The Raiders continue their prolific offseason:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Oakland Raiders are continuing their remarkable offseason. After landing Bruce Irvin and Kelechi Osemele early on in free agency. The Raiders have now signed Aldon Smith to a deal and the move will significantly bolster the Raiders starting defense. Aldon Smith at one point was one of the league most talented pass rushers while playing with the San Francisco 49ers. That was before Smith ran into some off the field issues which resulted in Smith being suspended for a whole season. Smith who also got into some trouble last season with the league’s substance abuse policy won’t be eligible to play until November. Still the Raiders get a player who has recorded 47.5 sacks in 59 games. He is a tremendous pass rusher who can single handedly change the outcome of games for the Raider defense. With him coming back just in time for the end of the season and a playoff run. The Raiders should start to hit their stride defensively when it matters the most, entering the postseason. That isn’t the only good news coming out of Oakland either. It’s been reported the Raiders are also in negotiations with Reggie Nelson as well, who was the best safety in the league in 2015. Adding Nelson and Smith would mean that the Raider would significantly bolster their defense and put a dominant supporting cast around Khalil Mack. Mack is probably the 3rd best defender in the National Football League right now and when you put Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith, and potentially Reggie Nelson around him. Great things are certainly destined to happened. Talent trumps all in the National Football league, it doesn’t matter how good your coaches are if there isn’t enough talent on the roster. The Raiders have a quality coach in Jack Del Rio and it appears they are going to be absolutely loaded entering the 2016 season talent wise. Early on we all thought the Jags had the best offseason but now it’s easily the Raiders. It’s been great move after great move for Oakland.

Charity of the day: Boy and Girls Club of America

Go donate! www.bgca.org

2016 will be the last ride for Michael Vick:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Not many athletes were as explosive as Michael Vick was on the football field. Vick who grew up in Virginia has been blowing people away with his athletic prowess since Warwick High School all the way back in 1996. At Warwick High, Vick was able to throw for 4,846 passing yards and 43 touchdowns. His efforts were so impressive that Vick would eventually land a scholarship to Virginia Tech to play for Frank Beamer. Vick would eventually step on the field as a redshirt freshman at Va Tech and his football heroics were back on display for the world to see once again. Vick finished his collegiate career in Blacksburg with 3,279 passing yards and 21 passing touchdowns. He also managed to rush for 17 rushing touchdowns, showing that he was athletically superior to his collegiate peers. Those efforts at Virginia Tech were enough to help Vick get drafted number 1 overall in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Vick only played in 8 games his rookie season with the Falcons, instead he learned the game from the sidelines with a clipboard behind Chris Chandler. Eventually the reins were handed over to Vick and he continued to be dominant physically on the football. Often using his 4.33 40 yard dash speed to out run opposing defenders. Vick was so gifted with his feet and scrambled so much better than any quarterback we’ve ever seen before. To the point that he truly embodied the skills that make up what we know now as the mobile quarterback. He would open the door for so many future players to follow in that mold and break the traditional role of a conventional pocket passing quarterbacks. Vick has 22,474 passing yards and 133 passing touchdowns up to this point in his NFL career. He also has contributed 36 rushing touchdowns as well. Now with Vick coming out and stating that he feels he has one last season in him. We have to wonder if we will ever get the chance to see Mike Vick on a pro football field again commanding an offense? Last year he saw limited action with the Pittsburgh Steelers but managed to throw for 2 touchdowns and 1 interception in the 3 games he started. It appears his future days will be as back up, but hey it’s not a bad way to make a $970,000 dollars a year. Vick will forever be remembered as a legend and inspired many with his elusive football moves. It’s been a great run.

Charity of the day: Boy and Girls Club of America

Go donate! www.bgca.org

Andy Reid is excellent at turning football teams into contenders:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

For those who didn’t know, Andy Reid is an outstanding football coach. After having 14 successful seasons in Philadelphia for the Eagles. Coach Reid then moved on to coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. Since Reid has taken over in Kansas City the Chiefs have slowly progressed and just last year they made a run to the divisional playoff round. That progression is a testament to Andy Reid’s cool demeanor as a head football coach. Players just love to play for this guy and that even keeled attitude seems to mesh well with professional talent. Many times we see coaches that are overbearing on their players and that ends up alienating those players away from their coach. Andy Reid is the exact opposite, his attitude makes him a magnet for players and that is why you seen so many of the Chiefs free agents choosing to re-sign with the team. With the Chiefs trending upward that also makes Kansas City an attractive destination for future free agents as well. It’s clear to see that coach Reid clearly has this team heading in the right direction and that is why we’ve seen the positive results on the football field. With another draft under Reid’s vision it will put this team that much closer to the Super Bowl and teams in the AFC have to be wary of the Chiefs emergence. While you would think the Chiefs would continue to go defense in the draft, because defense wins championships. Expect the Chiefs to pick up a big time wide receiver at some point to help out quarterback Alex Smith. Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce are both good weapons, so adding another dynamic player to go along with those two would really bode well for the Chiefs offense. Outside of that getting a healthy Dontari Poe back will bring great joy to Andy Reid. Having a Pro Bowl caliber nose tackle in the middle of the defense is so essential in that 3-4 defense. That is because the nose tackle must control both A gaps and keep those opposing offensive lineman off the Chiefs linebackers. A healthy Poe significantly increases the Chiefs chances in the postseason and Poe is another great draft pick by Andy Reid. You can’t say enough good things about the old ball coach. He is well respected and an outstanding leader.

Charity of the day: Population Council

Go donate! www.popcouncil.org

Neither Sanchez nor Kaepernick can save the Broncos:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos had two really good quarterbacks last season, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Both of those players were significantly better football players than Mark Sanchez or Colin Kaepernick. While Sanchez was recently acquired by the Broncos, Denver is still in negotiations with the 49ers about landing Kaepernick. Even though the team is upbeat about potentially having both players on their roster entering the 2016 season. The truth is neither player can save the Broncos when it’s all said and done. Either option they choose will ultimately be a regression for this team and on top of that the defense got worse after losing Malik Jackson and a few other notable players this offseason. While keeping CJ Anderson on offense was the right move for the team, sooner or later big time throws are going to have to be made. Neither Sanchez nor Kaepernick can consistently make those throws for the Broncos. While Elway is feeling good in his ability to put a quality product on the field, those quarterback options won’t suffice when the pressure is truly on. The only other option the Broncos have is to land a rookie quarterback in the draft this month. The quarterback position is deep in this year draft and there are a number of players that could help this team out. Paxton Lynch out of Memphis might be a good option. The team also could take a project quarterback like Cardale Jones in a later round and opt to add more talent at other positions early on in the draft. Doing so might give the team a chance to compete at a higher level than if they just took a QB in the first round. Most quarterbacks aren’t ready to win a Super Bowl in their rookie season and Denver is trying to do everything they can to repeat. Signing a player like Ryan Fitzpatrick would give the team the best chance but the team was already strapped for cash entering the offseason and that just doesn’t seem like a realistic option without some serious maneuvering. So that likely leaves the Broncos with Sanchez and soon Kaepernick to win games. Neither of which will live up to Denver’s recent standards and in the end fans won’t be happy about the step backwards.

Charity of the day: Innocence Project

Go donate! www.innocenceproject.org

The Ravens added weapons around Joe Flacco to help their offense:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

With Joe Flacco being sidelined the second half of the 2015 season, you have to think the Ravens starting quarterback is looking to come back with a bang in 2016. The Ravens offense wasn’t that bad at all last year finishing 14th in the league. They were even higher ranked when Flacco was active and regressed after his injury. The point being when the Ravens do have Joe Flacco in the line up they very well can succeed. Now the Ravens have added deep ball threat Mike Wallace to the mix and that addition fits very well with Flacco’s strengths. Joe Flacco has the ability to throw the deep ball as good as anybody in the National Football League. Having a receiver like Wallace who has the speed to run under those Flacco lofts will prove to be very valuable entering next season. Wallace was frustrated with Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota but he will have a completely different opportunity with the Ravens. Flacco and Bridgewater are two totally separate quarterbacks and the difference in the two’s arm strength is night and day. Adding a vertical passing attack on the opposite end of Steve Smith in the Ravens offense just bodes well for the team. That wasn’t the only addition that the Ravens made in the passing game for Flacco either. General Manger Ozzie Newsome also decided to sign tight end Benjamin Watson in free agency to make life easier on his quarterback. Watson had his most productive year ever in the National Football League last season recording 825 yards and 6 touchdowns. Now Watson comes to Baltimore looking to build on that success with another talented passer in Flacco. The tight end position is important for quarterbacks because it’s considered an easier throw than to the outside receivers. Having Watson in the line up will help the Ravens keep those opposing linebackers on their heels in the passing game. So you can see how both moves will improve the situation for the Ravens offense. The team made some great decisions by putting talented players around Joe Flacco to improve his chances for success and these acquisitions should yield good results for the Baltimore Ravens. Well done.

Charity of the day: Innocence Project

Go donate! www.innocenceproject.org

The Minnesota Vikings can only go as far as Teddy Bridgewater takes them:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

When Teddy Bridgewater was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, many executives around the league were optimistic. Bridgewater was an outstanding player at the University of Louisville and the Vikings were looking to find a quarterback that could take them further than Christian Ponder could. However as good as Bridgewater has been in some ways, he still hasn’t been good enough to get the Vikings where they need to be. That is deep in the postseason and back into Super Bowl contention. Yes, the Vikings made it to the playoffs and yes they should of beat the Seattle Seahawks. The thing is though, Bridgewater must be more convincing as a passer in order for the Minnesota Vikings to take that next step. More convincing would be games with 4 touchdown passes with no interceptions, and more convincing would be 30 touchdown passes a season and only 10 interceptions. When Bridgewater is able to put up those kind of stats consistently then you will truly see this team start to soar. Maybe that means bringing in more talented players around him. Such as a wide receiver who can help him properly distribute the ball better and an offensive lineman to protect him. Maybe that is just letting Bridgewater grow within his role as the teams starting quarterback. Bridgewater is entering his 3rd season as a pro but he should of progressed a little bit more than he did last season. The Vikings enjoy relying on Adrian Peterson’s legs but the team will sooner or later have to lean on their quarterback to win games in the postseason. While you know head coach Mike Zimmer wants to load up on defense, don’t be surprised to see the team take a wide receiver in one of the early rounds to help make Bridgewater’s job easier. The team didn’t have a single receiver crack the 1,000 yard receiving mark last year and adding a player with that potential will give this offense a significant boost. That will make Bridgwater’s life as a signal caller that much easier and put the Vikings in a better position to succeed. Remember the Vikings are a talented ball club but they can only go as far as Teddy Bridgewater takes them.

Charity of the day: Entertainment Industry Foundation

Go donate! www.eifoundation.org

Are the signs pointing to a Fitzpatrick departure?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Ryan Fitzpatrick still hasn’t signed a contract yet and one has to wonder if that means he will walk away from the New York Jets. After having one of his best seasons as a pro which included 31 touchdowns and 3,905 passing yards. Fitzpatrick seemed poised to return to the Jets and continue right where he left off, throwing touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. When the season ended though Fitzpatrick’s agent went to work doing everything he could to maximize Fitzpatrick’s earnings. That put the Jets and Fitz at opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to contract negation talks and while early on we thought Fitzpatrick would be back with gang green, now it doesn’t seem as promising. The Jets have entertained trade offers for Tampa Bay back up quarterback Mike Glennon and the Jets have also met with Paxton Lynch a quarterback entering the NFL draft later on this month. With those moves taking place one has to wonder if the Jets feel like they can’t afford the high price that Fitz’s agent is asking for. If Fitzpatrick does depart from the the team where does he go? There are always teams looking for a productive quarterback and one possible destination is the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have Case Keenum as their starting quarterback but Keenum only threw for 4 touchdowns and 1 interception in all of 2015. Adding Fitzpatrick and his 31 touchdowns would be a good upgrade for the Rams and if the team were to sign a 2 year deal with Fitz they could avoid a long term commitment. Fitzpatrick is 33 years old so a 2 year deal would allow the team to reevaluate the quarterback after those 2 seasons and then potentially re-sign the quarterback. Another possible destination might be the Denver Broncos. The Broncos were strapped for cash so it might not be easy for them to sign Fitzpatrick but never doubt John Elway and his ability to maneuver. Fitzpatrick would be a significant upgrade over Mark Sanchez and would give the Broncos a real possibility to make a deep playoff run again. Still these are just rumors and truthfully we have no idea where Ryan Fitzpatrick will end up. When it’s all said and done don’t be surprised by whatever decision he makes. The guy earned the right to be paid for his accomplishments and being a former Harvard graduate. We know he is a smart guy, and he’ll make the best decision for himself and his family.

Charity of the day: Entertainment Industry Foundation

Go donate! www.eifoundation.org

Walter Thurmond might be the next player to call it quits early:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Walter Thurmond is a talented safety who played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. After having his best season as a pro last season in which he recorded 71 tackles and 3 interceptions. You would think Thurmond would be eager to land his next contract and get back to work. Thurmond apparently has different plans however. The 6th year defensive back is contemplating an early retirement like so many other players are in today’s era. With so much information coming out recently about concussions and CTE, Thurmond is weighing his options before making a premature commitment to playing in 2016. What is most notable about Thurmond’s situation is the fact that several teams have expressed interest in the defensive back and have offered him contracts. In fact it’s been reported that Thurmond has passed on offers that are north of $4 million dollars per year. Showing that Walter Thurmond has prioritized his health rather than just a big payday. Some things are bigger than football like being able to play with your kids later on in life and Walter Thurmond has certainly given this decision a lot of thought. If he does indeed retire he will be another player on a long list of athletes who walked away from pro football before their time was up. Players like Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis, and Jarod Mayo all walked away from the game with plenty of gas left in the tank. In order to help limit the amount of injuries they will have to endure in their playing days. With so many past NFL players in rough shape from playing the game for an extended period of time. Many future players are taking notice of the ailing former players and are making a conscious decision to weigh their options oppose to just playing because that is what everyone else does. Walter Thurmond appears to be just the next guy in line and you really can’t blame him because at the end of the day you have to do what is best for yourself. The Eagles would of liked to re-sign this guy but appears that maybe no team will. You have to respect the guy’s ability to make the right decision regardless of how tough it is. Walking away from millions is never easy.

Charity of the day: March of Dimes Foundation

Go donate! www.marchofdimes.org

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Jameis Winston will look to continue right where he left off in 2016:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Jamies Winston was outstanding as a rookie in 2015. Most quarterbacks struggle their first year in the league, such was the case with Peyton Manning and Blake Bortles but Winston was a whole different story. Winston finished his rookie season with 22 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and 4,042 passing yards. Showing that he could be productive right out of college which has been so difficult for so many other QB’s. On top of that Winston managed to improve the Buccaneers by 4 wins from 2014 to 2015. Showing that he clearly has the team trending in the right direction. What is even better news for Winston is most players make their biggest strides in growth from their first year to their second year in the league. That means Jameis Winston might be leaps and bounds better his second season around for the Bucs. With so much praise coming out about how high Winston’s football IQ was last offseason. Those gifts were clearly on display in 2015. Now that he actually understand the speed of the NFL game, don’t be surprised to see Winston flat out flourish next season. Bortles was outstanding his second season, showing how much growth he gained in just one year. Winston was better as a rookie and might have an even bigger jump in development his sophomore season. If that does indeed happen the Buccaneers should be around 8 wins next season and if they get it right in the draft that number could be even higher. The quarterback position is so important because it dictates what the offense is going to do. In fact a quarterback can audible and change the play at the line of scrimmage. So in many ways the quarterback position is a mental game as much as it is physical one. Jameis Winston excels in both categories and that is why he was one of the most impressive rookies all last season. It will be a big year for Jamies Winston in 2016, you can just feel it coming. The question is whether or not the team itself can have a big season?

Charity of the day: Operation USA

Go donate! www.opusa.org

The Seahawks have lost a lot of talent over the last two off-seasons:

Photo credit: Ronald C. Modra / Sports Imagery

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Seattle Seahawks were Super Bowl champions in 2014 but a lot has changed since that championship run. The Seahawks have seen a plethora of talent walk out of the door over the last two seasons in a somewhat mass exodus. With Seattle being up for so long, it’s only natural that sooner or later the team must come down. That happened when the team overspent on Russell Wilson and left the team depleted at other positions on the field. It also set bad precedent because the defense and Marshawn Lynch had been the sole reason the team won back in 2014. After that contract was signed by Wilson, chemistry issues started to pop up across the board for this football team. That eventually led to a questionable culture being built around Seahawks camp and as a result of that players like Max Unger and James Carpenter end up leaving in 2015. Now Bruce Irvin and Russell Okung are the most notable players to skip town this year. All that talent that walked out the door particularly on the offensive line has spelt regression for the Seattle Seahawks. It’s clear the plan was to build around Russell Wilson and that was evident when the team handed him a big contract and then traded for Jimmy Graham. The problem is football will always be a running game first and foremost. Losing that many keep pieces on that offensive front made the running game worse. In 2014 the Seahawks were the number 1 rushing team in the NFL in terms of yards per game with 172 yards per game. After losing Unger and Carpenter the team ranked 3rd in the league with 140 yards per game. Some might not think that is a big drop but it clearly can be the difference between making it to the Super Bowl and losing in the divisional round. Keep in mind the Seahawks barely slipped by the Vikings in the wildcard as well. So clearly the team was running at an optimal level when they were playing fundamental football, running the ball, and using those key offensive lineman upfront. Now with Okung departing, you’d have to think that the Seahawks will drop even lower than 3rd in the league when it comes to running the football and that would likely result in an even worse team in 2016. Look Pete Carroll is a great coach if anyone can turn it around it’s him. However a coach can’t go onto the field and sack quarterbacks for you like Bruce Irvin could. A coach can’t protect the Russell Wilson in the passing game like Russell Okung could. These losses sooner or later could start adding up for the Seahawks. Now with emerging threats in both the 49ers who landed Chip Kelly, and the Rams who are playing in a whole new city. The Seahawks very well could see their team fall to the back of the NFC West for the first time in awhile. It all started with that bad Russell Wilson deal.

Charity of the day: Operation USA

Go donate! www.opusa.org

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