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Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to shop pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who was hit with the franchise tag earlier in the off-season. The NFL Draft is less than a month away, and the Jaguars appear poised to hold out hope of a franchise growing desperate. Rumors purport that Jacksonville is looking for a first-round pick and more in exchange for Ngakoue, and to date no team has appeased the demand. Frankly, it’s a lofty aspiration to net a first-round pick for Ngakoue, let alone extra any swap. Odds are strong Jacksonville will have to lessen its demands for a deal to be done.

Last off-season, the Houston Texans sent a massive package to the Dolphins to acquire left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The 25-year old lineman rewarded Houston with a star-level season, emerging as a franchise cornerstone. Now, Tunsil is looking to be paid for his production, and is seeking a contract that would make him the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. Though he is far from the best at his position in the league, he’s talented and young enough to justify a huge payday. Unlike Jacksonville’s hopes to land a blockbuster in return for Ngakoue, Tunsil is a safe bet to soon reset the market for offensive tackles.

As Tunsil awaits a massive new contract, another of football’s better tackles sits on the market. Of course, veteran Jason Peters represents a different situation than Tunsil, given Peters is 38 years old with a lengthy injury dossier. That said, Peters remains a highly-effective pass blocker who would represent an upgrade for countless teams that are desperate for help along the offensive line. Cleveland is an obvious landing spot given the franchise’s win-now mindset and the team’s signing of right tackle Jack Conklin earlier in the off-season. The Chargers should also be looking at adding Peters. L.A. has loaded roster with a massive hole at left tackle.

While quarterback Joe Burrow is undoubtedly going to be drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the first overall pick in this month’s draft, the fate of the next signal-caller off the board remains up in the air. Tua Tagovailoa will likely be the next quarterback selected, but it remains a mystery whether it will be as the second overall pick, or if his injury history will send him elsewhere. By all accounts, Tagovailoa’s recovery from a devastating hip injury has gone according to plan, but the inability of franchises to conduct in-person health visits could scare away potential suitors. Tagovailoa’s fate will be the storyline to follow heading into the draft, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see teams enter into a bidding war to move up in the draft for the opportunity to take a chance on him.

In an outright surprising development, former Pro Bowl edge defender Aldon Smith signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Smith, only 30 years old, has been out of the NFL since 2015 due to off-field issues including multiple arrests. There was a time when Smith was among the most disruptive pass rushers in the NFL, though it remains to be seen what he has left in the tank. Given his extensive time away from the field, Smith is a long shot to be a contributor to Dallas’s defense next season, but with the Cowboys working with next-to-nothing in the way of cap space, this is a low-risk move.

Safety Damarious Randall signed a one-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, continuing the franchise’s solid off-season. A former first round pick, Randall has proven capable of playing pretty much anywhere in the secondary, though he is best suited as a safety. His market was tepid because he’s coming off a down year with the Browns, but there aren’t too many players coming off good years with the Browns. The Raiders have been making small-scale moves that could have big impacts during the 2020 season, though it remains an uphill climb for the franchise to contend with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.