The Green Bay Packers have re-signed star running back Aaron Jones, his agent confirmed.

Jones' new deal is worth $48million, including a $13m signing bonus, over four years in Green Bay.

The 2020 NFL Pro Bowler was eligible to test the free-agent market after the Packers opted not to franchise tag Jones.

However, Jones – drafted by the Packers in 2017 – decided to remain at Lambeau Field.

"We anticipated bigger offers in free agency, but Aaron wanted to stay with the Packers," agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN.

Jones also tweeted a picture, with the caption: "let's run it back" on Sunday.

The 26-year-old ranked fourth for rushing yards (1,104) in the NFL last season, behind Derrick Henry (2,027), Dalvin Cook (1,557) and Jonathan Taylor (1,169).

He was also fourth for rushing yards per game (78.9) as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers reached the NFC Championship Game, beaten by eventual Super Bowl winners the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones – a fifth-round pick – made his first Pro Bowl, becoming the lowest-drafted Packers running back since Dorsey Levens in 1997 to do so.

Tom Brady led the tributes to Drew Brees after the New Orleans Saints quarterback announced his retirement from the NFL.

Brady and Brees have spent the past two decades at the summit of American football, but the latter has now called time on his career.

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady sits second in the list of all-time passing yards (79,204), trailing only Brees (80,358).

Brady, who this week extended his contract with champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will almost certainly pass that mark in 2021, but Brees' extraordinary achievements over a 20-year career will not be forgotten.

Although his time in the NFL ended with defeat to Brady's Bucs in the 2020 playoffs, the Saints icon's great rival was keen to hail his outstanding achievements.

"Congrats my friend on an incredible career," Brady wrote on Twitter.

"Thank you for the inspiration and dedication on and off the field! Look forward to seeing what's next @drewbrees."

Congratulations followed from around the NFL, including from NFC South rivals Tampa Bay, who accompanied a picture of Brees and Brady with the message: "Congratulations on an incredible career, @drewbrees."

The Atlanta Falcons, another NFC South opponent, were glad to see the back of a great, posting: "We thank you, @drewbrees. But we won't miss you."

Tributes from within the Saints organisation were as heartfelt as anticipated, with Brees having complemented his on-field success – a single Super Bowl ring – with off-field contributions, playing a huge role in the relief effort following Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said: "When I was hired by the Saints as head coach in 2006, the very first goal was to establish a functional and winning culture.

"In doing so, it was vital to know what we were looking for in a player; talent, work ethic, make-up, intelligence and leadership are all qualities we found in Drew Brees.

"We also found a player with a burning desire to win. Within a year, he helped lead our team to the club's first NFC Championship appearance.

"Throughout his career, his consistency and dedication to excellence were unparalleled.

"In a very short period of time, he would help lead a region to recovery and a team to a Super Bowl Championship.

"He was a magnificent leader both on and off the field. His attention to detail and competitive spirit were infectious.

"For all of us that have had the chance to coach him, it has been our privilege, we are better for it.

"I am forever grateful for what he has done for our team, our community and for me personally."

Owner Gayle Benson said Brees was "much more valuable than all the records, awards and accolades". Saints president Dennis Lauscha described him as "remarkable in all facets of his career".

"He has developed a lasting legacy not only as a player, but more importantly as a person," said general manager Mickey Loomis.

As expected, Drew Brees has announced his retirement, a decision that puts the full stop on a 20-year story that has seen the quarterback set numerous NFL passing records. 

Pick number 32 in the 2001 draft, Brees started out with the San Diego Chargers but will be best remembered for his time with the New Orleans Saints. 

He sits as the all-time leader with 80,358 passing yards, though should not get too comfortable on top of the pile, considering Tom Brady sits right behind him on the list.  

While Brady is to keep on playing after winning the Super Bowl in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his fellow forty-something has decided the time is right to move on to a new chapter. 

After 10,551 passing attempts (of which he completed 67.7 per cent), 571 touchdowns throws and 172 wins - plus one Super Bowl ring, of course - Brees bows out an undoubted great of the game. 
 

SAINTS GO MARCHING ON

It could have all been so different, though. Brees suffered a painful end to the 2005 season, injuring his shoulder in Week 17. When it became clear his future would lie away from the Chargers, who had a young Philip Rivers waiting in the wings, there were two possible destinations: Miami or New Orleans.  

The Dolphins, however, had concerns over Brees' recovery. They traded for Daunte Culpepper instead, the first of 15 different quarterbacks they have started since 2006.  

Meanwhile, the one they let get off the hook formed an alliance with head coach Sean Payton, one that turned the Saints from perennial strugglers to persistent winners. 

A franchise that had only made the playoffs five times previously has enjoyed nine postseason trips since 2006, including an unforgettable run in the 2009 season that culminated in winning Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, of all places.  

In the stadium he could well have called home, Brees completed 32 of his 39 attempts for 288 yards and two scores. Those numbers were good enough to see him named MVP as the Saints were crowned champions for the first time in franchise history.


SEVEN IN ONE AND THE HOT STREAKS

Brees' play has been central to the prolonged success for the Saints. He had five seasons with over 5,000 passing yards, a feat no other quarterback has accomplished more than once. Not Brady, not Peyton Manning, not Patrick Mahomes (yet).  

His total of 5,476 yards in 2011 saw him break Dan Marino's longstanding NFL record for a single campaign, though Manning squeezed above him by one solitary yard to take top spot on the all-time list two years later.  

The former Purdue Boilermaker has the record for most seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes per year (10). There were once seven in a single game in 2015, against the New York Giants, a feat only eight players have ever achieved in the league's history. 

However, no signal-caller has had more career games with at least three scores through the air than his total of 97. Same goes for four or more (37). And five (11), too.  

Brees' 54-game stretch with at least one touchdown pass from 2009 to 2012 is also an NFL record, while there were twice nine-game streaks where he posted 300 or more passing yards in each outing.


THE TWILIGHT YEARS, COMING CLOSE TO PERFECTION

From 2006 to 2017, Brees threw for over 4,000 yards in each and every season. While there was a downturn in his output in that category in the closing chapters of his NFL tale, he also became more careful with the ball. 

Indeed, in his final 54 starts there were just 23 interceptions, demonstrating his efficiency as part of a Saints offense that began to lean more heavily on the run game. 

In 2018, a 74.4 per cent completion rate for the campaign raised the bar. The following year, in a 34-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts, all but one of his 30 passes found a fellow Saint. That 96.7 per cent success on his throws is the best posted in a game for a player with at least 20 attempts. 

While his impact as a passer may have dipped, his importance to the Saints remained high. The 42-year-old did not get to ride off into the sunset as a Super Bowl champion, thanks in part to fellow golden oldie Brady, but he can be absolutely certain that he is destined to end up in the NFL's Hall of Fame.

It is about far more than the numbers with Brees, too, as Saints owner Gayle Benson made clear: "Drew is so much more valuable than all the records, awards and accolades that he amassed through a 15-year career with the New Orleans Saints and 20-year NFL playing career, one of the greatest in our league's history."

Next stop: Canton, Ohio.

For the last 15 years, Drew Brees and the city of New Orleans have been synonymous. 

He helped give an emotional lift to the city following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, transformed the franchise from a pushover to a perennial contender and delivered the city its only professional championship. 

And now after being a part of New Orleans for a generation of Saints fans, the 42-year-old Brees announced on Instagram on Sunday that he is retiring from football after 20 seasons.

"After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football. Each day, I poured my heart and soul into being your quarterback. Until the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organisation, my team, and the great city of New Orleans. We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us. You have moulded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories. My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more," he wrote in his post.

"I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life's work begins!"

The future Hall of Famer leaves the game as the NFL's all-time passing leader with 80,358 yards and ranks second only to Tom Brady in touchdown passes with 571 and second in completion percentage (67.7). 

While Brady followed in the footsteps of Boston legends like Ted Williams, Larry Bird and Bobby Orr, Ben Roethlisberger is held in similar esteem in Pittsburgh with the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Roberto Clemente and Mario Lemieux, and Aaron Rodgers shares the Green Bay spotlight with Brett Favre, Brees is New Orleans' most celebrated professional athlete. 

New Orleans was a one-sport city for the first 35 years of the Saints' existence, and while Archie Manning was the face of the franchise in the 1970s, the team never found success with him at quarterback. 

That changed when Brees came to town. 

Brees joined the Saints in 2006 after not being guaranteed a starting job with the San Diego Chargers – the team that drafted him with the 32nd overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft – after he suffered a devastating shoulder injury in the 2005 season finale. Despite helping the Chargers capture the 2004 AFC West title while earning his first of 13 Pro Bowl selections, his future with the franchise was uncertain with a shoulder to rehab and a young Philip Rivers waiting in the wings. 

The Saints offered him a starting job, and Brees not only seized that opportunity in rebuilding a struggling franchise, he also took it upon himself to help a proud city rebuild from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. 

In one of the most intense storms in United States history, Katrina decimated New Orleans when it made landfall in August 2005. A damaged Superdome initially served as a shelter to displaced residents and was in no shape to host NFL games, forcing the Saints to play home games in San Antonio, Baton Rouge and even New York. 

Shortly after arriving in New Orleans, Brees and his wife, Brittany, created the Drew Brees Dream Foundation, raising millions of dollars for rebuilding efforts from Katrina, as well as programmes for children and adults with special needs, and child-care facilities. 

While aiding in the relief efforts of Katrina, his first season in New Orleans coincided with Sean Payton's first as coach, and the two teamed up to create one of the league's most dangerous offenses and galvanize a city that had been battered. 

After the Saints went 3-13 during their nomadic 2005 season, Brees led them to a seven-win improvement and an NFC South Division title, while throwing for a league-leading 4,418 passing yards – his first of seven seasons to lead the NFL in passing yards. Only two other QBs have led the league in passing yards more than once in this span – Brady in 2007 and 2017 and Roethlisberger in 2014 and 2018. 

Brees and the Saints brought joy to a community that had been through so much, but their storybook season ended at the hands of the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game. 

Three seasons later, however, Brees would finally bring a championship to the title-starved city. 

Led by the NFL's number one scoring offense, the Saints were nearly unstoppable, winning their first 13 games while exciting an already excitable city. They marched all the way to the Super Bowl, rallying for a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on February 7, 2010.  

Brees was named the game's MVP after tying Brady's Super Bowl record with 32 completions while throwing two touchdowns without an interception.  

If winning a title was not enough for a fervent fanbase, Brees further endeared himself to the people of New Orleans when he popped up in a bar packed with Saints fans after the team's Super Bowl parade and taught them the words to the cheer he would lead his teammates through before every game of their championship season. Video of the call-and-response chant between the quarterback and the fans went viral as he worked the crowd into a frenzy with Brees exchanging high-fives and handshakes. 

Less than 10 months after winning the Super Bowl, Brees was honoured as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, a culmination of sorts for his play on the field as well as his charitable work off it. 

In the magazine's Sportsman of the Year article, Saints tackle Jon Stinchcomb was quoted as saying, "People come up to Drew and don't say, 'Congratulations.' They say, 'Thank you. Thank you for coming here.'" 

While Brees was never able to lead the Saints back to a championship, the franchise has consistently been one of the NFL's best. 

Since 2006, only three teams have more regular-season wins than the Saints' 150 – the Patriots (181), the Packers (153) and the Steelers (153) – and New Orleans' 49 victories since 2017 are the most in the NFL. 

Despite being a quadragenarian for the past few seasons, there had been little statistical drop-off in Brees' production. He led the league in completion percentage in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before finishing second this past season, and finished in the top two in passer rating in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before a sixth-placed finish in 2020. 

This past season, however, was one of the most trying for Brees. Although he got off to a stellar start to his 20th professional season, he suffered multiple rib fractures and a collapsed right lung in Week 10, putting his future in the NFL into question. Although he missed only four games and played well at times during the final three weeks of the regular season, he had one of the worst performances of his postseason career in New Orleans' 30-20 loss to Brady the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Divisional Round game on January 17. 

Hours after throwing three interceptions and a playoff career-low 134 yards, Brees was back on the Superdome turf in street clothes with his wife and four children soaking in what would be the end of a long and emotional ride with the Saints.   

Brees achieved sainthood in New Orleans through his inspirational work in the community in helping a city rebuild, along with transforming the city's beloved football team into a winner. 

An iconic image from the Saints' celebration on the field following their Super Bowl win was Brees lifting his one-year-old son Baylen – who was wearing giant noise-cancelling headphones and a Saints jersey with his dad's name and number on the back – high over his head as confetti fell on them.  

Nearly 11 years later, Brees and Baylen shared another poignant father-son moment. 

Following the playoff loss to the Buccaneers, the quarterback dad played catch with his kids on the Superdome turf - a lasting images of Brees before he exited the Superdome leaving behind an unparalleled legacy.

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

The New Orleans Saints great posted on Instagram on Sunday: "After 20 years as a player in the NFL and 15 years as a Saint, it is time I retire from the game of football.

"Each day, I poured my heart and soul into being your quarterback. Until the very end, I exhausted myself to give everything I had to the Saints organisation, my team, and the great city of New Orleans.

"We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us.

"You have moulded me, strengthened me, inspired me, and given me a lifetime of memories.

"My goal for the last 15 years was striving to give to you everything you had given to me and more.

"I am only retiring from playing football, I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye, rather a new beginning. Now my real life's work begins!"

Brees' retirement comes on the back of a 2020 season that ended with the Saints' Divisional Round playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His 134-yard performance in that loss marked a meek conclusion for a quarterback who is a certainty to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame after a record-breaking two decades in the league.

Brees threw a touchdown and three interceptions at the Superdome as the Bucs prevailed 30-20, again falling short of a second Super Bowl title.

But Brees will forever be remembered as the quarterback who helped turn the Saints franchise around in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, leading them to glory in Super Bowl XLIV at the end of the 2009 season.

His was also a career in which he defied those who doubted his ability to perform at the highest level following a torn labrum suffered in 2005.

That injury led to his exit from the team that drafted him, the then-San Diego Chargers, while the Miami Dolphins opted against signing Brees over fears his shoulder had not fully healed.

Instead, it was the Saints that pounced, with Brees going on to lead the league in passing yards in seven of his seasons with New Orleans. He led the league in passing touchdowns four times and set the high watermark in passer rating twice and completion percentage six times.

A 13-time Pro Bowler, Brees was MVP in the Saints' Super Bowl triumph over the Indianapolis Colts. He also won Offensive Player of the Year twice in his career.

The 42-year-old retires as the all-time leader in passing completions (7,142) and passing yards (80,142), though Tom Brady will likely surpass him in the latter category next season.

Though he has a host of records in his possession, the drop-off in Brees' play has been obvious in recent seasons, with his display against the Bucs indicative of a player who now lacks the arm strength to elevate those around him.

His exit leaves the Saints with a massive decision to make this offseason, with Taysom Hill the only senior quarterback under contract for next season.

Head coach Sean Payton and the Saints' hierarchy will have to decide whether Hill's four-game audition in 2020 was enough for him to be named the starter or if they will aim to re-sign Jameis Winston or bring in a new face to step into Brees' sizeable shoes.

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

Rarely has it been more important for teams to spend their money wisely in free agency. 

With the NFL salary cap dropping from $198.2million to $182.5m, those close to the limit will have to be especially prudent with their resources, while teams that have more to spend will have to make sure not to waste it on ineffective players. 

There are still several options for those front offices that are likely to be shopping in the discount aisle. Those whose pockets are more flush must be wary of expensive players that may not live up to their price tag. 

Here we look at some of free agency's best bargains, as well as identifying those players that teams should perhaps be wary of giving a lucrative contract.

Bargains

Justin Houston - Indianapolis Colts

Houston has been productive through stops in Kansas City and Indianapolis and proved he still had plenty in the tank with an eight-sack season for the Colts last year. The 32-year-old is 2.5 sacks away from becoming the 36th player to reach 100. He may be willing to take a one-year deal with a contender at this stage in his career. 

Jaquiski Tartt - San Francisco 49ers

Tartt has had some injury issues in his career. However, when he has been on the field, he has proven himself a versatile and physically imposing safety. In seven games last season, he did not miss a single tackle for the 49ers and, in a deep safety free-agent class, could prove a steal if he can stay healthy. 

Gerald Everett - Los Angeles Rams

Everett was never quite able to carve out a defined role in Los Angeles. Since entering the league in 2017, he ranks 22nd in yards per reception among tight ends. His average of 10.9 yard per catch in that time is only slightly below that of Hunter Henry (11.5) and Jonnu Smith (11.4), with that duo sure to command a higher price on the open market.

Mike Hilton - Pittsburgh Steelers

K'Waun Williams of the 49ers might get the most money of any nickel cornerback in free agency, but Hilton could provide as much value at a cheaper cost. He had three interceptions last season and his 32 pass deflections are the second-most by any Steelers player since 2017.

Kenyan Drake - Arizona Cardinals

Still only 27, Drake has been an asset as both a runner and a pass-catcher in his career, with the former Miami Dolphins back having compiled three successive seasons with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Investing in running backs can be risky, but Drake should come at a price that represents excellent value for money. 

Buyer Beware

Leonard Floyd - Los Angeles Rams

Floyd took the Dante Fowler route in signing a one-year deal with the Rams and benefiting greatly from playing on the same defensive line as Aaron Donald, posting a career-high 10.5 sacks. Potential suitors should heed the cautionary tale of Fowler, who cashed in after an 11.5-sack 2019 season but recorded just three in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons.

Juju Smith-Schuster - Pittsburgh Steelers

Smith-Schuster looked like one of the best wide receivers in football as recently as 2018, when he racked up 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. However, since Antonio Brown made his acrimonious exit from Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster has struggled to produce his best, ranking 98th among wideouts with a yards-per-catch average of 9.9. Teams should be wary of getting caught up in the name value here.

Yannick Ngakoue - Baltimore Ravens

Ngakoue has gradually declined since his 12-sack season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. Traded twice last year, he failed to impress with either the Minnesota Vikings (5 sacks) or the Ravens (3). The limitations to his skill set are such that he would be better landing with a team that can use him as a rotational edge player, rather than as somebody who is expected to lead the pass rush.

Chris Carson - Seattle Seahawks

It's difficult to argue too much with Carson's production, his 4,045 scrimmage yards since 2017 are 14th among all running backs. However, he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule in his career, with durability concerns exacerbated by his extremely physical style of play.

Will Fuller - Houston Texans

Issues staying on the field have defined the career of a player who is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL. Add on a four-game suspension for violating league policy on performance-enhancing substances and Fuller represents a massive gamble for teams looking for receiver help.

Tom Brady is staying with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the next two seasons, and in the front office of the Super Bowl champions they "couldn't be happier".

It emerged on Friday that 43-year-old Brady has agreed to stay with the Buccaneers through the 2022 season, after a stellar first year with the team.

The former New England Patriots quarterback landed a seventh Super Bowl ring when the Bucs became the first team in NFL history to lift the Lombardi Trophy at their home stadium, courtesy of a crushing 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Brady had 12 months remaining on the deal he signed in March 2020 and has officially signed a four-year extension to that, although three years of the deal are voidable ones included to help spread the cost of the contract.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said: "When we acquired Tom a year ago, we were extremely excited about the leadership, poise and winning track record that he would bring to our locker room.

"Since that time, he has proven himself to be the ultimate competitor and delivered in every way we had imagined, helping us capture the Lombardi Trophy.

"Year after year, Tom proves that he remains one of the elite quarterbacks in this game and we couldn't be happier to keep him in Tampa Bay as we continue to pursue our goals together."

Brady threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with 12 interceptions last season. Only Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, with 48 TD passes, threw for more than Brady, who will be 45 when the 2022 season begins.

"I'm just excited to be somewhere that I know wants me and appreciates me."

The Detroit Lions are about to find out if that factor alone can restore Jared Goff to the player he should have been.

Goff was the first overall pick in 2016 and led the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2018 season. In September 2019, he signed a four-year contract extension in LA, including $110million in guaranteed money - then the most in NFL history.

But that deal does not kick in until this 2021 season and the Rams have long since lost faith in the quarterback.

So disappointing has been Goff's form, his former team had to send two future first-round picks and a third as well as him to the Lions to get Matthew Stafford in return.

Rather than their underrated stalwart QB, Detroit are set to head into the new campaign with Goff under center, starting a new era.

But the Lions must hope the struggling 26-year-old will not make their offense significantly worse, because their defense does not leave a lot of room for error, as Stats Perform data shows.

Offense

If there is a huge drop-off in Detroit's offensive output in 2021, it might not necessarily all be down to Goff.

There are understandable fears the QB might struggle to an even greater degree without the aid of Sean McVay's scheme – his passer rating in 2016, the year before the Rams changed coaches, was an awful 63.6 – but it is not only the system that looks an issue right now.

Wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola are all set for free agency. The Lions surprisingly opted against franchise-tagging Golladay, who played only five games last season due to injury but still led the team in yards per game (67.6) and had gone for 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns the previous year.

Veteran running back Adrian Peterson will not be back after his 156 carries in 2020 either.

Detroit ranked 20th with 350.2 yards per game last season and have since lost their QB, three WRs and their most-used RB – and the defense is supposed to be the problem!

However, the departure of Peterson has at least cleared space for D'Andre Swift, whose rookie year included 10 total TDs, with 521 rushing yards and 357 receiving yards.

At tight end, there is talent, too, in the form of T.J. Hockenson, behind only Jones with 67 catches for 723 yards and six TDs.

Tyrell Williams has already been brought in as the task to rebuild the receiving corps begins. Barring some huge, unexpected investment, Hockenson and a top draft pick will be Goff's top targets.

Defense

If Goff was already feeling a little disorientated by the lack of depth in the offense, just wait until he gets off the field.

With the Rams, the QB would know errors could often go unpunished, with his defensive team-mates capable of making huge stops. In Detroit, the opposite is likely to be true.

Where LA conceded the fewest total points (296), fewest yards per game (281.9) and fewest yards per play (4.56) in 2020, the Lions were at the other end of the spectrum, ranking 32nd in all three categories.

The new QB has gone from sharing a locker room with the best defense around to the very worst.

And Detroit are actually set to get worse on this side of the ball, at least on paper.

They registered only 24 sacks in 2020, tied for 26th in the league, and Romeo Okwara contributed by far the greatest share of those with 10.0, ranking 10th. Just like Golladay, the defensive end was not tagged ahead of the deadline and is set instead for free agency, seemingly leaving his brother Julian – six games last year – as a starter.

Everson Griffen, the veteran signed from the Dallas Cowboys in a midseason trade, was next behind Romeo for sacks (3.5) and QB hits (eight). He is also a free agent.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Okudah had an incredibly difficult season at cornerback after being picked at number three overall.

The Lions were also not helped by 2020 signing Jamie Collins Sr.'s form falling off a cliff after agreeing a three-year, $30m contract. From his 2019 season with the New England Patriots, the linebacker was down 6.0 sacks, seven QB hits and two interceptions.

Offseason

So the Lions approach 2021 paying $6.5m more than last year at QB for an inferior player, while the cap has fallen to $182.5m. They have lost key players on offense and defense, having started from the low base of a 5-11 record.

It leaves general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell – both new hires – with just $9m of cap space to play with.

They need multiple wide receivers and cornerbacks just for starters, with drafting a QB of the future also in play.

Campbell did not exactly encourage optimism when he spoke of looking for "free agents that maybe aren't quite as talented but, man, they are gritty, salty guys that know how to compete". They "will help us in the meantime", he said.

Detroit retain the seventh pick in this year's draft – a vital asset – but the first-round selections received in the Stafford-Goff deal will not come into play until 2022 and 2023.

Looking some way short of a competitive NFL roster, Holmes and Campbell will be kept busy in their preparation for the new season, but this will realistically be a rebuild across multiple years.

For two-time Pro Bowler Goff, looking to recover his reputation, that might make for a painful 2021.

The Seattle Seahawks' Wild Card round exit in the playoffs was a result that underlined the need for significant changes, but they may be about to head down a path nobody expected or would advise. 

Frustrated by the level of punishment he has taken behind an offensive line the Seahawks have failed to properly upgrade, quarterback Russell Wilson this offseason reportedly provided Seattle with a list of teams to whom he would accept a trade. 

On that list are the Dallas Cowboys - who are out of the running having re-signed Dak Prescott - New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders. 

If speculation is to be believed, the Seahawks are fielding offers for Wilson and do not appear dead against trading one of NFL's elite quarterbacks, with the Bears said to be the team in that quartet most interested in striking a trade. 

It would be a franchise-altering decision for a team that has consistently been in the playoff mix because of the heroics of Wilson. 

The likely outcome remains that Wilson is still a Seahawk in 2021, but what do Seattle need to do this offseason to ensure this same drama is not repeated next year? 

Using Stats Perform data, we reflect on another year in which regular-season optimism gave way to postseason frustration for the Seahawks and the moves they will need to make to be better placed to challenge for the Lombardi Trophy in 2021. 

Offense 

The Seahawks dispensed with the services of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer following the loss to the Rams, a move that appeared unlikely early in the season as the Seattle thrived after Schottenheimer and head coach Pete Carroll heeded the widespread calls to 'let Russ cook'. 

Yet there was an evident decline in the second half of the season. Of the 56 plays of 20 yards or more Seattle produced in 2020 - putting them a disappointing 23rd in the NFL - only 20 of them came in the final eight games of the campaign. 

It is perhaps no coincidence that the drop-off came in the wake of a 44-34 defeat to the Buffalo Bills in Week 9 that, combined with a subsequent loss to the Los Angeles Rams - a pair of games in which Wilson committed seven turnovers - sparked a change in approach from Carroll and a disagreement with his quarterback about how to fix the offense. 

Carroll reverted to type, relying on the running game and the strength of a defense that made strides down the stretch as Seattle clinched the NFC West title. 

From Weeks 1-9, only three teams registered fewer rushing attempts than the Seahawks' 193. However, from Week 10 onwards they attempted the 12th-most rushes in the NFL (218). 

And the difference in the Seahawks' performance on offense in those two timeframes could hardly be starker.

Between Weeks 1-9, Seattle led the league in scrimmage yards per game (434.5). From Weeks 10-17, they dropped to 24th with an average of 342.5. 

The numbers clearly point to an aggressive approach through the air being Seattle's best route to offensive success. 

Wilson's statistics on deep throws also support the argument that letting him 'cook' is in Seattle's best interests. Indeed, of quarterbacks to have attempted at least 25 throws of 21 or more air yards last season, Wilson led the way with 13 touchdowns on such passes. 

Yet for him to have the opportunity to make a strategy built around his remarkable deep ball prowess succeed, the Seahawks must do a better job in pass protection. 

Among quarterbacks to have at least 100 dropbacks, Wilson's sacks per pass play percentage of 7.77 was tied for the ninth-highest with Cam Newton. 

When given licence to do so, Wilson torched defenses. Allowing him that freedom, and reinforcing the offensive line, is the best way for the Seahawks to take the burden off a defense not without his holes despite a strong finish to the 2020 regular season. 

Defense 

Seattle's big splash last year was to strike a blockbuster trade for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams that caused excitement and raised eyebrows in equal measure. 

The decision to trade two first-round picks to acquire Adams from the New York Jets was met with scepticism from many. He may fail to ever live up to that price tag, but he did make a tangible impact on the success the defense enjoyed in 2020. 

Adams posted 9.5 sacks, the most by a defensive back in a single-season in NFL history, providing a significant boost to a Seahawks' pass rush that lacks dominant players up front. 

His efforts in that regard helped the Seahawks finish in the top 10 in opponent negative play yardage, Seattle forcing 109 negative plays for minus 393 yards. 

Yet the Seahawks were still extremely susceptible to the passing game. 

Seattle allowed 55 pass plays of 20 yards or more, tied for seventh in the NFL, indicating Adams had little positive impact in coverage. 

Where the Seahawks' defense consistently excelled was in defending the run. 

Only four teams allowed fewer runs of 20 yards or more than Seattle (7), and the Seahawks did not give up a single touchdown run of 20 yards. 

Finishing the year 12th in opponent yards per play allowed (5.48), the Seahawks will be out to join the league's elite on defense in 2021. 

To do that they will likely need better production from the defensive line in terms of turning pressure into sacks, of which they put up 46. 

That tally was good enough for seventh in the NFL, but plenty of opportunities clearly went begging with Seattle leading the league in hurries (190) and tied for sixth in knockdowns (104). Defensive tackle Jarran Reed was second behind Adams for sacks on the team with 6.5 and Carlos Dunlap (5) is no longer a Seahawk. 

The Seahawks cannot rely on a safety to carry the pass-rushing load on a regular basis, and finding a dominant edge player who can convert on the pressure they create should be top priority on defense in an offseason where they will have to perform a financial balancing act. 

Offseason 

Seattle must face up to the same challenge that beckons for the rest of the league, improving the roster by acquiring new talent and trying to keep their own while dealing with the issues presented by a declining salary cap. 

The Seahawks are scheduled to be $21.4million under the salary cap of $182.5m, that is more wiggle room than just under half the league and is little enough to raise doubts over how many free agents they can retain. 

Shaquill Griffin is likely to be the Seahawks' priority in terms of keeping their own players, Griffin having developed into an impressive starting cornerback for Seattle. 

He could command significant money on the market, potentially limiting Seattle's ability to re-sign veteran linebacker K.J. Wright. 

Seattle drafted linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first round last year and he should slot in as the successor if Wright departs. 

Without a first-round pick because of the Adams trade, the Seahawks will need to get creative if they are to fill their most pressing needs on both sides of the trenches. 

General manager John Schneider has long been one of the best in the league at manoeuvring up and down the draft board. 

The onus is on him to do so and find financially viable solutions in free agency to ensure the pass rush improves and that the Seahawks do a better job of keeping opposing pass rushes away from Wilson. 

Should he fail to do so, Wilson's dissatisfaction may lead to some franchise-changing consequences next offseason. 

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.

One of the most interesting offseasons in modern NFL history is on the horizon, with free agency set to begin next week.

Teams can negotiate with free agents from Monday, and franchises will be able to announce signings from Wednesday when the new league year begins.

The drop in salary cap, which is set at $182.5million, means many teams will have limited financial means with which to pursue their potential targets.

Yet there is a select group of players that will be able to command top dollar regardless of the economic challenges the coronavirus has presented.

Here we look at some of the players in that category by ranking the top 10 players set to hit the open market.

 

1. Shaquil Barrett - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With the Buccaneers franchising wide receiver Chris Godwin, Barrett is set to hit the open market and will earn a long overdue payday. Pivotal to Tampa's success in Super Bowl LV, only T.J. Watt (29.5) has more sacks over the last two seasons than Barrett's 27.5.

2. Trent Williams - San Francisco 49ers

It is extremely rare for left tackles of Williams' calibre to hit free agency. Williams would not be doing so had the Niners agreed not to franchise tag him. There have been positive noises about him re-signing with San Francisco, but Williams will likely command over $20million a year. He has not allowed more than 3.5 sacks since the 2014 season when he gave up six.

3. Kenny Golladay - Detroit Lions

Golladay was not franchised by the Lions following an injury-hit 2020, but that should not cloud what he did in his first three years in the league. One of the league's top big-play threats, Golladay's 33 receptions of 25 yards or more ranked fifth in the NFL between 2017 and 2019.

4. Aaron Jones - Green Bay Packers

That the Packers elected not to pay Jones $8million for one season on the franchise tag is not reflective of the running back's tremendous skill set. He has 43 touchdowns from scrimmage since entering the league in 2017, the eighth-most in the NFL in that time.

5. Carl Lawson - Cincinnati Bengals

One of the most underrated pass rushers on the market, the sack numbers have not quite been there for Lawson. He had only 5.5 last season but was tied-ninth in the NFL in hurries and knockdowns with 65.5. Lawson should flourish playing on a superior defense to that of Cincinnati.

6. Joe Thuney - New England Patriots

Franchised last year, Thuney could become the league's highest-paid guard and deservedly so. The picture of reliability, he has allowed just 1.5 sacks over the past three seasons in New England, playing in every regular season game.

7. Bud Dupree - Pittsburgh Steelers

Dupree has 19.5 sacks in the last two seasons, but his free agency value will be hurt by the torn ACL that brought his 2020 to a premature end. He has shown a nose for the football during his surge in production, Dupree's six forced fumbles from 2019-20 the fourth-highest total in that span.

8. Corey Linsley - Green Bay Packers

Linsley's pending free agency may have influenced the Packers' decision not to franchise Jones. They will surely make effort to bring the center back, Linsley having allowed one sack this season. For the second time in three seasons, he did not commit a single holding penalty and played a pivotal role in a rushing attack that finished eighth in yards per game.

9. Trey Hendrickson - New Orleans Saints

Hendrickson enjoyed a breakout year for a Saints team mired in salary cap hell. He won't be back in New Orleans, but should have no shortage of suitors at the age of 26 after finishing tied-second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks. 

10. Curtis Samuel - Carolina Panthers

Samuel perfectly fits an era where there is an increasing emphasis on wide receivers who can operate out of the backfield. He was second in rushing yards among wideouts with 200 and finished the year 11th in scrimmage yards per touch (8.9).

Cam Newton is returning to the New England Patriots on a one-year contract.

The former NFL MVP spent the 2020 season with New England, who went 7-9 in a disappointing first year after the departure of Tom Brady.

Quarterback Newton often struggled in a new offense with a poor supporting cast that had also hindered Brady in his last season with the Pats.

However, he will get the chance to improve in 2021 after agreeing a new deal with the team ahead of free agency, according to reports from NFL Network and ESPN.

Newton's deal is reportedly to be worth up to $14million, having surprisingly agreed to a $1m contract last year.

At that price he still represents a more affordable option after a flurry of QB moves earlier in the offseason saw Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz find new teams.

The renewal of Newton ends speculation he will link up with the Washington Football Team, who are led by his former coach at the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera.

With the Buffalo Bills reaching the AFC Championship Game and the Miami Dolphins rebuilding quickly with extensive draft capital, New England are suddenly under pressure in the AFC East.

And the scrutiny on their performances in 2021 will intensify after Brady won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This move sees the Pats secure a starting QB ahead of free agency but will not preclude them from exploring other options at the position, according to reports.

Newton, 31, played 15 games (7-8) for New England – missing just one due to coronavirus - after injuries restricted him to playing only twice in his last of nine seasons with Carolina.

He threw for eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions with 2,657 yards through the air, though he did add 592 yards and 12 scores on the ground.

Newton also caught a TD pass from his leading receiver Jakobi Meyers in a win over the New York Jets.

After a painful year, the Patriots go into the offseason with Newton signed, one of the best salary cap situations in the league and the number 15 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Another offseason sees another scramble for quarterbacks in the NFL.

Last year, Tom Brady was among those on the move and he ended the 2020 season with his first Super Bowl title in Tampa Bay and seventh in total.

Already in 2021 there have been significant deals at the position again, including the Los Angeles Rams' big play for Matthew Stafford, deeming him a significant upgrade on the expensive, underperforming Jared Goff.

There are big names remaining on the board, though, and we take a look at the state of play.

 

DESHAUN WATSON

It is not every day a QB of Watson's quality becomes available – and the Houston Texans might still argue he is not. But the 25-year-old was bogged down by a poor team last year, finishing 4-12 despite leading the league in overall passing yards (4,823).

Watson wants out, and the Texans would be well advised to listen to any serious offers if the alternative is to let one of the league's top talents sit on a massive contract.

The asking price will surely be high. Stafford, 33, threw for 4,084 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2020 – beaten by Watson across the board – and set a precedent when he went to the Rams for Goff, two first-round picks and a third.

What does that make Watson worth? Well, his desire to depart might bring the value down slightly, but Houston would surely expect picks as well as a QB prospect.

TUA TAGOVAILOA

Tagovailoa was the fifth pick just a year ago, but the Miami Dolphins might already be interested in moving on, especially if that means a trade for Watson.

Although there were signs of Tagovailoa's promise as he won his first three NFL starts, 2020 ended with his benching in a Week 16 comeback win and then three costly picks in a Week 17 defeat that saw the Dolphins miss the playoffs.

Miami might feel a move for Watson would make them contenders, while the Texans could use a talent like Tagovailoa in their rebuild.

There is a complication, however. The draft picks Houston would receive alongside Tagovailoa in return for Watson would be the same selections they spent themselves in a deal for offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. In order to save face, an alternative package might appeal.

SAM DARNOLD

Such an offer may well materialise elsewhere in the AFC East. The New York Jets are likely to have an interest in Watson if they move on from Darnold and do not want to try again in the draft with the second pick.

That would have been the first selection had the Jets not inexplicably rallied to two wins, gifting Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The signing of Watson would significantly soften that blow, but it would most likely mean the Texans taking on Darnold, who has played for two more years than Tagovailoa and is still to show he is really up to the task. A career tally of 45 TDs and 39 interceptions for a passer rating of 78.6 does not compare favourably.

His team even failed when apparently tanking. Houston would hope a Darnold-led rebuild would fare better.

JIMMY GAROPPOLO

This busy market might have piqued the interest of San Francisco 49ers fans looking for a more reliable option at QB, where Garoppolo has started only 30 games in four years. It could be time for him to move on.

The landing spot for the 29-year-old would seemingly be New England, a place he knows well having previously served as Brady's understudy on the Patriots.

Brady stuck around longer than expected, so Garoppolo moved to San Francisco and performed well in 2019, starting all 16 games for the only time in his career and throwing 27 TDs before making the Super Bowl.

That proved the peak, however, with defeat in the big game, although the Pats look to be interested again having failed to properly replace - yes – Brady.

CAM NEWTON

Newton was the man Bill Belichick initially turned to, agreeing a one-year deal with the former MVP that makes him a free agent again this year.

A return to New England cannot be entirely ruled out, although a team and coach used to Brady's brilliance never really adjusted to a QB who threw only eight TDs.

Newton might have other options. Washington head coach Ron Rivera knows the player well from their time together with the Carolina Panthers and could be more appreciative of his other talents, notably a running game that brought 592 yards and 12 TDs on 137 carries in 2020.

JAMEIS WINSTON

Winston, once a number one overall pick, is another man heading for free agency. He spent last season with the New Orleans Saints but found himself third choice, behind utility player Taysom Hill, and participated in only 51 plays.

It was a far cry from the previous year when Winston was Tampa Bay's starter and involved in just about everything, remarkably throwing 33 TDs and 30 interceptions.

That 2019 campaign encapsulated how chaotic the 27-year-old can be, but he would argue he deserves to at least be competing for a start somewhere. If not back to New Orleans, Winston could be headed for somewhere like Washington and a team looking to change things on the cheap.

RUSSELL WILSON

Wilson certainly would not come cheap. And it seems improbable he would come at all, regardless of the suitor.

But noises of unhappiness in Seattle, where the Seahawks failed to give their superstar quarterback the help he needed, were followed by Wilson's agent saying only moves to the Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders or Chicago Bears would appeal.

Dak Prescott's new deal in Dallas closed that avenue, while the Saints and Bears are already set to be way over the cap. Any blockbuster move for Seattle's most prized asset could change the entire complexion of this offseason, though.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.