Adrian Peterson, Saints finalize two-year contract

Take a peek at the sidelines during New Orleans Saints home games and you’ll probably find young Jarrius Robertson, decked out from head to toe in black and gold, interacting with players and coaches.

Robertson, 15, graces the sidelines at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with his humor and charm despite battling a rare liver disease called biliary atresia. He’s fought the chronic disease since birth, and now the Saints organization is helping him in his courageous battle.

We are excited to welcome Adrian to the New Orleans Saints,” coach Sean Payton added in a statement released by the team. “It’s rare and unique to have the opportunity to add a Hall of Fame player to your roster. His career has been top-notch and speaks for itself. We think he will be an excellent fit in our locker room and in our offense. We look forward to the opportunity later this spring to work with him on the field along with the rest of our team.”

Peterson’s average salary of $3.5 million places him 22nd among running backs this year, per Spotrac.com, behind the likes of Frank Gore ($4M), Theo Riddick ($3.85M), Bilal Powell ($3.75M) and Ryan Mathews ($3.6M). Peterson will also earn less than incumbent Saints starter Mark Ingram.

That was on its way to happening in New Orleans, where Cooks caught 162 balls for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns over his last two seasons before the Saints acquired Michael Thomas. It might have not have caused a significant drop off in 2016 but as Thomas becomes more engrained in the offense, Cooks might have seen his targets diminish.

It won’t necessarily be easy to carve out a role in an offense with so many potential weapons, but as we’ve seen with the few premier wideouts Brady has played with, the reward is exceptional. Cooks is probably the most ballyhooed wideout Brady has played with since Randy Moss in 2007-09.

At that point the Patriots could trade him to the highest bidder, where Butler would likely get the long-term deal he’s seeking. The Super Bowl XLIX hero could also play out the season on the low-cost $3.91 million tender before hitting the open market next year.

It’s not a surprise that the Saints wouldn’t fork over the No. 11 pick and hand Butler a massive contract in one swoop. Hearing Sean Payton say it outright, however, certainly helps the Patriots’ leverage in convincing the undrafted free agent to give them one more year of cheap labor.

This is a safe bet for a once-heralded offensive lineman looking to turn his career round. Franklin will likely see significant reps by joining a line with so many injury issues. He’ll also have a better chance to rebound with Adrian Peterson in the backfield and a quick-throwing Drew Brees under center.

It seems the Saints always find themselves in the same unenviable position of needing veteran offensive line help just before training camp — or later. The club brought back franchise favorite Jahri Evans on Sept. 7 last year. Luckily for Franklin, he’ll have more time with the playbook.

The 32-year-old Peterson seems like an ill fit in the Saints’ pass-happy offense. Yet the sides have a mutual interest in pairing. New Orleans is looking for a backup power runner behind Mark Ingram. Peterson is seeking to continue his career chasing a Super Bowl ring.

Taking a role in a backfield that already boasts Ingram would be a signal that no team was willing to hand Peterson a primary role coming off an injury-ravaged 2016 season.

Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall takes pay cut

He added: “I’d love to have a crystal ball that tells me what I’m going to do next year and 50 years after that, but that’s not life. And that’s not life in this league. I’ll just take it a year at a time and trust in the Lord’s plan.”

Cousins played this last season under the franchise tag. The Redskins have the opportunity to use the tag on him again this season at a heightened cost. Washington could end up spending upwards of $24 million on a one-year deal. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said to also keep an eye on the 49ers should Washington opt not to use the franchise tag on Cousins. Kyle Shanahan, who was instrumental in Washington drafting Cousins, will almost certainly be in charge of the 49ers in a matter of weeks.

Through the first two years of their existence, the Next Gen Stats have quickly progressed, not only in their depth and insight but also in their utility. Now that we’ve spent the last two NFL seasons exploring and tracking the data provided by the microchips in the players’ shoulder pads, we’re ready to take the information and its practical value to the next level.

In this space, every week we’ll use some of the Next Gen Stats metrics to delve into some of the top games of the week and explore individual player or team-level matchups. The hope is with some of the truly high-level analytic data we can uncover unique edges for fantasy football players when making lineup decisions for the upcoming week. Most of all, we’ll be more informed consumers of the NFL contests, which we should always strive to be in our fantasy decision-making process. Let’s dive into three games on the Week 4 slate that come with areas where Next Gen Stats can help cut through some of the questions.

Murphy was second on the team with nine sacks and recorded a career-best 47 tackles and three forced fumbles in 2016.

The four-game ban robs the Redskins of a quarter-season’s worth of their fearsome pass-rushing duo in Murphy and cheap jerseys and Ryan Kerrigan.

The pay cut comes as little surprise. Hall is angling to continue his career after last season was cut short in September due to a torn ACL. With safeties D.J. Swearinger, Su’a Cravens and Will Blackmon on the roster, it’s no guarantee that Hall sees starting snaps.

Missing 31 of his last 48 games due to injury, Hall switched to safety two seasons ago after serving for more than a decade as a reliable NFL starting cornerback. Near the end of his career, the wily veteran at least gives the Redskins depth at the backstop position.

Beathard was the director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins during two Super Bowl campaigns, including the 1972 perfect season. Beathard also worked as a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs during their 1966 AFL title season and for the Atlanta Falcons for four seasons.

Beathard is the patriarch of a football family. His young brother, Pete Beathard, played quarterback at USC and in the NFL. His son, Kurt Beathard, was most recently the offensive coordinator at Illinois State. One of his grandsons, C.J. Beathard, is currently a rookie quarterback for the 49ers.

After the game, Washington cornerback Josh Norman blasted the Raiders’ receivers. The postgame rant, Norman said, stemmed from pregame banter in which the wideouts claimed they’d go off for 200 yards.

“What was personal, other than them getting their tails whupped?” Norman said, via ESPN.com. “I mean, first and foremost, you don’t come up in here and say what you’re going to put up on somebody. Two hundred yards? [Crabtree] didn’t catch two balls. He only caught one, huh? So please, whatever you do, do not run your mouth if you’re a wide receiver and expect to show up on Sundays, because I’m telling you, we are here and we are waiting.

Buccaneers to make ‘strong push’ for DeSean Jackson

While all you nerds pinch yourselves about the start of a new season of Game of Thrones, I’m over here with a red marker and calendar crossing off the days until the launch of HBO’s true summer banger, Hard Knocks.

The premium cable behemoth released a one-minute teaser trailer of season 12 of Knocks, which will focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gerald McCoy is the focal point in the clip, and the trailer ends with a nifty pull-away shot that captures the star defensive tackle perched atop Raymond James Stadium after a grueling stairs workout.

Along with Cook, the club has also scheduled pre-draft visits with D’Onta Foreman of Texas and Joe Mixon of Oklahoma. The Bucs hold the No. 19 overall pick in the draft, and their position needs include running back, defensive line and safety.

Cook, a three-year starter for the Seminoles, offers a versatile skill set with outstanding vision, receiving skills and big-play speed. He’s also made pre-draft visits to the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, among others. NFL Network’s Heath Evans regards Cook as the No. 1 overall prospect in the draft.

The 30-year-old Jackson can still play, leading the NFL last season in yards per catch (17.9) while racking up his fifth career 1,000-yard campaign. He operated as a critical piece in Washington’s high-octane offense and would instantly upgrade an already-juicy Bucs attack likely to part ways with 34-year-old receiver Vincent Jackson.

Winston’s wishes make plenty of sense. With the fascinating Mike Evans locked in as Tampa’s No. 1 wideout, the Bucs would give defenses fits adding Jackson to the mix alongside promising tight end Cameron Brate.

It was a knock-down, drag-out contest you’d typically see between two league heavyweights, but instead it was two middling squads with uncertain paths. Which Buccaneers team would we get this week: the 31-21 winners in Week 1, or the squad decimated by turnovers and a swarming Cardinals defense in Week 2? Well, it was neither, sort of. Both teams made mistakes that each seemed to follow with another. They held serve on positive plays and errors, making for an entertaining contest.

The game’s highlights opened with each team giving the other a gift: the Rams’ Case Keenum tossed one directly to Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander, who had nothing but green in front of him for a pick-six; then Charles Sims dropped a pass (thanks to a hit from Trumaine Johnson) that landed in Los Angeles arms, setting the Rams up with great field position that ended in a Todd Gurley touchdown. It was very much call and response of both teams. Anything you can lose, we can lose better.

The Buccaneers lost the first 26 games of their existence. TWENTY-SIX. When coach John McKay was asked about his team’s execution, he quipped that he was “in favor of it.” This was the most embarrassing stretch in team history — well, until the Bucs took a kicker in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. (A kicker who might not even make the roster in 2017.)

There is a lot of sad history for the Bucs. Four years in, they were really good, reaching the 1979 NFC Championship Game — and then they were really bad again for awhile. Tampa Bay hired Tony Dungy in 1996 and had this awesome defense, but couldn’t break through. Traded for Jon Gruden — yeah, that Jon Gruden — in 2002 and won a Super Bowl before becoming bad again. Now this team is absolutely loaded. Boom. You’re caught up.

This has quietly been an excellent offseason for the Buccaneers’ defense. After retaining coordinator Mike Smith, who had head coaching looks, the team pivots toward a dominant presence against the run and pass. Baker has played in at least 14 games each year since the 2012 season.

Baker joins Gerald McCoy and key free agent acquisition Robert Ayers which, on paper, looks like one of the more formidable fronts in the division right now. Having just finished a three-year deal worth $9 million, Baker seems like he’s in line for a raise. It will be a worthwhile investment for Tampa Bay, a team that has already been shopping in Washington and plans to sign receiver DeSean Jackson at 4 p.m. ET today when free agent deals can become official.

Kansas City Chiefs likely will pass on Nick Foles’ option

Still, the 2018 draft location isn’t quite up for grabs. The league is expected to discuss in May whether to hold the draft in Philadelphia for a second straight year, as it did in Chicago, or open the bidding to other NFL cities, like Kansas City.

While Donovan admits that a potential Super Bowl at Arrowhead Stadium is still many years away, he said, when it comes to preparation to host the draft, the Chiefs have “checked every box.” Stay tuned, Kansas City.

The neophyte tandem of Ryan and Flacco went on to lead their respective teams to the playoffs as 16-game starters in 2008, forcing front offices and coaching staffs to reconsider their aversion to baptisms by fire.

When the Rams waited until Week 9 to unveil No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, it was an exception to the rule that has seen highly touted rookies such as Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota under center in the season opener.

According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Chiefs are “likely to pass on Nick Foles’ option for 2017.” This would make the former Eagles standout and Rams bust a free agent. Garafolo added that he was due $6.4 million and not $10.4 million, which was a number previously associated with the option.

While this could theoretically spring Foles into the open market and allow him to flirt with the Jets, Bills, Bears, 49ers and Texans, it is uncertain whether or not he represents a marked upgrade. Following his miraculous Pro Bowl season in 2013, Foles has appeared in 22 games, completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 4,625 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He would be a difficult sell (right now) for any franchise promising their fans an upgrade. Of course, injuries and other outside circumstances tend to change situations quickly.

Ware was injured fighting for extra yards on a swing pass. He tried to get up before going back to the ground grabbing his right knee. The fourth-year pro looked to be in a lot of pain and couldn’t put weight on his leg as he was carted off the field.

Ware earned the Chiefs starting gig last season, going for 921 yards on 214 carries. The 25-year-old also is a passing game threat, going for 447 yards on 33 catches in 2016.

Spiller returns to the Chiefs’ backfield after compiling 46 yards on 11 rush attempts this preseason. He’ll be a depth option behind rookie starter Kareem Hunt and backup Charcandrick West. Last season’s starter Spencer Ware is out for the season after suffering a knee injury.

The Chiefs losing Nelson, who started 15 games in 2016, for half the season is a blow. Not having their starting slot corner against the New England Patriots for the opener on Thursday is a hit to the team’s depth. Phillip Gaines and Terrance Mitchell are options to start for K.C.

The theory, of course, is that a strong-armed gunslinger like Mahomes could provide more home-run plays, and thus help lift the Chiefs past the divisional round of the playoffs that they’ve lost in the last two seasons.

Mahomes has a long way to go to make that idea a reality. Eventually supplanting a starter like Smith won’t be an easy chore. But when a veteran running back like West, who’s caught hundreds of balls from Smith, has that kind of reaction to seeing a new, more live arm in camp, perhaps the usurping at quarterback isn’t that far off.

Brett Favre: ‘I’d never say never’ to Packers return

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King is a big, physical corner. He’s helped himself throughout the draft process. He answered questions about his speed at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he had a phenomenal field workout. I think he rose from mid-second round to the middle portion of the first round.

The Packers need a big back to replace Eddie Lacy. Foreman’s running style is very similar Lacy’s. He’s a big, physical, rugged player. Foreman can be the power back with Ty Montgomery serving as his complement.

This is a move that simply makes sense. For a group of players who have been in the same system for years, it’s far more valuable for McCarthy to use the time to maximize his reps with the younger crowd. Teaching time is already at a premium, and this gives the coaching staff a chance to get its hands on the future of the franchise.

For the veterans, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it’s also a much-deserved mental break. After playing deep into the postseason, there was little respite between offseason commitments, recovery training and cheap jerseys and offseason training activities. It’s hard to measure the boost that comes with a long weekend, but McCarthy is hoping it’s another step back toward the playoffs.

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“People have talked about the broadcasting booth. I think I’d be pretty good at it, but you never know. I know Bart [Starr] went back [to Green Bay] and did it and it wasn’t as successful as everyone would have assumed. I’m not going to think I would be any different, but it is an intriguing option. What better place to do it? Yeah, it’s crossed my mind.”

Favre had the opportunity to elaborate on his comments while appearing on The Rich Eisen Show on Friday. Although he emphatically said “no” when asked if he wanted to be an NFL coach or GM, he immediately left open the possibility.

He insisted in public that this team was not like last year’s, the one that started 6-1 and then collapsed to finish 8-8, but he was looking for something beyond what showed up in the statistics, the better speed on defense, or Vic Beasley’s mounting sack total.

Those were promising signs for the future, but they hadn’t averted the disasters of the prior two weeks, the losses to Seattle and San Diego in closely contested games that Atlanta had led late. There had been late interceptions in each of them, but those could be explained away by a quarterback pressing to make a play to save his team — his sometimes undisciplined team that got mind-numbing penalties at the worst moments, that could not stop an opposing offense.

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Matt Barkley continues to earn money. In his fourth start, Barkley threw darts through the cold weather, making several pinpoint passes early and great reads down the field late. As it has been in his previous two losses, close wasn’t good enough for Barkley. The quarterback marched the Bears on a potential game-winning drive. A holding penalty backed the Bears up on first-and-goal, and a third down pass was knocked down in the end zone. The Bears settled for a chip-shot field goal to tie the game, but gave Rodgers too much time to drive for the win.

Barkley (30 for 43, 362 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) deserves praise for making throws in tight windows as the Bears stormed back from a 17-point deficit. Barkley’s turnovers put Chicago in that hole to begin with. After a stellar first half, Barkley committed turnovers on the first three possessions of the third quarter. Julius Peppers had a strip sack, followed by back-to-back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix interceptions, including one on a pass Barkley sailed high over the middle. Barkley earned himself years of NFL contracts with heady play. His turnover spree, however, displays why he’s not considered a franchise cornerstone.

The new version of the “triplets” brought the Cowboys back into the game just as the Packers were threatening to run away and hide with a 28-13 lead late in the third quarter. While social media was clamoring for a Tony Romo appearance, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott hit 13 of 17 throws for 142 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in his final three possessions. Directing a textbook one-minute drill, he picked up 42 yards in six plays to give Bailey an opportunity for the game-tying field goal.

Fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott churned out 125 yards on 22 carries, highlighted by a phenomenal spin move on Clay Matthews to set up Dez Bryant’s seven-yard touchdown that ultimately tied the contest at 28 with five minutes remaining.