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Can Zac Taylor take long-suffering Bengals the next step?

Tue Feb 5 5:38pm ET
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer

Players: Andy Dalton

Cincinnati Bengals football head coach Zac Taylor, center, speaks alongside Bengals owner Mike Brown, right, and Duke Tobin, Bengals director of player personal, during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati. After 16 years without a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals decided to try something different. But they had to wait more than a month before hiring Zac Taylor as their next coach in hopes of ending a long streak of futility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Cincinnati Bengals football head coach Zac Taylor, left, speaks alongside Bengals owner Mike Brown, right, during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati. After 16 years without a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals decided to try something different. But they had to wait more than a month before hiring Zac Taylor as their next coach in hopes of ending a long streak of futility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Cincinnati Bengals football head coach Zac Taylor speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati. After 16 years without a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals decided to try something different. But they had to wait more than a month before hiring Zac Taylor as their next coach in hopes of ending a long streak of futility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown, right, listens as the new head coach Zac Taylor, left, answers reporter's questions during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati. After 16 years without a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals decided to try something different. But they had to wait more than a month before hiring Zac Taylor as their next coach in hopes of ending a long streak of futility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Cincinnati Bengals football head coach Zac Taylor speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati. After 16 years without a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals decided to try something different. But they had to wait more than a month before hiring Zac Taylor as their next coach in hopes of ending a long streak of futility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Cincinnati Bengals football head coach Zac Taylor speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati. After 16 years without a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals decided to try something different. But they had to wait more than a month before hiring Zac Taylor as their next coach in hopes of ending a long streak of futility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Cincinnati Bengals football head coach Zac Taylor, left, and Bengals owner Mike Brown, right, pose for a photograph during a news conference, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati. After 16 years without a playoff win under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals decided to try something different. But they had to wait more than a month before hiring Zac Taylor as their next coach in hopes of ending a long streak of futility. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


CINCINNATI (AP) The Cincinnati Bengals liked Zac Taylor the first time they talked to him, but there was one overriding concern when they discussed offering him their head coaching job. He's 35 with only a few games as a coordinator on his NFL resume.

Would it be too much, too soon, to make him a head coach?

''Our big question was: Is he ready for this opportunity?'' player personnel director Duke Tobin said.

Taylor convinced them during their two meetings, and the Bengals introduced him as their 10th head coach on Tuesday.

Having answered the Bengals' overriding question, Taylor now gets to deal with another, more persistent question that's confronted all of his predecessors: Can this head coach get the Bengals to a place that none of the others could reach? Or will he run into the same walls?

In Cincinnati, it's always bigger than the head coach. In a league set up to help struggling teams rise quickly, the Bengals have managed only seven winning seasons in the last 28 years, a reflection on ownership.

Quarterback Carson Palmer sensed the built-in walls and asked to be traded after the 2010 season. During his 16 seasons in Cincinnati, coach Marvin Lewis raised the organization to a competitive level but couldn't get it any further.

Quarterbacks and coaches have come and gone, but the futility has endured. Cincinnati's failure to win a playoff game in 28 years matches Washington for the fifth-longest in league history.

Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau and Lewis all came up short during the streak of futility. Lewis finished 0-7, the worst postseason coaching record in NFL history. Now, it's Taylor's turn.

He's not only charged with trying to break through those barriers, but also winning back fans who abandoned the team because of its reluctance to make necessary changes.

How's that for a first NFL head coaching job?

''I know this will not be easy,'' Taylor said.

He has to hire a coaching staff, a job made more difficult by the timing. Under NFL rules, the Bengals couldn't hire him until his team was eliminated from the playoffs. They got to interview him during the Rams' bye weeks.

Taylor hasn't committed to a particular style of defense. He's looking to overhaul an offense that will be on its third coordinator in the last three seasons.

Taylor endorsed quarterback Andy Dalton, saying he fits what he's trying to do with the offense. Taylor intends to call the plays. He'll import features from the Rams' offense to Cincinnati: ''I think it would be silly to scrap it, so that will be a big part of what we do.''

He spoke repeatedly about establishing a culture.

''It's getting the right people and having high standards and holding people accountable,'' Taylor said.

The Bengals have been through a lot of dysfunction lately. They fired their offensive coordinator only two games into the 2017 season. Last year, they fired their defensive coordinator midway through his first season. They fielded the youngest team in Lewis' 16 seasons last year, and the results weren't good.

Brown finally decided to replace Lewis when attendance fell to the second-lowest level in the NFL. Fans' anger and indifference tipped his hand.

''We had lost some of the faith in our fan base,'' Brown said Tuesday, his first public comment about the coaching change. ''That was clear. That sent a loud message.''

So, they decided to go in a very different direction with a young coach who will bring new ideas to a button-down organization.

Taylor wore a three-piece suit to the news conference Tuesday, the first time he's been so buttoned down. The session ended with Taylor posing for photos with Brown, who joked with photographers as they snapped away.

''I keep looking for the flashbulbs,'' Brown said.

Player Notes
Ryan Fitzpatrick Mar 19 2:40pm ET

The Miami Dolphins agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal with free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 36-year-old journeyman will be joining his eighth NFL team and his third in the AFC East. Barring a draft-day selection, Fitzpatrick is in line to start over Jake Rudock and Luke Falk, who have a combined five passing attempts in four seasons. Fitzpatrick spent the last two years with the Buccaneers and started 10 games. He threw for over 400 yards per game and 11 touchdowns in the first three games of 2018 with Jameis Winston suspended. Fitzpatrick is capable of putting up big games, but the consistency won't be there and his weapons in Miami are less appealing than they were in Tampa.

From RotoBaller

Bruce Irvin Mar 19 1:50pm ET

The Carolina Panthers are expected to sign free-agent defensive end Bruce Irvin to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday, a source told NFL Network's Tiffany Blackmon. The 31-year-old spent time with the Raiders and Falcons in 2018 and had 6.5 sacks in eight games with each squad. The veteran pass rusher will help fill the void left by Julius Peppers, who announced his retirement in February. Irvin should start across from Mario Addison in Carolina.

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Dan Bailey Mar 19 12:20pm ET

The Minnesota Vikings re-signed kicker Dan Bailey to a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday, a source informed of the deal told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The deal is worth a maximum of $2 million with incentives, and Bailey is guaranteed a base salary of $250,000. The 31-year-old joined Minnesota midseason last year and made 21 of his 28 field-goal tries (long of 52 yards) and 30 of his 31 extra points in 14 games. Bailey has struggled in recent years, but he still owns an 86.6 career conversion rate, which is fifth all time in the NFL. While his stock is a bit down, he's still kicking for a good team in a dome. Bailey should be in play at least as a low-end kicking option.

From RotoBaller

Robert Quinn Mar 19 12:10pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys are in trade talks for Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn, and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on Tuesday that Quinn was spotted on his way to visit with the Cowboys. The 28-year-old pass rusher would help with Randy Gregory suspended and David Irving moving on. Quinn had a career-high 19 sacks with the Rams in 2013 and recorded 6.5 quarterback takedowns in 2018 with the Dolphins.

From RotoBaller

Blake Bortles Mar 18 10:30pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams signed free-agent quarterback Blake Bortles to an undisclosed one-year deal on Monday. The former long-time Jaguars starter, Bortles will now serve as the backup to Jared Goff and won't have any fantasy value. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft impressed in 2017 but regressed big time last season and was benched midseason.

From RotoBaller

Dalvin Cook Mar 18 4:30pm ET

The Minnesota Vikings re-signed running back Ameer Abdullah to an undisclosed deal on Monday. Minnesota picked Abdullah up on waiver last year, and he ended the season the team's primary kick returner after flaming out in four seasons with the Lions. In 10 games with the Lions and Vikes last year, Abdullah had just one carry. He had 165 totes for 552 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in 2017 in 14 games. Abdullah will provide depth behind Dalvin Cook and Michael Boone in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Bashaud Breeland Mar 18 3:40pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs are signing free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a one-year, incentive-laden deal with a max value of $5.5 million on Monday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The sixth-year defensive back was inconsistent in 2019 after he had his contract rescinded by the Panthers due to a failed physical. He appeared in only seven games for the Packers and missed time with hamstring and groin ailments. Breeland had 20 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed. He could be in line for a starting role with his new team.

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Haloti Ngata Mar 18 3:40pm ET

Long-time defensive lineman Haloti Ngata announced his retirement on Instagram on Monday. The 35-year-old played for the Eagles in 2018 after three years with the Lions. He'll mostly be remembered for his days on a dominant Baltimore Ravens defense. Ngata was a first-round pick in 2006 and was named to five Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro teams and two second-team All-Pro squads in nine seasons with the Ravens.

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Eli Manning Mar 18 3:30pm ET

New York Giants general manager David Gettleman said that quarterback Eli Manning, who will make a base salary of $11.5 million in 2019, isn't going anywhere. The veteran quarterback is due a $5 million roster bonus on Monday. "This narrative Eli is overpaid and can't play is a crock," Gettleman told reporters Monday during a teleconference. The 38-year-old will count $23.2 million against the salary cap this year and is coming off a season where he was sacked a career-high 47 times behind a bad offensive line. Manning and the offensive line looked better down the stretch, as he threw 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in an eight-game span. Still, Manning is showing his age with diminished arm strength and lost his best aerial weapon when the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns last week. Manning will be a low-upside, mediocre QB2 in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Vontaze Burfict Mar 18 3:30pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals released linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Monday, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The Bengals tried to trade Burfict before cutting him. The hard-hitting linebacker has plenty of talent but dealt with injuries and suspensions in his tenure with Cincy. He hasn't appeared in more than 11 games in any season since 2013 due to both suspensions and injury. Burfict was suspended to start a season the last three years and also battled hip and concussion issues that limited him to only seven games in 2018. Cutting Burfict saves the Bengals $5.69 million in salary cap space.

From RotoBaller

Raheem Mostert Mar 17 12:00pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers agreed to terms on a three-year, $8.7 million deal with running back Raheem Mostert on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal will include $3 million guaranteed. Mostert spent the last two years with San Fran, compiling 40 rushing attempts, 291 yards and a touchdown in 20 games. He'll be buried on the depth chart behind Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and newly-signed Tevin Coleman, so Mostert is unlikely to have any fantasy value.

From RotoBaller

Marcus Mariota Mar 17 11:50am ET

The Tennessee Titans released quarterback Blaine Gabbert after they traded for Ryan Tannehill on Friday. Gabbert's only season in Tennessee in 2018 saw him make three starts while filling in for an injured Marcus Mariota. Gabbert spent 2017 with the Cardinals, three in San Francisco before that and three years in Jacksonville after being drafted 10th overall in 2010. He'll only attract backup work on the open market.

From RotoBaller

Chris Conley Mar 17 11:50am ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed free-agent wide receiver Chris Conley to an undisclosed deal on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The team also signed offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and linebacker Jake Ryan. Conley spent the first four years of his career with the Chiefs and started 34 of 53 games while catching 104 passes for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns. The 26-year-old will likely compete for a role with the Jags and won't be fantasy relevant.

From RotoBaller

Luke Stocker Mar 17 11:50am ET

The Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with free-agent tight end Logan Paulsen on Saturday. Paulsen returns to Atlanta, where he had only nine catches for 91 yards and one touchdown in 15 games in his first season with the Falcons last year. He should not be on anyone's fantasy radar as mostly a blocking tight end behind pass-catcher Austin Hooper and Luke Stocker.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Eifert Mar 16 8:50pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed tight end Tyler Eifert to an undisclosed one-year deal on Saturday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 28-year-old former first-rounder has been hurt by injuries over the course of his six-year career in the NFL and has played in more than eight games in just two seasons. He missed the final 12 games in 2018 with a broken ankle, although he's expected to be ready for organized team activities this spring. Eifert played in only 14 games since his Pro Bowl season in 2015, and fantasy owners are now staying away from him altogether most likely. With C.J. Uzomah also re-signing, Eifert will have to prove to both the Bengals and fantasy owners that he can stay on the field.

From RotoBaller

Josh Norman Mar 15 3:50pm ET

The Washington Redskins are expected to sign free-agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to an undisclosed deal, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. DRC announced his retirement just five months ago but has decided to give it another go. He'll be reunited with former Giants teammate Landon Collins, so signed a six-year deal this week. Rodgers-Cromartie will turn 33 on April 7, and it's fair to wonder how much he has left physically. He has plenty of experience and is expected to offer cornerback depth on a team that also has Josh Norman.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Mar 15 3:50pm ET

The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent wide receiver J.J. Nelson to an undisclosed deal on Friday. Nelson spent the last four seasons with the Cardinals and caught 81 passes for 1,439 yards in 56 career games. The former fifth-rounder had his worst season in 2018, though, catching just seven passes for 64 yards and no scores in 14 games in Arizona's inept offense. The speedster does boast 17.8 yards per catch in his career and will provide another deep threat in Oakland alongside Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams after the team released veteran Jordy Nelson.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Tannehill Mar 15 3:40pm ET

The Tennessee Titans acquired quarterback Ryan Tannehill from the Miami Dolphins on Friday and signed him to a one-year deal worth $7 million guaranteed and worth up to $12 million with incentives. The Dolphins will receive a seventh-round pick in this year's draft and a 2020 fourth-round pick in exchange. Tennessee will also get a 2019 sixth-rounder. Tannehill, a former eighth overall pick in 2012, never lived up to his draft status while going 42-46 over six seasons in Miami. He has a career 62.8 completion percentage and an 87 passer rating and will have zero fantasy appeal as Marcus Mariota's backup in his new digs. The rebuilding Dolphins are likely to look to the draft for their next signal-caller, especially after Teddy Bridgewater elected to re-sign with the Saints this week.

From RotoBaller

Joe Flacco Mar 15 2:20pm ET

The Denver Broncos re-signed tight end Jeff Heuerman to a two-year deal worth up to $9 million on Friday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The former third-round pick in 2015 played in just 11 games due to injury last year and caught a career-high 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns in his third NFL season. Unless the Broncos add to the position in the draft or free agency, Heuerman will likely be the starter at the position. New quarterback Joe Flacco has targeted tight ends often in his career, so Heuerman could be a TE2 deep sleeper this year.

From RotoBaller

Andy Dalton Mar 15 2:10pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals signed free-agent offensive guard John Miller to a three-year, $16.5 million deal on Friday, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Miller started 47 games the last four years at right guard with the Bills and will likely be viewed as an upgrade over Alex Redmond at the spot in 2019. Cincy also re-signed right tackle Brian Hart to a three-year deal earlier in the week to shore up their offensive line. Quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jeff Driskel were sacked a combined 37 times last year.

From RotoBaller