Fri Mar 5 6:35pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
FILE In this Nov. 22, 2020, file photo, Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) runs off the field after defeating the Miami Dolphins in an an NFL football game in Denver. Simmons is the first player franchise tagged in 2021. NFL teams have until Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at 4 p.m. ET to use their franchise tag to prevent a pending free agent from hitting the open market. (AP Photo/Justin Edmonds, File)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Broncos safety Justin Simmons is the first NFL player to be franchise tagged in 2021.
NFL teams have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST to use the tag to prevent a pending free agent from hitting the open market.
The Broncos went ahead Friday and tagged their star safety for the second consecutive year. They have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal or Simmons would have to sign his $13.7 million franchise tag tender to play in 2021.
The sooner they work out a deal, the better for the Broncos, who would like some cost certainty heading into free agency, where they have amongst the most salary cap room in the league.
Unlike last year when negotiations never really got going because of the murky financial forecast resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, it appears the sides are headed toward an amicable solution this year.
For one thing, the $13.729 million franchise tag is about $2.3 million higher than last year's $11.441 million tag.
For another, this year's franchise tag number is only about $1 million shy of the $14.75 million annual salary of the NFL's highest-paid safety, Arizona's Budda Baker.
So, it would seem a solution is in much easier reach this time around.
''Designating Justin with the franchise tag is a procedural move that allows us to continue working on a long-term deal,'' general manager George Paton said in a statement. ''We are completely focused on making sure Justin remains a big part of the Denver Broncos for many years to come.''
Simmons has collected nearly 300 tackles and a dozen interceptions in the last three years, during which time he hasn't missed a single snap. He had a career-best five interceptions last season when he earned his first Pro Bowl berth a year after he was named All-Pro for the first time.
When Paton was hired two months ago, Broncos president of football operations John Elway said ''one of the biggest things'' on the new GM's to-do list was re-signing Simmons, one of the team's most productive and popular players.
Simmons has been one of the most active players in the community on a team that's garnered a reputation for its civic involvement, and last summer Simmons emerged as one of the team's leading voices on social justice issues.
The move came on the same day the Broncos learned that superstar linebacker Von Miller won't face charges following an unspecified criminal probe by police in a Denver suburb.
Paton said Thursday that he wanted to keep Miller in the fold but was awaiting word on his legal status.
The Broncos have until March 16 to exercise Miller's 2021 option, which would guarantee him $7 million of his $17.5 million salary.
The club's all-time sacks leader, Miller is heading into the final season of the six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed after leading the team to the Super Bowl 50 title.
He missed all last season with an ankle injury suffered just before the opener.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed cornerback Ross Cockrell to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday. The former fourth-round pick had 11 tackles and one pass deflection in 12 games (two starts) for the team last season and also played in all four playoff games. General manager Jason Licht called Cockrell "one of the best pickups" the team made in 2020. He becomes the latest member of last year's championship team to return. Cockrell will likely remain a valuable reserve in Tampa's secondary in 2021 after the club brought back all 22 starters from their Super Bowl squad a year ago. Cockrell saw playing time when both Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean missed time with injuries in the second half of last season. He played 270 defensive snaps over the final 10 games after playing on only one defensive snap through the first 10 weeks of the season.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is expected to be taken first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in this year's draft, grew up idolizing Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, which is why he wore the No. 16 in college. But NFL scouts continue to compare Lawrence to former Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck. Several scouts acknowledge that Lawrence is the best QB prospect since Luck, who was considered a modern pre-draft gold standard at the position. Lawrence doesn't quite measure up to Luck, but he's the closest to Luck's neighborhood of any QB drafted since. Offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder shouldn't affect his first NFL training camp. He's expected to be Jacksonville's Week 1 starter, and his experience with the run-pass option should mesh well with new head coach Urban Meyer.
Free-agent edge rusher Justin Houston is visiting with the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday. The 32-year-old recorded 19 sacks while playing for the Indianapolis Colts the last two years. Houston, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive end, and he could help to fill a huge void on the end of Baltimore's defensive line. Even on the wrong side of 30 years old, Houston has remained a productive pass-rusher on the edge, also recording 25 combined tackles, one forced fumble and 30 QB hits in 32 games with the Colts. The Ravens also showed interest in the veteran when they made a run at signing him in 2019 before he inked a two-year deal with the Colts. Houston is looking to sign before the draft at the end of this month, but the Ravens are unlikely to sign any unrestricted free agent until after the draft, when it won't count against their compensatory picks.
The Washington Football Team signed former Tulane basketball player Sammis Reyes to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday. Reyes finds his way to the NFL through the International Player Pathway Program (IPP). He grew up in Chile before moving to the United States at 14 years old. Reyes decided to turn his attention to football when his childhood dream of playing in the NBA didn't come to fruition. He spent the past 10 weeks training with 10 other NFL hopefuls at IMG Academy in Florida before impressing at Florida's Pro Day on March 31. The 25-year-old won't be guaranteed a spot on the active roster, and he'll be competing with Temarrick Hemingway, Marcus Baugh, Tyrone Swoopes and Dylan Cantrell to back up Logan Thomas at the position.
Free-agent defensive lineman Gerald McCoy (quadriceps), a six-time Pro Bowler, doesn't plan to retire after missing all of the 2020 season due to an injury. "I just know I have so much more to give this game, even if for a short period of time," McCoy said. The pass-rusher had 54.5 sacks in his nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as one of their top defensive playmakers. McCoy spent the 2019 season with the Carolina Panthers and signed with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but he tore his quadriceps in training camp. The 33-year-old former first-rounder doesn't want to go out with an injury. His agent, Ben Dogra, said that a few teams have inquired about McCoy's rehab, but he doesn't expect any serious offers until after the draft this month.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said he's not against taking a developmental quarterback at the end of the first round (pick No. 32) of this year's draft. The Buccaneers are returning 22 starters from their championship season a year ago, so they could take the best player available when their turn is up at the end of Day 1. Taking a signal-caller later in the draft is also an option. "If the right guy is there that we think is a developmental guy that has the upside that outweighs every other position of those five or six guys that we're looking at, then we wouldn't be against it," Arians said. The top-five QBs in the draft -- Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones -- are all expected to be gone before Tampa picks at No. 32. Florida's Kyle Trask, Texas A&M's Kellen Mond and Stanford's Davis Mils could be options.
The Arizona Cardinals agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with free-agent running back James Conner on Tuesday. Conner visited with the team on Monday and took a physical after he had offseason surgery to fix a turf-toe injury that he sustained recreationally this offseason. The 25-year-old is expected to make a full recovery by June, and he'll add a big-bodied complement to the smaller Chase Edmonds in Arizona's backfield after they lost Kenyan Drake to free agency. Conner had a near-1,000-yard season for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018, but he was inconsistent and battled injuries in the last two seasons. He had 169 carries for 721 yards and six touchdowns while adding 35 receptions for 215 yards in 13 games (11 starts) in 2020. Arizona's offensive line should be an upgrade, but Conner's recent injury history is worrisome. Edmonds remains the back to own in this backfield, but the addition of Conner will hurt his overall upside.
With the No. 4 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons are in a prime position "to stack good quarterbacks" alongside Matt Ryan, according to general manager Terry Fontenot. "It's a prime time to do it when you have a player like Matt Ryan because when you can get in the right quarterback, you don't have that pressure to play him right away. So it just opens up so many possibilities, and we have to make sure we're evaluating those positions, and we feel good about where we are there," Fontenot said. Ryan continues to play at a high level and is tied to the team for the next two years, so it's unclear if the Falcons would want to draft a top-tier QB talent and have him sit for two seasons. North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance could use some seasoning and could benefit from learning behind Ryan. But Atlanta could also choose to trade down and acquire a boatload of pick in this year's draft to fill other positions of need.
Houston Texans DT Jaleel Johnson signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the club that includes $400,000 guaranteed.
Free-agent RB Todd Gurley (Falcons) could be of interest to the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers or Kansas City Chiefs, in the opinion of James Fragoza of Pro Football Network.
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is entering the final year of his five-year deal. He may not be elite like he was two years ago, but Gilmore is still a very good cornerback as he approaches his 31st birthday this September. As such, Gilmore isn't guaranteed to receive a lucrative offer from the Patriots when he reaches free agency next offseason. "It's out of my control," he said. "I'm just happy to be a Patriot right now, and see how it goes." Gilmore will account for $16.265 million in salary cap space in 2021, which is over $7 million less than he accounted for in 2020. He's expected to remain the team's top corner opposite J.C. Jackson, but there's no guarantee he'll be back in 2022.
After being released by the New England Patriots on Monday with a failed-physical designation, wide receiver Julian Edelman officially announced his retirement from football. Edelman tried to play through a pretty serious knee injury last year that eventually required surgery, and he was not going to be able to make it back in 2021 for a full season. The veteran pass-catcher missed 10 games because of the injury last year. "By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career -- wins, championships, production -- Julian has it all," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. Edelman was as clutch as they come and converted to wideout after playing quarterback in college. The seventh-round pick in 2009 blossomed into a slot receiver in New England, where he spent his entire career. He had his first 1,000-yard season in 2013, catching 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. From 2009-2019, he caught 599 passes for 6,507 yards and 36 touchdowns as quarterback Tom Brady's most trusted target while helping the team win three Super Bowls. Edelman is second all time to only Jerry Rice in playoff catches (118) and yards (1,442). His 620 career catches rank second in team history behind Wes Welker (672).
Free-agent WR Julian Edelman (Patriots) announced his retirement from professional football Monday, April 12.
The New England Patriots released veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) on Monday, following 11 seasons and three Super Bowl victories with the team. Edelman was listed as a failed physical after he'd been working to return from an injured knee last season. He'll now be facing a decision on his future in the league and could decide to hang up his cleats. Although it's not official just yet, don't be surprised to hear soon that Edelman has decided to retire. Because of the knee injury he suffered last year, it's unlikely that the 34-year-old will be able to play the entirety of the 2021 season. One of the most trustworthy PPR players in fantasy in his time with the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, Edelman was sorely missed in New England after he was injured in 2020. He played in just six games last year and had 21 catches for 315 yards and no touchdowns. If this is the end of the road, Edelman will finish his NFL career with 620 regular season receptions, 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns in 137 games (85 starts), all with the Pats.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have spent hours zooming with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and the presumed No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft has impressed the team with his retention of their offensive scheme. Similar to what the Cincinnati Bengals did with quarterback Joe Burrow last year, the Jaguars are making the most of their time with the likely first overall pick. Lawrence had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder to fix a torn labrum, but everything has gone smoothly in his rehab and it's not expected to keep him out at all to begin his rookie season. The 21-year-old has both the talent and football IQ to excel at the next level, and he's expected to be Jacksonville's starter entering Week 1. He'll be a no-brainer first overall pick in dynasty/keeper formats, but Lawrence won't necessarily be a great season-long play in single-season fantasy formats in 2021.
Free-agent WR Julian Edelman (Patriots) has been considering retirement.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman is dealing with a chronic knee injury, so fantasy players should consider avoiding him even if he decides to continue playing.
Former Washington Football Team tight end Thaddeus Moss, the son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, has been claimed by the Cincinnati Bengals off waivers, according to a source. The former LSU star will be reunited with quarterback Joe Burrow and profiles as a low-risk, possible high-reward pickup. The Bengals were interested in signing Moss last year after he went undrafted. Moss spent his rookie season in the NFL on Injured Reserve due to a foot injury that required surgery. In his senior season at LSU, he caught 47 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns. Moss will have a chance to compete for a roster spot this summer behind C.J. Uzomah and Drew Sample, depending on what the team does at the position in the draft.
University of Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips, who has been rising up draft boards after his impressive Pro Day, was not in Indianapolis last weekend for medical evaluations because he tested positive for COVID-19, according to a source. However, Phillips will receive his physical with plenty of time prior to draft night later this month. Phillips had 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2020, earning second-team All-American honors, and he's often been compared to NFL defensive end Maxx Crosby. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and initially started his college career at UCLA before transferring to Miami. His injury history in his time at UCLA is the biggest red flag leading up to the draft.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman was released Monday, April 12, with a failed physical designation.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman missed most of the 2020 season because of a knee injury and his playing future is uncertain because of the injury. He may be able to find a new team but probably will not have much fantasy value unless he can recover from the chronic knee injury.
Veteran free-agent running back Giovani Bernard is signing an undisclosed one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, according to a source. Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians both personally recruited Bernard, who is one of the league's best receiving backs, after he was released by the Cincinnati Bengals. It's another weapon for the Super Bowl champions, but it's uncertain how much of a role Bernard will actually have with Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette already in the team's backfield. Bernard, 29, had 416 rushing yards and three touchdowns and added 47 receptions for 355 yards and three additional touchdowns in 2020. Tampa's backfield is suddenly very crowded, which will make it tough to predict touches among Jones, Fournette and Bernard.