James Conner feels good as new heading into Year 5 in the NFL

Pittsburgh Steelers v Los Angeles Chargers
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James Conner never played a full 16-game season in his four years with the Steelers, and he’s currently coming off toe surgery. But as he heads into his fifth year in the NFL and first with the Cardinals, he says there’s no reason to worry that he can’t stay healthy.

Conner, who also played his college football at the University of Pittsburgh, says he believes a move to a new locale is exactly what he needs at this point in his career.

I feel brand new,” Conner said, via ESPN. “I’m excited for this opportunity. It’s definitely a change of scenery for me, being in Pittsburgh eight years. All that time in Pittsburgh was just prepping me for where I’m at right now in my life. And this journey brought me out here to A-Z and I felt like I was well equipped, just everything I’ve been through and continue to go through on this journey and leads me to here. So, man, I’m excited to be in this red. I’m excited. I’m truly excited and it’s a blessing.”

Conner said he views the Cardinals as “right place, right time” for him to take the next step in his career.

Jason Pierre-Paul says he’s “85-90 percent” after knee surgery

NFL: FEB 07 Super Bowl LV - Chiefs v Buccaneers
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Quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t the only Buccaneers player to give an update on his recovery from knee surgery in recent days.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had surgery in February after spending the season doing what he could to manage his injury by limiting his work in practice. Pierre-Paul said at the time of his operation that he felt he was playing at about 70 percent because of the issue.

While speaking to reporters at a charity event hosted by Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, Pierre-Paul indicated he feels his recovery has already pushed him past that point. Pierre-Paul said, via Greg Auman of TheAthletic.com, that he’s “85-90 percent” a couple of months after surgery.

Pierre-Paul had 9.5 sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in the 2020 regular season and added a pair of sacks in the postseason.

Buccaneers re-sign Ryan Griffin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp
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The Buccaneers officially have a quarterback besides Tom Brady on their roster.

Tampa Bay announced Ryan Griffin has re-signed with the club on Tuesday morning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Griffin has been with the Bucs since 2015, when the team claimed him off waivers from New Orleans. He was Tampa Bay’s third QB last season behind Brady and Blaine Gabbert, and was inactive for each regular season and postseason contest.

Griffin has appeared in just two games since entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane. He spent two years on the Saints’ practice squad before beginning his long tenure with the Buccaneers.

Alex Smith’s retirement leaves 2005 draft with few remaining players

2005 NFL Draft
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The retirement of Alex Smith, the first overall pick 16 years ago this month, leaves the 2005 draft with only a handful of remaining players.

With linebacker Thomas Davis (the fourteenth overall pick) retiring earlier this year, the only remaining active players under contract from the 2005 draft are Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (24th), Raiders offensive lineman Richie Incognito (81st), and Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (250th).

Free agents from the 2005 draft who have not retired include kicker Mike Nugent (47th), running back Frank Gore (65th), and punter Dustin Colquitt (99th).

The rest of the top 10 that year included Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown (No. 2), Browns receiver Braylon Edwards (No. 3), Bears running back Cedric Benson (No. 4), Buccaneers running back Cadillac Williams (No. 6), Titans cornerback Pacman Jones (No. 6), Vikings receiver Troy Williamson (No. 7), Cardinals defensive back Antrel Rolle (No. 8), Washington cornerback Carlos Rogers (No. 9), and Lions receiver Mike Williams (No. 10). (And, yes, any of those teams could have had Aaron Rodgers instead.)

Other notable players included pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman, linebacker Derrick Johnson, receiver Roddy  White, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, receiver Vincent Jackson, running back Marion Barber, defensive end Chris Canty, quarterback Dan Orlovsky, tight end Bo Scaife, and quarterback Matt Cassel.

Steelers extend Mike Tomlin through 2024

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals
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The Mike Tomlin era is set to continue in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers announced on Tuesday that they’ve signed their head coach to a three-year extension through 2024.

“I am pleased to announce we have extended Mike Tomlin’s contract through the 2024 season,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement. “Mike is one of the most successful head coaches in the National Football League, and we are confident in his leadership to continue to lead our team as we work to win another championship.”

Tomlin is the third longest tenured head coach in the league, behind only New England’s Bill Belichick and New Orleans’ Sean Payton. The Steelers hired Tomlin in 2007 and Pittsburgh has not had a losing record with him at the helm. He’s compiled a 145-78-1 record, winning Super Bowl XLIII and coaching the team to an appearance in Super Bowl XLV.

“I am extremely grateful for this contract extension and want to thank Art Rooney II and everyone in the organization for the support in my first 14 seasons,” Tomlin said in a statement. “We have a goal of winning the organization’s seventh Super Bowl championship, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this upcoming season.”

Tomlin is just Pittsburgh’s third head coach since 1969. Chuck Noll led the team from 1969-1991 and Bill Cowher served as head coach from 1992-2006.

Report: Panthers hosting DaQuan Jones, are expected to sign him

Detroit Lions v Tennessee Titans
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Carolina appears close to adding a piece for its defensive line.

According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the Panthers are hosting defensive tackle DaQuan Jones on a visit and they are expected to sign him to a one-year deal.

Jones was a Titans fourth-round pick in 2014 and spent his first seven years with the club. He’s been plenty durable, starting all 16 games for Tennessee in five of the six seasons since 2015 — when he became a full-time starter.

In 2020, Jones recorded 2.0 sacks, 49 total tackles, four tackles for loss, and six quarterback hits while participating in 63 percent of Tennessee’s defensive snaps. He also had a sack and TFL in the postseason loss to Baltimore.

Overall, Jones has 9.0 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, and 26 QB hits in 99 career games.

John Harbaugh: We’ll find receivers in the draft who we like that fit us

Wild Card Round - Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans
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Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta called it “insulting” to suggest the Ravens don’t have wide receivers. And though it makes sense for him to defend Baltimore’s talent level, that doesn’t change the club’s offensive system.

The club earned a playoff berth in 2020 and defeated the Titans in the wild-card round. But Baltimore still finished last in passing yards and attempts while leading the league in rushing yards and attempts.

That makes Baltimore a unique destination for a wide receiver entering the league. Head coach John Harbaugh knows that, which is why the Ravens must dive deep to find the receivers with the proper makeup for their offense.

“We want winning football from our guys. It’s guys who fit what we do, certainly, but we want guys who can get open, who can make plays, that play hard,” Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. “There are different aspects to different types of receivers, but in the end, we’ll find certain receivers in the draft who we like that fit us; fit our needs and fit how we play, fit our quarterback and fit our personality — as Eric said — our culture. We’ll find those guys, and we’ll be targeting those guys. We know who they are already. We’ve had the meetings, and we’ll be trying to get them.”

Harbaugh added that he agreed with DeCosta’s sentiment that those who feel the Ravens don’t have receivers are insulting.

“I think it couldn’t have been said any better than what he said,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not about to apologize for our guys. Our guys are going to go out there and win football games for us, and they’re going to make plays, and they’re going to show people. I can’t wait to see it happen.”

Marquise Brown was the Ravens’ leading receiver in 2020, making 58 catches for 769 yards with eight touchdowns. While tight end Mark Andrews also caught 58 passes for 701 yards, the next wideout on the list was Willie Snead, who caught 33 passes for 432 yards with three TDs — illustrating the team’s need to improve the position.

Snead has since signed with the Raiders. Baltimore brought in Sammy Watkins on a one-year deal earlier this month.

Andy Reid: It looked like Lucas Niang had some potential to play left tackle

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 AdvoCare Showdown - Ohio State v TCU
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Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said on Monday that the team has not shut the door on a possible return for left tackle Eric Fisher after releasing him to create salary cap space, but the team has to consider other options with Fisher unsigned and recovering from a torn Achilles.

One option that Reid mentioned in his press conference was 2020 third-round pick Lucas Niang. Niang opted out of playing last season, but Reid said the team has thought about trying him at the spot Fisher manned for much of the last decade.

“We’re fitting that through, but we had aspirations of potentially moving Niang over to that spot,” Reid said, via Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star. “It looked like he had some potential for that when we had him last.”

The Chiefs have an opening at right tackle as well after releasing Mitchell Schwartz and Reid threw out the names of Mike Remmers, Andrew Wylie, and Kyle Long as potential competitors for the vacancies on either end of the line. That list could grow during the draft as the Chiefs try to find a better mix than they had to close out last season.

Lions re-sign Matt Nelson

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Matt Nelson is under contract to the Lions for the 2021 season.

The Lions tendered the tackle as an exclusive rights free agent earlier this year and the NFL’s daily transaction report brought word that he signed that tender on Monday. Nelson was not able to negotiate with other teams once he was tendered, so his return was a matter of timing more than anything else.

Nelson played defensive line at Iowa and moved to the offensive side of the ball once he signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent. He appeared in all 16 games last season and made a start against the Packers in Week 13.

The Lions also tendered fullback Jason Cabinda and punter Jack Fox as exclusive rights free agents this offseason.

Jordan Reed retiring from NFL

Buffalo Bills v San Francisco 49ers
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Tight end Jordan Reed made it back to the field with the 49ers last season, but he will not be playing in 2021.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Reed has decided to retire from the NFL.

Reed was a 2013 third-round pick by Washington who developed into a strong receiver early in his career. His effectiveness was mitigated by a career-long inability to stay healthy that culminated in missing the entire 2019 season due to concussions. Reed was able to return for the 49ers in 2020 and caught 26 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games.

Reed had 329 catches for 3,371 yards and 24 touchdowns while with Washington. He is No. 10 in franchise history in catches and 13th in receiving yards.

 

Could Eagles move back into the top 10?

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles
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The Eagles could join the Dolphins in continuing to hopscotch in and around the top 10 of the draft.

With news that the Dolphins, who have moved from No. 3 to No. 12 and then back to No. 6, could be potentially trading down again, the Eagles, who started at No. 6 then went to No. 12, could be looking to move up.

Albert Breer of SI.com, via NBC Sports Philadelphia, recently explained that the Eagles could make a “short move” into the top 10 after picking up a 2021 first-round pick for falling six spots as the second half of last month’s bang-bang trades that started with San Francisco’s stunning move from No. 12 to No. 3.

A move to No. 9 would allow the Eagles to leapfrog a pair of division rivals, the Giants (No. 11) and the Cowboys (No. 10).

Breer notes that the Eagles also could trade down from No. 12.

While that could be applied to most picks in round one — the team could trade up, trade down, or stay put — the fact that the Eagles already have worked the board suggests they could work it some more. Much of it depends on how the board falls, along with the potential cost of moving up and/or return of moving down.

Many Dolphins attend first day of workouts despite statement of support for NFLPA

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When players from the Dolphins joined the many teams issuing statements through the NFL Players Association about offseason workout, the statement said only that they “stand in solidarity” with the NFLPA, and not that they would be skipping offseason workouts themselves.

So it’s no surprise that when the Dolphins opened their offseason program on Monday, many players were there. According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, many Dolphins players, including established veterans, reported to the team facility.

It’s unclear exactly how many players were there. The workouts are not open to the media, and the team doesn’t release a list of players in attendance.

But suffice to say, many players feel solidarity with the union but also feel that their own best chance of making the roster, and of putting a good team on the field this year, is to work together at the team facility in the offseason.

Rams release twice suspended cornerback Tyrique McGhee

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The Los Angeles Rams waived cornerback Tyrique McGhee on Monday just two weeks after he was handed a five-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.

McGhee was suspended for two games last year as a member of the Rams practice squad for a separate PED policy offense.

McGhee was signed by the Rams an an undrafted free agent out of the University of Georgia last year. He did not play in a game for the team last season.

McGhee can serve the five-game suspension if he is not on a team. The suspension would cover the first five games of the upcoming season.

Seahawks defensive tackle Bryan Mone signs tender

Wild Card Round - Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks
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Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Bryan Mone signed his exclusive rights tender with the team to lock in his contract for the 2021 season.

Mone, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Michigan in 2019, has carved out a role with Seattle as a run-stopping presence in his two years with the team. He appeared in 10 games last year for Seattle with a high-ankle sprain sidelining him for six weeks. It was Mone’s presence on the roster that kept the Seahawks from calling up Damon “Snacks” Harrison from their practice squad and his return to health that saw Harrison ask for his release in December.

Mone played 228 snaps for the Seahawks last year with a half sack, nine tackles, a safety and two quarterback hits.

Mone’s role could increase this year following the release of Jarran Reed earlier this offseason. Mone, Poona Ford and Al Woods make up the dedicated defensive tackle presence for Seattle with L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green and Kerry Hyder all capable of moving inside as more pass rushing pieces.

Formula 1 bringing Grand Prix to Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami

F1 Grand Prix of USA
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Formula 1 is bringing a second race to the United States in 2022 with the home of the Miami Dolphins serving as the backdrop for the event.

The 19-turn temporary street circuit that will host the race will wind its way around Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The venue will be the first street circuit in the U.S. to host a Grand Prix since a three-year run in Phoenix from 1989-1991. Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course hosted the United States Grand Prix from 2000-2007 and the Circuit of the Americans in Austin, Texas has hosted the U.S. Grand Prix annually since 2012 with last year’s race being cancelled due to COVID-19.

We’re very excited to bring the world’s greatest racing to the most dynamic city in the United States,” said Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium CEO Tom Garfinkel, via Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The organizers of the event considered over 70 different circuit layouts and created 36 virtual simulations of varying designs before settling on the final iteration.

The start-finish straight will run parallel to the north side of the stadium with the first three turns angling the track back along the south side of the building. It continues west, crossing Carl F Brager Boulevard before circling back alongside the Hard Rock Tennis Center heading east on one of the two long straights. The circuit then turns into a slow-speed technical sector through the east parking lots before hitting the second long straight on NW 203rd street. A hairpin at the end of the straight routes the circuit back alongside the stadium for the completion of the lap.

Miami will serve as the 11th different U.S. city to host a Grand Prix along with Sebring (Florida), Riverside (California), Watkins Glen (New York), Long Beach (California), Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, Indianapolis and Austin.