Josh Norman has his franchise tag pulled by Carolina Panthers: Josh Norman has his franchise tag pulled by Carolina Panthers:

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Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Josh Norman was one of the top cornerbacks in the National Football League last year while playing for the Carolina Panthers. Norman finished the 2015 season with 4 interceptions and did a great job of shutting down the most elite receivers the league has to offer. This off-season the Panthers and Norman were trying to strike a deal that would keep Norman in Carolina for the long haul, however the Panthers seemed reluctant to finalize that deal. Finally the Panthers decided to franchise tag Norman to at least keep him around for the 2016 season. Yet when it came time to sign the contract, Norman opted not to sign and effectively began a mini-holdout from Carolina. That must not have sat well with upper management in Carolina because the team has rescinded their franchise tag offer. That move made Josh Norman a free agent at around 2:30 P.M today and he has the choice to sign with any team in the league that he chooses. Rumors around the league are Norman would like to play in California, and we’ll see shortly what teams emerge as the likely candidate to land Josh Norman. You’d have to think Norman is somewhat happy with the decision because he will sign the big contract that he desires. The downside of the situation is the fact that Norman now will be leaving the Panthers and a team he helped guide to the Super Bowl last season. The departure is a surprise but the NFL is a business and the show must go on. Some team out there will get an excellent player and a guy who can come in and cut off half of the field in the passing game. Carolina will now have to look at filling that defensive back spot at some point in the draft, and right now Carolina is a worse football team defensively than they were a day ago.

Charity of the day: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America

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Paxton Lynch will beat out Mark Sanchez to be the Broncos starter in week 1:

Photo credit: John Leyba / Denver Post

Author: Jon Kuzma

With rookie camps taking place all over the NFL today plenty of teams got a look at their incoming players. One player who stood out big time is Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch. Lynch looked great for the Broncos and you could almost see coach Gary Kubiak realizing what events are going to transpire in the future for the Broncos. That is the fact that Lynch looked absolutely fantastic throwing the football today and the fact that he is clearly the best option for the Broncos moving forward. That means at some point Coach Kubiak is going to have to notify Mark Sanchez that the team intends to go with Lynch as the opening day starter. Truthfully Lynch is just a better player even as rookie. His 6’6 frame allows him to see over the line much better than Mark Sanchez ever could. Lynch also looks exceptionally fluent in his drop backs and throws. On one particular play Lynch did a playaction fake and delivered a perfect strike to one of his receivers. On that play it was obvious that the Broncos got an absolute steal by drafting Lynch in the 1st round and it also became clear that this guy wasn’t going to be on the sidelines for very long. If the Broncos want to repeat as Super Bowl champions it will be very tough to do with Mark Sanchez at the helm but it’s possible if Lynch starts from day 1. That will allow the rookie to take his licks early on in the season and hopefully he will be much improved come playoff time. The Broncos aren’t a stupid organization they understand this and that is why it’s very likely you will see Paxton Lynch as the week 1 starter. It’s very hard to fake the poise that Lynch showed at rookie camp and this guy looks like he is all business. When it’s all said and done this will be one of the best off-season moves General Manger John Elway made. Lynch looks like he could be a superstar sooner rather than later.

Charity of the day: Waterkeeper Alliance

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Jason Witten has been productive for a very long time:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Today Cowboys Tight End Jason Witten celebrates his 34th birthday and in honor of all his accomplishments we will reflect on his football career. Witten went to high school at Elizabethton High School and that is really where his football career began. His grandfather was the coach of the team and Witten started as both a linebacker and a tight end. Witten finished his playing days at Elizabethton High with the most tackles ever in a players career (450 career tackles). He also earned recognition as an All-American, All State, and USA Today player of the year for Tennessee. That led to Witten being recruited by the University of Tennessee and he eventually accepted a scholarship to play in Knoxville. When Jason Witten got to Tennessee he was adamant with the coaching staff that he played defensive end. However with the Volunteers struggling with depth at the tight end position. They needed Witten to fill in at that position and even though he was reluctant to do so, Witten would eventually develop into an effective tight end. Jason Witten finished his time with the Vols by earning All-Sec honors and that caught the Dallas Cowboy’s eye. The Cowboys decided to draft Witten in the 3rd round of the 2003 Draft which was the beginning of his professional reign. As a pro Jason Witten continued to raise the bar, he is a 10x Pro Bowler and one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. He already is the Dallas Cowboy’s all time career leader in receptions and now after 13 seasons it will be an enjoyment to watch him finish out his career. This is a guy who gave football so much, and has always worked hard and did the right thing. So Jason Witten is certainly a guy you can root for and he has been a factor on the field every single year he has played. Now the Cowboys will look to bounce back after their struggles last season and expect Witten to be right in the middle of those efforts. He will continue to be a staple in this offense for as long as he decides to play. Happy birthday Jason Witten and thank you for your contributions to professional football.

Charity of the day: Waterkeeper Alliance

Go donate! www.waterkeeper.org

Can Julio Jones defend his title as the receiving champion in 2016?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Julio Jones was the best receiver in all of football in 2015. His 1,871 receiving yards were the most in the National Football League during the 2015 season and now Jones will look to repeat as the most prolific receiver in the league. Jones has been everything the Falcons had hoped for when they gave 5 picks to move up in the Draft and select the former Alabama wide receiver. Now moving forward you have to ask yourself “can Julio Jones repeat as the receiving yards champion in 2016?” That answer lies in some of the moves the Falcons have made this off-season. For example the Falcons signed former Browns Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack. Mack will make Matt Ryan’s life much easier and that should result in more production from Atlanta’s quarterback. That means the receivers statistics will improve as well and Jones will benefit greatly from the addition of Alex Mack and the improvement in Ryan’s comfort. The other big move the team made was signing Mohamed Sanu which could go either way for Jones. Sanu could help Jones see less double teams or he could cut into some of Jones’s receptions? So that addition is really a toss up in how it will affect Julio Jones. When it’s all said and done though, you have to expect Jones to rise above the expectations and continue to deliver. This guy is marquee player and one of the best in the business. As long as Matt Ryan doesn’t get hurt Jones will definitely be in the running for most yards obtained by a receiver and his main threat to dethrone him has to be Antonio Brown from the Steelers. Brown is also playing at an absurdly high level right now, and those two should be right there in the running when the year is over. So there is no doubt Julio Jones can repeat as the receiving champion, the question is can he be even better in 2016? Could he actually go over the 1,871 yard mark? Jones absolutely could because he is that physically gifted and he also has veteran’s awareness now as well. There’s nothing this guy can’t do on a football field.

Charity of the day: Animal Welfare Institute

Go donate! www.awionline.org

Jordan Reed deserves every penny of the $50 million dollar extension he signed today:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Washington Redskins knew they had a special talent with Jordan Reed and today the team extended Reed’s contract for 5 more years and for $50 million more dollars. Reed had the best year a Redskins tight end has ever had in 2015 recording 952 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Those efforts were enough to impress the front office and that is why we should see Reed in Washington for plenty of years to come. Everyone in the D.C area who has watched a Redskins game recently knew this guy was a flat out “gamer”. Week in and week out Reed showed up and toasted some of the league’s best defenses. Now with the Redskins being the closest they’ve been in a long time to winning a Super Bowl. The team knew they had to do everything in their power to ensure Jordan Reed was in the mix for the long haul and that is why this deal was finalized today. Reed also does a great job of helping Kirk Cousins out at the quarterback position. Reed can work the middle of the field on post and seam routes and find windows in the opposing team’s defense. That makes life on Cousins much easier and adds another dimension to this Redskins offense. There is a reason Reed scored 11 touchdowns last season, it’s because the guy has a knack for getting open and making big time plays. Both sides have to happy about striking the deal and the Redskins continue their outstanding off-season which also includes the addition of Josh Norman to the mix. So you know the Redskins are going to be a quality team entering the 2016 season and it will be a lot of fun to watch Jordan Reed continue to grow within his role. Don’t surprised if this kid shapes up to be the best tight end in the league someday. All of the tools are there and he should only get better with age and awareness. Overall this was great move for the Redskins and give their front office credit for making the extension happen.

Charity of the day: Animal Welfare Institute

Go donate! www.awionline.org

Buffalo will be a great home for Cardale Jones:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Cardale Jones starts his professional career as a Buffalo Bill after being selected in the 4th round of the 2016 Draft. Jones was the quarterback who helped guide Ohio State to a National Championship in 2014. Now after having an off year in Columbus Jones will look to come into the pro’s and try to establish himself as a successful football player. The location is a great fit for Jones because Rex Ryan is a guy who believes in his players and will look out for what is in Jones best interest. This is guy that the Bills will try to develop over the course of a few seasons and hopefully he will be able to contribute at some point. Tyrod Taylor is the starter for the Buffalo Bills and if he should ever go down. Jones and Ej Manuel will be next in line to seize that opportunity. With Manuel’s contract option recently declined by the Bills, you’d have to think that the team would be inclined to play Jones if the two players were close competition wise. The team just drafted Jones and Manuel very well might be out of Buffalo after the 2016 season. So the quarterback situation is in Cardale Jones favor for the back up role and who knows if Tyrod Taylor were to stumble. Jones could step up and be the hero if he put in the work during the off-season. Now this could go the either way as well, Jones could fall short and never really pan out. However you have to think with how bad things went for him last year at Ohio State. That Cardale Jones is going to come out and play with a chip on his shoulder. That is good news for the Buffalo Bills and clearly the team saw something in Jones to draft him in the 4th round. Overall this is a good move for the Bills and it’s also a good fit for Jones.

Charity of the day: Earthjustice

Go donate! www.earthjustice.org

The Vikings are trying to take the next step under Mike Zimmer:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Minnesota Vikings knew they were getting a good football coach when they hired Mike Zimmer. The long time defensive coordinator has made a name for himself in the National Football League and it was really about his transition into the Head Football Coach role. Zimmer hasn’t skipped a beat since becoming the Vikings Head Coach and he even took the team to the playoffs last season. That accomplishment is great for the Vikings momentum and it makes Minnesota a much more desirable destination for other players. Most NFL players want to play for a team that is a contender and you know you have a chance to compete with the Vikings. The team should of eliminated the Seahawks last year in the playoffs but came up short on a Blair Walsh missed kick. Now with the off-season just about over the team will look to take that next step under Mike Zimmer. Part of that next step process included drafting Laquon Treadwell out of Ole Miss and signing Andre Smith along with Michael Griffin in free agency. Treadwell is a talented receiver who should be able to provide some support for Teddy Bridgewater. He recorded 2,393 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns in 3 seasons at Oxford. Those efforts will go a long way on the offensive side of the ball for the Vikings and this was a good pick for the team. Andre Smith will also help out Bridgewater as well by giving him a little protection upfront. Smith is a former first round draft pick out of Alabama and will blend nicely with what the Vikings want to do in both the run game and the passing game. Finally Michael Griffin will be joining Mike Zimmer’s defense and Griffin is coming off back to back 100 tackle seasons. This guy is a guided missile and will make a lot of big time tackles for the Vikings in the open field. Those main additions will be exactly what Zimmer needs to get out of the NFC Wildcard in 2016. They just have to come out, execute, and get a little lucky. The Vikings are in better shape than they’ve been in awhile and much of that credit belongs to Mike Zimmer. Now we will see if he is good enough to take the next step?

Charity of the day: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Go donate! www.michaeljfox.org

Football online: The future is bright for Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson

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Author: Jon Kuzma

When the Arizona Cardinals drafted running back David Johnson in the 3rd round (2015 Draft) out of the University of Northern Iowa they had high expectations for Johnson. David Johnson was a 6’1 224 pound load at the running back position and fit well in the Cardinals system as a power back. Bruce Arians liked Johnson’s ability to break tackles and keep the chains moving for the Cards. That grittiness is what led Johnson to 3 straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons at the collegiate level and you could just see that those abilities were going to convert over to the professional level. In Johnson’s rookie see he didn’t disappoint either, he rushed for 8 touchdowns for Arizona and gave the Cardinals a nice change up to Chris Johnson, and Andre Ellington. Those efforts were good enough to earn Johnson not only respect from everyone in the Cardinals organization but also from around the league as well. NFL executives hold David Johnson in high regards and most people expect Johnson to seize the Cardinals starting running back job at some during the 2016 season. His downhill running ability is a good counter to the Cardinals outstanding passing attack, and he adds another dynamic to this offense. Now in his sophomore season expect Johnson to improve significantly in the rushing yards category. He only had 581 yards rushing last year, but with his gained awareness and deeper understanding of the game that number will likely increase next season. If Johnson can improve on his 8 touchdowns a season that will also pay huge dividends for the Cardinals as well. The team needs to limit the amount of drop backs that quarterback Carson Palmer takes in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs. The team can do that by trusting David Johnson and the other backs on the ground and that is why Johnson’s value is up so much entering the new season. Expect this guy to have a big season and he should be high on every fantasy football owner’s draft board.

Charity of the day: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Go donate! www.michaeljfox.org

The Houston Texans went after weapons for Brock Osweiler in the Draft:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Houston Texans got their starting quarterback this off-season when they signed Brock Osweiler to 4 year $72 million dollar contract. In order to make life easier on their new quarterback the team decided that targeting the receiver position in the draft would be the best course of action for the team. That is exactly what the Texans did during the Draft last weekend selecting 2 wide receivers in the first 3 rounds. The Texans got their night started by drafting Will Fuller out of Notre Dame. Fuller is a very talented receiver who has big play capability. While playing for the Irish Fuller managed to rack up back to back 1,000 yard receiving seasons. Which show his ability to provide huge amounts of production for his offense. Fuller also recorded 30 career touchdown receptions in 3 years in South Bend. So you know the guy is as good as advertised and can bring a lot to the Houston Texans’ attack. The Texans weren’t content with just Fuller either, 2 rounds later the team selected Braxton Miller out of Ohio State to also help bolster their passing game. Miller made the transition from quarterback to receiver last year in Columbus but he did have some growing pains along the way only recording 3 touchdowns receptions in all of 2015. Still Miller has a tremendous amount of potential and upside which made him a flashy choice in the 3rd round. The Texans are hoping Miller will continue to progress in his transformation to wide receiver and they are also hoping his game breaking speed will add a boost to their offense. When you combine both Miller and Fuller along with Deandre Hopkins who was one of the best receivers in the league last year. Suddenly the Texans have a trio of receivers that can help get the job done. When you factor in that they will be catching passes from Osweiler who is much better than Brian Hoyer. You begin to notice that this team will have a much more dynamic attack in 2016 and the Texans are looking to be a major player in the future. Overall this organization has to be happy about their draft efforts.

Charity of the day: Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Go donate! www.diabetesresearch.org

The Cowboys believe Dak Prescott will eventually be Tony Romo’s successor:

Photo credit: Grant Halverson

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Dallas Cowboys knew at some point they had to draft a quarterback to replace Tony Romo and we know now that is former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott is a great choice for the Cowboys because he put together a solid body of work during his collegiate days. Those efforts include 29 touchdowns and 5 interceptions just a season ago and 70 career touchdown passes and only 23 career interceptions. When you look at those numbers a couple things stand out right away. First Prescott does an excellent job of taking care of the football, that can be seen in the fact that Prescott was only intercepted 23 times during his time in Starkville. That is one thing you really look out for when drafting a quarterback, whether or not they can avoid bad decisions and limit turnovers. Prescott does really well in this particular area and the Cowboys have to upbeat about landing him in the 4th round. The next thing you notice when looking at Prescott’s career stats is that he has over a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Meaning he is giving you 3 touchdown passes for every 1 interception he throws. When you have a quarterback who has a knack for throwing that many touchdown passes you just hope that success translates over to the professional level. The Cowboys certainly thought it was worth the chance in the 4th round and you have to think those stats were in the back of their mind when selecting the Bulldogs’ signal caller. Finally you have to like Prescott’s size, he is 6’2 230 pounds so you know he has the big frame which most NFL teams prefer. His size will also help him endure the hits that he will have take from those massive NFL defensive lineman. So really when you look at all the angles you have to think this was a good pick for the Cowboys. While some might say they should of drafted a qb sooner. You have to remember that Tony Romo was undrafted so this easily could pan out as a win for the Cowboys and it was a great pick by Jerry Jones. Now if Romo can’t hold up health wise in 2016 the Cowboys have an insurance policy with Prescott. A player who will serve as a much better option than Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden did in 2015.

Charity of the day: Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Go donate! www.diabetesresearch.org

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