Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin feels lucky to add an asset as valuable as new senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach Brian Flores.

Flores was fired from his role as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in January following the franchise's first back-to-back winning seasons since 2003, finishing 10-6 in 2020 and 9-8 in 2021.

During the fallout of his stint in Miami, Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL, the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants.

In it, he accused the Broncos and Giants of flawed hiring processes, alleging the two franchises only offered interviews to comply with the league's 'Rooney Rule', which requires teams to interview candidates of colour for head coaching and senior operation vacancies.

The class action brought by Flores alleged the NFL "remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of black head coaches, coordinators and general managers".

Flores also alleged he was offered $100,000 per loss by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in 2019 in an effort to secure a better draft position.

All parties have strenuously denied Flores' allegations.

Flores was confirmed as the Steelers' new defensive assistant and linebackers coach last month, and Tomlin acknowledged that his decision to offer him a role was partly influenced by a desire to ensure he was not exiled from the league.

"I just didn't want him to feel like he was on an island," he told reporters on Sunday. 

"From a coaching fraternity standpoint, I owed him that. I was in position to provide that. I think that started our interactions and conversations.

"Over the course of those discussions, particularly when it became evident he was not going to get a head job, then I think the natural discussion began. 

"It really ran its course rather quickly, to be quite honest with you, because it doesn't require a lot of time to come to the realisation that you can use a Brian Flores on your staff."

Tomlin believes Flores will bring a level of experience that will help shape decision-making on every level.

"Senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach is his title, but there's help that he's going to help us and help me, in particular," he added. 

"I love sharpening my sword on his and gaining a perspective that his experiences provide, that wise counsel.

"We're talking about a myriad of things. Whether it's calendar, whether it's taking care of players, whether it's the acquisition or evaluation of talent, it's been fun to have him. His contributions are going to be significant."

The Kansas City Chiefs are signing running back Ronald Jones II in their latest move following Tyreek Hill's trade, according to reports.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero said the Chiefs would look to give Jones a one-year contract worth up to $5million.

The Chiefs are overhauling their offense after failing to negotiate a new contract with Hill, who headed to the Miami Dolphins in return for five draft picks.

One of those picks is in the first round this year, giving the Chiefs the opportunity to potentially replace Hill with a top receiver prospect, but they have also been busy in free agency.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was followed to Kansas City by fellow wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, while Jones provides an alternative pass-catching option at running back.

Jones twice racked up 1,000 scrimmage yards in a four-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including in their title-winning 2020 season (1,143).

That year, Jones led the Bucs in carries (192), rushing yards (978) and rushing touchdowns (seven) but also had 28 catches for 165 receiving yards and a TD.

Jones took a back seat to Leonard Fournette both on the ground and through the air in the playoffs, although he still had 12 carries for 61 yards in the Super Bowl.

In Kansas City, leading rusher Darrel Williams is a free agent, meaning Jones is set to share touches with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a first-round pick in 2020 who is yet to truly establish himself in the NFL.

Edwards-Helaire had just 517 rushing yards in 10 games last year, when the Chiefs' run game ranked a middling 16th with 115.0 yards per game.

New Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota acknowledges he has "big shoes to fill" with the team after stepping in to replace Matt Ryan.

Former NFL MVP Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts this week, with Mariota – who spent the last two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders – then brought in on a two-year, $18.75million deal.

Mariota, the number two overall pick in the draft for the Tennessee Titans back in 2015, is relishing the opportunity to compete for a starting job again after backing up Derek Carr in Las Vegas.

But he is aware his task to make the job his own and replace four-time Pro Bowler Ryan, whose contract had hindered Atlanta's attempts to build for the future, is a big one.

"Those are big shoes to fill, no doubt," Mariota about Ryan. 

"For me, something I definitely learned over the course of my career is that you can't compare yourself to other people. 

"What Matt did here, what he's accomplished here, is truly greatness.

"For me, I just have to kind of carve my own path. I appreciate what he's done, what he's been for this organisation, and the best thing that I can do is try to put my best foot forward and be the best player that I can be.

"These last couple of years for me was a great reset. I got a chance to take a step back, learn, and I feel like I have and these experiences have created a lot of value for me.

"It really came down to the opportunity. Obviously, there's a chance for you to play, a chance for you to start right away.

"Really, for me, at this point in time of my career, that's what I was looking for. No matter what the situation is, I have to my best to lead these guys and help these guys become the best of their abilities.

"That doesn't necessarily mean I'm the starter, but I know that with Art [Smith], he's always going to be honest with me and I can really put forth my best foot forward and see what I can do."

 

Falcons head coach Smith was Offensive Coordinator with the Titans when Mariota lost his starting job in 2019, being benched for Ryan Tannehill.

Mariota, 28, explained he had learned a lot since then, having felt physically and mentally drained at the time.

He added: "During my time in Tennessee, we went through a lot of different things. I went through coaching changes, went through a broken ankle, some of these things that people would call adversity.

"At that point in time in my career in 2019, I was tired. I was just kind of tired of all the turnover, was tired of being beat up, and I wasn't playing well.

"At the end of the day, this is a performance-based business, and when you're not playing well, things happen, and I understood that.

"Art always honest. Even to the point where in 2019 when things weren't going well for me, he always shot me straight. As a player, I truly appreciate that. 

"He's always been focused on making sure I can get better, he is somebody that's always been there for me.

"I knew what I was getting into, what kind of culture he's building here, so that's why I'm excited to be here because I really do believe in Art and what he's doing.

"I've learned a lot over the course of the last, even really three years going back to that season in 2019. 

"I was both mentally and physically beat up. I think this is a great opportunity for me to kind of showcase what I've learned over the course of the last couple years. 

"I have been around guys like Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr – guys that have played at a really high level. I'm excited for this opportunity."

Scott Fitterer says Sam Darnold is "in the lead" to be the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback for the 2022 NFL season but the "door's still open" for Cam Newton to land the role.

Panthers general manager Fitterer on Friday revealed Darnold is the frontrunner to start under center when the new campaign gets under way.

Carolina missed out on Deshaun Watson, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns last week.

That leaves Darnold and P.J. Walker as the only quarterbacks on the roster, with the 24-year-old set to get the nod.

"Sam's on the roster as I sit here right now," Fitterer said. "He's in the lead for that job. We want him to take it and run with it.

"But we're gonna add a lot of competition to that room. The whole emphasis is to stabilise the quarterback position to play winning football."

That competition could come in the form of Newton, who rejoined the Panthers last November after Darnold sustained a shoulder injury.

A former number one overall pick, Newton's return did not go to plan as Carolina lost all five games he started.

The 32-year-old threw for 684 yards and had five interceptions, but Fitterer says he is being considered by the Panthers.

"The thing with Cam, it's got to be a fit for us and it’s got to be a fit for him just as well," Fitterer said.

"He’s looking for a certain opportunity. The door's still open for us. We're very open to Cam. We'll see where it goes. He knows where we stand."

Marquez Valdes-Scantling is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to link up with Patrick Mahomes on the Kansas City Chiefs, even if he had to think long and hard about leaving Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers. 

Valdes-Scantling became a free agent after the 2021 NFL season and followed fellow Packers receiver Davante Adams out of Green Bay. 

Like Adams, Valdes-Scantling ended up in the AFC West, tasked with helping to fill the void left by Tyreek Hill after he departed the Chiefs for the Miami Dolphins. 

Rather than be daunted by the prospect of filling in for a six-time Pro Bowler, though, Valdes-Scantling revealed he only considered the Chiefs when Hill was traded. 

The 27-year-old had spent his entire time with the Packers playing second fiddle to Adams, averaging 4.2 targets per game across his NFL career while his team-mate enjoyed 10.8 targets per game over that period. 

Valdes-Scantling was used in recent years almost solely as a deep-ball threat, leading all NFL receivers with 50 or more targets in consecutive seasons in terms of depth of target – 17.6 yards downfield on average in 2021, slightly down on 18.3 yards in 2020. 

Hill's departure means Mahomes will have to look elsewhere for a downfield option, but Valdes-Scantling might see an opportunity to have a more prominent role in Kansas City. 

"Kansas City really wasn't on my radar [at first]," he told reporters on Friday. "My agent called me and said, 'Tyreek may be traded out of there. Would you be interested in hearing what they have to say?' And I said, 'Yeah, 100 per cent.' 

"I'd been talking to a bunch of teams for a week, just kind of weeding everything out, trying to make the best decision, doing a lot of praying about it. 

"The opportunity came and I said, 'Of course I'd be interested, I'd love to play with Pat.'" 

Each of the 13 touchdown passes Valdes-Scantling has caught to date have been thrown by four-time MVP Rodgers, but Mahomes is one of the few rival quarterbacks capable of operating at the same level. 

"Obviously, me and Aaron have a great relationship," the receiver said. "It was really tough to even walk away. 

"I still had that opportunity on the table to go in and play with him for the rest of his career – whether that would be one year, two, three or however long he decides to go in and play. 

"I walked away from that opportunity and walked into one with a very similar quarterback. Obviously, talent-wise, they've both been MVPs, both won Super Bowls, so obviously both are [excellent] football players. 

"I just think that having this opportunity to build something long-term with Pat is going to be life-changing." 

Deshaun Watson's presentation as the Cleveland Browns' new quarterback was dominated by questions around allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits, although two grand juries have now concluded there was not enough evidence for criminal proceedings.

The allegations, which emerged last year, overshadowed the player's attempts to secure a trade away from the Houston Texans, instead sitting on the sideline for the entire 2021 NFL season.

Watson eventually got his move after a first grand jury did not indict him, landing on the Browns.

The 26-year-old, appearing alongside Browns general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski on Friday, described the opportunity as "a fresh start".

However, he also recognises "there's going to be a stain that's probably going to stick with me for a while".

Indeed, despite Watson discussing a belief he could win Super Bowls in Cleveland, most news conference queries centred on matters away from the field.

Watson said he did not intend to settle the civil lawsuits, explaining: "That's not my intent. My intent is to clear my name as much as possible."

And the QB continues to strenuously deny the allegations made against him.

"I don't have any regrets," Watson said. "The things that are off the field right now that came up caught me by surprise, because I never did anything that these people are alleging.

"And I know a lot of people say that I took the year off and I used that to be able to clear my name, like the previous two weeks, and I just continue to fight that.

"I just continue to work and become a better person, a better player and just a better son, like my mom has always taught me."

Meanwhile, Berry would not speculate on whether he thought there was any wrongdoing by Watson, responding to such a question: "We feel very confident in Deshaun the person.

"We have a lot of faith in him and we believe that as he gets into the community and our organisation, he's going to make a positive impact."

Deshaun Watson was not charged by a second grand jury after it considered evidence of sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback faces 22 civil lawsuits.

However, earlier in March, Harris County jurors did not find enough evidence for criminal proceedings, and Watson was again not indicted on Thursday after a Brazoria County grand jury also assessed the case.

"After a careful and thorough review of the facts and evidence documented in the reports prepared by the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department, as well as hearing testimony from witnesses, the grand jury for Brazoria County has declined to charge Deshaun Watson with any crimes," Brazoria County District Attorney Tom Selleck said in a statement.

"Accordingly, this matter is closed."

Watson has strenuously denied the accusations since they emerged last year, overshadowing his attempts to push for a trade away from the Houston Texans.

He got his move to Cleveland after the first grand jury did not charge him.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said last week: "Our organisation did a tremendous amount of background on Deshaun.

"We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew [Berry, executive vice-president of football operations and general manager] and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organisation."

The Kansas City Chiefs are signing free agent Marquez Valdes-Scantling to a three-year, $36million contract as they seek to rebuild their offense following the departure of Tyreek Hill.

Six-time Pro Bowler Hill failed to agree terms on a new deal with the Chiefs and so was traded to the Miami Dolphins for five draft picks on Wednesday.

That left the Chiefs without their number one wide receiver – and it remains to be seen how exactly they replace the game-breaking attributes of Patrick Mahomes' top target.

Their first move – according to ESPN and NFL Network – has been to sign a receiver familiar with elite quarterback play, bringing in Valdes-Scantling after four years with Aaron Rodgers on the Green Bay Packers.

However, Valdes-Scantling played second fiddle to Davante Adams – now with the Chiefs' AFC West rivals the Las Vegas Raiders – in Green Bay.

He last year ranked as low as third among Packers receivers for targets (55) and receiving yards (430) and fourth for catches (26) and receiving touchdowns (three), albeit he played only 11 games due to a hamstring injury.

Valdes-Scantling was used primarily by Rodgers as a deep-ball threat, leading all NFL receivers with 50 or more targets in consecutive seasons in terms of depth of target – 17.6 yards downfield on average in 2021, slightly down on 18.3 yards in 2020.

That approach was less effective last year, as Valdes-Scantling got open on just 54.7 per cent of his targets – the third-worst rate in the league.

By contrast, in 2021, Hill's average depth of target was only 10.3 yards, yet he got open 82.7 per cent of the time and tallied 824 receiving yards at the point of catch, ranking sixth among receivers.

Valdes-Scantling alone is highly unlikely to plug the hole he leaves, with the Chiefs set to turn to the draft with two first-round picks. They have also signed JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Tyreek Hill hailed the start of a new beginning with the Miami Dolphins as he thanked the Kansas City Chiefs for believing in him following Wednesday's blockbuster trade.

The four-time All-Pro wide receiver and member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team was traded to Miami for five draft picks, Hill receiving a four-year, $120million contract, with $72.2m guaranteed, from the Dolphins.

Hill, who is one of the fastest players in the history of the league, has been the centrepiece of the NFL's most explosive offense since Patrick Mahomes took over as the Chiefs' starting quarterback in 2018.

He has four 1,000-yard seasons in a six-year career, which has included 56 receiving touchdowns.

Hill will hope to have a transformative impact for the Dolphins and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who threw for just nine touchdowns with five interceptions across Miami's 8-1 run to end last season.

In a post on social media, Hill expressed his excitement at joining the Dolphins, before turning his attention to a Chiefs franchise that selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.

"Today starts a new beginning. I'm very excited to be joining the Miami Dolphins and get to work," Hill, who lives in Miami during the offseason, wrote.

"However, it's hard thinking about the memories, people, and fans that made my time in Kansas City so great. To my family and especially my kids, thank you for being my biggest supporters. Daddy loves you! 

"I'm grateful to those who joined me in giving back to the Kansas City community through the Tyreek Hill Family Foundation. From college scholarships, youth football camps, funding the first youth mental health navigator at Marillac, donating supplies to the homeless, and visiting with kids in the hospital, we couldn't have made the impact without all of you. 

"Thank you to the Chiefs organisation for believing in me. I'll never forget getting the call in 2016 that my dream to play in the NFL was coming true. I worked hard every day to show my appreciation for you taking a chance on me. To coach [Andy] Reid, coach [Eric] Bieniemy, and coach [Greg] Lewis, thank you for what you have taught me not only about football but about life. 

"Thank you Pat, [Travis] Kelce, Demarcus [Robinson], and [Gehirg] Dieter along with all my team-mates. I'm proud to have taken the field with each of you.

"You are what made each day worth it. We are brothers for life! To the fans, thank you for your support. Playing for you has been one of the greatest things I have done in my life. Your energy, passion and loyalty for the team is indescribable. It was an honour to play in front of you. 

"Kansas City will always hold a special place in my heart. Cheetah out!"

Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler is returning to the New England Patriots on a two-year deal worth up to $9million.

Butler, 32, famously intercepted would-be go-ahead touchdown pass at the goal-line to give the Patriots a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Two years after his Super Bowl heroics, Butler signed a big-money, five-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, who released the cornerback after three seasons.

His unsuccessful stint with the Titans was followed by a brief stay on the Arizona Cardinals' roster, with Butler retiring in August citing "personal reasons" before playing a regular-season game.

He was released by the Cardinals in February, and will now attempt to revive his career under the stewardship of Bill Belichick once again.

Tyreek Hill is leaving the Kansas City Chiefs in the latest blockbuster trade of this NFL offseason, landing at the Miami Dolphins.

Reports from ESPN and NFL Network revealed on Wednesday a breakdown in contract negotiations between six-time Pro Bowler Hill and the Chiefs.

The wide receiver market was rocked by Davante Adams' huge move from the Green Bay Packers to the Las Vegas Raiders elsewhere in the AFC West.

Kansas City expected Hill to leave and earn a huge deal elsewhere after they could not come to terms, with the Dolphins and the New York Jets said to be the two finalists for his signing.

After a short period in which Hill appeared to consider his options, as players from both teams made Twitter pleas to the wide receiver, he decided on Miami.

The Dolphins have sent the Chiefs five draft-picks, including a first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft and a second-rounder.

While Hill gets a new four-year, $120million contract, with $72.2m guaranteed, according to reports, the Dolphins and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa are boosted by one of the signings of the offseason.

Tagovailoa is yet to convince since he was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, although his starting spot does at least now appear secure following months of speculation around a trade for Deshaun Watson, who has joined the Cleveland Browns.

The Dolphins ended last season on an 8-1 run, but Tagovailoa, who started seven of the nine games, threw for just nine touchdowns and five interceptions in that time.

However, across the 2021 season, the Dolphins QB was throwing to an open target just 73.8 per cent of the time, down on the league average of 78.4 per cent and well below Patrick Mahomes' league-leading 85.5 per cent.

Of course, Mahomes could look to Hill, whose open percentage of 82.7 allowed him to tally 824 yards at the point of catch (seventh in the NFL).

That contributed to his fourth 1,000-yard season in a six year career, which has included 56 receiving TDs.

As their top pass-catching option headed out the door, the Chiefs reportedly had Marquez Valdes-Scantling visit. They have signed JuJu Smith-Schuster, too, but Hill's departure from an increasingly competitive division represents a big blow.

Matt Ryan never expected to leave the Atlanta Falcons and says his trade to the Indianapolis Colts is "bittersweet".

The Falcons confirmed Ryan's departure to the Colts on Monday, with the 36-year-old traded for a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Ryan spent 14 seasons with Atlanta after arriving in 2008, with no player in the NFL throwing for more passing yards than the quarterback's 59,735 over that period.

He completed 67 per cent of his passes in 2021, his highest completion rate since 2018, for 3,968 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Prior to 2021, Ryan threw for 4,000 yards in 10 consecutive seasons, the high point coming in 2016 when he led the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

But with his time at Mercedes-Benz Stadium now over, the 2016 MVP is excited to begin a new journey with the Colts, who parted with Carson Wentz after just one season.

As part of a full page advert in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published on Wednesday, Ryan said: "Thank you, Atlanta.

"From the moment I landed here, late at night just hours after having been drafted, I felt at home. 

"The team welcomed me, balancing the typical indoctrinations of a rookie with the generous acceptance of wise and experienced veterans. 

"The city supported me, bringing enthusiasm to games but also to the more casual interactions we had day-to-day, I knew how lucky I was.

"When my first NFL pass ended with a touchdown, I admit that I felt like this was all meant to be. 

"I was immediately determined to do as right by Atlanta as Atlanta was doing by me. I carried that determination with me through every season that followed.

"Sports are sports, and there is a reason why we play the game every week. Winners are not preordained, and every drive does not end in a touchdown. 

"Success become all the sweeter, not only because I knew it was not guaranteed, but because I was enjoying it with teammates and fans who worked hard to earn it.

"There were of course disappointments, large and small. That did not shake my faith in this team, or in my determination to deliver. This disappointments became motivations."

Across his 14 years in Atlanta, Ryan was a four-time pro bowler, won the MVP award and set multiple franchise records, including the most career touchdowns.

"I have long thought and often said I would retire as a Falcon. But the changes and growth continue," he added.

"As excited as I am about the this next step in my career, this is a bittersweet moment. I have spent more than a decade playing for you, the fans of Atlanta. 

"You have made all of this worth it, and all of this means something more than what could ever be reflected in a statistic. 

"I appreciate each and every one of you, and I thank you, so sincerely, for the life you have given me all of these seasons.

"I am also very grateful to the coaches and teammates I have played with over the years. 

"There are too many to list here, but I hope each of you know how much you have shaped me as a player and as a person. I look forward to crossing paths, on the field and off.

"It seems impossible to sum up 14 years, and to adequately express my feelings about them. 

"As much as I have learned about change, though, I know this: Nothing can change what this time has meant to me. So, again. Thank you, Atlanta."

Davante Adams says he is like a "kid in a candy store" after making a dream move to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Superstar wide receiver Adams left the Green Bay Packers to join the Raiders in a blockbuster trade last week.

Adams is a lifelong Raiders fan and will be reunited with his former Fresno State Bulldogs team-mate Derek Carr.

The 29-year-old signed a five-year deal worth up to $141million, making him the highest-paid receiver in league history, but stressed it is not all about the money.

He said: "Everybody's saying, 'Congrats on being on the Raiders'. It hasn't been, 'Congrats on 140 million dollars.' It's been, 'Congrats, you get to play for a team you grew up loving.'

"Obviously, I've already made a lot of money. But to have this type of security, get to a place that is almost like leaving high school and going to college again, you're a kid in a candy store.

"To be in a place where they're happy to have you and give you all that money? It's just a bonus. But money doesn't buy you happiness; it can buy you a nice house. It's pretty cool."

He added: "It is a dream to be a Raider, man. It's a dream come true. In a third-grade yearbook, I said I wanted to be a, you know, an NFL star or an NBA star.

"And I was wearing a Charles Woodson jersey at the time. So, it's been documented forever, so I guess you can say it was meant to be."

Leading the league in receiving touchdowns in 2020 (18), Adams has posted combined numbers of 2,927 yards and 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons while attracting intense game-planning from opposition defenses.

Derek Carr has spent his entire career trying to convince the Raiders, and indeed the wider NFL universe that he is good enough.

Few quarterbacks to have been as consistent as Carr have inspired such little confidence, his name rarely mentioned among the top players at the NFL's most important position despite him compiling some impressive numbers since arriving in the league.

Drafted in the second round in 2014, Carr has thrown for 31,700 yards in his career, the fourth-most in the league in that span. His 247 passing plays of 25 yards or more is a tally bettered by only four quarterbacks over the same timeframe.

Yet there are plenty of quarterbacks who excel at compiling stats and, for as tedious as the debate around whether wins should be considered a quarterback stat (they shouldn't) is, part of the reason for Carr's lack of recognition comparative to his contemporaries is that he has not been able to elevate the Raiders, either in Oakland or now Las Vegas, to a playoff win.

In efforts to end that wait, there have been reported dalliances with other quarterbacks by the Raiders, most notably with Tom Brady before he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

Las Vegas has also previously been seen as a destination for Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson but, while the Raiders will get to see new Denver Broncos quarterback Wilson up close twice a season, they are firmly tied to Carr, and have this offseason done an excellent job of setting him up for success.

In Josh McDaniels, they have paired him with one of the league's premier offensive minds and, by spectacularly acquiring college team-mate Davante Adams in a blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers last week, the Raiders have given Carr the wide receiver many consider to be the class of the league.

With Adams added to an already exciting cast of offensive weapons, Carr has all the tools to definitively prove that, for the Raiders, he has always been the best man for the job.

Carr reaching peak performance

The timing of Carr's reunion with his former Fresno State team-mate Adams could hardly be better, as he is coming off arguably the finest season of his career.

Among quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts, Carr finished third in well-thrown percentage. Trailing only Joe Burrow and Ryan Tannehill, he delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 81.6 per cent of his passes.

None of the eight quarterbacks to average more air yards per attempt than Carr's 8.29 had a superior well-thrown percentage, his ability to blend ball placement and downfield upside further illustrated by his 67 completions of 20 yards or more in 2021. Brady (75) was the sole quarterback to end the season with more.

Carr achieved those feats despite tight end Darren Waller missing six games of the season and the Raiders losing wide receiver Henry Ruggs III after his November arrest.

He deserves great credit for continuing to thrive in a campaign that saw head coach Jon Gruden resign in disgrace, the Raiders playing the majority of the season under the interim leadership of Rich Bisaccia.

Now with McDaniels at the helm, Carr has a head coach to maximise his skill set and, with Adams joining Waller and Co. on offense, undoubtedly the most talented supporting cast of his career. 

A stacked receiver room

It is extremely difficult to overstate the importance of Adams' acquisition.

Over the past three seasons, only one player has racked up more receiving yards than Adams' 3,924. The man who represents his competition for the title of best receiver in the NFL, Cooper Kupp (4,082).

Adams' 34 receiving touchdowns in that span are second to Mike Evans (35), while no player has averaged more receiving yards per game than his 93.4 since 2019.

Producing a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 65.6 per cent of his targets, Adams was comfortably above the league average for receivers with at least 100 targets of 62. While his position as the NFL's top wideout may be up for debate, his status as one of its elite separators is not in question.

Only four receivers (min. 100 targets), one of which was Kupp (4), averaged more burn yards per route than Adams (3.5) in 2021.

Second (3.4) and first (3.9) in the same metric in 2019 and 2020, Adams' consistency in creating separation from coverage is unmatched, and he should benefit from playing in an offense stacked with bonafide weapons worthy of defensive attention.

Despite missing time, Waller still ended the 2021 season fifth among tight ends (min. 50 targets) in burn yards per target (11.91) and fourth in burn yards per route (3), his size, athleticism and ability to line up at every receiving position on the field making him a mismatch nightmare for defenses when at his best. Only two tight ends, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews, have more receiving plays of 20 yards or more since 2019 than Waller (43).

Carr also has an excellent rapport with Hunter Renfrow. They combined for nine touchdowns in 2021, with three of those scores for the diminutive wideout coming on third down.

Yet the nickname 'Third and Renfrow' may have been inappropriately applied. Not because Renfrow isn't great on third down (18 of his 33 third-down targets last year went for first downs), but because team-mate Bryan Edwards might be even better.

Targeted just eight times on third down, six of those throws from Edwards to Carr were completed for a first down. Overall, Edwards had 76.5 per cent of his catches result in a first down last season, the second-best ratio in the NFL.

At 6ft 3in and 215 pounds, Edwards is a still under-utilised physically imposing ball-winner. Between Adams, Waller, Renfrow and Edwards, Carr now has a receiving corps to stack up with any other in the NFL.

Throw in a running back in Josh Jacobs who displayed his ability to overcome substandard blocking by averaging 3.38 yards per carry on runs where there was a disruption by a defender, the sixth-most in the NFL, in 2021, and Carr appears to have everything at his disposal to helm an explosive and dominant offense in 2022. That is presuming, of course, that Carr can re-establish his college connection with Adams.

But there is a risk any potential offensive surge could be cancelled out by the improvements made by the Raiders' rivals in what now looks a hellish AFC West.

Carr’s 'prove-it' year

The trade for Adams was just the latest move in a series of blockbusters from AFC West teams. In respective offseason efforts to end the divisional superiority of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers each made significant additions to their rosters.

Denver hugely upgraded the quarterback position with a stunning trade for nine-time Pro Bowler Wilson, and the Chargers bolstered their defense with a deal to acquire edge rusher Khalil Mack while also signing cornerback J.C. Jackson and run-stuffing defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day. 

In essence, the Raiders now have to compete with three elite quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes, Wilson, and Justin Herbert, all of whom have seen their teams stack the deck around them.

Carr has previously gone blow for blow with both Mahomes and Herbert and won, most famously in Week 18 last season in the epic overtime game that almost ended in a tie that would have sent both the Raiders and Chargers to the playoffs.

However, with the Chargers pairing Mack with another fearsome pass rusher, Joey Bosa, and the Chiefs retaining Frank Clark on a defensive line that also features Chris Jones, Carr's hopes of getting the best of each of those signal-callers could be compromised by the play of his offensive line.

The Raiders' O-Line ranked 21st in pass block win rate last year, with Carr pressured 285 times, the third-most in the league behind Matt Ryan (319) and Josh Allen (312), and yet that area of the team has gone largely neglected in the offseason.

Great quarterbacks can overcome shortcomings at other positions and Carr did so last year in leading the Raiders to the playoffs. Though he may have improved help from a defense that looks better prepared to deal with the threat of opposing offenses after the hire of Patrick Graham as coordinator and the additions of veteran edge rusher Chandler Jones and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, the reality is Carr will likely have to raise his game again if the Raiders are to enjoy postseason success.

The Raiders may look to use what draft capital they have left to improve on the offensive side of the trenches yet, regardless of any further moves to come, the onus is firmly on Carr. His is a career that has been spent trying to prove he belongs in the conversation as a top-tier quarterback. He built a compelling case last season but, flanked by offensive talent ready-made to help him keep pace with Mahomes, Herbert and Wilson, 2022 is the year in which he must definitively win the argument.

The Miami Dolphins have signed Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead to a five-year contract.

According to multiple reports, the Dolphins are giving Armstead a contract worth up to $87.5million, including $43.37m guaranteed.

Former New Orleans Saints star Armstead was considered by many to be among the top free agents on the market and fills a huge hole for a Dolphins offensive line that struggled significantly last season.

The Dolphins ranked last in the NFL in pass block win rate in 2021, per Stats Perform data.

Armstead should significantly improve their performance in that regard.

The three-time Pro Bowler missed nine games through injury last season but was one of the premier pass-blocking tackles in the league when healthy.

Among tackles with at least 100 pass-block matchups, Armstead ranked third with a stunt-adjusted pass-block win rate of 91.93 per cent.

His addition figures to be a pivotal one to the Dolphins' revamped offense under new head coach Mike McDaniel.

Free agency has also seen the Dolphins add left guard Connor Williams, wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert and fullback Alec Ingold. 

The Dolphins ended last season 29th in yards per play on offense (4.76) as they finished with a 9-8 record that was not enough to prevent Brian Flores from being fired as head coach.

 

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