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Jaguars to keep Gardner Minshew at QB for rest of season, sending Nick Foles to bench

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Minshew Mania is back in Jacksonville.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced Monday that rookie Gardner Minshew would be the team’s starting quarterback for the last month of the season, putting supposed franchise quarterback Nick Foles on the bench just 10 quarters after his return from a broken collarbone.

“Obviously it was a tough deal,” Marrone said on an afternoon conference call. “Nick coming back from injury and us not being able to do a good enough job around him, really. So we feel with Gardner’s mobility and elusiveness, it can give us a better chance of winning with the way we’re playing right now because we’re all not doing a good enough job.”

Minshew replaced Foles to start the second half of Sunday’s 28-11 loss to Tampa Bay. Foles played a terrible first half, turning the ball over on the team’s first three drives (an interception and two fumbles) and then leading the offense to three consecutive three-and-outs. Foles completed 7 of 14 passes for 93 yards, and the Jaguars failed to score. Marrone said after the game that he wanted to give the offense a spark because it was “kind of dead.”

Minshew threw for 147 yards and a touchdown in the second half. His lone interception came when his pass bounced off Dede Westbrook‘s hands in the end zone. He did lose a fumble on a sack in the fourth quarter, but the Bucs were ahead 25-11 at that point.

Marrone said he told the quarterbacks on Monday that Minshew would be the starter the rest of the season, and that Foles handled the news well.

“It’s brutal. It’s tough,” Marrone said. “He’s a competitor. He’s worked his ass off to come back and he’s a great pro, so he’s going to do everything he can to help us win. At the same time he’s got to be ready in case there’s an injury or whatever it may be. He’ll be a pro about this.

“I think the world of him. I think he’s a really good quarterback. He obviously can win in this league, but we’ve got to be able to have some help around him.”

Foles has produced 661 yards and 33 points in the three games since his return. Only 10 of those points came in the first half of those games, including zero points and just 105 total yards against the Bucs. That generated a lot of boos, especially as the team headed to the locker room at halftime, and Marrone had no choice but to bench the player the Jaguars signed to a four-year, $88 million contract that includes a franchise-record $50.125 million guaranteed.

The Jaguars (4-8) — who clinched their 11th non-winning season in the past 12 years with Sunday’s loss — next will host the Los Angeles Chargers (4-8), who have lost three consecutive games. The Jags finish out the regular season at Oakland, at Atlanta and home against Indianapolis.

Marrone’s decision to go with Minshew creates an interesting quarterback dilemma in 2020. Foles has a dead cap hit of $33.875 million if released before June 1, but that number drops to $21.375 million if he’s released after June 1. A post-June 1 trade would save the Jaguars $15.875 million and include a dead cap hit of $6.25 million.

Foles didn’t even make it to halftime of the 2019 season opener before being injured. He suffered a broken collarbone on the Jaguars’ 10th snap when Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones landed on him after Foles let the ball go on what would be a 35-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark.

Minshew stepped in for Foles and had an impressive debut: 22-of-25 for 275 yards and two TDs with one interception. Minshew started the next eight games and led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record, throwing for 2,285 yards and 13 touchdowns with four interceptions. Now he’s got the job back, but that doesn’t mean Foles is solely to blame for the offense’s problems.

“I still believe in him as a quarterback,” Marrone said. “I just think that a lot of times it’s never really just the one position or one person. It’s a team game. You need people around him to do a good job, and right now we’re all not doing a good enough job. So we’re just trying to put the best guys out there that give us the best chance to win.”

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Patriots players balance uncertainty in planning return to town – New England Patriots Blog

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Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. First checkpoint for players: To quarantine or not to quarantine, that is the question for Patriots players this week.

The simple math highlights how Tuesday represents the first checkpoint for the team in an unprecedented year.

The current expectation is that players will report for the start of training camp on July 28. With Massachusetts instructing all non-essential travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days — unless they are coming from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York or New Jersey — that means almost everyone on the roster would need to arrive by Tuesday to ensure an on-time, healthy start to training camp.

Unless, of course, they are allowed to skip that step, as is the case for the New York Jets, New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. That could make sense given that consistent testing is expected for members of all teams.

Regardless, that it is even a point of conversation reinforces how the 2020 NFL season is a true wild card.

Coach Bill Belichick sometimes says that when a player has the football in his grasp, he holds the fate of the entire team with it. That can now be expanded, with the coronavirus, to include the idea that every lifestyle decision by a player, coach or support staffer can impact the fate of the entire team.

Players have noted the uncertainty of the situation, with defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty saying on their most recent “Double Coverage” podcast that they are awaiting more clarity on protocols.

There’s always the possibility that players could opt out of the season, but Jason McCourty hinted that wasn’t a likely scenario for him.

“I’m going to be 33 this season, so a year off from football would probably mean I’m watching from now on, to be honest with you,” he said.

Asked about the season ahead, and what it would mean to win a Super Bowl, Devin said: “I think it will be different, because we don’t know if it will be a full season or not. So I think this is going to be one of those years when all sports is just going to be an asterisk. But I think overall a championship is a championship, and if you can win a championship through all of this going on, it will be an unbelievable accomplishment. This is going to be one of those years that people talk about for a long time … so I think it will be legendary whoever wins a championship this year.”

2. Cap space provides in-season insurance. With Saturday’s news that the Patriots settled compensation grievances with Antonio Brown ($4 million cap credit to team) and Aaron Hernandez ($2.25 million cap credit to team), it increased the team’s cap space to $7.79 million. So an obvious follow-up question is: What might the Patriots do with it? More than anything, I think it provides valuable in-season insurance to react to an emergency-type situation or a possible trade opportunity down the line. The Patriots have been tight to the cap all offseason, so this is obviously a much-welcomed cushion for them.

3. Michel has been back in town: Some Patriots players have already returned to the area, getting a head start on their quarantine, with running back Sony Michel falling into that category. He is recovering from offseason surgery on his foot, and as a rehabbing player is allowed to use the team’s facilities, which he’s been taking advantage of for several weeks now. Michel posted a picture on his Instagram that shows him without a walking boot.

4. More on Cam/N’Keal connection: What led quarterback Cam Newton and second-year receiver N’Keal Harry to work out together last week on the West Coast? I’m told Newton initiated the contact with Harry. Now, after a couple of days together, it would be interesting to hear if Newton saw any similarities between Harry (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and former Carolina Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 245), as both are bigger than the prototype at the position, relying less on speed and more on technique and physicality. Benjamin had developed a nice early rapport with Newton in Carolina, totaling 136 catches for 1,949 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons (2014, 2016).

5. No Cam news conference scheduled: When the Patriots officially announced the signing of Newton on Wednesday, one of the natural follow-ups was when New England might get its initial firsthand look at Newton in a (virtual) news conference. Nothing is scheduled at this time, which possibly could extend to the scheduled start of training camp this month. When it does happen, the contrast between Newton and Belichick could be fun.

6. Mahomes’ deal sparks Bledsoe recollections: The Chiefs’ 10-year contract extension with quarterback Patrick Mahomes was unusual because of its length, but not unprecedented. Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, of course, had signed a 10-year contract in March 2001. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “I saw this as an opportunity to sign one of the greatest Patriots for the rest of his career.” Of course, no one could have predicted what would unfold — Bledsoe’s serious injury, Tom Brady‘s emergence, and Bledsoe ultimately traded to Buffalo the following season.

7. Explaining 13% incentive in Cam’s deal: When ESPN’s Field Yates was first to break down the specifics of the one-year contract Newton signed with the Patriots, the presence of $250,000 for playing 13% of the offensive snaps stood out to some as unusual. But it is easily explained. Because Newton played in 12.6% of the offensive snaps last year, the Patriots don’t have to initially count that $250,000 against the salary cap, as it is considered a not-likely-to-be-earned incentive. So in essence, they are borrowing $250,000 until Newton hits that threshold. This is similar to what they did last year with linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. In that deal, Collins could earn a $500,000 incentive for playing 91% of the snaps, which wasn’t a coincidence because he had played 90.65% of the snaps the year before.

8. Cam’s contract in context: How modest of a contract did Newton sign with the Patriots given his credentials? According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, the following are the contracts with the lowest totals of guaranteed money for MVP-winning quarterbacks since 2000:

  • Newton: $550,000 (2020)

  • Steve McNair: $6.1 million (2004)

  • Rich Gannon: $11 million (2002)

  • Kurt Warner: $11.5 million (2000)

9. Patriots were ready with Cam’s jersey: The Patriots waited about three months before finalizing the jersey numbers for veteran free agents they reached contract agreements with back in March. With Newton, the delay was about a week, and here’s one notable benefit for the franchise by moving quickly: Locking Newton to No. 1 allowed for immediate jersey sales, with his jersey one of the first items that pops up on the team’s online Pro Shop.

10. Thuney deadline approaches: Wednesday marks the deadline for the Patriots and franchise-tagged guard Joe Thuney to reach an extension, or Thuney will be locked in to the $14.78 million tag for the 2020 season. None of the 14 players across the NFL who were assigned the tag have had their contracts extended. Will the deadline spur action? Or is the lack of extensions a preview of what to expect? While acknowledging anything is possible with Thuney, I lean toward the latter.

11. Did You Know: Julian Edelman enters the 2020 season in second place on the Patriots’ career receptions list with 599. Wes Welker is the all-time leader with 672 receptions.



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Patriots settle compensation grievances with Antonio Brown, Aaron Hernandez

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The New England Patriots have settled compensation grievances with Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez over the past week, which creates notable salary-cap space for the team, league sources told ESPN.

The Patriots had owed receiver Brown $9 million, and as part of the settlement, he will instead receive $5 million, per sources.

The settlement is notable, as some experts viewed the Patriots’ chances of recouping any money as low. The Patriots gave Brown a $9 million signing bonus on Sept. 7, and half of it was to be paid on Sept. 23, three days after they cut him. The other half was to be paid in January.

In addition to that $4 million credit on the Patriots’ cap, the club received a $2.25 million credit after settling a long-running compensation grievance with the late Hernandez, per sources.

The salary-cap space is significant for the Patriots, who have been tight to the league’s limit.

Earlier this week, prior to restructuring the contract of running back Rex Burkhead, the Patriots were down to less than $500,000 in space. The club now has $7.79 million in room under the salary cap.

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Sources — NFL, NFLPA expected to meet Monday about return terms

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Clarity is coming soon about whether NFL players will report to training camp and salvage a season.

Sources say the NFL and NFLPA management councils are expected to meet Monday in hopes of agreeing to terms on a return to work.

The players held a call Friday, during which leadership said they would have more answers early next week.

Negotiations and counterproposals between the league and players are happening frequently each week as training camp is a little more than two weeks away.

Players want frequent testing (every day) and no preseason games, while the league wants testing less frequently than the players (like every other day) and two preseason games.

A source told ESPN that players and the league were close on agreeing to working conditions and that momentum for at least some preseason action exists, with a one-game format also being discussed. The source added the players would likely get concessions as a result of preseason play.

But all that has not been finalized yet, and there are other issues to hash out.

  • Acclimation period: Players want a slow ramp-up from working out to taking the practice field to avoid unnecessary injuries and to get comfortable in the new working environment.

  • Opt-out clauses for players: What happens to a player’s contract if he decides to sit due to COVID-19 concerns, and does he get an accrued season?

  • Whether trimming the 90-man training camp rosters to avoid unnecessary contact is the right thing.

  • Equipment modifications: Players are lukewarm about wearing masks over their helmet bars, while the NFL has been working with Oakley on a yet-to-be-revealed design.

  • Economics: How to share lost revenue, with players knowing they have to take a loss somewhere to offset the lack of fans in the stands, but the league’s offer to place 35% of salaries in escrow is considered a non-starter.

Both sides want camp and want to play, so the goal is to get there and survive the probable initial wave of positive tests, then manage expectations from there.

“Get the 16 games on TV,” a source involved told ESPN. “That’s the main goal.”

If there are fans in the stands, the league standard for all 32 team will be for fans to wear face masks, while the league is hoping teams can have socially distanced fan days inside stadiums for training camp.

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