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One and Done - FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Saints start offseason with odd mix of bitterness, optimism

Mon Jan 21 6:29pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

Players: Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Taysom Hill, Teddy Bridgewater, Tommylee Lewis

In this Dec. 23, 2018 file photo, New Orleans Saints linebacker Craig Robertson (52) reacts to the crowd as he runs off the field after their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game in New Orleans. On Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, the Saints will host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game. (AP Photo/Bill Feig, File)


New Orleans Saints linebacker Craig Robertson (52) leaves the field after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson arrives before the NFL football NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints punter Thomas Morstead is having a tougher time taking the high road after a second consecutive season ended in stunned disappointment - this time because of officiating, rather than an opponent's late-game heroics.

Morstead drew headlines for his sportsmanship - not to mention an outpouring of financial support for his charitable endeavors - by volunteering to return to the field from the visitor's locker room in Minnesota for a required extra point try after the Vikings had ended the Saints' 2017-18 playoff run with a long, improbable touchdown as time expired.

''Last year we felt like we got beat; they made a play and we didn't stop them,'' Morstead said. ''As tough as that was, I think as a player you can handle that. This just feels a little dirty.''

Saints players spent Monday struggling to stomach the fact that they were conducting exit interviews and cleaning out their lockers when they thought they should be preparing to play in the Super Bowl.

They remained incredulous over two officials' reluctance to throw a flag when Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman delivered an improperly early and high hit on intended receiver Tommylee Lewis that could have been penalized for pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact. A penalty would have allowed the Saints to mostly run out the clock before trying a go-ahead field goal.

Instead, the Saints took a three-point lead with 1:41 left, and the Rams came back to tie it at the end of regulation and win, 26-23, in overtime.

Acceptance wasn't coming easy.

Even Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement on pledging to ''aggressively pursue changes'' in NFL policies to promote more ''fairness and integrity'' on the field.

''No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field,'' Benson's statement read. ''As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity.''

Decisive personnel decisions and aggressive play-calling were among the signs that the Saints were all-in to win the Super Bowl this season.

They traded for Teddy Bridgewater late in the preseason in an effort to ensure quarterback Drew Brees' backup would have the combination of experience and talent they felt necessary to preserve championship aspirations in the event Brees was injured.

The move also provided more flexibility to employ versatile third-string QB Taysom Hill in a variety of roles on offense and special teams. They played to win and win big, regularly keeping the offense on the field on fourth down and executing several fake punts. They were bent on winning the No. 1 seed, viewing two home games in the deafening din of the Superdome as the surest route to this season's Super Bowl in Atlanta.

Saints players also professed that the chemistry they achieved in their locker room was rare.

''That's the hardest thing about this season'' ending,'' said linebacker Craig Robertson, whose contract is up. ''I've never been so close with so many guys on a team in my life.''

Now they'll have to start over, and that means at least a few roster moves. Free agents include running back Mark Ingram, who has said he does not want to leave but has a professional obligation to keep his options open.

Defensive end Alex Okafor could opt out, which might be in his interest given that he was sharing snaps this season with first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport.

Defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, defensive back P.J. Williams and Bridgewater also are among those due to be unrestricted free agents, while tight end Ben Watson is retiring.

The 40-yeear-old Brees is under contract for one more season and sounded confident after Sunday's game that he'd be back.

Before the team went its separate ways, the shared message seemed to be that after they've taken some time to rest and decompress, they have to summon the determination to return with the same optimism, desire and determination as they did after losing in heartbreaking fashion in Minnesota the season before.

''That's the tough part about this game, is kind of the emotional investment for guys to physically lay it on the line every week and when it's over, it's kind of like getting broken up with somebody that you love,'' Morstead said. ''Some people are kind of never able to love the same again after that. It's hard to come back and put your heart and soul into it just as hard as you did the last time.

''That's why it's so important to have the right guys in the locker room, because when you have the right guys, they're kind of able to be vulnerable and accept it, take it, take it on the chin and find a way to come back the next year and emotionally invest 100 percent again,'' Morstead added. ''So, hopefully we can do that.''

Player Notes
Geno Smith Jul 20 8:10pm ET

The battle to be the backup quarterback rages this offseason for the Seattle Seahawks, but Geno Smith is getting a lot of compliments from the coaching staff so far. Head coach Pete Carroll made specific mention of Smith's comfort with handling the huddle and making adjustments at the line, and he compared Smith's savvy to that of longtime backup Tarvaris Jackson. That's high praise from the coach since it's incredibly rare that a backup QB is held in high a regard as Jackson was, but Smith has to win his competition with Paxton Lynch first. Lynch signed with Seattle early in the offseason, but the coaching staff hasn't made any indications about who is winning the job yet. For now, it looks to be a battle that will go on throughout all of training camp.

From RotoBaller

Jaron Brown Jul 20 8:00pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaron Brown filled a red-zone niche for the team last year, but head coach Pete Carroll seems to already be scheming for him in 2019. Carroll told reporters that he felt the team had "underused" him last season and expects to get more out of his this year. Brown only caught 14 passes last year, five for touchdowns, but he's still incredibly fast. With D.K. Metcalf in the mix, Brown could see more utilization in a dual deep threat type of set, and fantasy owners shouldn't forget that Russell Wilson is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league on deep balls. If Carroll is telling the truth about the team's plans, Brown could be a surprise star in Seattle.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Lockett Jul 20 7:50pm ET

The Seattle Seahawks see big things in wide receiver Tyler Lockett, even if he's not very large. With the retirement of their steady No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin over the offseason, Seattle will be trying to fill big shoes in the passing game. It all begins with Lockett. Lockett had a breakout season in 2018 as Baldwin dealt with injuries that would eventually end his career, and it looks like the torch can be passed in most ways. Both are small, quick receivers who run excellent routes and have steady hands, so the feel of the offense shouldn't change dramatically. The real question will be how much use Lockett will get, even if he is the go-to guy. Seattle is notorious for spreading the ball around and not letting Russell Wilson do too much of the work, but there's no clear-cut No. 2 receiver behind Lockett, so he will likely see the vast majority of the looks, especially on third down.

From RotoBaller

David Moore Jul 20 7:50pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver David Moore burst onto the scene in 2018 by making a host of acrobatic, highlight-reel catches to announce his presence. Unfortunately, he slowed down with time, and it turned out that his acrobatics covered up for the fact that he struggled to get open on a consistent basis. His highs have been outstanding and stick in peoples' minds, but he also fades into the background during most games. Entering camp in 2019, Moore will be competing against Jaron Brown and D.K. Metcalf to try to lock up the No. 2 spot in the wide receiver pecking order. His competition is talented, but all three receivers have their warts. If Moore can improve his ability to get separation on a regular basis, he could easily run away from the others (metaphorically speaking).

From RotoBaller

Darren Sproles Jul 20 4:15pm ET

The Eagles are bringing back running back Darren Sproles for one more season. After playing in just six games last year, it looked like Sproles might be done in the NFL, but the Eagles decided to bring Sproles back to an already crowded backfield that features Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and Miles Sanders. Clement might be in the most trouble from the Sproles signing, but overall it's looking more and more like this is a running back committee that fantasy owners should stay away from. This move does almost guarantee that either Josh Adams or Wendell Smallwood are cut before the season opens.

Joe Flacco Jul 20 4:03pm ET

Denver Broncos QB Joe Flacco threw three interceptions during practice Saturday, July 20.

Fantasy Spin: Flacco is on track to be the starting quarterback this season and will look to post better numbers than he did last season. He will have a decent receiving corps to work with this season but likely will only be a low-end No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Jason Pierre-Paul Jul 20 2:53pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul (neck) likely will open training camp on the Active/Non-Football Injury list.

From TheHuddle

Troy Fumagalli Jul 20 2:13pm ET

Denver Broncos TE Troy Fumagalli (hip) is considered day-to-day because of a hip injury.

From TheHuddle

Tyreek Hill Jul 20 12:40pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill could be on his way out of KC, according to Mike Florio. Hill has been cleared of his suspension, but the team is not close to an extension with Hill. The Chiefs have some depth at wide receiver, so losing Hill would not be the end of the world. There's a possibility of a tag-and-trade next offseason, but Hill will likely remain in Kansas City this upcoming season. The two sides may continue to talk extension, but it doesn't sound like either side is close at all.

From RotoBaller

Kurt Coleman Jul 20 10:03am ET

Buffalo Bills FS Kurt Coleman is expected to battle with Siran Neal and Jaquan Neal for defensive snaps as the team's third safety. SS Micah Hyde and FS Jordan Poyer will remain the starters.

From TheHuddle

Jalen Richard Jul 20 9:10am ET

With the onslaught of new talent brought in by the Oakland Raiders this offseason, running back Jalen Richard could find more success despite being further down the list of the teams top offensive weapons. Richard will primarily work once again as a pass-catching back, limiting his playing time to third downs and spelling off rookie Josh Jacobs. In 2018, Richard finished seventh among running backs in receptions (68) and targets (81) while picking up 607 receiving yards in the process. With the more dynamic players on the offense creating more space for him to maneuver, he could be the right change-of-pace back the team needs in certain scenarios especially with his proven chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr. Richard is a player to watch as a potential handcuff to Jacobs, and could find value in PPR leagues if he finds more work in the red zone.

From RotoBaller

Hunter Renfrow Jul 20 12:40am ET

Joining the new offensive formula for the Oakland Raiders this season, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow hopes to be a part of it in a big way in 2019. The fifth-round rookie has his eyes on the job for the teams starting slot receiver, sandwiched on the field between fellow newcomers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. Battling Ryan Grant and JJ Nelson for the position, Renfrow has a dynamic skill set that forced GM Mike Mayock to trade up for him at this years draft. His 510 frame, reliable hands, and excellent route-running abilities give him the proper skill set, but hell have to prove hes the right man for the job during training camp and the preseason. Renfrow is a name to watch out for in the buildup to the regular season and is solely on the dynasty league radar until we know more about his role going forward.

From RotoBaller

Kyler Murray Jul 19 11:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray was impressive during offseason workouts, and he is getting ready for his first training camp with practice starting July 25. He is expected to get the starting nod in Week 1 ahead of veteran journeyman Brett Hundley, and he has impressed early on. "I was impressed with how smart he is, how determined he is. His future is extremely bright," future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after the rookie's minicamp showing. Murray is already moving up the pre-draft cheat sheets, and he is considered a borderline low-end QB1 or top-end QB2 in most fantasy formats, while having considerably higher value in long-term dynasty formats.

From RotoBaller

Larry Fitzgerald Jul 19 11:10pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been impressed by the quick learning by rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and his familiarity with the offense. "I know him running (Oklahoma head coach) Lincoln Riley's offense is very similar to what Coach Kliff (Kingsbury) runs," Fitzgerald says, "but on the first day he's calling audibles and getting us in plays that are favorable to the offense. So I was really impressed by his ability to take a leadership position first day at the offense." Fitzgerald also remarked that the Arizona offense will be much faster in tempo, with players expected to process pre-snap adjustments considerably faster. Fitzgerald is getting a little long in the tooth, but the up-tempo style should keep him rather productive heading into 2019. He's a reliable WR3/4 or flex fantasy option in most formats.

From RotoBaller

Khalfani Muhammad Jul 19 9:43pm ET

Denver Broncos RB Khalfani Muhammad had a 'solid' practice Friday, July 19, capping the session with a long catch on a wheel route, according to Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com.

From TheHuddle

Cameron Brate Jul 19 8:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate (hip) said he has been medically cleared and will be 100 percent for training camp.

Fantasy Spin: Brate likely will be sharing playing time with O.J. Howard but could still have a decent role in the passing game. He has a chance to be a No. 2 tight end in some fantasy leagues in 2019.

From TheHuddle

Darren Sproles Jul 19 5:33pm ET

Free-agent RB Darren Sproles (Eagles) signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles Friday, July 19. Financial terms were not disclosed.

From TheHuddle

David Williams Jul 19 5:23pm ET

Free-agent RB David Williams (Jaguars) officially signed with the Denver Broncos Friday, July 19. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

From TheHuddle

David Williams Jul 19 4:55pm ET

The Denver Broncos have signed running back David Williams, who the team originally drafted in 2018 before letting go. Williams was a Jaguar last season, but carried the ball just eight times for 36 yards with Jacksonville. It's hard to imagine a situation where Williams has fantasy value in a Broncos backfield that already has Royce Freeman and Phillip, but stranger things have happened. He's not draftable in any format, but a good training camp could put him in the mix for some of Devontae Booker's snaps as the number-three back.

Connor Barwin Jul 19 4:33pm ET

Free-agent DE/LB Connor Barwin (Eagles) told Sirius XM NFL Radio during an interview Friday, July 17, that he has spoken with general manager Howie Roseman about re-signing. Barwin indicated the Eagles want to take a look at their younger players for a few weeks in training camp first but suggested the two sides will reconvene after that.

From TheHuddle