Jadeveon Clowney uninterested in Browns despite getting a lucrative offer, per report

Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t talked like a man in a rush to find a new NFL home, calling his free agency a “slow process” and suggesting teams need to get an in-person look at him before he’ll get the kind of money he’s seeking. There’s now more evidence to indicate Clowney isn’t close to picking a team for 2020, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting Wednesday on ESPN Cleveland that the former Seattle Seahawks standout has “balked” at a lucrative offer from the Cleveland Browns.

“I think they’ve been the most aggressive team with him financially,” Schefter said of the Browns, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “And I just think he has balked at going to Cleveland for whatever reason. I think he’s been hesitant to go, because if he wasn’t, he would’ve gone already because it’s the most money. It’s the richest offer on the table, and he hasn’t taken it.”

Schefter said he’s unsure why Clowney would hesitate to take the Browns’ offer and acknowledged Clowney could still opt to sign there, but he added there’s “no doubt” that Cleveland has offered him the biggest deal to date. The former No. 1 overall draft pick had previously been linked to the Browns, who’ve reportedly also targeted ex-Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen, and had seemingly been holding out for more lucrative offers after a quiet start to 2020 free agency.

Upon hitting the open market, the former Texans starter was reportedly seeking north of $20 million per season on a long-term contract. That asking price quickly dropped, per reports, to around $17 million per year, but even so, Clowney’s market has apparently not been up to par, with the defensive end reportedly also turning down multiple offers from the Seahawks and Tennessee Titans. At least one other team hasn’t valued him at much more than $10 million, with the Philadelphia Eagles — once a rumored destination — reportedly removing him from their wish list because of Clowney’s desired salary.

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The Broncos own one of the league’s youngest rosters, and as a result of that, have a lot of young, exciting, talented players that have flashed potential brilliance. However, some haven’t fully realized that potential quite yet.

Here are three such players that might finally pop under the national spotlight in 2020.

Noah Fant

By all means, Fant had a solid rookie season for a tight end, a position with one of the more difficult transitions from college to pro. He reeled in 40 receptions for 562 yards and three touchdowns and earned a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team.

That rookie performance is comparable to what many of the league’s top tight ends did in their rookie season. Players like George Kittle (43 rec, 515 yds, 2 TDs), Zach Ertz(36 rec, 469 yds, 4 TDs) and Greg Olsen (39 rec, 391 yds, 2 TDs), proving he’s started his career off on the right foot.

Now, he just has to replicate what those players did in Year 2 and beyond, and all the help Denver added this offseason should make that task easier.

Once the Broncos let Emmanuel Sanders go, Fant quickly became their second-most dangerous pass catcher on the team, and by a healthy margin. This meant Fant had to deal with a lot more attention from defensive coordinators and defensive backs than he should in 2020, giving him more opportunities to make highlight reel-plays.

Alexander Johnson

Alexander Johnson might already be a star in the hearts and minds of the Broncos and their devoted fans in Broncos Country, but from a national perspective, he remains unknown for the most part.

That should change this season, now that he has some experience as a starter under his belt and the Broncos become more relevant nationally. Vic Fangio’s scheme has always turned inside linebackers into stars from recent cases like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman to older cases like the Saints’ Dome Patrol.

Also, Johnson has a strong foundation to build on. In his first season playing notable snaps, he racked up 93 tackles, five of which went for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a game-sealing interception against the Chargers.

The analytics love him as well. He was Pro Football Focus’ Defensive Player of the Month for October, and finished the season as the eighth-highest graded coverage linebacker, highest-graded run-defending linebacker, and their fourth-highest graded linebacker overall.

Drew Lock

If the Broncos want to end their playoff drought and make it to the dance this season, Drew Lock will have to become the star quarterback we saw flashes of last season.

Lock’s most impressive performance, during Denver’s clobbering of the playoff-bound Texans, showed what he could be, an immensely-gifted gunslinger and strong leader capable of willing his teams to victory over more talented opponents. That being said, his other four starts showed he still has plenty of room left for development before he can play at that level consistently.

Denver’s offseason additions of Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Melvin Gordon, Graham Glasgow, Lloyd Cushenberry III, and Pat Shurmur should hasten that development and makes his success far more likely, but there’s a flip side to those additions as well. That amount of surrounding talent means Lock has no room for excuses if he flounders in 2020.

He now has two top-20 running backs, an extremely promising receiving corps, one of the best young tight ends in the game, a re-built and improved offensive line, and a proven offensive coordinator. If Lock struggles as the lone starter on the roster this season, it will be hard to blame it on anyone but himself.

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The Carolina Panthers are on the cusp of a rebuilding period, whether they want to admit it or not.

2020 was always going to be a fork in the road given the way the team was structured. Now, after so many personnel losses most analysts are expecting a brutal road ahead. According to a projection by Football Outsiders, the Panthers will finish this coming season with the worst record in the league.

Their biggest problem is a defense that might be the worst in the NFL this year. Turning that unit around is going to require a lot of work. Even if defensive coordinator Phil Snow turns out to be a schematic genius, at some point they’re going to have to add more talent.

Carolina can get a head-start by acquiring a player like Jamal Adams, who is in a contract dispute with the Jets. According to beat writer Gary Myers, a trade is “very possible” and half the teams in the league are expected to call.

The Panthers don’t have much salary cap room left and any trade for Adams would cost a ton of draft capital. They should call the Jets anyway.

Adams is arguably the best safety in the league right now. At worst he’s second next to Derwin James. His ability to impact the passing game in multiple ways offers sensational value for whatever team he plays for. For one thing, Adams is superb in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he had an elite 87.3 pass coverage grade last season. He is also a fantastic pass rusher for a defensive back – he earned an 89.9 pass rush grade and has totaled 10 sacks and 21 quarterback hits over the last two seasons.

Watch Adams bully Saquon Barkley into the backfield, then strip Daniel Jones and return the ball for a touchdown.

Defenders who can make plays like that are extremely rare and worth paying a high price for, even first-round picks.

As for the price tag, the Panthers can free some money up by spreading out Luke Kuechly’s dead money penalty into next year and cutting players like Mike Davis.

Adding Adams to the mix would give Snow a weapon unlike any currently on the roster and allow him to try all kinds of interesting things schematically. One particularly intriguing possibility is a three deep safety look. The Riot Report and Pro Football Focus have both taken a dive into this trend recently. Some teams have tried putting three safeties on the field at the same time, but if Snow commits to it as a true structural change he’ll be the first pro defensive coordinator to do so. It’s worth trying, at least.

One of the reasons we’re more bullish about this Carolina team than most is the coaching staff bringing in new ideas – if Matt Rhule, Joe Brady and Snow are really willing to try different things it could go a long way towards erasing their talent disadvantage within the division.

Even if it doesn’t happen, embracing schematic changes like three-deep safety looks and trading for dynamic players like Adams are exactly the kind of bold moves this team needs to become relevant again.

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It’s hard to remember the last time the Buffalo Bills’ roster was this talented and deep.

GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have built Buffalo’s roster into a perennial contender in the AFC through the draft and free agency since joining the team in 2017.

Of course, with the good comes some bad.

In the next few months the Bills will have to make some tough decisions. That includes figuring out which 2019 starters may be looking for work elsewhere in 2020.

Based on the team’s current roster following free agency and the draft, here is a look at five players who made at least four starts last season at risk of losing their roster spot in 2020.

DE Trent Murphy

Trent Murphy started in all 16 regular-season games with the Bills last season. He got off to a slow start and did not record a sack until Week 9 against Washington. To Murphy’s credit, he came on late in the season. He recorded a sack in the Bills’ Sunday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and had two sacks in the regular-season finale against the New York Jets.

He kept that momentum going in the playoffs by recording two sacks in the Bills’ Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans.

With four sacks in the Bills’ last two games, could Buffalo really part ways with Murphy?

Absolutely. However, the team should not be in a rush to do so.

This offseason, the Bills signed Mario Addison in free agency (3-years, $30.45 million) and drafted AJ Epenesa in the second round of the 2020 draft. The team also added Quinton Jefferson, a defensive lineman who can play inside and outside, in free agency and currently have Darryl Johnson, a young player who flashed potential as a rookie last season.

Barring injury, Jerry Hughes, Addison, Epenesa and Jefferson all appear to be locks for the opening-day roster. That leaves little wiggle room for Murphy.

Buffalo can save about $8 million in cap space by releasing Murphy.

FB Patrick DiMarco

Patrick DiMarco, 31, recorded four starts for the Bills in 2019 and played the third-highest total of snaps on special teams last season. Much like Murphy, DiMarco is only under contract through the 2020 season.

It seems like he has a direct path to the 2020 roster, but he will have some competition this offseason from UDFA signing Reggie Gilliam.

Gilliam was an outstanding special teams player at Toledo (six blocked kicks in his career) and brings more athleticism to the offense. Gilliam recorded a 4.58 40-yard dash time.

As long as Gilliam proves to be a consistent blocker, he has a chance to take DiMarco’s spot on the final roster.

TE Lee Smith

Lee Smith was brought in for his blocking and leadership last season and recorded five starts. It’s possible that he sticks on the 2020 roster, but the tight end will turn 33 in November and the Bills have plenty of intriguing options who could start in front of Smith this season.

Dawson Knox is the team’s obvious starter at this point. Behind Knox, the Bills have another second-year tight end in Tommy Sweeney and 2019 free agent signing Tyler Kroft.

Kroft, signed to be the team’s starter last season, is the favorite for the second tight end job. Sweeney’s age and upside likely gives him the edge over Smith for the No. 3 tight end spot. Sweeney was praised for his blocking leading up to the 2019 draft and he proved he could contribute as a pass catcher when called upon last season.

K Stephen Hauschka

Stephen Hauschka went through a bit of a rough patch last season. He went 1-of-4 on FG kicks from Week 7-9 before bouncing back to make his next five field goals. On Thanksgiving Day, however, Hauschka went 2-of-3 on extra point attempts and on field goal attempts while getting a lucky bounce on one of his successful attempts. Following that game, the Bills attempted to put in a waiver claim on Chase McLaughlin, but he was awarded to the Indianapolis Colts.

Hauschka bounced back a second time in 2019 and made his final seven field goal kicks in the regular season and was 4-of-4 on field goal attempts in Buffalo’s playoff game.

Hauschka’s job is in doubt, however, due to his inability to consistently make long kicks at this point in his career. Further doubt was cast upon his roster spot after the Bills selected Tyler Bass in the 2020 NFL Draft. Bass was the No. 1 kicker on quite a few draft boards and was considered to have the biggest leg in the draft class.

Considering kicking woes that happen yearly in the league, it’s unlikely that the Bills could sneak Bass onto their practice squad. Making the switch this offseason just seems to make too much sense for Buffalo.

It’s understandable why some would be hesitant to turn to a rookie kicker in 2020 with the Bills being considered the favorite to win the division. That said, Buffalo should not be depending on their kicker to win them games this season. That should be on the shoulders of Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense as well as the team’s top-five defense.

P Corey Bojorquez

Among the five players on this list, Corey Bojorquez may be the safest bet to make the roster. The Bills did not add a punter in the draft, but they did sign Kaare Vedvik to compete for the job. Vedvik bounced around a bit in 2019 as a kicker, but will serve exclusively as a punter for the Bills. With so little known about his punting abilities, this battle will likely come down to the best performance this summer.

Bojorquez has a powerful leg and has come up big for Buffalo at times, but his inconsistency is what could cost him his job this offseason.

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The NFL schedule release is set for Thursday night at 8 P.M. EST and aside from the whole Coronavirus pandemic looming over the head of the league, things will also be a bit different structure-wise.

According to NFL insider John Clayton, every team will play all four of their inter-conference games to start the season. This means the Bengals will face off against four NFC teams in the first month of the season.

The Bengals are set to go against the NFC East this year, giving them four consecutive games against the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington. The order of which teams they face will be unveiled when the schedule is released.

The games against the Cowboys and Giants will be home games in Cincinnati. The games against the Eagles and Washington will be played on the road.

Not only will Andy Dalton be coming home to suit up against the Bengals, it will be one of the first games of his Joe Burrow’s career. Dalton will get a good look at his predecessor while he’s still a wide-eyed rookie. The Bengals are 0-3 in their last three games against Dalton’s new team.

During last year’s preseason, the Bengals played at Washington and got a good luck at first-round pick Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State. This year, they’ll have to face their newest first-round Buckeye in Chase Young on his field. The Bengals have not hosted Washington since 2008, since their home game in 2016 was in London.

The last time the Bengals played these opponents at these respective locations in the same year was in 2012. They were 3-1 in those games, with a defeat to the Cowboys being their lone loss.

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With no first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams had to get creative in finding a replacement for Todd Gurley. Los Angeles didn’t waste any time in selecting Gurley’s successor, drafting Cam Akers with its first pick in the second round (No. 52 overall).

The Rams didn’t have a shot at getting the premier running backs in the class (Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift), but acted quickly in making sure they got an excellent talent in Akers — who should be in line to emerge as the No. 1 running back in 2020. In Sean McVay’s offense, Akers should thrive with his natural running ability and strength of catching passes as an underneath option for quarterback Jared Goff.

Los Angeles used the second-round pick it acquired from the Brandin Cooks trade (No. 57 overall) on Van Jefferson, another pass-catching wideout for Goff. Jefferson should emerge in the slot, even though he can play all three positions. He’ll be a nice compliment with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds as Los Angeles doesn’t have to rely on him to produce immediately. With Los Angeles tight in cap space, Jefferson is a nice find for a team that will have to pay its young cast of talented wideouts over the next couple years.

The Rams did an excellent job at adding more offensive weapons for Goff, but here are a few things Los Angeles failed to do with nine draft picks it had.
1. Not a single offensive tackle selected

Somehow the Rams didn’t select any offensive tackles in this draft, a major mistake for a franchise that needs to find a replacement for Andrew Whitworth — who will be 39 this season. Who is going to succeed Whitworth at the position? Bobby Evans and Joseph Noteboom haven’t progressed like the Rams hoped, but they appear to be the best options.

Cohl Cabral was a strong undrafted free agent signing, but he’s better suited on the inside at guard. Perhaps the Rams see something in Chandler Brewer, an undrafted free agent signing in 2019 who elevated from the practice squad to the active roster and played in seven games. Still, it’s hard to justify Brewer being the top option if Whitworth goes down, but that’s the bed the Rams decided to lie in.

There were plenty of tackle options on Day 3 of the draft. The Rams passed on taking any of them.
2. Still no reliable backup QB option

The Rams are going into the season with John Wolford as their backup quarterback. With nine draft picks (including five on Day 3), it was surprising for Los Angeles to pass on a developmental quarterback behind Goff. What if Goff goes down?

Los Angeles should invest in a backup signal caller, but the Rams don’t exactly have the cap space to spend a lot of money there. There are some affordable options like Trevor Siemian and Mike Glennon, but the Rams are currently $5,349,165 over the salary cap (per Over the Cap). There isn’t much Los Angeles can do to improve the position unless they move on from a veteran with a large cap hit.

3. Linebacker still a problem

The Rams’ drafted only one linebacker, using a seventh-round pick on Clay Johnston. While Johnston is expected to play inside, can he beat out any of the top five inside linebackers on the depth chart? If Johnston can become a contributor on special teams in Year One, that’s a win for L.A.

So where do the Rams need help? Samson Ebukam was excellent in a reserve role and is projected to start on the outside again while third-round pick Terrell Lewis adds to the pass rush — but the Rams may line him up on the edge. If Lewis fills that Clay Matthews role, they may be covered there. Adding a veteran on a one-year deal (Nigel Bradham, Pernell McPhee) could solve a lot of the questions the Rams have on the outside.

There are a lot of “ifs” for Los Angeles at linebacker. It’s a solid group, but they can definitely improve.