NFL Training-Camp Buzz Roundup: Josh Allen Gets His Bag, Resets QB MarketAugust 6, 2021
NFL Training-Camp Buzz Roundup: Josh Allen Gets His Bag, Resets QB Market
Every day, a player gets better or worse. He never stays the same. The adage rings true for his situation as well.
In the case of Josh Allen, his situation drastically improved when he agreed to a long-term contract extension with the Buffalo Bills.
The Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson should be grinning ear to ear as well. The team finally cleared him to practice, and his value significantly increased in one fell swoop.
On the flip side, discontentment began bubbling to the surface among multiple squads as the first full week of training camps winds its way to a close.
The Miami Dolphins and cornerback Xavien Howard continue their contract standoff, with the organization not willing to budge. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a wide receiver ready to move on after he asked for a trade. The New York Giants continue to lose players. And the Chicago Bears offensive line is in disarray.
Each of these predicaments plus more highlight Friday's top stories from NFL training camps.
Bills Lock Up QB Josh Allen with Long-Term Extension
The Buffalo Bills finally have their guy. Most already knew this after quarterback Josh Allen put together his finest season to date in 2020, finishing second in NFL MVP voting. The organization made it official when the two sides came to an agreement Friday on a six-year extension worth $258 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted, the new deal includes $150 million in guarantees and $100 million at signing. Both totals are the highest in NFL history.
The two sides reached an agreement four days after general manager Brandon Beane told reporters no negotiations will take place during the regular season.
"So it's just being able to get on the same page where they can give us some things that we need on our end that allow us the flexibility with our cap amongst other things and then us being able to give them some things that would be very important to Josh," Beane told the Howard and Jeremy Show (h/t Ryan Talbot of Syracuse.com). "Those are how you get deals done when you can do that."
Allen leveled up last fall. He finished top-five in completion percentage, passing yards, yards per attempt, passing touchdowns, QBR and passer rating. He also led the Bills with eight rushing touchdowns.
The 2018 seventh overall pick worked meticulously to improve his mechanics and technique.
"Somebody who is really athletic and can learn the correct movement patterns and develop them really quick and turn them into muscle memory, I totally think you can get way more accurate," Jordan Palmer, who serves as Allen's personal quarterback coach, told The Athletic's Bruce Feldman when asked about the second-team All-Pro's improvement from a 58.8 completion percentage in 2019 to 69.2 last fall.
In Allen's case, he worked on not over-striding and playing with better balance. The results are obvious. Allen is now the franchise's first long-term solution under center since Jim Kelly donned the blue and red from 1986 to '96.
Dolphins Don't Want to Trade CB Xavien Howard
Cornerback Xavien Howard understands his value, and he wants the Miami Dolphins to recognize his contributions.
"I don't feel valued, or respected by the Dolphins," Howard wrote on Instagram. "Just like they can take a business-first approach, so can I."
However, the Dolphins aren't eager to trade the first-team All-Pro despite Howard's contract demands and previous trade request.
"We don't want to trade X. Write that down," head coach Brian Flores told reporters Friday. "He's a very good player. He's a big part of the team. We don't want to trade him."
The coach also noted the team is working to get a deal done.
"Talks are progressing. You take from that what you want," Flores added. "As long as everyone is willing to compromise, we can get something done."
The crux of Howard's grievance stems from a deal he signed two years ago that's no longer reflective of his standing. The cornerback led the NFL last season with 10 interceptions and 20 pass breakups. He's one of the league's best pure cover corners. Yet he'll make the 12th-most among cornerbacks in actual salary this fall. He's not even the highest-paid defensive back on his own team. Byron Jones is.
In his Instagram post, Howard explained he hasn't asked for a new contract. His representation suggested guaranteeing more money or tweaking his current deal.
"It's up to them," Howard said last Saturday.
If it's really up to the Dolphins (and it is), don't expect a trade.
Steelers WR James Washington Requests Trade
James Washington sees the writing on the wall. The wide receiver is fourth or fifth on the Pittsburgh Steelers depth chart as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
After a lackluster start to the preseason Thursday, when Pittsburgh's backup quarterbacks targeted Washington only twice, the 25-year-old chose to take decisive action. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Washington requested a trade.
His pathway to increased playing time would involve some kind of injury since the Steelers are set with their top three wide receivers: Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson.
Ray-Ray McCloud opened Thursday's Hall of Fame Game as a starter alongside Claypool and Johnson. (Smith-Schuster didn't play).
Washington performed relatively well in 2019 considering the circumstances. Even with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missing most of the season with an elbow injury, the wide receiver managed 44 receptions for a team-leading 735 yards. But his production and usage declined last season.
Pittsburgh clearly has depth. By granting Washington his wish, the Steelers can gain an asset now, as he's likely to sign elsewhere as a free agent next offseason. The Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints are two examples of teams in immediate need of wide receiver help. Some squad should be willing to flip a future draft pick for Washington's services, and the Steelers should take advantage.
Baltimore Ravens Activate QB Lamar Jackson
Friday turned out to be a significant day for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
First, the Ravens announced his activation from the reserve/COVID-19 list, though he's yet to practice. He hasn't been on the field since July 27 and has missed eight consecutive practices.
"It's no different than if somebody gets an injury—you tweak an ankle, and you're out for some number of days," head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after Jackson initially tested positive for the coronavirus. "It's just part of football. To me, whenever you have a problem or whenever something comes up like that, you embrace it and you almost kind of rejoice in it because it's an opportunity to improve somewhere else."
Jackson's absence allowed the Ravens to test their backup options, Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley.
"It's just a good opportunity for us to get a couple more reps, just learn the different aspects of being out there with the first team and everything. It’s just a good opportunity right now," Huntley said.
More good news came whenever Jackson heard about Josh Allen's contract extension with an average annual value of $43 million. The Ravens quarterback now has a baseline during his negotiations with Baltimore's front office.
As good as Allen was in 2020, Jackson has been better throughout his career.
The 24-year-old was the 2019 league MVP and led the league in passing touchdowns that year. He also helped orchestrate the most prolific rushing attack in NFL history, and his team has made the playoffs in each of his three seasons. Some may scoff at the idea of Jackson demanding more than Allen received, yet Baltimore already made a commitment to build around its quarterback and has seen plenty of success.
Once Jackson officially returns to the field, the dynamic dual-threat signal-caller will once again elevate the play of those around him as the Ravens enter a season with lofty expectations.
Trey Lance Will Play for 49ers Sooner Rather Than Later
Cracks seemingly continue to appear in the facade San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan created when he named veteran Jimmy Garoppolo as QB1 before the team even took the field for training camp.
Shanahan has already said this year's third overall draft pick, Trey Lance, will see some action this fall.
First, the coach said Friday that the rookie will get reps with the first-team offense throughout camp, per KNBR's Jake Hutchinson, though he noted there's no open quarterback competition.
Shanahan also said the staff will put together certain sub-packages for Lance to contribute in his first season.
"Trey's going to play this year," the coach told reporters. "I know everyone's now gonna rush to Twitter, but situationally he's going to play. Doesn't mean he's going to start, but he'll get plays."
San Francisco can try to stem the tide all day long, but no one can deny how well Lance has performed in his first training camp. He could force the team's hand despite Garoppolo not technically losing the job.
"Jimmy is playing lights-out. And it still may not be enough," NFL Network's Michael Silver reported. "Lance is learning more quickly than anyone could have reasonably expected."
Lance's emergence as the 49ers' starting quarterback only seems to be a matter of time, with the possibility of him taking over at some point before the start of the 2021 campaign.
Yet Another Giants Chooses Retirement Rather Than Continue Through Camp
The New York Giants are running the toughest camp of any NFL team.
Don't believe it?
Three veterans already chose to retire this week rather than finish football's dog days. Guard Zach Fulton informed the team of his decision Thursday night, according to Newsday's Tom Rock.
Fulton joined linebacker Todd Davis and fellow offensive lineman Joe Looney. Head coach Joe Judge discussed the situation with reporters Friday:
"These are tough decisions on guys. As you get vets later in their career, they started training camp, it's not uncommon for this to happen. Now, you don't want it to happen, but you have to respect the decision each person makes for their family. I'd say in both these cases, not to speak for the players, but both of them had family situations that they had to attend to, and that was a large part of the decision."
At least one Giant seemingly acknowledged the difficulty of Judge's practices.
"If you don't like it, then you're welcome to leave," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said Wednesday.
From the outside, Giants camp seems to be run more like a high school program in which coaches attempt to weed out those who can't cut it. But these are professionals who could have actually helped the team.
The loss of Fulton and Looney could be particularly tough since both added significant experience—132 combined starts—to an already suspect offensive front. The starting interior is relatively set with Shane Lemieux at left guard, Nick Gates at center and Will Hernandez and Kenny Wiggins competing for the final guard spot. However, depth is now a major concern.
Bears Rookie Tackles Out with Injuries
The Chicago Bears' offensive tackle depth is depleted because of injuries.
Fifth-round rookie Larry Borom is the latest to join those on the sideline, including Germain Ifedi, James Daniels, Elijah Wilkinson and Badara Traore. Head coach Matt Nagy noted Friday that Borom is in the concussion protocol, per 670 The Score's Chris Emma. Second-rounder Teven Jenkins, meanwhile, has continued to miss practice with back tightness. He has now missed eight straight practices.
Chicago did the right thing by investing in the offensive line after trading up to No. 11 for quarterback Justin Fields. Whoever is under center needs to establish some kind of comfort level, but it's especially true when a rookie is expected to take the reins at some point.
Jenkins is the team's present and future at left tackle. Yet he only started one game as the blindside protector for the Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2020. The first-year blocker needs reps to acclimate himself to his non-dominant side. Furthermore, a source informed the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs that Jenkins did suffer a lumbar strain last season.
"We want to get him going," Nagy told reporters Tuesday. "But we want to be smart with it, which is kind of what we're doing right now. Seeing him out there yesterday in the afternoon working through some things with [athletic trainer Andre Tucker] was good. The sooner the better for us. We know every rep counts. He's a rookie. He hasn’t been out there yet."
The amount of practice snaps Jenkins has missed can't be dismissed. He could experience a rough start to his career. Meanwhile, Borom had been given the opportunity to run with the first team with incumbent right tackle Ifedi (hip flexor) on the physically unable to perform list.
The Bears should be excited about Fields, but whoever starts at quarterback might face a barrage of defenders at the start of the 2021 campaign.
Jadeveon Clowney Finds a Home in Cleveland
For years, Jadeveon Clowney had to hear about his lack of sack production. He endured multiple injuries. He bounced from team to team. His lone year with the Tennessee Titans became a lost 2020 season. The 2014 first overall pick never seemed to realize his full potential despite oozing upside.
Cleveland just may be the perfect landing spot to see a fully realized Clowney.
The Browns already feature one of the game's best defenders. In fact, those within the league rank Myles Garrett as the NFL's best edge-rusher, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Last year, Clowney was reportedly hesitant to sign with the Browns, but the 28-year-old defensive end explained why he's ready to take off this season alongside Garrett and defensive tackle Malik Jackson, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
“I always say you have to have someone opposite you to be great, but I also think the last couple years, you have to have someone beside you to be great. The D tackles are a big presence. You can have guys run the circle, but if you don't have that middle pressure, you aren’t going to do anything. He’s going to step up and make the pass, anyway. It’s not just about me and Myles. It’s about the guys in the middle to bring that pressure every day like Malik Jackson."
The talent between Clowney and Garrett is something special. The two also struck up a friendship and have played well off each another.
"When I got to talk to him, it was like we were just cool automatically," Clowney said. "It wasn't anything crazy. It was just a relationship that we were just building. It was like: 'What is up, brother? Let's get this thing going.'"
If Clowney can't succeed in Cleveland, where he's not the primary edge threat and is surrounded by other talents, it's unlikely he will become the player everyone envisioned when he came out of South Carolina.