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Steelers sign DT Cavon Walker, OT Jarron Jones, S Tyree Kinnel

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PITTSBURGH — The Steelers signed a trio of XFL products on Wednesday, supplementing their free-agency signings with two members of the New York Guardians — including the league’s sacks leader — and one alum of the DC Defenders.

The Steelers agreed to contracts with defensive tackle Cavon Walker, offensive tackle Jarron Jones and safety Tyree Kinnel. The positions filled are ones of need for the Steelers, who lost depth at all three spots during free agency with the departures of defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, offensive linemen Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney, and safety Sean Davis.

The Steelers have been open in the past to signing players from alternative football leagues, signing safety Kameron Kelly from the Alliance of American Football prior to last season. Kelly started one game for the Steelers but was released after he was arrested at a local bar late in the season.

In an interview with local beat writers in February, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team would be monitoring and evaluating the XFL for talent.

“The XFL has taken some of the guys we would have signed as futures [contracts],” Colbert said prior to the NFL scouting combine. “We’ll have to do more work on undrafted guys because of that. Traditionally, we sign about 15, but we might have to sign 20-22.”

“We got an initial feel for that group, and we’ll continue to monitor those teams throughout the season.”

Though the XFL season was shortened due to COVID-19, the Steelers saw enough to merit signing the trio of players.

Listed at 6-foot-2, 284 pounds, Walker led the XFL with 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits as a member of Guardians. The Maryland product went undrafted in 2018, but spent preseasons with the Bears and the Chiefs. Walker became the second defensive lineman added by the Steelers in free agency, joining former Baltimore DL Chris Wormley, who arrived in Pittsburgh via trade.

Jones, a Notre Dame product, spent training camp or preseason with the Bills, Cowboys, Giants and Seahawks, but couldn’t stick with any of them. He converted from defensive line to offensive line upon joining the Giants, and the much-needed reps as the Guardians’ left tackle should allow the the 6-6, 320-pound offensive tackle to compete for a roster spot in Pittsburgh.

Kinnel was the final signing of the group after his stint with the Defenders. Kinnel had 17 total tackles in the shortened season. After a Michigan career during which he had 170 tackles, two interceptions and one sack, Kinnel signed with the Bengals as a undrafted free agent in 2019 but was cut after training camp.

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Tyrod Taylor front-runner to be Chargers’ starting QB, Anthony Lynn says

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — Tyrod Taylor is the front-runner to succeed Philip Rivers as the Los Angeles Chargers starting quarterback, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Wednesday.

At least for now.

“I brought him in last year and I knew that if we needed him to start, if something happened to Phil, then he could go in and start,” Lynn said about Taylor, who is entering the second season of a two-year, $11 million contract. “I’m very familiar with Tyrod. I would say right now it looks like he’s in the driver’s seat, but no position is final until we get to training camp right now.”

Taylor has mostly served as an NFL backup, except for a three-year run as starter for the Buffalo Bills, where he completed 63% of his passes and threw 51 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Entering free agency, the Chargers cleared salary cap space with the hope of landing Tom Brady, but the six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback signed instead with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton remains available on the free-agent market.

Lynn praised Newton’s ability on Wednesday, after initially avoiding a question about the Chargers’ interest in the three-time Pro Bowl selection.

“Cam’s a good quarterback, he’s done a lot of good things with the Panthers, led them to a Super Bowl,” Lynn said. “He’s had some injuries. If he’s healthy, he’s going to be a good quarterback for somebody.”

When asked directly if the Chargers had interest in Newton, Lynn said, “We’re looking at everybody. I want to turn over every single rock, so yeah, we’re looking at everybody.”

A nine-year NFL veteran, Newton led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in the 2015 season and was named the NFL MVP. However, Newton has recently dealt with shoulder and foot injuries.

The Chargers also could look to the NFL draft later this month to find their future franchise quarterback.

The Chargers own the sixth overall pick, and while they are unlikely to have the opportunity to select top QB prospects Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa, there are several other prospects who are projected to have promising futures, including Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts.

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Saints set up draft headquarters in brewery

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METAIRIE, La. — With NFL facilities closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the New Orleans Saints had to find a new space to set up their makeshift draft headquarters.

So they turned to their draught headquarters.

The Saints have set up shop in the brand new Dixie Brewing Company facility in New Orleans East, which is also owned by team owner Gayle Benson — and is closed to the public for the time being. Saints coach Sean Payton said the team is prepared to stay at the brewery through the draft on April 23-25 if needed.

Payton said staff members are following all CDC guidelines, with only about 6-7 people on site and spread out from each other in a big board room, including Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant general manager Jeff Ireland. Each day, everyone takes their temperature upon arrival.

Everyone else joins the discussions via video conference, including scouts and position coaches as needed.

“This facility is fantastic,” Payton said. “There’s no one out here. We have our board set up, we’ve got seven monitors. … We’re certainly distanced away from each other. There’s plenty of space. And then the monitors have all the scouts and everyone else, so the total people (involved) in the meeting might be 20.”

Payton, who was diagnosed with coronavirus two weeks ago before being cleared last week, joked that, “I’m kind of like the guy they all want to sit away from.” But he said now that he has already had the virus, “I’m like, ‘Look, I’m the safest guy in the room here.'”

The Saints also considered using space at the Benson Tower office building downtown but liked both the space available and the remote location at Dixie Brewing.

The Saints have also been holding “virtual meetings” with many draft prospects over video chats in lieu of pro days.

“Anyone we didn’t get completely at the combine or had follow-up work to do,” Payton said.

But Payton did admit that it will be tougher for teams to evaluate players who had injury or character question marks.

“There’s probably more unchecked boxes this year for teams than normal because that month of March after the combine was eliminated. But, look, that’s part of the deal,” Payton said. “In the normal schedule you might fly that player in and investigate the data a little bit more, the injury a little bit more. If it was a character concern, you might bring that player in or go to the school and spend more time. … You may not be able to clarify or clean up some of the question marks that you normally would in each year.

“So how do we philosophically then approach the draft this year? I think it’s a great question. You might be more conservative relative to aversion to taking a risk if you don’t have the information you’re looking for.”

As for getting treatment for injured players and getting new players acclimated to the playbook, Payton said most of that has been normal so far, with players still having access to the training staff or choosing to be treated elsewhere if desired. If the quarantine continues into the summer, Payton said it would be reminiscent of the 2011 lockout – and that he is confident players will be diligent in those areas even when they’re away from the team facility.

“A lot of it will be done either via the mail, via the phone, and we’ll get those players up to speed as quickly as possible once we’re together,” Payton said. “These are all paid professionals. These guys are all going to understand the importance of taking care of their body. Certainly it’s easier when they’re at your facility, but clearly, with where we’re at today, most all of them are at home with their families where they should be. …

“I think one of the things we do well is adjust. Whether a schedule changes and all of a sudden you’re playing at a different time, you’re having to play over in London, maybe there’s a hurricane that forces you out of the city for a week. No different than any one of those things, albeit on a larger scale — this is certainly at a large scale. We’ll adjust accordingly and get the information to our players, and then plan accordingly.”

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Sources — Jadeveon Clowney drops asking price to $17M-$18M

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The asking price for free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has dropped at least $2 million off the more than $20 million per season that he had been seeking, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini on Wednesday.

Clowney is now seeking a number closer to $17 million to $18 million, and the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans remain “interested” in signing the three-time Pro Bowl selection, sources told ESPN.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson said Wednesday that the team has been in touch with Clowney’s agents.

Clowney, who was traded from the Houston Texans to Seattle prior to the 2019 season, made an impact for the Seahawks. While he only had three sacks in 13 regular-season games, Clowney was consistently Seattle’s most disruptive defensive lineman and two defensive touchdowns. He added 1.5 sacks in Seattle’s two playoff games.

The 27-year-old Clowney suffered a core muscle injury in Week 10 and elected to postpone surgery until the offseason. That left him playing in pain for most of the second half of the season. The injury sidelined him for two games; he missed a third game with the flu.

ESPN’s Brady Henderson contributed to this report.

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