Ex-Saints kicker Dempsey dies from coronavirus

Former New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey, who famously made a 63-yard field goal in 1970 despite being born without toes on his right kicking foot, has died due to complications of the coronavirus, his family told NOLA.com. He was 73.

Dempsey had been battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. He was a resident at the Lambeth House senior living center in New Orleans, which has been hit hard by the virus. More than 50 residents have been affected, according to NOLA.com.

Dempsey made his legendary 63-yard field goal in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium as the Saints came from behind to beat the Detroit Lions 19-17 in the final seconds. It was the longest kick in NFL history for 28 years until the Denver Broncos’ Jason Elam matched it in 1998. The Broncos’ Matt Prater broke the record with a 64-yarder in 2013.

The Saints’ extended family has been affected in multiple ways by the coronavirus. Coach Sean Payton tested positive last month before saying he was cleared last week. Also, Bobby Hebert Sr., the father of former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, died last week at the age of 81 after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Undrafted out of Palomar College in San Marcos, California, in 1969, Dempsey also played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills before retiring in 1979. He made the Pro Bowl and was named a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season with the Saints.

Inducted as a member of the Saints’ Hall of Fame in 1989, Dempsey finished with a 61.6 percentage on field goals, 89.4 percent on extra points.

The modified shoe he kicked with is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in an exhibit that chronicles the first century of professional football.

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Mississippi State player announces transfer one day after Mike Leach apologizes for tweet

Mississippi State defensive lineman Fabien Lovett announced Friday on Twitter that he would enter the NCAA transfer portal.

Lovett did not mention new Bulldogs coach Mike Leach or Leach’s apology Thursday for tweeting a meme showing a woman knitting a noose for her annoying husband while under coronavirus quarantine.

The redshirt sophomore did, however, retweet video of commentary by FS1’s Shannon Sharpe on Leach during Friday’s “Undisputed,” in which Sharpe chastised Leach. Lovett also tweeted “wtf” after Leach posted the meme on Wednesday.

Leach deleted his tweet Thursday and then posted a separate apology, writing: “I sincerely regret if my choice of images in my tweets were found offensive. I had no intention of offending anyone.”

Lovett started all 13 of Mississippi State’s games in 2019. He recorded 19 total tackles (six solo), with 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

Leach left Washington State in early January to replace Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State.

 

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Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has ‘zero doubt’ NCAA football season will start on time with ‘packed’ stadiums

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he believes the 2020 college football season will kick off as planned by August despite potential hurdles created by the coronavirus pandemic. 

"My preference is let's get to work and go play," Swinney said during a conference call with the media on Friday. "That's the best-case scenario, and I think that's what's going to happen. I don't have any doubt. I have zero doubt that we're going to be playing and the stands are going to be packed."

The NCAA canceled its spring sports and every major professional league has been postponed because of the pandemic.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney walks on the sideline during his team's game against Wofford in 2019 at Clemson Memorial Stadium. (Photo: Adam Hagy, USA TODAY Sports)

Several analysts and NCAA athletic directors have raised concerns in recent weeks that the upcoming college football season will be delayed. Yet Swinney said he's optimistic and planning as if his team will begin reporting to camp in August. He told reporters he's created a T.I.G.E.R.S. acronym for players and coaches that stands for "This Is Gonna End Real Soon."

"That's just my mindset. I've got one plan, and that's to get the Tigers ready to play in late August, early September," Swinney said. "I'll leave it to the smart people to figure out the doomsday scenarios. We've got one scenario, and that's to run down that hill and kick it off in the valley.

"This is America, man. We've stormed the beaches of Normandy. We've sent a rover out on Mars and walked on the moon. This is the greatest country. We've created an iPhone where I can sit here and talk to people in all these different places. We've got the smartest people in the world. We're going to rise up and kick this thing in the teeth and get back to our lives."

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Bears see Foles vs. Trubisky as ‘open competition’

    Dickerson covers the Chicago Bears for ESPN’s NFL Nation. He is the co-host of “Dickerson & Hood” on the ESPN Radio national network, and is heard in Chicago on ESPN 1000.

Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles will compete for the Bears’ starting quarterback job, general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy said during a conference call with Chicago media Friday.

“We’ve increased competition at a critical position and we talked to both players, and the way we view this is it’s an open competition,” Pace said. “And credit to both those guys for embracing it.”

The Bears entered free agency last month with an urgent goal to acquire a veteran quarterback to challenge Trubisky. The second overall pick of the 2017 draft, Trubisky finished the 2019 season 28th in Total QBR (39.4), tied for 27th in touchdown passes (17), 21st in passing yards (3,138), 32nd in yards gained per pass attempt (6.1) and 28th in quarterback rating (83.0).

“What’s important, and what you are going to find out in this process, is it’s going to be real simple — it’s going to very transparent and very honest,” Nagy said. “What I thought was really neat was when we talked to Mitch, which speaks to who he is. You could feel how much of a competitor, and you know it, and you see it. He’s a competitor. … He understands that all he wants to do is be the best quarterback he can be for the Chicago Bears, and that’s what he’s going to do as we move on here.”

Nagy envisions Trubisky and Foles splitting reps in training camp and both playing in preseason games. Nagy added that Trubisky will take the first snaps on Day 1 of practice.

Trubisky, 25, underwent surgery in January to repair a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder but is expected to be medically cleared by the summer. The Bears have yet to commit to picking up Trubisky’s fifth-year option. A decision is due in May.

The Bears traded their 2020 fourth-round compensatory draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Foles and, in the process, inherited a contact that included approximately $21 million in guarantees. Foles, 31, later restructured the deal to allow him to void either of the final years, depending on the upside of his performance.

There is a strong familiarity between Foles and Chicago’s coaching staff. Nagy coached Foles in both Philadelphia and Kansas City. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and offensive line coach Juan Castillo all overlapped with Foles during various stints with the Eagles.

“A talented player and the fact that he’s played in some big games and performed well in those big games and that carries a lot of weight,” Pace said of Foles. “Then you have a lot of people in our building that are comfortable with him as a person and his makeup, which made the decision easier. That all kind of came together to make him a target for us and someone we wanted to aggressively go get.”

The trade was the latest career twist for Foles since Philadelphia drafted him in the third round in 2012. He started six games as a rookie in place of an injured Michael Vick and replaced Vick again in 2013, throwing 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions in 13 starts. Foles led the Eagles to the playoffs and was the offensive MVP of the Pro Bowl.

He was the Eagles’ unquestioned starter in 2014 but suffered a broken collarbone in a Week 9 victory over the Houston Texans and finished the season on injured reserve. Coach Chip Kelly surprisingly traded him in the offseason to the Rams for quarterback Sam Bradford, and Foles struggled before being benched in favor of Case Keenum.

Following a stint in Kansas City, Foles returned to Philadelphia as a backup quarterback and came off the bench in place of an injured Carson Wentz for the Eagles’ 2017 title run. Foles threw for 971 yards with six touchdowns and one interception in three playoff games and was named MVP of Super Bowl LII after throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns — and catching a touchdown pass — in a victory over the New England Patriots.

After subbing in for Wentz for five regular-season and two playoff games in 2018, Foles bought out his contract with Philadelphia for $2 million in February 2019, and the Jaguars signed him to a four-year, $91 million contract with $50.125 million guaranteed.

Foles suffered a broken collarbone in Week 1 of the 2019 regular season and struggled when he returned later in the year.

“My career has been an interesting curve,” Foles said on a conference call Friday. “It’s been all over the place.”

“It will be an open competition. I just want to go in there and do what’s best for the team,” Foles added. “Obviously Mitch has been there for several years and knows this offense really well — the Chicago version. I’ll be competing, but it’ll be a healthy competition. Mitch and I have already talked, and we want to start out on the right foot because ultimately it’s about the Chicago Bears and not about the ego of the quarterbacks.”

ESPN’s Mike DiRocco contributed to this report.

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NFL QB value rankings: Who do you want most at current cost?

The 2020 Ravens look a lot like the 2019 Chiefs. The fighting Harbaughs are coming off a stinging playoff defeat with a reigning MVP quarterback entering his third season. There isn’t a bigger organizational advantage than a superstar quarterback on a rookie contract, and now’s the time for Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta to capitalize like Kansas City did.

Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson feel like unicorns, but productive quarterbacks on rookie deals are becoming more common. The phenomenon made me think about which quarterbacks beyond those two have the most value on their current deals. To sum up this thought exercise in a single sentence:

Considering talent, production, age and contract, which QB would you most want to have under your team’s control moving forward?

While the rankings below attempting to answer that question are incredibly subjective, I tried to use a few guiding principles …

Production is still more important than projection. Simply put, it’s more valuable to have a top-10 quarterback than a guy you hope may get there someday. Money and age mattered in this exercise, but I’d take a quality starter at an expensive price over a question mark on the cheap.

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Also, there’s a fine line between thinking long-term and overrating the future. The next 2-3 years in any NFL cycle are always the most important years because the league changes so quickly and nearly every GM is a bad year or two away from getting fired. With that said, ties went to the young guys below. Players like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray who have already produced have extra value because they are on their rookie deals. A high-caliber starter like Carson Wentz gets an edge over Matt Ryan because there’s a longer career runway ahead. But in a league where it doesn’t pay to aim for the middle of the standings, high-ceiling elder statesmen like Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger still have value compared with some of their younger, highly paid middle-class counterparts.

Lastly, free agents like Cam Newton and Jameis Winston aren’t eligible, since they currently lack one of the critical ingredients in this judgment stew: a contract. And I capped the rankings at 35 quarterbacks because that was a natural cutoff point in terms of genuine intrigue.

Let’s go. No arguing!

NOTE: Unless otherwise cited, salary-cap figures in this piece were found on Over The Cap.

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1

Patrick Mahomes

The easiest player to rank on this list. It isn’t a problem that Mahomes may ask for $50 million per season because he’s worth it and all great quarterbacks remain underpaid relative to their value. Not since Dan Marino has a QB put together two consciousness-expanding seasons to start a career like this. There’s every reason to believe Mahomes can get better.

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2

Lamar Jackson

DeCosta knows what a unique opportunity the Ravens have. The draft will be key in buttressing Jackson’s supporting cast, and his rookie salary is partly why the Ravens can afford six players with a cap figure over $10 million. How Jackson follows up his MVP season will be one of the stories of 2020. He’s already proven to be an expert problem solver.

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3

Russell Wilson

I was tempted to rank Wilson second, despite being so much older and more costly than Jackson. Still just 31, though, Wilson offers the ideal combination of reliability and upside. There’s comfort in knowing Wilson will have the Seahawks in contention whether his defense is historic or middling, whether his running game is led by Marshawn Lynch in his prime or Marshawn Lynch at 33, whether his offensive line is bad or really bad. The $35 million average annual salary on his most recent extension will look like a bargain well before the deal ends in 2024.

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4

Deshaun Watson

Watson’s rapid rebound from his torn ACL has been nothing short of remarkable. He’s the quintessential quarterback for the next decade because of his athleticism, decision-making and leadership traits. It remains unclear if he’ll get his big contract this offseason or next, but it’s coming. My top four on this exercise were set in stone; now it gets complicated …

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5

Carson Wentz

It’s easy to pick nits about Wentz’s accuracy and occasional streakiness. It’s also easy for the Eagles to feel comfortable with a 27-year-old established top-10 quarterback under contract for five more seasons at an average cap number under $30 million per. The Eagles signed Wentz at a modest discount coming off an injury, which gives him an edge over other options in the top 10.

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6

Kyler Murray

If there’s nothing more valuable to a team than a star quarterback on a rookie deal, then the Cardinals have it made. Murray checked every box in his first season to foster belief that he’ll join the ranks of the players above. He’ll enter his second season with a cap figure less than Marcus Mariota and virtually the same as Ryan Fitzpatrick. General manager Steve Keim knows he shouldn’t wait to maximize the first window of the Murray era and he showed it with the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins. Combinations like Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury are where the NFL is headed.

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7

Dak Prescott

Dak’s impending massive contract looks like far less of a risk after the most mature season of his career. He’d be ranked far lower if this list had been made a year ago, but his erratic 2018 season now looks like a career anomaly in hindsight. Cowboys offenses have ranked in the top three of Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric twice in his four-year career and in the top 10 another time. He’s not going anywhere.

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8

Aaron Rodgers

Wondering where Rodgers currently fits in the quarterback firmament helped inspire this column. It’s probable that his best days are behind him; in fact, there are plenty of numbers to say that’s been true for years. Rodgers’ age (36) and a contract that lacks flexibility are increasing concerns, but he remains the Packers’ ride-or-die leader for the foreseeable future. Rodgers has shown he’s still capable of carrying a team, but he’s also capable of caving on occasion, like in his two games against the 49ers last season.

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9

Matt Ryan

I fear that Matt Ryan will remain underrated in perpetuity, a Ken Anderson would-be Hall of Famer overshadowed by flashier peers. With players like Tom Brady and Drew Brees rewriting the rules for career arcs, Ryan, 34, should still be able to play at a championship level for at least 2-4 more years for under $30 million per season. And the next 2-4 more years are still the most important years, no matter how much youth intoxicates.

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10

Baker Mayfield

Perhaps the toughest quarterback to evaluate on this list. I debated Baker going as high as No. 6 and as low as No. 15. Settling in here came down to one factor above all: The skill set he possessed as a rookie hasn’t crumbled into dust. Expectations, disastrous coaching, indecision and regrettable ad campaigns left the impression that Mayfield’s second season was a disaster, but the numbers and tape don’t agree. He snuck into the top 20 in Pro Football Focus’ grading, as well as QBR. He made way more impressive throws than you remember. His lack of on-field clarity was jarring, but Browns fans should still be encouraged to have a young quarterback this productive and this accurate on a rookie contract.

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11

Matthew Stafford

A top-10 finisher in my year-end QB Index in two of his last three completed seasons, Stafford was playing perhaps the best football of his career last fall before a injuring his back. Considering he hadn’t missed a game since 2010, he gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to durability. Under team control for three more years at an average cap hit of $26.8 million, he’s still a major asset.

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12

Kirk Cousins

The Vikings know what they have in Cousins and gave him a sensible two-year extension this offseason worth $66 million. He may not often be the reason the Vikes win, but he will be the reason they lose even less often.

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13

Jimmy Garoppolo

It’s acceptable not to have a hot take on every quarterback. That Jimmy G’s first full season as a starter ended one quarter shy of a title yet was considered a letdown shows how playing for Kyle Shanahan is a blessing and a curse. Garoppolo’s 2019 campaign must be considered a success for a guy with the same amount of career starts as Sam Darnold, yet it’s also fair to expect more from Garoppolo in the years ahead. Shanahan will.

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14

Drew Brees

This is where the list gets real tricky. Would you rather have 1-2 years of Brees or a young unknown indefinitely? I believe the players above can be plus starters for a while, so they have the edge in this exercise over any quarterback close to wrapping it up. Anyone below Brees is murkier. While it’s fair to note Brees’ last two seasons have petered out down the stretch, it’s impossible to ignore that he’s otherwise been a top-five quarterback. New Orleans is a city that lives in the now, and that’s never been truer about the Saints.

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15

Jared Goff

Goff is the best of a certain class of quarterback: The mid-level option who’s paid like a superstar. Still just 25 years old with higher highs than the rest of his brethren in this tier ( Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill), Goff’s contract isn’t quite the albatross it’s made out to be.

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16

Tom Brady

Brady can still play. But asking him to break all previous boundaries for a soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback and then do it again at 44 with a second guaranteed year isn’t a formula for value. In a best-case scenario, Brady could be a borderline top-10 quarterback in the short term. The worst-case scenario is uglier than the current Bucs uniforms.

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17

Sam Darnold

Joe Burrow being six months older than Sam Darnold is this draft season’s " Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard." It also points out how tricky Darnold is to evaluate. The circumstances around the Jets QB have obviously been brutal. His skills are equally transparent, but his pocket presence and decision-making are not. Few NFL quarterbacks have developed into greats after two seasons with numbers as poor as Darnold. He may prove to be an exception and his ceiling remains high, but the organizational obstacles in his way don’t appear to be changing.

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18

Ben Roethlisberger

Only my undying faith in Big Ben as a big difference-maker keeps him this high, seeing how he’s a 38-year-old passer coming off major elbow surgery. An onerous contract — he has a $41.3 million cap hit due next year! — doesn’t help either in this exercise. (Which is something, incidentally, that Roethlisberger insists he’s still doing.)

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19

Derek Carr

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said in February that he doesn’t believe you can teach pocket presence, which still feels like Carr’s biggest negative. Even coming off a nice bounce-back season, Carr can be frustrating to watch because he has the raw tools of a poor man’s Aaron Rodgers but a playing style closer to Alex Smith. Carr’s contract could be tradeable next offseason if the Raiders decide to go in a different direction.

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20

Ryan Tannehill

The Titans had to see if Tannehill could build on his sensational play in the 2019 regular season, although committing $91 million guaranteed if he’s still on the team next year ended his days as a bargain. Whereas Carr’s contract is far more flexible and team-friendly, the Raiders’ QB also feels like a safe option to stay in this no-man’s land of the rankings. For Tannehill, it feels equally possible he will rocket higher or crash in the next two years.

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21

Philip Rivers

Frank Reich could be wrong. I could be wrong. But Rivers can still make all the throws if he’s protected, which he should be in Indianapolis. Even considering Rivers’ one-year, $25 million contract, I’d rather have a chance at catching lightning in a bottle than rolling with a younger, cheaper player who is less likely to be an asset.

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22

Gardner Minshew

If you take away his draft profile and judge Minshew purely on his tape, he looks like a better prospect than Josh Allen and Daniel Jones. He could be the next Jeff Garcia or the next Case Keenum, both of which are good outcomes for a sixth-round pick due less than $2.5 million total over the next three years.

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23

Josh Allen

Decision-making, accuracy and athleticism are the three traits I value highest in quarterbacks. While Allen made significant progress in his second season, I fear that he’ll always fail to check two of those three boxes. With the soon-to-be 24-year-old supported by a sneakily strong roster in Buffalo, this is a massive year for Allen’s future. So far, he’s looked closer to Blake Bortles or Mitchell Trubisky than Cam Newton, as an overstuffed box of tools that don’t quite all work together. Allen may never look more promising than after Year 2 in the NFL. If I’m wrong, I’ll take that L from Bills Mafia will aplomb.

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24

Daniel Jones

Jones’ rookie season probably confirmed your priors. If you were a believer, he showed enough to latch on to. If not, his 68 combined fumbles, interceptions and sacks taken made him look like a poor man’s Jameis Winston. I didn’t have any priors, so this ranking is my way of saying I don’t know and want to see more.

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25

Teddy Bridgewater

The best-case scenario for Bridgewater is a career arc like Alex Smith’s, a player he’s always reminded me of. Halfway through his career, Smith landed with the perfect coaches for his skill set to become a mid-level starter for winning teams. Bridgewater may just have found the right situation with new Panthers coach Matt Rhule — and the contract is the smallest long-term deal for any veteran starter in the league.

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26

Dwayne Haskins

Haskins delivers the type of anticipatory throws downfield that make scouts fall in love and he improved as his rookie season wore on. If Kyle Allen truly is competing to start with him, however, Haskins may have already found a coaching staff with doubts.

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27

Drew Lock

The allure of upside, of finally finding a young solution at quarterback is strong. It’s why John Elway once offered a top-shelf deal to Brock Osweiler and why the Broncos are apparently all-in on Lock after five dramatic starts that were uneven, if promising for a rookie. The Broncos would be crazy not to look into signing Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston as a Plan B.

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28

Nick Foles

It was surprising that the Bears gave up a fourth-round pick to take on Foles’ contract, even if it was adjusted. Still, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported this week that the former Super Bowl MVP will get $21 fully guaranteed on what amounts to a two-year deal, which isn’t terrible for someone with Foles’ familiarity in Matt Nagy’s scheme. We’ve seen what Foles can do at his best and it’s a lot better than Trubisky’s offerings.

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29

Andy Dalton

Dalton is a great example of how the quarterback position is deeper than ever. The prime meridian of starting quarterbacks for much of his career, the Red Rifle proves how what we consider an average starter these days has changed. With that said, he’s a better player than this ranking indicates. The placement is more a reflection that he’s 32 years old and has one year and $17.7 million left on a contract signed back in 2014. That deal no longer makes sense for the Bengals or anyone else.

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30

Ryan Fitzpatrick

There is a strong case to be made that Fitz was the best quarterback in the AFC East in the first season of a two-year, $11 million contract with Miami. History indicates that Year 2 won’t go as swimmingly.

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31

Jacoby Brissett

Brissett’s 2019 season fell apart after he sprained his MCL, and now he’s one of the highest paid backups in NFL history at $15.9 million. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brissett have a Fitzpatrick-like 15-year career as a backup and fill-in starter.

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32

Jarrett Stidham

Stidham was always a stronger candidate to be Tom Brady’s successor than the outside realized. If he was drafted in the first or second round, like many expected entering his senior year at Auburn, this wouldn’t seem so shocking. Projecting Stidham’s future based off glowing practice reports and a nice preseason is foolish, but it’s a good sign that Bill Belichick is a fan. He gets an edge over known mediocrities because he’s so cheap and easy to replace.

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33

Tyrod Taylor

A serviceable starting quarterback playing for just $5 million on the final year of his contract is great value for the Chargers, no matter how you feel about Taylor. He is likely to be competing with a first-round youngster — like he’s done previously, with EJ Manuel in Buffalo and Baker Mayfield in Cleveland.

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34

Marcus Mariota

If Mariota were to overtake Carr as the Raiders starter, general manager Mike Mayock could keep Mariota for a second year at a relatively low cost. Don’t rule out a resurgence at some point during the second phase of the former No. 2 overall pick’s career, with Las Vegas a beautiful place for reinvention.

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35

Mitchell Trubisky

It wasn’t that long ago that Bears fans complained if Trubisky only ranked as a borderline top-20 starter. Now he looks unlikely to start in Chicago this season if his battle against Nick Foles is a fair fight. Finding a quality starter on a rookie deal can be personnel nirvana, but picking the wrong guy at No. 2 overall will set a team back in any era.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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Bill Withers once pulled off classic prank on USC football team

One of the world's most soulful voices departed Friday when Bill Withers passed away at the age of 81 due to heart complications. 

He'll be remembered through songs he wrote and performed, including "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Lovely Day" — but Withers also pulled off a classic prank with former USC football coach Pete Carroll more than a decade ago.

In 2009, Carroll, now the Seattle Seahawks' coach, invited Withers to address the team. But Carroll had hijinks on his mind and enlisted Withers to pose as an NCAA official warning against the dangers of a fake, newfound fungus. 

"And finally what I'd like to add is," Withers said at the end of his faux presentation, "you guys have been punked big-time." 

He then revealed his identity before leading the team in a singalong of his classic,  "Lean On Me." 

Afterward, Withers spoke to the Trojans: 

"Don't let this go by without realizing that it's happening to you and for you. And lean on each other. It's macho. You don't give up any of your machismo if you lean on each other. But don't let this time go by without realizing that you're in it." 

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Bears GM Ryan Pace declares ‘open competition’ for starting QB between Nick Foles, Mitchell Trubisky

The Chicago Bears apparently aren't viewing Nick Foles as merely an insurance policy.

Two weeks after acquiring the veteran passer from the Jacksonville Jaguars in a trade, Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Friday the team would give Foles the opportunity to seize the starting job from Mitchell Trubisky.

"With the addition of Nick Foles it’s exactly what we talked about from the start – we want to create competition," Pace said in a conference call. "We've talked to both players and it’s an open competition."

Foles, 31, lasted just one season in Jacksonville after signing a four-year, $88 million contract last offseason. After returning from a broken collarbone suffered in the season opener, he lost his starting job in December to rookie Gardner Minshew.

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In Chicago, Foles is reunited with head coach Matt Nagy, who was on staff for the quarterback's first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and served as offensive coordinator during the passer's year with the Kansas City Chiefs. Nagy said that familiarity played a large role in the decision to acquire Foles.

Trubisky, 25, is trying to bounce back from a turbulent season in which he averaged just 6.1 yards per pass attempt, the lowest among all qualified passers in 2019, and recorded just 17 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions.

"You could feel how much of a competitor Mitch is," Nagy said of his talk with Trubisky about the trade. "He’s embracing it and he’s excited to get back to work."

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

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Eli Apple's deal with Raiders nixed; CB a free agent

Eli Apple is no longer heading to the Raiders.

Apple and the Raiders were unable to finalize their agreed-upon one-year contract and the former Giants and Saints cornerback is now a free agent, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday, per a source.

ESPN first reported the news.

It’s so far unclear why his deal with the Raiders fell through. 

Hardly your average offseason, Apple’s return to free agency isn’t the first — and is unlikely to be the last — deal to be scuttled in 2020.

Defensive lineman Michael Brockers was headed to the Ravens, but after a physical, the deal was nixed and Brockers re-signed with the Rams. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard was bound for the Jaguars, but the two sides could not agree on final terms and that deal fell through.

Dennard is still a free agent and so too is Apple.

Apple agreed to terms with the Raiders on March 18.

Originally the 10th pick in the 2016 draft, Apple began his career with the Giants before he was traded to the Saints in 2018 and spent a season and change in New Orleans.

Now, he’s leaving Las Vegas before he officially arrived.

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Three NFL classics re-air tonight on FS1, NBCSN

Stefon Diggs has gone north to Buffalo, but the Minneapolis Miracle will long live on in Vikings lore.

And tonight, it will live on in your living room, as the riveting NFC playoff game from the 2017 season will be replayed tonight at 8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 as one of three of this evening’s re-airs of classic NFL games. On the NBC Sports Network, a doubleheader celebrates the great Brett Favre with his final game at Lambeau Field at 7 p.m. followed by a classic rivalry game in which his number was retired starting at 9:30 p.m.

Kickoff off Thursday’s three games will be Favre’s last appearance at Lambeau when he was quarterbacking the Vikings against the Packers in Week 7 of the 2010 season. Game time is set for 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

Over on FS1 at 8 p.m., the "Minneapolis Miracle" will thrill Vikings fans once more as they take on the Saints in the dramatic NFC Divisional Round tilt.

And finally at 9:30 p.m. on NBCSN, the age-old rivalry between the Bears and Packers takes center stage with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler opposing each other as Favre’s Green Bay jersey takes its rightful place in history.

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Eric Ebron: Goal's to be Ben Roethlisberger's 'best friend'

New Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron minced no words in talking about Ben Roethlisberger during a Thursday conference call. He raved about how the team’s longtime quarterback "has always willed his way to greatness," and he said his goal is "to be Big Ben’s best friend."

The pair only met in January, at a conference on marriage and Christianity put on by the NFLPA, and while they did talk vaguely about playing together, Ebron said Roethlisberger didn’t necessarily give him any sort of recruiting pitch to Pittsburgh. But then, thinking about it, Ebron laughed and said, "Maybe he pulled a string or two, who knows?"

As the nation grips with social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Steelers’ big free-agent addition is still in Houston. Ebron made his introduction to the local media via teleconference, but even through the phone line, his excitement was palpable. Part for the chance to play with Roethlisberger, and part, the 26-year old said, because of head coach Mike Tomlin’s promise "to put me in a position to succeed."

The 10th overall pick by the Lions in the 2014 Draft, Ebron didn’t fully establish himself as a game-breaker until his first year in Indianapolis, in 2018, when he caught 13 touchdown passes. He said his hope is to become just as reliable — and looked-to — a target for Roethlisberger, as he was for Andrew Luck. He said he’s been texting Roethlisberger constantly — and that the quarterback is responding.

"I want to understand his language, his view, his vocal point," he said. Roethlisberger missed almost all of last year after undergoing elbow surgery just two games into the season, but Ebron said he has zero concerns about his new quarterback’s health. He pointed to Roethlisberger’s recent comments that he’s throwing without pain for the first time in years and said, "If he says that, then he means that." And then Ebron added, "We’ll have a lot of fun."

Ebron, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Steelers last month, had a somewhat acrimonious break-up with the Colts after a disconnect over the worsening of an ankle injury of his own, one he said he first suffered in August. By November, he decided he had to have surgery. Thursday, he said he had his ankle "cleaned up from the inside," calling it "a mess." He admitted he wouldn’t be full-go if games were to start today, but he also said they don’t, and that he purposely timed the procedure so he’d be ready for the 2020 season.

Ebron said the Steelers sent him to a doctor in Texas for his physical. He said he’s working out every morning at 5 a.m., and then playing golf in the afternoon. And he’s ordered a JUGS machine to catch balls until he can join his new teammates.

As for those teammates, Ebron ran through a long list that he already considers friends. He said he expects this to be "the easiest transition I ever had," because of those connections. The Steelers do have a starting tight end returning in Vance McDonald, but they’ve always preferred operating with more than one. And when asked why he ultimately chose the Steelers this offseason, Ebron managed to sound almost dumbfounded by the question.

"It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers," he said. "It’s one of those iconic, historic organizations that you know if you’re lucky enough to play for … you don’t turn it down."

Follow Aditi Kinkhabwala on Twitter at @AKinkhabwala

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