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Falcons, Deion Jones Agree To Extension

Part 2 of the Falcons’ major midsummer contracts can soon be removed from the franchise’s checklist. The Wednesday negotiations between Drew Rosenhaus and the Falcons apparently went quite well, with Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reporting (on Twitter) Deion Jones agreed to a four-year, $57MM extension.

The fourth-year linebacker will receive $34MM guaranteed, Schefter adds, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reporting (via Twitter) part of that guarantee will be an $11MM signing bonus. The $34MM figure will also include $25.8MM fully guaranteed at signing, Florio tweets. Jones will receive $35.5MM in the first three years of this re-up, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. The Falcons and Rosenhaus met today in Atlanta to finalize the deal.

This extension falls in between C.J. Mosley‘s lofty Jets pact and the field, with the $14.25MM average making Jones the league’s second-highest-paid off-ball linebacker. It comes in nearly $1MM north of Anthony Barr‘s Vikings deal, in terms of AAV. Regarding fully guaranteed money, this pact trails only Mosley’s $43MM figure and Luke Kuechly‘s $27MM amount.

Two days after the Falcons locked up Grady Jarrett through 2022, they have their middle linebacker signed through 2023. Now, the focus will shift to the team’s highest-profile player. Julio Jones and the Falcons have been working on a new deal, one that will almost certainly make the All-Pro the league’s highest-paid wide receiver, for months. Arthur Blank‘s “Falcons for life” trio is two-thirds extended, but Julio Jones will end up with the biggest contract out of this triumvirate.

Although Deion Jones missed 10 games due to injury last season, the 2016 second-round pick has anchored Atlanta’s linebacking corps since his rookie season. Pro Football Focus graded Jones as its No. 14 linebacker last season; his placement was even higher during a 2017 Pro Bowl slate. The 24-year-old ‘backer has recorded 297 tackles, eight interceptions and three pick-6s in his 37-game career.

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Falcons, Grady Jarrett Agree To Extension

Barely an hour away from this year’s deadline, the Falcons and Grady Jarrett have a new deal in place. Jarrett agreed to a four-year, $68MM deal to stay in Atlanta, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Momentum built in the past 24 hours on the Jarrett front, and he becomes the second franchise-tagged player to agree to an extension Monday. Robbie Gould and the 49ers agreed to terms earlier today, leaving only Jadeveon Clowney without a deal. Jarrett, 26, has been a full-time starter for the Falcons since his second season. He would have made $15.2MM this year on the tag.

Jarrett’s $17MM-per-year average is well off Aaron Donald‘s benchmark for defensive tackles, but considering the disparities between the interior defenders’ profiles, that was to be expected. However, agent Todd France got his client on the same level as four-time Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox, whose 2016 extension averages $17.1MM annually. Jarrett is now NFL’s third-highest-paid interior defender.

Jarrett will receive $42.5MM in guarantees, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This total places Jarrett fifth among interior defenders — behind Donald, Cox, J.J. Watt and Kawann Short.

Although Jarrett has zero Pro Bowls in four seasons and just 14 sacks in that span (not counting his three-sack Super Bowl LI), the Falcons have long acknowledged the former fifth-round pick’s immense value to their defense. Jarrett produced 15 tackles for loss in 2017 and graded as a top-10 interior defender last season, per Pro Football Focus. He registered a career-high six sacks and 16 quarterback hits in 2018.

Arthur Blank said earlier this year he wanted Jarrett to join Julio Jones and Deion Jones as “Falcons for life.” The team has secured a key item off its offseason checklist and can now turn its attention to the Joneses.

This continues a productive offseason for franchise-tagged performers. Jarrett, Gould, Donovan Smith, Dee Ford, DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark agreed to extensions after being tagged in March. Clowney, who has already played a fifth-year option season, is set to play yet another year without a long-term agreement in place.

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Ezekiel Elliott Planning Holdout?

Even as the Cowboys have prioritized extensions for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper over his, Ezekiel Elliott participated in the team’s offseason program. He may be set for an about-face come training camp.

Elliott, who has two years left on his rookie contract thanks to the Cowboys picking up his fifth-year option, has privately said he plans to hold out from Cowboys camp, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. No final decision has been made, per Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter), but the fourth-year back is “absolutely” considering it. The Cowboys have discussed an Elliott re-up for more than a month, and how much progress the sides make between now and camp will likely determine if Elliott reports, per Robinson (Twitter links).

A recent report indicated the Cowboys do not plan to extend Elliott in the near future, and considering the historic workload he has amassed thus far in his career (an NFL-high 1,003 touches since debuting in 2016), the soon-to-be 24-year-old back may be set to force the Cowboys to make his second contract a priority. The team, however, has Prescott, Cooper, Byron Jones, Jaylon Smith and La’el Collins going into contract years.

But Elliott plays a position with a much shorter shelf life and possesses a limited window to turn his skills into a financial windfall. The Cowboys gave Elliott 381 touches last season, pushing his career per-game total to 25.1. Only two backs (Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson) have ever accumulated more touches per game than Elliott through three seasons. Another high-volume season, at a $3.9MM base salary, would run the risk of an injury or further mileage damaging Elliott’s value. Cowboys plans for another big Elliott workload have played into thinking on the holdout front, Robinson tweets.

Elliott, who recently skirted more suspension trouble, has won two rushing titles in three seasons and has played at a higher level than any of the Cowboys’ contract-year players. Dallas took care of its All-Pro offensive linemen and may face the prospect of its best skill player threatening to withhold his services for a while. Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell each make north of $13MM per year. Elliott stands to make just more than $9MM in 2020. Should he decide to hold out, he will follow Melvin Gordon‘s lead this year. The Chargers back has not accomplished what Elliott has but has publicly threatened a holdout.

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49ers Sign Robbie Gould To Extension

The 49ers’ long saga with Robbie Gould has a happy ending. On Monday, the 49ers agreed to sign the kicker to a four-year, $19MM deal, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets

The deal includes $10.5MM fully guaranteed at signing, representing locked in salaries for the first two seasons of the deal. After that, the Niners must decide whether to fully guarantee half of his $4.5MM salary for 2021 before Week 16 of 2020 season, and the other half by the following April.

It’s rare for the 49ers to give fully guaranteed salaries through year two, which shows how much they value Gould. The 36-year-old has nailed 72 of 75 field goal tries since joining the 49ers in 2017, positioning him as one of the very best kickers in the game.

Gould requested a trade in April to bring him closer to his family, which many read as a push to return to Chicago. The 49ers, however, held firm and refused to deal him.

Before the deal, Gould was scheduled to play the 2019 season on his one-year, $5MM franchise tag tender.

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Dolphins Coach Jim Caldwell Taking Leave Of Absence

Dolphins assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell will be taking a leave of absence to focus on his health, the team announced in a press release this morning.

“I will be stepping back due to some medical complications that require my full attention,” Caldwell said. “I want to thank Stephen Ross, Chris Grier, Coach Flores and the rest of the organization for the support they have given me and my family.”

The Dolphins will still keep the 64-year-old on board, as Caldwell will serve as a consultant to the team for the upcoming season. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Jerry Schuplinski, a former Patriots assistant, will likely take on many of Caldwell’s duties.

“Our focus is on Jim’s health and supporting him in every way that we can,” said head coach Brian Flores. “With his knowledge and experience, Jim has been an invaluable member to our coaching staff and will continue to serve as a sounding board for me throughout the season.”

Caldwell has been coaching since 1977, and he’s held NFL gigs since 2001. He had a three-year stint as the head coach of the Colts that included a Super Bowl appearance. Caldwell later moved on to become the head coach of the Lions, and he compiled a 36-28 record during his four years in Detroit.

Caldwell had a handful of head coaching interviews this past offseason, including talks with the Packers, Jets, and Browns. After Flores was hired in Miami, Caldwell was brought in as an assistant.

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Chargers’ Melvin Gordon Could Miss Games

The saga between the Chargers and running back Melvin Gordon could drag on for a while. There’s a “strong possibility” Gordon could sit out into the regular season unless he gets a new market-value deal, agent Damarius Bilbo tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). For what it’s worth, Bilbo did soften the threat a bit. 

[RELATED: Chargers’ Melvin Gordon Threatens Holdout; Trade Demand]

But we want to focus on getting something done before training camp,” Bilbo said. “There’s a long way to go to Week 1.”

If Gordon’s holdout extends to the regular season, he’ll lose out on roughly $330K per week, representing 1/17th of his $5.6MM salary. Staying away from the club could reinforce his importance to the Chargers’ offense, though there’s a risk of backup Austin Ekeler shining in his absence. Last year, Ekeler was a revelation for the Chargers as well as points-per-reception fantasy football players – he finished out with 5.2 yards per carry on a limited sample and 39 catches for 404 yards out of the backfield.

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Chargers’ Melvin Gordon Threatens Holdout; Trade Demand

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has informed the team that unless he receives a new contract, he will not report to training camp and he will demand a trade, agent Fletcher Smith tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Gordon has been pushing for a new deal, but this is a previously unforeseen development for the Los Angeles star. 

Gordon, one of the league’s premier running backs, has already built up quite the odometer at the age of 26. With more than 1,000 carries on his resume, the former first-round pick is looking to cash in as he enters his contract year. For now, Gordon is slated to count for a $5.6MM cap figure before (potentially) reaching free agency after the 2019 season.

The Chargers, in theory, hold the leverage. After ’19 – Gordon’s fifth-year option season – the Bolts can assign the franchise tag to Gordon for the 2020 season, once more for 2021, and theoretically do it for a third time in 2022, though the rate for a third tag would be a cap killer. With his threat of a holdout and possible trade demand, Gordon might be able to even things out.

For Gordon, a new deal would mean a significant pay bump, as well as fiscal certainty. The running back position is especially dangerous and every player in the league is eager for guarantees with a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon.

We examined Gordon’s case for an extension back in March. At the time, we noted that GM Tom Telesco is open to considering an extension for Gordon, but that Telesco did not offer a timetable for getting a deal done.

Gordon does not have eye-popping YPC numbers in his career (he has averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his four professional seasons), but he did manage 5.1 yards per tote in 2018. He is also a major weapon as a receiver, compiling over 400 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons. He has 28 rushing touchdowns and 10 receiving scores in his career, and he was a key part of the Chargers’ return to the postseason last year.

As a result, the Wisconsin product stands to cash in and will surely be paid at the high end of the running back market. Todd Gurley is currently the pacesetter with an average annual value of $14.375MM and $45MM in guarantees, while Le’Veon Bell recently landed a $13.125MM/year pact. The Cardinals’ David Johnson is now working under a $13MM/year deal that includes $32MM in guarantees.

Since 2016, Gordon has been at the top of the RB heap. Over the last three seasons, he has 28 rushing touchdowns (second most in the NFL), ten receiving touchdowns (fourth-most amongst running backs), and 38 touchdowns from scrimmage (second-most in the NFL).

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Former Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi Suffers Stroke

Former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi suffered a stroke Thursday, per a statement from his family. The statement, which can be found on the Tedy’s Team Instagram page, reads as follows:

“Yesterday afternoon, Tedy had a stroke, known as a TIA. He recognized his warning signs immediately: arm weakness, face drooping and speech difficulties. Tedy is recovering well, and would like to thank the nurses, doctors and staff at Sturdy Memorial Hospital for all they have done. Tedy and his family thank you for your ongoing encouragement, and kindly ask for privacy at this time.”

The good news is that Bruschi is, as the statement indicates, recovering well. The bad news is that this is not the first stroke Bruschi has suffered. Just three days after playing in Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005, Bruschi had a mild stroke that stemmed from a congenital heart defect. He returned to the playing field later that same year, appearing in nine games (all starts) for New England during the 2005 campaign.

That experience, which led to the creation of Tedy’s Team — a foundation dedicated to raising funds for stroke research — also apparently helped Bruschi to recognize his symptoms on Thursday and to immediately seek medical attention.

One of the most beloved players in New England franchise history and a member of the club’s Hall of Fame, Bruschi spent his entire career with the Pats, winning three Super Bowls during that time. Although it took a couple of years for the Arizona product to become a full-time starter after New England made him a third-round pick in the 1996 draft, he ultimately played in 211 games for the team, starting 156 of them (including playoffs). He racked up over 1,100 tackles in his career, along with 35 sacks, 14 interceptions, and four pick-sixes. He received one Pro Bowl nod and shared 2005 Comeback Player of the Year honors with Steve Smith.

We at PFR wish Bruschi the best in his recovery.

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Randy Gregory To Apply For Reinstatement

Cowboys edge rusher Randy Gregory, who has been been banned indefinitely for another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, will petition the NFL for reinstatement, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports. Gregory hopes to be cleared in time to take part in training camp, which opens at the end of this month.

Gregory’s talent is undeniable, but he has not been able to shake his demons and get his professional career on track. Due to a failed drug test at the combine and potential mental health concerns, he tumbled to the second round of the 2015 NFL draft despite having top-10 ability. After a nondescript rookie campaign, he was hit with a four-game suspension in February 2016 for violating the substance abuse policy. That same year, Gregory failed a second drug test, resulting in an additional 10-game ban. Months later, we learned that Gregory had failed a third drug test, but since the league did not immediately institute a suspension for that violation, Gregory was able to play in the final two games of the 2016 regular season.

He was suspended for the entire 2017 campaign, but he was granted a conditional reinstatement that allowed him to play in 2018. Appearing mostly in a reserve role, Gregory managed six sacks and 25 tackles in 14 games last year while flashing the promise that made him a collegiate star at Nebraska. Unfortunately, this offseason brought with it news of another failed test and the aforementioned indefinite ban.

When news of the suspension first broke, we heard that the league was unlikely to revisit Gregory’s case until 2020 at the earliest. However, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones remained hopeful that Gregory would be cleared to play sometime in 2019, and he has remained steadfast in his support of his troubled defender. To that end, Dallas signed Gregory to an extension just over a month after the indefinite suspension was announced. Provided that Gregory is allowed to play, the extension will keep him under club control through 2020.

Moore reports that no paperwork has been filed yet, but the process is underway and the required documents are expected to be submitted shortly. Moore believes it’s unlikely that Roger Goodell will fully reinstate Gregory by the end of the month, though the commissioner could allow Gregory to take part in camp and preseason contests with an understanding he will still miss a specified number of games once the regular season begins.

Moore’s sources also indicate that Gregory has not failed or missed a drug test during his latest suspension, and that he wouldn’t be applying for reinstatement if he had slipped up. That’s encouraging news in and of itself, and given Goodell’s recent pattern of working with players battling substance abuse issues, perhaps Gregory will, in fact, suit up for Dallas this year.

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No Suspension For Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott

The NFL has decided against discipline for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in connection with his May incident. Here is the league’s statement, in full: 

Immediately following reports of an incident in Las Vegas in May involving Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL conducted a comprehensive investigation that included interviews with multiple witnesses, including security personnel and others with direct involvement, as well as a review of documentary and other information.

On Tuesday, as part of the review, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Mr. Elliott to reinforce the standards of conduct expected of him and the consequences for failing to meet those standards.

Mr. Elliott acknowledged that he demonstrated poor judgment and committed to make better choices in the future. He volunteered to take advantage of the resources available to help him continue to grow personally.

Commissioner Goodell determined there was no violation of the personal conduct policy and no further action is warranted.

A suspension was viewed as unlikely for Elliott, but not out of the realm of possibility given his history with the league. Elliott was banned for six games in 2017 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, despite no criminal charges being filed in connection with past allegations of domestic abuse.

In May, Elliott was briefly detained by police at a Las Vegas concert after bumping a security guard. The event gained national headlines after TMZ procured video, putting the onus on the NFL to act. Ultimately, after a lengthy investigation, the league opted against suspending the soon-to-be 24-year-old.

Elliott avoided a ban this time around, but it sounds like he’ll be on even thinner ice going forward.

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