Ryan Fitzpatrick has retired, former Buffalo Bills team-mate Fred Jackson revealed on Thursday.

The 39-year-old quarterback played on nine teams in 17 seasons, although his 2021 campaign was ended by a Week 1 hip injury that ruled him out for the year.

Fitzpatrick had only signed a one-year deal with the Washington Commanders – then the Washington Football Team – and he will not return.

Jackson, a team-mate in Buffalo for four seasons, shared a text from Fitzpatrick, who said: "Forever grateful for the magical ride."

That message was posted on Twitter, with Jackson adding: "Congrats on a helluva career, Fitzy!! Loved sharing the field with you!! The gratitude is all mine!!"

Fitzpatrick finishes with 34,990 passing yards, ranking 32nd all time, although he never appeared in a single playoff game.

Tom Brady admitted he felt some pressure to end his brief retirement from the NFL and return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the time he did due to the start of free agency.

Speaking during a roundtable discussion on TNT on Wednesday, Brady implied he did not want the new league year to begin and the Buccaneers to make free agency decisions based on the assumption that the future Hall of Fame quarterback was retired and not coming back.

Brady's retirement lasted 40 days before he announced he would return on March 13 – three days before the start of free agency.

"At this stage, it's like 55 per cent yes and 45 per cent no. It's not 100-0. That's just the reality," Brady said. "It's not that I'm not 100 per cent committed, it's just as soon as I make the commitment to do it, it's like 'Ugh. All right, here we go.'

"It's like running a marathon. You can't decide two weeks before the marathon, 'Hey, I'm going to start running.' We got right to free agency and I felt some pressure to do it and talked to the team and organisation and it all worked out."

In speaking publicly for the first time since ending his retirement, Brady was asked if he had been ready to retire.

"Partly, you know, yes," the seven-time Super Bowl champion said. "And I think when you're their (Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen's) age, if you were to ask me 'Are you going to play football next year?' I would say there's a 100 per cent chance I'm playing. And I think as I've gotten older, that's changed because I have other responsibilities."

Brady is returning for his third season with Tampa Bay and 23rd in pro football after leading the league with a career-high 5,316 passing yards in 2021, while also ranking first in passing touchdowns with 43.

The soon-to-be 45-year-old led the Buccaneers to a 13-4 regular-season record and NFC South crown last year, but their season ended with a 27-20 loss to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Denver Broncos will make no excuses in 2022, says Tim Patrick, because it is "Super Bowl or bust" for a new-look team.

The Broncos were a miserable 7-10 at the bottom of the AFC West last year but have reshaped their organisation ahead of the new season.

A blockbuster trade for quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks was the standout piece of business, but the Broncos also have a new coach in Nathaniel Hackett and a new offensive coordinator in Justin Outten.

While still playing in a highly competitive division, Denver's outlook has now changed completely.

And fifth-year wide receiver Patrick, who will hope to benefit from Wilson's arrival, has outlined the team's need for a fast start.

"We have to do things on our own, so we can get it," he said, "because we don't want to be one of those teams to make excuses – new coach, new quarterback, new offense – and we don't get going until the end of the year.

"We want to come out the gate firing on all cylinders, because it's Super Bowl or bust this year."

Those standards have already been raised by Wilson, who won a Super Bowl in Seattle.

"He's a big presence and he carries himself the right way," Patrick added.

"If you see Russ doing it and you're not... if you can't put in extra work, you're not serious about winning and you don't belong on this team."

The Madden 23 cover will feature the late NFL legend that gave his name to the video game following his death last year.

John Madden passed away in December at the age of 85.

He enjoyed a Hall of Fame NFL coaching career with the Oakland Raiders and later became a legend in the realm of broadcasting.

However, for many, he is most synonymous with the Madden video game, to which he lent his name and voice from 1988 onwards. He also had significant input in the creative process.

Madden last featured on the cover in 2000.

For his return to the cover, EA Sports have used the same image that adorned the original 'John Madden Football' game, with a beaming Madden grasping a football in his right hand.

Also adorning the cover is a message that simply reads "thanks, coach", in a touching tribute to a man who left an indelible mark on the sport he loved.

Aaron Donald was ready to retire before experiencing the feeling of winning a Super Bowl, to which he is now "addicted", but that does not mean he will definitely be returning to the Los Angeles Rams.

Prior to Super Bowl LVI, it was suggested Donald could retire if he finally got his hands on a championship ring.

And the three-time Defensive Player of the Year played a vital role in the Rams' 23-20 win.

Donald's 2022 status has therefore been the subject of some speculation, with his victory parade suggestion the Rams could "run it back" not followed by progress in terms of a new contract.

It appears a lucrative deal is now vital to getting Donald to return, although he suggests quitting after his eighth season – the 2021 campaign – was always a possibility, regardless of the result of the title game.

"It ain't about the money, but it is a business at the end of the day," Donald told Brandon Marshall on his I Am Athlete podcast. "That's what you've got to see.

"For me, it's about winning. I don't want to play football if I can't win, anyway, so I feel like if I got a real opportunity to win another Super Bowl, then it makes sense to play.

"But again, it's still a business. We've got to handle the business side of things, and if that wasn't to get handled then, you know, it is what it is type of situation. I'll be fine regardless.

"Me talking about retirement, that was happening way before we won a Super Bowl. I've been saying since I got into the league that I was going to play eight years and be done. That's just what I've been saying.

"It just came out and then everybody thinks that, 'oh, he said if he wins a Super Bowl, he's going to retire'.

"Nah, I've got team-mates, coaches, my family who know about this. I said I'm going to play eight years, and I'm going to probably be done playing football.

"But winning a Super Bowl, you get kind of a little addicted to it. I ain't going to lie. I want to feel that again. That experience is like none other.

"If I was to play, it's just to win another Super Bowl, but at the end of the day, it's still a business and it's got to make sense to me and my family."

Despite skipping voluntary organised team activities, Donald added he "probably" will be back for 2022.

But he said: "I don't need to play football to be fine. I'm fine.

"I was blessed to play this game, to make the money I made. The accomplishments I made in eight years, it's like I'm complete. If I can win another one, that's great. But if not, I'm at peace."

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jeff Gladney has died after being involved in a car accident in the early hours of Monday morning.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office announced that at 2:28am, first-responders attended a scene where two cars collided.

One other person died in the crash. The second victim has not been identified as the incident remains under investigation.

The Cardinals confirmed Gladney's death in a brief statement.

"We are devastated to learn of Jeff Gladney's passing. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and all who are mourning this tremendous loss," the statement read.

Gladney, 25, was a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings after a glittering college career at TCU, where he became close friends with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor.

Responding to the news, Reagor tweeted out: "Lost my brother, my best friend, my right hand man… ain't too much more I can take man damn! R.I.P Jeff Gladney, brother watch over me please."

J.J. Watt was one of several of Gladney's Cardinals teammates to also pay their respects, saying: "Horrifying news to hear this morning. Just tragic. Rest in peace Jeff."

Gladney's former team, the Vikings, also offered their condolences.

"We are saddened by the tragic death of former Viking Jeff Gladney," the franchise said. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends, as well as the Arizona Cardinals organisation and Jeff’s current and former teammates and coaches who are mourning his life lost much too soon."

The Cleveland Browns have reached an agreement with tight end David Njoku on a four-year contract extension.

Cleveland placed the franchise tag on Njoku in March and have now come to terms with a player they hope will be pivotal to their offensive success.

According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the Browns and Njoku have agreed a deal in principle worth $56.75million.

He will receive $28million guaranteed, according to the report, with an average annual salary of $14.18million making him the fifth-highest paid tight end in the league.

The Browns are betting on Njoku's upside, with the 2017 first-round pick yet to live up to expectations since Cleveland took him with the 29th overall selection five years ago.

His best season in terms of receiving yards came back in 2018 when he finished with 56 catches for 639 yards, but Njoku has since struggled with injuries.

He played in only four games in 2019 and 13 in 2020 as the Browns reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Njoku started 11 of his 16 games in 2021 and finished with 475 yards and four touchdowns in a campaign that saw a disappointing Browns team fail to qualify for the postseason, though his average of 13.2 yards per reception ranked fourth among all qualifying tight ends.

Lamar Jackson hit back at criticism of his absence from Baltimore Ravens' OTAs as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

The 2019 NFL MVP has shown no willingness to engage in discussions with the Ravens over a contract extension.

He has insisted he has no desire to part company with Baltimore, but Jackson has not been present as the Ravens have started early on-field preparations for the 2022 campaign with the OTAs – organised team activities.

Jackson was criticised by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, who referenced previous comments from the Ravens star, who previously said he wanted to be the Tom Brady of his era.

Simms said on PFT Live: "Brady wouldn't be missing OTAs in year four of his career. ... Brady didn't miss an OTA until he had played in four Super Bowls."

Responding to those comments quoting a tweet featuring a clip of Simms' remarks, Jackson wrote: "Lamar wants to be Lamar Chris.

"This part of OTAs is voluntary my guy I will be there, just not on your watch. It's probably other QBs not attending voluntary OTAs either but since it's Lamar it's a huge deal. Find something else to talk about."

Simms responded, saying: "That’s all good my man. You be you. I am rooting for you. Yes I would like to see you at OTAs. But you got to do what’s best for you. Not singling you out.

"We have discussed all QBs who have not attended OTAs. You are Lamar freaking Jackson!! Of course we r gonna talk bout you."

Jackson won the MVP award in his second season after throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also ran for 1,206 yards and seven scores.

However, the Ravens suffered a shock Divisional Round loss to the Tennessee Titans to end that season, and were eliminated at the same stage of the 2020 campaign by the Buffalo Bills.

Jackson endured an injury-hindered 2021 season, throwing 16 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and adding a career-low two touchdowns on the ground as the Ravens missed the playoffs with an 8-9 record.

No player in the NFL has a higher yards-per-carry average over the course of the last three seasons than Jackson's 6.36.

Harry Kane has revealed he took much of his early inspiration and self-belief from watching NFL star Tom Brady, who hinted at his retirement U-turn to the Tottenham forward.

Kane came through Tottenham's youth academy and was promoted to the first team in 2009, before being sent out on various loans to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Leicester City and Norwich City.

The striker struggled throughout those loan spells, scoring just 11 goals across four seasons, but started to find his feet when Mauricio Pochettino took charge of Spurs in 2014.

Kane has since managed 183 goals in 279 appearances for Tottenham, winning the Premier League Golden Boot award three times, and acknowledged the role Brady played in helping him realise his ambitions.

The England international has also been celebrated in the Museum of London, with a free display aimed at inspiring the younger generations to pursue their dreams.

"I was good when I was younger, but I don't think I was the best player on the team. I really had to work hard to prove people wrong," Kane told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show in the United States.

"I think that's what made me who I am today and got me to the level I got to. That kind of self-belief, that drive, that determination. 

"That's why the museum is there, so kids can go and look and see my journey and hopefully one day they will be inspired to be where I am.

"One thing that inspired me growing up was a Tom Brady documentary. I was away at another club on loan and I wasn't getting in the team and I was 18 years old and I was like: 'If I can't play here, how can I play for my team Tottenham?'

"Then I came across the documentary on YouTube called The Brady Six and it was about how he got picked in the sixth round and how he became one of the greatest sportsmen ever. It just gave me a real belief that it was possible for me to go on and have that career."

It appeared as though the 2021 season would be Brady's last when he announced his retirement after seven Super Bowl wins.

But the quarterback backtracked on that decision, returning to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he has one year remaining on his contract.

Kane suggested he already knew the 44-year-old was going to change his mind when the pair met after a clash between Spurs and Manchester United in March.

"He came to one of our games in the UK about two months ago, it was actually the day before he announced he was coming back to play," Kane said.

"And I asked him: 'How you getting on? How's retirement treating you?' And his face was just like: 'Mmmmm, I'm not sure if I'm ready yet.' The next day he announced it."

Josh McDaniels attempted to duck questions about Colin Kaepernick following reports the exiled quarterback's workout with the Las Vegas Raiders went well.

Kaepernick has been working out with the Raiders this week with a view to coming in as Derek Carr's understudy.

The former San Francisco 49ers QB has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, having knelt during the national anthem throughout that campaign in a protest against police brutality and racial injustice.

Since leaving the 49ers, Kaepernick had not had a single workout with an NFL team – until now.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Kaepernick's workout was "largely considered a positive", having impressed the Raiders with his arm strength and conditioning, while NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said it "went well and he impressed".

The possibility of the Raiders signing Kaepernick was unsurprisingly the subject of much discussion with head coach McDaniels then, but the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator sought not to give a great deal away.

"We will only talk about the people that are on our team," he said on Thursday.

"Dave [Ziegler, general manager] and his staff have worked out tons of guys this spring. We really don't make comments about the evaluations that we made or what they looked like, what they didn't look like, strengths and weaknesses, those kinds of thing.

"They are obviously kind of private for us as we look at things to try to make decisions to make the team better. If players are added to the team, then obviously we'll talk about them at that point.

"I respect the question 100 per cent; I understand, but that's kind of what we'll stick to."

However, McDaniels did concede the team were "encouraging the competition" at QB, and he explained they were open to any avenue that could improve the roster.

"If there's an opportunity to improve the team, we said it from day one that we would look at every opportunity," the coach added.

"[Kaepernick] is not the first player that we've looked at and not the last one. There are going to be a lot of people who are going to come in and out of this building and have an opportunity to make an impression."

The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Omar Khan as their new general manager.

Khan, who was most recently Pittsburgh's vice president of football and business administration, has worked for the Steelers for 21 years.

He replaces long-time GM Kevin Colbert, who in January announced his decision to step down after the 2022 NFL Draft.

"I am extremely excited for this opportunity to be the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Khan.

"I would like to thank Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, and Kevin Colbert for their support throughout this process.

"I am ready for this challenge and grateful to continue the success we have had on the field during my first 21 years.

"I look forward to completing our football operations staff and working tirelessly to build another championship football team for Steelers Nation and our community."

 

Colin Kaepernick will work out for the Las Vegas Raiders this week.

According to multiple reports, the Raiders will cast their eye over Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season.

Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem throughout that campaign with the San Francisco 49ers in a protest against police brutality and racial injustice.

Since the end of his time with the 49ers, Kaepernick has not had a single workout with an NFL team.

That will now change, with Kaepernick getting the chance to impress the Raiders, who have Jarrett Stidham and Nick Mullens on their roster as backup quarterbacks to Derek Carr.

Kaepernick was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft by the 49ers. He took them to Super Bowl XLVII after taking over the starting job during the 2012 season, the 49ers losing 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC Championship Game in the 2013 campaign.

The 2016 campaign saw a poor Niners team go 2-14 with Kaepernick at quarterback, however, with 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions in 12 games, he was tied for the sixth-best TD-INT ratio in the NFL.

Speaking on the 'I Am Athlete' podcast recently, Kaepernick rejected concerns a general manager may have over him being a locker room distraction and having a negative impact on the business side.

"That 2016 season, my last year, my team-mates voted me most courageous and inspirational player," Kaepernick said.

"So, when you're talking about the people that are in the building, that has never come out that I've been a distraction. That's never come out that I've been an issue for the people I've played with.

"You have 'End Racism' in the back of your end zone. You have 'Black Lives Matter' on your helmet. Everything I've said should be in alignment with what you're [the NFL] saying publicly.

"It's a $16billion business. When I first took a knee, my jersey went to No. 1. When I did the deal with Nike, their value increased by six billion dollars. Six billion. With a B.

"So if you're talking about the business side, it shows [it's] beneficial. If you're talking about the playing side, come in, let me compete. You can evaluate me from there.

"The NFL's supposed to be a meritocracy. Come in, let me compete. If I'm not good enough, get rid of me. But let me come in and show you."

The start of the 2022 NFL season is still over three months away.

However, rarely is it considered too early to make predictions about what is to come in the upcoming campaign.

And, with the draft in the books, teams having made the vast majority of their offseason moves and the scheduled, we now have all the information we need to make such prognostications.

So after an extremely dramatic offseason defined by blockbuster trades, which teams are in the mix to excel in 2022 and which should already have half an eye on the 2023 draft?

To answer those questions, Stats Perform has produced projected totals for every team for the forthcoming season.

The projection projects every future game to give a predicted win percentage for each team across their games.

Rather than being a simulator of future games, the projections are calculated by looking at each team’s quarterback and QB Efficiency versus Expected – performance in terms of yards added in expected passing situations – as well as team values for pass protection/pass rush, skill position players/coverage defenders and run blocking/run defense.

There are several standout takeaways from this season's projection, with a new power potentially emerging in the NFC and one of last year's Super Bowl teams seemingly set for regression.

Eagles to join NFC elite?

The Eagles suffered a meek exit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round of last season’s playoffs.

Their win projection following an impressive 2022 offseason suggests replicating that this year would mark a gross underperformance. Indeed, Philadelphia's projected total of 12.0 is the second best in the NFC, trailing only defending champion Los Angeles Rams (12.2).

The Eagles' position is built on their strength in the trenches. Philadelphia finished the 2021 season ranked fifth in pass-block win rate and second in run-block win rate.

On the defensive side, the Eagles were eighth in pass-rush win rate and 11th in run disruption rate and made moves to boost both areas, signing Haason Reddick to a one-year deal after a second successive double-digit sack season in 2021 and drafting defensive tackle Jordan Davis – the star of the NFL Combine renowned for his ability to soak up double teams and excel against the run – in the first round.

Philadelphia also improved the back seven through both the draft and free agency, taking advantage of the slide of Davis' former Georgia teammate Nakobe Dean to boost a linebacker group seen as a weakness. Dean had six sacks, six pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2021.

And last week, the Eagles signed cornerback James Bradberry to a one-year deal. With Bradberry and Darius Slay, the Eagles now have the only two players to register at least 15 interceptions and 80 or more pass breakups since 2016 in a secondary that finished 11th in open-allowed percentage last season.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts' 10 rushing touchdowns were tied for the sixth most in the NFL last season. However, the pressure on him to improve as a passer will be immense following the Eagles' acquisition of A.J. Brown in a trade with the Tennessee Titans. Brown (32.8%) and the Eagles' 2021 first-round pick DeVonta Smith (35.0%) were both in the top 12 in big-play rate last year.

Brown registered a burn (when the receiver wins his matchup with a defender when targeted by his quarterback) 64.0 per cent of the time (league average was 59.5%) and he tied for the league lead with 4.0 burn yards per route.

Hurts had a 77.1 well-thrown percentage in 2021, which was below the NFL average of 77.9. An improvement will be needed for the Eagles to realise their potential. If that does not happen given the wealth of talent around him, then they may use their extra first-round pick in 2023 to help them find a quarterback better equipped to help them do so.

Can the Vikes Challenge the Pack?

The Vikings have not come close to challenging the Packers in the NFC North in recent times, missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

But the projection indicates that could change.

Bidding to stay competitive while undergoing a sea change in the front office and at head coach with Kwesi Adofo-Mensah taking over as general manager and Kevin O’Connell replacing Mike Zimmer on the sideline, the Vikings have a win projection within striking distance of the Pack.

There are several reasons for the gap between the two being so marginal. Aaron Rodgers was second in QB EVE last season, but Kirk Cousins was not too far behind in seventh for the Vikings.

Cousins also has the advantage of throwing to a receiving group that won a collective 35.3 per cent of its coverage matchups in 2021. The Vikings were fourth in the NFL in that regard. The Packers were third but have since traded Davante Adams, whose combined open percentage against man and zone coverage of 46.6 per cent was fifth among receivers with at least 100 matchups.

Thanks in part to an impressive 2021 season from Rashan Gary, the Packers were fourth in pass-rush win rate, but the Vikings were 10th and will hope to get Danielle Hunter healthy this year to aid their cause. And while Minnesota struggled on the offensive side of the trenches last season, their pass-block win rate standing of 26th was still only three spots below that of a Packers line that still has issues on the right side.

The Packers remain the better football team in most areas, but the loss of Adams has levelled the playing field somewhat for Cousins, whose efficiency numbers reflect his ability to produce on a similar level to Rodgers in the passing game.

Further narrowing the gap is the difference in schedules. The Packers face the 15th-toughest slate, but only eight teams have it easier than Minnesota on paper. The game is not played on paper, yet the numbers and the apparent quality of respective opponents point to the Packers looking over their shoulder in the division with more concern in 2022.

The Trey Lance question

It's difficult to make a judgment on how Trey Lance will perform as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback after just two starts as a rookie last year.

Lance produced some encouraging flashes when he did play, blending aggressiveness with accuracy. But the volatility in range of outcomes for a player of his inexperience is higher than that of the man he will likely replace as the starter – Jimmy Garoppolo.

With the projection assuming Lance plays 75 per cent of the snaps and Garoppolo 25, the Niners – who went 10-7 last year before surging to the NFC championship game – are projected to win 8.4 games. That puts them second in the NFC West behind the Rams, with the Cardinals in third with 8.1 in part due to DeAndre Hopkins' six-game suspension.

The takeaway from this is clear. The Niners, who were first in pass-rush win rate, eighth in run disruption rate, 10th in pass-block win rate, sixth in run-block win rate and 10th in collective open percentage among their pass catchers last season, have the support system to elevate Lance and ensure he keeps them in the mix.

But playing the eighth-toughest schedule in the NFL, it's impossible to predict how a move from a player in Garoppolo, who was 10th in QB EVE in 2021, to a high-upside relative unknown will go.

That's why one of the better rosters in the NFL finds itself closer to the middle of the pack. If Lance is who the Niners hope he is, they will quickly be back among the league's upper echelon. 

The Deshaun Watson question

While the Browns' trade for Deshaun Watson was the most controversial move of the offseason, there is no doubt his arrival in Cleveland has the potential to catapult them to the top of the AFC.

The projection certainly expects his acquisition to have that impact, with the Browns predicted to win 10.8 games. That’s behind only the Kansas City Chiefs (11.2) and Buffalo Bills (10.9) in the AFC.

Cleveland's schedule, which is the second-easiest in the NFL, plays a substantial role in the projection, which accounts for potential league discipline against Watson.

The Browns' predicted win total is also illustrative of the gap between Watson and the man he will displace as the starting quarterback – Baker Mayfield. Watson was seventh in QB EVE in 2020, whereas only eight quarterbacks with at least 100 pass plays in expected passing situations had a worse EVE than Mayfield last year.

Possessing a defensive line that was ranked in the top five in pass-rush win rate last year and an offensive line that was in the top 10 in run-block win rate along with two premier backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns have the personnel in place to dictate games in the trenches. After landing Watson, they now boast a quarterback who can help them properly capitalise on their advantage in those areas.

A Browns ascension could come at the expense of the AFC's representative in the Super Bowl last season – the Cincinnati Bengals. With a prediction of 8.1 wins, the projection does not anticipate the Bengals competing for the Lombardi Trophy in 2022. Instead, it expects a drastic bump back down to earth.

So, with the Bengals playing the 21st-toughest schedule in the NFL, why is their projection so low? Though the Bengals have made moves to improve an offensive line that was 25th in pass-block win rate last year (acquiring Alex Cappa and La'El Collins), their roster is not in a position to survive a Joe Burrow injury.

And with the Bengals' pass catchers 23rd in open percentage in 2021 and their defensive front 29th in pass-rush win rate, Cincinnati's projection serves as a clear indicator that the magic of last year’s playoff run may be very difficult to replicate.

While the Bengals' win total is closely tied to an over-reliance on Burrow, the Miami Dolphins' projected number is a product of a lack of faith in the man he beat to the honour of the number one pick in 2020.

Betting on Tua

The Dolphins had a busy offseason making aggressive moves to help set Tua Tagovailoa up for success under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. However, those big swings will not be enough for Miami to make the leap, at least according to the projection.

A prediction of 7.8 wins and a third-place finish in the AFC East would represent a huge disappointment and likely push a franchise that has two first-round picks in 2023 to move on from Tagovailoa. Tua was 24th in QB EVE last season and, among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts, he averaged the seventh-fewest air yards in the NFL (7.35).

While the Dolphins may look to use Tyreek Hill to stretch the field horizontally following his arrival in a blockbuster trade with the Chiefs, at this point it's tough to envision Tagovailoa making the most of having one of the best downfield weapons in the league at his disposal.

The Dolphins do not look likely to challenge Buffalo in the AFC East, but it may be a familiar tale for the Bills in which they play second fiddle to the Chiefs. Though Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes went blow for blow in one of the finest playoff games in NFL history last season, there was a decent gap between the two in 2021 EVE with Mahomes third and Allen 11th.

The Chiefs may have lost Hill this offseason, but – to make an obvious statement – as long as they have Mahomes under center, they will remain near the top of the conference.

Playing behind an offensive line that was masterfully reconstructed in 2021 and ended the year third in pass-block win rate and first in run-block win rate, Mahomes still has the ecosystem around him to make the most of his remarkable gifts.

The one thing that could hold him back is the strength of the division in which he plays.

A tale of two divisions

The Chiefs have seen the rest of the AFC West load up in an effort to end their reign in the division.

Yet none of the high-profile moves made this offseason – Russell Wilson's switch from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos, the Las Vegas Raiders trading for Davante Adams and the Los Angeles Chargers acquiring Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson – will tilt the balance of power away from Kansas City, according to our model.

But the AFC West looks set to take the title of the best division in football with all four teams projected to win over nine games.

That is in marked contrast to the AFC South, where the Indianapolis Colts (8.6) have the highest total in the division.

The Titans, meanwhile, are predicted to slump out of contention after earning the number one seed in the conference last season. The Titans have the seventh-toughest schedule in the NFL and are projected to win only 7.5 games after winning at least nine in each of their four seasons under Mike Vrabel.

Despite traditionally remaining competitive under Vrabel, there are several red flags for Tennessee. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 17th in EVE last year playing behind an offensive line that was 28th in pass-block win rate. 

Tennessee's pass catchers ranked 18th in collective open percentage and on draft day traded Brown, who was third in combined open percentage (48.96) against man and zone coverage among receivers with at least 100 matchups in 2021. In other words, the deck is stacked against Tannehill preventing a poor division from being handed to the Colts.

If their season goes as the projection expects, the Titans may start focusing on 2023 and building a contender around Malik Willis.

And in the NFC South, it's probably not surprising that our model expects the Buccaneers to stay on top with Tom Brady back for another season.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson says he hopes having more weight will improve his performances after piling on the pounds following a disappointing rookie season in the NFL.

The 22-year-old was selected second overall in the 2021 NFL Draft but did not have the desired impact during his first season out of college.

Wilson threw for 2,334 yards, just nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with a dismal pass completion rate of 55.6 per cent.

He also struggled physically over a punishing first year, sacked 44 times in 13 games as no QB in the NFL lost more sack yards (370, tied with Joe Burrow).

But the ex-BYU man has added 13 pounds over the offseason, returning to the Jets as "a better athlete", he says.

"I feel better for sure," Wilson added. "The energy, the ability to have that stamina throughout the whole practice is better.

"In the long run, once we get into a game when we actually get hit and tackled, having more size on me will help."

Having gone 3-10 as a starter last year, Wilson hopes for a stronger second season.

The Jets have bolstered their offensive ranks, adding tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin and drafting wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall.

"I feel like the entire staff, from the GM to ownership on down, those guys have done a great done of getting the pieces we need," Wilson said.

"I think it comes back to my job. Now I have to do my job of getting these playmakers the ball.

"How can I get these big tight ends, these really good receivers and these running backs the ball in space and do what we brought them here to do?

"We're definitely going to be better. I don't think we'll be able to tell until the first game, but the improvement is there.

"We have the talent, we have the guys. Now can we tie it all together and put something together?"

Kyle Shanahan still expects the San Francisco 49ers to be able to trade Jimmy Garoppolo but acknowledges "that's not a guarantee".

Garoppolo's departure from the Bay Area was widely expected following the 2021 season, creating space for last year's third overall pick Trey Lance to flourish.

Lance was restricted to only two starts in his rookie season as Garoppolo remained the 49ers' first-choice quarterback.

But having given up three first-round picks to move up and take Lance, the 49ers are ready to make him their main man.

That would mean moving on Garoppolo, yet shoulder surgery in March halted any trade discussions – and Shanahan says talks have not since advanced.

There remains hope the 49ers can do a deal that satisfies all parties, but they are having to bide their time.

"Nothing's changed since that surgery," coach Shanahan said. "Where we were at before that, and then he got the surgery, so everything went on hold.

"I expect him at some time, most likely, to be traded, but who knows? That's not a guarantee.

"It's been exactly on hold when that happened. When he's healthy, we'll see what happens."

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