Wed Jul 1 6:45pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Jan. 29, 2020, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers a question during a news conference for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game in Miami. Its been over three months since the commissioners of major sports cancelled or postponed events because of the coronavirus. Enough time for us to grade them on how theyve handled the virus so far. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
In this Aug. 7, 2015, file photo, a visitor to the Pro Football Hall of Fame pauses to take a photo of the sign in front in Canton, Ohio. The NFL has canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opens the preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic, two people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday, June 25, 2020. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been publicly announced, though an announcement is expected later Thursday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
The NFL will cut its preseason in half and push back the start of exhibition play so teams have more time to train following an all virtual offseason made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn't announced that the preseason will be cut from four games to two.
The pandemic forced teams to conduct their entire offseason programs via videoconference. So, teams will be gathering together for the first time when training camps open July 28.
Minus the usual minicamps, on-field practices and in-person weight training from April to June, players' conditioning won't be what it normally is. So, eliminating the first week of preseason games Aug. 13-16 will give them more time to ratchet up their football fitness.
Teams will now play exhibitions Aug. 20-24 and Aug. 27-31 during what were originally the second and third weeks of exhibition play with all 32 teams playing one home and one road game.
Most of those games will remain the same as originally scheduled although some matchups in that second slate will have to be changed so every team gets a game at home.
The exhibition finales on Sept. 3 were also scrapped, giving teams more time to get ready for the regular season, which opens Sept. 10 with Houston at Kansas City.
There are no changes to the regular season schedule.
The league continues to draw up protocols, not only for COVID-19 mitigation but for ramping up practices during the first few weeks of training camp.
The annual Hall of Fame Game pitting Pittsburgh and Dallas on Aug. 6 was recently scrapped as the induction ceremonies were pushed back to 2021.
June 28th: Champions Draft
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tavon Young (neck), who missed all of last season after having neck surgery, is healthy and ready to return to one of the best secondaries in the league in 2020. "He says he's healthy. He's ready to go. Tavon is ready to go, and if he tells me he's ready to go, I believe in him 100 percent. And he'll be ready to go, so I'm excited about that," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. Young was the highest-paid slot corner when he signed a three-year extension worth an average of $8 million last offseason. He had 36 tackles, two interceptions, two sacks and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in 2018. Young is extremely versatile but won't be on the IDP radar. His return will allow the Ravens to move Marlon Humphrey back outside after he was the team's primary slot corner last year with Young out.
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is back in the NFL after signing a deal that guarantees him $500,000 in 2020. It include a $1.05 million base salary with $700,000 in per-game roster bonuses that could cap at $7.5 million. There is $5.75 million worth of incentives in this contract. This deal is truly a low-risk 'prove it' deal for Newton who has been injured each of the last two seasons. Head coach Bill Belichick has not named Newton the starter, but he is expected to beat out Jarrett Stidham for the starting role. Newton's fantasy value will solely depend on his health. The Pats offense is not stacked, but Newton could have decent fantasy value, assuming he's back to the player he was a few years ago.
Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson told NFL Network's Colleen Wolfe on Wednesday's NFL Total Access that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater "is back" to the talent that made him a Pro Bowler when he was with the Vikings. "I think Teddy's definitely going to come in and change the offense. He has great weapons," Thompson said. Bridgewater went 5-0 in relief of an injured Drew Brees for the Saints last year and has plenty of weapons at his disposal in his first year in Carolina. While the 27-year-old signal-caller isn't known as a QB that pushes the ball down the field consistently, he could surprise in 2020 under new head coach Matt Rhule. Bridgewater will be a QB2 target with upside for fantasy owners.
The Athletic's Matt Barrows believes that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor is the favorite to finish third in receptions in 2020 behind tight end George Kittle and receiver Deebo Samuel. Taylor missed the entire 2019 campaign with a Jones fracture in his foot, which is the same injury that Samuel is recovering from right now. The 26-year-old has 69 receptions for 645 yards and three touchdowns in 29 games over his two seasons in San Francisco, but he'll have the opportunity to carve out a starting role this year, especially if Samuel isn't ready for Week 1. The 49ers apparently expect Taylor to be a big part of the offense, too, but fantasy owners will want to see it before they believe it. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis and Richie James will also be fighting for playing time.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (foot) is dealing with a classic Jones fracture and could be ready to return in 10 to 12 weeks rather than the 12 to 16 weeks that was originally reported. Samuel could still be pushing it to be ready for the start of the regular season, and the risk of him starting the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list has caused him to fall down draft boards. The 24-year-old was one of the team's best pass-catchers as a rookie, hauling in 57 receptions for 802 yards and three touchdowns. With his injury, rookie Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor become more attractive, at least early in the year. Samuel can be targeted as a WR4 with upside in fantasy drafts.
The New York Jets are still talking to free-agent wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The 32-year-old former Denver Bronco doesn't have much left in the tank at this point in his career, catching only 36 passes (58 targets) for 433 yards and one touchdown in his 11 games for the Jets last year. It's a far cry from when he compiled five straight 1,000-yard campaigns from 2012 to 2016 with the Broncos. New York's receiving corps isn't all that strong with Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims as the top three wideouts, but DT would likely battle for the fourth-receiver gig with the likes of Josh Doctson and Vyncint Smith. Thomas won't be relevant in New York unless injuries open up a more prominent role for him.
Free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown posted a picture on his Instagram account on Wednesday showing him working out with Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Russell Wilson. Brown is trying to work his way back into the league after countless off-field incidents. While he's likely to receive at least an eight-game suspension in 2020, it's looking more and more likely that another team will give him another shot based purely on his talent on a football field. The Seahawks were already one of the teams considering adding Brown or Josh Gordon, and Wilson working out with AB only furthers that narrative. Adding Brown to Seattle's mix would certainly be intriguing, but the controversial wideout won't have much redraft value with a lengthy suspension coming his way if he's reinstated.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook recently made NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund's list of 10 players who deserve a new deal. The 24-year-old is currently searching for a new contract and stated that he plans to hold out if he doesn't get paid heading into the 2020 campaign. Cook ran for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on 250 attempts in 2019. He also added 53 catches for 519 yards and was one of the most prolific runners inside the red zone. While there are a few months to go before the start of the regular season, fantasy managers should be prepared in the event Cook doesn't report to training camp at the end of July, while also targeting Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone as adequate handcuff options.
The San Francisco 49ers have discussed a long-term contract extension with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. The 24-year-old caught 30 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns last year and has 88 career receptions for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns (all in the last two years) in his three seasons in the league. Bourne isn't a household name, but he has two things going for him heading into the 2020 season: a potentially bigger role with Deebo Samuel (foot) a candidate to miss the start of the season, and a valuable red-zone connection with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Others in the Niners passing game could step up -- Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, Richie James -- but Bourne now has some late-round flier appeal in deeper leagues in an offense that values yards after the catch.
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell has been "training like a mad man" this offseason. After holding out for all of 2018, Bell signed with the Jets and had the worst full season of his career, rushing for 789 yards and three touchdowns on 245 carries (career-low 3.2 yards per carry). He also added 66 receptions for 461 yards and another touchdown. Gang Green's putrid offensive line didn't do him any favors, but is the 28-year-old no longer an RB1? It doesn't help that head coach Adam Gase isn't a big fan of Bell, and veteran Frank Gore and rookie Lamical Perine could take away some touches. His production in the passing game helps his cause and the offensive line is upgraded, but Bell should be considered a low-end RB2 in this offense.
Buffalo Bills WR John Brown's production will be helped and not hurt by the addition of WR Stefon Diggs, according to QB Josh Allen. 'I think this is going to give him an opportunity to have more chances to catch the ball,' Allen said. 'Man-to-man, he's extremely tough to cover.'
Fantasy Spin: While the addition of Diggs is going to cut into his targets, less attention from opposing defenses could mean more big-play opportunities for Brown. Still, he will likely drop from the WR2 ranks to more of a boom-or-bust WR3.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster may be lined up in the slot more often this upcoming season because of the addition of WR Chase Claypool, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor.
Fantasy Spin: Smith-Schuster had a disappointing 2019 season because of injuries and playing with backup quarterbacks. He should have more success with Ben Roethlisberger healthy and would have better matchups if he lines up as a slot receiver. He has a chance to be a No. 2 receiver in fantasy leagues.
The Green Bay Packers signed first-round quarterback Jordan Love on Wednesday to a fully guaranteed four-year, $12.383 million deal, according to sources. Love will receive a $6.566 million signing bonus. It's the first time that the No. 26 pick in the draft has received a fully guaranteed deal under the current rookie contract system. The Packers shocked everyone and took Love, the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers, in the first round in April. While the Utah State alum has some promising physical traits as a dual-threat QB, he was very inconsistent in college and isn't a sure thing at the next level. Rodgers is under contract through the 2023 season as well, so Love is strictly a dynasty/keeper stash and hold.
Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay posted five touchdowns of at least 25 yards last season, which was tied for most in the NFL.
Fantasy Spin: Golladay has taken over the No. 1 receiver job for the Lions and will be the focal point in the passing game. He should be a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in fantasy leagues and will be a weekly starting option.
Detroit Lions DTs Danny Shelton, Nick Williams, Da'Shawn Hand, John Atkins, Kevin Strong and Olive Sagapolu are joined by rookies John Penisini and Jashon Cornell at the interior of the Lions' defensive line in 2020. Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin likes the overall talent of the group. 'We have a really nice depth chart there at that position and we'll just kind of mix and match,' Undlin said. 'We'll watch (Shelton and Williams) work and find out where they're most comfortable, what the best combination is and then we'll settle on that once we get closer to the start of the season.'
Buffalo Bills wide receivers Duke Williams and Robert Foster could be facing an uphill battle to make the team out of training camp, in the opinion of The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia. Williams, 27, saw more opportunities late last season, but he played in just four regular season games and had 12 receptions for 166 yards and a score. Foster, 26, had only three receptions for 64 yards in 13 games (two starts). The Bills traded for Stefon Diggs in the offseason and also drafted wideouts Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins, so Williams and Foster have been pushed further down the depth chart. Williams might have a leg up on Foster because of his physical presence at the position, but neither will be fantasy options leading up to the season.
It's possible that the Buffalo Bills want to get running back Devin Singletary more involved in the passing game this year, in the opinion of The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia. If it actually transpires, this will obviously be good news for the second-year back, but the presence of rookie Zack Moss in Buffalo's backfield will likely limit Singletary to low-end RB2/high-end RB3 status regardless. The 22-year-old saw only 41 targets in the passing game in 2019 and caught 29 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Josh Allen isn't really the checkdown type either, so it remains to be seen how much more Singletary will be involved in the aerial attack.
New England Patriots QB Cam Newton could be hit with the franchise tag following the 2020 season, as there's no provision in his one-year contract preventing the Patriots from doing so, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports was told.
Nothing has changed with Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue as we approach the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign long-term contract extensions, according to a source. Ngakoue still desires a trade and doesn't have any immediate plans to sign the franchise tag. This is a situation that could bleed into training camp. The star pass-rusher could hold out for a deal, which would obviously be bad news for those targeting him as a low-end starting defensive lineman in IDP leagues. The Jaguars didn't receive any trade offers for him during the draft. The 25-year-old has become one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL in just four seasons, racking up 37.5 sacks and 122 combined tackles in 63 games for Jacksonville.