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ESPN: Bold Moves for Every AFC Team

Article posted March 1, 2017 at 5:16 PM

By The Outsiders

New ESPN Insider piece: As we did last year, the FO staff put together a bold move recommendation for all 32 teams. The Bills should let Stephon Gilmore walk, the Steelers should re-sign Le’Veon Bell instead of just franchising him, and more suggestions. AFC piece is written by Aaron Schatz, Rivers McCown, Tom Gower, and Scott Kacsmar. NFC will run on Friday.


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Trumaine Johnson Franchise-Tagged by Los Angeles Rams

Article posted March 1, 2017 at 5:15 PM

By Adam Wells

For the second consecutive season, the Los Angeles Rams have placed the franchise tag on cornerback Trumaine Johnson.

The Rams announced the decision Wednesday after Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported the move, adding that with the tag, Johnson is the league’s highest-paid cornerback at $16 million.

Johnson made a lot of money in 2016 under the franchise tag. The non-exclusive franchise tag for cornerbacks was valued at $13.952 million, per’s Kevin Patra.

For perspective, the 27-year-old Johnson’s average salary during his rookie contract was $760,169, per Spotrac. But the Rams knew making their star cornerback happy was in their best interests moving forward.

When the Rams placed the franchise tag on Johnson in 2016, general manager Les Snead said in a statement (via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) he was a key part of what they wanted to do: “Since we drafted Trumaine in 2012, he has developed into an integral part of our defense. We look forward to having him with us this season and more to come.”

After two solid seasons and an injury-plagued 2014, Johnson had a breakout campaign in 2015. He tied for third in the NFL with seven interceptions and tied for ninth with 17 passes defensed.

In the debate over whether the Rams should invest in Johnson or their other free-agent cornerback at the time, Janoris Jenkins, Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus put forth an interesting case for both even though Johnson’s numbers looked better:

Johnson has never allowed more than two touchdowns in a season; Jenkins has allowed at least five in each of his four years in the league. On 116 fewer targets over their four years in the league, Johnson has 15 interceptions to Jenkins’ 10. For the duration of his career, Jenkins’ passer rating allowed is only just shy of 100 (99.5); in the same timeframe, Johnson’s passer rating allowed is 67.1.

Jenkins wound up having a strong 2016 season with the New York Giants that clouded any of Johnson’s accomplishments, though the Rams star did have moments of brilliance.

John Kosko of Pro Football Focus highlighted Johnson as a standout during the Rams’ 17-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4:

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson had his highest-graded game of the season and beat out Aaron Donald for top graded defensive player, which is a feat in its own right. He was targeted 12 times giving up only five catches to go along with two passes defensed and an interception. Carson Palmer had a 25.0 QB rating when throwing in his direction. He also stuck his nose in run defense recording two stops.

That was the highlight of Johnson’s season, as his stats dropped to 11 passes defensed and one interception in 14 games.

The Rams are trying to form a team built on power, with running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald the key anchors on either side of the ball. Johnson has the potential to be a true shutdown cornerback and remains with the organization, while still seeking a long-term deal.

Now that the spotlight will be on Johnson more than ever, he has a high bar to clear. His level of production, even before the stellar 2015 campaign, will prove the Rams made a prudent investment.

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NCAA Tournament bubble: Middle Tennessee would, again, scare anyone

Article posted March 1, 2017 at 4:59 PM

By Matt Norlander A year after taking out No. 2 seed Michigan State, MTSU is, unfairly, in a precarious position


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Major League Baseball partners with ‘Game of Thrones’ to reach younger audience

Article posted March 1, 2017 at 4:56 PM

By R.J. Anderson Nearly two-thirds of the league will partake in ‘Thrones’-themed promotions


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NFL salary cap jumps more than $10 million to $167M per team for 2017

Article posted March 1, 2017 at 4:44 PM

By Jared Dubin This is the fourth straight year the cap has jumped at least $10 million


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