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Green Bay Packers reach one-year deal with veteran QB Blake Bortles, source says

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers are signing veteran quarterback Blake Bortles to a one-year contract, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday, making him the first addition at the position since the news of Aaron Rodgers‘ unhappiness with the organization broke last month.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the two are related. The Packers had only two quarterbacks on their roster: Rodgers and 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love.

The Packers have two quarterbacks coming in for this weekend’s rookie minicamp on a tryout basis: journeymen Chad Kelly and Kurt Benkert.

The Packers picked Bortles, 29, in part because of his connection to their offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett. The two were together with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2015-18. Hackett was Bortles’ position coach in 2015-16 and his offensive coordinator from 2016-18. Together, they reached the AFC Championship Game following the 2017 season. Hackett joined the Packers when Matt LaFleur was hired as head coach in 2019.

Bortles, the third pick in the 2014 NFL draft, last played in a regular-season game during the 2019 season with the Los Angeles Rams. He had stints with the Broncos and Rams last season as a backup and also spent time on Denver’s practice squad.

The Packers did not draft a quarterback this year and did not sign a rookie as part of their initial undrafted free-agent class. The Packers did not tender last year’s backup, Tim Boyle, as a restricted free agent, and Boyle signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal with the Detroit Lions. Love was the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback last season and was inactive for every game.

“We’ll add a third arm and maybe a fourth arm as we go through,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said after the draft. “We’ve kind of had some conversations before the draft with some veterans and then there’s some rookie guys we’re looking at, as well. So, but yeah, we would never go into camp with two. We’ll at least have three and possibly four.”

Rodgers, 37, has not participated in the offseason program, which has been virtual since April 19. The Packers begin organized team activities (OTAs) on May 24 and unless the situation with Rodgers is resolved to his liking, it’s unlikely he will report for the voluntary workouts. The only mandatory offseason activity is the June 8-10 minicamp.

Bortles has 73 career starts and a 24-49 record. He has a career completion percentage of 59.3% with 103 touchdowns and 75 interceptions.

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‘I don’t feel valued, or respected’

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Making the case he has outperformed his contract, Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard said in a statement Tuesday night that he has requested a trade.

“I don’t feel valued, or respected, by the Dolphins,” Howard said. “Just like they can take a business-first approach, so can I.”

Howard reported to training camp Tuesday but was frustrated all summer that Miami would not adjust his contract.

In 2019, Howard signed a five-year, $75 million deal that, at the time, made him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. But he is due $12 million in non-guaranteed money this year while coming off a 10-interception season (the most in the NFL since 2007) that earned him an All-Pro nod.

Howard’s contract now ranks sixth in per-year average, and he switched agents recently to navigate his push for a stronger deal.

“I’m one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and the tape backs up that claim,” Howard said. “Yet, I’m the second highest paid cornerback on my own team, and it’s not even close.”

Byron Jones, the corner opposite Howard, earned a five-year, $82.5 million deal in free agency last year.

Howard and his new agent, David Canter, never requested a new deal but instead offered solutions such as more guaranteed money on a reworked contract, Howard said. The organization refused those pitches, and “I don’t feel the organization has dealt with me in good faith,” the cornerback said.

“That’s why I want to make it clear I’m not happy, and have requested a trade,” Howard said. “Until that trade happens I am just here so I don’t get fined, and will handle myself like professionals do.”

Howard has what teams covet: the ability to play press-man coverage and get the ball. He has 22 interceptions and 55 pass deflections since entering the league out of Baylor in 2016. Only the Baltimore RavensMarcus Peters (23) has more picks during that span.

The last time Miami traded an elite player, it acquired two first-round picks in exchange for left tackle Laremy Tunsil in 2019.

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‘Ball’s in his court’: Larry Fitzgerald missed on first day of Cardinals’ camp – Arizona Cardinals Blog

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds walked to his room at the Renaissance Hotel in Glendale on Tuesday to prepare for the first day of training camp, he noticed he had the same accommodations as the last couple seasons.

But something was missing this year.

In the past, Larry Fitzgerald‘s room was near Edmonds’ — but not this camp. Someone else is occupying that room.

For the first time since 2004, when he was negotiating his rookie contract, Fitzgerald wasn’t at the first day of Cardinals’ training camp. The 37-year-old is a free agent and hasn’t publicly announced his plans for the near future: Come back and play an 18th season — with the Cardinals or someone else — or retire.

“Ball’s in his court,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We’ve left it in his court. He’s earned that. That’s how we felt as an organization. And so that’s where it’s at.”

His absence was felt Tuesday by those Cardinals who played alongside Fitzgerald in the past.

Fellow wide receiver Christian Kirk sat down at his locker inside State Farm Stadium on Tuesday morning to prepare for the annual conditioning test that kicks off camp, and for the first time in his young career Fitzgerald wasn’t next to him.

“It definitely feels weird without him,” said Kirk, who was Fitzgerald’s teammate from 2018 to 2020. “There’s definitely going to be a little bit of an adjustment period for me.

“He’s been around here, a part of this organization for so long, not having him here on the first day is a little weird.”

The reality of that hasn’t sunk in for Kirk.

“I’m not sure I really had time to you know really process that,” Kirk said. “The immediate reaction to it, it’s just a missing face, something that is so constant.”

Kirk has missed Fitzgerald’s attitude and personality this offseason from his humor to how he flips the proverbial switch to being serious on the field.

Edmonds was going to send a text message to the group chat he’s in with former teammate Trent Sherfield, Fitzgerald and Kirk with a simple message: “We miss you.”

Questions about Fitzgerald’s playing future have been the hot topic during the past five offseasons. Not knowing which season was going to be Fitzgerald’s last led Kirk to being more appreciative of Fitzgerald.

“Because you never knew going into a new year with him if he’s gonna retire or if he’s not — never to take any moment around him for granted,” Kirk said. “And I always made sure to cherish whether it was the last game, last practice, last time sitting down eating dinner, whatever it was, just to make sure I cherish those moments.”

However, the Cardinals aren’t closing the door just yet on the Larry Fitzgerald Era.

Kingsbury said the organization has a plan ready regardless of what Fitzgerald decides. Either way, there’ll be a few major decisions about the makeup of the Cardinals’ receiving room, one that currently includes DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella. Tuesday wasn’t the time to discuss that — and, anyway, Kirk said he doesn’t get paid to make those decision.

Both Kirk and Edmonds said Tuesday that they haven’t asked Fitzgerald what his plans are for 2021. Kirk wasn’t surprised that Fitzgerald has handled his playing future like this. Edmonds called Fitzgerald a “grown man” who’s “been around the block a few times.”

That didn’t stop the question from being asked to Kirk: Is Fitzgerald coming back or not?

“That’s the million dollar question.”

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NFL training camp – Cardinals’ J.J. Watt, Jets’ Mekhi Becton, among stars reporting for duty

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More players began arriving for 2021 NFL training camp across the league Tuesday with some new faces in new places, including defensive lineman J.J. Watt reporting for duty with the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 draft pick in 2021, arriving for his first media session of camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In Baltimore, quarterback Lamar Jackson said he wants a new jersey number — but not until he earns it. The New York Jets were missing the face everyone wants to see as the team tries to hammer out a contract with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, but second-year left tackle Mekhi Becton arrived for camp at his target weight and looking ready to start the season. And the Washington Football Team rewarded journeyman tight end Logan Thomas with a new contract after he produced 72 catches last season.

Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league:

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Lamar Jackson wants a ring, then a new jersey number
The Baltimore Ravens quarterback said he has a personal reason to change his jersey number, although he has to achieve something in order to make the switch. “If we win the Super Bowl, I’m going to No. 1,” he said. “I want the No. 1. That’s my first number ever. My dad told me, ‘Get No. 1 because that’s the best. You’re the best.’ And it always stuck with me.”

Jets open camp without No. 2 pick Zach Wilson
There is more than the usual sense of urgency to resolve the contract dispute because Wilson, drafted at No. 2 in 2021, is the presumptive starting quarterback. The Jets have no veterans on the roster at the position, only James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has regular-season experience.

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Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who is in “very good shape” according to GM Ryan Pace, is expected to practice on Wednesday after he missed the entire offseason program — and mandatory minicamp — for undisclosed reasons. Goldman also opted out of the 2020 season for COVID 19-related reasons. His return to anchor the middle of the Bears’ defensive line would be a major boost for first-year coordinator Sean Desai, who takes over a group that finished just outside the top-10 in total yards allowed last season. — Jeff Dickerson

Quarterback Sam Darnold, who said in early June that he had not been vaccinated for COVID-19, declined to say on Tuesday as players reported to camp at Wofford College whether that had changed. Running back Christian McCaffrey took a similar stance, saying it was personal. But both were not wearing masks as they did group interviews without the required social distancing for non-vaccinated players. That’s a good indication they are among the at least 85 percent, according to a league source, on the team who have been vaccinated. — David Newton

Coach Jon Gruden addressed the media in a face-to-face conference for the first time since January of 2020 and said every Raiders player had reported to camp and hit their respective playing weights. He also reiterated that his entire staff was vaccinated, adding that every player was as well, “with the exception of about four or five guys. So, we’re proud of that.” — Paul Gutierrez



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