Thu Oct 17 7:01pm ET
By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson works out prior to an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
In this Sept. 8, 2019, file photo, Baltimore Ravens free safety Earl Thomas (29) intercepts a pass, as Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11), attempts to tackle, during the first half at an NFL football game, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Over the course of nine NFL seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Earl Thomas picked off 28 passes, earned a Super Bowl ring and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times. Those are some of the memories the standout safety will take across the country before he faces former team on Sunday as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson looks to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, left, and quarterback Lamar Jackson celebrate Jackson's touchdown run against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half of a NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
SEATTLE (AP) There is an understandable mutual admiration between Baltimore's Lamar Jackson and Seattle's Russell Wilson.
In Jackson, Wilson sees a combination of speed and shiftiness working in concert with an underrated passing ability that has the young QB causing headaches for anyone tasked with slowing him down.
In Wilson, Jackson sees a veteran who has reached the pinnacle of the NFL, who has figured out a way to balance his athleticism and running ability with a dynamic right arm that makes him one of the premier passers in the league.
''I love everything about his game,'' Jackson said. ''He's a great quarterback. He makes guys miss. He breaks the pocket, and there will be guys chasing him everywhere. He knows what to do with the ball - dish it out, go to a checkdown. He makes plays. He's a playmaker, and that's what you need in a guy and at the quarterback position. That's what he is.''
Jackson and Wilson will meet on the field or the first time on Sunday when the Seahawks host the Ravens in a showdown between two of the better teams in each conference and two of the early MVP candidates.
Jackson has wowed with his combination of running and passing. He's on pace to rush for 1,200 yards and throw for 4,000. Last week, he became the first player in league history to throw for more than 200 yards and rush for more than 150 in the same regular season game.
Jackson is completing 65% of his passes, has 13 touchdowns passing and rushing and causing nightmares for opposing defenses.
''People always mention his speed. That's obvious. But I think the mixture of all the different things he can do - he can throw it down the field, he's tough, he hangs in there, he's a smart player too,'' Wilson said. ''You put all those things together with his elusiveness, which is as good as it gets, probably best you've ever seen kind of speed, he's really special.''
Where Wilson has impressed is his overall command of Seattle's offense. He's just the fourth QB in league history to start the season with six straight games with a passer rating of 100 or higher. He hasn't thrown an interception since Week 17 of last season. Wilson is playing with a confidence and savvy that's flashed at times throughout his career, but perhaps never for such a prolonged period.
''I know he's deep in the conversation for the MVP already,'' Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. ''We hope, and we're going to do everything we can, to make sure that we don't make that argument any stronger, or help make that argument any stronger.''
Here's what else to watch as the Seahawks and Ravens meet for the first time since 2015:
MY NAME IS EARL
Aside from the quarterbacks, the biggest story line is the return of safety Earl Thomas, who spent his first nine seasons with Seattle before signing with Baltimore in free agency. Thomas was a star with the Seahawks, a founding member of the ''Legion of Boom'' secondary and a three-time first-team All-Pro selection. The final image of Thomas with Seattle was being carted off the field last season after breaking his leg in Arizona and flashing the middle finger at Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, angry about not getting a contract extension with the Seahawks.
''I don't know what this game is going to bring, but I definitely respect and love the organization. They gave me my first shot,'' Thomas said.
BACKFIELD IN MOTION
The Ravens have been forced to shuffle their defensive backfield this season to cope with injuries to Tavon Young, Tony Jefferson, DeShon Elliott and Jimmy Smith. First-year general manager Eric DeCosta refurbished the secondary this week by trading for two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters and signing safety Bennett Jackson from the Jets practice squad.
Both newcomers are expected to play Sunday, so it's imperative that they work in unison with cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr, as well as Thomas.
''Communication is going to be really critical, especially there,'' Harbaugh said. ''It won't be quite as loud, because their offense will be on the field, maybe as it would be here. But it's a loud place, and you're on the road. It's terminology.''
Seattle should get a boost on its defensive line with the return of Jarran Reed after he was suspended for the first six games. Reed had 10+ sacks last season, but more important will be his ability to draw attention and potentially open up more on the outside for Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah. Seattle has just 10 sacks through six games and didn't have a quarterback hit recorded last week against Cleveland.
The task this week isn't so much getting pressure on Jackson as it is keeping the elusive QB contained.
''That's why we come out here to practice, to get a feel of each other,'' Reed said. ''We talked a long time. We're going to get out here. We're going to work together. We're going to build that chemistry together.''
The Ravens cranked up the music at practice this week to simulate the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field. Jackson played in packed stadiums while at Louisville, and he's twice started in Kansas City against the Chiefs. But playing in Seattle is taking it to another (sound) level.
''The coaches have been telling us it's very loud,'' Jackson said. ''I just have to do a good job of executing, calling out the plays and letting everyone hear me.''
The Chicago Bears are releasing wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and cornerback Prince Amukamara on Friday, according to a source. Gabriel played in just nine games in his second and final season in Chicago in 2019 because of injuries, catching only 29 passes (48 targets) for 353 yards and four touchdowns. He's still on the right side of 30 years old but offers a limited upside in fantasy and limited size (5-foot-7, 168 pounds). Gabriel did manage a career-high 67 catches, 688 yards and two scores in 2018. Depending on where he lands in free agency, he's likely to be a complementary piece of a passing offense. Amukamara, 31 this June, had 53 tackles (44 solo), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 15 games for the Bears last season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) is making good progress from the plantar fasciitis issues he dealt with last season. In his first year with the Raiders, Williams caught 42 passes for 651 yards and six touchdowns. He only missed two games but was slowed by his foot issues, mostly in the second half. Williams started off with five touchdowns in his first five games, but he predictably fell off from there with just one more touchdown on the season. He gives the Raiders a downfield threat, but the problem is that quarterback Derek Carr doesn't often challenge defenses deep. If Las Vegas addresses the receiver position in free agency or the draft, Williams could have even more trouble being a consistent performer. As of now, he's a touchdown-dependent flex option.
The Jacksonville Jaguars exercised their team options for fifth-year wide receiver Chris Conley and fourth-year safety Jarrod Wilson on Friday. Conley will be under contract for 2020, while Wilson is now under contract through 2021. Conley set a career high in catches (47), receiving yards (775) and yards per catch (16.5) in his first season with the Jaguars in 2019. He managed five touchdowns in all 16 games (14 starts). The 27-year-old has 10 touchdowns in the last two seasons, but his fantasy ceiling is limited in a run-first offense while also competing for targets with D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook. Think of Conley as more of a WR5/flex play in deeper leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery could be open to a trade if the team explores one this offseason. However, he could be tough to trade coming off a Lisfranc foot injury while having high salary cap numbers the next two seasons. Jeffery has a history of injuries during his playing career and managed to play in just 10 games for the Eagles in 2019, catching 43 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns. It was his lowest yardage total since his rookie year in 2012 with Chicago. The 30-year-old posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Bears in 2013-14, but he's become an inconsistent, injury prone wideout the last two seasons in Philly. A change of scenery wouldn't necessarily make him any more attractive to fantasy owners.
The Washington Redskins are growing increasingly hopeful that left tackle Trent Williams will return to the team, as head coach Ron Rivera has made him one of his offseason priorities in trying to get him to return. Williams held out last season because of beef with the team's previous front-office regime and training staff, but those parties are all gone. Rivera and Williams have had positive phone conversations, and it sounds like they have a good shot to retain him. It's all good news for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who looked a little overmatched in limited playing time in his rookie season. The 'Skins are slowly rebuilding, and having Williams anchor down Haskins' blind side would be huge.
The Indianapolis Colts are expected to be in the market for wide receivers this offseason, and they've already been linked to Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Agholor had his best season in 2017 when Frank Reich and Mike Groh were offensive assistants -- they are both with the Colts now. In just 11 games in 2019, Agholor disappointed with 39 receptions for 363 yards and three touchdowns. An injury ended his season early, but he couldn't take advantage of DeSean Jackson's injury that kept him out for the majority of the year. A change of scenery would probably serve him well, but he wouldn't be guaranteed a large role in Indy's run-first offense with questions at quarterback.
The Detroit Lions plan to release defensive tackle Damon Harrison in the coming days, according to a source. The move will free up around $6.7 million in salary cap space but will leave the team with a hole on their defensive line up the middle. Even though Snacks Harrison had a down year in 2019 due to knee and groin injuries, he was their best defensive player in the second half of 2018 after he was acquired from the Giants. Harrison finished with 49 tackles last year, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2012, and he only had two sacks in 15 games. He will consider retirement this offseason while seeing what materializes in free agency. In his prime, Harrison was one of the best run-stuffing nose tackles in the game.
The Tennessee Titans aren't expected to pick up wide receiver Corey Davis' fifth-year team option for the 2021 season. If the Titans were to pick it up, Davis would be owed around $15.8 million in 2021. The 25-year-old former fifth overall pick in 2017 had 65 catches for 891 yards in his sophomore season in 2018, but he regressed in 2019 when he had only 43 receptions for 601 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie A.J. Brown became the Titans go-to No. 1 receiver last year. Tennessee envisioned Davis becoming that guy when they drafted him, but he's failed to live up to expectations in his three seasons. Heading into 2020, he'll be a WR4/5 without much upside in this run-first offense.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said on Thursday that wide receiver A.J. Green is "a guy we want to be around." Green hasn't played in a game since December of 2018 and hasn't been a Pro Bowler since 2017 in his last full season. He's due to become a free agent next month and has played in just nine games the last two years, but the Bengals could still use him. If Cincinnati can't reach a long-term extension with the veteran, they're likely to use the franchise tag on him. Turning 32 this summer, Green has had 1,000 yards receiving in six of his eight seasons, but his fantasy stock will be way down since he hasn't been able to stay healthy of late. If he remains with the Bengals, as is expected, he'll likely have LSU quarterback Joe Burrow throwing him passes in 2020.
The Washington Redskins released tight end Jordan Reed on Thursday. The move was expected and will save the team $8.5 million in salary cap space. Reed missed all of the 2019 season with a concussion, his seventh documented one in his seven seasons. He was just cleared from the league's concussion protocol on Wednesday and has never played a full season in the NFL due to head and other injuries. Despite the lingering concussion concerns, a source close to Reed said he wants to continue playing. In a career-high 14 games in 2015, Reed had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Without Reed in the picture, Washington's top tight end is Jeremy Sprinkle, who had 26 catches in 2019. However, he's considered more of a blocker, so the 'Skins will surely look to bolster the position in free agency or the draft. If Reed continues his career and lands elsewhere, he'll strictly be a low-end injury risk as a TE2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is expected to be sidelined six to eight months after having surgery to shave down some cartilage and remove two pieces of bone embedded in the labrum of his left hip on Feb. 4. The Browns expect Landry to make a full recovery for the 2020 season, but he might be limited in training camp and could be questionable for the Week 1. He will be on crutches for two weeks and then can continue with physical therapy and riding a stationary bike. Despite dealing with the hip injury in 2019, Landry didn't miss a game for the sixth straight year and had career highs in yards (1,174) and yards per catch (14.1). His six touchdowns were the second-best total of his career. With a new coaching staff in place, losing repetitions in training camp could be problematic. Landry will have some added risk as a WR2 in PPR leagues in 2020.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen met two figures that voided the final three years of his contract by securing six or more sacks and playing 57 percent or more of the defensive snaps in 2019. As such, Griffen has exercised his right to opt out of his deal, according to a source. That will free up roughly $13 million in salary cap space for the Vikings, with $800,000 in dead money. The 32-year-old was already at risk of being cut with a $13.9 million cap hit in 2020. The Vikings might try to keep him around at a reduced price, as Griffen had eight sacks and 24 QB knockdowns last season. He's been a great complement to Danielle Hunter on the other side of the line, so losing Griffen would be a blow to the Vikes pass rush.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (core) should be completely recovered from his core muscle surgery in about a month, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: It appears like Beckham should be ready of offseason workouts as long as he does not suffer a setback. He will be working under a new offensive scheme next season but is still one of the top receivers in the NFL. He will be a weekly starting option in fantasy leagues in 2020.
Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed was released Thursday, Feb. 20, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Reed wants to play next season, so fantasy players can keep an eye on the situation. He probably will receive interest from teams but is a risky option because of his injury history. Reed could be a No. 2 tight end in fantasy leagues if he starts for a team.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) is scheduled to have his grievance against the Oakland Raiders heard by an arbitrator in May, according to a source.
Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr recently posted an photo on Instagram of himself talking with Chicago Bears DL Khalil Mack following a game last season, and the post is part of speculation that Carr could be traded to the Bears this offseason and reunited with Mack.
Fantasy Spin: The Bears have said they expect Mitchell Trubisky to be their 2020 starter, but they also said he could have competition in the QB room, and Carr would certainly provide as much. Stay tuned ...
Washington Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar said that he reached out to the team to discuss a reasonable contract restructure, but the team declined to have conversations, according to sources close to Dunbar. Despite denying that he requested a trade, Dunbar remains adamant in his desire to be traded or released. The 27-year-old was one of the better cover corners in the league last season, but it's looking like the new regime in Washington isn't falling for his contract demands. There's a good chance that they'll look to trade Dunbar this offseason if they can't work something out with him. He had 37 tackles (31 solo) and a career-high four interceptions in 11 games played in 2019.
Washington Redskins CB Quinton Dunbar recently reached out to the team to discuss a possible contract restructure, but the club declined to engage in a conversation, according to sources, and he remains 'resolute' in his desire to be released or traded.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jameis Winston, a pending free agent, could be offered a two-year deal by the Buccaneers with the first year guaranteed and the second year being a team option, according to sources. The first year would pay Winston roughly the same as a franchise tag ($27 million).
Fantasy Spin: Winston threw for a career-high 5,109 yards, 33 TDs last season -- and yes, 30 interceptions -- to finish as a top-five fantasy QB for the first time in five seasons. A return to the Bucs would definitely keep him in the QB1 conversation, but a move to another team would necessitate a full re-evaluation of his fantasy status.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry had surgery on his hip on February 4, according to a post from his personal Instagram account. The surgery comes as somewhat of a surprise as Landry had previously stated that he would not need surgery on his hip, which bothered him throughout the 2019 season. Landry is expected to make a full recovery and should return to the team at some point in training camp, which begins in late July. According to reports, Landry had visited with multiple hip specialists since the end of the season and eventually decided that surgery was the proper route to take. He will remain a solid WR2 for fantasy in 2020.