Thu Mar 26 1:10pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
In this Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers nose tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) brings down Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers announced Thursday, March 26, 2020, that the team had re-signed defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes, File)
In this Dec. 15, 2019, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers nose tackle Ndamukong Suh is shown on the sideline before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. The Buccaneers announced Thursday, March 26, 2020, that the team had re-signed defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to re-assemble pieces to help Tom Brady be successful with his new team.
Keeping an improved defense together was one of the club's top priorities in free agency. Re-signing tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $8 million contract on Friday ensures the entire front seven will remain intact for next season.
The move comes on the heels on placing the franchise tag on NFL sacks leader Shaquil Barrett, re-signing linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul to a two-year, $27 million deal, and luring Brady from New England with $50 million guaranteed and the chance to join some dynamic young offensive playmakers.
The Bucs led the NFL in run defense in 2019, with Suh starting all 16 games after helping the Los Angeles Rams reach the Super Bowl the previous season.
''The No. 1 goal for me coming out of last season was to continue to build on defense. The only way to build is to keep everyone in place and grow. It's huge,'' coach Bruce Arians said.
''They'll be so far ahead of our offense, if and when we get back out on the field. I think our offense will catch up pretty fast,'' Arians added. ''We did some really nice things last year and we got better and better, especially those last six weeks of the season.''
Suh, whose streak of 131 consecutive starts is the longest among NFL defensive linemen, had 41 tackles, 14 quarterback hits and 2+ sacks in his first year with the Bucs.
The 33-year-old returned two fumbles for touchdowns, matching the most in a single season since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, rallied from a slow start to go 4-2 down the stretch in 2019, largely because of a stout run defense anchored by Suh and Vita Vea; an improved pass rush featuring Barrett and Pierre-Paul; and a young, inexperienced secondary that steadily got better.
The Bucs limited opponents to just 73.8 yards per game rushing.
''I wanted the entire defense, if we could, to stay together. They played so well together; each piece of the puzzle knew each other,'' Arians said. ''Suh was a big, big part of it obviously - not as much in the sack game as much as his interior pressure and the great job he did against the run.''
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft has also played for the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins during a career that includes three All-Pro selections. He has 58+ career sacks, along with eight fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles, an interception and three defensive TDs.
In addition to placing the franchise tag on Barrett ($15.828 million) and re-signing Pierre-Paul and Suh, Tampa Bay has struck deals the past week to retain three of its other unrestricted free agents: linebacker Kevin Minter, safety Andrew Adams and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
Barrett led the league with 19+ sacks last season. Pierre-Paul had 8+ in 10 games after sitting out the beginning of the year while recovering from a neck injury suffered in an automobile accident.
May 29th: Quarterback Preview
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley had planned on returning to Penn State, his alma mater, to serve as a coach for the team during spring ball before its cancellation due to COVID-19. While the 23-year-old had no intention of retiring early, he wanted to use it as a way to self-improve leading up to the 2020 campaign. Barkley posted his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season in 2019 despite appearing in only 13 games after battling a high-ankle sprain. With an enhanced offensive line and a new head coach for the Giants, the former Nittany Lion could be on track to finish the year as one of the league's top fantasy producers.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey was recently labeled by general manager Marty Hurney as "a unique back," which ultimately served as the reasoning behind locking up the MVP candidate to a new deal. McCaffrey, who signed a four-year, $64 million contract in April, finished 2019 as the most impactful fantasy option, finishing the year with over 1,000 yards on both the rushing and receiving end. He led the league again last year by playing in 93 percent of the team's snaps on the offensive end and posting 1,019 YAC. The 23-year-old is projected to go first overall in most fantasy drafts this upcoming season, regardless of format.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has had plenty of time to get more creative while designing new offensive plays during the COVID-19 pandemic this offseason. Kliff is one of the more mad-genius, offensive-minded guys in this league because of how he can put players in different positions to go out there and be successful and use your raw, natural ability to mirror up with the things the offense works best at, running back Kenyan Drake said. In Kingsbury's first year as head coach, the Cardinals had a 60.4 percent jump in points scored and a 91.7 percent increase in their number of scoring drives. They scored 25 or more points nine times in 2019 after doing so just once in 2018. With second-year dual-threat QB Kyler Murray at the helm and with a new No. 1 wideout in DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals could have one of the most explosive offenses in the league with Kingsbury calling the plays.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy said that quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who is in a QB competition with Nick Foles, has handled the situation with aplomb and expects the two QBs to compete for the job whenever offseason workouts begin. "(Trubisky) has been really, really good in the fact that he's taken this head-on," Nagy said. "He's accepted it. He understands it." But even though there will be a competition, Foles is expected to have the leg up on the job after Chicago acquired him in a trade. The Bears also declined Trubisky's fifth-year option for 2021. But the 25-year-old will get a legitimate shot to prove he's the guy despite disappointing in 2019. The reality is that Foles has the bigger arm and more real-life and fantasy upside as a low-end QB2 if he wins the job this summer.
Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki was one of four tight ends to see double-digit end zone targets during the 2019 season.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley averaged 131 rushing yards on 6.24 yards per carry in the final three games of the 2019 season, and he scored five of his eight total touchdowns in that span.
Fantasy Spin: Barkley battled an ankle injury in what was a disappointing sophomore campaign, but he flashed his upside in the final weeks. Not only is he a first-round pick in all fantasy formats, but he could be off the board as soon as No. 2 overall.
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen has 17 rushing touchdowns in 27 career starts. Only free-agent QB Cam Newton (Panthers) has had more rushing touchdowns in his first 27 starts.
Fantasy Spin: Despite below average accuracy, Newton has been a high-end fantasy quarterback for much of his career because of his rushing stats. Allen may never reach Newton's level, but his running ability can keep him in the QB1 mix.
Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods registered 613 yards after the catch in 2019 - the third-highest total in the league.
Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross averaged 7.3 yards after the catch in 2019 - tied for the fourth-highest average in the league among players who amassed 50 targets last season.
New York Jets RB Le'Veon Bell has enjoyed a target share of between 17 and 18 percent in four of his last five seasons, with the only exception coming in 2015 (15 percent). His 17.3 percent share in 2019 was the second-highest mark of his career.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle has compiled two of the three best seasons for a tight end in terms of producing yards after the catch since at least 2015 over the last two years. His 871 receiving yards after the catch in 2018 are the most by any player over the last five seasons (and 208 more yards than second-place Travis Kelce compiled in 2016), while his 623 receiving yards after the catch in 2019 led all tight ends and trailed only Chris Godwin (629) among all players last season.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt ranked sixth among running backs with 44 targets from Week 10 until the end of the 2019 regular season. Additionally, Hunt's 49 slot snaps also ranked sixth among running backs in the league for the year despite playing only eight games.
Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley was on track for 66 catches for 853 yards and nine touchdowns on 101 targets prior to the Falcons trading Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots following a Week 7 loss. Over his final six games and before succumbing to an abdomen injury that ended his season prior to Week 15, Ridley's 16-game pace over the final six contests was 91 receptions for 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns on 131 targets.
Fantasy Spin: Six games is a relatively small sample, but it provides a bit of rationale to those that believe Ridley could be this year's Chris Godwin. The third-year pro finds himself in a wonderful environment to make it happen, as Julio Jones will continue to command the most respect from defensive coordinators and Atlanta's defense may struggle at times yet again. As such, Ridley should be viewed as a high-end WR2 with WR1 upside.
Denver Broncos TEs Albert Okwuegbunam, Austin Fort and Jake Butt are expected to be competing for two roster spots during training camp. Okwuegbunam is considered a favorite for one of the spots.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III had 6,000-plus scrimmage yards and two Pro Bowl selections in five seasons with the Chargers, but he thinks the Broncos running scheme is better suited to his strengths as an explosive, downhill runner. Gordon had 2,587 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns in his final year in college in a zone-based offense similar. He had his moments as a perimeter runner with the Bolts, but his straight-line running style is better suited in an offense with more downhill runs. Denver has a zone-based system that's expected to feature more downhill plays under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Broncos plan on using Gordon as their lead back despite Phillip Lindsay's presence, and in an offense better suited to his strengths as a runner, Gordon could be more efficient and give fantasy owners RB1 upside at an RB2 cost.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson hopefully will try more downfield throws this upcoming season when the team faces one-on-one coverage, according to head coach John Harbaugh. 'Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it,' Harbaugh said. 'I really do believe that's the next step for this offense from an execution standpoint. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step and our receivers are going to take the next step.'
Fantasy Spin: Jackson is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and would be an even more valuable fantasy option if he is able to connect on more downfield throws. Hs should be one of the first quarterbacks selected in all drafts and is a must-start option in fantasy leagues.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks thinks that Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is primed for the best season of his career in new head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense. Cleveland's 12-personnel packages featuring tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku, along with receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and running back Nick Chubb, will be hard to stop. Mayfield averaged 9.0 yards per attempt (third-most in the NFL) in 12-personnel setups last year, and that formation is Stefanski's preference. Mayfield was also much better on play-action passes last year, so the Browns should look to feature those types of plays to take the pressure off the third-year passer. Cleveland's rebuilt offensive line should also give Mayfield better protection in 2020. All of this should add up to Mayfield being much more productive under Stefanski, making him a fine QB2 target with QB1 upside after his disappointing 2019 campaign.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has not yet signed the franchise tender as he seeks a long-term deal from the team. History suggests the sides will come together before the July 15 deadline or Prescott may not be with Dallas beyond this season. Since the franchise tag was introduced in 1993, only eight quarterbacks have been tagged and all but two, Drew Brees in 2005 and Kirk Cousins in 2018, got extensions prior to the season. Prescott is coming off the best season of his four-year career throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. He enters fantasy draft season as a top-three option at quarterback in fantasy.
Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) is not receiving interest from the Cleveland Browns at this point.
Cleveland Browns RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt probably will be on the field at the same time on occasion this upcoming season, in the opinion of The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.
Fantasy Spin: Chubb will continue to receive most of the work at running back this upcoming season, but Hunt was a solid receiver out of the backfield in 2019. Chubb should be a No. 1 running back in fantasy leagues, while Hunt can be a flex option in most leagues and likely will be more valuable in point-per-reception leagues.