For Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, reminders of their blowout Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been everywhere. 

From Tom Brady's trophy toss during the Bucs' boat parade to Thursday's unveiling of Tampa Bay's massive Super Bowl rings, the champs have stayed in the spotlight throughout the off-season. 

With training camp finally set to begin next week, though, the Chiefs are ready to clear the slate and move on.

"I think the best thing about getting to training camp is it all starts over," Mahomes said at a news conference Friday as the team's quarterbacks and rookies reported to camp.

"No matter how you ended the year before, you have to go in with the mindset of starting from scratch. We’re excited to do that and try and make another run at it.”

The Chiefs have made it to the final game two years in a row, with Mahomes taking MVP honors in their Super Bowl LIV triumph over the San Francisco 49ers. 

To Mahomes, the path back to the Super Bowl starts immediately, not in the September 12 season opener against the Cleveland Browns. 

"I think we’ve learned that if we put in the work now, that we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the season," he said.

"It’s about putting in the work right now, day by day, getting better and better so that at the end of the year you have no regrets about what you did in the season.”

Mahomes had surgery to repair a turf toe issue immediately following the Super Bowl but will be ready to go for training camp. 

Head coach Andy Reid said his 25-year-old quarterback, already among the best in the league, has spent the off-season working to be even better and he expects more of the same in camp. 

"He’s always looking for that next thing that makes him even better than what he is now, and that’s the part you love about him," Reid said. "He has that type of personality. He wants to be the best, and he’s not just talk."

The Chiefs are one of a handful of NFL teams who spend training camp away from their team headquarters, setting up shop at Missouri Western State University about 60 miles north of Kansas City. 

Reid said the more secluded location helps eliminate distractions and he looks forward to watching his team bond along the way. 

"We come up, it’s a time for camaraderie and bringing things together as a team. It’s hard work. There are no shortcuts obviously," he said. 

"We’re going to try to make sure we cover everything we possibly can, but there’s this concentration of football that you take in here.

"You’re sleeping in a dorm, you’re eating over in the dorm and you’re doing all of that. You’re here and it’s football kind of 24/7 right now.”

After months spent rehashing what went wrong in Tampa Bay, that probably is the best thing possible for the Chiefs. 

The New Orleans Saints have long since enjoyed the benefit of continuity on offense in Sean Payton era, but in 2021 they will have to contend with some significant changes.

For the first time since the 2005 campaign, the Saints will begin a season with a quarterback not named Drew Brees as their starter.

Brees' retirement was regarded by some as overdue but, if his decision to ride off into the sunset was not viewed as a damaging one for New Orleans, the loss of the receiver with whom he had built a devastating rapport certainly is a significant blow.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Friday that Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the season having undergone ankle ligament surgery in June.

Thomas was limited to just seven games last year because of persistent ankle injuries and the procedure to fix those problems will, at least in the opening weeks, rob the Saints' 2021 starting quarterback of a two-time first-team All-Pro who has blossomed from 2016 second-round pick into one of the most dependable wideouts in the NFL.

Renowned for his route-running and his proficiency in making contested catches, Thomas produced at a historic level in 2019.

He broke the single-season receptions record with 149, racking up a career-high 1,725 receiving yards at an average of 107.8 per game.

Per Stats Perform data, Thomas registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the ball is catchable, on 76.1 per cent of his 184 targets.

That was the fourth-highest rate among wide receivers in the NFL. Only one player who finished above him, Corey Davis (69), had even 50 targets.

Thomas was tied for the second-most burn yards per route, trailing only Stefon Diggs (3.9) with an average of 3.6.

He got open on 83.2 per cent of his targets, though he did so with an average depth of target of 8.1 yards, illustrating the Saints' dependence on shorter passes in the latter stages of Brees' career.

Thomas will now miss out on the chance to quickly develop an even better understanding with the two quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, vying to be Brees' successor.

The frustration of that for the Saints will be two-fold. Winston's aggressiveness -- he was second in the NFL in air yards per attempt (10.7) in his last season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019 -- could unlock Thomas' potential as a downfield receiver to a greater extent than Brees did.

Meanwhile, Thomas' dependability would be a significant aid to an interception-prone quarterback or to a passer in Hill whose only four pro starts came last season.

Instead of enjoying those possible benefits, with Thomas on the sideline, Payton and the Saints have the imposing challenge of maintaining their offensive consistency without a Hall of Fame quarterback and without their All-Pro wide receiver.

The Saints are used to life among the NFL's offensive elite, but with the two most important parts of the equation on that side of the ball out of the picture, at least for the start of 2021, they face being removed from the top table.

NFL players, as a rule, tend to be rather large men. Even taking that into consideration, the rings the Tampa Bay Buccaneers received Thursday for winning Super Bowl LV were something to behold. 

The rings, which were presented in a private ceremony, feature 319 diamonds as a nod to the 31-9 final score of the Bucs' triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. 

The top of each ring twists off to reveal a rendering of Raymond James Stadium, where Tampa Bay became the first team to win a Super Bowl on their home field, and engraved scores from all of the Bucs' playoff games. 

Beyond that first-of-its-kind feature, the rings are striking for their sheer size, dwarfing the fingers of the Super Bowl champs. 

"They're not so much rings, they're more like trophies that you wear on your finger," Brady said in a video released by the team. "This is by far the most incredible ring that’s ever been made."

That's saying something for a man who now has seven of them.

Brady and other Bucs players had an input in the rings' design, with the final result a collaborative product that packs as much symbolism as possible into a piece of jewelry. 

"You accomplish something of that magnitude, you want to be able to show for it," said linebacker Devin White. 

 

The NFL is set to take a harder line on teams' coronavirus-related roster issues in 2021 than it did last season. 

According to an NFL Network report, the league sent a memo to teams Thursday laying out a series of potential consequences should teams not be able to play a scheduled game - including possible forfeits. 

While the NFL, like other sports entities, juggled its schedule last season to ensure all games could be played, Thursday's memo shifts the impetus to the teams to ensure they have enough players to proceed with each of their 17 games in the newly expanded regular season schedule, saying "games will not be postponed or rescheduled simply to avoid roster issues caused by injury or illness affecting multiple players, even within a position group". 

"Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place," the league noted. "A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental. There is no right to postpone a game. Postponements will only occur if required by government authorities, medical experts, or at the Commissioner's discretion."

These new "operating principles" threaten harsh penalties for a COVID-19 outbreak involving non-vaccinated individuals, saying the financial "burden of the cancellation or delay" will fall on that team while the league works to "minimise" the burden on the other team. 

However, "if a club cannot play due to a COVID spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimise the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams". 

The financial impact of a forfeited game would not be felt solely by team owners either. 

The memo says any game that is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the 18 weeks allotted for the regular season will lead to weekly salary payments being withheld from players on both teams.

After news of the memo broke Thursday, the NFL Players' Association sent an email to its members saying the "same basic rules applied last year," but the stiff penalties never came to the forefront because all of the games were played. 

"The only difference this year is the NFL's decision to impose additional penalties on clubs which are responsbile for the outbreak and the availability of proven vaccines," the email said in part.

"The protocols we jointly agreed to helped get us through a full season last year without missing game checks and are effective when followed," the NFLPA added. 

Asked about the memo during a scheduled news conference at Dallas Cowboys training camp, running back Ezekiel Elliott called it a "touchy subject." 

"I got the vaccine just because I wanted to put myself in the best situation to be out there for my team, week-in and week-out," Elliott told reporters. 

"Not everyone feels that strongly or maybe other people still have their view of vaccines. You can't force someone to do something they don't want to do with their body."

Longtime NFL assistant coach Greg Knapp died on Thursday from injuries suffered five days earlier, when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle near his California home.

Knapp, 58, had joined the New York Jets as a passing game specialist in January after spending years as a quarterback guru and play-caller around the league. 

He previously was a quarterbacks coach or an offensive coordinator for an NFL team every year except one between 1998 and 2020, working for the 49ers, Falcons (twice), Raiders (twice), Seahawks, Texans and Broncos. 

Before joining the 49ers staff as an offensive quality control coach in 1997, Knapp spent nine years on the coaching staff at his alma mater, Sacramento State. 

"Greg had such an inner peace about him that people always seemed to gravitate towards," Jets head coach Robert Saleh told the team's website.

"He lived life in a loving way that helped him connect with people from all walks of life in a unique way. In his short time here, I believe the people in this organisation had a chance to experience that connection."

The Jets had entrusted Knapp with preparing the second overall pick in this spring's NFL Draft, Zach Wilson, for life in the NFL. 

Knapp previously had worked with numerous star quarterbacks including Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. 

During the Jets' minicamp last month, Knapp had told reporters he found it "invigorating" to work with a young talent like Wilson. 

"It is really cool," Knapp said then. "Both my parents are teachers. It's like, here's the canvas, start teaching them what you know without overteaching them too quickly. So that's the challenge, but it's really exciting."

Knapp is survived by his wife Charlotte and daughters Jordan, Natalie and Camille. 

The San Francisco 49ers have signed Fred Warner to a five-year extension to make him the NFL's highest-paid inside linebacker, reflecting his status as arguably the premier player at his position.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Niners inked Warner to a deal worth $95million including $40.5m guaranteed at signing.

The contract will keep him with San Francisco through the 2026 season.

It follows a 2020 campaign in which Warner was an ever-present for a Niners team decimated by injury and enjoyed a stellar campaign that saw him named as a first-team All-Pro.

San Francisco, having seen three opt out before the start of the season, had 40 players placed on either the injured reserve, physically unable to perform, or reserve/COVID-19 list over the course of last term.

It left them ill-equipped to make a return trip to the Super Bowl having suffered an agonising late 31-20 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 season, but individually it was an outstanding year for Warner.

Renowned for having the athleticism to cover wide receivers as well as running backs and tight ends, Warner's adjusted open percentage, which measures how frequently an opposing pass-catcher gets open against a defender's coverage and is adjusted based on position, was 24.60, putting him fifth among all inside linebackers in 2020 according to Stats Perform data.

He allowed a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup against a defender on plays when they are targeted regardless of whether the pass is caught, on 41.7 per cent of his targets, with that burn percentage the seventh-best among linebackers with at least 250 coverage snaps.

Illustrating his all-round impact in affecting the pass game, Warner's pressure rate of 33.3 per cent was tied sixth among linebackers with at least 20 pass-rush snaps.

A third-round pick in 2018, Warner has registered 21 pass breakups since entering the NFL, with that tally tied eighth among all linebackers in that period.

His efforts last year helped the Niners stay in the top five in the NFL in opponent yards per play (5.05) and yards per game (314.4) allowed in 2020 despite their raft of injuries.

With his future decided and San Francisco getting healthy on both sides of the ball having kept the core of one of the deeper rosters in the league intact before drafting quarterback Trey Lance this offseason, Warner will hope to play an integral role in making sure the Niners are a perennial playoff contender this decade.

The Los Angeles Rams had one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL last season, but their odds of improving the ground game in 2021 suffered a blow on Tuesday.

Running back Cam Akers, whom the Rams selected in the second round of the 2020 draft, will miss his second year in the league with a torn Achilles.

It was a case of extremely unfortunate timing for Akers, who sustained the injury a week before the Rams were due to start training camp.

"I just want to thank any and every person sending prayers my way and wishing me well," Akers posted on Twitter. 

"I hate this happened but I'm in great spirits and I understand God makes no mistakes. I'll be back better than ever in no time I'm a soldier. Again, thank you."

And it leaves the Rams without a player who came on extremely strong down the stretch in his rookie year.

Indeed, Akers racked up 424 of his 625 rushing yards from Week 12 to Week 17, with that tally the 10th-most among running backs in that period.

His efforts helped the Rams finish 10th in average rush yards per game with 126.1, while his four rushes of 10 yards or more in Los Angeles' two playoff games trailed only Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams (all five).

Akers was tied for 19th in yards after contact per attempt, according to Stats Perform data, gaining an average of 2.05 yards following first contact by a defender. The league-wide average for running backs was 1.91.

In other words, Akers was a difficult back to bring down quickly and was very much finding his feet in the league before the Rams' 2020 season was brought to an end by the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round.

He had been expected to form a one-two punch with Darrell Henderson, who may now instead have to take on the burden of being the lead back.

Henderson produced a mediocre yards after contact average of 1.94 in 2020, though his yards per carry average of 4.52 was superior to that of Akers (4.31).

Selected in the third round in 2019 after amassing 4,303 yards and 44 touchdowns from scrimmage in his college career at Memphis, where Henderson has a significant edge over Akers is as a receiver.

In the passing game, Henderson produced a big play, defined as plays where the receiver wins his matchup for a gain of 20 yards or for a touchdown, on 25.4 per cent of his targets, putting him sixth among all running backs and fullbacks last year.

Yet passes to running backs are unlikely to be as significant of a feature of the Rams' attack in 2021. With the arrival of Matthew Stafford at quarterback, theirs is an offense that should be much more aggressive in going downfield and the onus will be on Henderson to take advantage of the running opportunities that the threat of the deep pass will open.

Henderson is the most versatile running back the Rams have and, with the four backs below him having never taken an offensive snap at the NFL level, he must use that well-rounded skill set to excel as the undisputed lead back and ensure the Los Angeles ground game remains among the elite.

Tom Brady's Super Bowl triumph with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was watched by a disbelieving audience, giving him something in common with US president Joe Biden.

Brady and the Bucs visited the White House on Tuesday in honour of their Super Bowl LV win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the former New England Patriots quarterback winning a scarcely fathomable seventh Lombardi Trophy at the age of 43.

And he humorously compared that success to president Biden's win in last November's presidential election, which continues to be disputed by former president Donald Trump and his supporters despite no evidence to support claims of election fraud.

"Not a lot of people think we could've won," said Brady in his speech. "In fact, I think about 40 per cent of the people still don't think we won."

"I understand that," president Biden replied. 

Making a pointed reference to the build-up to the election in which then-president Trump and the Republicans frequently referred to president Biden as "sleepy Joe", Brady added: "We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was.

"I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me... Sleepy Tom. Why would they do that to me?!"

Tampa Bay begin their title defence against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9, and it is safe to say nobody will be sleeping on the Buccaneers' chances of retaining the crown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have bolstered their pass rush with the signing of veteran Melvin Ingram on a one-year deal.

Knee injuries limited the edge rusher to just seven games in the 2020 season, his final campaign with the Los Angeles Chargers.

He did not register a sack last year but the 32-year-old Ingram has been a consistently productive pass rusher in his career.

Ingram is one sack shy of 50 at the NFL level and should be in a good spot to reach that milestone playing for a Steelers defense that features one of the league's best pass rushers in T.J. Watt.

Watt led the NFL in sacks with 15 last season and was first among edge rushers with a pressure rate of 25.8 per cent.

The attention Watt commands could free up Ingram to regularly wreak havoc in the backfield and revitalise his career in Pittsburgh.

Ingram told ESPN's Josina Anderson: "I definitely feel like it's the place for me.

"I met with coach [Mike] Tomlin. You can tell he's very involved and a players' coach. That's what stood out to me.

"He wants to win and that is what I am on. My role is my role. He just told me to come in and be me. Everyone knows how I play."

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley does not know if he will be ready for Week 1 of the NFL season, though he is "feeling good".

The progress of the 24-year-old's injury recovery remains uncertain ahead of the start of training camp next week.

Barkley suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, a blow that contributed to a miserable 1-7 start for the Giants.

Optimism is high for New York in 2021, though, with reinforcements arriving in free agency after the team rallied to win five of their last eight games and finish 6-10.

The expected return of Barkley – who took the league by storm as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 – is part of that feel-good factor, but he is still unsure as to when he will make his comeback.

"I don't know," Barkley said, per SNY and the New York Post, when asked if he would be ready for Week 1 when the Giants play the Denver Broncos on September 12.

Asked if he was trying to keep his status a mystery, he replied: "I've been asked a lot - I guess that's the theme of the summer, going to be when I'll be back.

"But no, I don't have that answer, to be honest. I'm not trying to lead it up to it or something like that or put something up. 

"It's a fun process, but it's a tough process at the same time. Just have to continue to listen to my body, listen to my trainers, listen to the coaches and take it day by day."

Barkley ended on a positive note, adding: "I'm feeling good. I'm doing good, taking it day by day, trying to get one percent better every single day.

"I'm enjoying my time. Obviously, camp is approaching soon, so I'm enjoying time with my family and still trying to get the work in that I can before things ramp up."

In his first two seasons in the league, there were only five running backs who rushed for more yards than Barkley (2,310), while his yards per carry average of 4.83 was ninth during that span.

A huge part of former number two overall pick Barkley's value comes from his receiving ability out of the backfield.

His 143 receptions and 1,159 yards through the air in his first two seasons put him in the top six among running backs for both categories.

Barkley was third behind only Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott with 3,469 scrimmage yards over the two-year period, with quarterback Daniel Jones eager to have him back in the offense for a pivotal year.

The pressure is on for the Giants, who have not won a playoff game since their 2011 Super Bowl success.

Richard Sherman described himself as "very remorseful" after he was charged with five misdemeanours following his arrest on Wednesday.

The Prosecuting Attorney's Office in King County, Washington, on Friday charged Sherman with driving under the influence, reckless endangerment of roadway workers, criminal trespass in the second degree (domestic violence designation), resisting arrest and malicious mischief in the third degree (domestic violence designation).

Sherman, a three-time first-team All-Pro cornerback formerly of the Seattle Seahawks and most recently with the San Francisco 49ers, pled not guilty to all charges.

The reckless endangerment of roadway workers charge was added on Friday after Sherman was released from King County Correctional Facility without bail on Thursday.

Sherman was arrested in Seattle on Wednesday morning. He was said to have attempted to force entry into the home of his wife's parents and there was believed to be a "verbal altercation" between him and the occupants.

The domestic violence components of two of Sherman's charges stem from his familial relationship with the residents.

Having entered his plea, Sherman is due to attend a pre-trial hearing on August 13.

In a statement released on Twitter and Instagram, Sherman wrote: "I am deeply remorseful for my actions on Tuesday night.

"I behaved in a manner I am not proud of. I have been dealing with some personal challenges over the last several months, but that is not an excuse for how I acted.

"The importance of mental and emotional health is extremely real and I vow to get the help I need. I appreciate all of the people who have reached out in support of me and my family, including our community here in Seattle.

"I am grateful to have such an amazing wife, family and support system to lean on during this time."

Tom Brady stunned the NFL and wider sporting world by winning a seventh Super Bowl title at age 43, and he reportedly achieved that feat while battling an injury that would ruin the season for most players.

Brady revealed in May that his offseason knee surgery that was originally reported as a "clean-up" back in February was, in fact, "pretty serious".

And the extent of the problem was fully disclosed on Thursday, with NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reporting Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl glory in his first season with the team through the pain of playing on a completely torn medial collateral ligament (MCL).

The difficulty level of leading a new team to a championship, having previously spent the past 20 years with the New England Patriots and winning six titles, while battling a knee issue of that severity cannot be overstated.

However, after the Bucs lost three of four games to head into the bye week 7-5, Brady made it look remarkably easy, guiding Tampa Bay to eight straight wins, a streak capped off with a 31-9 rout of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, as they captured the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in franchise history.

Brady finished his maiden season with the Buccaneers with 4,633 passing yards (third in the NFL), 40 touchdowns (tied-second) and 12 interceptions. His 41 passing plays of 25 yards or more in the regular season trailed only Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans (42).

Per Stats Perform data, Brady was fourth in air yards per attempt among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes. His average of 9.5 provided a further indication of his renaissance as a deep-ball thrower in Tampa.

He was second in pickable pass percentage, throwing an interceptable ball on just 2.2 per cent of his attempts. Only Alex Smith (2.1 per cent) did a better job in that regard.

The difference after the bye was stark. Brady's yards per game jumped from 275 to 299.3 while his passer rating improved to 112.4 from 95.1. He threw 28 touchdowns to 11 interceptions prior to the bye, but tossed 22 scores and just four picks across his final eight games.

His yards per attempt average leaped from 6.96 to 8.74, as the Bucs offense became more potent following the break.

Indeed, the Bucs averaged 28.7 points per game before the bye but upped that tally to 33.9 over the course of the final four regular-season and four postseason games.

Brady will be 44 when the Bucs start their quest to defend the title against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9. Conventional wisdom suggests the challenge should be tougher for him at an older age.

Yet Brady continues to challenge conventional wisdom and go beyond the limits of what was thought possible for an NFL quarterback. If the knee is healed, there's a chance that, soon to be in his mid-forties, he could be even better in 2021.

The Carolina Panthers have signed tackle Taylor Moton to a four-year, $72million extension.

Moton was franchise tagged by the Panthers back in March, with Carolina set a deadline of 16:00 EST on July 15 to sign him to a long-term deal.

And they achieved that goal on Thursday, inking him to a contract that will net him $43m in guaranteed money.

The standout on a largely underwhelming Panthers offensive line last year, starting right tackle Moton allowed 32 pressures on 412 pass protection snaps.

His pressure rate of 7.8 per cent was the eighth-best among right tackles with 200 or more pass protection snaps in 2020.

Moton was the only franchise player who headed into Thursday without a long-term deal to sign one before the deadline.

He joined Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons in getting new contracts.

Marcus Williams of the New Orleans Saints will play on the franchise tag, along with fellow safety Marcus Maye, whose negotiations with the New York Jets came to nothing.

Wide receiver Chris Godwin is set to cash in next year in free agency after he failed to come to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Cam Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars will play on the tag for the first time, but for Washington Football Team guard Brandon Scherff it is the second year he will have that franchise designation for the entire season.

 

It wouldn't be an NFL offseason without some contract controversies.

Though the two most recent collective bargaining agreements have made it more difficult for players to hold out, several teams are still approaching the start of training camp needing to resolve issues surrounding players unhappy with the terms of their current deal.

Aaron Rodgers' continued self-enforced exile has cast a shadow over the offseason, but his staring contest with the Green Bay Packers is not tied to his level of remuneration.

For four big-name defenders who skipped mandatory minicamp – though Jamal Adams was permitted to do so due to personal reasons – it is indeed about the money.

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore said recently to ESPN: "I just want what I'm worth, however that plays out. Every player should be paid what they're worth. That's just how it is."

But what is the worth of Gilmore and the three other high-profile defensive players? And should the teams in question make the effort to sign them to more lucrative deals?

Stats Perform looked at the advanced metrics surrounding each player to assess the best course of action for their respective franchises.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

Gilmore's demand to be paid what he is worth may strike some as bemusing from a player who carries the highest salary cap hit among cornerbacks ($16.27million) and missed five games in a down year.

However, his wish is more likely related to his base salary rather than his overall cap number. Gilmore is due $7m in base salary in 2021, half of what Byron Jones of the Miami Dolphins, whose $14m base salary is the most among corners, is scheduled to receive next season.

Though 2020 was a disappointing year for Gilmore and the entire Patriots defense, he has a strong case for narrowing that gap to Jones.

While he only managed one interception and three pass breakups, Gilmore still had the edge over Jones in several metrics.

His adjusted open percentage, which measures how frequently an opponent got open against a defender's coverage, adjusted for position, was 24.18 compared to 26.16 for Jones.

 

Though both spent time playing as inside corners, both Gilmore and Jones are primarily outside defenders and there was a contrast between the two when they lined up at that spot in 2020. Gilmore allowed a burn – when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable – on 50 per cent of his targets, compared to 60.4 for Jones.

Gilmore was also superior in terms of burn yards per target (10.08 to Jones' 14.08), while his burn yards per snap average of 1.36 was 12th among corners with at least 200 pass coverage snaps on the outside. Jones struggled by comparison, allowing 1.92 burn yards per snap.

The Patriots used a lot of their salary cap space on a free-agency splurge they hope will get them back in contention. However, given Gilmore's past level of performance – since signing with New England in 2017, he has racked up 52 pass breakups, tied for sixth-most in the NFL, and 11 interceptions – they might well be wise to find a way to negotiate a contract with an increased base salary for a player whose unadjusted open percentage of 46.6 was fourth among outside corners in his last full season in 2019.

Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins

Like Gilmore, Howard may also be comparing his contract to that of Dolphins team-mate Jones, whom Miami made the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL with a five-year $82.5m deal in March 2020.

Howard still has four years left on a deal paying him over $15m a year, but the All-Pro will have his eyes on a contract closer to Jones' average annual value of $16.5m.

Such compensation would unquestionably be deserved given Howard led the league in interceptions for the second time in three seasons in 2020 by picking off 10 passes.

His adjusted open percentage of 25.19 was almost a full percentage point better than that of Jones, and he had a significant edge in burn yards per target, though Howard was not exactly impressive in that category, giving up an average of 11.12 while playing on the outside.

 

Yet that number is likely more reflective of how often the Dolphins left Howard in single coverage. Indeed, Howard's average depth of target of 14.5 yards speaks to the frequency with which he was given the task of staying in tight coverage with a receiver downfield.

The Dolphins aren't flush with cap room – Miami sit just over $5.5m under the 2021 cap – but, in a year where the team will be expected to make a year-three leap under head coach Brian Flores, identifying a method by which to keep Howard happy is the smart move.

With a league-leading 18 interceptions in the past three seasons, Howard is a playmaker the Dolphins need on the field and motivated if they are to challenge in the AFC.

Jamal Adams, S, Seattle Seahawks

Having long since angled for a lucrative extension even before his blockbuster trade to the Seahawks last offseason, Adams is finally in line for his payday at some point this year.

Still playing on his rookie contract and due to earn close to $10m in 2021, Adams will have designs on becoming one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL.

Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos is the safety with the top contract, his average annual salary coming in at over $15m, but a better comparison for Adams may be division rival Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals ($14.75m).

Baker and Adams each spend a significant amount of time in the box and down near the line of scrimmage and the latter's reprsentatives will base much of their argument in negotiations around him leading the Seahawks in sacks with 9.5 last year.

 

Yet they may struggle to make a compelling case when the discussion turns to his skills in pass coverage.

Adams finished the 2020 season with an adjusted open percentage of 24.94, comfortably below that of Baker, who set the fourth-best mark among all NFL defenders with 16.38 per cent.

Such a disparity would on the surface appear to make it tough to justify Seattle giving Adams a deal akin to that of Baker.

Yet after surrendering two first-round picks to prise Adams from the Jets, the Seahawks have locked themselves into a situation where they have no choice but to pay him. Though he has proven himself a playmaker near the line of scrimmage, his performance in coverage should lead Seattle to try to ink Adams to a deal with eye-catching headline numbers but a team-friendly structure.

Chandler Jones, EDGE, Arizona Cardinals

Due to earn $15.5m in base salary and carry a $20.8m cap hit in the final year of his contract in 2021, Jones' desire to receive the compensation he believes he is due before his deal expires is likely motivated by the Cardinals' decision to sign J.J. Watt to a two-year, $28m deal this offseason.

Watt remains an ominous presence on the defensive line, but – now 32, with a checkered injury history, and having posted nine sacks in 24 games over the past two seasons – his signing is a gamble by the Cardinals, and Jones may be wondering why they did not instead invest in keeping him around.

Jones has been the picture of consistency for the Cardinals, posting double-digit sacks in each of his first four seasons with Arizona before a torn bicep cut his 2020 campaign short after five ineffective games.

The Cardinals' reticence to pay the 31-year-old now is understandable given that recent injury, but Jones will feel he has already proven himself dependable heading into 2021 and is more deserving of a new deal than several of his fellow edge rushers who have already received paydays this offseason.

 

In his last full season in 2019, only one edge rusher, Cameron Jordan (70), had more pressures where he beat a pass protector than the 69 Jones produced.

Watt had 51 such pressures in 2020, Shaquil Barrett received a $17m-a-year contract from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after producing 53, while Leonard Floyd was paid $16m a year by the Los Angeles Rams after beating a man on 39 pressures.

Those deals complicate matters for the Cardinals, who might have to choose between paying a player they may not trust to stay healthy and potentially shipping out the most productive pass rusher in their recent history.

The obvious solution is a new deal laden with playing-time incentives that reward Jones for staying healthy. If that cannot be done, then the Cardinals could possibly soften the blow of losing him by getting a clutch of 2022 draft picks to help them restock their defense in return via trade.

All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman was arrested on Wednesday on a charge of burglary domestic violence.

Sherman, who played his third season with the San Francisco 49ers last term, was booked into King County Correctional Facility in Seattle at 06:08 (local time).

A three-time first-team All-Pro and a Super Bowl XLVIII champion with the Seattle Seahawks, Sherman, 33, is a vice-president of the NFL Players Association's (NFLPA) executive committee.

"We were made aware of an arrest last night of one of our player leaders for an alleged domestic violence incident and have activated our domestic violence crisis protocol for the protection and support of everyone involved," an NFLPA statement read.

"We will continue to monitor events closely as more facts are made available to us."

According to public records, Sherman was denied bail, though ESPN reported that is normal practice for domestic violence suspects until they can go before a judge.

An emergency call from a residence was taken around 02:00, per a Redmond (Washington) Police Department spokesperson who spoke to ESPN, with the caller alleging a male family member who was not a resident was attempting to break into the property.

The suspect was alleged to have fought with police outside the home before he was apprehended and transported to hospital. No residents were injured.

ESPN's Adam Schefter also reported that Washington State Police are investigating Sherman in connection to a hit and run and damage to Department of Transportation property following a single-car incident in which a vehicle struck a concrete barrier.

Sherman signed with the 49ers as a free agent in 2018 after seven seasons with Seattle. He helped San Francisco to Super Bowl LIV at the end of the 2019 season, but suffered a heartbreaking defeat as the Kansas City Chiefs prevailed 31-20.

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