Thu Jul 18 1:53pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, file photo, Denver Broncos president Joe Ellis speaks during a news conference at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo. Ever since soon-to-be Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen stepped down from his daily duties as owner of the Denver Broncos, team president Joe Ellis ran the team in a "What would Pat do" sort of way. With Bowlen's death last month, that's no longer the case. Ellis tells The Associated Press it's time for the Broncos to establish a new identity. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Ever since soon-to-be Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen stepped down from his daily duties as owner of the Denver Broncos, team president and CEO Joe Ellis ran the team in a ''What would Pat do?'' sort of way.
With Bowlen's death last month, that's no longer the case.
Ellis told The Associated Press that while the team will always honor Bowlen's memory, it's time for the Broncos to establish a new identity.
''I got to thinking about that,'' Ellis said Thursday from the sideline as the Broncos became the first NFL team to open training camp . ''I think it's a fair question at this point because he's no longer with us. He was with us (the last five years) even though he was not out here. I got to go see him and I always sort of felt his presence. And I think Pat would want us to move on from him a little bit, you know? I don't think we're going to be able to do that totally because of what he's provided all of us ...
''But it's time to buckle up your chin strap here and do things the Broncos way,'' Ellis said. ''Yeah, we want to make Pat proud. We're going to honor him. It's a subtle honoring with the decal on the helmet and he'll always be in the back of my mind. But you know what, we have to act independently now in some fashion. I hope you can make sense of this.''
Bowlen died June 13 at age 75, nine weeks shy of his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When Alzheimer's forced him to step away five years earlier, Bowlen entrusted Ellis to operate the team with full authority and represent the Broncos in league matters until one of his seven children was deemed ready to take over. Ellis drew on his working relationship with the notoriously publicity-shy Bowlen that spanned nearly three decades to continue operating the team as Bowlen would have during those five years.
Ellis said he doesn't want to look back anymore.
''There's been so much talk about Pat and his excellence and everything that he's done and it's all well-deserved and it's well-acknowledged - he's going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,'' Ellis said. ''But I know if he were here and he were advising me, he'd say, `Listen, you know, your job is to get everybody in the organization to pull together and do this for our fans and do this for themselves and each other, players, coaches. And do what I always wanted to do and not make it about me, make it about them, make it about yourselves, make it about the fans. Make it about winning. Let's focus on that. Let's not focus on me anymore.'''
Ellis noted the Broncos have to change the way they do things to reverse their recent slide that includes back-to-back double-digit losses for the first time since the 1960s.
Even with those 5-11 and 6-10 seasons, the Broncos have as many Super Bowl appearances - seven - as losing seasons during Bowlen's ownership that began in 1984.
''We need to establish our own identity,'' Ellis said. ''So much of our identity the past several years has been based on the success of Pat in some ways, right? And people talk about the Pat Bowlen era. Even if a child were to take over, it's not the Pat Bowlen era anymore. So, this is kind of in some ways this is Year 1 of establishing a different identity as an organization. Never forgetting everything that was Pat.
''No one's ever going to forget what he did. We'll remember him. We've got the decal on the back. His name is on that field house. His father's name is on this facility's front here at UC Health Center. So, he will continue to be honored and remembered, but I do know that he would want us to put our own stamp on this program. I just know that in my heart.''
Ellis said he'll meet with Brittany Bowlen, who is hoping to take over the franchise, next week about returning to the team to gain more front office experience. She's currently working for global consulting firm McKinsey & Company in Denver. Ellis said her role would be generally focused on the business side.
''She's going to come here and work hard. She's got to prove herself,'' Ellis said. ''There's more pressure on her than any other employee. And then we'll see. If that works out, then there's room for growth. Pat always said, `Listen, I'd love to be able to keep it in the family if I can and have a child run it, but if that's not the case, then the team will be sold.' And so we're not there to assign anybody that role yet.''
Approaching training camp, the San Francisco 49ers first two picks of 2019 remain unsigned. Defensive end Nick Bosa, the second overall pick, and wide receiver Deebo Samuel represent two of the eight total 2019 NFL draftees that have not reached a deal. Bosa, who many experts expect to make an immediate impact, could lift the Niners defense from its 28th-ranked fantasy DST. More worrisome is Samuel, who will miss valuable reps with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo if hes unable to report to camp on time. With a crowded receiving corps, the rookie could conceivable sink on the depth chart, severely negating any redraft value he currently possesses.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Jalen Mills (foot) is unlikely to be ready when training camp opens.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Sidney Jones could wind up being trade bait for a team that is patient as Jones develops in the weight room.
Detroit Lions CB Darius Slay and DT Damon Harrison's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will meet with the Lions this week to discuss contract extensions for both players.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon said this week that his representatives have opened contract extension talks with the team. He is entering the final season of a four-year, $2.595 million rookie deal, and he can be an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season. Judon has registered 131 total tackles with 19 sacks, three forced fumbles and seven passes defensed in three NFL seasons, and he has 15 sacks over the past two campaigns. He is a key member of a Ravens defense which will be a Top 5 fantasy DST again this season.
The Baltimore Ravens signed rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin to a four-year contract this week. Boykin signed his four-year rookie deal, the team announced on Wednesday, and the club now has all of its rookies signed just in time for them to report to training camp. Boykin, a third-round pick out of Notre Dame, missed time during offseason training activities (OTAs) due to a hamstring injury. He will be jockeying with Willie Snead, Seth Roberts and Chris Moore for a meaningful role in the Baltimore offense to start.
The Atlanta Falcons brought in free-agent tight ends Logan Paulsen and Luke Stocker during the offseason to provide depth behind Austin Hooper, who is in a contract year. Stocker, who signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal in the offseason, received a $1.5 million signing bonus. He might also see some time at fullback in addition to tight end, but neither is expected to move the needle in terms of fantasy appeal unless disaster strikes Hooper. TE Jaeden Graham has also seen some time at fullback during offseason practices.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Eric Saubert was one of the team's three players at the position in 2018, but team re-signed Logan Paulsen while adding Luke Stocker in free agency. And Austin Hooper is the unquestioned starter and one of the more productive tight ends in the NFC. Saubert might be the odd-man out heading into training camp and the preseason unless they elect to keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster. Either way, Saubert isn't someone to bother with in fantasy football.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn feels tight end Austin Hooper might be primed and ready to step up his play in 2019. Hooper, who is in a contract year, posted career highs across the board with 71 grabs, 660 yards and four touchdown in 2018 while being targeted 88 times. "Now, he's ready to go to another level, and I'm looking forward to seeing him make that growth," Quinn said. "The addition of having (tight ends coach Mike Mularkey) here, he's done everything that Mike has asked in terms of getting him ready." Hooper is worth targeting as a low-end TE1 in most fantasy leagues heading into 2019.
The Atlanta Falcons and middle linebacker Deion Jones have agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $57 million, with $28.5 million guaranteed. The deal comes on the heels of a long-term pact with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who inked a four-year, $68 million deal earlier in the week. Jones bounced back to record 53 tackles in six games after suffering a broken foot in the regular-season opener. While the Falcons have some key components on their defense locked up for the long haul, they're still nothing more than a streamer DST in most fantasy formats heading into 2019.
Atlanta Falcons TE Eric Saubert could be released if the team elects to carry just three tight ends on its 53-man roster, in the opinion of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter.
Detroit Lions RB Zach Zenner could challenge veteran RB C.J. Anderson for the No. 2 spot behind RB Kerryon Johnson, in the opinion of The Detroit News' Justin Rogers, who notes that Zenner's north-south running style is a good fit for the team's blocking scheme.
Fantasy Spin: At this point, Johnson is the only sure thing in the Lions backfield, so you'll need to keep an eye on the preseason to see how Anderson, Zenner and Theo Riddick slot in behind him to see if anyone other than Johnson warrants a selection in fantasy drafts.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry finished the 2018 season on a tear, rushing for 625 yards and eight touchdowns in the month of December alone. New Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has stated that he plans to "ride" Henry going forward, but perhaps expectations should be tempered. While the Titans did improve their offensive line through free agency and the draft this offseason, Henry's involvement should remain game-script sensitive with receiving back Dion Lewis still in Tennessee. Henry is likely going to win you some matchups this season with his big play ability and touchdown upside, but he is also likely to lose you some weeks should the Titans fall behind early, making Henry a risky pick in the late second or early third rounds of fantasy drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate could see 60 targets in 2019 while working as the backup to starter O.J. Howard, according to Taylor Jenkins of PewterReport.com.
Fantasy Spin: Jenkins projected just 45 targets for RB Peyton Barber, leaving extra work in the passing game for Brate. The 28-year-old has been a reliable red-zone threat over the past four years, but the chance for more catches and yards could make him a more reliable option in fantasy leagues. He's best left to the waiver wire, but he'll be worth starting as a bye-week replacement.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber will receive close to 45 targets in 2019, according to Taylor Jenkins of PewterReport.com.
Fantasy Spin: Jenkins projects Barber to be the every-down back for the Bucs this season. The 25-year-old caught 20 of 29 targets while starting all 16 games last year, but he went for just 92 yards and one touchdown through the air. He's an adequate RB3 play in standard leagues if he's able to hold off Ronald Jones II in training camp, but Jones has the higher upside.
Atlanta Falcons LB Deion Jones agreed to terms on four-year contract extension with the Falcons Wednesday, July 17, worth $57 million. The deal includes $34 million in guaranteed money.
Free-agent CB Rashard Robinson (Jets) has been suspended for the first 10 games of the 2019 season.
Denver Broncos WR Aaron Burbridge was waived Wednesday, July 17.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Rodney Anderson (knee) is expected to open the 2019 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. If he does, Anderson will have to miss the first six games of the season and will be significantly behind in the battle for backup minutes in Cincinnati. This news likely means that Anderson's rookie season is going to be a fantasy nonfactor, though he still has value in dynasty leagues, where he has a chance to be the future number-two back behind Joe Mixon.