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Trumaine Johnson expected to sign free-agent deal with New York Jets



The New York Jets landed arguably the top cornerback on the free-agent market, with a league source telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter the team is expected to sign former Los Angeles Rams “franchise” player Trumaine Johnson.

The contract terms weren’t immediately available. Johnson intends to sign his deal after 4 p.m. Wednesday, when the league year begins, according to the source.

The addition of Johnson was an important one for the Jets, whose system is predicated on man-to-man coverage by the corners. Before landing Johnson, they had only one starting-caliber corner under contract, Buster Skrine, who is best suited to the No. 3 role.

The Jets also have been in talks with Morris Claiborne, who started 15 games last season. There’s still a chance they could re-sign Claiborne, which would fortify a secondary that allowed 30 touchdown passes last season.

Johnson posted a farewell to the Rams on his Instagram account Monday. He will be reunited with secondary coach Dennard Wilson, who was his position coach with the Rams through 2016.

Johnson, 28, spent the past two years as the Rams’ primary cornerback and played under the franchise tag in both those seasons, his salary jumping to $16.74 million in 2017. He was arguably the best corner available on the free-agent market this offseason, mainly because of his size, his ability to match up with elite receivers and his track record for staying healthy.

Among 86 cornerbacks with at least 325 coverage snaps, Pro Football Focus had Johnson ranked 35th in opponents’ completion percentage (57.3) and 36th in opponents’ passer rating (79.8) when targeted. He allowed 1.33 yards per coverage snap, which put him within the bottom 20 percent of qualified cornerbacks.

But Johnson also spent a lot of time shadowing the likes of Pierre Garcon, Dez Bryant, Marqise Lee, Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas and Alshon Jeffery in 2017. Those seven combined to catch only 57.7 percent of their targets when Johnson was responsible for covering them, nearly 8 percentage points below the NFL average, according to numbers compiled by ESPN.

A third-round pick out of Montana in 2012, Johnson has 18 interceptions and 42 pass breakups over the past six seasons, playing in 85 of a potential 96 regular-season games. During that time, he has proved capable of playing on both sides of the field.

ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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Patriots have seldom had as many notable free-agent losses as in 2018 – New England Patriots Blog



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have lost four high-impact players in free agency, which makes 2018 a bit different for Bill Belichick and the team.

How different?

Belichick enters his 19th season in charge of the football operation. Only two other years really come close to matching what has unfolded this year with starting left tackle Nate Solder (Giants), clutch wide receiver Danny Amendola (Dolphins), No. 1 running back/kickoff returner Dion Lewis (Titans) and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler (Titans) saying goodbye.

Most recently, the 2015 offseason had some similarities. That was the year cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner; running back Shane Vereen; defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive end Akeem Ayers signed elsewhere. All five had played important roles in the prior Super Bowl championship season.

In 2004, to a lesser degree, it was goodbye to nose tackle Ted Washington, center/guard Damien Woody, running back Antowain Smith, defensive end Bobby Hamilton and guard Mike Compton. That was also a lot of good players on their way out.

The Patriots hung tough in both seasons after those personnel losses, winning a Super Bowl in ’04 and losing in the AFC Championship Game at Denver in the ’15 season.

So if history is a guide, the Patriots should once again be AFC contenders in 2019 even with such a talent drain.

Here is a recap of their comings and goings and draft-pick standing:

Trade acquisitions

CB Jason McCourty

WR Cordarrelle Patterson

DT Danny Shelton

In each case, the Patriots sacrificed positioning in the draft and were willing to absorb around the same level of salary in each ($2 million-$3 million) to land what could be three quality players for them. One common thread: Each player is coming from a team with a new regime/coach in place, so his value to his former team wasn’t as high as it once was.

Draft pick reset

First round (31)

Second round (43)

Second round (63)

Third round (95)

Fourth round (136)

Sixth round (210)

Seventh round (219)

The Patriots are also currently projected to earn two 2019 third-round compensatory draft picks. That would help replenish the ’19 third-round pick they traded to Cleveland in exchange for Shelton and a 2018 fifth-rounder.

Free-agent departures

WR Danny Amendola

CB Johnson Bademosi

CB Malcolm Butler

RB Dion Lewis

LT Nate Solder

This list could grow with special-teams captain and spiritual/emotional leader Matthew Slater and offensive tackles Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle still on the market.

Free-agent signings

DE Adrian Clayborn

RB Jeremy Hill

OT Matt Tobin

The club had reached out to DE/OLB Trent Murphy as a possible target, but Murphy landed a strong three-year, $21 million deal in Buffalo. Clayborn comes in a notch below (two years, base value of $10 million), while Hill and Tobin signed modest one-year deals.


C David Andrews (last year, extension)

RB Brandon Bolden

RB Rex Burkhead

S Nate Ebner

S Brandon King

LB Kyle Van Noy (last year, extension)

RB James White (last year, extension)

If Andrews, Van Noy and White hadn’t signed extensions last year and departed as free agents, they would have been included in another section of the analysis. So it’s only fair to include them here.

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Dallas Cowboys could find ‘keeping their own’ more problematic in 2019 – Dallas Cowboys Blog



FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have yet to sign a free agent from another team, although that could change Tuesday.

Their modus operandi when it comes to free agency is to re-sign their own players, but the past two years they have lost critical pieces to their roster.

Last week, it was linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. They also lost fullback Keith Smith and linebacker Kyle Wilber to the Oakland Raiders, but neither played major offensive or defensive roles and can be replaced.

Last year, it was guard Ronald Leary to the Denver Broncos, safety Barry Church to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brandon Carr to the Baltimore Ravens, Morris Claiborne to the New York Jets, J.J. Wilcox to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Terrell McClain to the Washington Redskins, among others.

The Cowboys can argue that they did not want to pay the price to keep those players, which is fine, but if they don’t get ahead of the market by signing players to extensions before they reach free agency, then they won’t do anything but spin their wheels in free agency.

Speaking on the team’s luxury bus from the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis, owner and general manager Jerry Jones was almost gloating about the compensatory picks the team received for losing Leary (fourth round), Church (fifth round), Carr (fifth round) and Claiborne (sixth round).

Depending on what they end up doing in free agency, they could get a fourth-rounder for Hitchens in 2019. The picks help make up for the loss of proven players, and the Cowboys could use them in trades to move up in next month’s draft.

But if the Cowboys’ plan is to “keep their own,” then they could face a difficult task in 2019.

They could have as many as 12 players set to hit unrestricted free agency, including three massive pieces to their success: Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin and defensive lineman David Irving.

The Cowboys kept Lawrence on the franchise tag this year, chewing up $17.143 million of their cap space. They have until mid-July to sign Lawrence to a multi-year contract or else he will have to play this season on the tag.

Martin is set to play out the year on his fifth-year option at $9.3 million. The Cowboys have wanted to lock him up to a long-term contract since last summer, but have not been able to close the deal. An extension would free up cap space this year and lock down Martin the same way they did Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. The Cowboys will not shy away from making Martin the highest paid guard in the NFL, which is now north of $13 million per season.

The Cowboys gave Irving, a restricted free agent, the second-round tender at $2.9 million. Theoretically, another team could sign Irving to a massive offer sheet, which the Cowboy won’t match in order to gain a second-round pick this year, but if not, then Irving would be scheduled to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2019. If Irving can put together a full season of work, then his price will be enormous.

Safety Byron Jones could be an unrestricted free agent next year as well if the Cowboys don’t pick up his fifth-year option by May 2. Add in running back Rod Smith, tight ends James Hanna and Geoff Swaim, backup tackle Chaz Green, defensive end Datone Jones and linebackers Justin March-Lillard and Damien Wilson and long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, and the Cowboys will have plenty of decisions to make.

The Cowboys can sign Dak Prescott to a mega-extension for the first time next summer and the quarterback numbers are going to be astronomical.

That’s why what happens this year matters so much, especially with Lawrence and Martin.

If Lawrence has another Pro Bowl-type season, his price jumps up to likely $20 million per year. If Martin waits, then his number only goes up as well, however, he has said he does not want to play anywhere else.

There is only one franchise tag to go around. Getting a long-term deal done for Lawrence might be more difficult than Martin, but if the Cowboys want to follow through on their “keep their own” plan they need to get something done.

Compensatory picks only matter so much.

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NFL VP Troy Vincent confirms changes to NFL catch rule



The NFL’s competition committee is expected to propose a new catch rule that would eliminate the “going to the ground” distinction in addition to reinforcing a high standard for overturning calls via replay, league executive vice president Troy Vincent confirmed Tuesday to the Washington Post.

ESPN previewed the changes on March 8, explaining the committee’s options, along with the role that a replay update would play in reimagining the controversial rule.

New York Giants owner John Mara told ESPN in February that the competition committee agreed that a handful of highly debated rulings — including incompletions for Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson in 2010 and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant in 2014 — should be called completions moving forward.

The requirements for a catch, under the committee’s likely proposal, will include the receiver controlling the ball and establishing himself in bounds. There will also be instruction for officials to define a time element, but it will apply both to receivers who are standing and those who are falling during the process of the catch.

Vincent did not specify that element with the Post and did not immediately respond to a request from ESPN. But former NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino told ESPN recently that it would have to define an act common to the game, such as taking a certain number of steps, in order for officials to call the play consistently.

Some of the problems with the catch rule in 2017 revolved around an inconsistent interpretation of a long-held standard to overturn mistakes that were “clear and obvious,” according to the wording in the 2017 NFL rulebook.

In the March 8 story, ESPN analyst Bill Polian — a former competition committee chairman — suggested the phrasing would be strengthened to “indisputable visual evidence.” That change, confirmed by Vincent to the Post, would remind the NFL’s centralized game-day officiating department that the league doesn’t want catches overturned because of slight movement of the ball.

Questions about the catch rule have circulated for years, and the league has made several attempts to tweak it in recent years. The urgency increased this offseason, however, after commissioner Roger Goodell said in January that he wanted it changed.

The committee has spent the past two days working through rule proposals to present to owners when they gather next week in Orlando, Florida. Other topics include the possibility of a targeting rule and changing pass interference to a 15-yard penalty.

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