Brian Gutekunst: We certainly could franchise tag Aaron Jones

NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers
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The Packers don’t often use the franchise tag, having last implemented it in 2010 on defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Green Bay is the only team that hasn’t used the tag from 2011-2020.

In his Tuesday press conference, General Manager Brian Gutekunst said there isn’t an organizational philosophy against tagging players. And with running back Aaron Jones about to become an unrestricted free agent, Green Bay may use either the franchise or transition tag to keep him in Wisconsin.

“We certainly could. I think it’s something we’re working through,” Gutekunst said. “I think, again, it’s not a philosophical thing to avoid it. I do think there’s usually better ways to go about it. But certainly if I think as we get down the road here over the next week or so, if that becomes what’s in the best interest of the Packers, I think we’ll do that. But at this point, we haven’t done that.”

Jones was selected for his first Pro Bowl in 2020, after rushing for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season. He also caught 47 passes for 355 yards with a pair of TDs.

Jones and Jamaal Williams will both become unrestricted free agents in a couple weeks. But last year’s second-round pick A.J. Dillon could take on a larger role if Green Bay elects to move on from its top two backs in 2020.

Report: Saints have had trade conversations regarding Malcom Brown

NFL: NOV 01 Saints at Bears
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The Saints have work to do in order to get under the salary cap and they are reportedly considering a move involving defensive tackle Malcom Brown.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team has had trade conversations involving Brown.

Brown signed with the Saints two years ago and he’s starting all 32 games he’s played for the team in the regular season and playoffs. He had 61 tackles, three sacks, and a fumble recovery in the regular season and five tackles and a half-sack in three playoff outings.

Trading or releasing Brown would clear over $4.9 million in cap space for the coming season. There would be plenty of other moves needed in order to get their cap in shape.

J.J. Watt to Kyler Murray: I’m here because I believe in you

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When defensive end J.J. Watt opened a Tuesday press conference, he listed some of the reasons why he signed with the Cardinals on Monday.

The answer included a mention of Kyler Murray, who Watt called a “young, extremely talented quarterback” that can progress further in the future. Murray came up again later in the press conference and Watt said that he texted Murray to let him know the role that the quarterback played in his decision.

Watt said that you have to have a quarterback to have a chance of success in the NFL and made it clear that he feels Arizona has one.

“I’m here because I believe in you,” Watt said.

Watt’s belief is a vote of confidence in Murray and the Cardinals as a whole after a 2-5 finish to the season kept them from making the playoffs and both sides surely hope Watt’s arrival leads to a better finish next time.

J.J. Watt: Leaving Houston is “extremely difficult”

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Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt was a hero during his decade with the Texans, not only as one of the best defensive players in NFL history on the field, but also for his wealth of contributions off the field. That makes it tough to leave Houston.

At his introductory press conference today in Arizona, Watt said it was hard to come to the realization this offseason that his time in Houston had come to an end.

“It was extremely difficult,” Watt said. “The bond with that city is unlike anything I could have imagined.”

Watt had already started working with the Arizona-based Pat Tillman Foundation before he signed with the Cardinals, and he said he hopes to become as involved with the community in the Phoenix area as he was in Houston.

“I will love that place forever. Moving on was difficult to do. It’s never easy,” Watt said. “But I’m very excited for new beginnings.”

J.J. Watt: Longer I looked at it, signs kept pointing to Arizona

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J.J. Watt sat down for his first press conference as a member of the Cardinals on Tuesday and the first question he fielded had to do with what led him to sign in Arizona.

Watt said that the decision to pick the Cardinals was “certainly close” and pointed to various reasons why the team was appealing to him. Watt said they have a “young, extremely talented quarterback” in Kyler Murray who he believes can take another step forward in his third season and noted the presence of players like safety Budda Baker and edge rusher Chandler Jones on defense.

His familiarity and comfort with Vance Joseph’s defense was also cited as a reason and the Arizona weather also played a role. Watt said it was part of the team’s “strong and heavy” recruitment over the last couple of weeks and the entire package led him to making his final call.

“The longer I looked at, signs kept pointing back here,” Watt said.

Watt said he sees his role being to “dominate on the field” and to be a leader off the field by showing younger players “the way” to be a professional. The Cardinals obviously think he’ll be able to do those things and Watt’s transition to a new team will be a big storyline for the 2021 season.

Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett: Jordan Love needs practice time

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The Packers have the reigning MVP at quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but they also traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round last year.

Love spent his entire rookie season as the Packers’ third quarterback, inactive on game day with Tim Boyle serving as Rodgers’ backup. With no 2020 offseason program, Love only received substantial reps during the team’s abbreviated training camp last summer. That means Love could use as much practice as possible in 2021.

“It’s going to be a challenge for him,” Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said Tuesday. “Obviously, we don’t know what’s going to happen right now with how we’re going to be able to work with the players. I think, always, being in the system for a second year is huge for the quarterback, understanding the language, understanding how we go about our everyday process.

“Even just being able to get out there and practice — I mean, that’s huge. So I think for him, it’s just growing more in the offensive system, even more than he already has. Just making it his own. … Obviously, we’re very excited if we can be able to practice because I think that’s something he needs. The last time he was able to really get after the practices was in training camp. So if that’s kind of what we’re dealt, then it’ll be training camp when he can really make some strides and get those full-time, speed reps. Besides that, it’s about studying and he’s got to work on his own because we don’t get to see him.”

With Rodgers still performing at an MVP level, it’s unclear when Love might see the field as a starter. But Love should at least progress to the level of a backup for 2021 to give the Packers some sort of return on their heavy investment in 2020.

Report: Browns didn’t offer J.J. Watt more than Cardinals

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An Arizona radio station on Monday suggested the Browns and Colts offered more money to J.J. Watt, and the Titans’ offer was “very similar.” Other reporters since have debunked the report.

Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports the Browns did not offer Watt more than the two-year, $31 million deal Watt agreed to with the Cardinals.

“The Browns likely offered something in the $12 million-a-year range, which is consistent with what they’ve paid other older veterans over the past couple of years, including Olivier Vernon,” Cabot writes. That follows what Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported: Other teams besides the Cardinals were trying to get Watt for roughly $12 million per year.

It appears the Cardinals made the highest offer, and Watt took the highest offer. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But it is hard to argue the Cardinals are more of a Super Bowl contender than the other teams who were trying to sign Watt. The Browns, Colts and Titans made the postseason in 2020. The Cardinals were 8-8 and have not made the playoffs since 2015 when Bruce Arians was the team’s coach and Carson Palmer the quarterback.

David Johnson takes pay cut, stays with Texans

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Texans running back David Johnson will remain in Houston after taking a pay cut.

Johnson has agreed to a new deal that guarantees him $4.25 million this season, with incentives that could pay him up to $6 million, according to multiple reports.

That’s a substantial pay cut from the $7.95 million he was set to make as a base salary this season, with an additional $862,500 available in roster bonuses.

But Johnson apparently calculated that if the Texans released him, he wouldn’t get any more than what the Texans were offering. And so he is staying put at a time when the Texans are losing a lot of their other high-profile players.

Cardinals announce J.J. Watt will wear No. 99

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The Cardinals organization retired No. 99 in honor of running back Marshall Goldberg, but the number is coming back into circulation.

Goldberg’s daughter Ellen Goldberg Tullos said that her late father would be “delighted” to have Watt wearing the same number he wore while a member of the Chicago Cardinals. In a video posted to Arizona’s Twitter account, Watt is shown telling teammate Chandler Jones that he spoke to Tullos and is “good to go” in terms of the number.

With that out of the way, the Cardinals formally announced on Tuesday that Watt will wear the same number he wore in Houston when he takes the field this season.

The Cardinals also shared a photo of Watt signing his new two-year contract with the team and announced that Watt will be holding a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Questions at that session are likely to focus more on what drew him to Arizona than his jersey number, although there’s a good chance that Goldberg and his family may get a mention before the afternoon is out.

Joe Barry: I’m proud of my scars from past coaching experiences

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Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said he hired Joe Barry as defensive coordinator in large part because of his communication skills.

LaFleur and Barry worked together with the Rams in 2017, so the two men have familiarity with one another. But Barry also has been a defensive coordinator before, with poor results.

In 2007 and 2008, Barry was the DC and the Lions ranked last in yards allowed and points allowed both seasons. Then in 2015 and 2016, Washington ranked 28th in yards allowed both seasons and 17th and 19th in points allowed.

LaFleur said earlier on Tuesday that Barry learned a lot from his previous experiences. Addressing the Green Bay media for the first time on Tuesday, Barry agreed he’s grown since his last time as a coordinator.

“I’m really proud of my scars, I really am. And I think that in life, I think that you’re hardened in life by tough experiences,” Barry said. “I think the No. 1 thing, when you do experience those lows, when you do get those scars, shoot, if you learn from it, and you grow from it, and you expand, then you don’t have to wear sleeves and cover them up. You can wear them and say, yeah, that was a tough experience. That was brutal. that one hurt. But I learned from it, I got better, I grew. And I would hope to think that 36, 37-year old Joe Barry is a lot different than 50-year-old Joe Barry.”

Barry spent the last four years as the linebackers coach/assistant head coach in Los Angeles, and LaFleur’s goal has been to have Barry implement the scheme that was so successful for the Rams in 2020. L.A. ended the year first in both points allowed and yards allowed.

Kyle Van Noy “surprised and disappointed” by Dolphins release

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Linebacker Kyle Van Noy‘s time with the Dolphins is up.

Van Noy was informed by the team that he will be released after playing one year of the four-year contract he signed with them as a free agent last year. Van Noy released a statement saying he was not expecting the move and felt he fulfilled expectations during his one year in Miami.

“I am surprised and disappointed in their decision,” Van Noy said, via Mike Garafolo of NFL Media. “As a captain, I gave my all to the team. I fought through a painful hip injury during the season, including spending a night in the hospital after a game. I was brought there to be a leader and I know my teammates looked up to and respected me. I am looking forward to making an impact on my next team.”

Van Noy’s release will clear $9.775 million in cap space for Miami.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins never broached reworking the contract as a way of holding onto Van Noy. They paid him $15 million for one year of work and now he’ll be able to find someone else to pay him in 2021.

Report: Dolphins tell Kyle Van Noy he’ll be released

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Linebacker Kyle Van Noy signed a four-year deal with the Dolphins last year, but he reportedly won’t be making it to the second year of that pact.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that the Dolphins have informed Van Noy that they will be releasing him. Van Noy’s contract calls for his base salary of $12.5 million to become guaranteed on March 20.

Van Noy was set to count $13.9 million against the cap. The Dolphins will get $9.775 million of that space back by parting ways with him.

Van Noy had 69 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 14 games for Miami last season.

Matt LaFleur: Joe Barry learned a lot from previous defensive coordinator jobs

NFL: DEC 20 Jets at Rams
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The Packers parted ways with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine after their NFC Championship Game loss to the Buccaneers and head coach Matt LaFleur considered nine candidates before hiring Joe Barry to run the defense this season.

In a Tuesday press conference, LaFleur stressed Barry’s ability to communicate when discussing why he was the choice to take over the job. Communication was a problem for the team at the end of the first half of their loss to the Packers when they allowed a touchdown pass to Scotty Miller that helped swing the game in Green Bay’s favor.

Barry’s communication skills weren’t much help in stints as the defensive coordinator in Detroit and Washington as his units always finished at or near the bottom of the league. LaFleur did not express any concern about more of the same in his third tour.

“He’s learned a lot from those previous experiences,” LaFleur said.

That added knowledge will have to pay off in progress on the field or there won’t be many in Green Bay thrilled about the direction things are going on defense.

Cam Jordan envisions a Super Bowl win if Russell Wilson joins the team

NFL: DEC 13 Saints at Eagles
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Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is willing to accept a trade to the Saints. Multiple Saints players are more than willing to accept Russell Wilson.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas quickly made his views known on Twitter when the news broke last week. Appearing Tuesday on ESPN, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan made clear his belief that, if Wilson comes to New Orleans, the Saints will win a Super Bowl.

Although the tweet seems unconditional, Jordan’s on-air explanation had some caveats. At one point, Jordan conditioned his optimism on Wilson playing like he “at the beginning of last season” for the full year. Jordan also said that winning a Super Bowl is his “vision year in and year out.”

In the video posted by Jordan, he also addresses the status of Drew Brees. It’s unclear, however, whether Jordan says that Brees has retired or that Wilson would be in play if Brees actually retires. (Most believe Brees is retiring; recently, a vibe has emerged that maybe he won’t.)

Of course, there’s a chance that Jordan won’t be around to experience Wilson’s impact on the Saints. If Jordan is part of the trade package that lands Wilson, Jordan will be playing in Seattle. Recently, he acknowledged that possibility — even if he wouldn’t be happy about it.

Raiders fullback Alec Ingold: Derek Carr can take us to the Super Bowl

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The Raiders have been to the playoffs one time since losing Super Bowl XXXVII to the Buccaneers — in 2016, when the club went 12-4 and lost to the Texans in the wild-card round.

That year, quarterback Derek Carr was a fringe MVP candidate before fracturing his fibula late in the team’s Week 16 win over the Colts. When Matt McGloin injured his shoulder the next week, Connor Cook had to start the playoff game.

Since then, the Raiders have brought in Jon Gruden as head coach and moved to Las Vegas. But now that Russell Wilson has included Las Vegas on his short list of teams he’s willing to play for — and Carr’s brother even said the Raiders should pick up the phone to ask about Wilson’s availability — one of Carr’s teammates is coming to the quarterback’s defense.

Fullback Alec Ingold told Vinny Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he’s frustrated by the perception that Carr is not “The Guy” for the Raiders.

“That doesn’t make sense to me. I just don’t understand it. Because he is the guy. In our locker room, there is a sense of pride that we have our guy and we’re gonna ride with our guy,” Ingold said. “That is what bothers me more than anything. I can’t understand how anybody isn’t ecstatic to have this guy as the quarterback. By the way he plays. By the way he competes. By the way he leads. There is a sense of confidence around here that Derek Carr is our quarterback.”

Carr did have arguably his best season in 2020, completing 67 percent of his passes for a career-high 4,103 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. That’s good for a 101.4 passer rating — also the top mark of his seven-year career.

But since Carr has been the quarterback, the Raiders have had just one winning season. They’re 19-29 since Gruden returned in 2018.

Nevertheless, Ingold is confident in his quarterback.

“I remember my first season, Derek came and spoke to all the rookies, and all he talked about was the singular goal of making the Super Bowl,” Ingold said. “That was my first impression of Derek Carr. From that day moving forward, that is all I’ve seen from him in how he works and how he plays and how he performs. … The bottom line is, I believe Derek can take this team and this organization to a Super Bowl.”