Cowboys dodged a bullet when Jerry Jones tried and failed to trade up for Paxton Lynch

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The Broncos have named Trevor Siemian their starting quarterback, and that’s a major indictment of Paxton Lynch: A year after Denver chose Lynch in the first round of the NFL draft, he’s failed to beat out a former seventh-rounder who was already on the roster. Obviously, if the Broncos had known at the time that Lynch was no better than Siemian, they never would have drafted Lynch.

Which serves as a good reminder of just how lucky the Cowboys got during the 2016 NFL draft, when Jerry Jones badly wanted Lynch in Dallas.

Jones said after the first round of the 2016 draft ended that he had been working hard to move up and get Lynch, but before he could get a deal done, the Broncos moved up to the 26th overall pick and took Lynch themselves. Jones even acknowledged that he was willing to overpay to acquire Lynch, and said his son Stephen Jones had to prevent him from selling the farm to get Lynch.

As it turned out, of course, the Cowboys took Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the draft. Prescott stepped in for the injured Tony Romo last year, led the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC and won the rookie of the year award.

So as Prescott heads into his second season as the established franchise quarterback, and Lynch heads into his second season as Siemian’s backup, the Cowboys can thank their lucky stars that Jones wasn’t able to draft the quarterback he really wanted.

Jets will pick starting quarterback next Monday

AP

The Jets play the Giants in their third preseason game of the summer next Saturday and that will be the final chance for the team’s quarterbacks to make their case for the starting job.

Coach Todd Bowles said that he will make his decision next Monday about which player will be in the lineup when the Jets travel to Buffalo to kick off the 2017 season.

Bowles didn’t give any hints about who will get the nod, but the safe bet is that Josh McCown will get the nod. While Christian Hackenberg didn’t get much help from his teammates while making a start against the Lions over the weekend, he also didn’t do much to suggest that he’s ready to step into the starting role at the beginning of his second season. McCown did not play in that game, but led the Jets to a touchdown on his only drive of the preseason opener.

Given Hackenberg’s status as a second-round pick and the likelihood that the Jets are going to struggle to win games, it’s also a safe bet that he’ll get chances to start at some point over the course of the season even if it is just to confirm that the Jets have to do whatever they can to find a long-term solution at the position come the offseason.

Trevor Siemian starts the season as the starter in Denver

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It didn’t quite go down to the wire, but it was close.

An open competition for the starting quarterback job in Denver has ended, at least for now. PFT has confirmed that incumbent starter Trevor Siemian has won the job over 2016 first-rounder Paxton Lynch. Coach Vance Joseph will make the announcement a a press conference scheduled for 3:15 p.m. ET,

Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015, held off Lynch despite a belief that new-old offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s system was more conducive to Lynch.

For Siemian to have won the job, he had to have won it convincingly. The draft capital used to select Lynch, coupled with the apparent belief that he could eventually become a franchise quarterback, would have nudged any close questions in his favor, since playing now will help him get to his ceiling sooner.

But the Broncos also are built to win now, and with several outspoken players on a championship-level defense, it would have been hard to go with Lynch if the players regard Siemian as the better option.

While Siemian didn’t do enough last year to take the Super Bowl 50 champions back to the playoffs, upgrades to the offensive line and arguable improvements to the running game could make it easier. There’s also something to be said for experience; Siemian has it, Lynch doesn’t, and now the third-year player from Northwestern will have a chance to put even more distance between himself and Lynch.

Unless, of course, Siemian stumbles. Then, as with so many other quarterback competitions, the guy who won the job will have eventually won the first chance to lose it.

Anquan Boldin: Retirement wasn’t a decision I made all of a sudden

AP

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement on Sunday in a statement saying that he feels “drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority” in his life.

Boldin delved deeper into the reasons for his decision during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Ross Tucker and Vic Carucci on Monday. Boldin said that the decision wasn’t influenced by anything that happened with the Bills over his two weeks with the team, including the trade of Sammy Watkins, and that it wasn’t easy to leave what he felt was an “obligation” to the team, but that the events in Charlottesville crystallized something that had been on his mind for a while.

“It wasn’t a decision that I made all of a sudden,” Boldin said. “It was something that I had been dealing with for a couple years. I always felt like football would be my passion, football would get me past a lot of things. When I stepped up to the podium, what I said was honestly true. But just seeing things that transpired over the last week or so, I mean, I think for me, there’s something bigger than football at this point. It’s kind of shocking for me to say that because football has been something that I’ve dedicated my life to. I can remember as a kid wanting to get to the NFL and wanting to be a professional football player. I dedicated my life to that and I never thought anything would take the place of that passion, but for me it has.”

Boldin said he knows these aren’t new issues and that he can’t solve the problems of the country by himself, but he feels “a duty to stand up and make my voice heard and be a voice for those that don’t have a voice.”

Boldin said he feels he can still play, but that he won’t reverse course and return to play because “my passion for the advocacy work that I do outweighs my passion for football.”

Mark Davis picks a winner in the “Fight for L.A.”

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The Chargers and the Rams are fighting for L.A. Raiders owner Mark Davis thinks that’s cute.

“You know, it’s kind of funny,” Davis said, via Vincent Bonsignore of the L.A. Daily News. “They’re talking about the fight for Los Angeles. And Raiders fans have been telling me we already won that fight, And that the Rams and Chargers are fighting for the No. 2 and 3 spots.”

Davis also made it clear that he plans to continue to cater to fans in Rams and Chargers territory.

“A good portion have come from Los Angeles and Southern California,” Davis said. “Without stepping on any toes, we’re going to market ourselves in Los Angeles area. And San Diego. We’re reaching out to Raider Nation in Southern California. It’s strong there.”

The Raiders spent more than a decade in L.A., and they remain very popular there. Soon, they’ll be in Las Vegas, which isn’t that far away. Which means that plenty of Raiders fans will be attending their annual game against the Chargers in L.A. — and that plenty will be present for their once-every-eight-years game against the Rams in L.A.

Owners authorized six of them to do Goodell deal in May

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Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal has had the scoop of the morning (so far), reporting that Commissioner Roger Goodell is close to signing a five-year extension. Others have followed suit, including NFL Media — which essentially makes it an announcement.

One reporter is pushing back, however. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that “[t]alks for Roger Goodell’s new deal have not progressed as some thought.” Ominous as that sounds, Schefter concedes that a “[d]eal [is] likely to get done, but still issues to work out.”

That’s ultimately not a contradiction of Kaplan’s report. “Close” and “issues to work out” are essentially the same thing. But it’s human nature for those who have been scooped to try to advance the story, even if the new wrinkle doesn’t really advance the story at all.

As it relates to this specific story, Kaplan may have buried the lead. He reports that the contract simply needs to be approved by the Compensation Committee, which currently has six owners (there had been only three before that) — and which received the authority from all owners in May to do the deal.

This very real and meaty wrinkle cuts against the March 2017 efforts of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to involve all owners in the negotiation of the contract with the Commissioner, a concern that arose from a belief that the owners pay the Commissioner too much money. While the number of owners apparently doubled (Jones, per Kaplan, isn’t one of them), 26 others will be on the sidelines for the negotiations.

It appears that the six owners with the power to do the new deal won’t be squeezing Goodell to take less. Per Kaplan, the new contract will be “similar” to the current package, with a base salary of a few million per year and a bonus each year to be determined by the Compensation Committee.

Absent a leak, no one will know what Goodell actually makes. Those who pushed the blatantly false narrative that the league office’s tax-exempt status meant that the teams and owners aren’t paying taxes managed to shame the league into ditching that designation — which in turn allows the NFL to keep compensation for highly-paid executives secret.

Dak Prescott says his chemistry with Dez Bryant is better than last year

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Last year, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott spent the offseason as a backup, and wide receiver Dez Bryant was recovering from an injury, and the two of them didn’t spent a lot of the offseason practicing together. This year has been different.

Prescott says he and Bryant have better chemistry now because they have had more practice time together.

“He has been healthy all offseason, so that chemistry has grown,” Prescott said, via the Dallas Morning News. “He’s been a guy that his ears are wide open, wanting to know what I’m thinking, and I want to know what he’s thinking. It’s just been back and forth of just talking and doing it out there on the field and it’s only growing.”

In 13 games last year, Bryant had 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. Those are fine numbers, but not exactly the kind of production the Cowboys expect from Bryant. This year Prescott thinks Bryant will do much more.

“Somebody asked me the other day who I think the most improved player is and I said Dez, just the way he’s been taking care of his body, his effort, his attitude. Everything from last year to this year, it’s just exciting to throw him the ball and watch what he can do after the catch,” Prescott said.

If Bryant is the Cowboys’ most improved player, that would go a long way toward helping the Cowboys to repeat as NFC East champions, even without Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games of the season.

Report: Roger Goodell close to contract extension through 2024

AP

If labor unrest in the NFL’s future is a “virtual certainty,” we know who’s going to be presiding over it.

According to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Daily, the league is close to a deal with commissioner Roger Goodell to extend his contract.

Goodell’s current deal expires after the 2019 season, but this would take him through 2024.

And with the CBA set to expire after the 2020 season, that would mean Goodell will again be representing owners.

It’s unclear what the salary parameters will be for Goodell, since there seems to be a faction of owners who want to see him make less than he has in the past.

Bill O’Brien thinks J.J. Watt will be better than before

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Texans defensive tackle J.J. Watt was, before missing 13 games with a back injury last season, the best defensive player in the NFL. So will Watt be as good a player this year as he was before?

No. According to Texans coach Bill O’Brien, he’ll be better.

“I can tell you right now the guy’s going to be at the top of his game,” O’Brien told Peter King of TheMMQB.com. “He’s had a great training camp. I think he’ll be better than he was.”

Watt, who won his third career defensive player of the year award in 2015 while playing through the back injury that eventually caused him to miss most of 2016, said he can’t guarantee that O’Brien is right about that.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I’m sure the doctors don’t know the answer. That’s the goal. But all I know is I can be as smart as I can possibly be, and that’s with practice reps, that’s with workouts, that’s with doing everything I can to make sure that for those 16 games-plus a year, I am ready to roll. I feel great and as long as we stick to the plan that we’ve got—a day off here and there, some practice reps off here and there—I think we are going to be in good shape.”

The Texans were already a playoff team without Watt last year. If Watt comes back better than ever, Houston is in very good shape.

Anquan Boldin leaves Bills camp, says he’s retiring

AP

The Bills were hoping they could get away with a wide receivers room lacking “divas” by virtue of having at least one veteran presence among them.

But that guy walked out the door Sunday.

According to Jim Trotter of ESPN, wide receiver Anquan Boldin has left Bills camp today, and has informed the team he’s retiring.

The 36-year-old Boldin had signed with the Bills earlier this month, just before they traded Sammy Watkins to the Rams, and they were hoping he’d lend stability to a depth chart lacking firepower.

They’ll now have to rely on trade acquisition Jordan Matthews (once he’s healthy), rookie Zay Jones and former Raider Andre Holmes, among the inevitable newcomers.

If Boldin is indeed finished, he’s walking away from the NFL with an incredible resume already. He has 1,076 receptions (ninth on the league’s all-time list) for 13,779 yards (14th) and 82 touchdowns (23rd).

Deshaun Watson: I did a decent job

AP

Texans rookie Deshaun Watson only completed three of the 10 passes he attempted against the Patriots on Saturday night, but he ran for a touchdown and a couple of those passes went for big gains that set up 10 Houston points while he was in the game.

Both of those big gains came courtesy of long runs after the catch by wide receiver Bruce Ellington and running back D'Onta Foreman, although coach Bill O’Brien credited Watson with doing “some good things” during a night with more ups and downs than his preseason debut.

“I did a decent job,” Watson said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I did what I needed to do to try to move the ball to help the team out. There’s always things I can get better at. I’m going to watch the film and I’m going to continue to work on that.”

Tom Savage was 8-of-9 for 98 yards before giving way to Watson and there was little about either quarterback’s performance to suggest that the Texans will give serious thought to veering away from their plan to have the rookie start his NFL career as a backup.

Derek Barnett out of practice with lower body injury

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The Eagles are talking about getting defensive end Derek Barnett more work with their first team, but he’ll need to get healthy before he can run with the first string.

At the moment, Barnett is not healthy enough to practice. Per multiple reports, Barnett did not work out with the team on Sunday and coach Doug Pederson took a page from the NHL by describing the reason for his absence as a lower body injury.

Pederson said that Barnett is day-to-day to return to action. Pederson said last Friday that the plan was to get Barnett early work in this Thursday’s game against the Dolphins, something which could be at risk if the injury lingers into the week.

Barnett, who was selected in the first round this April, recorded his third sack of the preseason against the Bills last Thursday.

Cowboys growing concerned about Kellen Moore as No. 2 quarterback

AP

The Dallas Cowboys are finally realizing that which many have known for months: Kellen Moore may not be the ideal understudy to Dak Prescott at quarterback.

Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, citing an unnamed source, that Moore “will be the subject of conversation at personnel meetings this week” after another subpar preseason performance.

Moore completed less than 50 percent of his passes (10 for 21) for 131 yards and a quarterback rating of 67.8. He also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Officially, the Cowboys continue to say all (or at least most) of the right things about the player who could be the wrong man both to replace Prescott if injured and to push Prescott to be as good as he can be.

“He’s a very smart player, makes good decisions,” coach Jason Garrett said, per Hill. “I thought he threw the ball to the right guy a lot. I think the biggest thing if you look at his drives is we got behind the chains a little bit, had some holding penalties and you’re looking at some tough down-and-distances. And it’s hard to overcome that. But I thoguht he handled that stuff for the most part pretty well and just kept trying to execute ball plays. He will continue to do that.”

If the Cowboys don’t look outside the organization for a backup to Prescott, they could decide to make Cooper Rush the No. 2 option.

“I’m just glad to see Rush taking advantage of his opportunities out there,” owner Jerry Jones said, via Hill. “Wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves in any way here. And the other thing is that we still have a lot of confidence in [Moore], his ability to be able to get in there when we would call on him with the personnel around him and get the ball in the right places. Make no mistake about it, that Rush, it just gets slow when he gets out there. That’s a compliment.”

A compliment for Rush could be an ominous sign for Moore. Ultimately, the best move for Prescott could be the addition of someone with much more experience than he has, who can help him as he continues to try to develop into a true franchise quarterback.

Carr and Mack: Hand on shoulder during anthem wasn’t a protest

AP

As Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat again for the national anthem, quarterback Derek Carr stood with a hand on linebacker Khalil Mack. After the game, Carr made it clear that he and Mack weren’t engaged in any form of protest.

“We wanted to show them that it’s OK for a white kid and a black kid that come from two different neighborhoods [to] grow up and love one another and be best friends,” Carr said, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “And that’s what me and Khalil are — we’re best friends and we love one another.”

The gesture specifically occurred during the anthem because Carr (pictured talking to Lynch during last night’s game) and Mack realize that everyone is now watching what happens when the anthem is being played.

“[W]e see what’s going on in the world and, obviously, everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays, and so we just said this was the best time to do it while still honoring our country,” Carr said. “Because I love this country, more than anything. We’re free to live here and play this game, but we’re also free to show each other that we love one another. And I think that that’s the message, and that’s the only message we were trying to get out.”

Mack echoed those sentiments.

“To show [that] different races can get along, white, black, whatever you are, get along and be friends and . . . just show unity,” Mack said, per Gutierrez. “Show togetherness. It’s discussed a lot. It’s one of the things I feel passionately about, but I just don’t like the attention, the attention that comes with it. But at the same time, just using my platform for positivity is what’s important for me.”

Raiders safety Shalom Luani opted to take a knee during the anthem. Luani said after the game, according to Gutierrez, that Luani was praying, not protesting.

The fact that Carr and Mack would feel compelled to show the world that people of different races can enjoy the same kind of relationship that people of the same race can is encouraging in light of recent events. But it’s also more than a little depressing that the lesson of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder and their piano keys existing side by side apparently has come undone and needs to be taught all over again.

Jaylon Smith reflects on “long journey” after preseason debut

AP

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith took part in 12 plays against the Colts on Saturday night, which would be a relatively modest number of snaps under most circumstances.

Smith’s circumstances were a bit different, however. A major knee injury in his final college game led to nerve damage, a rookie season spent rehabbing rather than playing and doubts about whether he’d play agin, so Saturday night marked something more than just a dozen plays on the field. It was, Smith said, “a moment I’ve waited for for a long time.”

“Not one moment,” Smith said, via ESPN.com. “From the start, it’s a been a long journey. Like I’ve told all of you guys, my clear-eye view, a focused vision, determined belief, earned dreams, it’s got me here today and it’s something where I really appreciate the Jones [family] and everybody with the Cowboys organization for believing in me. It’s just the beginning. It’s a great feeling.”

Smith started at middle linebacker and stayed on the field for every play of the first three Colts possessions. He was credited with one tackle and the hope in Dallas is that bigger and better things are coming in the future.