Thu Mar 4 2:10am ET
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Sept. 13, 2020, file photo, Sheila Ford Hamp, Detroit Lions principal owner and chairman, watches during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. It took Hamp about one second to respond when asked about the potential for women in key roles in the NFL. The sky is the limit for anything females want to do, said Hamp, who spoke at the league's fifth annual Women's Careers in Football Forum late last month. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez, File)
It took Sheila Ford Hamp about one second to respond when asked about the potential for women in key roles in the NFL.
''The sky is the limit for anything females want to do,'' said Hamp, the principal owner of the Detroit Lions.
Echoing that statement was Dee Haslam, the Cleveland Browns' co-owner:
''We're seeing more and more women that love the sport and who want a career in sports. The door has swung wide open and I am so excited. I look forward to the moment when we don't have to talk about how we get the door open for women and people of color, that the door is wide open.''
Those words were embraced by the 40 young women - and potential pro football employees - attending the league's fifth annual Women's Careers in Football Forum late last month. Although it was held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forum's message came through loud and clear.
No more so than when listening to Hamp, who took over running the Lions before last season from her mother, Martha Ford, and Haslam, who owns the Browns with her husband, Jimmy.
Hamp related a telling story about women's opportunities decades ago.
''When I graduated from college all I wanted to do was go work for the NFL. I loved football and grew up with it,'' she said. ''I actually knew the commissioner, Pete Rozelle. My dad had taken me to league meetings and I had an opportunity to sit next to him at dinner and we kind of became friends and he was impressed about how much a girl new about football.
''When I graduated, I went to see him, and he really tried and he liked me, but he couldn't think of one thing a woman could do in the NFL.''
That, of course, was decades ago. Now, as Haslam emphasized, there are women making impacts at every level of the league - from interns to scouts to coaches to aides to trainers to the executive office to the ownership suites. Indeed, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Chicago, New Orleans and San Francisco also either have female owners or women making key decisions at the highest team levels.
The league office has a similar makeup at every step of the ladder.
''The mountain of women in the room now who are ownership, it continues to grow and really is exciting,'' Haslam said. ''There are some young women in the room, which is fantastic.
''As more and more women are out there and doing the job at such a competent level, it is just going to continue to grow. Just getting your foot in the door, especially in the NFL, is what you need to start out doing. Whatever job comes your way, do it better than anybody in the room, and other opportunities will come your way.''
Hamp noted how the lines of communications need to be open regardless of the job or the people involved. As an example, she noticed that the Lions didn't have a changing room for some women on the football staff. She quickly fixed that.
''It seems little, but it is huge,'' Hamp said. ''It means `you are important to us.'
''You have got to have an organization that people can speak up, that they can give you ideas and not be afraid to speak up. Listen to our employees and realize we are all in this together and all want to make this thing work.''
The New York Giants released linebacker David Mayo on Wednesday. Mayo had two years left on his deal. Combined with the release of veteran wide receiver Golden Tate, the Giants will save a combined $8.4 million in salary cap space for 2021. He was acquired off waivers just before the 2019 season opener, and he went on to record 82 tackles (five for loss) and two sacks. Mayo signed a three-year contract extension last offseason but suffered a torn meniscus in his knee shortly before Week 1 and was placed on Injured Reserve. He played in 11 games last year, mostly as a backup, and recorded only 29 tackles.
The New York Giants released wide receiver Golden Tate on Wednesday, according to a source. Cutting the 32-year-old veteran wideout will save the Giants $6.2 million in salary cap space. Tate was with the G-Men the last two seasons and caught 84 passes for 1,064 yards and eight touchdowns, but he caught just 35 passes on 52 targets for 388 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games (four starts) for the team in 2020. Tate was unhappy with his role in the offense last season and voiced his displeasure, leading to his benching. It's not a surprise that the Giants moved on to help free up some salary cap space. A Pro Bowler in 2014, Tate still has something left, although he'll likely serve in a complementary role wherever he lands next.
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman voiced support for quarterback Kirk Cousins amid rumors and speculation over whether he could be traded this offseason. "Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. I know there's a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. We felt that he played very well, probably the best that he's ever played, down that stretch last year," Spielman said. Cousins no longer has a no-trade clause in his contract, but Minnesota is sticking with him under center. He signed a two-year, $66 million extension last March that will make him $21 million in 2021. His $35 million salary for 2022 becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the roster on the third day of the 2021 league year. Cousins threw a career-high 35 touchdowns in 2020 and is a QB1 fallback option if you don't land one of the big names at the position.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas said that the team is open to listening to trade offers for quarterback Sam Darnold this offseason. "I will answer the call if it's made," Douglas said Wednesday. The Jets could opt to stick with Darnold, draft a replacement at No. 2 overall or pursue Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson if he becomes available. Douglas said he's in no rush to make a decision and downplayed Watson as an option. Since the end of the 2020 season, the Jets have been non-committal on Darnold, who has yet to take the next step. The Jets will evaluate the top QBs in the draft before making a final decision on Darnold. The 23-year-old hasn't had a ton of help around him, but it sounds like the Jets may be moving on soon. Stay tuned.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has yet to make a decision on whether he'll continue his career in 2021, and general manager Steve Keim said that the window remains open for Arizona to find a way to bring him back. Keim also said that the start of the new league year on March 17 is not a deadline for Fitzgerald to decide on whether he'll return. The future Hall of Famer had the lowest production totals of his career in 2020, catching 54 passes for 409 yards and only one touchdown behind DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk. The Cardinals wouldn't mind if the 37-year-old returns for another season, but fantasy managers have already moved on with Fitz moving to more of a secondary role in the Cardinals offense. With a lowered salary cap, Fitzgerald will likely have to return at a reduced cost if he wants to make one more run at a championship.
The Las Vegas Raiders don't sound like they're looking to get rid of quarterback Derek Carr this offseason. "I think Derek Carr had his best year yet, under Jon Gruden. I think he's one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and we couldn't be happier with him," general manager Mike Mayock said Wednesday. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback's name has come up in trade rumors, but it sounds like the Raiders are content in keeping him around. Las Vegas is more likely to trade backup Marcus Mariota, although his trade market has dried up in recent weeks. Fullback Alec Ingold and star tight end Darren Waller have voiced their support for Carr this week as well. While the 29-year-old did have the best season of his career in 2020, he's still more of a QB2 in fantasy circles.
The Washington Football Team released veteran linebacker Thomas Davis on Wednesday. Davis had announced back in December that he would be retiring after the 2020 season. The soon-to-be 38-year-old finished his lone season with Washington with just six tackles and a pass defensed in seven games played (no starts). He spent one year with the Chargers in 2019, but before that he spent 13 years of his career in his prime with the Carolina Panthers. A three-time Pro Bowler from 2015-17, including one first-team All-Pro selection, Thomas will finish his career with 1,216 total tackles (90 for loss), 13 interceptions, 55 passes defensed, 18 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries (one touchdown) and 29 sacks in 15 NFL seasons.
New Orleans Saints executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis announced on Wednesday that the team has terminated the contracts of tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill. Cook is a 12-year veteran who was originally selected in the third round of the 2009 draft out of South Carolina. Since joining the Saints in 2019, he has recorded 80 catches for 1,209 yards (15.1 average) and 16 touchdowns, which is tied for the second-most TDs at the position during that span. The 33-year-old was due an $8.04 million roster bonus on the second day of the new league year. He was a Pro Bowler in 2019, when he had 43 catches for 705 yards and nine touchdowns. With both Cook and Hill now out of the picture in New Orleans, Adam Trautman could be a name to watch as a sleeper at the position in 2021.
The Las Vegas Raiders have had talks about potentially trading offensive tackle Trent Brown, according to a source. With few quality available tackles in free agency this year, the Raiders could receive some real interest in Brown. "The jury is still out here, he's under contract. We believe in the talent of that player. There would be nothing finer than having Trent Brown protecting Derek Carr in the season opener. But the jury is still out," general manager Mike Mayock said. The 27-year-old would account for a $14 million salary cap hit in 2021 if he remains on the roster, which is second on the team to Carr's $22 million. Brown hasn't performed up to expectations and played in just five games in 2020 due to conditioning issues, injuries and multiple trips to the COVID-19 list. He was limited to 11 games in his first season with the team, although he still earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
Former Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $6.2 million with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday, according to a source. With both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones set to hit free agency -- Golladay is a candidate to receive the franchise tag -- Williams gives Detroit some insurance at the position heading into free agency in a few weeks. The 29-year-old pass-catcher didn't play at all during the 2020 season due to injury, but he found the end zone six times in 14 games for the Raiders in 2019. He's also had a 1,000-yard season back with the Chargers, so he could rebound if he can stay on the field in 2021. However, being paired up with new quarterback Jared Goff won't give him a ton of fantasy upside, especially if Golladay returns.
Former Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, who took off last season due to COVID-19 and to get 100 percent healthy, intends to play again in 2021, according to a source. Walker, a three-time Pro Bowler with Tennessee from 2015-17, played in just eight combined games due to injury in 2018 and 2019. In his most recent season in 2019, the 36-year-old veteran had 21 catches on 31 targets for 215 yards and just two touchdowns in seven games (four starts). Smith had a 1,000-yard receiving season in 2015 and had four straight campaigns with at least 800 yards receiving, but he hasn't been healthy in years and is ancient for an NFL tight end. He could command some interest on the open market, but it remains to be seen if he'll have a shot to regain some fantasy relevance.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas said he's had "productive" talks with agent Erik Burkhardt on impending free-agent safety Marcus Maye, who is a franchise-tag candidate. The soon-to-be 28-year-old had two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles while racking up a career-high 88 tackles (52 solo) for the Jets in 2020. Since being selected by the Jets in the second round out of the University of Florida in 2017, Maye has 266 tackles (189 solo), six interceptions, 22 passes defensed, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 2.5 sacks in 54 games, all of which he has started. New defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh obviously wants to keep Maye in the fold at free safety for New York's secondary.
Former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is projected as the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, said his rehab from left non-throwing shoulder surgery last month is going better than expected. He underwent surgery on Feb. 16 to fix damage to the labrum of his left shoulder. Lawrence remains in California, rehabbing his shoulder at MOTUS Specialists Physical Therapy in Orange County. The focus of his rehab right now is working within pain-free ranges of motion and strengthening the scapular (shoulder blade) muscles along with the core. Lawrence is expected to remain in a brace for around two more weeks, and he could begin throwing in six to eight weeks if the rehab goes as planned. Expected to land with Jacksonville at No. 1 overall, Lawrence could be fantasy relevant in single-year leagues right away as a QB2 with upside.
The New Orleans Saints agreed to a two-year deal worth $4 million with safety and special-teamer J.T. Gray on Wednesday, according to sources. The deal includes $2 million guaranteed. The Saints also did a simple restructure on defensive tackle David Onyemata's contract, creating $4.34 million in salary cap space heading into the 2021 season. With plenty of work to get under the salary cap this season, New Orleans has also considered trading defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Brown is in the final year of a three-year deal and his departure, combined with Onyemata's restructure, would clear nearly $10 million in salary cap space. The Saints are likely to continue with smaller re-signings and restructures in the coming days and weeks.
San Francisco 49ers center Weston Richburg (hip) recently underwent hip surgery, according to a source. There is currently no timetable for Richburg's return. After he did not play in 2020 due to other injuries and while being owed $8.35 million in 2021, it's likely that Richburg has played his final down for the Niners. His future on the field is also up in the air moving forward. The 29-year-old former second-round pick of the New York Giants in 2014 last played in 13 games for the 49ers in 2019. He spent four years with the G-Men before joining San Francisco in 2018. Coming off hip surgery and having not played since 2019, Richburg could easily struggle to find work if he hits the open market this year.
The Minnesota Vikings released long-time tight end Kyle Rudolph on Tuesday, ending a 10-year tenure with the team for the two-time Pro Bowl selection. According to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, Rudolph would reportedly love to join back up with former offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, if the team moves on from David Njoku this offseason. Clearly on the downside of his career, Rudolph caught just 28 passes and one touchdown in 2020 while appearing in 12 games. There's no word yet as to whether the Browns would be interested in Rudolph's services, although Stefanski's familiarity with the tight end certainly could help. His days as an impact tight end are over, but the 31-year-old could emerge as a depth option, either in Cleveland or elsewhere.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is reportedly engaging in contract talks with the team that are 'more productive than they have been' in previous months, according to a source via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News.
The Minnesota Vikings released tight end Kyle Rudolph on Tuesday, according to sources. Rudolph becomes a free agent after 10 seasons and two trips to the Pro Bowl with Minnesota. He was set to make a base salary of $7.65 million in 2021 in the second season of a four-year, $36 million contract. Releasing Rudolph will save the team a little more than $5 million in salary cap space and $8 million in cash in 2021. A second-round pick in 2011, the 31-year-old is a free agent for the first time in his career and should draw real interest on the open market. In the right situation, he could return to TE1 status as a solid red-zone target. Back in Minnesota, Irv Smith Jr. had already started to take over as the team's top pass-catching tight end in 2020. Smith had 30 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games (seven starts) last year, while Rudolph had 28 receptions for 334 yards and one TD in 12 starts.
Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley has recorded a league-high 89 catches on throws that traveled at least 10 yards in the air since the start of the 2019 season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Fantasy Spin: Ridley is an exquisite route-runner, which helps to explain how he is so proficient in the intermediate passing game. Julio Jones figures to remain the alpha receiver in the Atlanta offense for at least another year or two, but 2020 removed any doubt that Ridley is more than ready to slide into that role. Ridley averaged 88 yards receiving in the seven full games Jones missed last year, but he only scored two of his nine touchdowns in those contests. Ridley should be among the first 10 receivers off the board in fantasy drafts this spring and summer.
Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt (101) and DE/LB Chandler Jones rank first and tied for second in the league in sacks since the start of the 2012 season, according to Pro Football Focus.