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Everything is on table with QB spot

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears‘ never-ending search for a franchise quarterback could have another chapter after general manager Ryan Pace declined to say that the team intends to re-sign former second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky.

“As far as the plan at quarterback, to get to where we want to go, we definitely need more out of that position,” Pace said Wednesday after he and coach Matt Nagy were given a vote of confidence.

“Everything is on the table.”

Trubisky’s future in Chicago has been tenuous ever since the Bears traded for veteran Nick Foles last April and declined Trubisky’s fifth-year option a little over a month later.

Trubisky went on to win the starting job over Foles to open the season, but Nagy benched the 26-year old quarterback in favor of Foles in Week 3.

An injury to Foles — coupled with ineffective play — opened the door for Trubisky to return to the starting lineup in late November and he helped Chicago revive its playoff hopes with three straight wins versus Houston, Minnesota and Jacksonville.

The momentary spark Trubisky provided on offense proved fleeting. The Bears lost at home in Week 17 to Green Bay. Chicago backed into the playoffs and the NFC’s seventh seed courtesy of the Rams victory over the Cardinals in the regular season finale but then had a dreadful offensive performance in the playoffs versus the Saints.

Overall, the Bears dropped eight of their final 11 games after they began the year 5-1.

Chicago went 1-7 against playoff teams.

Still, Trubisky expressed a willingness to return to Chicago next season, telling reporters in the aftermath of the season-ending loss to New Orleans that he had, “unfinished business” with the team.

That may be so, but the Bears made no promises on Wednesday to extend Trubisky, or apply the franchise tag. Instead, Pace and Nagy spoke at length about the importance of improving the position that has been a problem for the Bears since Hall of Famer Sid Luckman retired in the 1940’s.

In recent times, Pace infamously traded up to draft Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017. Mere weeks prior to obtaining Trubisky, the Bears signed free-agent quarterback Mike Glennon to a deal that included $18.5 million in guarantees. The Bears pulled the plug on Glennon after just four starts and were forced to prematurely usher in the Trubisky era.

“Why do we feel strong about getting that position right?” Pace said. “It goes back to the connected vision I share with Matt.

“I just have a lot of confidence in the unity we have as coaching staff and personnel department, but mainly that Matt and I have at attacking that together.”

Foles is the only Bears quarterback under contract for next year. The 31-year old veteran will count approximately $6.6 million against the 2021 salary cap.

In other news:

–Pace said star pass rusher Khalil Mack is unlikely to require offseason surgery to repair the shoulder injury that bothered him much of the year. Mack still led the Bears with nine sacks.

–The Bears are hopeful veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn can have a bounce back season in 2021. Quinn, who signed a deal last offseason that contained $30 million in guarantees, recorded just two sacks for the Bears. Pace all but conceded that Quinn will return in 2021 — largely because his salary next year is fully guaranteed.

“We expect him to rebound,” Pace said. “I think having an offseason being with us, I think that will bode well for him. Together with him and with us and our plan, we have to find a way to help him get more production and I believe that he will.”

–Nagy announced that the search to replace retiring defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will begin in earnest. Nagy does not believe Chicago’s current predicament will prevent outside parties from having interest in the position. Nagy has two years left on the five-year contract he received to coach the Bears. Pace has one year left on the three-year extension he signed in 2018. Bears CEO and president Ted Philips said neither Nagy nor Pace received any additional years on their contracts following Chicago’s 8-9 finish.

–Pace remained non-committal about the future of wide receiver Allen Robinson, who will be a free agent unless the Bears use the franchise tag. The Bears and Robinson’s agent were unable to come to terms on a long-term deal during the season and talks eventually broke off. Robinson, 27, led the team with 102 catches for 1,250 yards.

“You know how we feel about Allen, how respected he is in the building,” Pace said. “But to get into specifics on his contract, you guys also know I’m not going to get into that. In regard to the franchise tag, I would just say everything is on the table. The league gives us tools for a reason but right now we’re just going to keep all those talks internal out of respect to Allen, out of respect to his agent. I just think those are best handled in a private manner.”

–Nagy punted when asked whether he intended to reclaim offensive play-calling duties next season. Nagy insisted that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor served as the team’s primary play caller for the final eight games. Nagy, however, declined to say if he plans to carry over the arrangement into next year.

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Baltimore Ravens won’t back down from blitz against Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens don’t intend to change their blitz-heavy ways against Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who was among the best at handling pressure this season.

Heading into Saturday’s AFC divisional game, the Ravens have blitzed an NFL-high 41% of the time. Allen has thrived against the blitz, throwing a league-high 19 touchdown passes against pressure.

For some defenses, this could be cause for concern — but apparently not for Baltimore.

“He knows that there is going to be pressure, that’s for sure,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Wednesday. “That’s who we are. That’s what we’ve done.”

Allen was named to his first Pro Bowl this season after becoming the first quarterback to surpass 4,500 yards passing, 35 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns in a single season. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, Allen has the ability to shake off pass-rushers and beat defenses with deep downfield passes.

In discussing Allen with his defensive coaching staff, Martindale described the challenge of facing the quarterback like this: “He’s a young Ben Roethlisberger because of his size and how he extends plays with [Dan] Marino’s arm.”

Allen had one of the worst games of his three-year career against Baltimore in December 2019, when the Bills lost to the Ravens 24-17. He was held to the second-lowest completion rate of his career (43.6%) on 17-of-39 passing and was sacked six times.

But Martindale raved about Allen’s improvement since that last matchup. Allen increased his accuracy dramatically this season, going from a 58.8% completion rate in 2019 to 69.2% this season.

“Usually when you evaluate a quarterback and he’s not accurate, it’s hard for them to shed that tag,” Martindale said. “What he’s done in the offseason and what he’s done this year is amazing to see. It’s accuracy on the move. It’s accuracy out of the pocket. Everything he’s done, he’s become more accurate with it.”

The difficulty with Allen is he can beat you with his legs and his arm. Allen has led the Bills in rushing in both of his playoff games. The only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to lead their teams in rushing in three straight postseason games are Steve Young and Lamar Jackson.

A week after holding rushing champion Derrick Henry to a season-low 40 yards, Martindale said it is going to take a similar physical effort to slow down Allen.

“To me, tackling him … you better throw big bodies at him because he’s a big body,” Martindale said. “I told the defense earlier: ‘We need to tackle him like you tackle Henry because that’s the way he runs.’ He’s a tough challenge that we have.”

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Denver Broncos reach deal with Minnesota Vikings’ George Paton to be GM

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway and the Denver Broncos wanted George Paton to be the team’s new general manager so much, Paton was given a longer deal than Elway ever had in the same job.

Paton, who has spent the last 13 years with the Minnesota Vikings, has agreed to a six-year deal to be the Broncos’ general manager, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Broncos announced Paton’s hiring but did not disclose terms.

Paton had spent most of Tuesday in Denver for what was a second interview for him with team officials, and had returned to Minnesota Tuesday night.

Elway had promised to find the “best candidate, the best person” for the job. The Broncos also interviewed New Orleans Saints assistant general manager Terry Fotenot, Chicago Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, the New England Patriots‘ Dave Ziegler and the Broncos’ director of college scouting Brian Stark.

“Early in this process, it became clear why George has been such a coveted GM candidate for so many years. He is a proven evaluator who knows every detail of leading football operations. With his experience in all aspects of the job — the college and pro sides, salary cap, trades, working with the head coach and bringing the staff together — George is more than ready to succeed in this role,” Elway said in a statement. “George has waited and worked for the right opportunity, which shows that he is smart and serious about winning. We’re thrilled to name George Paton as general manager of the Denver Broncos.”

Paton and Fotenot, who did his interview virtually because the Saints are still in the playoffs, were each interviewed a second time Tuesday.

Elway, who has been the Broncos’ top football decision maker since 2011, announced last week he was stepping away from the day-to-day personal operations, but would remain as president of football operations at least through the final year of his current contract.

Elway also said last week he didn’t think the team’s current ownership battle between Pat Bowlen’s children would impact the Broncos’ ability to secure what he believed would be a top candidate. Paton’s six-year deal would likely bridge any potential change in the team’s ownership in the coming years.

Paton has control over the team’s roster, free agency and the draft. The Broncos have missed the playoffs in five consecutive seasons since the Super Bowl 50 win and finished this past season 5-11.

The team faces contract option decisions on linebacker Von Miller and Kareem Jackson and Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons is scheduled to be among the team’s unrestricted free agents. A decision about the plan at quarterback also is among the front-burner issues for the Broncos.

The team has one of the youngest rosters in the league, enough salary cap room to participate in the open market and Elway and team president and CEO Joe Ellis each promised in recent days the new general manager would have “the resources” to make improvements.

“In many ways, I feel like this team is a sleeping giant. For me, it is the right place and the right time for this opportunity,” Paton said in a statement. “… While it is difficult to leave the Vikings, the relationships I enjoyed in Minnesota are for life.

Paton added: “… Drafting and developing players is the No. 1 priority. We will be aggressive — but not reckless — in adding talent to our roster.”

Paton has been particularly selective with general manager openings over the years. Last year following Kevin Stefanski’s departure for Cleveland, Paton was a finalist for the Cleveland Browns‘ general manager position but pulled his name from contention on Jan. 24, 2020, two days after he visited for an in-person interview.

Paton was also sought after for openings with Detroit — this cycle and previously when the Detroit Lions hired former GM Bob Quinn — Green Bay, San Francisco, the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Jets.

Paton is widely considered among the top talent evaluators on the Vikings’ personnel staff and his exit leaves Minnesota with a big void in the front office. Ryan Monnens, the current director of pro scouting, could be in line to replace Paton this offseason.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin contributed to this report.

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Tom Brady-Drew Brees ‘History’ meme evolves, gets Frank Caliendo treatment – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tom Brady meme team struck again this week. Thanks to a suggestion from Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, it’s getting the narration treatment it deserves.

It started out as a tweet from former MLB third baseman Danny Valencia on Monday, where he said, “Every future @TomBrady game should be on the history channel.”

Valencia’s tweet got the attention of Brady’s social media team, who earlier this year superimposed LeBron James’ face on Brady’s body after James won his fourth NBA title, with Brady also poking fun at himself for his infamous fourth-down gaffe against the Chicago Bears.

Brady’s team responded Monday night with age progression photos of himself and Drew Brees with the date of Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game and a History Channel logo. In it, Brady channels Charlton Heston as Moses from “The Ten Commandments.”

But it didn’t end there.

Gronkowski got involved, which blew the lid off things. The next day, Gronk suggested that Morgan Freeman narrate it. Wise choice, since Freeman has experience with Biblical works, such as the TV series “The Story of God.”

While Freeman hasn’t responded yet, a certain comedian legendary for his impersonations did: Frank Caliendo, whose most famous bit is still and probably will always be his rendition of current Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.

Which leads us here: Caliendo pretending to be Freeman in what a History Channel Brady-Brees matchup would look like Sunday. It will be the first meeting between 40-plus-year-old quarterbacks in NFL postseason history.



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