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The Bengals released Giovani Bernard. He was the clear backup to Joe Mixon and a solid play when he got opportunities during Joe Mixon absences, but now that job will go to Samaje Perine, who signed a two-year, $3.3 million dollar deal earlier in the offseason. Trayveon Williams projects as the third string back, but the team could draft someone late or sign a UDFA to give him competition. Bernard
The Broncos expect right tackle Ja’Wuan James to return to the team after he opted out of the 2021 season. If he can stay healthy and play at previous levels, James should help upgrade a sore spot on the side and solidify tackle after they locked Garrett Bolles on the left side last year. If the Broncos don’t take a first-round quarterback, Drew Lock has no excuses for failure in his second in the Pat Shurmur system.
The Houston Police Department has opened an investigation into the allegations about Deshaun Watson. Two of his accusers have gone public. The commissioner’s exempt list is now a specter looming over this situation, and the league confirmed that they are investigating and monitoring the situation. In another ominous development, Nike suspended their endorsement of Watson. Tom Pelissero reported that Alex Smith could be an option for the Texans if Watson is not their quarterback in 2021, in part because of his history with new head coach David Culley when both were in Kansas City. Early drafters should continue to value Watson as if he will miss the beginning of the season and potentially a significant number of games thereafter.
The Jaguars signed linebacker Damien Wilson. He most recently played for the Chiefs and came into the league as a fourth round pick of the Cowboys in 2015. He adds run-stuffing depth to a linebacker unit that already has one of the best duos in the league in Joe Schobert and Myles Jack.
Las Vegas Raiders
Cornerback Nevin Lawson was suspended for the first two games of the season for a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He was second on the team in snaps at corner last year and was their third (and sometimes #2) corner when first-round pick Damon Arnette was healthy. The Raiders pass defense will be one to target while Lawson is out if it wasn’t already.
Los Angeles Chargers
A lawsuit has been filed by the sister of Chargers owner Dean Spanos to force him to sell the team. The team has long been one of the more frugal franchises, so if Spanos is somehow forced to sell, it could mark a change in their approach to team management.
New York Jets
The Jets traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a sixth round pick this year and a second and fourth in 2022. This move was expected and it cinches that the Jets will take a quarterback at #2, likely BYU’s Zach Wilson. Wilson is a bold and natural passer, so this could be an upgrade for the Jets pass catchers even though they will be catching passes from a rookie.
Mike Sando, of The Athletic, was told by more than one NFL executive that they expect Larry Fitzgerald to retire before the 2021 season. The signing of A.J. Green signaled that this was the team’s expectation, but if and when it becomes official, we’ll still pause to recognize the future hall of famer’s immense accomplishments in the league... The Cardinals signed center Rodney Hudson to a two-year, $20.1 million dollar extension. Offensive line has long been a weakness for the team, but Hudson gives them a cornerstone in the pivot that should help accelerate the development of Kyler Murray and firm up the running game.
Adam Schefter reports that multiple teams have contacted the Falcons about trading up to #4 and they are open to moving down. Chris Mortensen said general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith are split on whether to take a quarterback if they stay at #4 - which according to Mortensen would be North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, with Smith on the side of sticking with Matt Ryan for at least two more years. The Panthers trade for Sam Darnold could indicate that they believe the Falcons will not deal the pick in the division and leave them less likely to land one of their preferred options from this class. We’ll be watching the outcome of this decision as a sign of who has the last say in how the Falcons deploy their assets in determining the new direction for the team, but this could also be getting into the newscycle to drive up the price for the pick by creating an impression that the Falcons may be sold enough on Lance to keep the pick if the offer they get isn’t strong enough to sway them away from him.
Carolina sent a sixth-round pick this year and a second and fourth next year to the Jets for Sam Darnold, and they are also expected to pick up his fifth-year option, which would guarantee Darnold about 19 million for the 2022 season. Teddy Bridgewater will either have to take a big pay cut or get traded, and he could end up back on the Saints roster and add a third dimension to the Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill quarterback battle. Darnold will work with offensive coordinator Joe Brady, which should be a huge breath of fresh air after laboring under the thumb of Adam Gase for two years, so this could end up being a career turnaround for him. Robby Anderson will be reunited with Darnold in a development that could bring back the deep highwire deep ball act that Anderson performed with Darnold on the Jets roster. The Panthers aren’t publicly ruling out taking a quarterback with the #8 pick, but the news that the Falcons are open to moving down from #4 to allow another team to get one of the top four quarterbacks may have nudged Carolina to look elsewhere for their upgrade from Bridgewater. It’s not impossible that the Panthers, Falcons, or Lions (#7) take a quarterback in the first round, but all have significant money tied up at quarterback for the next two years already. The chances of New England, Washington, or Denver getting their future quarterback this year go up with this move...The Panthers signed A.J. Bouye. He’ll likely start opposite Donte Jackson after serving the last two games of a six-game suspension. Carolina likely got him at a great discount from his previous top of the market pay. Bouye is an important addition if only because of the quality of wide receivers in the NFC South.
The Lions signed Quinton Dunbar to a one-year contract. He should be the favorite to start opposite 2020 #3 pick Jeff Okudah. Dunbar has only played 24 games in the last three seasons, but has played at a high level at times. If he stays healthy and returns to form, the secondary could surprise, but chances are this will be a pass defense that we pick on when we set our fantasy lineups.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers said he is not sure if he’ll finish his career with the Packers. This isn’t really news, but it completes a lap around the cycle of emotions that started almost a year ago when the Packers took Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft. If the Packers get deep into the playoffs and Rodgers plays at or near the highest level of his career again, Rodgers should remain a Packer in 2022. If the team disappoints, then we could see Rodgers on the trade market if the Packers have confidence in Love entering year three of his rookie deal. The problem is that last year he didn’t instill that confidence, as some believed Tim Boyle, who isn’t even with the team now, would have played ahead of Love if Rodgers had gone down.
Cornerback Jeff Gladney turned himself in on felony charges related to a domestic violence incident on April 2. The Vikings recently brought back Mackenzie Alexander, who can play the slot, which would give them a starting trio of free agent signing Patrick Peterson, 2020 third-round pick Cameron Dantzler, who had a promising rookie year, and Alexander if Gladney’s legal trouble torpedo his career.
The Eagles brought back Jordan Howard in hopes that he can recapture his last stint of quality football. He’s no sure thing to make the team, so this acquisition shouldn’t affect Miles Sanders’ value… Philadelphia added Eric Wilson and he instantly becomes their best linebacker and most valuable in IDP leagues. The Eagles linebacker coach, Nick Rallis, was Wilson’s assistant linebacker coach in Minnesota for the last three years, and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was on the Vikings staff during Wilson’s rookie year in 2017.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are reportedly asking for a first-round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo. Adam Schefter believes the team will take Alabama’s Mac Jones. This could remain a mystery right up until draft day, maybe even when the 49ers are on the clock. Jones resembles Garoppolo and other Kyle Shanahan success stories at quarterback, ball distributors who function well within the structure of the play, but fizzle when the play is extended. Shanahan recently said Kirk Cousins isn’t how you “draw it up” when you pick a quarterback, and one presumes that the team traded up to #3 to improve on the template by taking an athletic quarterback like North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Ohio State’s Justin Fields, but the drumbeat in the media putting Jones on the 49ers continues to get louder. If Jones goes #3 that is a win for the Falcons at #4, who would see the value of their pick, which is on the market, go up, and another team in the top 10 - the Lions, Panthers, or Broncos if Lance or Fields fall to them, or perhaps one of those teams would trade down with Washington or New England, who still need to address their long term need at quarterback.
Gerald Everett said the hiring of former Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron was one of the reasons he signed in Seattle. Everett will compete with Will Dissly for targets at tight end, but with no credible #3 receiver, there could be enough to go around for both tight ends to be fantasy relevant...Carlos Dunlap said Russell Wilson gave him assurance that he will be with the team in 2021. The trade buzz around Wilson seemed to die down after the Bears signed Andy Dalton, and this nugget from Dunlap reinforces the idea that Wilson will be the Seahawks this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said Tom Brady is progressing “very well” from knee surgery”. There’s no sign that this was a major surgery, but we’ll be checking on his form once he returns to the field, whether it’s in OTAs or at training camp.