Dakota Allen re-signs with Jaguars

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Linebacker Dakota Allen is back with the Jaguars.

Allen was tendered as an exclusive rights free agent in March, which left him with the choice of re-signing with Jacksonville or not signing with anyone at all. Thursday’s transaction report from the NFL shows that he chose to sign the tender.

The Rams drafted Allen in the seventh round of the 2019 draft and moved to the Raiders after being cut. He played two games for the AFC West team, returned to the Rams practice squad after getting cut, and then signed with the Jaguars in December.

Allen has 18 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit in 16 games over the last two seasons.

Happy 69th birthday, Bill Belichick

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick probably doesn’t hear from former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski very often. If Belichick is ever going to hear from Gronkowski, it’s now.

Belichick was born 69 years ago today.

Over the weekend, we touched on the question of how long Belichick will keep going. At one point, he said he won’t coach into his 70s. Now on the brink of 70, he feels differently. He surely will continue beyond his next birthday, April 16, 2022.

The job has some physical demands. As noted on Sunday, George Halas stopped at 73 because he couldn’t get around on an arthritic hip. For all coaches who keep working beyond 70, that could become an issue.

Or maybe there will simply be other things Belichick wants to do with his life; at this point, he’s surely not motivated by money.

One reason to keep going could be a simple one. Belichick likely is relishing the time spent working with his sons, Steve and Brian. Belichick also may want to keep going long enough to ensure that his sons have learned everything they can from him, and that they’re ready to stand on their own as coaches.

In the same way Archie Manning gave the NFL two sons who became great quarterbacks, Belichick could end up giving the NFL two sons who become great coaches. The more they can work with him now, the more scenarios they experience and problems they solve with his wisdom and experience available to them, the better off they’ll be.

Then there’s the very real possibility that coaching has become such a huge part of his life that he can’t imagine not doing it. It’s part of his routine. It’s part of who he is. He has cracked the code on how to thrive as an NFL coach. Why stop doing it?

As noted on Thursday’s PFT PM, the Patriots have become once again a compelling story in pro football because the two-decade run of dominance has ended, and Belichick is now trying to lay the foundation for the next generation of greatness. How much longer will he have to get the team back to the top of the mountain and keep them there?

Ultimately, only Belichick knows.

Bill Belichick marvels at Julian Edelman’s transition from a college quarterback

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When Julian Edelman arrived in New England in 2009, he was a seventh-round draft pick who had an uphill battle just to make the roster after playing quarterback at Kent State. Patriots coach Bill Belichick marvels at how Edelman carved out a spot for himself at the NFL level.

Belichick said that of all the players he has coached, he can’t think of one who has improved as much as Edelman, who had to learn how to play wide receiver and punt returner and did that at a very high level, and even played cornerback when the Patriots asked him to.

“Julian’s been one of the players that’s probably come further than most every other player that I’ve coached,” Belichick said. “His development from a quarterback in college to a receiver, punt returner and even a defensive player, all positions that he never played. To excel as a punt return and receiver for a number of years at those difficult positions is quite an accomplishment, especially considering that he didn’t do those things, wasn’t trained to do them, in college. His toughness, his competitiveness, his playmaking ability was a big part of the backbone of our team. I have a ton of respect for Julian, what he accomplished in his career, how hard he worked to accomplish it, and I have a great appreciation for al he’s done for me personally and our organization.”

Edelman announced his retirement this week after a 12-year NFL career, all in New England.

Melvin Gordon calls last season with Broncos one of his most difficult

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Broncos running back Melvin Gordon called last year’s experience in Denver one of the most difficult seasons he’s faced.

In an interview with Troy Renck of the Denver Channel, Gordon said the combination of being brought in to seemingly replace hometown hero Phillip Lindsay, playing in front of no fans with no chance to make an in-person impressions with his new fan base, and his DUI arrest from October made his first season with the Broncos a tough one to handle.

It was probably one of my most difficult seasons,” Gordon said. “I am not going to lie. Just cause a lot of fans and a lot of people weren’t too happy with me coming in and Phil wanting to get paid and everything like that. I was like, ‘Look man, I had no parts in that. I wanted to be here and they wanted me to be here. It was a mutual thing and it kind of just happened. It was tough, man, because I felt like a lot of people didn’t accept me.”

“It was kind of like, I am from Wisconsin, and if I had gotten drafted to The Pack. I understand how people feel because it would be the same way for me if I was in Green Bay. There was never any hard feelings, but shoot, at least give me a shot. And it sucked because the (fans) weren’t there (in the stands), so they were not there in person to appreciate what I do. And with the COVID stuff and not really being able to see Denver as a whole and spend that extra time with the teammates outside of the facility, it just made things a lot tougher. So it was that on top of that on top of that on top of that on top of that. So mentally, it was like, I definitely was challenged.”

Gordon signed a two-year deal with Denver last offseason after a five-year run with the Los Angeles Chargers. While he came in to pair with Lindsay in the Broncos backfield, he was viewed as the guy to take Lindsay’s job instead. Gordon made 10 starts in 15 games for Denver last year and posted numbers similar to those of previous seasons with the Chargers. He rushed for 986 yards and nine touchdowns.

With Lindsay now in Houston, the job is Gordon’s to seize control of and he has hopes of leading the league in rushing and getting to the playoffs again with the Broncos.

“Yeah, I just want to come out and be the best back. I would love the rushing title, you know what I mean. I want to be the best back,” Gordon said. “I feel like I am so overlooked. Whatever that case may be because we didn’t get a lot of TV time with the Chargers, and last year with splitting the ball and the fans not being there because of COVID, I don’t know. But I get overlooked a lot and I am kind of sick of it.”

DeMarcus Walker announces he’s joining Texans

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Former Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Walker announced via his instagram account that he is joining the Houston Texans.

Walker had a free agent visit with the Texans last week. Walker’s post to his instagram account was tagged in Houston and had several instances of Texans logos and sights as part of the announcement.

Walker was a second-round pick of the Broncos in 2017 out of Florida State. He’s appeared in 36 games with five starts during his four seasons in Denver, recording 51 tackles, 10.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He’s coming off a career-best 4.5 sacks last year for the Broncos.

Walker joins Maliek Collins, Derek Rivers, Jaleel Johnson and Vincent Taylor as additions to the Texans defensive line this offseason.

Bills tackle Trey Adams announces retirement

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Buffalo Bills tackle Trey Adams announced his retirement from football in a post to his instagram account on Thursday.

Thank you football for everything,” Adams wrote. “I have put much thought into this decision and it is time for me to retire from the game that has given me so much. Thank you, coach Dev, Jagla, Harle, and Christopherson for pushing me to in high school and paving my way to UW. Huge Thank you to Coach Pete, Strausser, Huff and Socha for taking a chance on me and making UW an unforgettable experience. I will always be a DAWG!! And thank you to the Buffalo Bills for believing in me. And to every teammate I’ve had, Thank you for being my brothers and I will never forget the long practices, conditioning and locker room talk. Love you boys. 72 signing out!!”

Adams spent just one season with Buffalo after going undrafted out of the University of Washington last year. Adams was once a highly touted prospect as he was named a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and a second-team All-American as a freshman in 2016. However, a torn ACL in 2017 and back injuries in 2018 helped knock Adams off of that trajectory.

After signing with the Bills, Adams was released at the end of training camp before returning to the team’s practice squad for the remainder of the season.

NFL, NFLPA need to resolve the offseason workout issue

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The NFL and the National Football League Players Association worked well together last year. After striking a new, 11-year labor deal in March, management and labor basically re-wrote the agreement on the fly in order to allow the 2020 season to proceed, despite the pandemic.

Now, the relationship has skidded off the rails, sort of. The two sides are squabbling over the contours of the 2021 offseason program, with the union inclined to finally take the term “voluntary” literally.

The rank and file are caught in the middle, both as to the current employees of the league’s 32 teams and, within the next couple of weeks, the incoming crop of draft picks and undrafted free agents who currently have no voice in the process. Union leadership has recommended that players stay away from the voluntary offseason program. A growing number of teams have issued statements indicating that they’ll accept that recommendation. Plenty of teams have not yet done so.

Even if they all do (and they all surely won’t), it’s binding on none of the individual players, each of whom will have to make the decision whether to: (1) work out at the team’s facility, and be protected against injury; (2) work out on their own, and not be protected against injury; or (3) not work out at all, and be woefully unprepared to compete in training camp. Inevitably, many will show up — especially since the process of on-field workouts for each franchise will commence with a rookie minicamp, consisting of rookies who’ll feel compelled to show up and tryout players who definitely won’t boycott their chance to get a spot on the 90-man offseason roster.

So why is this happening? Ostensibly, it’s because of the pandemic. Other reasons include a broader goal of ending the offseason program entirely, as well as acting out in the wake of the NFL’s ongoing dominance of the relationship.

To the extent that the pandemic is a concern, it’s hard to understand why. For starters, players can easily address COVID concerns by getting vaccinated. Or, if they decide not to receive the shot(s), they can show up pursuant to the same protocols that the league and union jointly negotiated last July.

The league has offered to relax those protocols for players who choose to be vaccinated. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA still hasn’t responded to the league’s March 26 proposal on that very topic.

Even without reduced standards for vaccinated players, it’s unclear why the union suddenly resists the protocols to which they agreed last year. Does union leadership believe players won’t work out somewhere? If they’re going to work out anywhere, they’re better off working out at the team facility.

Hopefully, union leadership is explaining this angle to the players who are being asked to stay away. Work out on your own at you own financial peril is the message the NFLPA should be communicating to those who agree to boycott showing up at work until they are required to do so.

The best approach would be for the two sides to come together and resolve the issue. It’s a small piece of a much larger puzzle. As one former coach explained it on Thursday night, it’s a waste of time for the two sides to fight over the issue. The offseason program makes training camp easier for everyone, since there’s less time spent teaching in July/August and more time working on preparations for Week One and beyond.

“I’ll never understand why anyone thinks doing less will get you more,” the coach observed.

The reality is that players won’t do less, they’ll just do it somewhere else. Somewhere without COVID protocols. Somewhere without the free insurance policy that covers injuries occurring on company property.

So they need to work it out. If all else fails, the union needs to find an off ramp. Broncos rep Brandon McManus realized that on Wednesday, after the league’s offseason procedures were published to the 32 teams. It would be very easy for all union leaders to now say, “Well, now we know what they’re proposing. That works.”

It seems to be much better for everyone than what ultimately will become a non-issue. During the week of May 17, draft picks, undrafted free agents, and tryout players will flood team facilities and practice for multiple days. When the next week comes, will most players really stay away?

More importantly, will those who stay away opt to stay home and do push-ups, Peloton, and P90X, or will they find a gym and/or a football field that will best prepare them to show up at training camp ready to compete for roster spots and starting jobs?

The sooner that everyone involved realizes how this movie is destined to end, the sooner they can pull the plug on the projector. That, frankly, will be in the best interests of all players — with the exception of those veterans who fear that a full offseason program will make it easier for younger, cheaper players to get enough reps and instruction to eventually become one of the members of the 53-man roster, at the expense of the older and more expensive players.

Raiders players will not participate in voluntary in-person workouts

NFL: SEP 27 Raiders at Patriots
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Raiders players announced Thursday night they have voted not to participate in voluntary in-person workouts this offseason.

They join players from the Browns, Giants, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks, Lions, Bears and Bucs in releasing a statement that some or all of their players will not take participate in planned in-person work that begins next month.

“We have come together as a team to discuss the important issues related to our health and safety,” the statement from Raiders players reads. “We know the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on our membership, our families and our home city of Las Vegas this past year, and we continue to feel for everyone in our community and our country who has been impacted by the coronavirus.

“Given the data and facts shared by our union about reduced injuries and other health benefits of the virtual offseason last year, players from our team will not participate in a voluntary in-person workout program. We respect those players on our team and across the NFL who have contractual incentives linked to their participation in the program, but we stand in solidarity with our fellow players who are making the best decision on behalf of themselves and their families.”

The virtual portion of the offseason program begins Monday. The NFL announced Wednesday that Phase Three, the only phase that will consist of on-field work, will include 10 on-field voluntary in-person practices and a three-day mandatory minicamp that will run from May 24-June 18.

Mike Vrabel: Nobody prepares harder than Derrick Henry does to carry the load

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots
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Derrick Henry has led the league in rushing the past two seasons. He also has led the NFL in rushing attempts in back-to-back years.

Henry had 303 carries for 1,540 yards in 2019 and 378 carries for 2,027 yards in 2020. The Titans running back had a league-leading 397 total touches in 2020.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Thursday what he said during the season: There’s a fine line in managing Henry’s workload.

“It’s no secret that Derrick is a large part of what we are, and who we are as a football team,” Vrabel said in a live event with season-ticket holders, via Jim Wyatt of the team website. “We try to be smart as we prepare. Nobody prepares for the rigors of the season more than Derrick. I’m not going to say that Derrick is the hardest working player in football; I wouldn’t do that to the players around this league. But I can’t imagine that any of them work harder than he does, and he understands that, and the toll that he is going to take.”

Henry, 27, has a chance to become the first back in NFL history to have back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons, and he will have an extra game to get it done with the league going to a 17-game season. Henry averaged 126.7 rushing yards per game in 16 games last season.

Eric Dickerson holds the NFL single-season record with 2,105 rushing yards in 1984.

Vrabel joked with a season-ticket holder who wants another 2,000-yard season for Henry but expressed concern for Henry’s health.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Vrabel said with a smile. “You can’t want 2,000 yards, and then have him standing next to me.

“We’ll always try to do what is best for the team, and what is best for Derrick. Just be smart and make sure he is communicating with us and how he feels, and we’re evaluating his performance.”

Justin Fields is now the betting favorite to go third overall

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On March 29, North Dakota St. quarterback Trey Lance was the favorite to be the third overall pick in the draft. Then, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones became the favorite. Now, there’s a third favorite to go third overall.

PointsBet has made Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields the favorite to become the pick of the 49ers at No. 3

Currently, Fields has odds of -125 for to hear his name called as the third player picked, two weeks from tonight. Jones is +100, and Lance is +450.

On March 29, Lance was the favorite at +130. Fields had odds of +150, and Jones stood at +160. By April 8, Jones moved to -200 favorite, with Fields at +250 and Lance at +300.

Now, it’s Fields.

The reason for the shift isn’t clear. Surely, the 49ers aren’t investing three first-round picks and a third-round pick without having a damn good idea as to their intended selection. There’s a fine line, frankly, between building a mystery and creating the impression that the 49ers traded up without a firm and specific plan.

Also, keep this simple reality of the NFL’s ultimate reality show in mind. For the same reason that the powers-that-be don’t want picks to be tipped during the draft, they also don’t want a bunch of picks to be set in stone before the draft begins. Already, it’s widely presumed that the Jaguars will take Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 and the Jets will take Zach Wilson at No. 2. If the 49ers make their plans known, why tune in for the first hour of the draft?

So don’t be surprised if reporters and analysts who work for the networks that will televise the draft to try to keep the plans at No. 3 and beyond as vague and uncertain as possible, for as long as possible. Indeed, why would anyone watch the ultimate reality show is the ultimate reality already is known?

Mac Jones: Not comparing myself to Tom Brady, but I want to emulate his competitiveness

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Alabama quarterback Mac Jones wants to make clear that he’s not comparing himself to Tom Brady. But there are some traits he thinks he and Brady have in common.

Jones said in an interview with Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN that he does think he has some similarities to Brady, in that people haven’t always been impressed with him as a physical specimen, but he has the competitive fire that motivates him to win.

“I don’t like to compare myself to him, I’ve got a long way to go,” Jones said. “But coming out of college it was, doesn’t have arm strength, can’t throw a spiral, can’t move. I can do that stuff, but it’s more like the intangible stuff. . . . He’s got the fire still, and that’s why he’s so good.”

One area where Jones is not like Brady is that Brady was a sixth-round draft pick, while Jones is expected to hear his name called early in the first round, two weeks from tonight.

Chris Carson: Seattle’s rushing game “can be something special”

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles
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After Chris Carson agreed to return to the Seahawks, Russell Wilson went on social media to endorse the move. Wilson was “definitely in my ear” about re-signing, the running back said Thursday.

Carson will start, but Rashaad Penny also will get playing time. The Seahawks drafted Penny in the first round in 2018, but he played only three games last season while continuing to recover from a knee injury.

While #letrusscook became the battle cry early last season when Wilson helped get the Seahawks off to a 6-1 start as the offense averaged 34.3 points and 414.4 yards per game, the rest of the season didn’t go as well. That prompted coach Pete Carroll to say after the season that he wants the Seahawks to get back to running it more and running it better.

Carson believes he and Penny can get the job done.

“I think we can be one of the top rushing duos in the league,’’ Carson said, via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. “We both bring a different feel to the game, like different attributes. But we complement each other so well. I feel like his limit is ridiculous once he starts getting his feet wet in the game. I think it’s going to be something special.’’

Carson’s 12 100-yard games since 2018 are fifth-most in the NFL, but after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, he rushed for only 681 in 12 games last season. The Seahawks were 2-2 in the four games Carson missed with a foot injury.

“Man, that was my whole goal last season was to play 16 games,’’ Carson said. “And when it didn’t happen, going through that period was stressful.’’

Neither Carson nor Penny ever has played a full, 16-game schedule. The team hopes both can make it through a full, 17-game season this season.

Giants players announce they won’t attend in-person voluntary workouts

NFL: NOV 15 Eagles at Giants
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Giants players released a statement through the NFLPA announcing they will not take part in voluntary in-person workouts at the team facility.

Players from seven other teams have made similar announcements, declaring some or all of their players will not take participate in planned in-person work this offseason.

“Our team is a strong, unified brotherhood of professionals who love the game of football and work year-round to perfect our craft,” the statement from Giants players reads. “We also have to make the best decisions to protect our health and safety, which is why players on our team are exercising our CBA right to not attend in-person voluntary workouts. We stand in solidarity with players across our league who are making informed decisions with the help of our union, both in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and what the data shows about the benefits to our overall health and safety.”

The virtual portion of the offseason program begins Monday. The NFL announced Wednesday that Phase Three, the only phase that will consist of on-field work, will include 10 on-field voluntary in-person practices and a three-day mandatory minicamp that will run from May 24-June 18.

Saints sign Jalen McCleskey

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Receiver Jalen McCleskey has agreed to terms with the Saints, his representation, National Sports Agency, announced.

McCleskey’s father, J.J., played 32 games for the Saints from 1994-96 as a defensive back and now coaches the defensive backs at Tulane.

Jalen McCleskey played his final college season at Tulane in 2019 after four years at Oklahoma State. He went undrafted last spring but signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent.

Atlanta cut McCleskey out of training camp.

McCleskey caught 167 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns in four years with Oklahoma State. In his lone season at Tulane, he caught 37 passes for 581 yards and four touchdowns.

NFL announces first sportsbook partnerships

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When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke to the media after the league announced its new broadcasting contracts last month, he said the league would “find ways we can engage fans through legalized sports betting” during the life of those deals.

That continued a major shift in attitude for a league that had long worked to avoid any connection with gambling and that shift grew even larger on Thursday. The NFL announced their first-ever sportsbook partnerships with Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, and FanDuel.

The multi-year agreements make the three companies official sports betting partners of the league and give them the ability to use NFL marks. The league’s announcement says they will also “engage with fans through NFL-themed free-to-play games” and integrate betting content into NFL properties.

“As the sports betting landscape has continued to evolve in the United States, we have been thoughtful with our strategy and are excited to announce three partners who share the NFL’s vision and goals,” NFL chief revenue officer and executive vice president of NFL partnerships Renie Anderson said in a statement. “Working closely with Caesars, DraftKings and FanDuel, we will provide fans new and different ways of interacting and engaging with the sport they love.”

Twenty-five states and Washington D.C. have legalized sports betting while many other states are working on bills that would lead to legalization. As they do, the ties between the NFL and gambling will only grow.