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Jets' Flacco 'embracing' backup role but not done as starter

Thu May 28 5:40pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer

In this Oct. 26, 2017, file photo, Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, top left, collides with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco as Flacco slides on the field after rushing the ball in the first half of an NFL football game in Baltimore. Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP and the NFL's highest-paid quarterback just a few years ago. After injuries shortened his last two seasons, Flacco is now in New York with a new role: as a backup to Sam Darnold. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)


In this Feb. 13, 2013 file photo, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game in New Orleans. Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP and the NFL's highest-paid quarterback just a few years ago. After injuries shortened his last two seasons, Flacco is now in New York with a new role: as a backup to Sam Darnold. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)


NEW YORK (AP) Joe Flacco has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and been the Super Bowl MVP.

He has been the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and one of the faces of a franchise.

Now with the New York Jets, Flacco is merely a 35-year-old backup coming off an injury and tasked with helping Sam Darnold achieve the kind of success he has enjoyed in his pro career.

“I’m fully embracing it,” Flacco said Thursday on a video call. “I mean, it’s where I am right now, and I’m glad to be on a team playing football in some capacity.”

That's the reality right now for Flacco, who

that includes $3 million more in possible incentives. It also comes with quite a bit of uncertainty for Flacco.

He's on a new team in a new system, still recovering from surgery on a herniated disk in his neck and might not ever take a snap in a game this season. That, of course, would be good news for Darnold and the Jets. For Flacco, though, he envisions himself back under center as a starter.

Maybe not this year. But in years to come.

“Oh, for sure,” Flacco said. "We’re talking about all these things and that is my role, to help the team out. But, I obviously still believe that I’m a starting quarterback. And, you never know what three years down the line is going to look like. So I still have that confidence and I still have the want-to to do that.

“But, at this moment, that’s not my role. My role is to help the team get better and to help a young quarterback see things as clearly as possible and helping along his journey to being a longtime NFL quarterback.”

Flacco is trying to get up to speed on coach Adam Gase’s offense by participating this week in virtual meetings. He won’t put a timetable on when he’ll be able to potentially play, but there’s a chance it might not come until sometime in September.

He’s leaving that to the doctors, though. Flacco is just happy to have another chance to continue his playing career.

“Sometimes it’s not your decision, but not playing was never never one of my choices,” Flacco said. “It was a tough decision for me to get surgery or not to get surgery in one respect because I just didn’t have a ton of symptoms telling me, ‘Hey, you need to get surgery.’

"But when it became evident that I probably wasn’t going to play football again unless I did get something done and a team that signed me could feel comfortable that, when I was ready to go out on the field, I was going to stay healthy, at least in terms of this (neck) area, it became very clear that this is what I had to do."

Flacco spent his first 11 NFL seasons in Baltimore, where current Jets general manager Joe Douglas was a scout in 2008 and pushed for the Ravens to draft him. They did, with the 18th overall pick out of Delaware. In his fifth season, Flacco helped lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory and was rewarded by becoming the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history at the time with a six-year contract worth $120.6 million.

Injuries have limited Flacco to 17 games over the past two seasons. Baltimore moved on and traded him to Denver last winter, clearing the way for Lamar Jackson to take over as the Ravens' new face of the franchise. Flacco started the first eight games for the Broncos, but injured his neck in Week 8 and missed the rest of the season.

“I know what it’s like to not feel like being part of a team because you really can’t have your hand in things,” said Flacco, who was

with a failed physical designation. “I think in the role I’m in now, you can definitely have a good, positive effect on the team."

There had been some questions about Flacco's willingness to mentor young players, highlighted by his comments last year that he didn't think developing players - rookie Drew Lock, in particular - was part of his job.

In both Baltimore and Denver, though, Flacco was still the starter with young QBs behind him. In New York, he goes in knowing his primary role is as an experienced backup to Darnold, who has missed three games in each of his first two NFL seasons.

The two actually spoke on the phone for a few minutes before Flacco's call with reporters.

“Listen, I don’t think there are any backups in this league that don’t have aspirations to be a starting quarterback," Flacco said. "It’s just part of the business. It’s part of being on a team and knowing your role. And, roles can change here and there. You can be on different teams from year to year. I obviously know that at this point.

"But right now at this point in time, I know what my role is and I’m glad to do so.”

Player Notes
Carson Wentz Jul 3 1:40am ET

Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said he does not expect the Eagles offensive line to "miss a beat" in the 2020 season. The Eagles were expecting to bring back four of their five starting linemen from last season, but right guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achilles a few weeks ago and will miss the full season. Johnson said, "Obviously you can't replace a Brandon Brooks, who's the best guard in the league, so losing him was definitely a big blow for us but ultimately we still need him in the room as far as directing the young guys, pushing these guys forward." The Eagles offensive line has keeping Carson Wentz healthy as their most critical job in 2020. To keep their Super Bowl aspirations alive, the Eagles will need to keep Carson Wentz on his feet. Pro Football Focus ranked the Eagles offensive line as the best in the league in 2019, and they should be somewhere among the top ranks again despite the loss of Brooks.

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Kwon Alexander Jul 3 12:40am ET

San Francisco 49ers defensive back D.J. Reed (pectoral) suffered a torn pectoral muscle during a recent offseason workout, according to a league source. It's unknown how much time Reed will miss with his injury, but he's likely to be questionable to start the season on time unless it's delayed due to COVID-19. Linebacker Kwon Alexander suffered the same injury on Oct. 31 last year and returned to practice two months later. Reed is a valuable backup for the Niners because of his versatility to play corner, nickel back and safety. He can also contribute on special teams as a returner, but he has no significance to fantasy owners in IDP leagues. Reed was a fifth-round pick by San Fran in 2018 out of Kansas State. He appeared in all 16 games last year and had 13 tackles and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery.

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Thomas Davis Jul 3 12:30am ET

Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, a former first-round pick, is hoping to fill the void left in the middle of the defense when Luke Kuechly retired after last season. "But I gotta step up as the last linebacker [of that] trio that we had with Thomas Davis and Luke. So I gotta step up and fill that role and be that leader," Thompson said on NFL Network's Total Access. He had a great season in 2019, compiling a career-high 109 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss, three sacks and three passes defensed. With Thomas Davis gone last year, Thompson saw 903 defensive snaps after never seeing more than 609 in any of his previous seasons. The 26-year-old is definitely in play as a low-end starting linebacker in IDP leagues.

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Russell Wilson Jul 3 12:30am ET

Many quarterbacks around the league are enamored with the idea of throwing to free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of them. The two actually worked out together on Wednesday. According to a source, Brown would love to play for the Seahawks. If they make a move on him, though, it would likely take some time. It sounds like a team will sign Brown despite all of his off-the-field troubles, but they will likely wait to see how the NFL handles him. Brown is expected to receive a lengthy suspension of at least eight games, but even then, QBs would love a chance to throw to him in the second half of the season. Because Brown probably won't play anywhere close to a full season in 2020, he's unlikely to be much of a redraft target to begin the season.

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Tavon Young Jul 2 12:00pm ET

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.

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Cam Newton Jul 2 11:50am ET

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.

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Teddy Bridgewater Jul 2 11:40am ET

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Trent Taylor Jul 2 11:30am ET

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.

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Deebo Samuel Jul 2 11:20am ET

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Demaryius Thomas Jul 2 10:04am ET

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Dalvin Cook Jul 2 8:10am ET

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Kendrick Bourne Jul 2 12:20am ET

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Le'Veon Bell Jul 1 11:40pm ET

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.

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John Brown Jul 1 9:53pm ET

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.

From TheHuddle

JuJu Smith-Schuster Jul 1 5:33pm ET

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.

From TheHuddle

Jordan Love Jul 1 5:00pm ET

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From RotoBaller

Kenny Golladay Jul 1 4:13pm ET

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.

From TheHuddle

Danny Shelton Jul 1 3:03pm ET

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.'

From TheHuddle