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Buccaneers, Antonio Brown Agree To Deal

6:08pm: This moved fast. Brown’s one-year Buccaneers deal is done, Schefter reports (on Twitter). As of now, Brown will be eligible to make his Bucs debut in Week 9 against the Saints.

5:52pm: Brown’s Bucs negotiations are “99% done,” according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud (on Twitter). The former Steelers superstar’s latest chance at reviving his career looks almost certain to occur in Tampa.

5:17pm: The Buccaneers appear to have reversed course on Antonio Brown. They are bringing him in for a visit, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.

While the Seahawks still have interest in the superstar wide receiver, Wilson adds the Bucs are the expected team to land the mercurial free agent. The sides have already begun working toward an agreement, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The Seahawks remain in discussions with Brown, but the high-profile free agent is flying to Tampa tonight. Other teams remain interested as well, though Brown and the Bucs each have “extreme interest” in finalizing an agreement, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

This accord will not cover Brady’s Tampa tenure. While Tom Brady has been pushing for Brown for a while, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports this will be a one-year agreement (Twitter links). Brady is signed through 2021. Though, if Brown can rebound from the span that cratered his career, the Bucs would seemingly have interest in keeping him around next season.

Bruce Arians said shortly after the Bucs’ Brady signing the team was not interested in Brown, despite the quarterback’s push for the four-time All-Pro. Arians said at the time a deal was “not going to happen” and Brown was “not a fit here.” However, the Bucs can be viewed as one of the NFC’s frontrunners and made an all-in move when they signed Brady.

Brown would equip Brady with arguably the best weaponry of his career, upon joining Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. Arians coached Brown for two seasons when he was the Steelers offensive coordinator, so if Brown does sign with the Bucs, it will be interesting to learn what changed between the Bucs HC’s March comments and now. It could be as simple as Brady having convinced his new coach to sign off on reuniting with Brown. Brady and Brown indeed discussed the prospect of playing together again before the QB’s Bucs agreement.

Brady was reported to be against the Patriots releasing Brown last season. Brown is out until at least Week 9 due to his suspension, and the 32-year-old wideout runs the risk of having his ban increased. The NFL is still investigating Britney Taylor’s sexual assault allegation, and Brown’s civil trial in this case is upcoming.

A Brown signing would carry risk, obviously. Since reeling off one of the greatest stretches in wide receiver history, Brown torpedoed his career with a months-long volatility spree. The Steelers traded him after he essentially no-showed their Week 17 game in 2018, and Brown clashed with the Raiders quickly and did not play a game for the team. The Patriots used him in Week 2 of last season, but after text messages from Brown threatening a separate sexual misconduct accuser emerged, New England became the third team to move on from him in 2019. He then spent 13 months in free agency, a time during which he was arrested in connection of an assault on a delivery driver.

This deal being now heavily reported is interesting; the Seahawks were the team most closely connected to Brown this year. Russell Wilson has stumped for the wideout both in 2019 and this year and worked out with him this offseason. He was still lobbying for Brown at the 11th hour, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Brown spoke with Wilson and Geno Smith about an agreement this season.

Both the Bucs and Seahawks already have strong aerial cadres, but Brown’s brief New England stay with Brady may be enough to give the Bucs the edge. Both Evans and Godwin have battled injuries this season, and Gronkowski is one of the NFL’s most injury-prone players. Brown would also provide insurance — as strange as that sounds — against more Bucs skill-position injuries.

Should Brown sign with Tampa Bay, the team will have the 2010s’ top two touchdown scorers. Gronkowski edged his 2010 draft classmate 78-75 here, and the 2019 season barely factored into these totals. It would be fascinating to see these two team up after not playing (excepting Brown’s four-catch, 56-yard Patriots game) last season. Brady has been inconsistent this season, ranking 19th in QBR. The Bucs having Brown for eight games would certainly help their Super Bowl cause, considering their defense leads the league in DVOA.

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Giants Trade LB Markus Golden To Cardinals

Hours after their loss to the Eagles, the Giants are dealing away a key defender. They will send Markus Golden back to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals announced they have reacquired Golden in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick. Originally a Cards second-rounder, Golden signed with the Giants in 2019 and stayed in New York via UFA tender this offseason. The Cardinals will be on the hook for the remaining $2.6MM of Golden’s UFA tender salary.

Golden has rebounded from the ACL tear that docked his stock in his first Cardinals stay. He led the Giants with 10 sacks last season; in 2020, the 29-year-old edge defender has 1.5 sacks and six QB hits. Golden will head back to a different Cardinals coaching staff, but Steve Keim knows him well from being the GM that drafted him five years ago.

The Cardinals are in better shape than they were when Golden was last with the team. Golden finished his first Arizona stint during the Steve Wilks-led 3-13 season. The Cardinals are now 4-2 under Kliff Kingsbury. And they carried a clear edge need after losing Chandler Jones for the season. Golden, who registered a career-high 12.5 sacks for the 2016 Cards, will now help fill that void.

This trade could double as a chance for Golden to submit quality work ahead of another free agency bid — after limited interest came his way in 2019 or ’20 — and contribute to a potential playoff run. He is due to return to free agency in 2021. Golden obviously cannot do a Thursday-Sunday double, with trade acquisitions needing to pass six COVID-19 tests — each at least 24 hours apart — before practicing with their new teams.

This could be the first of multiple pre-deadline deals for the Giants, who fell to 1-6 despite holding a two-score lead over the Eagles in the fourth quarter Thursday. Although they used the rare UFA tender to retain Golden, they were deploying him as mostly a pass rush specialist. Golden played just 36% of Big Blue’s defensive snaps this season.

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Vikings Trade Yannick Ngakoue To Ravens

The Vikings are finalizing a trade to send defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. In exchange, the Vikings will receive a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick. 

The Vikings acquired Ngakoue from the Jaguars earlier this year for a 2021 second-round pick and 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to Jags. They weren’t able to recoup everything they gave up, but they did manage to get a decent amount of draft capital for the mercurial edge rusher.

After COVID testing, Ngakoue will be able to join the Ravens in practice during their bye week. His first game with Baltimore will come next Sunday, against the Steelers. The Ravens have been chasing Ngakoue for the last few months, and the interest has been mutual. Ngakoue, a Maryland native and a Terrapin alum, will debut with his third pro team in familiar surroundings. The deal also reunites Ngakoue with Calais Campbell, who played together and started together in the Jaguars’ 2017 AFC Championship Game.

We are excited to add Yannick Ngakoue to our football team,” Ravens GM Eric DeCosta said in a statement. “Yannick is someone who we are very familiar with going back to the draft process years ago. He is an exciting player and a dangerous pass rusher who makes us better. Yannick grew up here. He’s the type of person we welcome in our building. Finally, we are not finished building this team, as we continue to chase our ultimate goals.”

The Ravens and Jags were deep in talks at one point, but the Ravens’ salary cap situation ultimately prevented a deal from happening. Ultimately, Ngakoue agreed to reduce his 2020 salary from ~$18MM to $12MM in order to facilitate a trade to the Vikings. The Maryland product likely would have been willing to make a similar concession to make a Ravens trade work, but even a $12MM salary would have forced Baltimore to create cap space elsewhere via restructure or extension. Today, they had more room to work with, thanks to help from Brandon Williams and other reworked deals.

Ngakoue figures to provide a major boost for the 5-1 Ravens. Meanwhile, the trade reads as something of a white flag for the Vikings, who are 1-5 and quickly falling out of playoff contention.

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Raiders To Sign DL David Irving

David Irving is indeed headed to Las Vegas. The Raiders are signing the recently reinstated defensive lineman, a source told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

This came together pretty quickly, so it wouldn’t be surprising if there had been some communication between these sides for a while as Irving waited for the go-ahead from the league office. The reinstatement from Roger Goodell came on October 16th, and on the 17th we heard the Raiders were hosting him on a visit. Irving’s young career has already seen him suspended four times, thrice for substance abuse policy violations and once for PEDs.

His most recent ban was an indefinite one that ended up lasting over 18 months. An UDFA out of Iowa State in 2015, Irving has only appeared in two games since the 2017 season, but he showed plenty of flashes early on with the Cowboys. In only eight games with Dallas in 2017, he racked up seven sacks and six passes defended.

After hist most recent suspension Irving originally announced he was retiring in March of 2019, in part due to the league’s marijuana policy. After sitting out last season he had a change of heart, and announced back in February that he was hoping for a return. It took about eight months for him to get approval from Goodell, and now he’ll join a Raiders team looking to make a push in the AFC.

Raiders defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was Irving’s defensive coordinator in Dallas, which helps explain the connection. It’s anyone’s guess as to what Irving will look like or how soon he’ll be in game shape, but it’s a nice low-risk flyer for a team in need of pass-rushing help.

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NFL Completes Investigation Into Titans, No Significant Discipline Coming

The NFL’s investigation into the Titans for potential COVID-19 protocol investigations has concluded, and it looks like Tennessee is mostly in the clear.

The league did find that there were some instances of failure to comply with mask protocols within the team facility, as well as “insufficient clear communication regarding workouts outside the facility,” Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. That being said, there will not be any forfeits, loss of draft picks, or discipline for any individual associated with the team.

Instead, the forthcoming punishment for the relatively minor infractions laid out will be limited to fines for the team. Overall it seems like this was somewhat of a best-case scenario for the team. After the Titans had the first real outbreak of the season with dozens of positive tests, there were whispers about Roger Goodell potentially bringing the hammer down on the team to make an example out of them.

Plenty of doomsday scenarios were floated, but clearly the league office wasn’t able to find anything too damaging. The outbreak and ensuing chaos around the building obviously hasn’t effected their on-field play too much, as the Titans have won both their games since returning from their unplanned bye week.

We may never know what the internal deliberations were like for Goodell and co., but it’s possible they decided punishing a team for having a COVID outbreak would be a slippery slope that could end up encompassing too many teams. What ever the case, Mike Vrabel’s team dodged a bullet here, and things are trending upward in Tennessee.

Torn ACL For Titans’ Taylor Lewan

On Monday morning, Taylor Lewan‘s worst fears were confirmed. The Titans tackle has been formally diagnosed with a torn ACL (Twitter link via Lewan). 

[RELATED: Titans Activate Jeffery Simmons From Reserve/COVID-19 List]

I can’t wait to watch my guys crush it, I’m going to be the biggest Titans fan each and every Sunday,” Lewan wrote. “We are doing something special here and this small set back doesn’t change a thing!

It’s a bad blow for the Titans, who advanced to 5-0 with their overtime win against the Texans. They managed to pull out the W without Lewan at left tackle, but it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Shortly after Ty Sambrailo took over, he allowed J.J. Watt to blow past him and surrendered a sack.

Lewan, a three-time Pro Bowler, stands as one of the NFL’s better left tackles. He’s also a locker room leader for the Titans. Last year, he earned an 80.2 grade from Pro Football Focus, slotting him as the No. 11 tackle in the league. That score was good for fifth among left tackles and his run-blocking grade was the best of any LT. He’s been consistently strong, too, routinely earning top 10 scores for pass and run blocking throughout his career.

If the Titans don’t want to move forward with Sambrailo as their LT, they could bump first-round pick Isaiah Wilson to the starting cast. After being cleared from the COVID-19 list, the Georgia standout could debut as soon as Sunday against the Steelers.

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Jets Trade Steve McLendon To Buccaneers

Is the fire sale starting? Just hours after their latest loss the Jets have agreed to trade defensive tackle Steve McLendon to the Buccaneers, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.

The Buccaneers will send a sixth-round pick in 2022 and get back a seventh-round pick in 2023, Stroud tweets. Tampa Bay was in need of a nose tackle run-stuffer after the season-ending injury to Vita Vea, so they went out and made a quick move. McLendon will be reuniting with Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who was his head coach with the Jets, which helps explain this acquisition.

McLendon was a locker room leader for the Jets and his departure will ‘sting’ some current Jets players, Brian Costello of the New York Post tweets. McLendon was one of the few vocal guys in the locker room, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. The Jets are now 0-6 on the year, and it’s hard not to feel like this is the beginning of a larger tanking process.

There are still two-plus weeks until the trade deadline, and it wouldn’t be surprising if more of New York’s veterans were shipped out before it as they currently lead in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. McLendon is 34 now, but still capable of clogging up some running lanes.

He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so it makes sense for Jets GM Joe Douglas to get anything for him while he still can, no matter how small. An UDFA from Troy in 2009, McLendon spent his first seven years with the Steelers before signing a three-year, $12MM pact with the Jets in 2016. He’s started at least 14 games in each of the past three seasons. He’s never provided too much as a pass-rusher, although he did have 2.5 sacks last year. He’s not Vea, but this will still be a welcome addition for a contending Tampa team in need of bodies in the middle.

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Steelers’ Devin Bush Has Torn ACL

The Steelers picked up a dominant 38-7 win over the Browns on Sunday, but they didn’t escape the rivalry game unscathed. Linebacker Devin Bush indeed tore his ACL and will be done for the season, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Bush started 15 games as a rookie last year and every game so far this season, so it’s a huge loss. In fact, the tenth overall pick of last year’s draft had played every snap this season before going down. Pittsburgh’s defense has been the driving force behind their perfect 5-0 start, and it won’t be easy to replace him. Robert Spillane, a 2018 UDFA who plays almost entirely on special teams, filled in after Bush got hurt.

The Steelers were allowing only 3.3 yards per carry, the second best figure in the league, entering Sunday. They completely shutdown Kareem Hunt and Cleveland’s vaunted rushing attack, but slowing down opponent ground games will be a lot more difficult without Bush in the middle of the field.

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Le’Veon Bell To Sign With Chiefs

The Chiefs have won the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes. The two-time All-Pro running back agreed to a deal to sign with the defending Super Bowl champions, Tom Pelissero and Jim Trotter of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

Bell considered the Bills and Dolphins as well, and the Dolphins were believed to have offered a two-year deal. But the Chiefs, who were on the verge of an agreement with Bell on Wednesday night, have landed the recently released back.

It is a one-year contract with incentives, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter and SI.com’s Albert Breer (Twitter links). Bell indeed was hoping to catch on with a contender, per Schefter. After spending parts of two seasons with a struggling Jets team, the former Steelers standout will be back in a playoff race.

This will give Clyde Edwards-Helaire an experienced tandem partner, with this Bell agreement putting him on track to take over for Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson as the rookie’s top backup. But while 2019 late-summer free agency addition LeSean McCoy could not stick as Damien Williams‘ backup, Bell was prioritizing fit in an offense. It seems likely he will see a significant role alongside Edwards-Helaire.

While McCoy had strong track records on two teams, Bell bombed with his second franchise. Adam Gase did not want the running back at the $13.25MM-per-year price, and the Jets fit indeed turned out to be poor. The former Steelers dynamo lumbered for a career-low 3.2 yards per carry in 2019. This season, he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 and missed three games. Upon return in Week 5, Bell did average 4.62 yards per tote. That is a small sample size, but the showing may have reignited the Jets’ efforts to deal Bell. No takers emerged, and the team cut its losses with a Tuesday release. Bell will land with a much better offense.

Kansas City’s offense now houses five former first-team All-Pros — Bell, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Mitchell Schwartz and Tyreek Hill. (This number would have been six had ex-Bell teammate Kelechi Osemele not suffered severe knee injuries Sunday.) While this was the case last year with McCoy as well, the 28-year-old Bell brings lower mileage to Kansas City. Aided by his skipping the 2018 season in a franchise tag dispute with the Steelers, Bell has 1,874 career touches. McCoy had over 2,800 when he signed with Kansas City.

Bell will need to prove he still has upper-echelon ability; he did not record a 20-yard run as a Jet. His most recent 100-yard rushing game came in 2017; the former second-round pick never cleared 90 rushing yards in a Jets game. As a Steeler, Bell posted 1,800-plus scrimmage yards three times en route to the 2014 and ’17 All-Pro teams. He added three 75-catch seasons in that span, so seeing how Andy Reid deploys him will be an interesting October NFL storyline.

The earliest Bell could make his Chiefs debut would be Week 7, with COVID-19 protocols requiring free agents to pass nearly a week’s worth of coronavirus tests in order to begin practicing with their new teams. The Chiefs face the Jets in Week 8.

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Jets Looking To Trade Le’Veon Bell

Here we go again. With a couple weeks to go before the trade deadline, the Jets are shopping running back Le’Veon Bell, sources tell Manish Mehta of the Daily News (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Could Jets Trade Sam Darnold?]

The Jets signed Bell to a four-year, $52.5MM free agent deal in 2019. Months later, they considered moving him. Bell claims the Packers, Chiefs, Texans, and Steelers (yes, the Steelers) all expressed interest in acquiring him before last year’s deadline but, ultimately, there were no takers.

It’s hard to imagine teams chomping at the bit for Bell. Last year, he averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per carry. So far this year, he’s played in just two of the Jets’ five games. For what it’s worth, he managed 4.62 yards per carry this past Sunday, but he’s come nowhere near matching his performance in Pittsburgh since joining Gang Green.

Between his two disappointing Jets campaigns and his 2018 holdout, Bell is three seasons removed from his best work. Meanwhile, he continues to clash with team brass. This week, he dished out social media likes to a number of followers who were criticizing Adam Gase for his limited usage of Bell.

I know he’s frustrated that we haven’t won,” the head coach told reporters on Monday. “It wasn’t necessarily the plan of not targeting him in the past game, it just kind of ended up being that way with how they were they were playing us. So that’s what it is, I mean, just try to find ways to move the football that’s all we’re trying to do, and it doesn’t always go exactly as planned..I hate that’s the route that we go with all this. Instead of just talking to me about it but seems the way that guys want to do it nowadays.”

Bell will earn a guaranteed $8.5MM base salary for 2020. In the past, he’s rebuffed the Jets’ attempts to restructure his deal. But, if he truly wants a trade, he may have to reconsider his position.

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