The Philadelphia Eagles have boosted their defense with the signing of cornerback James Bradberry on a one-year deal.

Bradberry arrives on a deal reportedly worth $10million following his release by the New York Giants, who let him go for salary cap relief.

A Pro Bowler in 2020, Bradberry has delivered consistent production across his NFL career.

His 2020 season with the Giants saw him record 18 pass breakups and three interceptions, and he followed that up with 17 breakups and four picks in 2021, despite the Giants finishing bottom of the NFC East with a 4-13 record.

Only J.C. Jackson (37) and Xavien Howard (36) have registered more breakups than Bradberry's tally of 35 over the past two seasons.

He will now form what looks an imposing starting cornerback partnership with Darius Slay.

Since 2016, Slay and Bradberry are the only two players in the NFL to register at least 15 interceptions and 80 or more pass breakups.

Having excelled on a struggling Giants team, the Eagles will hope Bradberry can continue to thrive on a defense that was the eighth-best in opponent yards per play allowed in 2021 as they look to take the next step following last season's Wild Card round exit.

While quarterback-needy teams grappled with the decision over whether to bet on a member of an underwhelming 2022 draft class at the position, those teams who were astute enough to select a signal-caller from the loaded 2021 class spent their offseasons attempting to stack the deck around the player they handpicked as the future of the franchise.

The 2022 season will be a significant one for Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, with questions sure to be asked of the five first-round picks if they do not show signs of vindicating their respective franchises for selecting them last year.

Jones arguably already proved himself as the most pro-ready QB of the quintet in an impressive rookie campaign, but 2022 may well reveal how high the ceiling is for the least physically gifted of the bunch. The rest are all aiming to prove they have the skill sets to join the league's expanding and increasingly youthful elite at the NFL's most important position. 

Indeed, the first four quarterbacks off the board in 2021 were all regarded as players with the potential to elevate those around them and take their offenses to new heights. But a quarterback, regardless of his athletic and mental gifts, cannot do it all himself. So who among the 2021 first-rounders has the best supporting cast to help them excel?

To help us answer that question, we at Stats Perform have gone back to look at our post-free agency positional unit baselines that inform our team rankings.

The baselines were produced for seven different units: quarterback, pass blocking, run blocking, route runners/pass catchers, pass rush, run defense and pass defense. The units are comprised of projected playing time for players on the roster combined with the player baselines linked to each of those units.

An individual player has a year-over-year baseline for a unit input (i.e. pass blocking for a team's projected left tackle). His baseline is combined with those of his team-mates and then adjusted for the importance of the position to that unit to produce an overall unit baseline.

The six non-quarterback baselines, plus a look at some of the moves made in the draft by each quarterback's respective team, provide a picture that reveals which of the second-year signal-callers have the talent around them to thrive.

5. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Even though the numbers are not impressive, there were clear flashes of promise in Fields' rookie season with the Bears.

While he only finished with a 70.9 well-thrown percentage – seven percentage points below the average for quarterbacks with at least 50 throws – and had a pickable pass rate of 5.36 per cent that was the eighth-worst among that group, Fields did display the upside that led the Bears to trade up for him.

Only two quarterbacks averaged more air yards per attempt than Fields' 10.02 and his three passing plays of 50 yards or more were the most of all rookie quarterbacks and as many as Josh Allen and Justin Herbert managed all season.

You would think, therefore, that the Bears' focus this offseason would be on giving Fields the weapons to produce further explosive plays in 2022. Not so, the Bears waited until the third round to add a wide receiver in the draft – 25-year-old return specialist Velus Jones Jr.

The Bears' reluctance to add to a group of pass-catchers that prior to the draft had the sixth-lowest unit baseline in the NFL hardly suggests at a sophomore surge for Fields in 2022.

And with Chicago's offensive line among the worst in the league for pass protection and run-blocking baseline and its defense in the bottom six for pass defense and bottom three for pass rush, it appears likely to be another year when Fields is swimming against a tide engineered by his own franchise.

4. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Simply having an adult in the room with experience of winning at the NFL level should help Lawrence's cause, with Doug Pederson a substantial improvement on Urban Meyer as head coach.

As is the case with Fields in Chicago, Pederson will hope Lwrence can build on last season's flashes of the talent that led some to label him as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012. Lawrence's well-thrown percentage of 76.3 was significantly better than that of Fields, but his 26 pickable passes were the fourth-most in the league.

Unlike the Bears, the Jags invested heavily in getting Lawrence receiving help, doing so in a bemusing manner as they threw eye-watering amounts of money at players who fit best as secondary targets rather than as the leading receiver for a player dubbed a 'generational' quarterback prospect.

Indeed, the lucrative deals handed out to the likes of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones only put them 20th in pass-catching unit baseline prior to the draft. The hope will be that Kirk, who was seventh among receivers with at least 100 targets with a big-play rate of 35.6 per cent last year, can help Lawrence generate more explosives in year two.

And while much of the Jags' roster still reeks of mediocrity, an offensive line that ranked fourth in pass-block win rate in 2021 may give him the time to help justify the Jags' belief in Kirk and Lawrence's other new weapons.

3. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

The Jets received almost universal praise for their draft, acquiring cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II in the first round before then adding the consensus top running back in the class – Iowa State's Breece Hall – in the second.

Their roster looks in significantly better shape than it did at the end of the 2021 campaign, but the Jets were working from a pretty low starting point.

Coming out of free agency, only six teams had a lower unit baseline among their pass-catchers than the Jets, whose offensive line was in the bottom half of the league in pass protection baseline and in the run-blocking baseline.

Johnson's arrival and the return of fellow edge rusher Carl Lawson from injury should provide a clear boost to a pass rush that was fourth in unit baseline last year while a secondary that exited free agency just outside the top 10 in pass defense baseline appears much better equipped to provide support to Wilson and the offense.

However, Wilson had the worst well-thrown percentage (66.6) of any rookie quarterback last season, with Fields (5.36) and fellow rookie Davis Mills (5.56) the only two quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts to have a higher pickable pass rate than Wilson's 5.21 per cent.

The Jets are relying on Mekhi Becton to get healthy and play a full season at left tackle and, though they have some more established options at tight end and receiver, are also putting a lot on a rookie receiver in likely leaning heavily on Garrett Wilson to elevate his second-year quarterback.

It has been a successful offseason for the Jets, but a lot needs to happen for their hopes of a second-year leap for team and quarterback to come to fruition.

2. Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Were it not for the outstanding season enjoyed by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Jones may well have won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The outstanding accuracy Jones demonstrated at Alabama translated to the pros, Jones producing a well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of attempts. He achieved that feat while averaging more air yards per attempt (8.11) than both Lawrence and Wilson, yet there is reason for trepidation around thoughts of him progressing significantly in his second year.

Jones' passer rating on throws of 21 or more air yards was 65.4 – 31st among the 41 quarterbacks to attempt at least 10, illustrating the limited ceiling of a quarterback whose arm is not on the level of his fellow 2021 first-rounders.

Yet Jones does have the benefit of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. After free agency, the Patriots' O-Line was tied for sixth in pass protection unit baseline and fifth in run blocking baseline.

They replaced guard Shaq Mason, who was surprisingly traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by making the similarly eyebrow-raising move of selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of the draft. Strange's arrival should solidify the interior of the line and allow the Patriots to stick to a formula of leaning on the run game to take the pressure off Jones.

New England's receiving corps is at best uninspiring and the Patriots' failure to address a depleted secondary may prohibit playoff aspirations, but the strength in the trenches means Jones is in a better position to achieve short-term success than most of his second-year contemporaries.

1. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are set to step into the unknown in 2021, with all signs pointing to Lance playing his first full season since his lone campaign as the starting quarterback at North Dakota State in 2019 despite Jimmy Garoppolo's continued presence on the roster.

Handing the keys to an offense that was in the NFC championship Game over to a quarterback with only two career starts to his name represents a substantial risk, but it is a risk the Niners are in an excellent position to take.

While there remains no sign of the impasse between San Francisco and All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel coming to an end, the Niners left free agency with a group of pass-catchers ranked sixth in the league in unit baseline. They added to that group in the draft by selecting SMU speedster Danny Gray in the third round.

San Francisco's pass defense was also in the top half of the league in that regard going into the draft, while its pass rush was third in unit baseline and could have an even higher ceiling in 2022 if Drake Jackson adapts quickly to the pros. The Niners' second-round pick registered a pressure rate of 24.2 that was the fifth-best among edge rushers in this draft class in 2021.

The Niners ranked in the top 10 in pass block win rate and seventh in run block win rate last season, yet their biggest issue may be maintaining that standard after losing left guard Laken Tomlinson to the Jets amid doubts over whether center Alex Mack would retire.

Lance could, therefore, be playing behind a largely inexperienced O-Line this coming season. However, the data from his small sample size last year hinted at him having what it takes to elevate those around him. He averaged 10.10 air yards per attempt – the second-most in the NFL – and no player to average at least 9.0 air yards had a better well-thrown percentage than Lance's 77.1.

His challenge will be to maintain that combination of aggression and accuracy over the course of a full season.

If the Niners can come to an understanding with Samuel, Lance will have one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL to help him build on those encouraging flashes. He'll also benefit from the support of a stout defense built on the strength of its front and a diverse running game that will likely grow even more varied with him under center.

The trump card for Lance is head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is arguably the pre-eminent offensive mind of the modern NFL. Between the talent on both sides of the ball and Shanahan's ability to draw up a running game and put receivers in space, the Niners are a high-floor, high ceiling team.

There may be doubts about Lance, but there should be no doubt he is the quarterback in the best situation to silence those concerns.

Larry Fitzgerald does not believe DeAndre Hopkins' PED suspension will have any impact on his long-term legacy.

All-Pro wide receiver Hopkins was this month suspended for the first six games of the 2022 campaign for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The news served as a substantial blow to the Arizona Cardinals and their hopes of success in the coming season.

But Cardinals legend and former team-mate Fitzgerald rejected talk of the ban tarnishing Hopkins' reputation.

"I don't think so," Fitzgerald said when asked by TMZ if he thought the suspension would taint Hopkins' legacy.

"He'll still be a Hall of Famer. He's talented. He'll work through it.

"It's just some adversity and, you know, he's a tough guy, resourceful, and he'll work his way through it."

The Cardinals may have a tougher time working their way through his 2022 absence.

With Hopkins on the field last year in the regular season, they went 8-2, averaging 30.2 points per game. In the seven games he missed through injury, the Cardinals were 3-4, scoring 21 points per game.

They start their 2022 campaign with an extremely difficult assignment, hosting a Kansas City Chiefs team that has reached the AFC Championship Game in each of the last four seasons.

After a year away from the sport and with his broadcast career seemingly suffering a setback, Drew Brees teased a potential NFL return on Sunday.

Future Hall of Famer Brees posted on Twitter that he was "undecided" on his future amid reports of his time as an analyst for NBC coming to an end.

He wrote: "Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided.

"I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I'll let you know."

Brees called it a career after the 2020 season - his 15th with the New Orleans Saints - and, while the competitive fire may still burn for an all-time great, the numbers suggest the correct course of action for the 43-year-old would be to stay retired.

Unlike Tom Brady, who swiftly unretired 40 days after announcing his decision to quit in the wake of one of the best seasons of his storied career, Brees endured one of his most underwhelming campaigns in 2020.

Brees remained extremely accurate, completing 70.5 per cent of his passes and delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 81.1 per cent of pass attempts.

However, he averaged only 6.41 air yards per attempt, the fourth-fewest among quarterbacks to attempt at least 50 passes.

His 31 completions of 20 yards or more were fewer than that of then-San Francisco 49ers backup Nick Mullens (33). Brees attempted just 21 passes of 21 air yards or more, illustrating an inability to push the ball downfield as his arm strength faded in the final years of his career.

Were Brees to make a comeback, he may not be able to do so with the Saints, who re-signed Jameis Winston to a two-year deal this offseason.

Saints head coach Dennis Allen said of Brees' tweet about a possible comeback: "I think it was a comment made in jest, and we certainly haven't had any conversations in that regard."

Given the age and the numbers from his most recent season, talk of a Brees return is indeed tough to take seriously.

The Green Bay Packers have agreed a four-year contract extension with Jaire Alexander to make him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

According to multiple reports, Green Bay and Alexander have come to terms on a deal worth $84million.

The Packers have made that commitment to the 2018 first-round pick despite him playing just four games last season.

Alexander suffered a sprained shoulder in the Week 4 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and underwent surgery.

He did not play again in the regular season. Alexander was activated for the Divisional Round game with the San Francisco 49ers but played only eight defensive snaps as the Packers lost 13-10 at home.

Despite his injury-hindered 2021, Alexander is still tied for 14th among all corners for pass breakups since 2018, registering 44 in that time.

In his last full season in 2020, Alexander was arguably the top corner in the NFL.

He allowed a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on just 30.6 per cent of targets, the second-best ratio among corners with at least 50 targets.

Alexander was first in burn yards per target (5.22), burn yards per snap (0.84) and second in big-play rate allowed (13 per cent).

And he will now be paid at a rate that reflects his importance to the Packers, Alexander's deal set to pay him $31m in year one, $45m through year two and $61m through year three.

After being released by the Cleveland Browns, wide receiver Jarvis Landry has signed with the New Orleans Saints.

Landry, 29, has the third-most receptions and fourth-most targets in the entire NFL since his arrival in 2014.

Drafted in the same year as arguably the best receiver in the league, Davante Adams, Landry has 19 more catches (688 to 669) and 33 more targets (1,045 to 1,012) in just seven more career games (123 to 116).

The five-time Pro Bowler has spent the past four seasons with the Browns after playing his first four years with the Miami Dolphins, but his production tailed off badly in 2021, posting career-lows in games played, targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns as the Browns sputtered.

Landry joins a receiver group in New Orleans consisting of new first-round draft pick Chris Olave, and 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas, who missed the entire 2021 season with a serious ankle injury but is expected to be back in action at the start of the 2022 campaign.

The Saints also boast one of the best running backs in the NFL in the form of Alvin Kamara, and with quarterback Jameis Winston returning from a torn ACL, new head coach Dennis Allen may have the makings of a well above average offense.

It is a homecoming for Landry, who grew up in Louisiana and attended Louisiana State University.

The reigning Super Bowl champions will kick off the NFL season in Thursday night's primetime slot on September 8, as the Los Angeles Rams host this season's Super Bowl favourites, the Buffalo Bills.

There will be plenty of the Rams in this season's marquee timeslots as the full 2022-23 schedule was released on Thursday, including a Monday night fixture against the Green Bay Packers in week 15, and a Christmas Day game against Russell Wilson's Denver Broncos six days later.

The Broncos will not have to wait long for their first eyebrow-raising matchup, travelling to take on Wilson's former team, the Seattle Seahawks, in the first Monday night fixture of the season.

Week one's third primetime game sees Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading to 'Jerry World' to take on the Dallas Cowboys.

Patrick Mahomes – the man with the richest contract in the sport – will get his first primetime appearance of the season in week two's Thursday night showdown, as his Kansas City Chiefs host arguably Mahomes' only competition for best young quarterback, taking on Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers gets the Sunday night fixture in week two against the Packers' long-time rivals as the Chicago Bears come to town, and his week three matchup against Brady's Bucs will be must-see TV.

The Rams have the toughest strength-of-schedule based on their opponents' 2021-22 records (164-125, .567 winning percentage), while the Cowboys and the Washington Commanders are tied for the easiest schedule (133-155-1, .462 winning percentage).

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions will be the only team in NFL this season to not have a primetime game.

The complete week one schedule features:

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams (Thursday night)

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (Sunday afternoon)

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets

Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers

Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans 

New York Giants at Tennessee Titans (Sunday late-afternoon)

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers 

Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday night)

Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks (Monday night)

Tom Brady will join FOX Sports as an NFL analyst when he brings an end to his legendary career, but he first has "a lot of unfinished business" with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It appeared as though the 2021 season would be Brady's last when he announced his retirement after seven Super Bowl wins.

But the quarterback backtracked on that decision, returning to Tampa, where he has one year remaining on his contract.

While it is unclear whether Brady will again call time on his career in 2023, he has at least confirmed post-career plans.

"We are pleased to announce that immediately following his playing career, seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady will be joining us at FOX Sports as our lead analyst," said FOX executive chair and CEO Lachlan Murdoch.

"Over the course of this long-term agreement, Tom will not only call our biggest NFL games with Kevin Burkhardt but will also serve as an ambassador for us, particularly with respect to client and promotional initiatives.

"We are delighted that Tom has committed to joining the FOX team and wish him all the best during this upcoming season."

Brady reacted to the news on his Twitter page, posting: "Excited, but a lot of unfinished business on the field with the @Buccaneers."

The New York Giants have released cornerback James Bradberry.

Bradberry's departure has long been viewed as an inevitability, with the Giants unable to afford to keep his contract, which would have seen him paid just shy of $22million in 2022, on the books.

New York had been attempting to trade Bradberry, who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020, with the Kansas City Chiefs reported to be the primary team involved in such discussions.

Bradberry is now free to sign with the Chiefs or any other team in the NFL after the Giants cut ties with the former Carolina Panther, having failed to come to terms on a trade.

The 28-year-old should have no shortage of suitors given his consistent on-ball production.

 

His 2020 season with the Giants saw him record 18 pass breakups and three interceptions, and he followed that up with 17 breakups and four picks in 2021, despite the Giants finishing bottom of the NFC East with a 4-13 record.

Only J.C. Jackson (37) and Xavien Howard (36) have registered more breakups than Bradberry's tally of 35 over the past two seasons.

Pete Carroll does not expect the Seattle Seahawks to trade for Baker Mayfield or another quarterback.

The Seahawks will head into the new season with uncertainty under center for the first time since before they drafted Russell Wilson in 2012.

Wilson was the team's undisputed starter for 10 straight seasons, winning one Super Bowl and losing another, until he was traded to the Denver Broncos this offseason.

The Seahawks received Drew Lock in that trade, but he struggled in three seasons in Denver, while Geno Smith – Wilson's understudy – is an alternative option.

Although Seattle did not draft a QB, they could still have made a big move for a new man, with Mayfield available after the Cleveland Browns signed Deshaun Watson.

But Carroll appeared to rule that possibility out as he outlined the Seahawks' approach to the trade market, albeit not discussing Mayfield directly per league rules.

"We're always competing," the head coach told 93.3 KJR-FM.

"I'm not saying anything you didn't think I was going to say, but fortunately that's always been the way we've operated, and it fits again. So, we're looking.

"I don't see us making a trade for anybody at all. I don't see that happening.

"But we're certainly going to continue to be open to chances to help our club, and meanwhile we're just going to be battling and competing our tails off.

"There's always possibilities, so we keep open to that."

The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers will contest the NFL's first game in Mexico City since 2019.

Estadio Azteca hosted a game every year from 2016 to 2019, save for the 2018 season when the Rams' clash with the Kansas City Chiefs was moved back to Los Angeles because of poor field conditions.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant there were no International Series games in 2020, with Mexico City left off the schedule for 2021.

It was confirmed in February that the Cardinals would host a game in Mexico City and it was announced on Wednesday that they will face their NFC West rivals on November 21.

Both the Cardinals and the Niners made the playoffs in 2021, Arizona losing in the Wild Card round to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Rams and San Francisco beaten by the same opposition in the NFC Championship Game.

The Cardinals and the Niners met in the first NFL game to be played in Mexico back in 2005, with Arizona claiming a 31-14 victory.

The Green Bay Packers' first regular-season game outside of the United States will see them face the New York Giants.

It was confirmed in February that reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and Co. would play in London for the first time.

That game will take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 9, with the Packers taking on a historic NFC foe in Week 5.

The Giants won the inaugural London game at Wembley in 2007, defeating the Miami Dolphins, and beat the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham in 2016.

Tottenham will also play host to a clash between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints on October 2.

Both the Vikings and Saints have played and won twice in London, New Orleans shutting out the Miami Dolphins on their last appearance in 2017.

The sole Wembley game will see new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson face Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars at England's national stadium on October 30.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks will contest the NFL's first regular-season game to be held in Germany.

Munich's Allianz Arena was already known as the venue for the historic fixture, with Germany joining the United Kingdom and Mexico in hosting NFL regular-season games.

Now the matchup is set, with Tom Brady and the Bucs taking the role of home team against one of their NFC rivals.

The Bucs and Seahawks will face off on November 13, when Tampa Bay will likely be heavy favourites following Seattle's 2021 struggles and their subsequent trade of star quarterback Russell Wilson this offseason.

Tampa Bay suffered defeat in each of their three visits to London, though all of those games took place before they acquired Brady in 2020.

The Seahawks beat the then-Oakland Raiders 27-3 in their sole game at Wembley in 2018.

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch expects All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel to remain with the team in 2022.

Samuel last month requested a trade from the Niners, having reportedly refused to engage in contract negotiations with San Francisco. The 2022 season will mark the final year of his rookie deal.

A trade did not materialise during last week's NFL Draft, despite reported offers from the New York Jets and Detroit Lions, and Lynch is adamant the two parties can overcome their issues as the Niners seek to sign Samuel to a long-term deal.

Lynch told KNBR: "We're trying really hard with Deebo to work through whatever the issues might be.

"I always have really believed that there is a sacredness to those conversations and that they remain private, especially with things like this.

"I think it's in everyone's best interest we don't get into that. I don't think [the obstacles] are insurmountable. I think we can find a way to resolution, and we're hopeful for that because we know what he's been to this organisation.

"Thirty-sixth pick in 2019, and he's been so good on and off the field. Obviously, a tremendous player. He makes us better. I think we make him better. And we're hopeful that we get everything right and that we're rolling forward."

Asked if Samuel will be on the roster for the 2022 season, Lynch replied: "It's a yes for me, and that's our job. He's too good of a player.

"We've got too good of a thing going, and we want to keep that going. That's where I'll leave that."

Samuel's request was reported to be tied to dissatisfaction with his role in the 49ers' offense.

In addition to making 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns – averaging a league-leading 18.2 yards per reception – in 2021, Samuel also carried the ball 59 times for 365 yards and eight touchdowns, breaking Eric Metcalf's record (six) for most rushing touchdowns by a wide receiver in a single season, set in 1989.

Samuel labelled himself a 'wide back' when asked to define his position, and his ability to do damage out of the backfield and as a receiver proved critical in the Niners' surge to the NFC Championship Game last season.

However, Samuel is thought to want to be used less in that multi-faceted manner, seemingly wary of his career being shortened by the wear and tear that comes with being deployed as a running back.

San Francisco picked running back Tyrion Davis-Price and receiver Danny Gray in the third round of the draft, with head coach Kyle Shanahan saying that pair can help lighten Samuel's workload.

The Niners are still to find a trade partner for Jimmy Garoppolo, who was expected to be moved on to allow last year's third overall pick Trey Lance to take over as the starting quarterback.

Revealing his belief they were close to a trade before Garoppolo's shoulder surgery, Lynch added: "I felt like we were close in some [trade] discussions, and then the decision was made to have surgery. That just brought things to a screeching halt. People just don't do that [commit to a trade], even with a likelihood that everything is going to be good.

"We continue to get calls about Jimmy, and we, as a group, got together and said he's too good of a player. He's got a lot of great tape out there. You don't just let guys like that walk out the door, and we want to either want to have Jimmy playing for us, which we're all right with, or we want him to get the value. ... I think once he starts throwing, people will feel more comfortable.

"And then, obviously, you've got to let things play out for other teams. ... Jimmy's a part of us. We're excited about that. But I think we all know that Trey's going to get the opportunity to go out there and play. He's got to earn that, but we believe he's in the process of doing that.

"It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if both of them were still here, and we move forward, and ... he is equipped to do that."

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