Dont’a Hightower signs a 4 year $43.5 million dollar contract with the New England Patriots:

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The Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets made a huge push for Dont’a Hightower’s services but in the end he returned to Foxborough to play for the team that drafted him. The 27 year old linebacker received a 4 year $43.5 million dollar contract to stay with the Pats and it’s a huge signing for New England. After a terrific off-season Bill Belichick struck gold when he beat out Pittsburgh and New York for Hightower and New England looks even more talented than they were when they won the Super Bowl a month ago. Hightower is a 6’4 270 pound inside middle linebacker who can dominate in between the offensive tackles. Belichick didn’t want to lose that unique blend of talent and now Hightower will be in the mix for at least the next 4 years. With 372 career tackles and 17 career sacks that’s great news for Patriots fans and the AFC East will once again have their hands full. Offensive lines will have to do everything they can to keep Hightower out of their “a gaps” and that will still likely be a losing battle for those particular offenses. Hightower just has too much tenacity and that is why so many different teams were courting his services. Hightower will receiver $19 million in guaranteed money so it’s a good deal for him and he gets to stay in a system he is familiar with. That means Hightower should hit the ground running in 2017 and there won’t be that learning curve he would have had if he had to learn a new playbook. In the end this is a great deal for the Patriots and they are the clear favorites to win the Super Bowl in 2017. It’s because they are best in the business at disposing and acquiring talent.

Charity of the day: HealthRight International

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The Packers need to do a better job in NFL free agency: Ted Thompson’s lack of maneuvering has cost the Packers playoff wins

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Green Bay Packers are at it again this off-season. With their franchise quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) under contract until 2019 this team should be giving Rodgers everything he can to be successful. Rodgers is 33 years old and one of the best quarterbacks in the league but he needs 52 other guys to help get the job done. So far Ted Thompson hasn’t done a good enough job of putting together a talented bunch around Rodgers and it’s clear Green Bay’s signal caller is often asked to carry the guys around him. That’s because Thompson has been so reluctant to make moves in NFL free agency and he has put too much of an emphasis on developing players through the draft. Look, developing players through the draft is a great strategy but it’s your job as a general manager to put the most talented product on the field as possible. Thompson has let this franchise down by avoiding NFL free agency and it’s baffling considering the Packers had $27 million dollars in cap space heading into 2017. First Thompson let Julius Peppers walk out of the door and then he failed to bring in a group of talented free agents. The Packers did sign Martellus Bennett but if you think Bennett alone is enough to get this team over the hump you’re sadly mistaken. Truthfully it’s hard to believe that Bennett will repeat the 7 touchdowns he had last year in New England and it’s just not enough from the Packers. They needed to follow the format the New York Giants did a season ago, which was to load up on one side of the ball (the Giants chose defense). With a lot of the marquee players already signed it feels like the Packers are going to fall short again when it comes to that goal. It’s getting to the point where Aaron Rodgers is wasting away in Green Bay and they should have had a game plan this year. Could you imagine if Thompson would have landed Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery? Now it’s stretch that it would have happened but if you reached out to both players and relayed to them your master plan it’s much more likely to happen. Philadelphia landed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, even those 2 players coming to Green Bay would have finally gave Rodgers the shot he deserved. Thompson hasn’t had any plan of action the last 3 seasons and it’s about time for him to go. Detroit Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has ran laps around Ted Thompson in just 2 off-seasons at the helm and that’s why the Lions will be better than the Packers in 2017. Just another reason Green Bay needs to tell their general manager “we’ve decided to go in a different direction.”

Charity of the day: HealthRight International

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Eddie Lacy has signed a 1 year contract with the Seattle Seahawks:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Seattle Seahawks have struggled to run the football since Marshawn Lynch retired and now the team is hoping to revive their running game with former Packers Running Back Eddie Lacy. Lacy has struggled the last 2 seasons only scoring 3 touchdowns but a new system gives Lacy a chance to redeem himself. At one point Eddie Lacy was one of the more dynamic backs in the league and he rushed for back to back 1,000 yard seasons in 2013 and 2014. Since then Lacy has been criticized for his weight problems and at times has looked out of shape. However the environment he was in could have played into those issues. Green Bay likes to operate from the shotgun formation and they like to put the ball in Aaron Rodgers’ hands. Those spread formations aren’t ideal for Lacy’s running style and Seattle should be a much better fit. Pete Carroll likes to run tight formations and allow extra blockers to open holes for his running backs. Those play concepts will suit Eddie Lacy much better and Lacy should be able to give the Seahawks a little bit of physicality from the running back position. That’s exactly what Seattle used to feed off with Lynch and truthfully this is a great signing by the Seahawks. Lacy signed a $5.55 million dollar contract with Seattle with $3 million fully guaranteed. That is a decent 1 year contract for the 26 year old running back and Seattle gets better by adding the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year. It was rumored that the Seahawks were also courting Adrian Peterson, ultimately Seattle decided Lacy was the better fit and that is likely because of age. Peterson is 31 years old so Lacy has a lot more years ahead of him than Peterson does. You have to like this deal by the Seahawks it definitely makes them a better football team.

Charity of the day: American Humane

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Chase Daniel believes he can be a starter in the National Football League, but will any team give him a chance?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Former Eagles Quarterback Chase Daniel asked for his release from the team because he believes he can be a starter for someone else. Daniel backed up rookie Carson Wentz in 2016 but he was a highly respected back up by football insiders. Now with Daniel on the free agent market there are a number of teams that could make a push for his services. Much like Tony Romo Chase Daniel will have to go to a team that is struggling at the quarterback position. That means the Bills, 49ers, Cardinals, Texans, Broncos, and Jets could all be in play. With the Bills under new leadership bringing in a veteran quarterback could be a smart football move. Daniel could push Tyrod Taylor for the starting gig and that competition would get the best out of both players. Additionally Daniel is more of a pocket passer than Taylor is so that switch in style could yield better results. The crazy thing is despite being signed for $21 million dollars just a season ago Daniel has only thrown 1 touchdown pass over the duration of his 7 year career. Although Chase Daniel never got a fair opportunity to showcase his abilities that is still an alarming stat if you’re a general manager. Some teams might opt to go with a younger player who has shown a little bit more promise. Still the other teams on the list need somebody on their roster who can throw the football. Another decent fit could be the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners were making a push for Kirk Cousins this off-season but the deal never materialized. Daniel could be that band aid for the time being and if he outplays expectations that could open the door for a full time starting job. The Texans, Broncos, Jets, and Cardinals also could make a move for Daniel and out of those teams it seems like the Texans and Jets would give Daniel the best chance to start. Only time will tell where the 30 year old signal caller signs and it will be interesting to see if Daniel can get that starting positing that he is aiming for?

Charity of the day: American Humane

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DeMarcus Ware calls it a career after 12 NFL seasons:

Photo credit: Denver Post / Helen H. Richardson

Author: Jon Kuzma

One of the most feared pass rushers to ever play the game is calling it a career. Denver Broncos Defensive End DeMarcus Ware has notified fans that he is intending to walk away from pro football for good. Ware stated that “there are opportunities that are still tempting” but he ultimately stated his long term health as the reason he will retire. After 12 NFL seasons and 138.5 career sacks DeMarcus Ware will almost undoubtedly be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. Ware not only was an outstanding player but he was a first class human being. While Terrell Owens has struggled to get in the Hall of Fame because of his poor attitude and despite his outstanding production. Ware on the other hand will be coveted by the voters because he did everything he could to maintain a superior level of integrity. Ware received some much positive feedback from former teammates and football insiders. Aqib Talib, Jerry Jones, and John Elway all raved about Ware, their testimonies tell the story of a player who has as much respect as any player in the league. A very high compliment when you consider all the competitors this league has to offer. Ware’s best season came in 2008 when he was a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Ware recorded 84 tackles, and 20 sacks that year absolutely terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. By the time Ware got to Denver his output had dropped a little but he still remained viable pass rusher. In 2015 during the Broncos push to their 3rd Vince Lombardi Trophy Ware recorded 3.5 sacks in the postseason alone. He also help mentor Von Miller and the other younger players on that defense. So this is a big hit for Denver but it’s still a celebration for Ware. We have to honor his prolific career one that produced 9 Pro Bowls when it was all said and done. Thank you for your contributions DeMarcus Ware the league is better off for having you.

Charity of the day: American Humane

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Just 2 years removed from the Super Bowl, the Broncos could be headed for a meltdown:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 and were crowned the best team in all of football. The Broncos achieved this feat with an outstanding defense and a stellar running game, but a lot has changed since that Super Bowl. Maybe the most notable difference is the change in personnel at every level of the franchise. Gary Kubiak is gone, Peyton Manning is gone, and a laundry list of other players have departed from Denver as well. In fact the Broncos didn’t even make this playoffs this past season. That already showed that Denver is regressing and now this season it could be even worse. Denver missed out on some key free agent signings including landing Calais Campbell. Campbell chose Jacksonville over Denver and that could be an indicator of the Broncos current state. On top of that Denver is rumored to be making a push for Tony Romo. Romo is extremely brittle at this point of his career and that could just be another letdown for the Denver Broncos when it’s all said and done. Finally the Broncos have a new head coach. Their coach is Vance Joseph and while Joseph is regarded as an excellent football mind, the hire could really go either way. Truthfully it feels like hiring Joseph might have been one of the better moves the Broncos have made this off-season but only time will tell. All of these factors could ultimately spell disaster for the Broncos and we will see if they can get back to playing playoff football? The Raiders and Chiefs have both taken steps forward and it will take a little more talent on Denver’s roster to compete with those 2 teams. John Elway knows how to build a team but he has to pull some strings quickly in order to put the Broncos in a position to succeed. Time is ticking away so there is definitely some concern if you’re a Broncos fan.

Charity of the day: Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

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NFL free agency: The Detroit Lions put an emphasis on protecting the quarterback in free agency:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Detroit Lions show they can make an impact through NFL free agency:

The Detroit Lions were a playoff team last year and General Manager Bob Quinn wanted to build on that momentum. Quinn believes that the Lions best chance at winning playoff games is protecting quarterback Matt Stafford and that was clear when Quinn signed T.J Lang and Ricky Wagner. Wagner was the big splash signing for $47 million dollars but Lang is no slouch either. T.J Lang was one of the best guards in all of football last year and now the Lions will have a legitimate shot at neutralizing the opposing pass rush in 2017. That’s great news if you’re a Lions fan because Detroit has never had an offensive line that can impose their will on defenses. Quinn’s second year will boast one of the best offensive lines the Lions franchise has ever had and you have to tip your hat to the G.M for that accomplishment. Quinn laid the foundation by drafting Taylor Decker last season and all 3 of those players will be crucial in keeping Stafford healthy. If Matthew Stafford has time to scan the field he can easily be an elite quarterback in this league. It will be up to that offensive front to ensure Stafford isn’t under fire and truthfully you have to believe this group can get the job done. Offensive line is extremely tough because the pass rushers are so dominant in this league, however Decker, Wagner, and Lang are extremely competent. They know what it takes to have success at this level and they all can compete at that top tier level. Detroit usually has band aid players on it’s offensive front but not in 2017. They will have stars who can make adjustments at the line and deliver key blocks to help spring this offense. Detroit could be a lot of fun to watch next year they are definitely trending in the right direction.

Charity of the day: Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

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The Arizona Cardinals got hammered by free agency:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Arizona Cardinals had a down season in 2016 and it has really hurt the team’s ability to retain free agents. The Cardinals have lost several key players in free agency and that could have a detrimental impact in 2017. Arizona lost Calais Campbell, Earl Watford, Tony Jefferson, Marcus Cooper, Darren Fells, and Chandler Cantanzaro to other teams this off-season and that’s a lot of talent that just walked out the door. Head Coach Bruce Arians will certainly have his work cut out for him this upcoming season and it’s going to be extremely tough to be competitive unless some serious moves are made. Arizona was already bad last season with all of those players on their roster, now they are going to have to make due without key players like Campbell and Cooper. With a lot of the top free agents already off the market, it will be up to the Cardinals to work a few trades and draft extremely well next month. Even if everything goes right for the Cardinals it still might not be enough and you have to feel bad for Arians. No coach can win if the talent isn’t up to par and clearly the front office hasn’t given Arians enough to win with. When Arizona comes out and flops this year the team will likely move on from General Manager Steve Keim and Bruce Arians. Which makes you wonder why the Cardinals didn’t do more to give those guys a chance? It feels like the main goal for Arizona was cutting down on salary cap and purging some of their role players. Regardless though most of these players were in the league for less than 5 years and could have grown into big time contributors for Arizona. The Cardinals haven’t had any marquee signings to off-set those losses and that will come back to haunt this team when it comes time to play. It’s hard to understand what that team in the dessert is doing right now? They need a lot of help.

Charity of the day: The Y (National Office)

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Terrelle Pryor is heading to the Washington Redskins on a 1 year $8 million dollar contract:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Last season Terrelle Pryor went over the 1,000 yards receiving mark with the Cleveland Browns but next season Pryor will wear a Redskins jersey. Pryor signed a 1 year $8 million dollar contract with Washington and now Pryor will fill the void that DeSean Jackson left behind when he signed with the Tampa Buccaneers. Pryor isn’t quite as fast as Jackson but he is a much bigger receiver. That can help Pryor do some things that Jackson can’t do but Jackson has much more experience than Terrelle Pryor does. So it will interesting to see if Terrelle Pryor can come into Jay Gruden’s system and be an elite player like he was last season in Cleveland? It will also be interesting to see how Pryor responds to playing with Kirk Cousins? Pryor has never played receiver with a quarterback as competent as Kirk Cousins is. That should greatly improves Pryor’s chances for a big season and will ultimately give Pryor the best chance at a mega-contract next off-season. So as far as optimizing his own talents goes, Terrelle Pryor made an excellent moving choosing to catch passes from Cousins. Now if the rumors end up being true and Cousins gets traded, Pryor would be out of luck but right now it doesn’t seem like that is going to happen. Washington’s wide outs will have a chance be outstanding in 2017 especially if Josh Doctson can emerge in to a big contributor. Grouping together Pryor, Doctson, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed should yield great results for the Redskins and expect Washington’s aerial attack to be as potent as ever next season. Both Cousins and Pryor are playing for big contract extensions and that will be extra motivation to come out and perform. The Redskins definitely got better by adding Terrelle Pryor when it’s all said and done.

Charity of the day: Junior Achievement USA

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The Patriots landed 2 big time trades in day 2 of NFL free agency:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

While many teams are trying to sign NFL free agents to bolster their roster the New England Patriots had other plans. The Patriots started their 2nd day of NFL free agency off with a trade for Carolina Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy. Kony Ealy is 25 years old and entering his prime in the National Football League, Ealy has also recorded 14 sacks and 76 tackles over the past 3 seasons. Bill Belichick knew that Ealy could come in and help minimize the losses of Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long. What makes this deal so special is the fact that the Patriots only had to move back 8 spots to get Ealy. The Patriots traded a 2nd round pick to the Panthers in exchange for Ealy and a 3rd round pick. It’s move like these that help New England stay on top and you almost wonder how Belichick goes about proposing these offers? Often times we see New England involved in trades that are lopsided in the Patriots favor. Yet these opposing teams keep being had by the Patriots and this is just another sweet deal for New England. Ealy should benefit from being in a better system and that means those 5 sacks he had last year could easily become 7 or 9 sacks. This was a much better deal for New England than Carolina but maybe the Panthers were just ready to move on from Kony Ealy for whatever reason. Still the Patriots walk way the winners here.

The Patriots dominated NFL free agency a month after winning the Super Bowl:

The Patriots weren’t satisfied with just the Kony Ealy deal either, a few hours after trading for the Panthers defensive end the Patriots made a trade to give their offense a spark. The Patriots shipped a 1st round pick (32nd overall) and 3rd round pick in exchange for Brandin Cooks and a 4th round pick. The negotiations in this deal have been going on for about a month now but one topic that was frequently discussed is whether or not New England would be willing to give up Malcolm Butler. Ultimately New England didn’t want to do that but they still had to give up their 1st round pick in order to make the deal happen. While New England won’t be drafting in the 1st round this year the 32nd overall pick they shipped to New Orleans was the last pick in the 1st round and is basically an early 2nd round pick. The Patriots didn’t like the value of that draft position and it’s clear they thought they would get much more out of Brandin Cooks next season. Truthfully the Patriots are right in these circumstance and now they are clearly the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Cooks will come in and give this team an immediate boost offensively and he should pair well with 5 time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady. Two solid moves in one day for the New England Patriots.

For more on NFL free agency check out-http://endzoneblog.com/packers-need-better-job-nfl-free-agency-ted-thompsons-lack-maneuvering-cost-packers-playoff-wins/

Charity of the day: Junior Achievement USA

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