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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

Saints look to keep rolling with Bridgewater against Bears

Thu Oct 17 7:27pm ET
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer

Players: Drew Brees, Jared Cook, Chase Daniel, Dak Prescott, Teddy Bridgewater, Mitch Trubisky, Alvin Kamara

Chicago Bears quarterback Chase Daniel (4) prepares to throw during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)


Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, lower left, is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, center, as Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, right, tries to slow Jordan down during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) tackles Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half of an NFL football game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The New Orleans Saints kept their sights set on a Super Bowl even after Drew Brees went down with an injury.

While their superstar quarterback continues to recover following thumb surgery, the NFC South leaders will try to remain unbeaten without him.

The Saints look to improve to 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater as their starter in Brees' place when they visit Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

''It just shows this is a team that's determined to win and do whatever it takes,'' Bridgewater said.

The Saints (5-1) are getting big contributions from their defense and special teams and enough from their offense even if they're not moving the ball the way they did a year ago. They're averaging 344.7 yards - down 34.5 yards per game from last season, when Brees made 15 starts. He's been sidelined since he tore a ligament in his right thumb during a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2.

Bridgewater has completed about 69 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn't as effective last week at Jacksonville, after throwing for 314 yards and four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, but he hit Jared Cook for a tiebreaking 4-yard TD early in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars.

He will try to keep the Saints rolling against a team looking to bounce back. The Bears (3-2) are coming off a loss to Oakland in London two weeks ago in which their defense got pushed around a bit after dominating the first four games and their offense continued to struggle.

Here are some things to know:

TRUBISKY'S RETURN

The Bears hope to get quarterback Mitchell Trubisky back after missing a game because of a left shoulder injury.

If he returns, he'll try to build on a promising showing against Washington in Week 3.

Trubisky threw three touchdowns in an easy win over the struggling Redskins after mediocre outings in a season-opening loss to Green Bay and a narrow victory at Denver. He was then injured on the opening drive against Minnesota on Sept. 29.

''I felt that each game leading up to that Vikings game, until he got hurt, that there was (improvement),'' Bears coach Matt Nagy said. ''Progression-wise where he's going, playing faster, seeing at the line of scrimmage that he's getting into checks or seeing progressions, adjustments at the line of scrimmage - way quicker than what he was.''

Veteran Chase Daniel figures to make his second straight start if Trubisky is unavailable.

GETTING PRESSURE

With 18 sacks, New Orleans is tied with Green Bay and Tennessee for sixth in the NFL.

Coach Sean Payton has been pleased by how depth along the front has helped keep linemen fresh and pressure high. While Cameron Jordan leads the club with five sacks, he's one of eight defensive linemen who've had at least half a sack. Payton said the Saints put an emphasis on improving depth on the defensive line after defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who was second on the club in sacks last season with eight, tore his Achilles tendon last January. That helped the Saints remain stout up front until Rankins returned in Week 4.

The Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season - or in 32 games, for that matter. They've also held their previous three opponents - Dallas, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville - to season lows in total yards.

INJURED PLAYERS

While the Saints could be thin at running back if Alvin Kamara is unavailable or limited because of knee and ankle injuries, the Bears placed right guard Kyle Long and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks on injured reserve this week.

Long will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury. Hicks could return after eight weeks from an elbow injury he suffered against Oakland. Both players have made the Pro Bowl - Long from 2013-15 and Hicks last year.

RISING ROOKIE

Saints rookie defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson has had a promising start to his career. And he is expected to be tested more this week because primary nickel back P.J. Williams was suspended two games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Johnson's biggest moment was a hit on Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on a delayed blitz that forced an interception on the final play of the Saints' 12-10 triumph over Dallas in Week 4.

DEFERENCE TO DANIEL

While the Saints weren't sure which quarterback they'd be facing, several spoke highly of former teammate Daniel.

Rankins said Daniel - who played for New Orleans from 2009-12 and in 2017 - was always respected by the Saints' offensive brain trust: Payton and Brees.

''Coaches respected his opinion if he had an opinion on certain plays, or Drew would go to him about certain things, or they would converse back and forth about things they were seeing on the field,'' recalled Rankins, who was Daniel's teammate in 2017.

Player Notes
Jameis Winston Feb 28 11:00pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are strongly considering using the franchise tag on defensive end Shaquil Barrett if the two sides can't work out a long-term deal, according to a league source. If the Bucs use the tag on Barrett, they wouldn't be able to use one on quarterback Jameis Winston. Barrett had 14 sacks in his first four seasons with Denver before exploding for 19.5 sacks in his first year in Tampa in 2019. Was last year an outlier for the 27-year-old or will it become the norm? That's what Tampa must figure out, as well as fantasy owners in IDP leagues considering using a high pick on him for the 2020 season.

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Amari Cooper Feb 28 10:50pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys are meeting with the representatives of cornerback Byron Jones on Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News' Calvin Watkins. Owner Jerry Jones said it's "not a given" that Jones has priced himself off the roster, but it'll be tough for Dallas to keep him from hitting the market as they try to retain both quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper. A first-round pick in 2015, Jones has two interceptions in 79 career starts and none in his last 40 starts, but he should get around $15 million per season on the open market. It might be inevitable at this point that Jones leaves the Cowboys, which will be a blow to a Dallas secondary that is already nothing special.

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Kenyan Drake Feb 28 10:40pm ET

Arizona Cardinals impending free-agent running back Kenyan Drake is seeking a deal that will pay him $8-10 million per season if he reaches the open market, according to sources. Drake excelled after being traded from the Dolphins to the Cardinals last year, running the ball 123 times for 643 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. The eight scores were a career high in just eight games to close out the season. He's looking to cash in on that small sample size. The Cardinals would certainly like him back, especially with David Johnson's health now a question, but he may prove too expensive for their taste. If Drake is playing somewhere that he is the unquestioned lead back, he proved in 2019 that he can have RB1 upside.

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Jason Witten Feb 28 10:40pm ET

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear that he wants to re-sign tight end Jason Witten. I feel strongly he wants to play and I think he can play, Jones said. I would hope that he would not ever be anything but a Cowboy. Its meaningful. Hes in the tops right there. I do think he can play. As I sit here right now I think he can make a real contribution to the Cowboys. Witten played 75 percent of the offensive snaps last year and had 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns. But Witten is slow on the field and is getting in the way of Blake Jarwin, who is expected to have a bigger role in 2020. If Witten returns, he'll have to accept a lesser role. Even if he lands somewhere else, the aging veteran is nothing more than a low-upside, touchdown-dependent TE2.

From RotoBaller

Eric Berry Feb 28 3:30pm ET

The Indianapolis Colts are a likely landing spot for free-agent safety Eric Berry, who sat out all of last season. Berry is a former All-Pro with the Chiefs, but he's played in just four games in the last three years, including the playoffs. The veteran safety tore his Achilles in the first game of the 2017 season. Berry was released by the Chiefs last offseason. He "did have offers" to play last year, but he wanted to ensure he was fully healthy. "I've seen tape of him, and he looks great," Trotter said. At this point in his career with all of his injuries, Berry is no sure thing for any team. He probably won't be an every-down player anymore either.

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Jameis Winston Feb 28 3:20pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (knee) played through a torn meniscus in his knee last season, which he recently had trimmed. Winston also played through a broken thumb in 2019 but didn't miss a single game, throwing for an NFL-high 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. But he also had a league-high 30 interceptions and has struggled with turnovers his entire career. The 26-year-old former first overall pick in 2015 will be a free agent next month, but there's a chance the Bucs keep him around on a short-term deal. If he stays in Tampa with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his top two receivers, Winston will be a high-end QB1 in 2020. You'll just have to live with the turnovers.

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Mohamed Sanu Feb 28 1:40pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (ankle) will need to undergo surgery on a high ankle sprain that plagued him throughout last season, according to a source. Sanu was hoping to avoid surgery, but his injury failed to heal in the offseason. It also helps explain why his production tailed off late last year with the Patriots. After coming over to the Patriots from the Falcons in a trade, the 30-year-old had 26 catches for 207 yards and only one touchdown in eight games in New England. He wasn't the solution for an underwhelming Patriots receiving group outside of Julian Edelman. With quarterback Tom Brady's future with the Pats in question, Sanu probably will go undrafted in most standard-size leagues this fall.

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Austin Hooper Feb 28 1:30pm ET

The Chicago Bears are planning to pursue Atlanta Falcons impending free-agent tight end Austin Hooper, according to a source. The two-time Pro Bowler will not receive the franchise tag from the Falcons and will hit the free-agent market next month. Spotrac projects Hooper's value at $50 million for five years, which would make him the league's highest-paid tight end in 2020. However, the Bears are a long shot for Hooper with $26 million in salary cap space and other needs to address. The Bears have Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen, but neither were able to stay healthy last year and Hooper would be a significant upgrade over them both. Hooper set career highs across the board in 2019, but his high-end upside would be in question with quarterback Mitch Trubisky throwing him the football.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Jones Feb 28 1:20pm ET

The Green Bay Packers are scheduled to meet with running back Aaron Jones' agent, who is interested in starting talks on a new deal for his client. Jones is heading into the final year of his contract and was the third-highest scoring running back in fantasy in 2019, behind only Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry. He ran for 1,084 yards and scored 16 rushing touchdowns, tied for the most with Henry. Whether Jones receives a new deal this summer or not, he'll be a first-round running back in fantasy drafts this fall.

From RotoBaller

Austin Hooper Feb 28 1:20pm ET

The Green Bay Packers, who are intent on adding a pass-catcher in both free agency and the draft, plan to make a run at Atlanta Falcons impending free-agent tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper won't come cheap and is likely to reset the tight end market when he reaches free agency next month. The 25-year-old missed three games last season and still managed to post career highs in catches (75), receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (six). The Packers are expected to move on from the aging Jimmy Graham, and Hooper would be a really nice fit with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing him the pigskin. Hooper should be a high-end TE1 wherever he winds up.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Reed Feb 28 1:50am ET

The Los Angeles Rams have spoken with free-agent tight end Jordan Reed, according to a source. Reed is training in Miami and wants to continue playing despite missing all of the 2019 season with a concussion he suffered in the preseason. The former third-round pick in 2013 just recently was cleared from the concussion protocol and has had seven documented concussions in the NFL. He's never played in a full season because of a long list of injuries, but his talent has never been in question when he's been on the field. With Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett already in the mix in LA, Reed would have a tough path to playing time if he chose the Rams. His main concern will be staying healthy wherever he goes.

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Philip Rivers Feb 28 1:40am ET

The Indianapolis Colts are taking a hard look at Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent quarterback Philip Rivers this week during the scouting combine. The Colts have also denied engaging with New England Patriots impending free-agent quarterback Tom Brady's camp, according to a league source. Indy was put in a tough situation with the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck right before last season, and Jacoby Brissett didn't exactly inspire confidence as his successor in 2019. That's why the Colts are expected to be in the QB market, and head coach Frank Reich has a history with Rivers when he worked with him with the Chargers. Rivers, 38, certainly looked his age last year, but he could benefit from a strong offensive line if he signed with the Colts. Still, he'd merely be a QB2 with experience heading into 2020 for fantasy purposes.

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Derek Carr Feb 27 11:50pm ET

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Rhett Ellison Feb 27 11:40pm ET

New York Giants tight end Rhett Ellison (head) is considering retirement after missing the last six games of the 2019 season because of a concussion, according to three NFL sources. The 31-year-old has 67 catches for 674 yards and four touchdowns in 40 games with the Giants and also spent five years with the Vikings. He has a $7.18 million salary cap hit in 2020 with $5 million in savings and only $2.18 million in dead money if he's released or retires. Ellison's contract will need to be reworked if he decides to continue playing. A blocking-first tight end, Ellison is unlikely to have much fantasy appeal next season if he decides against hanging up his cleats.

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Leighton Vander Esch Feb 27 11:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) is "100 percent in my eyes." Vander Esch is expected to be a full participant by the start of training camp this summer after having his 2019 season cut short due to neck issues that required surgery. It's great news that LVE is progressing nicely, but we'll keep an eye on his progress this spring. If healthy, he's a game-changer in the middle of the defense for the Cowboys, as he proved in his rookie year in 2018. Vander Esch will come at a discount in IDP leagues this fall and could be a nice value pick if he stays on the field.

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Evan Engram Feb 27 11:30pm ET

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) remains in a walking boot after having surgery in late December. The Giants must decide by May whether to pick up Engram's fifth-year option for the 2021 season. He's expected to be sidelined until training camp and has missed 14 games due to injury in his three seasons in the league. The 25-year-old played in just eight games in 2019 and had a career-low 44 catches for 467 yards and three touchdowns. He has high-end tight end potential when he's healthy, but his injuries make him a high-risk, high-reward fantasy selection moving forward.

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Amari Cooper Feb 27 11:20pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys met with wide receiver Amari Cooper's representatives on Thursday night, according to a source. The Cowboys want to reach long-term deals with both Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott. Talks with Cooper should intensify before the start of free agency on March 18, but the transition tag is likely off the table. If the Cowboys use the franchise tag on Prescott, who is the bigger priority, there's a good chance that Cooper reaches the open market. He was a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2019 despite fighting through nagging injuries for much of the season. If he stays with Prescott in Dallas, Cooper will remain a strong WR1.

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Amari Cooper Feb 27 11:20pm ET

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that defensive end Robert Quinn is "the real deal" and is "hopeful that we can do something to keep him." Quinn's contract is set to expire on March 18. The 29-year-old had 11.5 sacks in his first year in Dallas, but there's a good chance he'll reach the open market. He was a Pro Bowler in 2013-14 and was a first-team All-Pro for the Rams in 2013 when he recorded a career-high 19 sacks. The Cowboys have other pressing business in trying to re-sign both quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper to long-term extensions.

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Tom Brady Feb 27 11:10pm ET

Updating a previous report, New England Patriots impending free-agent quarterback Tom Brady doesn't have an offer from the Patriots, but it's not a huge surprise without a new collective bargaining agreement at this time. However, Brady is in the Patriots plans for the 2020 season. Brady's agent is in Indianapolis this week and is talking with other teams, too. If the Patriots don't work something out with the future Hall of Famer, the Chargers and Raiders are expected to make a run at him, with the Titans also a potential landing spot. Where Brady lands will be the biggest storyline of the offseason. He looked his age in 2019 with a mediocre supporting cast on offense, and fantasy owners can't count on him as a surefire QB1 moving forward, regardless of whether he leaves New England.

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Dwayne Haskins Feb 27 3:40pm ET

The Washington Redskins have had good conversations with left tackle Trent Williams, but the team's attempt to bring him back in 2020 is an ongoing process, according to head coach Ron Rivera. Williams is heading into the last year of his contract and has told the team that he either wants his contract redone or to be traded, according to sources familiar with the situation. The 'Skins have pushed the situation to the backburner with the draft and free agency approaching, so it's still possible that Williams won't be back with Washington in 2020 and beyond. The 31-year-old seven-time Pro Bowler would be a huge asset on the blind side for developing quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but it remains to be seen if the two sides can work something out.

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