Free-agent defensive lineman J.J. Watt has received contract offers from multiple teams, league sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
Multiple sources told Russini that the most lucrative offer Watt currently has on the table is believed to be worth between $15 million and $16 million.
The Browns are among the teams interested in Watt, according to ESPN and multiple reports, but it was not clear as of Thursday morning whether Cleveland has submitted an offer to the five-time Pro Bowler. Cleveland.com reported last week that Watt had some mutual interest in signing with the Browns.
The Texans released Watt earlier this month, ending the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year’s decade-long run in Houston.
At the time of his release, sources told ESPN that approximately a dozen teams — including the Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills — had already expressed interest in Watt.
Watt, who turns 32 next month, finished last season with five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. He ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass rush win rate in 2020, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and ended his Texans career as the franchise’s all-time leader with 101 career sacks.
Tom Brady sends heartfelt message to New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman who announced his retirement from the NFL
It is safe to say that former New England Patriots teammates Tom Brady and Julian Edelman had a connection. With three Super Bowl titles together, the duo solidified their names in the New England Patriots’ record books and hearts of fans. Brady paid tribute to Edelman who, on Monday, officially announced his retirement from the NFL.
The source of their chemistry is a challenge to pinpoint. Maybe it’s because they were both late-round underdogs. Maybe it’s because two guys with California roots were just destined for greatness once they linked up in New England. Brady would complete 571 passes to Edelman, more than any other receiver in his career. Regardless of the reason, the football world was fortunate to witness a very special connection between the two.
Brady acknowledged Edelman’s impact on his career in a lengthy social media post.
“I am at the top of the list because when I was down and feeling sorry for myself at times, you were right there to pick me up. You were as tough as could be and I love you for all that you did to make our teams as great as they could possibly be.”
Here’s what Brady had to say via Instagram after Edelman announced his retirement:
Star receiver Julian Edelman, 34, retires, ending 12-year career with New England Patriots
The NFL transaction wire released Monday stated that Edelman had his contract terminated by the Patriots, but the roster move is expected to be a technicality as part of his retirement, the source told ESPN.
“It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family,” Edelman said. “And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot. … It’s been the best 12 years of my life.”
Edelman, who turns 35 next month, was limited to six games last season because of a chronic knee injury. He spent his entire 12-year career with the Patriots and ranks second in NFL history with 118 postseason receptions, behind only Jerry Rice’s 151.
Foxboro Forever pic.twitter.com/x3SDDPJoTX
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) April 12, 2021
One of Edelman’s signature plays was an improbable diving catch in Super Bowl LI, helping the Patriots overcome a 28-3 second-half deficit to rally past the Atlanta Falcons. Two years later in a victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, he was named MVP after totaling 10 receptions for 141 yards.
“Julian Edelman is one of the great success stories in our franchise’s history,” Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement Monday. “There aren’t many players who earn an NFL roster spot at a position they have never played before. Julian not only did that as a seventh-round draft selection, but he is retiring with the second-most career receptions in franchise history and as a three-time Super Bowl Champion, including his last as Super Bowl MVP. No one was more committed to his craft and honing his skills than Jules. His explosiveness off the line, quickness in his cuts and elusiveness after the catch made him one of the hardest players to defend throughout his career.”
Edelman caps his career in second place on the all-time Patriots chart for receptions (620), behind only Wes Welker (672). He is fourth on the team’s career receiving yards list with 6,822 receiving yards, behind only Stanley Morgan (10,352), Rob Gronkowski (7,861) and Welker (7,459).
“Nothing in my career has ever come easy and no surprise, this isn’t going to be easy either,” he said. “I’ve always said, ‘I’ll go until the wheels come off.’ And they finally have fallen off. Due to an injury last year, I’ll be making my official announcement of my retirement from football.”
By having his contract terminated for a “failed physical,” Edelman now becomes eligible for the injury protection benefit, per the CBA, available to all players in this situation. Edelman can collect up to $2 million through this benefit.
Few would have predicted his career trajectory when the Patriots selected Edelman in the seventh round of the 2009 draft — 232rd overall. Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State, with his running skills and quick-cutting ability catching Bill Belichick’s eye as a possible receiver/punt returner.
Edelman was still playing at a high level last season, totaling a career-high 179 yards in a Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. But the nagging knee injury ultimately landed him on injured reserve in late October, and while there was hope he might return late in the season, he wasn’t healthy enough to be activated.
Because of his health, the Patriots went into the 2021 offseason unsure of Edelman’s status, which contributed to them agreeing to contracts with receivers Nelson Agholor (two years, $26 million, with $15 million guaranteed) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $22.5 million, with $5.25 million guaranteed) on the first day of free agency. Edelman was also entering the final year of his contract.
Edelman’s clutch postseason play is reflected in his six games with at least 100 receiving yards, tied with Michael Irvin for second all-time (Rice is first with eight).
“By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career — wins, championships, production — Julian has it all,” Belichick said in a team statement. “Few players can match Julian’s achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness and will to excel. Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out.”
The Patriots tapped into his old quarterback skills with success, with Edelman completing 7 of 8 passes over his career for 179 yards, with two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating (includes playoffs).
Against Denver last October, Edelman joined running backs Andy Johnson (Sept. 6, 1981 vs. Baltimore) and Dick Christy (Nov. 18, 1960 vs. Dallas Texans) as the three Patriots non-quarterbacks who have completed two passes in a game.
Over his career, Edelman totaled 58 rushing attempts for 413 yards, the most rushing attempts and rushing yards by a wide receiver in Patriots history.
In the latter stages of his career, Edelman, of Redwood City, California, publicly embraced his Jewish identity, taking pride in becoming the first Jewish player to be named a Super Bowl MVP.
In July of 2020, he invited receiver DeSean Jackson to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., after Jackson’s anti-Semitic social media posts. This past March, he wrote an open letter to Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard about Leonard’s use of an anti-Semitic slur during a video game livestream.
ESPN Senior Writer Adam Schefter contributed to this report.
QB Sam Darnold says uncertainty ahead of trade to Carolina Panthers was ‘tough’ to deal with
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As thrilled as Sam Darnold appears to get a second chance with the Carolina Panthers, he admitted it was tough moving on from the team that drafted him and even tougher being kept in limbo the past three months while the New York Jets explored their options at quarterback.
“That was tough. I’m not going to lie,” Darnold said Monday in his first public comments since the Jets traded him a week ago. “That was the tough part for me, just because … I’m a planner. I like to have things planned out and what the next step was going to be.
“The uncertainty there was, for lack of a better term, driving me insane.”
The Jets never committed to Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 draft, after the 2020 season as they evaluated what they might do with the second pick of this year’s draft. It wasn’t until Ohio State’s pro day on March 30 that talks with Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer escalated.
Six days later, the Panthers gave New York a sixth-rounder in 2021 and a second-rounder and fourth-rounder in 2022 to complete the deal.
Darnold called the trade “bittersweet” because he never accomplished the goals he had set for himself coming out of USC.
“Obviously, getting drafted as high as I did, my expectations were to go in there, play 20 years and win Super Bowls,” he said. “That was the dream, but obviously it didn’t work out.
“Anytime you go somewhere and set lofty goals and those goals aren’t met, that’s tough. When I heard the news they wanted to trade me, that was tough. Anytime you’re not wanted somewhere, that’s always a tough pill to swallow.”
Darnold was 13-25 in three seasons with the Jets, including 2-10 last season. He had 45 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions with a completion rate of 59.8%.
He finished as the NFL’s lowest-rated passer in 2020 (72.7), 36th out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks. His career passer rating of 78.6 ranks 39th out of 39 since 2018.
Asked if the Jets gave up on him too soon, Darnold danced around with his answer.
“For me, personally, I believed I could make it work in New York,” he said. “Now that the trade has happened, obviously that frame of thinking doesn’t do me any good anymore. I’m ready to start here at Carolina and hit the ground running.”
Darnold had some fun when asked what kind of advice he’d give his successor, who is likely to be BYU’s Zach Wilson, according to draft analysts.
“Have fun and don’t pay attention to the media,” Darnold said with a laugh. “Nah, I’m joking, guys. The first part is definitely true. Just have fun with it. At the end of the day, it’s football.”
The Panthers traded for Darnold after failing to complete a deal for then-Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and realizing that the top three picks of the draft — belonging to Jacksonville, the Jets and the San Francisco 49ers — likely would be quarterbacks.
Coach Matt Rhule doesn’t believe Darnold’s statistics or record define who the quarterback can be.
“You see his arm talent,” he said on a Zoom call prior to Darnold’s. “I don’t think there’s a game you watch where he doesn’t make a play that makes you say, ‘There it is.’ He can fit the ball into tight windows and create with his feet. He moves around a ton. He extends plays with his legs.
“His arm talent and movement are a great fit for the players we have here that he’ll be playing with.”
Rhule acknowledged that Carolina has given last year’s quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, permission to talk to other teams.
“We’ll just have to let that play out,” he said. “Obviously we brought Sam here because we think he can play at a very high level.”
Rhule said Darnold, who doesn’t turn 24 until June, gives Carolina the flexibility to take the best player available at No. 8 in the draft. He didn’t rule out taking a quarterback there even though there are needs at left tackle and cornerback.
“We’ll look at anything and everything,” he said. “We recognize maybe there are positions we’d like to address in the draft, either via draft-day trades, post-draft trades or in the draft. I do think with the eighth pick you take the best available player. Now, if two guys are close, you take the guy that fits your need as well.”
Darnold said everything you would expect him to say about the Panthers and what they offer in terms of giving him a chance to win. He laughed about how owner David Tepper said he could come to him for advice on business or finance anytime.
Reminded that Jets general manager Joe Douglas once promised Darnold’s mother “to do everything in my power to take care of Sam with protection and playmakers,” Darnold said he had nothing but respect for Douglas.
“With the promise to my mom, we all know how it is by now,” he said. “It’s a business. It’s just what it is. I’ll be able to go home and make sure she feels a little bit better now.
“Like I said, it’s a business. My mom, I think she understands that now.”
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