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Why the KC Chiefs were never going to trade Sammy Watkins

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It’s unclear whether the Kansas City Chiefs were ever interested in trading Sammy Watkins at all, but the market was going to make things difficult, if so.

The smoke has finally cleared.

The uncertain fog surrounding the future of Sammy Watkins—the same cloud that made Watkins say he just needed time away from it all—has lifted and revealed a newly restructured one-year contract in place of the three-year contract signed in 2017. The new deal is cheaper for the Chiefs, yet much proportional to Watkins’ impact and production. It’s also incentive filled to keep Watkins quite rich among his peers if he performs as hoped.

Until the early morning deal was reached, no one was quite what the Chiefs would do with Watkins—including the player himself. Any public-facing officials from the team’s side said all the right things about wanting Watkins back. The player himself even insinuated he might be willing to take a pay cut earlier this offseason.

When both sides posture themselves in such ways, an agreement is typically able to be worked out.

Yet through it all, it seemed realistic to believe that all options were on the table. The Chiefs had three basic choices in front of them:

  1. Restructure Watkins, as they did.
  2. Release Watkins, resulting in a $7 million hit in dead space but also a gain of $14M against the current cap.
  3. Trade Watkins.

The argument for release was really quite simple and straightforward. Every Super Bowl team (and every team, really) faces a painful reality of watching talented players leave as the entire roster becomes more expensive. It’s parity and par for the NFL’s course. The Chiefs have been flirting with the cap ceiling for quite some time—even at a hilarious $177 in cap space recently—so releasing a big name is what teams must do at times.

On the flip side, the possibility of a trade was always floated in hopes that some team with cap space would be willing to take on Watkins’ massive contract—or even work with him to extend it and create a more realistic longer-term structure. In return, the hope was that the Chiefs would get at least some other draft asset in a loaded class in which they only have five total selections to date.

Unfortunately, that was never going to work out for a number of reasons:

First, some teams who were in major need of a top-tier wide receive import took care of their needs early with trades. The Buffalo Bills paid just short of a king’s ransom in draft assets for Stefon Diggs, while the Arizona Cardinals were somehow able to fleece the Houston Texans for DeAndre Hopkins. Not only were the Bills and Cards off the market to supply their young quarterbacks with a new target, but it also created a weird market in terms of expected returns (given how little Zona paid for Nuk).

Second, Watkins himself wasn’t in the same ballpark as Hopkins or Diggs. If Watkins had put up 1,000 yards last season with Tyreek Hill missing several games, the story might have been different. Instead, Watkins definitely proved his worth with another incredible postseason run, but teams like Arizona and Buffalo were searching for an unmistakable WR1.

Third, even with Hopkins and Diggs officially moved, the market was still fairly loaded with options. The Philadelphia Eagles have been openly searching for a taker for Alshon Jeffery for a while. The latest rumors also place Brandin Cooks squarely on the trade block with the Los Angeles Rams. When  similarly talented receivers are also being freely offered, it doesn’t exactly help with potential returns for Watkins.

Finally, in less than a month, all 32 teams will be able to select freely from an incredibly gifted draft class loaded at one position in particular: wide receiver. It’s possible that multiple Pro Bowlers emerge from this single class and that dozens of solid contributors are found, even into Day 3 of the draft. At the very least, a trade involving Watkins (and likely Cooks and/or Jeffery) wasn’t going to happen until teams knew where they stood post-draft.

The Chiefs did very well to restructure Watkins deal in the end. Releasing him would create a void at WR2 that could be filled in the regular season but would be missing when it matters most. At the same time, trading him was likely never going to happen. Instead, the Chiefs have returned the majority of starters who delivered the first Super Bowl win in 50 years. Perhaps they’ll do it again several months from now.

Next: The Top 10 Seasons in Chiefs history

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Atlanta Falcons cannot afford to miss on early defensive draft picks

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With the loss of a few quality defensive players in free agency, the Atlanta Falcons must have defense as their number one priority in the NFL Draft if they plan to compete in 2020.

The NFL Draft just over a week away, as we’ll finally get to watch something new that is sports-related, rather than just reruns of games such as Super Bowl LI (luckily didn’t air in the Atlanta area). And with that, this draft specifically is huge for the Atlanta Falcons if they want to rebound from the back to back 7-9 campaigns.

This class is deep with defensive talent in both the front seven and secondary, and the Falcons need to add high impact players early.

Unfortunately, Atlanta’s front office has failed to adequately address defense early in the past 2 drafts. Let’s look at the defensive players chosen in the draft over the past 2 years:

2019

2018

Out of those six, only Oluokun and Cominsky had a PFF grade of 60.0 or better last season. Cominsky actually graded out at 82.1, finishing 23rd among all edge defenders, despite not having many traditional stats. He is definitely expected to have an “increased role” in 2020, as per Dan Quinn. Oluokun only had a grade of 62.7, but he showed some flashes of brilliance and is primed to take over a starting gig with the departure of De’Vondre Campbell in free agency.

The two “early picks” in the past 2 years have been Oliver and Senat, the former having two forgettable seasons, and the latter literally being forgotten by the coaching staff despite showing promise.

You can even look back at 2017, where the Falcons first two picks were Takk McKinley and Duke Riley. Duke Riley isn’t even with the team anymore after being shipped off to Philadelphia, and although Takk has had some great plays, he has constantly battled shoulder injuries as well as being picked over guys like Tre’Davious White and T.J. Watt.

The Falcons did make some good moves in free agency, such as signing Dante Fowler Jr. and resigning some good depth players like Tyeler Davison and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. However, they also lost guys like Adrian Clayborn, Desmond Trufant, and De’Vondre Campbell. This is what makes this draft so crucial, and the Falcons have to focus on defensive talent in the first 3 rounds specifically.

Next: NFL draft night can’t come soon enough for Atlanta Falcons nation

Arthur Blank has said on record that he expects the team to return to the playoffs in 2020, but for that to happen, the front office has to nail their first three picks to reinforce a disappointing defense.

 

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AFC East Roundup: What to know about Miami Dolphins heading into NFL Draft

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We had a chance to talk with Brian Miller of PhinPhanatic about the Miami Dolphins offseason and what to expect heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

The AFC East is shifting with the departure of the Tom Brady and the division is likely going to be as competitive as it has been in nearly two decades. Recently, we had a chance to talk with Brian Miller to get insight about all things Miami Dolphins from the Bills’ latest signing to how the offseason has been and what to expect in the NFL Draft.

1. What can you tell about Bills fans about their recent signing of Evan Boehm? Is this a player Dolphins are going to miss?

I like Boehm. I actually was surprised that the Dolphins didn’t target him with another one year deal this off-season. While he wasn’t a dedicated starter last year, I thought he did well when put in. He has some growing to do and the Dolphins simply need to get better along the offensive line. Boehm was a fill in it appears so it’s hard to say where his ceiling is.

2. What free agent signing by the Dolphins do you think will have the biggest impact?

Kyle Van Noy is my favorite signing this off-season. He knows the Brian Flores defense well and I think he becomes the defensive leader on that side of the ball. He has terrific range and and can play well in coverage and attacking the passer. He also does well with setting the edge. He is obviously familiar with the AFC East so this is a rare inter-division signing that makes a lot of

sense.

3. Who do you think is going to be the starting QB for the Miami Dolphins in Week 1?

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter for 2020 and I don’t believe any QB drafted will change that. He took the team on his back last year and will at least start the first six to eight games before the job is handed to Josh Rosen or an incoming rookie. The QB situation in Miami is odd as we are not sure what they plan to do at the position.

4. Who are some draft prospects that you have seen that you think are perfect fits for the Miami Dolphins?

I really like Isaiah Simmons who more than likely will not be a Dolphins draft pick at five. I also really like Mechi Becton but he too will be gone by the time the Dolphins select at 18. Safety Xavier McKinney is a player I have been paying attention to. He fills a big need for the Dolphins after the release of Reshad Jones and also fits in well with Brian Flores who covets players in the secondary. I think this is a player that Miami will try and draft with one of their first round picks. The only thing that would make me think otherwise is that they have such huge needs along the offensive line.

5. What are realistic expectations for the Dolphins in the second season under head coach Brian Flores? 

I think the Miami Dolphins will be better than five wins but we are talking about 7 or 8 wins at best. Some predict the Dolphins to only win two games but I don’t see that as reasonable. The Dolphins are still young and they had a lot of coaching changes this off-season including both coordinators and a bunch of assistants as well.

Next: Bills start with cornerback in recent 7-Round Mock Draft

I think this off-season situation with the quarantine stuff is going to have a big impact as well. Flores is a coach that players like to play for but if they can’t be with him this off-season to learn what he expects from them, it might be difficult to find a rhythm early in the season.

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5 prospects the Panthers don’t want to see in the NFC South

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(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) Yetur Gross-Matos

The Carolina Panthers have their work cut out in the NFC South next season, which could be heightened with a number of new draft arrivals.

Things look bleak for the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South next season. All three opposing teams have real playoff ambitions and it has left the organization as something of an afterthought.

The New Orleans Saints have a powerhouse roster that has been significantly strengthened by the free-agent signing of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sean Payton now has an embarrassment of riches to call upon for what could be Drew Brees’ final season as a professional.

Legendary quarterback, Tom Brady’s arrival within the division has also put the cat among the pigeons, so to speak. He hand-picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a franchise he could potentially take to the next level and it is not hard to see why.

They have a strong defense, a decent offensive line, and a phenomenal wide receiver tandem in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. All signs point to the Bucs’ making a real run at things next season.

Although the Atlanta Falcons flattered to deceive once again last season, they are expected to turn things around quickly and this will represent another problem for the Panthers if the franchisee wants to improve on their 5-11 record.

With the potential of some promising college recruits entering the division in 2020, it could have serious ramifications on Carolina’s chances of turning their fortunes around.

Here are five players that the Panthers do not want to see end up in the NFC South next season.

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