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Browns Release DT Sheldon Richardson

Active in adding defensive starters this offseason, the Browns subtracted one on Friday. They released Sheldon Richardson.

The former first-round defensive lineman had started for Cleveland over the past two seasons. The Browns will save $11MM by making this move, one that comes a month after free agency’s outset, while also leaving a void in the middle of their defensive front.

With Larry Ogunjobi having signed with the Bengals, the Browns now no longer employ either of their starting D-tackles from the past two seasons. On a three-year, $37MM deal agreed to in 2019, Richardson was due a $10.9MM base salary in 2021. This move comes two days after the Browns agreed to terms with Jadeveon Clowney. While Richardson and Clowney do not play the same position, the Browns committed to sign the edge rusher for one year and $8MM.

This move will send Richardson into free agency at an inopportune time — following the most significant cap reduction in the cap era and four-plus weeks after the market opened. The Browns did add veteran defensive tackle Malik Jackson — on a one-year, $3.75MM contract — and have Andrew Billings, who opted out in 2020. But the team now figures to be on the hunt for interior D-line help.

The former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Richardson has played with four teams in his eight seasons. The Jets traded him to the Seahawks in 2017, and Richardson signed a one-year deal with the Vikings in 2018. After signing with the then-John Dorsey-run Browns a year later, Richardson accumulated 7.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits during his two Browns seasons. Richardson did not miss a game during his Cleveland stay.

Pro Football Focus graded the Mizzou product as a top-30 interior defensive lineman in 2019 and slotted him just inside the top 50 at the position last season. While now 30, Richardson will surely generate interest and should have a path to a starting lineup in 2021.

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Julian Edelman Announces Retirement

Shortly after the Patriots released Julian Edelman, the accomplished wide receiver revealed he will not attempt to play for another team. The 12-year veteran announced his retirement Monday afternoon (video link).

The Pats cut Edelman with a failed-physical designation, doing so after he missed 10 games due to a knee injury last season. As recently as late February, Edelman wanted to play a 13th season. But the 34-year-old pass catcher had not fully recovered from the knee injury he battled last year, and the Patriots signed four new aerial weapons — wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry — last month. However, Edelman may not be easy to replace. He operated as the top wideout for six playoff-bound Patriot teams during the 2010s and was a significant part in the franchise winning three more Super Bowls during the decade.

Edelman did not hold an extensive role in New England’s offense until his fifth season, which came after Wes Welker signed with the Broncos in 2013, and never made a Pro Bowl. He missed the 2017 season, incurred a four-game PED ban in 2018 and was considerably limited in 2015 and ’20 as well. Regular-season availability notwithstanding, dominated in playoff opportunities and still ranks second in Patriots history with 620 regular-season receptions — behind only Welker’s 672.

By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career – wins, championships, production – Julian has it all,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances.”

During the 2018 postseason — one Edelman concluded by winning Super Bowl LIII MVP acclaim — the former Kent State quarterback surpassed Michael Irvin on the playoff receiving yardage list. Only Jerry Rice compiled more postseason yards than Edelman (1,442). While Edelman did play in 19 postseason games, only 14 of those came after Welker’s departure opened up a role for him on offense. En route to three Super Bowl titles, Edelman posted six 100-yard playoff games. The former seventh-round pick’s top two playoff yardage performances came two years ago, when he amassed 151 in a rout of the Chargers and 141 in New England’s defense-fueled win over the Rams.

A touchdown pass from the former college QB also did plenty to ensure the Patriots could add to their ring total in the 2010s. Edelman’s touchdown toss to Danny Amendola propelled New England past Baltimore in the 2014 divisional round, and Edelman added a receiving TD in the Patriots’ come-from-behind Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seahawks. Edelman did not score or surpass 100 yards in the Pats’ record-setting comeback win over the Falcons, but his tipped reception on a game-tying drive kept the team’s storied rally in play. The slot receiver’s absence in Super Bowl LII proved pivotal as well, with the Patriots falling short as favorites against the Eagles.

Despite the postseason success, Edelman never earned more than $8MM in average annual salary. He signed five Patriots contracts — the most recent a two-year, $15.5MM deal in 2019 — but was never among the NFL’s highest-paid receivers. Prior to the 2017 ACL tear, a foot injury limited Edelman to nine games in 2015. He will be eligible for up to $2MM in injury protection funds, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The lack of a Pro Bowl honor and a short run as an offensive weapon will almost certainly keep Edelman out of the Hall of Fame. The 12-year veteran sits 156th on the league’s all-time receiving yards list (6,822). But he proved essential to the second leg of the Patriots dynasty taking shape and will be remembered as one of the great postseason performers in NFL history.

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Patriots Release Julian Edelman

After 12 seasons, the Patriots may well be cutting ties with Julian Edelman. They released their longtime slot receiver on Monday, according to the NFL’s transaction wire.

The Pats released Edelman with a failed-physical designation. Edelman has mulled retirement this offseason, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. Such an announcement may follow. The veteran wideout, who will turn 35 in May, has continued to battle knee trouble this year, Doug Kyed of NESN.com tweets.

Barring a reunion, this will close the book on one of the more interesting careers in the history of the Patriots and the receiver position. The 5-foot-10 wideout has not made a Pro Bowl and did not have much of a role on offense until his fifth season, but he has the second-most playoff receiving yards in NFL history (1,442) — behind only Jerry Rice‘s 2,245 — and was integral to the Pats’ passing game for the past several years.

Injuries, however, have limited Edelman in recent years. He missed 10 games last season and underwent knee surgery late in the year. The 12th-year receiver, who missed the 2017 season with a torn ACL, caught 21 passes for 315 yards and no touchdowns in the franchise’s first post-Tom Brady campaign.

Struggling for much of the Bill Belichick era to identify receiver talent early in drafts, the Patriots took a flier on a quarterback from Kent State in the 2009 seventh round. While All-Pro Wes Welker was still in the heart of his dominant run as New England’s primary slot weapon, Edelman took the reins ahead of his fifth season. Welker’s Denver defection began Edelman’s ascent, and he played a pivotal role in the second leg of New England’s dynasty.

Edelman earned MVP honors in Super Bowl LIII, has six 100-yard receiving games in the playoffs — including two such outings in Super Bowls — and made the defining catch of his career against the Falcons to help the Pats erase a 28-3 deficit to win their fifth championship. The former MAC passer/ball carrier produced three 1,000-yard seasons, with his most recent coming for an embattled Patriots passing attack in Brady’s final New England slate.

This release will tag the Pats with $2.7MM in dead money while also creating just more than $3MM in cap space. The team made changes to its receiver room this offseason, signing Nelson Agholor at a surprisingly high rate and adding Kendrick Bourne. The Patriots also signed tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and are likely set to deploy plenty of two-tight end sets. Even so, subtracting Edelman from this situation still leaves the team with somewhat of a need at the receiver position.

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Browns To Host Jadeveon Clowney Again, Deal Likely?

Things appear to be heating up between Jadeveon Clowney and the Browns. Cleveland is arranging a second visit for the free agent edge rusher, likely for Monday, a source told Josina Anderson (Twitter link). The belief is that the sides will be able to work out a contract during that visit, sources told Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

Clowney initially met with the Browns back on March 24th. No deal materialized at the time, but we heard about a week later that the team was still very much interested, so this second visit isn’t too surprising. During Clowney’s last free agency in 2020, the Browns were reportedly his best multi-year offer, so they’ve been after him for a while. Rather than take that multi-year deal from Cleveland, Clowney opted to sign a one-year, $13MM pact with the Titans.

That didn’t work out, as injuries limited him to only eight games last season. In those eight games, he had zero sacks, and he’ll now likely have to settle for a significantly cheaper deal. The Browns are letting Olivier Vernon walk, and we’ve heard all offseason that their plan was to bring in a big name edge guy to pair with Myles Garrett.

They signed former first-rounder Takk McKinley last month, but that apparently wasn’t enough to satisfy them. The first overall pick of the 2014 draft, Clowney has never quite lived up to his potential and has often struggled with health issues, but he’s also shown he can be a legit disruptor along the defensive front.

His sack numbers have never been anything eye-popping (career-high 9.5 in 2017), but he’s capable of setting the edge with the best of them and being a very strong presence in the run game. The 28-year-old made the Pro Bowl three straight years from 2016-18, and it sounds like he’s getting closer to finding his third NFL home.

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Jets Trade Sam Darnold To Panthers

3:26pm: Carolina will exercise Darnold’s fifth-year option, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones tweets. This will tie Darnold to the Panthers through 2022 and fully guarantee Darnold $18.9MM next year.

3:03pm: The Jets are trading Sam Darnold to the Panthers, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Carolina will send back a sixth-round pick in 2021, as well as second- and fourth-round picks in 2022.

The Panthers had made no secret of their desire to upgrade at quarterback, and while Darnold is not coming off a particularly impressive season, he is a former top-three pick on a rookie contract. Although a previous report suggested the Panthers were not particularly high on Darnold, they had discussed him for weeks with the Jets, Schefter adds (via Twitter).

This trade also essentially confirms Jets GM Joe Douglas made his quarterback decision. The Jets have been linked to BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with their No. 2 overall pick. While some late rumblings suggested Darnold had support in the building for a fourth season, to either compete with Wilson or induce a trade-down maneuver, the Jets have been expected to draft Wilson and start over for a bit now. Douglas has now traded predecessor Mike Maccagnan‘s final two first-round picks — Darnold and Jamal Adams — over the past two years.

He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet,” Douglas said of Darnold. “While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him.”

Carolina had been the team most closely linked to Deshaun Watson this offseason. Owner David Tepper‘s desire to acquire the superstar Texans quarterback became known several weeks ago. Darnold is obviously well off the Watson tier, but the latter’s sudden off-field issues have quieted his trade market. The Jets were also linked to a potential Watson push. Both teams moving on signals the Pro Bowl quarterback may well be in Houston next season.

Darnold is still just 23 but has yet to deliver on the hype he carried in 2018. The Browns were connected to the USC prospect three years ago, but they opted for Baker Mayfield at No. 1 instead. Fixated on Saquon Barkley, the Giants refused to entertain trade offers that could have sent Darnold elsewhere. His New York stay produced occasional flashes, but the situation bottomed out in 2020. Darnold ranked last in QBR, among qualified passers, during his second season with Adam Gase. Darnold has yet to eclipse 20 touchdown passes in a season and has also missed at least three games in each of his three seasons.

The once-coveted prospect will be tabbed to replace Teddy Bridgewater, whose QBR figure ranked 17th last season. But Bridgewater has established a fairly low ceiling. Illustrated by this trade package, Darnold’s still remains relatively uncertain. Darnold will reunite with Robby Anderson in Charlotte, with Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore further illustrating the skill-position upgrade the maligned quarterback will receive. Darnold going from Gase to fast-rising OC Joe Brady represents intrigue as well.

The three-year veteran is due to count $9.7MM against the Panthers’ cap in 2021, but should Carolina pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option, his 2022 price would jump to $18.9MM. The Panthers will be forced to eat a chunk of dead money if they trade or release Bridgewater, who is attached to a three-year, $63MM contract. But Tepper authorized a long-term rebuild, giving Matt Rhule a seven-year contract. It would not surprise if the team picked up Darnold’s option for evaluation purposes. Considering Carolina’s interest in Watson, it would also not surprise if the Panthers made this move as a stopgap measure while Watson’s legal situation unfolds.

Holding the No. 8 overall pick, the Panthers can now focus on helping their Darnold-centered roster. This draft will almost certainly begin with three quarterback picks for just the third time ever. The Jaguars, Jets and 49ers’ choices will leave the rest of the QB-seeking crowd with just two of the much-hyped top five quarterback prospects for whom to vie.

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Chargers Owner Dean Spanos’ Sister Attempting To Force Sale

There’s been plenty of NFL ownership drama over the past year, and the Broncos are now no longer the only AFC West team with a power struggle going on. The Chargers have entered the fray, as Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times writes.

A sister of Chargers owner Dean Spanos, Dea Spanos Berberian, has filed a petition in Los Angeles County Court asking a judge to force a sale of the team. Fenno writes that Berberian argues “that mounting debt has imperiled the family’s finances and the only solution is to put the NFL franchise on the market.”

Berberian is a trustee of the family trust alongside Spanos, and she “alleges the trust’s debts and expenses exceed” $353MM. “Every day that passes increases the risks that the charitable beneficiaries and the Spanos family legacy will suffer irreparable financial and reputational damage,” if the team isn’t sold, the petition reads.

According to the court filing this has been going on behind the scenes for quite some time, as Spanos told his siblings in a 2019 letter that he would retain an investment bank at the end of the 2024 season to help sell the team. Berberian is attempting to force a move sooner than that, but either way it sounds like the Spanos family won’t be owning the franchise long-term.

That being said, Spanos and two of his other siblings released a defiant statement in response to this filing, which you can read in full here, denouncing Berberian’s effort.

For the three of us the Chargers is one of our family’s most important legacies, just as it was for our parents. Unfortunately, our sister Dea seems to have a different and misguided personal agenda. If Dea no longer wishes to be part of this family legacy, the three of us stand ready to purchase her share of the franchise, as our agreements give us the right to do. In the meanwhile, the operations of the Chargers will be entirely unaffected by this matter, which relates only to the 36 percent share of the team that was owned by our parents,” it reads in part.

Spanos is no stranger to controversy, as he became a very polarizing figure among Chargers fans in San Diego after moving the team to Los Angeles a few years ago. This will take months if not years to fully play out, but we’ll keep you posted.

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Seahawks To Extend Tyler Lockett

The Seahawks have locked up Tyler Lockett for the long haul. On Wednesday, the two sides agreed to a four-year, $69.2MM extension (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). The deal includes $37MM in guaranteed cash and likely tamps down his scheduled $14.95MM cap hit for 2021. 

[RELATED: Seahawks Strike New Deal With Jackson]

Lockett, 28, came to Seattle as a third-round pick in 2015. Ever since, he’s greatly outperformed his draft position with solid work out of the slot. Across the last six years, he has 376 grabs, 4,892 yards, and 37 touchdowns to his credit. He’s also coming off of a career-best 100 receptions (for 1,054 yards and ten touchdowns), though his 10.5 yards per catch average left much to be desired. Before 2020, Lockett was averaging 13.9 ypc, bolstered by his near 17-yard average in 2018.

Despite questionable depth at wide receiver, the Seahawks abstained from this year’s best available options. This new deal underscores their confidence in Lockett — not just for this year, but for many seasons to follow. For now, the Seahawks are set to enter 2021 with Lockett and D.K. Metcalf leading the charge with support from Freddie Swain, Cody Thompson, John Ursua, Darvin Kidsy, Aaron Fuller, and Penny Hart.

In addition to Lockett, the Seahawks have also re-upped guard Gabe Jackson with a three-year, $22.58MM extension. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, they moved on from defensive tackle Jarran Reed. With the 28-year-old out of the picture, their DL group will feature Kerry Hyder, Benson Mayowa, Carlos Dunlap, Poona Ford, and old pal Al Woods.

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Raiders, Kolton Miller Agree To Extension

The Raiders have made some major changes on their offensive line, but they will make sure their left tackle will not be going anywhere for a while. They agreed to terms with Kolton Miller on an extension Tuesday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Miller agreed to a three-year deal worth more than $18MM annually, per Fowler, who adds the three-year veteran will receive more than $42.6MM fully guaranteed. The contract will end up averaging just north of $18MM per year, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The agreement locks in Miller through the 2025 season. Miller’s rookie contract, including the fifth-year option, ran through 2022.

This marks the first extension handed out to a member of the 2018 draft class, which became extension-eligible in January. The Raiders had a Miller extension in mind for a bit now, and they will take care of their first draft pick of the second Jon Gruden era. After trading down with the Cardinals in a deal that sent them ex-UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, the Raiders took Rosen’s blindside Bruins protector at No. 15 overall. The Raiders’ pick worked out, with Miller having started 46 games in three seasons.

Las Vegas’ Miller decision comes after the team surprised most by gutting its offensive line. The Raiders traded Pro Bowlers Rodney Hudson and Trent Brown and also dealt its longest-tenured O-lineman, Gabe Jackson. While the team still opted to bring back Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good, Miller is now this O-line’s unquestioned anchor.

Pro Football Focus has not viewed Miller as a high-end tackle just yet, though it did assign the 25-year-old blocker his best grade last season. He ranked a career-best 34th among tackles in 2020. While Miller has helped Josh Jacobs to back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and been present for consecutive Derek Carr top-11 QBR campaigns, this extension marks a bet in further Miller development.

At $18MM annually, Miller’s new deal comes in fifth among left tackles. It will land just below the recently established top tier at the position. However, the $42.6MM fully guaranteed comes in second at the position. That is a significant win for Miller, considering this is a three-year deal. Even Laremy Tunsil‘s market-reshaping three-year extension did not include this much in fully guaranteed money. While the Raiders bailed on their previous monster tackle accord, shipping Brown to the Patriots after two seasons, they will bet big on Miller.

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Urban Meyer: Drafting Trevor Lawrence ‘Certainly The Direction We’re Headed’

Gone are the days of NFL teams with the first overall pick trying to play it particularly coy. It’s been widely assumed for a while now that the Jaguars will be taking Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence when the 2021 NFL Draft opens, and new Jags coach Urban Meyer more or less confirmed that to Peter King of NBC Sports.

“I’d have to say that’s the direction we’re going. I’ll leave that up to the owner when we make that decision official. But I’m certainly not stepping out of line that that’s certainly the direction we’re headed,” Meyer acknowledged. “Trevor checks all the boxes, you know?” Meyer said before explaining what exactly he loves about the passer regarded as one of the best pro prospects in recent memory.

The number one common quality of every great player, not just quarterback, is competitive maniac. He’s 34-2. Won a national title as a true freshman. Is a winner. I’ve seen him up close and in person compete. And then character. I see him and I witness with my players, when the guys get drafted high, a lot of people get . . . They have influences in their live. Like, whether it be social media, whether it be other things that really don’t pertain to winning,” Meyer said.

“What I’m really pleased with and I don’t want to say surprised, but him, his agent, his family, they’re focused on one thing. He wants to become the best version of himself for the National Football League, which is, well, it is somewhat refreshing.” It sounds like Meyer has spent a lot of time around Lawrence and his family, and is more than comfortable with the coming selection.

Considering we heard in February that Meyer had advised Lawrence on his pro day schedule, this isn’t too surprising. In the full piece, which is worth a read, Meyer explains his decision to jump to the NFL ranks, and said he’s “committed to Jacksonville.” He said he gave a lot of thought to the health issues that have plagued him in the past, and clearly doesn’t think they’ll be an issue with the Jags.

With their coach more or less admitting Lawrence will be the pick, this could potentially speed the process of a Gardner Minshew trade. The Jags just signed C.J. Beathard to be a backup signal-caller, potentially signaling that Minshew might not be long for the roster. Either way, you can pretty much put it in ink that Roger Goodell will be announcing Lawrence to Jacksonville next month.

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Chiefs To Sign Jarran Reed

The Chiefs continue to bolster their trenches. They’ve made significant changes to their offensive line this offseason, and now they’re adding to the defensive line by signing defensive tackle Jarran Reed.

Kansas City is expected to add Reed, a source first told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The signing was soon confirmed by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who reported that it’s a one-year deal (Twitter link). The short-term pact is worth up to $7MM for the 2021 season with $5MM being guaranteed, Rapoport noted in a follow-up tweet.

As many were quick to point out, this will reunite Reed with former Seahawks teammate Frank Clark, who Reed had a career year next to in 2018. Reed was cut by Seattle on Friday, and it didn’t take him very long to find a new team. Reed had signed a two-year, $23MM extension with the Seahawks around this time last year, but made it just one season into that pact.

The 28-year-old was drafted in the second round by Seattle back in 2016. The Alabama product started all 16 games last season, finishing with 38 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. In that aforementioned career year in 2018, he had a whopping 10.5 sacks as an interior lineman.

With Reed, Clark, and Chris Jones, the Chiefs will now have a very talented defensive front. They already had all the skill position talent you could ask for, and GM Brett Veach has been very aggressive at adding the big boys up front this offseason.

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