REPORT: RB JOSH JACOBS HOPS FLIGHT OUT OF LAS VEGAS
NFL rushing champ Josh Jacobs boarded a flight out of Las Vegas on Monday and has no plans to return anytime soon, NFL Network reported.
Jacobs and the Raiders failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract by last week’s deadline for franchise-tagged players, and he has not signed his $10.1 million franchise tender.
Because he is not under contract, Jacobs will not be subject to any fines for not reporting when the Raiders open training camp this week.
The Raiders did not pick up the fifth-year option on Jacobs’ rookie contract a year ago. He responded by putting up 1,653 rushing yards on 340 touches (4.9 yards per attempt) and 12 touchdowns while starting all 17 games. He added 400 receiving yards to lead the league with 2,053 total yards from scrimmage.
He was a first-team All-Pro and received his second Pro Bowl nod.
In 60 games (59 starts) since the Raiders selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Alabama, Jacobs has rushed for 4,740 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Without Jacobs, the Las Vegas ball-carriers include journeymen Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden.
NFL SUSPENDS BRONCOS DL EYIOMA UWAZURIKE FOR BETTING ON GAMES
Denver Broncos defensive lineman Eyioma Uwazurike has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL for betting on league games in his rookie season of 2022.
Uwazurike, 25, will be out at least one year and can petition for reinstatement no sooner than July 24, 2024, the league announced in a statement Monday.
“We were informed by the NFL (Monday) that Eyioma Uwazurike has been suspended by the league indefinitely for violating its gambling policy,” the Broncos said in a statement released with the NFL’s announcement. “Our organization fully cooperated with this investigation and takes matters pertaining to the integrity of the game very seriously.
“The Denver Broncos will continue to provide all members of our organization with the necessary education, resources and support to ensure compliance with the NFL’s Gambling Policy.”
The Broncos selected the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Uwazurike in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Iowa State. He played in eight games (no starts) last year and made 11 solo tackles, assisted on six and recorded two quarterback hits.
Uwazurike is the latest player confirmed by the league to have violated the gambling policy.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, then of the Atlanta Falcons, was suspended for the entire 2022 season for betting on NFL games while he was away from the team. He was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars last fall and reinstated by the league last March.
In April, the NFL suspended five more players for violating its gambling policy. Detroit Lions receiver Quintez Cephus and safety C.J. Moore and Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney were handed indefinite bans for betting on NFL games, while Detroit receivers Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill were given six-game suspensions for betting on non-NFL events from inside an NFL facility.
Detroit released Cephus, Moore and Berryhill.
Three Indianapolis Colts players were suspended in June for the entire 2023 season for betting on NFL games last season, and Tennessee Titans starting right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere received a six-game suspension for betting on other sports at the team facility.
Colts cornerback/kick returner Isaiah Rodgers and defensive end Rashod Berry, along with free agent Demetrius Taylor, were suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games in the 2022 season. The Colts promptly waived Rodgers and Berry the day the suspensions were announced.
REPORTS: NFL SUSPENDS FREE AGENT OL ISAIAH WILSON 3 GAMES
The NFL has suspended free agent Isaiah Wilson for the first three games of the 2023 season for undisclosed reasons, according to multiple reports.
Wilson, a first-round draft pick (No. 29 overall) by the Tennessee Titans in 2020 out of Georgia, has not been part of an NFL team since the New York Giants carried him on their practice squad in 2021. The Giants released the 6-foot-6, 350-pounder in January 2022.
Wilson, 24, has had multiple off-field issues, including being charged with driving under the influence before the start of the 2020 season. He played in one game at offensive tackle for the Titans in 2020. He was traded to the Dolphins on March 17, 2021, and waived three days later.
The Giants assigned him to their practice squad on Sept. 30, 2021.
LIONS CB C.J. GARDNER-JOHNSON (KNEE) CARTED OFF FIELD
Detroit Lions cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson was carted off the field Monday with a leg injury at training camp in Allen Park, Mich.
Multiple outlets reported he was visibly upset and being comforted by teammates after sustaining a non-contact injury to his right knee during practice.
The Lions signed the 25-year-old free agent to a one-year deal worth up to $8 million with incentives in March that included $6.5 million fully guaranteed.
Gardner-Johnson shared the NFL lead with six interceptions and made a career-high 67 tackles in 12 starts with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022. He missed five games with a lacerated kidney.
Prior to his lone season with the Eagles, Gardner-Johnson was with the Saints from 2019-21 after being selected by New Orleans in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.
In 55 career games (43 starts), Gardner-Johnson has 11 interceptions, 228 tackles, 36 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
ODELL CONSIDERED RETIREMENT BEFORE SIGNING WITH RAVENS
Odell Beckham Jr. said he considered retiring from the NFL before signing with the Baltimore Ravens this year.
“I went through a lot the last couple of years, and I thought it was over,” the star wide receiver recently said, according to Dan Pompei of The Athletic. “I didn’t want to get back up on the horse and do the same song and dance all over again.”
Beckham didn’t play last season after suffering a torn ACL in Super Bowl LVI as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. The 30-year-old visited multiple teams before signing a one-year, $15-million contract with the Ravens in April.
“If I’m honest, I was resistant,” he said. “There were other places I wanted to go. I wasn’t necessarily a Ravens fan – because the Ravens always whipped my ass.”
Beckham spent his first five NFL seasons with the New York Giants, earning a Pro Bowl berth in each of his first three years. The team then traded the first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in 2019. He failed to meet expectations across two-plus seasons with the club.
Beckham is now part of a Ravens team that heads into the 2023 campaign with lofty ambitions.
“I’m thinking like this is my last year,” Beckham added. “I’m going to give it my all this year. And then if something happens after that, we can go from there.”
Baltimore re-signed quarterback Lamar Jackson to a lucrative multi-year deal this offseason and gave him multiple new weapons. In addition to Beckham, the Ravens drafted wide receiver Zay Flowers in the first round.
REPORT: CHIEFS’ JONES WANTS $30M PER YEAR
Kansas City Chiefs star Chris Jones is eyeing a contract extension that’ll make him at least the second-highest-paid interior defensive lineman in the NFL, a source told The Athletic’s Nate Taylor.
Jones, who didn’t report to training camp this weekend due to his contract situation with the team, is seeking a new deal worth $30 million per year, Taylor adds.
Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald leads all defensive tackles with an average annual salary of $31.67 million, according to Spotrac. New York Jets lineman Quinnen Williams is next on the list at $24 million after recently signing a four-year, $96-million extension.
Jones’ $20-million average annual salary currently ranks eighth at his position. The 29-year-old is in the last year of his contract. He previously inked an $80-million pact for four seasons in 2020.
Jones is a cornerstone of Kansas City’s defense. He earned his first first-team All-Pro nod in 2022 after racking up 29 QB hits and 15.5 sacks. The Mississippi State product then amassed six quarterback hits and two sacks in three playoff games to help the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV against the Philadelphia Eagles in February.
It’s been a hot offseason for interior linemen, as four of the position’s five biggest contracts were signed this year. In addition to Williams, Tennessee Titans’ Jeffery Simmons, Washington Commanders’ Daron Payne, and New York Giants’ Dexter Lawrence also signed lucrative long-term deals.
REPORT: BILLS’ HINES TO MISS SEASON AFTER TORN ACL FROM JET SKI ACCIDENT
Buffalo Bills running back and kick returner Nyheim Hines is expected to miss the entire 2023 season after suffering a significant knee injury off-site, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Hines suffered a torn ACL after being struck by a jet sky rider while sitting stationary on a jet ski, according to Pelissero. He reportedly sustained non-life-threatening injuries and will undergo surgery this week.
The 26-year-old was expected to be Buffalo’s top kick and punt returner this year. He joined the team midway through last season from the Indianapolis Colts.
Hines had only six carries in nine appearances with the Bills in 2022 but scored two kickoff-return touchdowns while averaging 29.2 yards per return.
A fourth-round pick in 2018, Hines spent four-plus seasons in Indianapolis. The NC State product posted the most productive campaign of his career in 2020, amassing 862 scrimmage yards and seven total touchdowns.
Wide receivers Deonte Harty and Khalil Shakir, as well as safety Micah Hyde, are potential candidates to replace Hines as the Bills’ return specialist in 2023.
NOT ABOARD: COWBOYS OG ZACK MARTIN MISSES TEAM CHARTER TO TRAINING CAMP
As roll call waits one more day in Oxnard, Calif., all signs point to guard Zack Martin being absent as the Dallas Cowboys kick off training camp on Tuesday.
The Cowboys team charter from Dallas left Monday afternoon without Martin, who reportedly asked the team to address his contract. Players are not required to take the team charter flight and can instead arrange their own transportation to report on time Tuesday for the official start of camp.
Martin, 32, signed a six-year, $84 million extension in 2018, making him the league’s top-paid guard at the time.
Entering camp this week, his standing is significantly lower.
Atlanta Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom ($20.5 million) and Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson ($20M) are the top-paid players at the position based on average annual salary. Martin’s $14 million per-year average is ninth among guards.
The six-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl selection was the No. 16 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Martin can be fined under NFL rules and would potentially forfeit more than $900,000 if he skips camp entirely. Often as contract disagreements are settled, such attendance-related fines are waived or negotiated out of the final salary figure.
NFL PREVIEW: NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants had a successful first season with Brian Daboll, who quickly turned them into a playoff team en route to winning Coach of the Year.
But the Giants will no longer catch teams by surprise after winning 10 games last season, including a wild-card victory vs. the Vikings.
Despite making roster upgrades and paying their top players, the Giants will have a tough time returning to the postseason considering they reside in a competitive NFC East with the Eagles, Cowboys and Commanders.
The Giants will likely need newcomers Deonte Banks (the team’s first-round rookie cornerback) and Bobby Okereke (a standout linebacker who signed during free agency) to quickly find their footing in New York and help the defense become one of the best units in 2023.
The Giants have plenty of playmakers on their roster, but the season will once again fall on the shoulders of quarterback Daniel Jones, who was paid like a top-10 quarterback in the NFL.
Biggest gamble this offseason: Paying Jones $40 million per year
After a slow first three seasons, Jones made drastic strides in 2022 under the guidance of Daboll, which earned the quarterback a four-year, $160 million contract extension this offseason. This led many to wonder why the Giants made the investment after one good year; New York prioritized the skill positions this offseason in the hopes that it will lead to even more improvements from Jones, who had a subpar supporting cast (outside of running back Saquon Barkley) in 2022. New York traded for tight end Darren Waller, drafted wide receiver Jalin Hyatt and signed wide receiver Parris Campbell. Suddenly, Jones has a strong crew of pass catchers with wideouts Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Wan’Dale Robinson and Isaiah Hodgins also on the roster. It’s time for Jones, the ’19 No. 6 pick, to play like a top-10 quarterback after receiving a new deal and additional weapons this offseason.
Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 3 to 8
The Giants have a brutal schedule overall, with Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr calling it borderline criminal. And most might agree with that assessment because of the brutal six-game stretch the Giants were handed, with four games on the road against the 49ers, Seahawks, Dolphins and Bills, and two at home vs. the Commanders and Jets. The Giants made many roster upgrades in the offseason, but it might not matter, given they could easily go 1–5 during that grueling stretch to derail their season. New York also starts the season against the Cowboys and faces the Eagles twice in the final three games. To steal a line from Orr, what on Earth did the Giants do to deserve this?
Breakout player to watch: Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux
Thibodeaux struggled to finish plays at times during his rookie season, but he consistently won his matchups and often found himself in the backfield. With 40 pressures and 13 quarterback hits as a rookie, Thibodeaux could develop into a sack artist in his second season after recording only four sacks in 2022. Also, Thibodeaux’s 10.3% pressure rate was more than fellow first-round rookies Aidan Hutchinson (9.9%) and Travon Walker (9.2%).
Position of strength: Interior defensive line
Dexter Lawrence received a hefty pay raise after a dominant 2022 season, which included Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro selections. Lawrence signed a four-year, $90 million contract extension, making him the fourth-highest-paid interior defensive lineman in the league, according to Over the Cap. Lawrence went from being a run-stopping specialist to a versatile playmaker last year, with a career-high 7.5 sacks. Leonard Williams, who can also play on the edge, cashed in two years ago with a three-year, $63 million contract and remains a productive playmaker in the middle of New York’s defensive line. The Giants also added A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches this offseason.
Position of weakness: Interior offensive line
Instead of being specific, the offensive line could have been listed here, but that would be unfair to left tackle Andrew Thomas, who continues to get better after establishing himself as one of the best at his position last season. At right tackle, Evan Neal (the No. 7 pick in ’22) had a rocky rookie season, but so did Thomas in ’20—perhaps Neal can improve in Year 2. But the Giants have real concerns on the interior, with the guard spots possibly up for grabs in training camp, and with a rookie center in John Michael Schmitz, a ’23 second-round pick.
X-factor: TE Darren Waller
No one will say Jones is missing a legitimate No. 1 wideout if Waller regains his top form from his dominant days in 2019 and ’20. (He averaged 98.5 receptions and 1,170 receiving yards during that time.) When healthy, Waller is a matchup nightmare and is just as dangerous in the passing game as Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Mark Andrews. But if Waller continues to deal with injuries, Jones will need one of his many wideouts to step up and deliver Pro Bowl–type seasons.
Sleeper fantasy pick: WR Isaiah Hodgins
Hodgins became the top option in the Giants’ pass attack in the second half of last season, and he made the most of his chances. In his final five games, he scored 14-plus points four times, including one game with almost 23 points. The Giants don’t have an alpha wideout, so Hodgins is worth a look.—Michael Fabiano, SI Fantasy
Best bet: Take the over on Daniel Jones’s rushing prop of 575.5 yards
The Giants are best when Jones is able to use his mobility. Jones logged 708 ground yards last year on the way to a winning record for New York. Why fix what isn’t broken?—Jennifer Piacenti, SI Betting
Final record: 8–9, third in NFC East
FIVE QUARTERBACKS WHO WILL MAKE OR BREAK THEIR NFL TEAMS’ SEASONS
There are a handful of teams across the NFL that have built respectable rosters, or even made it to the playoffs in 2022, but still feel like pretenders rather than contenders. The reasons for those doubts center around the men they have lined up under center or in the shotgun every week.
That’s not to say these quarterbacks are terrible, bottom-of-the-barrel talents. Rather, they leave plays and potential scoring opportunities on the table, and their teams need more from them going forward. Before we get into them, though, there are a few honorable mentions. Quite a few teams in this little predicament, so Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett, Justin Fields, and Jordan Love — you can run but you can’t hide.
Now, on to the list.
Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
We’ll start with the obvious, and most uncomfortable one. It feels like Browns fans have been screaming “It’s Our Year” since the Obama administration. But, alas, it has yet to be “their year.” Then, an act of desperation straight out of a WWE storyline, the Browns turned from the lovable underdog baby faces to the biggest heels in sports by trading for Deshaun Watson and giving him more guaranteed money than most small countries in the wake of two dozen accusations of sexual misconduct.
Cleveland banked their future on Watson being the same player we saw before he missed the entirety of the 2021 season. After a 10-game suspension, while he had some quick flashes of being that guy, there wasn’t anything there consistently that gave light to those hopes. Of all quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts, he was 31st in EPA/play, 30th in success rate, and 32nd in CPOE, per RBSDM.
Now, for Watson, it doesn’t matter how good he plays, how poorly he plays, or if he never plays again- he’s owed $230 million regardless. For the Browns, though, their roster has very few holes. They have a good offensive line, especially on the interior. Their weapons are above average, especially after acquiring Elijah Moore from the Jets to pair with Amari Cooper, and their defense features one of the best edge rushers in the game and a secondary full of talent and depth. Their season, and playoff aspirations, all fall on the play of Watson. And in a loaded AFC, he’s going to have to be special to have Cleveland playing deep into January.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
If Sam Howell produces, the Commanders could sneakily be a playoff team. The former North Carolina quarterback was at one point projected to be a top five draft pick in 2021. Then, after playing a season in which all of the talent around him had left, his numbers took a small hit, and all of a sudden everyone was out on Sam Howell.
We only saw Howell once last season, and it came in the season finale against the Cowboys in a game Dallas couldn’t have been bothered to care about. He showed off his abilities as a deep ball passer, made a few rookie mistakes, but his athleticism shined in a Commanders win. Washington brought in veteran competition in the form of Jacoby Brissett, as well. We’ll have to see how the former fifth-round pick performs in preseason, but with the likes of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and a good defense to lean on, Howell could surprise many. If he does struggle, though, Washington will be in the market for a quarterback once again.
Mac Jones, New England Patriots
What a toilet souffle of a season 2022 was for ole’ McCorkle. He threw just 14 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, finished 26th in EPA/play, and was briefly benched for Bailey Zappe. Now, before you say it, I’m tired of the Joe Judge-Matt Patricia excuse.
While Beavis and Butthead calling plays certainly didn’t help Jones’ cause, he made plenty of bad throws himself and is limited as a quarterback. Will the introduction of Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator help? Probably- it can’t really get worse than what it was before. That said, how much better can Jones really get? It feels like his peak was as a rookie in 2021, and even then, the Patriots were dealt a good hand in terms of playing injured and bad teams, as well as playing in a wind tunnel in Buffalo.
The defense will be superb, as per usual with the Patriots, but I think it’s time we truly acknowledge Bill Belichick’s incompetence when it comes to building a worthwhile modern NFL offense. A lack of a true No. 1 target is only going to hurt Jones more. As weird as it may sound, the Patriots aren’t scary anymore.
Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
It’s almost impressive how bad Russell Wilson and the Broncos’ offense was in 2022. They were held to 10 or fewer points five times last season, and were last in the NFL in scoring. Because of that, Nathaniel Hackett was fired before making it through his first full season as head coach, and Sean Payton was hired to save Denver, and at least make Wilson look like something that resembles an NFL quarterback again.
The former Seahawk was 25th in the NFL in EPA/play, 29th in success rate, and threw just 16 touchdown passes. From the way the Broncos have gone about their business this offseason, Sean Payton doesn’t plan on letting Russ cook. Denver is going to run the ball a lot. They signed right tackle Mike McGlinchey from the 49ers,as well as guard Ben Powers from the Ravens — both of whom are tremendous run blockers. Don’t count out Denver in the Dalvin Cook sweepstakes, as a duo of the former Vikings back, and Javonte Williams, would certainly give Wilson a reliable ground game.
Is Wilson as bad as 2022 showed? One would think that’s not the case. It’s hard to believe a quarterback with a Hall of Fame trajectory would just plummet off a cliff in such an abrupt manner. If Payton can salvage whatever elite play Wilson has left, while also taking a lot of the pressure off of him, the Broncos will be an interesting team to watch.
Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Daniel Jones is the walking equivalent of a ham sandwich. If you’re hungry, it’ll get you through lunch, and there are certainly worse things you could eat, but goodness would you love a steak instead.
The good news for the Giants is they won a playoff game with Jones last season. The bad news is they paid five-star prices for three-star production. Now, credit where it’s due to Jones. After being one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league, he turned the ball over just eight times in 2022. However, he was 15th in the league in passing yards and threw just 15 touchdowns. He also only threw the ball more than 20 yards downfield 26 times all season which ranked 34th in the NFL, per PFF. So while it was great that he protected the ball, it goes to show why teams like Buffalo and Kansas City are willing to live with a few extra interceptions because their quarterbacks are going to make a handful of ridiculous throws each week that keep them in games, or just outright win games all together.
That lack of explosion in the offense, especially if Saquon Barkley is serious about not playing in 2023, severely limits what the Giants can do offensively. Not to mention, their schedule is more difficult than it was last season, and their division is still strong.
The way Jones’ contract is set up, it looks as if the Giants know his limitations and gave themselves a potential out after the 2024 season. If it becomes evident that 2022 was his peak, they can draft someone in April and basically have Jones be what Alex Smith was to Patrick Mahomes in his final season in Kansas City. If he wants to see the entirety of that contract, though, he needs to be more of a playmaker for the Giants.
2023 NFL RECORD PREDICTIONS: THE AFC NORTH
Cincinnati Bengals: 12-5
It feels inevitable that Joe Burrow will march the explosive Bengals unit straight into the AFC Championship game, and there is little reason to think they won’t accomplish just that. With a stout defense, elite quarterback, and weapons everywhere, Cincinnati is poised to strike once again.
Baltimore Ravens: 9-8
The winds of change are blowing through Baltimore, and although they were able to retain their franchise quarterback in Lamar Jackson, the Raven offense is set to look quite different. With an emphasis on getting the ball down the field to a hand full of new weapons, and the usual stout Baltimore defense, the Ravens are in a good position to make a playoff push.
Cleveland Browns: 9-8
With one of the most stacked rosters in the entire league, it will be up to this Cleveland coaching staff and embattled quarterback to bring it all together. Adding Za’Darius Smith to bookend all-pro edge rusher Myles Garrett is going to create a nightmare wrecking crew of a pass rush in front of an already solid unit. If the offense can manage to keep up, the Browns may very well find themselves in playoff contention.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-10
Though the Steelers found themselves on a 5-1 winning stretch at the end of the season, it is reasonable to expect a bit of a slump from the team before their eventual resurgence. It will ultimately fall on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett and a retooled offensive line, which could take some time to meld together. If Pickett ascends and the line is stable, perhaps the Pittsburgh can make the playoff leap.