No pressure not a good thing for Matthews and the Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Clay Matthews is learning new playbook terminology this spring under a new defensive coordinator, though his overall goals haven’t changed.

It’s more important than ever for the Green Bay Packers’ long-haired linebacker to get to the quarterback.

The Packers didn’t add a potential game-changing edge rusher in free agency or via the draft. They focused on another defensive priority and replenished the cornerback position with veteran Tramon Williams and draft picks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.

That leaves Matthews and Nick Perry as leaders of a pass rush that had trouble getting consistent pressure last year.

“Well, I wasn’t surprised with the first two picks. … But obviously, you look at the depth at the outside linebacker position, and it’s not that great,” Matthews said. “That’s not a slight to the guys who are behind Nick and myself, but you look around the league, a lot of times they’re rotating in pass rushers.”

The Packers had veteran Julius Peppers in the mix on the edge a couple seasons ago, but he returned to Carolina in 2017. Second-year player Kyler Fackrell and veteran Ahmad Brooks, who combined for 4 ½ sacks, were the primary backups outside.

Matthews and Perry each missed time last season with injuries. With a lack of production from the bench, getting fresh blood seemed to make sense.

Matthews said he understands that signings don’t always go as planned for the front office. There are only so many draft picks to make. The salary cap limits spending.

“I’m happy with the picks they made, and at the same time it does show … their confidence in Nick and myself, as well as the guys we have,” Matthews said. “At some time I’m sure it will be addressed, but for the time being the guys we have here are the guys who have to hold up their end of the bargain.”

It would help if Fackrell and second-year player Vince Biegel became more productive. Biegel missed the first seven games last season because of a foot injury.

“The biggest gains we’ve always made have been from our returning players, particularly the second, third year players,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the draft about outside linebacker depth.

The pass rush could get more productive if other areas of the defense also improve.

Tighter pass coverage could give edge rushers more time to get to the quarterback. Green Bay also hopes to get more push up front from free agent signee Muhammad Wilkerson, who has 44 1/2 career sacks.

He joins Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry on the line, which should be the strength of new coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense. Pettine was the New York Jets’ defensive coordinator in Wilkerson’s first two years in the league in 2011-12.

“Everybody’s learning, some of the wording is a little different from back years ago when I was with Pettine,” Wilkerson said. “We’re all getting through it.”

Matthews knows that Pettine wants to be aggressive, though there is plenty of time to figure out exactly what role he’ll play this fall. It’s quite possible that it doesn’t change much after Matthews showed the flexibility to play both outside and inside the last few years.

Pettine replaced Dom Capers, who was fired after the 7-9 season. Capers had been Matthews’ only defensive coordinator since the linebacker entered the league in 2009.

“Like I said, someone needed to fall on the knife. I think it’s all done to get better results, and that’s exactly what we’re here for,” Matthews said. “In the new defense we’re getting ready to hit this season strong and, like I said, hold up our end of the bargain.”

___

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Chicago Bears training camp primer

Chicago Bears training camp primer

New faces: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CB Buster Skrine, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB

Chicago Bears training camp primer

New faces: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CB Buster Skrine, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB Mike Davis, RB David Montgomery, WR Riley Ridley, G Ted Larsen

They’re gone: S Adrian Amos, CB Bryce Callahan, RB Jordan Howard, WR Josh Bellamy, G Eric Kush, TE Dion Sims, WR Kevin White, K Cody Parkey

2019 snapshot: Virtually any defense that reaches the heights Chicago’s did in 2018 is bound to regress some, but the Bears might be in for a larger slide than most. It’s not the team’s fault that Vic Fangio is gone, but Chicago could have promoted Ed Donatell to D-coordinator to maintain Fangio’s scheme. Instead, Donatell followed Fangio to Denver, and Chuck Pagano took over the Bears’ D. Pagano has ample talent at his disposal, but his defenses in Indianapolis were disappointing. Chicago also lost talent in the secondary, with Clinton-Dix and Skrine replacing Amos and Callahan, respectively, albeit at friendlier prices.

The Bears put most of their efforts into supplementing the offense, as Davis and Montgomery should be an upgrade to Howard in the backfield, and Patterson and Ridley complement a talented receiving corps. The O-line remains solid, with James Daniels moving to center (Cody Whitehair will bump out to guard) and RT Bobby Massie retained (four years, $32 million), giving quarterback Mitchell Trubisky no excuses.

Chicago’s kicking situation remains concerning, as Parkey was released one year into a big contract, and no obvious replacement emerged in the months that followed. Of the series of offseason additions at kickers, several already have been released, and those who made it through the summer did so despite missing multiple kicks at OTAs and minicamp.

Worth the investment?

–Trubisky started near 100-1 at some books in the MVP derby. Perhaps he’s worthy of that billing, but investors drove him up to 25-1 and even higher before training camp began.

Bottom Line: Without much cap space or a first- or second-round pick, the Bears didn’t have much room to upgrade, but they could have done more to fight defensive regression.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Patriots’ Edelman (thumb) to miss about three weeks

Report: Patriots' Edelman (thumb) to miss about three weeks

New England Patriots

Report: Patriots’ Edelman (thumb) to miss about three weeks

New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman has a finger injury and will be out about three weeks, ESPN reported on Monday.

Over the weekend, Edelman had a brace on his left thumb while working at his youth camp, and whether the thumb was broken wasn’t clear.

The Patriots open training camp later this week in Foxborough, Mass.

With Edelman on the sideline, quarterback Tom Brady will be without his favorite target, having already lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement. He also will be missing receiver Josh Gordon, who is suspended, and offensive weapons Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas, who are on the physically unable to perform list as camp opens.

“I’m extremely excited for the new year. This is a new team,” Edelman said at his camp, per ESPN. “With training camp coming up, this is kind of like when school is back in session. We had summer break. You get to see all the fellas and this is where you learn your team, learn each other and become accountable for each other, and create a consistency together.

“This is like the beginning shape form of your team, these next few weeks. It’s a crucial point. You put a lot of hard work in during the spring and it’s the next step until you’re playing with other teams. ”

Edelman is entering his 10th NFL season, all with New England. In 2018, he caught 74 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. He served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Edelman had 10 receptions for 141 yards and was named MVP of New England’s 13-3 win against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

In May, the Patriots finalized a two-year extension worth $21 million with the 33-year-old receiver.

–Field Level Media

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Green Bay Packers training camp primer

Green Bay Packers training camp primer

New faces: OLB Za'Darius Smith, OLB Preston Smith,

Green Bay Packers training camp primer

New faces: OLB Za’Darius Smith, OLB Preston Smith, S Adrian Amos, OL Billy Turner, DE/OLB Rashan Gary, S Darnell Savage, OL Elgton Jenkins, TE Jace Sternberger, TE Michael Roberts

They’re gone: OLB Clay Matthews, WR Randall Cobb, OLB Nick Perry, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, LB Jake Ryan, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Davon House, OL Byron Bell

2019 snapshot: In one of the more active Packers offseasons in recent memory, an interesting dichotomy emerged: The offense was overhauled schematically under a new head coach, but almost all personnel resources were devoted to the defense. Clearly, GM Brian Gutekunst is confident that Matt LaFleur — who has worked on the staffs of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan– can find the right recipe for Aaron Rodgers & Co., as he added just two linemen (Turner and Jenkins) and a mid-round flex tight end (Sternberger) on offense.

On defense, Gutekunst backed up the Brinks truck (combined $118 million over four years) for the Smiths (unrelated) to replace Matthews and Perry (both released) on the edge. He also took mega-talent Rashan Gary — who could line up all over the place in Mike Pettine’s defense — with the 12th overall pick in the draft and made major investments at safety in Amos (four years, $37 million) and Savage (trade up to 21st overall). That gives Pettine plenty of toys to play with in a shape-shifting defense, but it all must come together.

Glowing offseason reports about wide receiver Marquez-Valdes Scantling soothed concerns about a young group of skill-position players, but it was still surprising to see no wideout drafted. Sternberger is ready to contribute as a receiver right away, but he’ll have to fight Jimmy Graham for snaps. Of course, how Rodgers takes to LaFleur’s offense will supersede all else.

Worth the investment?

–Not even the most optimistic Packers backers can be certain of the direction this team will take amid a major offseason change. But Aaron Rodgers, when healthy, is bound to get you to .500. Could he have 12 wins in him? The win/loss over-under line consensus is 9.5.

Bottom Line: Green Bay was probably too aggressive in spots, and a few holes remain. But if LaFleur unleashes Rodgers, this team will be back in Super Bowl contention.

–Field Level Media

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Minnesota Vikings training camp primer

Minnesota Vikings training camp primer

New faces: G Josh Kline, DT Shamar

Minnesota Vikings training camp primer

New faces: G Josh Kline, DT Shamar Stephen, C Garrett Bradbury, TE Irv Smith Jr., RB Alexander Mattison, G Dru Samia

They’re gone: DT Sheldon Richardson, RB Latavius Murray, OT Mike Remmers, S Andrew Sendejo, C Nick Easton, S George Iloka, QB Trevor Siemian, CB/PR Marcus Sherels

2019 snapshot: Priority No. 1 for Minnesota was to get the offense back on track, with a clear emphasis on coaching and the offensive line.

Gary Kubiak arrived to assist offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and the duo should be good for QB Kirk Cousins. Perhaps more important, Bradbury (first round) and Kline (free agency) will help shore up the interior and get the outside-zone running game going, opening up a wealth of play-action designs. With Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neil — who impressed as a raw rookie in 2018 — on the outside, the front five should be strong enough.

The rest of the Vikings’ offseason was about balancing salaries within a small window of cap room, but the results were mixed. The departures of Murray, Remmers, Sendejo and Easton were expected, but Richardson (who got three years and $37 million in Cleveland) might have been a better investment than LB Anthony Barr, who was retained for five years, $67.5 million, especially when considering positional value.

Likewise, TE Kyle Rudolph’s extension (four years, $36 million) seemed far too rich. Rudolph isn’t much more than average as a receiver or a blocker, and Smith appeared to be the obvious long-term starter. On the bright side, Minnesota got Everson Griffen to accept a pay cut and extended Adam Thielen at a reasonable price (four years, $64.2 million), a nice reward for an undrafted, homegrown talent.

Worth the investment?

–At 50-1, Kirk Cousins might look like a bargain buy for a playoff team. His poor showings in big games – and vs. teams with winning records – would seem to tell another story. Cousins could be a good bet if he puts up great numbers for a division winner, but his reputation will not be easily overcome.

Bottom Line: The deals for Barr and Rudolph felt like luxuries, but the Vikings improved up front without destroying their cap. Not bad.

–Field Level Media

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Buffalo Bills training camp primer

Buffalo Bills training camp primer

New faces: C Mitch Morse, DT Ed Oliver, WR

Buffalo Bills training camp primer

New faces: C Mitch Morse, DT Ed Oliver, WR John Brown, WR Cole Beasley, OL Cody Ford, OG Spencer Long, OG Quinton Spain, OT Ty Nsekhe, OT LaAdrian Waddle, TE Tyler Kroft, TE Lee Smith, TE Dawson Knox, RB T.J. Yeldon, RB Frank Gore, RB Devin Singletary, CB Kevin Johnson, CB E.J. Gaines, WR Andre Roberts

They’re gone: DT Kyle Williams, TE Charles Clay, OG John Miller, OT Jordan Mills, WR Deonte Thompson

2019 snapshot: Mostly patient a year ago, the Bills went crazy in free agency this offseason, adding both quality and quantity with all kinds of deals.

Morse isn’t worth the largest contract in NFL history for a center (four years, $44.5 million), but GM Brandon Beane found bargains on the O-line in Nsekhe (two years, $10 million), Spain (one year, $2 million) and Waddle (one year, $2 million). After jumping up in Round 2 to nab Ford — who could play tackle or guard — the Bills should have a much improved front five with four new starters.

Buffalo found QB Josh Allen more weapons in Brown, Beasley, Kroft and Knox, a third-rounder with athletic upside. Each were reasonable investments, especially because they’ll help determine just how quickly Allen is progressing. Answers were also added to replace the aging LeSean McCoy, with Singletary (third round) drafted and Gore and Yeldon added in free agency.

Despite extending contract-year DE Jerry Hughes, the Bills didn’t add an edge rusher to complement him, which they might regret unless Shaq Lawson takes a major step. On the bright side, though, they managed to get Oliver at No. 9 overall. Not nearly the polished pass rusher Aaron Donald was coming out of Pitt, Oliver nonetheless has similar athletic gifts and will be disruptive (if not a finisher) from Day 1.

Worth the investment?

–Two years removed from a 9-7 campaign and a playoff appearance, the Bills are certainly capable of going over seven wins. But Allen must develop as a passer, making this a bit of a risky play.

–Only one team, the 2008 Dolphins, has taken the AFC East from the New England Patriots since 2003, and that was with Tom Brady missing virtually all season. Even at +700, the Bills’ odds to win their first division title since 1995 probably aren’t worth taking.

Bottom line: The spending spree looked a little wild, but the Bills structured contracts smartly and didn’t take on much risk. They also managed to address most major holes, with plenty of upside in the draft class.

–Field Level Media

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp primer

Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp primer

New faces: DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Deone Bucannon, OLB Shaquil Barrett, LB Devin

Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp primer

New faces: DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Deone Bucannon, OLB Shaquil Barrett, LB Devin White, WR Breshad Perriman, QB Blaine Gabbert, P Bradley Pinion, CB Sean Bunting, CB Jamel Dean, K Matt Gay

They’re gone: DT Gerald McCoy, LB Kwon Alexander, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Adam Humphries, CB Brent Grimes, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, DE Vinny Curry

2019 snapshot: A disappointing team in an extremely difficult division, the Bucs might have made their biggest upgrades this offseason in the coaching staff.

Replacing Dirk Koetter is Bruce Arians, fresh off a one-year retirement. He brought many of the key pieces from his successful staff in Arizona, including D-coordinator Todd Bowles, offensive minds Harold Goodwin and Byron Leftwich, and special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

Elsewhere, GM Jason Licht’s approach raised more question marks. LT Donovan Smith’s extension (three years, $41.3 million) was reasonable in an out-of-control O-line market, as was letting Alexander depart for San Francisco at a ridiculous price (four years, $54 million). But while White (fifth overall pick) should thrive in place of Alexander, he represented an exorbitant investment at a position of marginal value, while the Bucs spent fewer resources on the edge. Barrett was a bargain, but there are few other dangerous rushers after Jason Pierre-Paul’s neck injury.

Releasing McCoy and signing Suh while saving $3.75 million seems like a win, but Suh isn’t necessarily the better player, and he’s certainly not the leader McCoy was. Licht also invested heavily at both kicker (Gay) — a few years after his disastrous trade-up for Roberto Aguayo — and punter (Pinion), positions that rarely justify any sort of significant price tag or draft capital.

Worth the investment?

–The Bucs went 5-11 last season and shouldn’t be any worse, so going over their 6.5 over/under win total is certainly achievable, as long as Jameis Winston clicks with Arians.

–Speaking of Winston, his MVP odds (+10000) are tied for 37th-best in the NFL, behind several wideouts and even defensive players. Given Arians’ history — he helped Carson Palmer finish as an MVP runner-up in 2015 — that could be one of the best longshots on the board.

Bottom line: Bringing in Arians gives Winston his best shot at success, but it’s hard to get on board with the rest of what Licht did. The GM’s job could well depend on this season.

–Field Level Media

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Carolina Panthers training camp primer

Carolina Panthers training camp primer

New faces: C Matt Paradis, DT Gerald McCoy, DE/OLB Bruce Irvin,

Carolina Panthers training camp primer

New faces: C Matt Paradis, DT Gerald McCoy, DE/OLB Bruce Irvin, WR Chris Hogan, DE/OLB Brian Burns, OT Greg Little, QB Will Grier

They’re gone: C Ryan Kalil, DE Julius Peppers, LB Thomas Davis, WR Devin Funchess, OT Matt Kalil, OT Chris Clark, S Mike Adams

2019 snapshot: A year after changing ownership, the Panthers faced significant turnover brought on by a number of different factors. Franchise icons in Ryan Kalil and Peppers retired, while a third (Davis) was allowed to walk in free agency.

Paradis should be a nice replacement for Kalil — as long as his surgically repaired ankle holds up — and McCoy will help replace some of Peppers’ leadership while Burns and Irvin try to rev up the edge rush. The unit will look different for another reason as well, with Ron Rivera and D-coordinator Eric Washington employing more 3-4 looks.

In addition to Paradis up front, the Panthers added Little (second round), retained Daryl Williams on a friendly deal (one year, $6 million) and released Matt Kalil. Little is raw and has had his motor questioned, while Williams has struggled to stay healthy, but between the pair and Taylor Moton, the tackle position should be OK.

That’s important because Cam Newton is still working his way back from shoulder surgery, though he progressed to throwing a regulation football during OTAs. Grier’s selection raised concerns about Newton, but all signs point to the former MVP being ready for the regular season. Before he was hurt in 2018, he thrived under new O-coordinator Norv Turner, so optimism is warranted if Newton is indeed healthy.

Worth the investment?

–Newton’s injury overshadowed how excellent the Panthers were when he was fully healthy last season. The possibility that Carolina returns to that form makes the over on a 7.5-win total extremely enticing.

–Even if Newton is fully healthy, what are the odds he’ll return to his 2015 MVP form? Bovada has them at +4000, on par with two Rams (Jared Goff and Aaron Donald), which feels a bit risky.

Bottom line: Carolina did well to address its biggest holes, though most of its moves still carried risk. The Panthers could thrive if everything clicks as planned.

–Field Level Media

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New Orleans Saints training camp primer

New Orleans Saints training camp primer

New faces: TE

New Orleans Saints training camp primer

New faces: TE Jared Cook, C Nick Easton, DT Malcom Brown, RB Latavius Murray, DT Mario Edwards, C Erik McCoy, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, CB/PR Marcus Sherels

They’re gone: C Max Unger, RB Mark Ingram, DE Alex Okafor, TE Benjamin Watson, S Kurt Coleman, LB Manti Te’o

2019 snapshot: After years of borrowing against the future to upgrade the present, the Saints certainly weren’t going to stop this offseason, not with Drew Brees at age 40 and the team still firmly on the doorstep of another Super Bowl appearance. For most other teams, that would be irresponsible roster management, but it’s hard to fault the Saints for trying to maximize the window to win a championship.

In free agency, New Orleans nabbed Cook, the sort of receiving tight end Brees hasn’t had since Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle. They also added a possible replacement for Unger in Easton, found insurance for injured DT Sheldon Rankins by signing Brown and Edwards, and replaced the departed Ingram with a slightly cheaper deal for Murray. New Orleans also retained Teddy Bridgewater for just $7.25 million, keeping alive the possibility he could be Brees’ successor.

Absent their first-round pick because of last year’s trade-up for Marcus Davenport, the Saints traded up again this year for McCoy (second round) and Gardner-Johnson (fourth), leaving little else in their draft class. McCoy will battle Easton for the job to replace Unger.

New Orleans still has work to do, as Michael Thomas needs an extension entering the final year of his rookie deal. On the plus side, the Saints found room for a Cameron Jordan extension (three years, $52.5 million).

Worth the investment?

–Only the Patriots (11) have a higher over/under than the Saints (10.5). New Orleans could still hit, but 11 wins is a high bar for any team to reach.

–It’s remarkable that Brees, a 12-time Pro Bowler in 18 seasons, still has not won an MVP award. He has the fourth-best odds this season (+1000), but his decline down the stretch last season makes that a risky play.

Our Take: They’ll eventually have to pay off all their debts, but the Saints set themselves up for a run at Super Bowl LIV.

–Field Level Media

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New York Jets training camp primer

New York Jets training camp primer

New York Jets training camp primer

New faces: RB Le’Veon Bell, LB C.J. Mosley, DT Quinnen Williams, WR Jamison Crowder, OG Kelechi Osemele, CB Brian Poole, QB Trevor Siemian, WR Josh Bellamy, WR Deonte Thompson, K Chandler Catanzaro, OLB Jachai Polite

They’re gone: OG James Carpenter, C Spencer Long, CB Buster Skrine, DL Mike Pennel, WR Andre Roberts, K Jason Myers, S Terrence Brooks, WR Jermaine Kearse, RB Isaiah Crowell

2019 snapshot: Few teams in the league had a more complicated offseason than the Jets, who apparently disliked their own moves from this spring so much that the man who made them is now gone. Former GM Mike Maccagnan was fired in May, with Joe Douglas hired in June.

That came after Maccagnan hired Adam Gase as head coach, led a free agent spending spree for Bell, Mosely and Crowder, and ran the draft room as normal in April. Did the team finally get it right by hiring Douglas? Or does that bizarre sequence of events simply show a dysfunctional organization?

Maccagnan’s moves certainly raised a few eyebrows. He made outlandish investments at two of the league’s least valuable positions in running back (Bell; four years, $52 million) and inside linebacker (Mosley; five years, $85 million), then added an expensive slot wideout (Crowder; three years, $28.5 million) just a few months after extending Quincy Enunwa, who predominantly plays the slot.

The draft was more encouraging, as Williams was clearly the best player available, even at a crowded position with Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon and newly re-signed Henry Anderson. Third-round picks Polite and OT Chuma Edoga each bring some upside (albeit amid character concerns), and TE Trevon Wesco (fourth round) should be a nice Swiss-army knife as a tight end/H-back.

Worth the investment?

–The Jets managed just four wins a year ago, but with several major talent upgrades, they could reasonably flirt with the postseason. It’s not hard to see them topping their 7-win over/under.

–As far as MVP longshots go, you could do far worse than Sam Darnold (+7500), who came on strong to finish his rookie season and now has Adam Gase as his head coach.

Bottom line: It was probably the right move to fire Maccagnan, but it’s hard to justify the process that led up to it or the timing. Still, if Williams stars like expected — he’ll need to sign his contract and report to camp first — this team looks much more talented.

–Field Level Media

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New England Patriots training camp primer

New England Patriots training camp primer

New faces: DE Michael Bennett, LB Jamie Collins, WR Demaryius

New England Patriots training camp primer

New faces: DE Michael Bennett, LB Jamie Collins, WR Demaryius Thomas, TE Benjamin Watson, TE Matt LaCosse, WR N’Keal Harry, WR Dontrelle Inman, DL Mike Pennel, RB Brandon Bolden, S Terrence Brooks, CB Joejuan Williams, DE Chase Winovich, RB Damien Harris

They’re gone: TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Trey Flowers, OT Trent Brown, DT Malcom Brown, WR Chris Hogan, DE Adrian Clayborn, TE Dwayne Allen, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, CB Eric Rowe, OT LaAdrian Waddle

2019 snapshot: Another offseason, another talent exodus in New England.

Given the Patriots just won the Super Bowl, nobody should be panicking, but Gronkowski, Flowers and Trent Brown will be very tough to replace. At the same time, Gronk’s retirement was out of the team’s control, and the Patriots certainly would not have paid Flowers (five years, $90 million) or Brown (four years, $66 million) anywhere near the money they landed on the open market.

As usual, the Patriots regrouped and reloaded in a variety of creative ways. Bennett cost only a swap of late-round picks and should step right into Flowers’ role, with inside-outside versatility and pass rush. Collins was brought back for a bargain $2 million after his release in Cleveland, and Watson (one year, $3 million) and LaCosse (two years, $2.8 million) provide cheap options at tight end. Between Thomas, Harry and Inman, the receiving corps should produce a few suitable options.

Some questions remain. Offensive tackle is thin after Brown and Waddle left in free agency, and signee Jared Veldheer decided to retire. The tight end spot lacks a clear answer or upside after Bill Belichick surprisingly didn’t draft one from a quality group of prospects and released Austin Seferian-Jenkins during the offseason program. Even so, Belichick produced an excellent draft class overall, with Williams, Winovich and Harris all expected to contribute early in addition to Harry.

Worth the investment?

–The Patriots have the NFL’s highest over/under win total (11) and the best odds to win Super Bowl LIV (+600). Both figures feel a tad rich, but each could hit if Tom Brady doesn’t fall off a cliff.

–As usual, Brady is among the favorites for MVP, with decent odds at +1400 (surprisingly behind Baker Mayfield at +1100). He needs two more to tie Peyton Manning (five) for most all-time, but the soon-to-be 42-year-old might not get the requisite volume.

Bottom line: The Patriots are clearly less talented overall, but it’s hard to argue with many of their decisions in a vacuum. Until Brady declines, they should remain a juggernaut.

–Field Level Media

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Miami Dolphins training camp primer

Miami Dolphins training camp primer

New faces: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Josh Rosen,

Miami Dolphins training camp primer

New faces: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Josh Rosen, TE Dwayne Allen, DT Christian Wilkins, CB Eric Rowe, OT Jordan Mills, OG Chris Reed, C Michael Deiter

They’re gone: QB Ryan Tannehill, OT Ja’Wuan James, DE Cameron Wake, DE Robert Quinn, OG Josh Sitton, RB Frank Gore, WR Danny Amendola, C Travis Swanson

2019 snapshot: Miami made major changes last spring while touting the importance of culture, but this offseason was even more extreme in that regard, with a complete reset.

GM Chris Grier gained full control of personnel with Mike Tannenbaum gone and brought in head coach Brian Flores, who will run the defense while fellow former Patriot Chad O’Shea coordinates the offense. Jim Caldwell was brought in to be assistant head coach/quarterbacks, but will instead be a consultant after a leave of absence for medical reasons.

The offense will also have a new leader for the first time since 2012, as Tannehill was dealt, and Fitzpatrick (two years, $11 million) and Rosen (acquired for second- and fifth-round picks) were brought in. The trade for Rosen is a home run any way you look at it: The Dolphins owe just $6.3 million over three years for the opportunity to see if a top-10 prospect (who was better than his numbers in Arizona) is their long-term answer at QB. If he isn’t, he still brings value as a backup.

The Dolphins were mostly quiet elsewhere, saying goodbye to three key O-linemen and bringing in uninspiring replacements. Mills isn’t nearly at James’ level, and the interior has major concerns even if Deiter (third round) can start right away. Those issues could muddy the evaluation of Rosen.

Worth the investment?

–The Dolphins and Cardinals are tied for the NFL-low over/under win total (five), and Miami’s tanking intentions have been widely reported. That said, Fitzpatrick could get hot and win a few games, and Rosen will be quite motivated. We’d say away from this one.

–For longshot fans out there, how about Miami at +2000 to win the AFC East? Stranger things have happened, like when the 2008 Dolphins — coming off a 1-15 season — claimed the only non-Patriots division title since 2003 despite preseason odds of +4000.

Bottom line: The defense could use more help, and the lack of investment in the O-line is troubling, but Rosen’s arrival is a major boost. Odds are, it won’t lead to many wins in 2019, which might be Miami’s preference, anyway.

–Field Level Media

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Texans’ Watt, Hopkins placed on PUP list

Texans' Watt, Hopkins placed on PUP list

Texans’ Watt, Hopkins placed on PUP list

The Houston Texans placed defensive end J.J. Watt and wideout DeAndre Hopkins on the active/physically unable to perform list on Sunday, indicating both players will sit out practice when training camp begins later this week.

Texans veterans report on Wednesday and begin practicing Thursday. Rookies reported Sunday.

Watt had cleanup surgery on his knee in January after Houston lost in the wild-card playoffs, but there’s no indication his recovery will threaten his regular-season availability.

Hopkins battled a shoulder injury late last season, saying after the playoff loss he tore ligaments “completely off the bone,” but reports at the time said he would not need surgery. He also fought a foot injury, but said in June he expected to be ready for training camp.

Either player can be activated anytime to facilitate a return to practice.

The Texans also placed rookie tight end Kahale Warring on the active/non-football-injury list. Warring’s injury is unknown.

A third-round pick in April, Warring is expected to compete to start for the Texans after promising work in the offseason.

The team did not announce any move regarding wideout Will Fuller, which could be good news. If Fuller is not placed on the PUP list, he would be able to practice immediately after missing all of the team’s offseason work during his recovery from a torn ACL.

–Field Level Media

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Dolphins waive DT Norton, will pay salary

Dolphins waive DT Norton, will pay salary

The Miami Dolphins placed defensive tackle Kendrick

Dolphins waive DT Norton, will pay salary

The Miami Dolphins placed defensive tackle Kendrick Norton — whose left arm was amputated following a car crash earlier this month — on the reserve/non-football-injury list on Sunday, effectively waiving him.

Norton will not count against the 90-man roster, but the team will still pay his $495,000 salary, and his medical bills will be covered by insurance through the NFL and the Dolphins.

The 22-year-old’s NFL career is over after his July 4 accident. He had six surgeries over a two-week span before being discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

Norton, who played at the University of Miami, said several Dolphins teammates and coaches came to see him in the hospital often, and cited first-year head coach Brian Flores as a daily guest to his hospital room.

Norton spent most of the 2018 season on the Panthers’ practice squad after Carolina selected him in the seventh round of the 2018 draft. The Dolphins signed him in December.

Norton was cited with making an improper lane change, per a Florida Highway Patrol report. He suddenly pulled his F-250 truck in front of a Maserati and clipped it, sending his car into a concrete barrier. The other driver was not injured, and the report said drugs or alcohol were not believed to be a factor.

Also on Sunday, the Dolphins placed tight end Dwayne Allen, linebacker Mike Hull and cornerback Cordrea Tankersley on the physically unable to perform list. None of the three can partake in on-field activities at training camp, which starts Thursday, until activated from the PUP list.

The Dolphins also claimed offensive lineman Will Holden off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals and waived cornerback Jamar Summers.

–Field Level Media

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Herman claims Barbasol Championship after Kraft stumbles

Herman claims Barbasol Championship after Kraft stumbles

Jim Herman made two back-nine

Herman claims Barbasol Championship after Kraft stumbles

Jim Herman made two back-nine birdies after a rain delay on Sunday and was rewarded when Kelly Kraft stumbled late, claiming his second career PGA Tour title at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky.

Herman shot 2-under 70 to finish at 26-under 262 at Keene Trace Golf Club, one stroke ahead of Kraft, who bogeyed the par-3 16th and par-4 17th right after taking the solo lead with birdies at 14 and 15.

After a three-putt from 48 feet on 17, Kraft’s 41-foot birdie try at 18 missed. Herman then two-putted from 23 feet, finishing with a tap-in to clinch the victory.

Herman, 41, was limited to nine events in 2018 by a foot injury and missed the cut in 16 of his previous 19 events this year, with no finishes higher than 43rd before Sunday’s victory.

“Obviously the last couple years have been a little lean,” he said afterward on Golf Channel. “A lot of missed cuts, and I never lost hope, but what are you gonna say? This was a great week. I always wanted to win a second one.”

Herman’s previous title came at the Houston Open in 2016. Coincidentally, both of his victories have come two weeks after he played a round with current U.S. President Donald Trump, who Herman said gave him putting advice two weeks ago that helped him this week.

“He’s a busy man, but I think I need to see him again here sometime soon,” Herman said of Trump with a smile. “… He motivates me and puts me in a good spot.”

Both players in the final pairing cooled off after a scorching Saturday, in which Herman shot a 62 and Kraft broke the course record with 61.

Herman was 1 under on the seventh hole when play was stopped due to weather. He then bogeyed No. 9 to fall level with Kraft, who had eagled at the par-5 fifth to get to 1 under on the day. Both players birdied the 11th before Kraft took the outright lead at 14, and both birdied 15 before Kraft’s back-to-back bogeys.

Austria’s Sepp Straka shot a 66 to claim third alone at 23 under, while Australia’s Matt Jones tied the low round of the day with a 63 to tie Austin Cook (70) for fourth.

Scotland’s Martin Laird, who also shot 63, was among three tied for sixth at 21 under.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Woods, McIlroy set for skins game in Japan

Report: Woods, McIlroy set for skins game in Japan

Report: Woods, McIlroy set for skins game in Japan

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will headline a skins game event on Oct. 21 in Japan, a source told ESPN on Sunday.

The skins game will also include Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama in a one-day competition to be held at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Japan, three days before the start of the inaugural Zozo Championship that will be played outside of Tokyo. Woods is expected to compete in that tournament, the first official PGA Tour event in Japan.

The PGA Tour-sanctioned skins game will offer “lucrative prize money,” according to ESPN, although the amount and the structure of the event are still being finalized.

The Skins Game was once an offseason golf staple, held from 1983 to 2008, often around Thanksgiving weekend. The event fizzled from a lack of star power in its final few events.

In a typical skins competition, each hole is assigned a dollar amount, with the prize money rolling over to the next hole if there is no winner.

Woods was a runner-up in the Skins Game in 2001, 2004 and 2005, but he did not play in the competition after that.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Pats’ Michel, Thomas open on PUP

Reports: Pats' Michel, Thomas open on PUP

Reports: Pats’ Michel, Thomas open on PUP

Running back Sony Michel and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas are among six New England Patriots who will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list later this week, multiple outlets reported Sunday.

Michel had a knee scope this offseason but is expected to be ready in time for the regular season. Thomas tore his Achilles on Dec. 23, putting him at risk of missing regular-season games. If he is not activated from the PUP list before Week 1, he would have to miss at least six games.

Avoiding the PUP list is 2018 first-round offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, a good sign as he recovers from a torn Achilles sustained last August. Wynn is the leading candidate to start at left tackle after the departure of Trent Brown via free agency and the retirement of free agent signee Jared Veldheer.

Joining Michel and Thomas on the PUP list, per reports, will be defensive end Deatrich Wise, special-teams ace Nate Ebner, offensive tackle Cole Croston and defensive back Ken Webster.

Rookie offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste, taken in the third round in April, will be placed on the active/non-football-injury list as he continues to recover from pre-draft quad surgery.

Michel, 24, was the Patriots’ second first-round pick in 2018, eight picks after Wynn (23rd overall). He rushed for 931 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, scoring the only touchdown in the Super Bowl LIII victory.

Thomas, 31, caught 59 passes for 677 yards and five touchdowns between the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans last year, joining Houston via a deal before the trade deadline. He has four Pro Bowl appearances in nine NFL seasons.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Texans place Watt, Hopkins on PUP list

NFL notebook: Texans place Watt, Hopkins on PUP list

NFL notebook: Texans place Watt, Hopkins on PUP list

The Houston Texans placed defensive end J.J. Watt and wideout DeAndre Hopkins on the active/physically unable to perform list on Sunday, indicating both players will sit out practice when training camp begins later this week.

Texans veterans report on Wednesday and begin practicing Thursday. Rookies reported Sunday.

Watt had cleanup surgery on his knee in January after Houston lost in the wild-card playoffs, but there’s no indication his recovery will threaten his regular-season availability.

Hopkins battled a shoulder injury late last season, saying after the playoff loss he tore ligaments “completely off the bone,” but reports at the time said he would not need surgery. He also fought a foot injury, but said in June he expected to be ready for training camp.

–Running back Sony Michel and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas are among six New England Patriots who will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list later this week, multiple outlets reported.

Michel had a knee scope this offseason but is expected to be ready in time for the regular season. Thomas tore his Achilles on Dec. 23, putting him at risk of missing regular-season games. If he is not activated from the PUP list before Week 1, he would have to miss at least six games.

Avoiding the PUP list is 2018 first-round offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, a good sign as he recovers from a torn Achilles sustained last August. Wynn is the leading candidate to start at left tackle after the departure of Trent Brown via free agency and the retirement of free agent signee Jared Veldheer.

–The Miami Dolphins placed defensive tackle Kendrick Norton — whose left arm was amputated following a car crash earlier this month — on the reserve/non-football-injury list, effectively waiving him.

Norton will not count against the 90-man roster, but the team will still pay his $495,000 salary, and his medical bills will be covered by insurance through the NFL and the Dolphins.

The 22-year-old’s NFL career is over after his July 4 accident. He had six surgeries over a two-week span before being discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

–Tight end Trey Burton and wide receiver Anthony Miller are expected to be ready for the start of Chicago Bears training camp this week after both players underwent offseason surgeries, general manager Ryan Pace told reporters.

Burton had sports hernia surgery after missing the Bears’ playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of a groin injury.

Miller had surgery on his shoulder after his rookie campaign, during which he hauled in 33 catches for 423 yards and seven touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Schauffele vents about beef with R&A over driver issue

Schauffele vents about beef with R&A over driver issue

Schauffele vents about beef with R&A over driver issue

Xander Schauffele accused The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of spreading the word that his driver failed random testing this week, leading him to ridicule from his fellow players.

Schauffele disclosed Friday that his Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero driver was non-conforming when it was tested before The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. At that point, the development still was news to the media and fans. But after he shot a third-round 69 on Saturday, Schauffele took The R&A to task, accusing them of leaking the information to his opponents.

“So The R&A, they pissed me off because they attempted to ruin my image by not keeping this matter private,” he said. “This is me coming out and treating them the exact way they treated me.”

He said he heard heckling, in jest, from a fellow player

“It is an unsettling topic,” Schauffele, 25, said. “I’ve been called a cheater by my fellow opponents. It’s all joking, but when someone yells ‘cheater’ in front of 200 people, to me it’s not going to go down very well.”

Schauffele, a Californian ranked No. 11 in the world, said his was not the only driver to fail random testing, which involved 30 players.

“Other drivers failed,” he said. “… This matter should be private.”

Schauffele said he had no idea his driver was non-conforming when he put it in his bag before heading to Royal Portrush.

“I don’t sit at home and test my driver, you know. To my best belief, I was playing a conforming driver. I think The R&A’s job … well, the PGA Tour takes it up with the manufacturer. Our job as players is to show up to tournaments, put on a show for The R&A and for the Tour and to handle our business. It’s not to make sure our stuff is conforming.”

–Field Level Media

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Lowry cruises to first major win at Open

Lowry cruises to first major win at Open

Lowry cruises to first major win at Open

Shane Lowry recovered from a mid-round stumble to shoot 1-over 72 and finish with a 15-under 269, claiming his first major title at The Open Championship at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush.

Lowry, from Ireland, entered the day at 16-under par and with a four-shot lead over England’s Tommy Fleetwood.

Playing in blustery weather, Lowry stretched the lead to six strokes early. Three bogeys in four holes around the turn dropped his lead back to four.

Fleetwood’s bid to catch Lowry hit a snag on the 14th hole, when Lowry bogeyed and Fleetwood double-bogeyed. Lowry then birdied No. 15, while Fleetwood shot par, to push his lead back to six with three holes to go.

The pair both shot par over the final three holes to seal Lowry’s victory.

Lowry, 32, held a four-shot lead after 54 holes of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, but settled for a tie for second after imploding with a final-round 76.

J.B. Holmes, who entered the day alone in third place at 10-under, finished a disastrous 16-over 87 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 67th — ahead of just three players.

American Tony Finau finished third overall at 7-under after shooting even par on Sunday.

Four-time major champion and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka had a chance to finish in the top three, but failed to birdie No. 18 and finished in a tie for fourth place with Britain’s Lee Westwood, who shot a 2-over par 73.

Koepka had top-three finishes in the other three majors this season (T2 Masters, won PGA Championship, and second in the U.S. Open) and was vying to become the first player in the modern era to finish in the top three in all four.

He joins Rickie Fowler, Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods as the only players to finish in the top five at all four majors in a calender year in the modern era.

Fowler, who shot 3-over, finished in a four-way tie for sixth at 5-under with Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton and Danny Willett and with Scot Robert MacIntyre.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari had the round of the day with a 5-under 66, which boosted him 43 spots into a tie for 11th.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Ex-NFL LB Merriman sued for wrongful death

Report: Ex-NFL LB Merriman sued for wrongful death

The parents of a woman who

Report: Ex-NFL LB Merriman sued for wrongful death

The parents of a woman who died of a drug overdose in 2017 have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman, TMZ reported Saturday.

According to TMZ, the suit alleges Merriman drugged and possibly assaulted Kimberly Fattorini, who was a Playboy employee, on the night of a party at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles. Fattorini’s death was ruled accidental and attributed to a combination of alcohol, cocaine and GHB — commonly labeled a date-rape drug — in her system.

Per the report, the suit claims a text message from Fattorini indicates Merriman gave her GHB. The suit goes on to allege that Merriman was with Fattorini, and did not want it known that he was with her, when 911 was called from a friend’s house, where Fattorini was found by first responders “half-naked with her jeans unzipped and unbuttoned.”

The suit also references two alleged text messages, with one of Fattorini’s friends saying, “(sic) Shawn killed her ass, what a [expletive] idiot,” and a promoter from the party replying, “That dumbass been drugging girls for years.”

A representative for Merriman denied the allegations to TMZ, saying neither Merriman nor his attorney “have any knowledge of him being named in any lawsuit.”

“This alleged lawsuit is baseless,” the representative added. “Shawne attended an after party more than two years ago where a young woman unfortunately overdosed.

“…The police thoroughly investigated and found no wrongdoing whatsoever by Shawne. The fact that they are raising this now, two years after the fact, demonstrates the baseless nature of these allegations.”

Merriman, 35, played eight years in the NFL, earning three Pro Bowl selections and one first-team All-Pro selection during six years with the San Diego Chargers. He played two years for the Buffalo Bills from 2011-12 before retiring.

–Field Level Media

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