Panthers seem to be poised to try to trade Cam Newton

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Monday’s leak that the Panthers expect quarterback Cam Newton to pass a physical in March is less about Newton playing for the Panthers than it is about the Panthers possibly trading him to someone else.

From Carolina’s perspective, Newton getting healthy in March is meaningless, if they play to keep him. The offseason program doesn’t begin until April; it doesn’t matter if he’s healthy in March.

It does matter if he’s healthy in March, however, if the Panthers hope to trade him at the start of the league year. And it does matter that the team leaked that they expect Newton to pass a physical in March, in order to send a message to any and all interested teams that Newton is available.

Teams currently are making their plans when if comes to the coming crop of free-agent quarterbacks. Those teams need to know that Newton is in play. Monday’s leak does just that.

Thus, teams that will be looking for quarterbacks now need to be looking at Newton. Of course, it won’t be easy or cheap to pull it off. First, the Panthers will want compensation for the final year of Newton’s contract. Second, Newton likely will (or at least should) want a new contract, given that he’s due to make a mere $19.1 million in salary and workout bonus in 2020. Third, it’s unclear how healthy Newton is, and how long he’ll stay healthy if/when he gets there.

Just a week ago, Panthers owner David Tepper played the “I’m not a doctor” card when addressing Newton’s health, ignoring the reality that Tepper is rich enough to buy the opinion of any and all doctors on the Eastern Seaboard. The more likely reality is that the Panthers, with new owner and new coach, would like to move on. Newton, who has seen the only NFL head coach he’s ever known move on, may want the same thing.

To the extent that the Panthers have become fatigued by concerns regarding Newton’s health, a team that becomes infatuated by his talent may be willing to roll the dice. The question then becomes the cost of the roll, if Newton indeed pushes for a new deal as part of a trade.

In this regard, Newton has plenty of leverage. Wherever he is, he needs to fully buy in. That may not be in Carolina, and it may not be with any other team that doesn’t want to put his pay in line with other elite quarterbacks.

If healthy, Newton clearly remains an elite quarterback. And a team like the Chargers should be doing whatever it has to do to make his their starter as they open a new stadium with the Rams. Then there are the Patriots, who could end up looking for a new quarterback — and who are 0-2 against Newton.

However it plays out, it’s starting to feel like Newton will be out of Charlotte. Monday’s leak seems to be nothing more than an effort to subtly hammer a “For Sale” sign into the ground outside Bank of America Stadium.

Jason Witten hopes to play another season with Cowboys

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There was some thought Jason Witten would retire (again), this time to go into coaching. It seemed like an opportune time with the Cowboys turning over their coaching staff and Jason Garrett going to the Giants as offensive coordinator.

But when both the Cowboys and Giants hired tight end coaches, it became obvious Witten hopes to play in 2020.

If Witten has his way, he will play another season, and he will play another season for the Cowboys.

The tight end, though, understands the reality of the NFL: He might have to go to the Giants or some other team to play a 17th season.

“Well, it’s taken a lot longer than I had hoped for, but I think obviously with so many changes happening inside the [Cowboys’] building, just working through that,” Witten said Tuesday night, via David Helman of the team website. “I met with Mike [McCarthy] early on after he got the job. We had a really good visit. Since then, he’s been putting together his staff. I’ve had constant communication with Stephen [Jones] and Jerry [Jones] along the way. So I think it’s my hope — I think our hope — to kind of have those talks very soon after the Combine ends and before free agency. I want to play. I think I want to explore that. I think it’s the right fit in the role, and I feel like I still have something to give. I’ve been on the other side of that and made the decision to retire.

“I just think, yeah, coaching is in my future, but right now, I want to play while I can. We’ll see where that takes place. Of course, I want that to be with the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll always be a Dallas Cowboy. But I also understand that, with all the changes, I may have to go somewhere else.”

Witten, 37, has played in eight postseason games in his career. The Cowboys are 2-6 in the playoffs during Witten’s career, never reaching the NFC Championship Game.

Witten desires to finish what he started with the team he started it with as a third-round choice in 2003. A Lombardi Trophy would qualify as the cherry on top of a Hall of Fame-worthy career.

“I hope that it’s here just because there’s nothing I want more than to bring a championship here,” Witten said. “I think this team is close. I think it really has the makeup to do some special things.”

Browns hire Ben Bloom as senior defensive assistant

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The Browns are expected to hire former Cowboys assistant coach Ben Bloom as a senior defensive assistant, Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio reports.

Bloom returns to Cleveland after nine seasons in Dallas.

He got his NFL start with the Browns, going to Cleveland in 2009 as an assistant defense/quality control coach. In 2010, Bloom earned a promotion to defensive assistant. He helped prepare the team’s defense during practice and broke down film for upcoming opponents.

Bloom worked with Matt Eberflus in Cleveland and, in 2011, he followed Eberflus to Dallas as defensive quality control coach and assistant linebackers coach.

Bloom moved to the defensive line in 2014 and worked specifically with the defensive ends in 2015.

A year later, Bloom assumed the role as the club’s assistant coach/special projects. He advised head coach Jason Garrett on game plan matchups and schemes and personnel group strategies.

Bloom spent the past two seasons as the linebackers coach but was let go when the Cowboys moved on from Garrett.

Tony Romo sounds as if he has decided who he will broadcast for in 2020

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Other than the beginning of his career, when he entered the league as an undrafted free agent, and the end of his career, when the Cowboys cut him, Tony Romo never truly was a free agent in the NFL. He isn’t really one now either in the broadcasting world, with CBS holding the right of first refusal.

But, with his contract expired, the former quarterback is free talk to other networks.

“Right now, obviously we’re in that free agent-kind-of-position, but in my brain, it’s one of those things where you talk to your wife, the people that know you at your core,” Romo said Tuesday on 97.1 The Eagle. “You just have to figure out what’s important, and try and make the best decision possible. I mean, obviously I’m trying to say it the right way here, but I do feel like there is no perfect answer. It’s just a matter of me going through it, and I’ve never been through this in the broadcasting world. It’s just something I’m basically learning.

“It reminds me a lot when I was in year two with the Dallas Cowboys. I had no idea how to negotiate with Jerry Jones. It’s like, I just want to play. You don’t really know any better. I feel like this thing won’t be that. . . All I want is like an obvious answer, right? You just want something to be very straight-forward.”

With CBS ultimately holding the final card, and Romo having become among the best in the business as an analyst, it would rank as a major surprise if Romo doesn’t end up back beside Jim Nantz on CBS’ No. 1 broadcast team in the fall. Romo could command an eight-figure annual offer.

“I think I’m already there a little bit, but we’ll see how it plays it, even though I think I already know, but I’m just not telling you guys,” Romo said, laughing.

Joe Flacco getting second opinion, with Denver still undecided about his status

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A report earlier Tuesday indicated the Broncos are confident Joe Flacco will be healthy enough to play in 2020. A follow-up by Mike Klis of 9News.com shed more light on the quarterback’s future.

Klis talked to Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, and Broncos president of football operations/G.M. John Elway, neither of whom was definitive about Flacco’s future or his spot with the team.

Flacco underwent an MRI on his neck last week.

While the results were encouraging regarding Flacco’s long-term health, the MRI was sent to Dr. Drew Dossett in Dallas for a second opinion, per Klis. Dossett, a spine specialist, is a Cowboys’ team doctor who has operated on Tony Romo’s back.

“Joe has every intention to play but not at the risk of his long-term health,” Linta told Klis.

Elway told Klis the Broncos are “working through options with Flacco,” with a decision yet to be made on Flacco’s status with the team.

Flacco is scheduled to make more than $20 million with a cap hit of $23.65 million, which is a prohibitive price for Drew Lock‘s backup.

Seahawks land Greg Olsen

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Greg Olsen took some time to make up his mind about what to do after visiting Buffalo, Seattle and Washington following his release from the Panthers, but he’s come to a decision.

PFT has learned, via a league source, that Olsen is signing with the Seahawks. It is a one-year deal worth $7 million with $5.5 million in guaranteed money.

Buffalo and Washington had clear connections to Olsen from his time in Carolina, but he’ll be playing for Pete Carroll rather than reuniting with Sean McDermott or Ron Rivera in a new city. That will make him a new target for Russell Wilson to use as the Seahawks try to return to the postseason in 2020.

Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson saw the most snaps at tight end for Seattle in 2019. Dissly tore his Achilles during the 2019 season while Willson is set for free agency in March. Ed Dickson spent all of the regular season on injured reserve and is under contract for 2020, but the Seahawks may prefer to spend his $3 million cap hit elsewhere.

Lions, Dolphins installed as favorites to draft Tua Tagovailoa

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One NFL team will gamble on Tua Tagovailoa being their quarterback of the future in April and others can gamble on which team that is going to be.

Caesars Sportsbook has installed, via David Purdum of ESPN.com, the Lions and Dolphins as the co-favorites to pick the former Alabama star. The Lions, who pick third, and Dolphins, who pick fifth, are listed at -110 (bet $110 to win $100) to nab Tagovailoa.

The Lions denied that they have been discussing a trade involving Matthew Stafford and ownership seemed to mandate a big step up in the standings in 2020, but Tagovailoa has been mentioned as a possibility in Detroit this offseason.The Dolphins have been frequently mentioned as a landing spot for Tagovailoa, although perceived interest from the Lions may force them to try to move up if they want to assure they can get him.

The Chargers (5-2 odds, sixth overall pick), Bengals (7-1, first overall), Panthers (7-1, seventh overall) and Jaguars (9-1, ninth overall) fill out the next spots.

Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are considered safe bets for the top of the first round and Caesars set the over/under for total first-round quarterbacks at 4.5. Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love have gotten support in some corners and the upcoming Scouting Combine will continue the process of seeing how all the pieces fit.

Taysom Hill: I would love to play with Drew Brees again, am in no hurry to leave

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Drew Brees announced on Instagram earlier Tuesday that he will return for 2020. Some will view that as bad news for Taysom Hill.

It means Hill will not start for the Saints in 2020.

Hill, though, sees it as good news for Brees, the Saints and himself.

After the news of Brees’ return broke, Hill told Adam Schefter of ESPN that he already knew Brees was returning and “would love to play with Drew again.”

“At the end of the day, I look at Drew coming back and maybe I’m not playing quarterback, which is ultimately where I want to have an opportunity to play in the NFL,” Hill said on Schefter’s podcast, “but there are still going to be opportunities for me to make plays. I can tell you a unique experience for me that most backup quarterbacks don’t get is I’m in the huddle with Drew on game day. . . . That to me is invaluable.”

Brees, Hill and Teddy Bridgewater all are scheduled to become free agents. The Saints will keep Brees. They hope to keep Hill, who is a restricted free agent. They aren’t expected to be able to afford Bridgewater.

Hill, though, would have an opportunity to start this season if he went elsewhere. He will remain a Swiss Army Knife for at least another season in New Orleans, though he likely would see more snaps at quarterback than he did in 2019.

“I think there’s a process of being a restricted free agent,” Hill said. “My agent and I are going through the process, and we’ll see what happens. But I’m in no hurry to leave New Orleans. As I look at my career, I have goals, and I have a vision for myself as to what I can do in the NFL, and there has been nothing that has been said, or I’ve never been treated in any way that would lead me to believe that the vision I have for myself is not the same vision that coach [Sean] Payton has for me, as well as the other guys on the staff. So I’m in no hurry, but I also think that there’s an important element of being a free agent. You finally have the opportunity to sit down and say, ‘What are my goals? What are my visions for myself?’ And then see who shares those same thoughts as you do.

“We’ll go through that process. It’s super early, so I have no idea what is going to happen. But we’ll go through that process and see what happens.”

If Joe Burrow wants to play for the Bengals, why hasn’t he simply said so?

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At one point last month, quarterback Joe Burrow provided a broad, blanket assessment of his football future: “Whoever wants to pay me money to play the game of football, I’ll play for ’em, it doesn’t matter to me.” Later in the month, however, that changed in subtle yet critical fashion.

After former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said publicly that the Bengals aren’t committed to winning Super Bowls and Burrow hired Carson’s younger brother to assist with draft preparation, Burrow said this to Dan Patrick: “You want to go No. 1. But you also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning. Committed to winning Super Bowls.”

That’s a far cry from “it doesn’t matter to me.” And it’s likely not a coincidence that someone (i.e., Jordan or Carson Palmer) warned him about the Bengals.

The story bubbled up again this week, with Burrow offering a far from enthusiastic “if they select me, they select me” assessment of playing for the Bengals. His mother, Robin, tried to laugh off the notion that Joe doesn’t want to play for the Bengals by saying, “We have no idea where that comes from. It’s a story out there that someone has created that doesn’t have any substance — from our perspective at least.”

But they gave the story substance the moment Joe hired the brother of a former Bengals’ No. 1 overall pick whose experience showed him that the Bengals aren’t committed to winning Super Bowls, and when Burrow then revised his “it doesn’t matter to me” position regarding the team he wants to play for by saying, “[Y]ou also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning. Committed to winning Super Bowls.”

Meanwhile, Burrow never has said that he wants to play for the Bengals. And that’s all he has to say to make this go away.

Consider the difference between these responses. Here’s option one.

Q: “Joe, do you want to play for the Cincinnati Bengals?”

A: “If they select me, they select me.”

Here’s option two.

Q: “Joe, do you want to play for the Cincinnati Bengals?”

A: “You bet your ass I do!”

Granted, he could be slightly less enthusiastic and still make the point that he wants the Bengals to pick him. Or he at least can say that he wants to be the No. 1 overall pick without the “you also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning” caveat, which covers him in the event the Dolphins or someone else makes a trade up to the top spot.

Since adjusting his stance from “it doesn’t matter to me” to: (1) I want to be the top pick; and (2) I want the team that picks me to be a great organization that’s committed to winning, the notion that Burrow doesn’t want to go to the Bengals has intensified — especially since the brother of Burrow’s private quarterback coach strongly believes the Bengals aren’t committed to winning.

It’s really not that complicated. But some flat-out refuse to see what’s happening. And what’s happening is that, for now, Burrow is sending signals that he eventually may not want to play for the Bengals. Whether that becomes a full-blown Elway/Eli-style power play remains to be seen.

The fact that Burrow said Monday that he has leverage (few if any draft prospects ever say that) confirms that he’s considering his options. However, if the Bengals take him, his options are simple: (1) sign a four-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth more than $36 million; (2) refuse to sign with the Bengals in the hopes his rights are traded during or after the draft; or (3) sit out the full year and re-enter the draft — with no guarantee that he’d be the first pick again and no guarantee that the Bengals or some other team not committed to winning would refrain from drafting him.

For now, Burrow is opting for subtle in order to keep his options open for as long as possible. Even if he doesn’t want to play for the Bengals, his desire to not pass on being the first pick and getting more than $9 million per year for four years could be stronger.

Regardless, there’s clearly something that’s holding him back from being unequivocal about the Bengals. And it’s not very hard, based on the comments of Carson Palmer and others, to see what it is.

XFL ratings dip on ABC in Week Two

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The XFL had very strong ratings in Week One of the return from its 19-year hiatus. The Week Two ratios were strong to quite strong.

According to Jake Russell of the Washington Post, the Week Two ABC games drew an average audience of 2.127 million on Saturday (New York Guardians at D.C. Defenders) and an average audience of 2.397 million on Sunday (Dallas Renegades at L.A. Wildcats).

Last Saturday’s XFL debut on ABC, featuring the Seattle Dragons at the Defenders, generated 3.3 million average viewers. The reduction from one Saturday to the next at the same starting time (2:00 p.m. ET) amounts to 1.173 million. That equates to a slippage of 35.5 percent.

On Sunday of Week One, the ABC/ESPN game was televised by ESPN, and it drew 2.5 million viewers. The Week Two Sunday game experienced less of a dip, by 103,000 viewers and 4.12 percent. However, broadcast TV usually generates a much higher audience than cable; thus, it’s fair to assume the audience would have been smaller if the Week Two Sunday game had been televised by ESPN — and that the audience would have been larger if the Week One Sunday game had been televised by ABC.

Falcons sign Younghoe Koo, Ryan Allen for 2020

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The Falcons took some time finding the right kicker and punter during the 2019 season, but they’ll hold onto the two guys who finished the year in those roles.

The team announced on Tuesday that they have signed kicker Younghoe Koo and punter Ryan Allen to one-year extensions.

Koo signed with the Falcons in late October after they cut veteran Matt Bryant. He was 23-of-26 on field goals and 15-of-16 on extra points in his eight games with the team. He was also named the NFC’s special teams player of the week twice during that time.

Allen was the fourth punter to appear in a game for the Falcons last season. He also played in eight games and averaged 41.9 yards per kick. The Falcons also have Sam Irwin-Hill on the roster at punter.

Jedrick Wills predicts “freakish numbers” at Combine

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Jedrick Wills believes he’s the best offensive line prospect in the draft. The Alabama right tackle plans to confirm it at the Combine.

“I want to put out freakish numbers for O-linemen at every single station,” Wills said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Texas A&M center Erik McCoy ran the fastest 40 time by an offensive lineman last season at the Combine at 4.89 seconds. Weber State left tackle Iosua Opeta had the best bench press at the position with 39 reps.

Wills is training at APEC in Fort Worth.

“He’s been as advertised,” APEC founder and president Bobby Stroupe said. “Everything that you read and see about him and all the hype about how high his grade is and where he should be picked in the draft is legit. He’s got the right type of mental approach.

“From a physical standpoint as a tackle, he moves better than any tight end that I’ve worked with from a standpoint of mechanics and flexibility and mobility. He can access angles that a lot of our skill guys can’t. He’s got incredible levels of power for his size at 315 pounds. I fully expect him to be a cornerstone player in the NFL for many years.”

Wills played right tackle throughout his college career. He allowed one sack in 28 starts the past two seasons protecting the blindside of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Wills, though, said he is willing to play left tackle or inside at guard.

Report: Broncos confident Joe Flacco will be healthy enough to play in 2020

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Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco said at the end of the regular season that he would have an MRI on his injured neck to determine if he needs surgery and that he’d think about the 2020 season once he had that news.

Flacco has reportedly had that MRI and the results shouldn’t stand in the way of his return to the field. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports that the Broncos are confident that Flacco will be healthy enough to play.

Being cleared to play and having a place to play are two very different things, however. Flacco is set to make over $20 million with a cap hit of $23.65 million, which is a prohibitive price for someone backing up Drew Lock.

Cutting Flacco would result in cap savings of $10.05 million, but eating it might wind up being their only choice as it is hard to see too many teams clamoring to trade for a player who wasn’t all that productive before getting hurt.

D.J. Humphries: I figured out how to do it the right way

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Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries is having quite the week.

Humphries agreed to a three-year, $45 million extension with the Cardinals on Monday and came to the team’s facility for a press conference on Tuesday. During the press conference, Humphries revealed that he will be flying the Charlotte on Wednesday for his wedding, so there will be much to celebrate for him in the coming days.

Humphries said that he knew he was not leaving Arizona as a free agent because “this place has embraced me in every way” and thanked the team for the “benefits of being patient” with a player who broke out last season after injury issues in earlier years.

“I knew this was gonna happen two years ago because I wrote it in my head,” Humphries said. “It was just a matter of putting it on the ground, putting in the work and making sure I can do what we do. . . . I feel like I just figured out how to do it the right way.”

Humphries thinks the Cardinals as a whole are close to figuring out how to do things the right way during the 2020 season. He believes they have just started to scratch the surface offensively after one year with head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray and he’ll be back as a key part of making sure they get deeper.

Eagles will allow Nigel Bradham to become a free agent

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The Eagles will say farewell to one of their veteran linebackers to get the ball rolling on their offseason moves.

Per a league source, the Eagles will not pick up the 2020 option on linebacker Nigel Bradham‘s contract. He will become a free agent on March 18.

Bradham was due a base salary of $8 million in 2020 with a cap number north of $9.7 million. They’ll be left with over $5.3 million in dead money as a result of the move.

Bradham started all 12 games he played during the 2019 season and recorded 61 tackles and an interception. It was his fourth season with the Eagles after opening his career with four seasons in Buffalo.

UPDATE 3:33 p.m. ET: A prior version of this article indicated that the Eagles have released Bradham. He is not officially released at this time and won’t be available to sign with other teams until March 18. The Eagles presumably have done this so that Bradham’s new contract will count toward compensatory draft-pick calculations.