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Denver Broncos want Miller back but legal, money issues loom

Thu Mar 4 8:37pm ET
AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) New general manager George Paton said Thursday the Denver Broncos want Von Miller back in 2021, but they want to hear more about an off-field investigation into the star linebacker.

The Broncos - and Miller - are awaiting a decision from the district attorney in the 18th Judicial District in suburban Denver following an an unspecified investigation of Miller by the Parker, Colorado, police department in January.

Neither the police nor the district attorney's office have said what charges Miller could face. Miller, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, hasn't responded to requests for comment. If charges are filed, he could also face discipline from the NFL.

The results of the unspecified probe could play a role in whether Miller has played his last snap for the Broncos, whom he led to a Super Bowl title five years ago.

''We're still working through it with Von, his agent, and in regards to the legal process, we're just going to let the legal process play out,'' Paton said. ''But obviously it's a serious situation, but we want to let it play out before we comment on that.''

Miller, who turns 32 in three weeks, is heading into the final season of the six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed in 2016 shortly after winning Super Bowl 50 MVP honors.

The Broncos have until March 16 to exercise Miller's 2021 option, which would guarantee $7 million of his $17.5 million base salary.

If the Broncos release Miller, their all-time sacks leader, they would face a dead-money charge of $4.125 million against the salary cap for the upcoming season, far less than the $22.125 million cap charge if the team picks up his option.

Paton also didn't rule out discussions about a pay cut for Miller to return, although J.J. Watt's two-year, $31 million deal with Arizona that he signed this week would seem to rule out any interest in Miller's part on taking less money to stay in Denver.

Asked whether the eight-time Pro Bowl selection's future in Denver could depend on a reduction in salary, Paton said: ''We want to bring Von back; we're still working through that, I don't want to get into everything, but we want to bring him back. Obviously the legal process, what he's going through, it's a serious situation, obviously, and I don't know all the details, but we respect what's going on. We do want Von back.''

Miller was John Elway's first draft pick in 2011, when he was the No. 2 overall selection behind Cam Newton. He is the team's all-time sacks leader with 106 quarterback takedowns. Elway recently stepped down as the team's GM and was replaced by Paton, a former Minnesota Vikings executive.

Among other topics Paton addressed was third-year quarterback Drew Lock.

''We're always going to bring in competition at every position, quarterback as well, but I like the track Drew's on,'' Paton said. ''He does have all the traits you look for in a quarterback.''

Paton said he's had ''good discussions'' with safety Justin Simmons' agent on a long-term deal. The Broncos can buy themselves more time by placing the franchise tag on Simmons for a second straight season.

''I don't know if we'll get a deal done or not, but that's our goal,'' Paton said. ''He's the type of guy we'd want to extend.''

Paton also said the team will tender restricted free agents Phillip Lindsay, Tim Patrick and Alexander Johnson. He said he's trying to re-sign Shelby Harris before he becomes an unrestricted free agent and Paton also indicated he was talking to Kareem Jackson's agents about a contact restructure.

''We've got to work through some things; we'd like Kareem back,'' Paton said.

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Player Notes
Cleveland Browns Mar 4 4:50pm ET

The Seattle Seahawks released wide receiver Josh Gordon on Thursday after the troubled pass-catcher was suspended indefinitely by the NFL again in January. Gordon is still just 29 years old but continues to bounce around the league because of off-field issues. He was a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 2013 with the Cleveland Browns, catching 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in only 14 games. Gordon has always had elite skills and physical traits, but he's made bad decisions off the football field. Since his amazing 2013 season, Gordon has played in just 29 NFL games, and he might've expended his last NFL life with Seattle. Fantasy managers continue to stash Gordon when he lands with a team, but it hasn't amounted to anything lately.

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Phillip Lindsay Mar 4 4:40pm ET

Denver Broncos general manager George Paton said the team plans to tender impending free-agent running back Phillip Lindsay a contract, but they aren't sure at what capacity yet. An original-round tender for Lindsay would allow the Broncos to match any offer he receives, but it wouldn't bring anything in return. A second-round tender, estimated at $3.4 million, could scare interested teams away or give Denver a high pick in return if Lindsay signs elsewhere. The 26-year-old was a surprise Pro Bowler in his rookie season after going undrafted and he managed 1,000 yards rushing in his first two years, but he took a major step back in 2020. Not only was Lindsay playing second fiddle to Melvin Gordon III, but he dealt with nagging injuries all season that limited him to 11 games. If he stays in Denver, he'll be a weak RB3/flex as a Gordon handcuff.

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Denver Broncos Mar 4 4:30pm ET

Denver Broncos general manager George Paton said on Thursday that the team wants to bring linebacker Von Miller back. Miller has a contract option guaranteeing $7 million of his $18 million salary for 2021, and the Broncos have until March 16 to exercise it. Denver could work out an extension or a new contract that lowers Miller's rate this season in order to keep him in town. The former Super Bowl MVP missed all of the 2020 season with an ankle injury, but he had played in at least 15 games in each of the previous six seasons, earning a Pro Bowl selection each year. The 31-year-old is also dealing with a legal matter, but the Broncos are letting the legal process play out and won't comment on the situation. A healthy Miller in 2021 would be huge for Denver's pass rush as they look to get back to the postseason.

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Denver Broncos Mar 4 4:30pm ET

The Denver Broncos are interested in getting a long-term deal done with impending free-agent safety Justin Simmons, but he will be a candidate for the franchise tag for the second straight season if a multi-year contract isn't worked out before the March 9 deadline. If he's tagged again, the two sides would have until mid-July to strike a long-term deal. Denver doesn't want to let the All-Pro safety go after he finished with 96 total tackles, a career-high five interceptions and nine passes defensed. Simmons has recorded nine interceptions in the last two seasons and has 16 in his five-year career to this point. The 27-year-old finished as a top-10 fantasy defensive back in 2020 and should be in play as a starter at the position again next year in IDP formats.

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Detroit Lions Mar 4 2:50pm ET

The Detroit Lions informed starting cornerback Desmond Trufant that he will be released at the start of the new league year on March 17, according to a source. Detroit signed the former first-round pick last year to try and replace Darius Slay, who was traded to the Eagles. But Trufant wound up playing in just six games and had one interception, four passes defensed and one sack on 20 tackles. He was one of the better cornerbacks in the league in his early days with Atlanta, but Trufant has missed a total of 17 games due to injuries in the last two seasons. The 30-year-old was due a base salary of $9.5 million in 2021, with $3.5 million guaranteed. Cutting him will save the Lions $6.187 million on the salary cap with $6 million in dead money.

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Ben Roethlisberger Mar 4 2:30pm ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers officially signed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a new contract for the 2021 season on Thursday. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Roethlisberger willingly reduced his pay to $14 million from $19 million in the final year of his deal, spreading his cash payment through 2022, according to a source. The move lowered Pittsburgh's salary cap hit by over $15 million, allowing them to make other moves to remain as competitive as possible. Big Ben was initially set for an exorbitant cap hit of $41.25 million. The 39-year-old will have one more shot at a championship and will likely retire after the 2021 season. Pittsburgh's offense could lose wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason and Roethlisberger is pretty injury prone, so he'll mostly be targeted as a fantasy backup as he heads into what will likely be his final NFL season.

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Philadelphia Eagles Mar 4 11:40am ET

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham has been with the team since 2010 and turns 33 years old next month, and he wants to remain with the Eagles after their tumultuous 2020 season that led to quarterback Carson Wentz being traded to the Colts. Graham has been on the trade and cutting block but has twice re-signed with the team. With Philadelphia entering a rebuilding mode, Graham made it clear that he wants to stay in Philly. "I don't want to go anywhere," Graham said. "I know I don't have long, but I know for me, I'm here in Philly." The Pro Bowl pass-rusher in 2020 recorded 46 tackles (13 for loss), 16 QB hits, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and eight sacks in a full season. While Graham may not have many years left, he's remained productive and has 16.5 sacks in the last two years with the Eagles.

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Deshaun Watson Mar 4 11:20am ET

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who shares the same agent as Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, said on the Huddle and Flow podcast that, "I highly doubt (Deshaun Watson) will suit up in a Texans uniform again. He's extremely serious." The Texans and Watson are in a standoff, with Houston saying they will not trade the 25-year-old signal-caller. But Watson remains steadfast in his trade demands and wants out of Houston. Eventually, something has to give. If this continues to play out, the Texans may have no choice but to find the best available offer for the star quarterback. Watson was still a top-five fantasy QB without All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins in 2020, so he should be drafted as an elite quarterback again in 2021. A trade out of Houston could make him even more attractive.

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Philadelphia Eagles Mar 4 11:20am ET

Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent left tackle Jason Peters plans on playing in an 18th NFL season in 2021 after starting just eight games in 2020. The nine-time Pro Bowler said he still has something left in the tank after playing the last 12 seasons in Philadelphia after five years in Buffalo. The 39-year-old wants to keep playing, but he sees the writing on the wall that he won't be back with the Eagles in 2021. Peters knows that Philadelphia is in rebuild mode with younger players on the roster and no salary cap space. The future Hall of Fame left tackle doesn't have much time left in the NFL, but he can still get the job done and can also be a good sounding board for rising young talent. If he continues playing, it'll likely be somewhere other than Philadelphia.

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Minnesota Vikings Mar 4 11:10am ET

The Minnesota Vikings signed defensive end Stephen Weatherly to an undisclosed one-year deal on Thursday, the pass-rusher announced on his Instagram. Weatherly was cut by the Carolina Panthers earlier this year after just one season with the team. He put up six sacks in four seasons with Minnesota from 2016-19. Weatherly was a seventh-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2016 and signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with Carolina in free agency last season. Only cornerback Mackensie Alexander has more NFL starts from the team's 2016 draft class than Weatherly. Weatherly had no sacks as a starter in Carolina in 2020, which is a big reason why they cut him entering this season.

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Wil Lutz Mar 4 11:00am ET

The New Orleans Saints restructured kicker Wil Lutz's contract on Thursday to create $1.74 million in salary cap space, according to a source. New Orleans continues to maneuver around the lowered 2021 salary cap, but they still have plenty of work left to do as the new league year approaches on March 17. The 26-year-old kicker made 23 of his 28 field-goal tries in 2020 and also was successful on 57 of his 58 extra points last season. The Saints offense should be pretty solid under either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston in 2021, which should at least make Lutz a low-end fantasy kicking option. Lutz finished as the No. 9 fantasy kicker in most leagues in 2020.

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New York Giants Mar 3 10:50pm ET

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.

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Golden Tate Mar 3 7:20pm ET

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.

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Kirk Cousins Mar 3 7:10pm ET

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.

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Sam Darnold Mar 3 6:40pm ET

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.

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Arizona Cardinals Mar 3 6:30pm ET

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.

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Derek Carr Mar 3 6:20pm ET

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.

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Carolina Panthers Mar 3 6:10pm ET

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.

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Josh Hill Mar 3 6:00pm ET

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.

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Las Vegas Raiders Mar 3 4:20pm ET

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.

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