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DE Ansah cleared for Seahawks debut Sunday

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RENTON, Wash. — Ezekiel Ansah is all set for his Seattle Seahawks debut.

According to Pete Carroll, the one-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher is expected to play extensively Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

“Ziggy’s ready to play, ready to play football,” Carroll said Friday. “So we’re excited to see that. It’s been a really good process to get him to this, where he’s in good shape, too. He’s worked hard and long, so he’s in better shape than sometimes when a guy is just coming back. So we’ll be able to get him a bunch of plays here in this game and look forward to his participation with us.”

Ansah signed with the Seahawks in May after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury that cut short his final season with the Lions. He appeared to be on track to play in the Seahawks’ Sept. 8 opener after returning to practice 12 days before. It was thus somewhat of a surprise when he was inactive for the first two games.

Carroll never fully committed to Ansah playing in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals or last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, giving his usual qualifiers ahead of time about needing to make sure that Ansah felt OK on game day. He gave no such qualifiers Friday.

“We took a shot at it,” Carroll said of Ansah returning in time for the opener. “He made it back to practice for Week 1 in time to do that, but we just felt like it would be better to continue to build his confidence in his return and all of that and just wait it out to secure the return. So hopefully that’s what happens.”

Ansah echoed Carroll’s remarks about long-term thinking with his health.

“I think we all got to understand that it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Ansah said. “If I was good enough, I would be on the field.”

The Seahawks list three players as questionable for Sunday: safety Tedric Thompson, cornerback Tre Flowers and running back Rashaad Penny, who was a late addition to their injury report after hurting his hamstring late in Friday’s practice. Flowers turned his ankle Thursday and will be a game-time decision along with Thompson, who missed the Steelers game with a hamstring injury.

Akeem King or Jamar Taylor would step in for Flowers at right cornerback if need be, with another cornerback, Neiko Thorpe, listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. Lano Hill started last week in Thompson’s absence. Carroll said he wouldn’t hesitate to give C.J. Prosise snaps behind Chris Carson if Penny can’t play.

The Seahawks expect to have receiver David Moore back from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the first two games. Defensive tackle Poona Ford will also return after missing the Pittsburgh game with a calf injury. Right guard D.J. Fluker was a full participant Friday and was not listed with any game designation, meaning he’s expected to play despite an ankle injury.

The Seahawks listed Ansah as a full participant in all three practices this week. Carroll said he’ll wear some sort of device on his surgically-repaired shoulder, though he didn’t specify that it was a harness.

Ansah said his conditioning feels “great” and added that before he began practicing, “it’s all I did, run around all day every day.”

The Seahawks signed Ansah after trading Frank Clark, who had played the weak-side end spot known as the “Leo” in Carroll’s defense. Ansah pivoted away from a question about whether his role in Seattle’s defense differs from what he did in Detroit.

“Detroit is the past,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to what we can do with this team collectively. So far so good. You can see the production we’ve been putting on the field and I’m just excited to be a part of that.”

As for playing opposite another Pro Bowler in Jadeveon Clowney for the first time Sunday?

“I’m super excited to play with him,” Ansah said. “He’s a great guy off the field, and we all know what he can do on the field.”

Said Carroll: “I couldn’t be more excited to see these guys play together and get going. J.D.’s just getting started too. It’s pretty fun. Can’t wait to see what it looks like.”

The one-year deal Ansah signed with Seattle includes a base value of $9 million and has $1.5 million available in roster bonuses tied to being active on game day. That means he lost out on two bonuses worth $93,750 apiece by being inactive the first two weeks. But he also made that same amount in per-game bonuses that are tied to being on the 53-man roster. Ansah can make another $4.25 million in incentives.

Carroll’s Friday afternoon press conference was held minutes after news broke that the Patriots were releasing Antonio Brown. He was asked if they would look into Brown, having spoken with him before he signed with New England.

“We’re pretty well set right now,” Carroll said. “We kinda know where we’re going with that.”

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Grading the Jalen Ramsey trade from the Jaguars to Rams

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The Rams rebuilt their cornerback depth chart on Tuesday. In addition to placing veteran Aqib Talib on injured reserve, they traded away one former All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens and then acquired another in Jaguars standout Jalen Ramsey. It’s clear that they didn’t get what they wanted when they traded a second-round pick and a swap of selections in 2018 to the Chiefs for Peters; is this trade likely to go better?

I’m not surprised that L.A. traded Peters and made a move for Ramsey. I suggested last week that they could make both these moves, though I put them together as part of a swap sending Peters to Jacksonville. Over the past few years, the Rams have repeatedly used their top draft picks to target talented players still on rookie deals. If the draft is full of uncertainty, the Rams’ solution is to wait and see who pans out and trade their picks accordingly.

The problem with that philosophy, though, has already begun to rear its head for this team in 2019. As constructed before the Ramsey trade, this Rams roster had major holes along the offensive line and at edge rusher and cornerback. Injuries have deprived them of several key contributors in Talib, Clay Matthews and Todd Gurley, but those are also two 33-year-olds and a running back with knee issues. Building a roster in which a team is counting on those guys to stay healthy is a risky proposition.

In lieu of drafting and developing a cornerback with a first-round pick, the Rams have now committed two first-round picks and a second-round pick to solving a point of weakness on their roster. Cornerback was a problem for them, and Ramsey should be a major upgrade on Peters, whose inconsistency had grown exhausting. It’s one thing to get overmatched by a superior receiver; it’s another to stop running against Mike Evans in man coverage.

Trading for Ramsey could transform the Rams defense. According to ESPN’s coverage analysis from the NFL’s Next Gen data, the Rams have played some version of a man-to-man concept in their secondary on just 34% of their snaps in 2019, down from 41% in 2018 and 53% in 2017. Ramsey’s desire to play in a man scheme and take out the opposing team’s No. 1 wideout is well-known. I would suspect that trading for Ramsey will encourage defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to send more pressure and play tight man coverage behind.

In a vacuum, should you want Ramsey on your team? Of course. He’s a 24-year-old cornerback with Hall of Fame-caliber ability. For whatever complaints some might have about his attitude after showing up to camp in an armored bank truck, I don’t recall guys like Deion Sanders or Ty Law acting like choir boys when it came to their contracts, and their teams still won plenty of games.

Ramsey might not be at Sanders’ level, but since the start of 2017, the former first-round pick has allowed a passer rating of just 56.2 on throws in which he was the closest defender in coverage. The only corner with a better rating over 400-plus coverage snaps is his former Jags teammate A.J. Bouye. Ramsey is first in average yards allowed per target and sixth in Coverage Success Rate over that time frame. He’s capable of playing both on the outside and in the slot. The Rams are getting a superstar.

Right now, though, I’m not sure what the Rams need is a superstar. They already have as talented of an inner core as any team in the league, but after trading away so many high draft picks over the last few years, what they lack is depth. Even after trading for Ramsey, they have a question mark on the opposite side of the field at cornerback in Troy Hill, who will presumably be filling in for Talib. The Rams could Talib back for the postseason, but he’s a free agent after the season. L.A. has 2019 third-rounder David Long on the roster, but if it was confident Long was going to step in and be an immediate contributor, it wouldn’t have traded two first-round picks for Ramsey.

When the Rams made previous sorts of trades to go get Peters, Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks, they were in a fundamentally different financial situation. Watkins was acquired before the Rams had paid Aaron Donald. Peters and Cooks came before Gurley and Jared Goff were locked up on massive contracts. Cooks has his own deal now. The Gurley deal looks to be a major mistake, and while it’s still impossible to make any sort of declaration about the Goff deal, the early returns have not been promising.

Ramsey, who’s under contract through 2020, will require his own massive extension, and after trading two first-round picks to acquire him, the Rams won’t have a credible case for holding out on a deal. He will become the highest-paid cornerback in football history, either now or after the season. The team was already going to have issues building a useful roster around its core. That core is about to get much more expensive.

By trading two first-round picks, though, the Rams lose out on the two best ways they could have supplemented their roster with the sort of cheap, young talent every team needs. They have no clear path to replacing star left tackle Andrew Whitworth, whose decline in 2019 has badly affected the offense’s viability. There’s no way for them to draft a top-tier edge rusher to either supplement or replace edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr., who will be tough to retain. A first-round pick would have come in handy to replace Talib or safety Eric Weddle. All of that assumes everything goes right and the Rams don’t ever need or want to replace someone like Goff, Ramsey or Cooks.

This is the sort of move a team makes if it’s one star cornerback away from winning a Super Bowl. The Rams probably think that’s where they are, even after their three-game losing streak. Investing assets on the defensive side of the ball and trusting Sean McVay to figure out the offense makes sense, but it’s a little too late after they spent most of the last two years investing their money in offensive talent. It wouldn’t shock me if Ramsey helped turn around a defense which ranks 31st in Total QBR allowed over the last three weeks, but they realistically have to win a championship for this trade to pay off.

As for the other side of this deal, it’s clear that the Jaguars finally gave in. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan didn’t want to make this deal. After the initial disagreement Ramsey had with coach Doug Marrone and the subsequent disagreement Ramsey had afterward with a member of the Jaguars staff which led to his trade request, Jacksonville publicly supported Ramsey and encouraged him to return to the fold. It was only after Khan met with Ramsey and publicly said Ramsey would play in Week 6 — only for Ramsey to sit out against the Saints — that the team made its move.

There’s no joy in trading away star players. Ramsey was the best player Dave Caldwell selected during his time as general manager. Ramsey was a Florida State product and a building block with the sort of attitude which resonated with fans in the state. Jacksonville’s defense has allowed a passer rating of 81.7 with Ramsey on the field and 89.9 without its stud cornerback since he entered the league. Trading him away gives the Jaguars more financial flexibility as they prepare to re-sign pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, but the chances of these draft picks delivering a player as good as Ramsey are slim. The Rams needed depth, not another star. You might argue the opposite for the Jaguars.

Jacksonville will move forward with Bouye and Tre Herndon at cornerback, with the latter drawing plenty of attention from opposing quarterbacks since taking over for Ramsey. Gardner Minshew has drawn plenty of plaudits since taking over for Nick Foles, but it’s still too early to say anything about his long-term viability. Foles still has more than $21.1 million in practical guarantees remaining on the his current deal with the team, but the Jags now have four first-round picks over the next two years. If they fall in love with a highly regarded quarterback and want to move up, they have as much ammunition to make a deal as any other team in the league outside of Florida.

After committing significant resources via the draft and in free agency to building a dominant defense, the Jaguars can now also reposition and commit more toward finding pieces on the offensive side of the ball around breakout wideout DJ Chark.

I also don’t love the move to simultaneously deal Peters to the Ravens for a fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young, who started three games this season before being benched. Young gives the Rams a backup linebacker with some potential, and Phillips has a track record of turning unproven linebackers into stars, but the legendary defensive coordinator could turn a typical late-round pick into a similarly-impactful contributor.

Selling low on Peters doesn’t do the Rams many favors. It’s hard to figure that he would have been less valuable to the 2019 team than Young and a future fifth-round, especially given Talib’s injury. It’s possible that the Rams were just over the oft-frustrating corner and wanted to move him at whatever cost, but having him on the roster as a third or fourth cornerback seems like it would have been worth it for a team with championship ambitions.



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Source — Titans going with Ryan Tannehill over Marcus Mariota at QB

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel was desperately in need of a spark on offense and has elected to make a change at quarterback, naming Ryan Tannehill the new starter, ESPN has confirmed.

Tuesday’s move, which was first reported by NFL Network, comes after Tannehill, the former Miami Dolphins starting quarterback, was inserted into the lineup in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Vrabel gave Tannehill a chance to make some plays against Denver after Marcus Mariota was ineffective, highlighted by two interceptions.

Tannehill finished with 13 completions for 144 yards on 16 pass attempts. He led the Titans on their only trips into the red zone, but an interception and a turnover on downs kept Tennessee from scoring in a 16-0 loss.

The Titans acquired Tannehill, along with a 2019 sixth-round draft pick, from the Dolphins this offseason in exchange for a for a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft and a seventh-round pick in 2019. Tannehill signed a one-year deal with the Titans worth $7 million with up to $12 million in incentives to facilitate the trade.

While with the Dolphins, Tannehill had a 42-45 record from 2012 to 2018. He missed the 2017 season due to a knee injury. Tannehill has proved in the past that he can put up respectable numbers as a quarterback, passing for over 4,000 yards in both 2014 and 2015.

Although he had been relegated to a backup role, Tannehill never lost the conviction that he can be a successful quarterback.

“I have a ton of confidence in myself. You have to, to play this position. I believe in myself a whole lot,” Tannehill said Monday.

Mariota had been the unquestioned starter over the past three seasons. Moving him out of the lineup is a difficult situation for the Titans players, who are expected to support Tannehill going forward.

“Ryan was an elite QB in this league not longer than a year ago. He can take over a team. He can make plays,” tight end Delanie Walker said Monday.

Added safety Kevin Byard, “It’s a tough situation because I think this entire team is and has always been behind No. 8. As long as we’ve been here, that’s been my guy. I support him throughout everything. But that’s a coach’s decision. If they feel like No. 17 can give us the best opportunity to win ball games, I understand they’ll make the decision they feel is best for our team.”

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Jaguars send Jalen Ramsey to Rams for pair of 1st-rounders

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jalen Ramsey got what he wanted, and so did the Jacksonville Jaguars.

As a result, the disgruntled cornerback is headed to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Jaguars on Tuesday sent Ramsey to the West Coast for first-round draft picks in 2020 and ’21, and a fourth-rounder in 2021, the teams announced. Ramsey joins two former Jaguars on the Rams in defensive end Dante Fowler and quarterback Blake Bortles — all three were taken with top-five draft picks from 2014 to ’16.

The move fills major holes in the secondary for a Rams team coming off an NFC title but losers of three straight games to fall to .500 on the season.

Los Angeles on Monday put starting cornerback Aqib Talib on injured reserve with a rib injury. On Tuesday, it agreed to trade Pro Bowl corner Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens for linebacker Kenny Young and an undisclosed 2020 draft pick.

The Ramsey trade comes less than a week after Jaguars owner Shad Khan had what he described as a “heart-to-heart” meeting with the cornerback and two weeks after Khan told the Associated Press he didn’t want to deal the two-time Pro Bowler.

The Rams’ offer apparently was enough to change his mind.

Ramsey asked to be traded after Jaguars vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin scolded him for his actions during the team’s 13-12 Week 2 loss at Houston. Ramsey got into a sideline shouting match with Doug Marrone after the Jaguars coach refused Ramsey’s request to challenge a completion to DeAndre Hopkins.

Ramsey played against Tennessee the following Thursday but did not practice on the ensuing Monday because of an illness. He also missed that Wednesday’s practice with a back injury. Marrone said he didn’t know when Ramsey suffered the injury, but three hours later the team released a statement saying Ramsey actually did report back soreness to the team’s medical staff during the fourth quarter of the game against the Titans.

Later that day the team announced that Ramsey would return to his hometown for the impending birth of his second child.

Ramsey was inactive for the past three games because of the back injury, which snapped a streak of 51 consecutive starts that dated to when the Jaguars selected him fifth overall in 2016. Ramsey has nine interceptions and 45 pass breakups in his three-plus seasons.

The 24-year-old Ramsey is in the fourth season of his five-year rookie deal. He arrived at training camp in July in an armored bank truck, undoubtedly a not-so-subtle move in search of a raise.

A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Rams and Ramsey do not have any type of new deal in place, and that the cornerback in not in a rush to get one done.

After the deal, the Rams moved from 60-1 to 50-1 to win the Super Bowl and 25-1 to 20-1 to win the NFC at Caesars Sportsbook.

The Rams have lost three straight games, allowing the second-highest total QBR during that span (81.6, only behind the 82.0 of the Falcons).

Ramsey should help.

From 2016 to ’18, he recorded the fourth-most pass breakups in the league. And according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he has the fourth-lowest completion percentage allowed as the nearest defender since his rookie year in 2016 (minimum 200 targets).

But the move comes at a cost for Los Angeles.

The Rams haven’t had a first-round pick since selecting quarterback Jared Goff first overall in 2016. They currently don’t own another first-rounder until 2022.

Information from ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry and David Purdum was used in this report.

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