Aaron Rodgers reportedly plans to play for the Green Bay Packers this season.

Rodgers' future with Green Bay has been in doubt since April, when, a year on from the Packers trading up to select his heir apparent Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, it was reported he had grown so disgruntled that he had told some within the organisation he did not wish to return to the team.

The reigning NFL MVP was not present for any of the Packers' offseason practices, skipping their mandatory minicamp, but NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that Rodgers had indicated his desire to play for Green Bay this year to people close to him.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Packers' annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field, president Mark Murphy said of Rodgers: "We want him back, we're committed to him for 2021 and beyond. He's our leader and we're looking forward to winning another Super Bowl."

General manager Brian Gutekunst explained: "We have been working tirelessly with Aaron and his representatives to resolve the issues [Rodgers has raised], and we are hopeful for a positive resolution."

Should Rodgers return for 2021, the Packers will be among the favourites to reach the Super Bowl, having progressed to the NFC Championship in each of the previous two seasons, losing to the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 Rodgers produced one of the finest seasons of his Hall of Fame career in 2020, flourishing in his second year in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense to the tune of 4,299 passing yards, a career-high 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Per Stats Perform data, he was third in the NFL in well-thrown percentage, delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.4 per cent of his pass attempts.

He was also third in pickable pass percentage. Rodgers threw an interceptable ball on only 2.23 per cent of his passes.

While the Packers will be expected to be an NFC powerhouse again with Rodgers under center, his return could prove to be just a case of delaying the inevitable. Green Bay can save over $22million against the cap next offseason by moving on from Rodgers, making a trade potentially much more palatable.

With or without Rodgers, the Packers will begin their 2021 campaign on September 12 against the New Orleans Saints.

It wouldn't be an NFL offseason without some contract controversies.

Though the two most recent collective bargaining agreements have made it more difficult for players to hold out, several teams are still approaching the start of training camp needing to resolve issues surrounding players unhappy with the terms of their current deal.

Aaron Rodgers' continued self-enforced exile has cast a shadow over the offseason, but his staring contest with the Green Bay Packers is not tied to his level of remuneration.

For four big-name defenders who skipped mandatory minicamp – though Jamal Adams was permitted to do so due to personal reasons – it is indeed about the money.

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore said recently to ESPN: "I just want what I'm worth, however that plays out. Every player should be paid what they're worth. That's just how it is."

But what is the worth of Gilmore and the three other high-profile defensive players? And should the teams in question make the effort to sign them to more lucrative deals?

Stats Perform looked at the advanced metrics surrounding each player to assess the best course of action for their respective franchises.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

Gilmore's demand to be paid what he is worth may strike some as bemusing from a player who carries the highest salary cap hit among cornerbacks ($16.27million) and missed five games in a down year.

However, his wish is more likely related to his base salary rather than his overall cap number. Gilmore is due $7m in base salary in 2021, half of what Byron Jones of the Miami Dolphins, whose $14m base salary is the most among corners, is scheduled to receive next season.

Though 2020 was a disappointing year for Gilmore and the entire Patriots defense, he has a strong case for narrowing that gap to Jones.

While he only managed one interception and three pass breakups, Gilmore still had the edge over Jones in several metrics.

His adjusted open percentage, which measures how frequently an opponent got open against a defender's coverage, adjusted for position, was 24.18 compared to 26.16 for Jones.

 

Though both spent time playing as inside corners, both Gilmore and Jones are primarily outside defenders and there was a contrast between the two when they lined up at that spot in 2020. Gilmore allowed a burn – when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is catchable – on 50 per cent of his targets, compared to 60.4 for Jones.

Gilmore was also superior in terms of burn yards per target (10.08 to Jones' 14.08), while his burn yards per snap average of 1.36 was 12th among corners with at least 200 pass coverage snaps on the outside. Jones struggled by comparison, allowing 1.92 burn yards per snap.

The Patriots used a lot of their salary cap space on a free-agency splurge they hope will get them back in contention. However, given Gilmore's past level of performance – since signing with New England in 2017, he has racked up 52 pass breakups, tied for sixth-most in the NFL, and 11 interceptions – they might well be wise to find a way to negotiate a contract with an increased base salary for a player whose unadjusted open percentage of 46.6 was fourth among outside corners in his last full season in 2019.

Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins

Like Gilmore, Howard may also be comparing his contract to that of Dolphins team-mate Jones, whom Miami made the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL with a five-year $82.5m deal in March 2020.

Howard still has four years left on a deal paying him over $15m a year, but the All-Pro will have his eyes on a contract closer to Jones' average annual value of $16.5m.

Such compensation would unquestionably be deserved given Howard led the league in interceptions for the second time in three seasons in 2020 by picking off 10 passes.

His adjusted open percentage of 25.19 was almost a full percentage point better than that of Jones, and he had a significant edge in burn yards per target, though Howard was not exactly impressive in that category, giving up an average of 11.12 while playing on the outside.

 

Yet that number is likely more reflective of how often the Dolphins left Howard in single coverage. Indeed, Howard's average depth of target of 14.5 yards speaks to the frequency with which he was given the task of staying in tight coverage with a receiver downfield.

The Dolphins aren't flush with cap room – Miami sit just over $5.5m under the 2021 cap – but, in a year where the team will be expected to make a year-three leap under head coach Brian Flores, identifying a method by which to keep Howard happy is the smart move.

With a league-leading 18 interceptions in the past three seasons, Howard is a playmaker the Dolphins need on the field and motivated if they are to challenge in the AFC.

Jamal Adams, S, Seattle Seahawks

Having long since angled for a lucrative extension even before his blockbuster trade to the Seahawks last offseason, Adams is finally in line for his payday at some point this year.

Still playing on his rookie contract and due to earn close to $10m in 2021, Adams will have designs on becoming one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL.

Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos is the safety with the top contract, his average annual salary coming in at over $15m, but a better comparison for Adams may be division rival Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals ($14.75m).

Baker and Adams each spend a significant amount of time in the box and down near the line of scrimmage and the latter's reprsentatives will base much of their argument in negotiations around him leading the Seahawks in sacks with 9.5 last year.

 

Yet they may struggle to make a compelling case when the discussion turns to his skills in pass coverage.

Adams finished the 2020 season with an adjusted open percentage of 24.94, comfortably below that of Baker, who set the fourth-best mark among all NFL defenders with 16.38 per cent.

Such a disparity would on the surface appear to make it tough to justify Seattle giving Adams a deal akin to that of Baker.

Yet after surrendering two first-round picks to prise Adams from the Jets, the Seahawks have locked themselves into a situation where they have no choice but to pay him. Though he has proven himself a playmaker near the line of scrimmage, his performance in coverage should lead Seattle to try to ink Adams to a deal with eye-catching headline numbers but a team-friendly structure.

Chandler Jones, EDGE, Arizona Cardinals

Due to earn $15.5m in base salary and carry a $20.8m cap hit in the final year of his contract in 2021, Jones' desire to receive the compensation he believes he is due before his deal expires is likely motivated by the Cardinals' decision to sign J.J. Watt to a two-year, $28m deal this offseason.

Watt remains an ominous presence on the defensive line, but – now 32, with a checkered injury history, and having posted nine sacks in 24 games over the past two seasons – his signing is a gamble by the Cardinals, and Jones may be wondering why they did not instead invest in keeping him around.

Jones has been the picture of consistency for the Cardinals, posting double-digit sacks in each of his first four seasons with Arizona before a torn bicep cut his 2020 campaign short after five ineffective games.

The Cardinals' reticence to pay the 31-year-old now is understandable given that recent injury, but Jones will feel he has already proven himself dependable heading into 2021 and is more deserving of a new deal than several of his fellow edge rushers who have already received paydays this offseason.

 

In his last full season in 2019, only one edge rusher, Cameron Jordan (70), had more pressures where he beat a pass protector than the 69 Jones produced.

Watt had 51 such pressures in 2020, Shaquil Barrett received a $17m-a-year contract from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after producing 53, while Leonard Floyd was paid $16m a year by the Los Angeles Rams after beating a man on 39 pressures.

Those deals complicate matters for the Cardinals, who might have to choose between paying a player they may not trust to stay healthy and potentially shipping out the most productive pass rusher in their recent history.

The obvious solution is a new deal laden with playing-time incentives that reward Jones for staying healthy. If that cannot be done, then the Cardinals could possibly soften the blow of losing him by getting a clutch of 2022 draft picks to help them restock their defense in return via trade.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed first overall pick Trevor Lawrence to a four-year rookie contract.

Jacksonville completed what had long been seen as a formality when they made Lawrence the first pick in April following his stellar collegiate career at Clemson.

He is now a fully contracted member of the Jaguars having signed a deal worth $36.8million with $24.1m in guarantees and a standard fifth-year option included.

Since the introduction of fixed contract lengths and slotted salaries for first-round picks in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, signing highly drafted rookies is not the challenge it once was.

But Lawrence agreeing to terms on his rookie deal is another hurdle cleared as the Jaguars look to get the player they hope will turn their franchise around on the field.

Provided that he stays healthy through training camp, Lawrence – who underwent surgery on a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder prior to the draft – will make his preseason debut for the Jaguars against the Cleveland Browns in August.

His regular-season debut is set to come a month later when the Jaguars visit the Houston Texans on September 12.

 

The Jaguars finished the 2020 season with a 1-15 record, losing 15 straight games having won their opener, but gaining the right to select a quarterback most deemed as a generational prospect in the process.

Lawrence led Clemson to a National Championship in his first season in 2018 and racked up 10,098 passing yards and 90 touchdowns – the first of those tallies putting him third in school history behind Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson, the second joint-second – while throwing just 17 interceptions in his three seasons with the Tigers.

Though he did not lead Clemson to glory last season, Lawrence was first among quarterbacks with at least 100 snaps and 20 pass attempts in well-thrown percentage. He delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 84.3 per cent of his passes, per Stats Perform data.

If he maintains that remarkable level of accuracy at the NFL level, the Jaguars may turn things around much quicker than anticipated.

T.J. Watt refused to discuss the subject of his contract negotiations with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

The star edge rusher is set to be a free agent in 2022 and, regardless of whether he remains in Pittsburgh beyond 2021, is primed to receive a lucrative contract following a stellar start to his career.

A first-round pick in 2017, Watt has 49.5 sacks to his name since entering the league, with that tally third behind three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald (57.5) and Chandler Jones (50).

Still only 26, Watt can likely expect a deal in the region of the five-year, $135million extension signed by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa in July last year.

But, as the Steelers continued their preparations for the 2021 campaign with their mandatory minicamp, Watt decided against discussing his talks with Pittsburgh.

"With respect to the process, I'm not going to be talking about any contract stuff today, " Watt told reporters.

Watt missed out on the Defensive Player of the Year award despite a 2020 season that saw him lead the league in sacks with 15. Donald was second with 13.5, though his pressure rate (28.2%) was superior to that of Watt (25.8).

However, Watt is not thinking about being snubbed for that prize.

"I don't think it's driving me. [The] big thing for me is realizing all the plays I didn't make last year," he added. 

"Yeah, there's a lot of good from last year, but there's still a lot to improve on."

Danielle Hunter has reportedly secured favourable new terms with the Minnesota Vikings ahead of attending for mandatory minicamp this week.

NFL Network, having earlier revealed Hunter would report on Tuesday despite his desire for a better deal, outlined the agreement on Monday.

Hunter, who missed the entirety of the 2020 season following neck surgery, will receive $5.6million of the money owed to him in the coming season as a signing bonus.

Crucially, there is then an $18m roster bonus in 2022, meaning the Vikings would have a big call to make, potentially paying $20m to keep him on the team next year.

On the evidence of the past season, though, it might be a price worth paying.

Minnesota gave up 393.3 yards per game in 2020, ranking 27th in the NFL. They had been 14th with 341.6 opponent yards per game the previous year when Hunter started all 16 games.

 

That was the second consecutive season in which Hunter had 14.5 sacks – tied-fourth in the league – while he also had a career-high 22 quarterback hits.

Hunter pressured the passer 95 times, including 88 from the edge – the third-most in that position.

Ifeadi Odenigbo underwhelmed in Hunter's place in 2020, with 3.5 sacks, 15 QB hits and 40 pressures (31 from the edge).

Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka have earned the top 2021 prizes at the Laureus World Sports Awards, while Patrick Mahomes, Lewis Hamilton and Mohamed Salah were all also recognised.

Tennis dominated the individual honours as Nadal collected a fourth award, named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for the second time.

The Spaniard, who has also previously taken the 2006 Breakthrough Award and the 2014 Comeback Award, was selected after winning the French Open to tie Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam titles.

Nadal, who said he "can't be happier", added: "Winning the French Open and equalling the 20th grand slam of Roger Federer has been an unforgettable moment.

"It means a lot to equal my great rival, but at the same time, my great friend. It's something very special after all the history we have had together on and off court."

Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Osaka, the 2019 Breakthrough winner, claimed a second US Open triumph while supporting the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

"I think it is important to use my voice, because, for me, I feel like I often hold back a lot and worry about what people think of me, but you know if you have a platform it is very important you use it," the Japanese superstar said.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Mahomes won the Super Bowl last year and played in the big game again earlier in 2021, making him the latest Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award winner.

He and Formula One great Hamilton both joined Osaka in demonstrations against racial inequality.

Two-time Laureus winner Hamilton got his hands on the Athlete Advocate of the Year Award and said: "This past year has been incredibly difficult for so many, but it has also been heartening to see the power of our collective voices spark new conversations and change.

"The impact of each and every one of you who have stood up, is so inspiring, so I want to thank you. Please keep fighting, keep shining your light."

Liverpool's Salah supported a number of causes and led the Reds to Premier League glory, receiving the Laureus Sporting Inspiration Award, but Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga were the World Team of the Year for the second time.

Nadal and Osaka were not the only tennis stars to have their name called, as Billie Jean King took the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Judging draft picks in the immediate aftermath of their selection can be a foolhardy endeavour, as the success of rookies that enter the league depends on several factors including situation, opportunity and luck.

While it is tough to dole out grades for players who have not even hit the practice field for their new teams, it is possible to assess the totality of a franchise's moves in a draft and determine who has been impacted, positively and negatively, by those player selections.

In a draft dominated by a historic level of talent at the position, it is the classes of teams that made changes at quarterback that will likely have the most significant influence on the league.

After five quarterbacks went in the first round, we use Stats Perform data to determine the winners and losers from a draft that should go on to be remembered as one of the most important in NFL history.


Winners

Chicago Bears fans

Who knows whether the Justin Fields-era in Chicago will be a success? The weight of history surrounding Bears quarterbacks suggests it has a very good chance of being a failure.

But by trading up to land the Ohio State quarterback instead of committing to a year of purgatory with Andy Dalton, the Bears ensured they should be significantly more watchable in 2021, assuming post-draft talk about wanting to sit Fields behind Dalton proves false.

Fields is an exciting downfield thrower who averaged 10.10 air yards per attempt in the 2020 college season. It is an imperfect comparison given the difference in the level of competition but the two Bears starters in 2019, Mitchell Trubisky (7.94) and Nick Foles (7.92), each averaged under eight air yards per attempt.

And Fields was accurate when he pushed the ball downfield. On throws of 15 air yards or more, 76.47 per cent were well thrown, compared to 71.43 for Lawrence, 69.41 for Wilson and 67.39 for 15th overall pick Mac Jones.

His aggressive style should mesh well with number one receiver Allen Robinson, who was fifth in the NFL with 908 of his receiving yards coming at the point of reception.

Fields will also have the benefit of improved protection from a nasty offensive tackle in the form of second-round pick Teven Jenkins.

Jenkins allowed a pressure rate of 2.9 per cent in 2020, third among tackles with at least 100 pass protection snaps. The top tackle in that regard was Larry Borom of Missouri (1.8%), whom Chicago drafted in the fifth round.

Chicago also further helped Fields' cause by drafting Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert, who was second in the Power 5 in yards per carry (7.63) among running backs with at least 100 carries and Dazz Newsome, the North Carolina wideout who was 11th in burn percentage (71) among receivers with at least 25 slot targets. 

The Bears have been a chore to watch in recent years. It isn't clear whether the move up for Fields will work and it is debatable whether general manager Ryan Pace should have been allowed to make it given his track record, but there is finally reason for a passionate fanbase to be genuinely excited about their team.

Zach Wilson

Wilson going second overall to the Jets was no secret, but New York did an excellent job of taking steps to ensure concerns over his one season of elite production against non-Power 5 opposition do not prove prescient by surrounding him with talent.

A trade up for guard Alijah Vera-Tucker raised eyebrows but his pressure rate allowed of 1.3 per cent when playing left guard for USC in 2019 was the best in the Power 5 and suggests he can lock down that spot for the next decade for the Jets.

Wide receiver Elijah Moore brings inside-out versatility and should have gone in the first round. Instead, the Ole Miss star went 34th overall to the Jets, adding a wideout who led the FBS in receiving yards per game (149.1) last season to an intriguing group that includes Denzel Mims, Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder.

Third-round running back Michael Carter will give offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur a versatile skill set to utilise.

The North Carolina back led Power 5 runners with 100 carries or more in yards per carry (7.98) and yards before contact per rush (5.36) in 2020.

As a receiver, Carter was eighth among those Power 5 backs, who also had a minimum of 10 targets, in burn yards per target (10.86).

Carter should, therefore, be able to have a substantial impact in the zone-running scheme the Jets will employ in 2021 and influence the passing game significantly.

Growing pains are to be expected in Wilson's rookie season in New York but this was a draft in which the Jets went to great lengths to make his adaptation to the pros as smooth as possible.

Lamar Jackson

Every year, the Baltimore Ravens do an excellent job of letting the draft board come to them and reaping the rewards.

In 2020, they stole linebacker Patrick Queen in the back end of the first round. This year they grabbed arguably the most well-refined receiver in the draft, Minnesota's Rashod Bateman, with the 27th overall pick.

A truncated 2020 season in which he played just five games following a bout of coronavirus may not have helped Bateman's stock, but his 2019 tape showed a receiver who can develop into a number one target for Lamar Jackson.

Bateman can excel at all levels of the field and his downfield upside shone through in 2019, when he was open on 70.8 per cent of his targets in 2019 with an average depth of target of 16.2 yards.

His burn yards per target average of 16.15 was sixth among all Power 5 receivers with at least 50 targets two seasons ago, with Henry Ruggs III and Chris Olave the only players in the same group to produce a superior big-play percentage to Bateman's 50.4.

Big plays in the passing game have not been consistent for the Ravens. Jackson (25) had fewer passing plays of 25 yards or more than Teddy Bridgewater (27) and Drew Lock (28) in 2020.

Bateman has the talent to greatly increase that tally of explosive plays while the addition of Tylan Wallace, who was eighth among Power 5 receivers with a minimum of 50 targets last season with a burn yards per route average of 4.33, should further boost Jackson's hopes of bouncing back as a passer in 2021.

Having also addressed the interior of the offensive line by drafting Ben Cleveland, whose pressure rate allowed of 2.7 per cent was seventh among Power 5 guards last season, in the third round, Jackson goes into 2021 in an excellent position to take the passing game to levels that escaped the 2019 MVP in 2020.

In the coming season, Jackson will have much better weapons and should have improved protection. If the Ravens' offense falls short again in the playoffs in 2021, he won't have much room for excuses.

Losers

Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh lost left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and the versatile Matt Feiler in free agency but did nothing to fill either of the voids left by that duo until the third round when they picked up athletic Illinois guard Kendrick Green. Tackle Dan Moore was picked in the fourth round.

Instead, they spent their first two picks on a running back and a tight end in Alabama's Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth of Penn State, stacking the offense with further weapons for Ben Roethlisberger in what will likely be his last season in the NFL.

But, beyond running back, weapons were not the need for the Steelers. Harris is an upgrade in the backfield but he averaged only 2.14 yards after contact per rush last season, below the Power 5 average of 2.21, and typically the offensive line has just as much of an impact on running game production as the back.

A failure to prioritise the trenches could result in Harris struggling to evade defenders that the O-Line has allowed into the backfield. More worryingly for Roethlisberger, the lack of a dependable replacement at left tackle could leave a quarterback who missed 14 games as recently as 2019 open to punishment from opposing pass rushers.

Roethlisberger completed 50.7 per cent of his passes when under pressure in 2020, the fifth-worst number of all quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. If this is to be his swansong, the Steelers are not setting him up for a successful one.

Trevor Lawrence

Ok, so Trevor Lawrence is a winner. He's the number one overall pick and is set to be paid millions to take his talents to the highest level.

But, in terms of the situation he is going into in Jacksonville, the Jaguars did little to help him.

With the 25th pick, they passed up the chance to boost their pass-catching options in favour of drafting his Clemson team-mate, running back Travis Etienne, following a 2020 season in which undrafted rookie James Robinson finished the year sixth in yards after contact per attempt (2.34). 

Simply put, Etienne was the definition of an unnecessary luxury pick.

Tyson Campbell was a decent value pick at 33rd overall in the second round but Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke, who developed a reputation during his time running the San Francisco 49ers for taking ill-advised risks on players with bad injury histories, picked a safety in Andre Cisco who tore his ACL in September and offensive tackle Walker Little, who has not played a game since 2019, when he featured in just one before suffering a knee injury.

The only pass-catching additions came in the form of a 29-year-old tight end, Luke Farrell, in the fifth round and wide receiver Jalen Camp in the sixth. 

Between D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault, Lawrence does have reasonable weapons, but the Jags did not do much to add to his arsenal.

NFC West run defenses

Teams trying to stop the 49ers' ground game have had a hard time since Kyle Shanahan became head coach in 2017.

Their 224 rushes of 10 yards or more are tied sixth in the NFL in that time, and that tally looks set to increase after San Francisco drafted a franchise quarterback in Trey Lance who boasts a devastating mix of speed and power in the open field.

Lance's 14 touchdowns in 2019 were bettered by just four quarterbacks across the FBS and FCS, his rushing average of 6.5 yards fifth among signal-callers with at least 100 rushes.

San Francisco then added further to their ground game by picking Trey Sermon in the third round and Elijah Mitchell in the sixth.

In the Power 5 and Group of Five, just four running backs with a minimum of 100 attempts had a better yards per carry average than Sermon's 7.50 last season.

Burst to the second level is a key trait for Sermon, who was fourth in average yards before contact per attempt with 4.85.

The electric Mitchell, meanwhile, averaged the third-most yards after contact per attempt, putting up 3.23 per rush, a rate beaten by Javonte Williams (4.59) and Jaret Patterson (3.25).

Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are each free agents in 2022 but, by drafting Lance, Sermon and Mitchell, the Niners ensured their run game is about to get more diverse and potentially more destructive.

For the three NFC West teams that face them twice a year, that is simply terrible news.

The Cleveland Browns have locked in Baker Mayfield for 2022 after exercising their fifth-year option on the quarterback's contract.

Cleveland announced their move on Friday after Mayfield led the Browns to their first playoff victory in 26 years last season – a shock win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mayfield – the number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft – had a breakout 2020 campaign in which he threw for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, while his passer rating of 95.9 was the third-best mark in franchise history.

Having thrown 21 interceptions in 2019, Mayfield was picked off only eight times in 2020, his touchdown to interception ratio of 3.25 good enough for ninth in the NFL, per Stats Perform.

Yet the upside of Cleveland's passing game still appeared limited. Mayfield was a disappointing tied for 17th with 43 completions of 20 yards or more.

Mayfield ranked sixth in the NFL in passer rating (118.4) on throws of 21 air yards or more among quarterbacks with at least 25 such attempts.

Since taking over as the full-time starter in Week 4 of the 2018 season, Mayfield has started 45 consecutive regular-season games and made both starts in the team's 2020 playoff games.

In his career so far, Mayfield has thrown for 11,115 yards, 75 touchdowns and 43 interceptions.

The Browns, meanwhile, also exercised their fifth-year option on 2018 number four pick Denzel Ward.

 

Athletes expressed relief and vowed to continue the fight for reforms after a jury in Minnesota found a former police officer guilty in the May 2020 death of George Floyd. 

Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday, nearly 11 months after he knelt on Floyd's neck and back for more than nine minutes during an arrest. 

Floyd's death aged 46 sparked outrage across the United States, with athletes across multiple sports among those who called for justice. 

Tuesday's verdict in Minneapolis provided a measure of progress and sports figures, teams and leagues spoke out after the ruling. 

Basketball star LeBron James' reaction was among the most succinct as he tweeted simply: "ACCOUNTABILITY".

Boxing legend Mike Tyson tweeted: "Guilty. Justice served."

While similiar expressions of relief were common, most continued to lament the crime that sparked the case. 

"George Floyd lost his life, as many others have, unjustly. We can't forget that - that people are losing their lives," Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters.

"On the other hand, it is a small gesture of justice and possibly hope for the future in that perhaps all the social justice movements - the NBA, the WNBA, the community at large - are really making an impact.

"I just hope that this is the type of statement by our justice system that gives hope and precedence for these type of verdicts to be the norm."

Drew Brees is a "legend" who will be sorely missed after announcing his retirement, fellow New Orleans favourite Zion Williamson said. 

Brees called time on his glittering 20-year NFL career on Sunday, with glowing tributes pouring in for the quarterback. 

And Pelicans star Williamson, fresh from a 135-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, praised someone whose welcoming words have stuck with him. 

Williamson was the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and received a special message from Brees, who has had a lasting impact on the 20-year-old.

"He's a legend in the game, I think everybody knows that he's a legend," said Williamson, who is 22 years Brees' junior. 

"He gave his heart and soul to the game. I know a lot of people are sad to see him go. 

"Drew told me I think the truest thing anybody has ever told me, my first game in New Orleans – you love your city, they'll love you right back. 

"Whenever new people come and visit, that's the same thing I tell them. That's the kind of influence he's had on me." 

Brees is a 13-time Pro Bowler and was MVP in the Saints' Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts in February 2010. 

The 42-year-old retires as the all-time leader in passing completions (7,142) and passing yards (80,358).

Drew Brees has called time on his remarkable NFL career, announcing his retirement after 20 seasons.

Tom Brady has signed a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that will keep him with the team through 2022.

Brady agreed a two-year deal with the Buccaneers last offseason after making the stunning decision to end his two-decade spell with the New England Patriots, which saw him win six Super Bowl titles.

Even more staggering was Brady's success in his first year in Tampa, where he won his seventh Lombardi Trophy as the Bucs became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl at their home stadium, ending the Kansas City Chiefs' hopes of retaining the title in a 31-9 rout.

And he will stay with the Bucs for at least the next two seasons.

Brady has officially signed a four-year extension; however, three years of the deal are voidable ones included to help spread the cost of the contract.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, it is a move that saves the Buccaneers $19million in salary cap space in an offseason where the cap has shrunk from $198.2m to $182.5m because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Brady will be 45 when the 2022 season, effectively the final year of this deal, begins. He has previously stated his desire to play until 45, though has also said he is open to continuing further into his forties.

After intially struggling to hit the ground running, Brady enjoyed a stellar maiden season with the Bucs.

He threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, his passer rating of 102.2 his highest since his MVP season of 2017 (102.8).

Only Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes had more completions of 20 yards or more than Brady's 63 as he experienced a revival as a downfield passer in Tampa.

In the playoffs, he helped the Bucs come through a gauntlet, winning three games on the road to get to the Super Bowl. By defeating Mahomes and the Chiefs, the Bucs became the first team to win three games against former Super Bowl MVPs in the same postseason having also seen off Drew Brees and the Saints and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Brady won his fifth Super Bowl MVP at Raymond James Stadium and will hope the extra financial flexibility his extension has given the Bucs can help him add to that tally over the next two seasons.

Tom Brady has signed a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that will keep him with the team through 2022.

Antonio Conte has claimed Romelu Lukaku would not be out of place playing American Football, as he hailed the Inter star's "atypical" style of play.

Lukaku has been in sensational form throughout his Inter career. Last season – his first campaign with the Serie A giants – he finished with 23 league goals; only Ronaldo (25) and Istvan Nyers (26) have scored more in their debut seasons with the Nerazzurri. 

The 27-year-old Belgium forward also netted 30 times across all competitions for the first time in his career, and equalled Ronaldo's record from 1997-98 of 34 goals for Inter.

Lukaku has also struck up a brilliant relationship with fellow forward Lautaro Martinez.

Indeed, across the opening 23 Serie A games this term, the duo have combined for 30 goals – Lukaku scoring 17 times and Martinez adding another 13. It is the first time Inter have a pair of players having combined for as many goals after as many matches since 1958-59.

Lukaku made his mark in last week's Milan derby, setting up Martinez's opener before sealing a dominant 3-0 victory with a sublime solo goal.

"It's too easy to say that," Conte told Il Corriere della Sera when it was put to him that some fans had described Lukaku as "unstoppable".

"I wish Lukaku and Lautaro were given more space inside the box. I don't think it's a good thing for defenders."

Lukaku, through his time with both Everton and Manchester United prior to his move to Inter, was often at his best driving at goal from deep.

In particular at Everton, his now-international boss Roberto Martinez occasionally used him on the right flank to good effect, giving Lukaku the freedom to burst inside at pace onto his stronger left foot.

And Conte believes Lukaku would have been able to make a career in American Football, such is his physique and power.

"Lukaku is an atypical player, he is a speedy centre forward, he could play American Football," Conte added.

Earlier in the week, Belgium boss Martinez spoke highly of Lukaku, who he managed for three seasons at Everton before his departure in 2016, though the Spaniard swiftly landed a job in charge of the striker's national team.

"He scores like few others," Martinez told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Create and score, create and score, create and score…

"He arrived in Milan at the perfect moment. He became a complete player, obviously thanks to Conte. Today, at his age, there are no strikers as strong as him.

"In the past, Romelu always had the potential to be able to do what he is demonstrating in Milan. For me it's not a surprise."

Matthew Stafford is excited to join the Los Angeles Rams, but he expected to end up playing with the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers or Washington Football Team in 2021.

The 33-year-old quarterback left the Detroit Lions in a trade after representing the team for 12 years, with the Rams sending QB Jared Goff and a package of draft picks that contained two first-round selections in the other direction.

Stafford and the Lions agreed it was the best move as the team embarked on a rebuild after firing head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn towards the end of a 5-11 season in 2020.

The number one overall pick in 2009, Stafford leaves the Lions without having won a playoff game.

He hopes the chance to represent the Rams, who were in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2018 season, will give him a chance to play in the biggest NFL games.

Stafford should upgrade the QB position for Rams coach Sean McVay, but he was not expecting to join the likes of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey in LA when his offseason began.

"I've always wanted to play in those big games," Stafford said to the Detroit Free Press. "I feel like I will excel in those situations. I wanted to shoot my shot.

"I thought [I would go to] all the places that everybody else thought. Indianapolis. San Francisco - although you didn't know what was gonna happen with Jimmy [Garoppolo] - Washington.

"But we obviously didn't know what was gonna happen there. I just didn't know how they [the Rams] would ever be able to [pull it off]. You know, I'm not a salary cap guru. It kind of got to a point where I'm like, 'OK, I can't sit there and go crazy'. I just tried to let it happen and LA aggressively jumped into it.

"I'm excited about their roster, their coaching staff, what they can bring to the table and their recent success."

Stafford initially thought he would never leave Detroit, but he came to realise a rebuild could be on the cards if the 2020 season did not meet expectations as the pressure grew on Patricia.

"To be honest, [my wife] Kelly and I probably started talking about it before last season," he said. "It was one of those where we were hoping, 'Golly, let's go, I hope this thing takes off and we play great'.

"But if it doesn't, you just knew what was going to happen. They were going to tear it down and rebuild.

"Anytime you switch GMs and a head coach, you know that they're going to want to bring their own people in, and that's going to take time. Frankly, I didn't feel like I was the appropriate person to oversee that time."

Stafford thought his ability would hinder the Lions' rebuild as he would win too many games to prevent them from topping the draft order.

He leaves with 45,109 passing yards, 282 touchdowns, 144 interceptions and 74 wins – all franchise QB records.

Stafford finishes with a record of 74-90-1, though, and with no NFC North titles after enduring three consecutive losing seasons between 2018 and 2020.

He added: "Sometimes it's not the perfect storybook ending in the same place, but I can leave here knowing that I gave this team every damn thing I had."

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