NFL veteran and broadcaster Irv Cross dies at 81
Previously diagnosed with mild cognitive dementia, Cross told the Philadelphia Inquirer two years ago that he intended to donate his brain to Boston University researchers so they could study it for CTE, the brain disease that has plagued many former NFL players. It has been linked to concussions and repeated blows to the head.
Cross played for Ara Parseghian at Northwestern from 1958-1960 then was drafted in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent six years with the Eagles and three with the Los Angeles Rams. He was twice voted to the Pro Bowl before spending two seasons as an assistant coach.
In 1971 Cross was hired by CBS Sports as a game analyst. Four years later, CBS took a gamble putting together Cross, Brent Musburger, Phyllis George and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder for what would become a legendary pregame show. Cross became the first Black network sports show anchor, on what became the first live pregame show. Previous pregame packages were taped.
His role grew to include coverage of other sports for the weekly CBS Sports Spectacular. He was the first Black recipient of the Pete Rozelle Award in 2009 and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross' passing," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a release. "Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with The NFL Today. He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed."
Cross is survived by his wife Liz and four children.
Report: WR Josh Gordon signs with FCF league
Gordon will join Johnny Manziel -- his former teammate on the Cleveland Browns -- on a squad that competes in a 7-on-7 game in which fans set the rosters and call plays in a league that combines traditional football with esports.
The FCF league is amid a six-week season and its games, which are held on a field 50-by-35 yards with a 10-yard end zone, are live-streamed on Twitch from a facility in Atlanta.
The league's players are from the FBS and FCS college levels, along with the CFL, XFL and the Indoor Football League, though the Heisman Trophy-winning Manziel is the league's biggest name.
In January, Gordon, who was with the Seattle Seahawks, was suspended indefinitely after the NFL rescinded his conditional reinstatement and he was removed from the roster. Gordon violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy, which caused for his reinstatement to be revoked, according to ESPN.
Gordon, who had signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks prior to the 2020 season, was reinstated this past December, but he didn't play this past season. He has been suspended six times since the 2013 season.
Gordon has 247 catches for 4,252 yards and 20 touchdowns in 63 NFL games.
The Browns took him in the second round of the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft out of Baylor.
In his second year in the NFL in 2013, Gordon became the first Browns player to lead the NFL in receiving yards, finishing with a team-record 1,646 yards on 87 receptions. He also was the first receiver to amass more than 200 yards receiving in consecutive games, which he did against the Jaguars and Steelers, that season en route to being named first-team All-Pro.
He played in five games the following season before he was suspended for the next two seasons for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He returned to the Browns in 2017 and hasn't posted more than 737 yards in a season since 2018, as his career also included a stop in New England.
Texans release RB Duke Johnson
According to multiple reports, Johnson was let go by the Texans as the team tries to dodge the full $5.025 million salary cap hit for 2021, the final year on his three-year deal with the team.
Johnson, 27, signed a three-year, $15.6 million deal in 2018 after four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
In 2021, he was due a salary of $4,650,000 with a roster bonus of $275,000 and a workout bonus of $100,000, according to spotrac.
The makeup of the Houston backfield is in flux with quarterback Deshaun Watson demanding a trade. Running back has been a position of extreme turnover in recent years with Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, David Johnson and Duke Johnson among the players the franchise turned to over the past three seasons.
David Johnson, acquired from the Arizona Cardinals in the DeAndre Hopkins trade in 2020, turns 30 in December. He's in the final year of a three-year, $39 million deal he signed with the Cardinals and has a cap hit of $8.812 million, according to spotrac.
Report: Ravens OT Orlando Brown drawing trade interest
Brown made his desire public via social media, and reports indicate the Ravens are amenable to a deal. ESPN reported the Jacksonville Jaguars are among the teams who kicked the tires on a trade for Brown.
Brown was drafted to play right tackle out of Oklahoma. He moved to left tackle for the final 10 games of the 2020 season due to an injury to Pro Bowl starter Ronnie Stanley.
The Ravens signed Stanley to a five-year, $98.75 million contract extension in October.
The 24-year-old Brown was a third-round pick in 2018. He's entering the final season of a four-year, $3.49 million deal with the Ravens.
He has never missed a game as a pro, including 18 starts last season (playoffs included).
Report: Texans will not use franchise tag on Will Fuller
The 26-year-old Fuller had career highs with 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in only 11 games in 2020. But his breakout season came to a sudden stop when the NFL suspended him for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Fuller's suspension will carry over into Week 1 of the 2021 season.
The likely departure of Fuller marks the latest change in a busy offseason for the Texans, who already cut ties with star defensive end J.J. Watt. Star quarterback Deshaun Watson reportedly also has requested a trade.
Houston drafted Fuller in the first round (No. 21 overall) out of Notre Dame in 2016. He has 209 career receptions for 3,110 yards and 24 touchdowns in 53 career games (52 starts).
Deshaun the Dolphin? Miami favored to acquire Texans' QB
The Dolphins have an interesting trade piece in 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa and are the +250 favorites by SportsBetting.com to land Watson this offseason. They are narrowly ahead of the Denver Broncos and New York Jets at +300.
The Broncos with Drew Lock and the Jets with Sam Darnold are each evaluating their quarterback situation this offseason and are viewed as potential landing spots for veterans on the move. However, neither team is among the four that Russell Wilson's agent reportedly told ESPN his client is willing to go to if traded by the Seattle Seahawks.
Watson reportedly met with Culley late last week and reiterated his desire to be moved by Houston.
Among his issues with the franchise, Watson was unhappy with the trade of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last year and with not being consulted on the hiring of a new general manager this offseason.
However, the team has been steadfast that it will not trade Watson.
Watson has thrown for 14,539 yards and 104 touchdowns in four seasons since the Texans selected him with the 12th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. He has also rushed for 1,677 yards and 17 scores.
Other teams expected to be in the Watson sweepstakes by SportsBetting.com include the Carolina Panthers (+600) and the Chicago Bears, Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles, each at +1200. The Panthers' odds have shortened from +1200 when the sportsbook installed Watson trade odds in January.
With Wilson's developing situation in Seattle, the Seahawks' odds have shortened from +10000 to +5000 to acquire Watson.
Deshaun Watson next team odds:
Miami Dolphins +250
Denver Broncos +300
New York Jets +300
Carolina Panthers +600
Chicago Bears +1200
Washington Football Team +1200
Philadelphia Eagles +1200
San Francisco 49ers +1500
Dallas Cowboys +1500
New England Patriots +2000
New Orleans Saints +2000
Las Vegas Raiders +2000
Jacksonville Jaguars +3000
Minnesota Vikings +4000
New York Giants +4000
Cleveland Browns +4000
Atlanta Falcons +5000
Seattle Seahawks +5000
Tennessee Titans +5000
Pittsburgh Steelers +6600
Los Angeles Chargers +7000
Cincinnati Bengals +7000
Arizona Cardinals +7000
Baltimore Ravens +7000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +10000
Buffalo Bills +20000
Green Bay Packers +20000
Kansas City Chiefs +50000
The Detroit Lions (Jared Goff), Indianapolis Colts (Carson Wentz) and Los Angeles Rams (Matthew Stafford) are not being offered as potential Watson destinations as they have agreed to acquire new starting quarterbacks in trades that cannot be made official until the league year begins next month.
Titans release WR Adam Humphries
Humphries had two years left on a $36 million deal he signed with the Titans in 2019. His release leaves $5 million in dead money for this season.
Humphries, 27, played in just seven games (one start) in 2020. Lingering effects from a concussion suffered in Week 8 effectively ended a season that was also cut short with a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He was put on injured reserve Dec. 8.
He had 23 receptions for 228 yards and two touchdowns, ending his tenure in Tennessee with 60 total catches.
He had 219 catches with nine touchdowns in four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Report: NFLPA chief tells agents to collude on free-agent offers
Smith made the comments during an all-agent seminar on Thursday, ESPN reported, citing a person on the videoconference.
Smith expects the 2021 salary cap to be close to the $180 million floor negotiated by the league and the NFLPA, per the report. The cap was $198.2 million last year, prior to the coronavirus pandemic slashing team and league revenues.
Smith told the agents it's OK to work together to get best possible terms for players, per the report.
While teams are not allowed to collude, there's no law against players exchanging information, per the report.
Report: Deshaun Watson tells new coach he wants out of Houston
It's the latest nugget in the staredown between Watson and the Texans that began more than a month ago.
Watson's unhappiness with the team began with the process around the hiring of general manager Nick Caserio. He reportedly was unhappy with the Texans after the team did not consult with him before hiring Caserio.
Watson's issue reportedly wasn't with Caserio, but rather that owner Cal McNair didn't vet any of Watson's recommendations to be interviewed for the position before he learned about Caserio's hiring on social media.
The hiring of Culley, who is Black, did nothing to change Watson's outlook, a sentiment he reportedly shared directly with Culley last Friday when they met.
However, the team has been steadfast that it will not trade Watson.
Watson posted a cryptic tweet on Thursday, saying "loyalty is everything. Don't you EVER forget it."
Watson has thrown for 14,539 yards and 104 touchdowns in four seasons since the Texans selected him with the 12th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. He has also rushed for 1,677 yards and 17 scores.
Raiders favored to land Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
The Raiders were installed as the 5/1 favorite on Feb. 9 by SportsBetting.com to acquire Wilson. That was after the quarterback said in multiple interviews that he was not happy with the amount of sacks he takes in Seattle and wanted a voice in personnel decisions.
That reportedly did not sit well with the Seahawks' front office. Wilson's agent, Mark Rodgers, told ESPN that his client has not demanded a trade but if one was considered, the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders and Bears are "the only teams he would go to."
Thursday's developments drove the odds of Las Vegas landing Wilson down to 4/1 at SportsBetting.com.
The Miami Dolphins are second at 7/1, followed by the Washington Football Team (8/1), Cowboys (10/1), Saints (12/1) and New York Jets (12/1).
Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson has not demanded a trade, his agent Mark Rodgers told ESPN. Wilson has told the Seahawks he wants to play in Seattle but, if a trade were considered, the only teams he would go to are the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders, Bears.
However, the sportsbook is still offering Wilson as the 1/5 favorite to be the Seahawks' starting quarterback in Week 1 compared to 7/2 that it will be someone else.
Wilson, 32, has three years left on a four-year, $140 million contract he signed in April 2019. That deal includes a no-trade clause, giving Wilson veto power over any potential trade.
The Saints are considered a longshot due to salary cap issues, while the Cowboys are trying to work out a long-term deal with Dak Prescott, who played last season under the franchise tag.
The Bears are facing a major decision at quarterback with Mitchell Trubisky a pending free agent and veteran Nick Foles failing to hold onto the starting job last season.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden has continued to back incumbent starter Derek Carr while Las Vegas has reportedly fielded calls from other teams interested in backup Marcus Mariota.
Russell Wilson's next team odds by SportsBetting.com:
Las Vegas Raiders 4/1
Miami Dolphins 7/1
Washington Football Team 8/1
Dallas Cowboys 10/1
New Orleans Saints 12/1
New York Jets 12/1
Denver Broncos 15/1
Chicago Bears 15/1
Carolina Panthers 15/1
New England Patriots 15/1
San Francisco 49ers 20/1
Jacksonville Jaguars 25/1
Philadelphia Eagles 40/1
Minnesota Vikings 40/1
Cleveland Browns 40/1
New York Giants 50/1
Houston Texans 50/1
Pittsburgh Steelers 50/1
Atlanta Falcons 50/1
Tennessee Titans 50/1
Detroit Lions 50/1
Los Angeles Chargers 70/1
Cincinnati Bengals 70/1
Los Angeles Rams 70/1
Arizona Cardinals 70/1
Indianapolis Colts 80/1
Baltimore Ravens 100/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 100/1
Green Bay Packers 200/1
Buffalo Bills 200/1
Kansas City Chiefs 500/1
Broncos release DE Jurrell Casey
Casey spent one season with the Broncos after being acquired from the Tennessee Titans in March for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The 31-year-old Casey recorded 14 tackles while starting three games in 2020 before sustaining a torn biceps that ended his season.
The move to part ways with Casey will save the Broncos $11,874,750 in 2021 salary cap space and $13.85 million in 2022, per Spotrac.
Casey started 137 of his 139 games with the Titans from 2011-19 since being selected by Tennessee with a third-round pick in 2011.
Casey's career totals through 142 games (140 starts) include 507 tackles, 117 quarterback hits, 51 sacks and eight forced fumbles.
Report: Russell Wilson, Seahawks split could happen 'soon'
"Some people around the league think a trade could happen, if not this offseason then sometime in the near future," per The Athletic.
Wilson could command up to three first-round picks, per multiple reports, and the 32-year-old has three years left on a four-year, $140 million deal he signed in April 2019.
The Athletic reported the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints all have a level of interest in Wilson.
In a wide-ranging deep dive into the rift between Wilson and the Seahawks, the report focuses on a difference of opinion between Wilson and the organization about the design of the offense and personnel on the offensive line.
Wilson responded to reports of his frustration with the Seahawks following the Super Bowl, a game he attended as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year as a guest of commissioner Roger Goodell. Wilson told "The Dan Patrick Show" he was increasingly concerned about the nearly 400 career sacks he's taken in nine seasons.
"That's a big thing that we gotta fix. That's gotta be fixed," Wilson said.
The Athletic report said Wilson had been firing off testy text messages to Jake Heaps, a former teammate and private passing coach, during the game. It was a simmering position for Wilson that boiled over during a meeting The Athletic said ended in Wilson storming out of the room before the Seahawks played Arizona on Thursday night in November 2020.
Per the report, Wilson gave the team an outline of his ideas to fix the offense but head coach Pete Carroll shook him off.
Within the new report, several sources are interviewed and there is blame assessed from those sources on either side.
One attributed comment from former running back Robert Turbin, who was in Wilson's wedding, indicated the quarterback's well-being is at the center of the issues.
"The reason that we're here is because he's on pace to be the most sacked quarterback in the history of the NFL," Turbin told The Athletic.
But another source, pointing to a two-game stretch in which Wilson committed seven turnovers and Carroll scaled back the offense, sided with Seattle.
"He's finally catching heat. That's the main reason for all of this," the source is quoted as saying.
A coach from another team said "It's a great story. There is a lot there. Money, greed, power and control."
Free agent J.J. Watt reportedly has $15M-$16M offer
Watt was released by the Houston Texans at his request and the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has described his first foray into the open market as "wild."
Several teams have been connected to Watt, who was a first-round pick out of Wisconsin and spent his entire career to this point with the Texans.
The home-state Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills are rumored to be contenders.
Watt might not be basing his decision entirely on money, considering his contract with the Texans would have paid him $17.5 million in 2021.
Watt turns 32 on March 22 and ESPN reported he has received "multiple offers."
Reports: Patriots delay season-ticket deadline, anticipate fans in 2021
The Patriots have delayed the due date for season-ticket payments from March until June in anticipation that fans will be welcomed back to the stadium at the start of the season, according to multiple reports Wednesday.
The reports state the team sent a letter to prior season-ticket holders and is "very optimistic that we will have fans in the stands and hopeful that we will be able to do so at full capacity."
Ticket prices will also reportedly not be increased in 2021. The Patriots will notably host the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium this upcoming season.
RB Alex Collins re-signs with Seahawks
Collins had 18 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns in three games (one start) last season during his second stint with the Seahawks. He played briefly on special teams during Seattle's 30-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC wild-card round before being shuffled to the practice squad.
Collins, 26, is part of a backfield that has Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde set to become unrestricted free agents on March 17. Fellow running backs Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas and Patrick Carr are also on the Seahawks current roster as 2021 options.
Collins has recorded 375 carries for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns in 39 career games (23 starts) with Seattle (2016, 2020) and the Baltimore Ravens (2017-18). He was selected by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
He was out of the league in 2019 after being cut by the Ravens that March after being arrested following a car accident after which officers found a small amount of marijuana and a firearm in the vehicle. He later received an 18-month probationary sentence and was suspended for three weeks that November by the NFL.
NFL pro day schedule: Alabama in spotlight March 23
With the NFL Scouting Combine shuttered this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prospects entered in the 2021 NFL Draft expect heightened scrutiny at pro day workouts held on their college campuses.
Presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence moved up his own workout this month at the suggestion of new Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer. The Clemson quarterback underwent left shoulder surgery and the early pro day cleared his schedule for recovery.
Clemson's pro day will be held on March 11.
The national champion Crimson Tide could challenge the draft record of six first-round picks that was set by Miami (Fla.) in 2004. Alabama's list of prized prospects includes wide receive DeVonta Smith, running back Najee Harris, cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, linebacker Dylan Moses and defensive lineman LaBryan Ray.
Smith won the Heisman Trophy and scorched Ohio State in the first half of the CFP national championship game before exiting in the third quarter with a hand injury.
He attended the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., but did not make himself available for workouts or official measurements.
Smith is widely viewed as an expected top-10 pick.
Quarterback Mac Jones is another draft-eligible option from Alabama and some pundits have the him projected to be selected in the first round.
Jones will be competing for attention with the likes of North Dakota State's Trey Lance (whose pro day is scheduled for March 12), BYU's Zach Wilson (March 26) and Ohio State's Justin Fields (March 30).
Below is a list of known pro days released by the NFL on Wednesday:
North Dakota State
Middle Tennessee State
San Jose State
San Diego State
South Dakota State
North Carolina State
Raiders cut WR Tyrell Williams after injury-plagued tenure
Williams, who turned 29 nearly two weeks ago, signed a four-year, $44 million contract (including $22 million guaranteed) in March 2019.
Williams, who played his first four seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers from 2015-18, enjoyed a promising start to his Raiders career by catching touchdown passes in each of his first five games in 2019. But his season was marred by a persistent battle with plantar fasciitis, and he finished the season with 42 catches for 651 yards and six scores in 14 games.
Williams sustained a torn labrum in August, which ended up sidelining him for the entire season. He suffered the same injury in 2017 with the Chargers and played through it.
The 6-foot-4 wideout was originally an undrafted free agent out of Western Oregon in 2015. He enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign in 2016, when he notched career highs in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,059) and touchdown catches (seven).
Williams has 197 catches for 3,181 yards and 23 touchdowns in 69 career games (49 starts).
Chiefs RT Mitchell Schwartz undergoes back surgery
Schwartz posted pictures of himself in a hospital gown and face mask prior to the procedure on various social media accounts.
"Injury update: I'm getting surgery today," he wrote. "I was hoping to recover enough to get back for playoffs/Super Bowl but that didn't happen. It's time to address the issue. The recovery process isn't too long, which is nice. Looking forward to a healthy 2021!"
Schwartz, 31, had his streak of 134 consecutive regular-season starts end after leaving the Week 6 game against the Buffalo Bills with the back injury. It turned out to be season-ending even though Schwartz delayed surgery in case he could return for the postseason.
Schwartz played his first four NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns (2012-15) before joining Kansas City as a free agent.
He earned first-team All-Pro honors with the Chiefs in 2018.
Kansas City lost 31-9 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl earlier this month. The Chiefs had trouble protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the contest with left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles) and Schwartz both sidelined.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster doesn't want to leave Steelers
Whether the Steelers give him the option, or make the decision for him with the franchise tag, is still to be determined.
In a messy salary cap situation that includes a veritable "I-O-U" to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the form of a massive paycut, the Steelers are facing long odds to keep their roster intact.
Smith-Schuster, 24, could be given the franchise tag but the Steelers must be under the operating threshold of the projected $180 million salary cap for 2021.
The franchise tag would cost the Steelers at least $16 million based on projections the NFL is using for position-specific tags. The deadline to use the tag is March 9, which is days before the official start of free agency March 17.
"Until I actually get let go, other than that, I'm Pittsburgh for life," Smith-Schuster told TMZ.
"To be home close to family would be cool, but at the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there," Smith-Schuster said in a TMZ video interview. "I don't want to leave."
The Steelers won't likely be able to offer the kind of "lifetime" contract Smith-Schuster wants. With the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions rumored to be near the front of the line of bidders for the wide receiver next month, Pittsburgh might attempt to use the franchise tag as a negotiating tool to invite trade offers.
The team has a long history of success drafting wide receivers in the second round and beyond under team president Kevin Colbert.
Smith-Schuster was the 62nd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But the Steelers developed potential replacements in Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick in 2019, and two recent second-rounders: Chase Claypool (2020) and James Washington (2018).
If the Steelers used the franchise tag and received a late first-round pick in return for Smith-Schuster, a four-year deal for that player would likely be less than the one-year franchise value ($16 million).
For example, the Vikings drafted LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson 22nd overall in 2020. His four-year, $13.12 million contract -- which includes a standard fifth-year option for NFL first-rounders -- looks like a relative bargain when compared to free agent deals.
The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could have interest in Smith-Schuster. Their top wide receivers are scheduled to become free agents, but Allen Robinson (Bears) and Chris Godwin (Buccaneers) are also tag candidates.
Lions WR Quintez Cephus sues alma mater
He alleges in his suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Madison, Wis., that the school violated both Title IX and his rights to due process. He is seeking unspecified damages.
Cephus was arrested in 2018 in Madison and charged with two counts of sexual assault. He was found not guilty in a trial the following year.
This is the second time Cephus sued the school, contending violation of his rights during a Title IX investigation that was opened in May 2018 and concluded at the end of August 2018. He filed the suit that October, and the case was dropped in March 2019.
Two women testified in his trial that Cephus sexually assaulted them at his apartment in April 2018 and that they were too drunk to give consent.
He was suspended from the Wisconsin football team and expelled from the university following the claims. He eventually was reinstated to the university and played the 2019 season with the Badgers, catching 59 passes for 901 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Lions selected him in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Now 22, he played in 13 games (two starts) for the Lions, catching 20 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns.