigger than sports, and needs all of us to stand together and commit to change.”

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said in April that he would be on the cover this year, but EA Sports has not made an announcement.

EA also recently agreed to a deal with the NFL to remain the league’s exclusive publisher of football simulation games through 2026.



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Will Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley become the NFL’s highest-paid non-QB? – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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Last year at this time, the question surrounding Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley was whether he would make his first Pro Bowl.

Now it’s legitimate to ask whether Stanley is going to get paid like no other non-quarterback in the NFL.

Stanley’s ascension to the top of his position comes as he enters the final year of his rookie contract and an enviable situation. The left tackle market suddenly became inflated while lacking a core of young and established blockers.

In addressing his contract situation this past week, Stanley said, “I definitely want to get paid my value and what I’m worth.”

Given that he’s a first-team All-Pro, Stanley is expected to surpass Houston’s Laremy Tunsil, who escalated the value for left tackles in April by signing a three-year contract that averages $22 million per season.

Coming off one of the best seasons by a left tackle in recent memory, Stanley could move past Chicago pass-rusher Khalil Mack ($23.5 million per season) and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald ($22.5 million) to become the richest non-QB in the league.

In protecting the blind side of NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, Stanley allowed six pressures, the fewest by an offensive tackle in 14 years. He was named Pro Football Focus’ Pass Blocker of the Year.

In opening holes for the NFL’s all-time single-season rushing attack, Stanley helped Baltimore average 7.2 yards per rush on the left side. In the past 15 years, only the 2018 Carolina Panthers gained more yards per carry on the left side (7.4).

Detractors will say no left tackle is worth that money (over half of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks are making less than $22 million per season) and that Stanley’s numbers are more reflective of how teams are reluctant to full-out blitz Jackson. Others feel the Ravens can’t spend on Stanley when three Pro Bowl players (cornerback Marlon Humphrey, tight end Mark Andrews and offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr.) are scheduled to become free agents after the 2021 season and Jackson will likely be seeking a record-setting deal around that time.

Baltimore can keep Stanley at what amounts to be a bargain price for the next two years. Stanley is making $12.86 million in his fifth-year option this season, and he could receive the franchise tag at around $15 million in 2021.

Ultimately, the Ravens will have to make the tough decision: Give Stanley the biggest average-per-year deal in franchise history or search for his replacement.

Baltimore understands the challenge of finding a long-term answer at left tackle. After Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden retired in 2007, the Ravens went through seven starting left tackles in eight years: Jared Gaither, Adam Terry, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, Eugene Monroe, James Hurst and Kelechi Osemele.

It wasn’t until the Ravens used the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 draft on Stanley did they stop the turnstile. He was solid in his first three seasons before his breakout year in 2019, which moved him to the top of a position that lacks a lot of star power.

The days of Ogden, Walter Jones and Joe Thomas are gone. The current top protectors of the blind side are Stanley and Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari.

Dallas’ Tyron Smith and New Orleans’ Terron Armstead can’t stay on the field. San Francisco’s Trent Williams hasn’t played a game since 2018. Indianapolis’ Anthony Castonzo turns 32 before the season.

Tunsil became the highest-paid left tackle because of leverage. The Texans traded two first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Miami Dolphins for Tunsil, and they couldn’t afford to let him walk.

So Tunsil received $4 million more per season than any other offensive tackle in NFL history. How much more will it jump with Stanley?

Last season, Tunsil allowed three sacks and committed a league-high 17 penalties, including 14 false starts. Stanley didn’t give up a sack and was flagged just four times.

To keep Stanley, it certainly looks like the Ravens will have to give him a contract that exceeds the $22 million-per-year deal signed by quarterback Joe Flacco in 2016.

If anyone needed a reminder about how much teams covet offensive tackles, five were taken in the first round in this year’s draft. The Browns, Jets and Dolphins all selected tackles in hopes of protecting young franchise quarterbacks.

The Ravens know the price it’ll take to keep Stanley shielding pass-rushers from Jackson. It’s just unknown whether they’re willing to pay it.

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Chase Young and Markelle Fultz

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A little over five years ago, Maryland high school basketball teammates Chase Young and Markelle Fultz expressed the same vision for the future. It was ambitious: The pair set a goal to go No. 1 in their respective drafts, Young in the NFL and Fultz in the NBA.

“We just had a fire in us in high school,” said Young, a better prospect as a pass-rusher than as a basketball player at DeMatha High, “and in our sports we were both doing pretty well. The first pick is something everyone wants to be, and that was something we wanted to do. We weren’t going to stop until we got it.”

They knew they would need to push each other to make their dreams reality. Sometimes it meant battling on the court, where Fultz’s talent flashed against Young’s competitiveness. Young asked — demanded — to guard Fultz in practice. Sometimes it was a one-on-one battle before or after practice. Other times it was during a full-team workout.

Those practices revealed traits that helped Fultz achieve his goal, going No. 1 to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2017. The guard has since been traded to the Orlando Magic. Young just missed the mark, being taken No. 2 by the Washington Redskins in this year’s NFL draft.

What happened during their one-on-ones depends on whom you ask.

Fultz: “It wouldn’t go too well. He would either foul or I would score.”

Young: “No, he was just soft. I used to strap him. I was lockdown. I was like a Dennis Rodman.”

DeMatha basketball coach Mike Jones: “Markelle is telling the closer version to the truth.”

Jones gets the last word, because it speaks to the players’ relationship, developed at the all-boys school in Hyattsville, Maryland, and a bond that remains strong.

“If Markelle had a great practice against Chase one day, that didn’t discourage [Young] the next day from saying, ‘I got him again.’ And vice versa. … That’s one of the things that pushed them to be as good as they are.”

Opponents at an early age

Young and Fultz knew of each other before they met. Young said they likely were opponents in youth basketball leagues. But Young started his prep career at Pallotti High in Laurel, Maryland, staying there through his sophomore football season before transferring to DeMatha and playing on the junior varsity basketball team.

“I realized I had seen him before, multiple times,” said Fultz, who was a grade older. “I was like, this dude is big as hell. Seeing the way he moved for his size was one of the first things I noticed.”

They grew close, in part because they had a lot in common.

“We had a career center and we’d go in and get help and come early,” Fultz said. “He was in there just like I was. To see someone care so much about everything and being a good person and getting good grades and treating people the right way, it reminded me of myself. It was easy to relate.”

Within a year, both had become big-time talents; Fultz knew by his senior season he’d likely be one-and-done in college. Young, who was coming off a 19-sack season as a junior, was being recruited as a defensive end by Alabama, Ohio State and a host of others. He chose the Buckeyes and then shared his goal of going No. 1 in the NFL draft.

“It’s a mentality we had being young,” Fultz said. “We didn’t know where we’d be, but we both believed, with the work ethic and talent we had, that anything is possible, so why not set it to be that?”

Fultz said seeing Young dominate in football motivated him. “He’s killing it during his season; I need to kill it in mine. It doesn’t put pressure; it’s more of a brotherly competition.”

Young followed Fultz’s freshman season at the University of Washington closely. Then a high school senior, Young studied Fultz’s highlight tapes, interviews and practice videos.

“It was somewhere I wanted to be one day, just on the football side,” Young said. “It motivated me by him doing well. It’s like, I know I’ve got to keep pushing because I’ve got to do well, too.”

Huge goals, simple plan

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Chase Young and Markelle Fultz reflect on setting the goal of being the No. 1 overall pick in their respective sports while still in high school.

As Jones said, there’s a difference between saying you want to do something and having a plan to make it happen. That’s what separated Fultz and Young from others. Their plan was simple: Work hard every day.

“They really motivated each other,” said Young’s mother, Carla. “They knew their skill level and desire to be great and to keep each other accountable and keep pushing one another.

“[Young] would say, ‘I’m going to do this.’ He didn’t talk about ‘I want to.'”

Fultz worked on the details of his game — what he would do, for example, when he got into the lane. He would leave school after practice and find another gym for more work. In the summertime, Fultz would arrive early to camps where he was working in order to do extra dribbling or shooting drills. This past summer, when he was about to enter his third NBA season, Fultz showed up four hours early for camp, then stayed for a couple of hours afterward.

Young developed a workmanlike attitude when he was 6 years old. His parents remembered that former star running back Herschel Walker never lifted weights. Young didn’t lift weights until high school. Instead, he did pushups, squats and agility work with a ladder or cones. He would play a card game, and, based on the card he picked, he would have to do a corresponding number of exercises. And, Young became a film junkie before he reached Ohio State.

“He worked hard from an early age,” Carla Young said. “We never had to tell him to work out or exercise. We almost had to threaten him to sit down.”

During football season in high school, Young would head to the gym after practices for 20 minutes of shooting baskets with no coaches around.

“Some guys are talented in one [sport] so they have this prima donna or this, ‘I’m Chase Young so I don’t have to do that’ attitude,'” Jones said. “He never behaved that way. He played like he had something to prove. I knew I could count on Chase.

“If he wanted to be a Division I basketball player, he could have been. I want that to be very clear. You could see his talent and size and his work ethic.”

Still there for each other

In January, Young was in Los Angeles training for the NFL draft. On Jan. 16, Fultz’s Magic were playing the Los Angeles Lakers. With Young sitting courtside, Fultz compiled a triple-double with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in an upset win. Before the game, Young had challenged Fultz to score a certain number of points. Fultz was ready.

“I told him, ‘I’m about to go crazy and play good,'” Fultz said. “That’s the big thing, both of us are competitive. He would say, ‘I bet you won’t kill this game or do this.’ I’d say the same to him. Our competitive nature going against each other and who can do better is what drives us.”

Just like in those practice sessions.

“That’s the reason I like him so much, because his confidence is always high no matter what,” Fultz said. “That’s what’s pushing me to keep killing him. I try to break his confidence, but he always seems to have it.”

Fultz can also provide tips for handling sudden wealth and increased attention. He endured a rocky start to his NBA career because of a shoulder injury. He was traded midway through his second season. Fultz was working on a solid year with Orlando before the league shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. “If he goes through something, he knows to never give up,” Fultz said. “He knows I’m a resource. I’ve been through a lot. I won’t sugarcoat it or tell him what he wants to hear. He was someone who reached out to me, making sure I was OK. He was always telling me I’m good.”

The two speak almost daily, so Young knows he can count on Fultz to help if he hits a rough patch.

For now, though, Young must live with one fact: He went one spot lower than Fultz.

“He was the best player in his draft, even though he went No. 2,” Fultz said. “I got that little edge over him.”

Young’s retort: “In basketball, the best player in that draft gets picked [first]. I feel I was the best player in this year’s draft, but if a team needs a quarterback, they’re gonna pick a quarterback.”

So the Cincinnati Bengals selected Joe Burrow first overall. Nonetheless, one goal stated in high school was darn near accomplished. Maybe Young didn’t go first, but he made his point.

“It was crazy. We talked about it,” Fultz said. “It was something we always believed.”



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