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Taylor encouraged by free agent haul as Bengals rebuild

Wed Apr 8 5:25pm ET

CINCINNATI (AP) Cincinnati had a list of top targets heading into free agency, and coach Zac Taylor says the Bengals got the players they wanted.

The Bengals announced Wednesday they had reached agreements with eight unrestricted free agents since the new league year started March 18, though all eight still must pass physicals. The Bengals' top targets included defensive tackle D.J. Reader and cornerback Trae Waynes as Cincinnati spent lots of money after going 2-14 in Taylor's inaugural season.

Taylor said the players Cincinnati landed in free agency speaks to how the Bengals are viewed outside their own building.

“It's just encouraging to know that there's a lot of excitement building around our organization right now,” Taylor said on a Zoom call with reporters.

“Guys are excited to be a part of it and look forward to getting to know those guys. Who knows the next time we'll get a chance to actually meet them physically. But it was certainly a fun process.”

Next will come the NFL draft with the Bengals holding the No. 1 overall draft pick and expected to take quarterback Joe Burrow after using the

last month.

Reader was the biggest piece of Cincinnati's new free agents, agreeing to a four-year, $53 million deal. The 6-foot-3, 347-pound tackle spent the past four years with Houston, and he has started 52 of his 61 games. He has 154 tackles with 6 1/2 sacks and was a fifth-round pick out of Clemson in 2016. The Bengals like his versatility.

“Can play a lot of different positions up front,” Taylor said. “He can be a three-down player for you and really affect the game,” Taylor said. “He's great against the run, really affects the pass during the pass game. Great energy. He's somebody (defensive line coach) Nick Eason has known a long time back to both their Clemson days.”

Cornerback Trae Waynes agreed to a three-year contract for $42 million. The other new Bengals include safety Vonn Bell, linebacker Josh Bynes, cornerbacks LeShaun Sims and Mackensie Alexander, wide receiver Mike Thomas and guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.

Six of the free agents come from playoff teams this past season, which Taylor said didn't hurt either.

“When you get a guy fresh off a playoff run, that's still very fresh in his mind of how he approached the season, how they attacked it as a team,” Taylor said. “It certainly helps our culture when you add guys that have recently been playing for a championship, and obviously that's where we intend to be very quickly.”

Six of the free agents brought in also play defense.

Waynes had seven interceptions in his 74 games after being the 11th pick overall in 2015 out of Michigan State by Minnesota. Bell has eight sacks, seven forced fumbles and seven recovered fumbles in four seasons with New Orleans.

“Trae was certainly a guy we felt good about,” Taylor said. “I watched every target he had this year. He brings a lot of toughness to that side of the ball as well, that position as well. He's a hungry guy who's played some good football.”

Bynes, who received a one-year contract, now is with his fourth team after playing for Baltimore, Detroit and Arizona. He has 4 1/2 career sacks, four interceptions and three forced fumbles. Sims and Alexander also are on one-year deals.

The Bengals landed Su'a-Filo with a three-year deal the day after free agency started. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Su'a-Filo has started 53 of 75 games starting his career with Houston before spending the past two seasons with Dallas.

Player Notes
Kenyan Drake Apr 8 7:30pm ET

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said that the team would like to have three running backs sharing the load in 2020. "D.J. was banged up last year," Kingsbury said. "We think he has a good skill set. But that's an area that we'd like to have three. You saw we got to (using) a third (running back in 2019). We'd like to have three that we feel like we could roll through and not lose much." Kenyan Drake, who signed his transition tender, will see the majority of touches, but Chase Edmonds and D.J. Foster will also get some work. Drake was one of the best running backs in the league after his trade over from the Dolphins, and he'll be a coveted RB1 in fantasy circles with Arizona's offense looking more explosive with the addition of receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Edmonds will merely be a handcuff for those that take Drake early in drafts.

From RotoBaller

Damien Williams Apr 8 7:20pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to an undisclosed one-year deal with running back DeAndre Washington on Wednesday, according to a source. Washington was drafted in the fifth round by the Raiders back in 2016 and has rushed the ball 282 times for 1,122 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns in his four years in the NFL. He's also added 88 catches on 110 targets for 613 yards and another score in 55 career games (five starts). The 27-year-old had 108 rushing attempts for 387 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games last year (three starts). He'll provide depth for the Chiefs backfield behind Damien Williams while also competing for touches with Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams. He finds himself in an even more crowded backfield, meaning that it's unlikely Washington will yield any fantasy help.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Apr 8 4:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said that wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) is "fully healthy" and has been working out in Atlanta. It's good news after Green missed the entire 2019 season. He's scheduled to make around $18 million in 2020 on the franchise tag, but we may not get to see him until later this summer due to restrictions amid the coronavirus. Green will turn 32 in July and has played in just nine games in the last two seasons due to injuries. But he was a Pro Bowler each of his first seven seasons in the league from 2011 to 2017, surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving mark six times. He'll likely have rookie quarterback Joe Burrow throwing him passes in 2020, which could make fantasy owners even more hesitant to draft Green as even a WR2.

From RotoBaller

Justin Jackson Apr 8 2:50pm ET

The Los Angeles Chargers remain "very high on" running back Justin Jackson. Melvin Gordon is now playing for the Broncos, so there will be more opportunity for Jackson behind Austin Ekeler moving forward. Jackson, a seventh-round pick by the Bolts in 2018, has rushed 79 times for 406 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in his 20 games (one start) in two seasons for the Chargers. The soon-to-be 25-year-old also has 24 catches for 157 yards in his two years in the league. Ekeler should take over workhorse duties in this backfield with Gordon gone, but Jackson will have a role as a change-of-pace back and could be a great value pick late in fantasy drafts this fall.

From RotoBaller

Casey Hayward Apr 8 2:50pm ET

There's a chance that the Los Angeles Chargers look to trade cornerback Desmond King. King is seemingly a man without a position now that the Bolts signed Chris Harris Jr. to defend the slot in the middle of the field in 2020. Casey Hayward and Michael Davis can work on the outside, so it remains to be seen what the team will do with King if they hold onto him. The 25-year-old fifth-round pick in 2017 was a first-team All-Pro in 2018 when he had a career-high three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). King had 51 tackles (40 solo) and two passes defensed without an interception in 15 games (eight starts) in 2019. He could be part of a draft-day trade if the Chargers indeed move him.

From RotoBaller

Nyheim Hines Apr 8 12:50pm ET

Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines is expected to get "plenty more action" in the offense this season, in the opinion of The Athletic's Zak Keefer. And that could translate into much more fantasy success with new quarterback Philip Rivers under center, a veteran signal-caller who isn't afraid to dump the ball off to his pass-catching backs. Hines, 23, ran the ball just 52 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns behind Marlon Mack in 2019, adding 44 receptions for 320 yards. Both his rushing and receiving marks were down from his rookie season in 2018 when he was playing with Andrew Luck. With an offense that should attack more under Rivers, Hines could be a nice PPR sleeper late in drafts.

From RotoBaller

Drew Sample Apr 8 12:50pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals have high expectations for tight end Drew Sample to take a "significant jump" in his second year with the team, especially with Tyler Eifert no longer in town. Sample caught just five passes on six targets for 30 yards in nine games (two starts) in his rookie season and he was drafted as mostly a blocking tight end. C.J. Uzomah will be the team's primary pass-catcher at the position, but Sample will inevitably see more snaps on offense and should see his offensive numbers take a sizeable rise over his rookie season. The soon-to-be 24-year-old former second-round pick could become interesting in dynasty/keeper leagues with the Bengals expected to take LSU QB Joe Burrow with the first overall pick later this month.

From RotoBaller

Austin Ekeler Apr 8 10:53am ET

Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler had an 85.2 percent catch percentage last season, which was the best rate of anyone with 45 receptions.

Fantasy Spin: Ekeler had just one drop and 92 grabs for 993 yards. He rushed 132 times for 557 yards (4.2 yards per carry) as well, and with Melvin Gordon gone, he should remain one of the top five backs in PPR.

From TheHuddle

Derek Carr Apr 7 11:43pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr has seen his teammates drop 216 passes over the course of his six-year career - the most drops a quarterback has witnessed over that span.

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Michael Gallup Apr 7 11:33pm ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup was charged with 11 drops in 2019 - the second-highest total in the league.

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Latavius Murray Apr 7 11:13pm ET

New Orleans Saints RB Latavius Murray averaged 2.7 yards before contact per rushing attempt in 2019 - tied for the sixth-best average among qualified rushers last season.

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George Kittle Apr 7 10:03pm ET

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle was charged with only two drops on 107 targets in 2019. He was one of only five players in the league with at least 100 targets - regardless of position - to finish with a drop rate below two percent.

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Darren Waller Apr 7 10:03pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders TE Darren Waller was credited with eight broken tackles on his 90 catches in 2019 - tied with George Kittle for the second-highest total among tight ends.

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Von Miller Apr 7 5:13pm ET

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller has forced 640 quarterback pressures over the past decade, which are 40 more than any other player within that time.

From TheHuddle

Cody Latimer Apr 7 4:53pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent WR Cody Latimer (Giants) officially signed an undisclosed contract with the Washington Redskins Tuesday, April 7.

Fantasy Spin: Latimer set career-highs with 24 receptions and 300 yards with the New York Giants in 2019. He has a viable path to a notable role within the Washington offense and could become a streaming option by mid-season.

From TheHuddle

P.J. Williams Apr 7 4:53pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent DB P.J. Williams (Saints) officially signed an undisclosed contract with the New Orleans Saints Tuesday, April 7.

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Blake Bell Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Bell officially signed Tuesday, April 7. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

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Damarious Randall Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent DB Damarious Randall (Browns) officially signed with the Las Vegas Tuesday, April 7. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

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Reggie Ragland Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent LB Reggie Ragland (Chiefs) officially signed with the Detroit Lions Tuesday, April 7. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

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Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Apr 7 4:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Bears) officially signed with the Dallas Cowboys Tuesday, April 7. Official terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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