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Sports Corner

By: Rob Bishop

Back again, and in a logical but somewhat unexpected move, the Cincinnati Bengals released quarterback Andy Dalton. Following Cincinnati’s move to draft Joe Burrow in last week’s draft, Dalton was granted his release, a move that saves the Bengals close to $18 million. No teams are still in the market for a starting quarterback, but Dalton will likely latch on somewhere as a high-end back-up. The Patriots are an obvious match, though a reunion with former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in Jacksonville seems to be the most likely outcome.

As Dalton likely hits the market looking for a back-up gig, Jameis Winston shockingly had to settle for one with the New Orleans Saints. Coming off a season in which he led the NFL in passing yards, Winston will now serve as back-up to Drew Brees, having agreed to a one-year deal. Now 26 years old, Winston will look to learn from Brees to develop better decision making while also learning to avoid turnover-worthy plays. He’ll be learning from one of the greatest of all-time, and Winston will be looking to cash in next off-season.

In an obvious move, the Kansas City Chiefs exercised quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ fifth-year option. Arguably the game’s top talent, Mahomes is unlikely to play out his current deal. Instead, the Chiefs are likely going to pick up the pace on an extension to keep Mahomes in Kansas City for the foreseeable future. An absolute force at quarterback, Mahomes is coming off a Super Bowl-winning season, and there is no reason to expect a slow down from the 24-year old superstar.

Receiver Mike Williams also had his fifth-year option exercised, keeping the play-maker with the Chargers through 2021. Williams posted a career-best 1,001 yards in 2019, proving to be among the best in football at reeling in contested catches. It will be interesting to see Williams’s role in 2020 with Tyrod Taylor assuming the starting quarterback job for the Chargers, with Williams more of an ideal fit for an offense looking to stretch the field. Long-term, Williams makes for a perfect complement to L.A.’s first-round selection, big-armed quarterback Justin Herbert.  

Chicago restructured the contract of veteran quarterback Nick Foles, re-working his deal into a three-year agreement worth $24 million. The move to acquire Foles via trade earlier this off-season is a clear sign the franchise has soured on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, as is Chicago’s move to forgo picking up Trubisky’s fifth-year option. Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, is heading into a wide-open competition for the starting job in Chicago for 2020 while also needing to prove he’s worthy of a second contract.

During last week’s NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers entered with a clear-cut strategy: improve on defense. In the first round, the Panthers added interior defensive lineman Derrick Brown, a bold move considering hybrid linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons remained on the board. Brown is a safe pick, though he lacks the upside of some of the other options available when the Panther selected at 7. Carolina addressed its pass rush at selection 38, nabbing Yetur Gross-Matos. Unlike Brown, Gross-Matos is a multi-year project, and his scheme fit with last year’s first-round pick, edge rusher Brian Burns, is questionable.

With their next three picks, the Panthers found great value in landing versatile safety Jeremy Chinn. Chinn is capable of playing safety, nickel corner, and linebacker. Cornerback Troy Pride Jr. was a value at selection 113, and he could step in as an immediate starter for the Panthers. At selection 152, the Panthers added former WVU safety Kenny Robinson, who spent the past season playing in the XFL. Like Chinn, Robinson may be labeled as a safety, but he will occupy a position-less spot in the defense. Defensive tackle Bravvion Roy was added in the sixth round, and he’s NFL-ready to contribute as a run stopper.

Though the team’s first two picks weren’t personal favorites, Carolina deserves credit for entering the draft with a strategy and sticking to it. Brown, Chinn, and Robinson will be Week 1 starters while Pride Jr. fills a need at cornerback, Roy can make an immediate impact as a run-stopper, and Gross-Matos offers long-term upside as a pass rusher. Carolina’s defense underwent an unprecedented makeover in the NFL Draft.