The NFL has informed its teams that the salary cap will be set at $208.2 million per franchise for the 2022 season, according to reports.

This is up from last season's cap of $182.5m by $25.7m, and matches up with previous projections from December.

The league's cap had dropped from $198.2m for the 2020 season as a result of COVID-19 implications as teams played in front of limited or no crowds, but will now raise beyond $200m for the first time ever.

The NFL Network reported the figure on Monday, and is the maximum amount agreed upon by the NFL and NFL Players Association in May last year.

The NFL has suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for at least the 2022 season for betting on league games in 2021.

Ridley's bets were made over a five-day span in November when he was away from the team to focus on his mental health and was on the reserve/NFL list.

The league opened an investigation and concluded there was no insider information on the betting activity and none of the coaches or players on the Falcons were aware or involved.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the ban on Monday, notifying Ridley of his suspension in a letter, writing:

"There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL's success - and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league - than upholding the integrity of the game. This is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league.

"Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.

"For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for your promptly reporting for an interview, and for admitting your actions."

Ridley, who was slated to make $11,116,000 in 2022, may not apply for reinstatement until February 15, 2023.

The NFL Network reported that Ridley made parlay bets on NFL games using his cell phone, but the specific games he bet on has not been revealed.

The player has not responded to the suspension, but the Falcons issued a response on Monday.

"We were first made aware of the league’s investigations on February 9," the Falcons statement said. "We have cooperated fully with the investigation since receiving notice and support the league's findings and actions. We are moving forward in the 2022 season with the decision that was made."

Ridley appeared in just five games in the 2021 season, catching 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns after finishing tied for fifth in receiving yards in 2020 with 1,374.

The Cleveland Browns have placed the franchise tag on tight end David Njoku.

Njoku was set to hit unrestricted free agency but the Browns made the move to place a one-year franchise tender on Njoku before Tuesday's deadline, according to a report from NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

The 2017 first-round pick has yet to live up to expectations since the Browns took him with the 29th overall selection five years ago.

His best season in terms of receiving yards came back in 2018 when he finished with 639, but he has since struggled with injuries.

He played in only four games in 2019 and 13 in 2020 as the Browns reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Njoku started 11 of his 16 games in 2021 and finished with 475 yards and four touchdowns in a campaign that saw a disappointing Browns team fail to qualify for the postseason.

However, his average of 13.2 yards per reception ranked fourth among all qualifying tight ends, and, by tagging Njoku, the Browns clearly believe he can have a more significant impact on their offense.

The Kansas City Chiefs are placing the franchise tag on left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Monday that the Chiefs will not allow Brown to test free agency.

The deadline to franchise tag prospective free agents, tying them to a one-year franchise tender with their current team, is on Tuesday.

Brown becomes the first known unrestricted free agent to be tagged, following a strong first season with the Chiefs.

The Chiefs gave up last year's first-round pick as part of a package to land Brown in a deal with the Baltimore Ravens.

Brown had expressed unhappiness at being deployed as a right tackle during his time in Baltimore, stating emphatically that, in his mind, he was best placed on the left.

He provided evidence to back up those claims in 2021, allowing a pressure rate of 7.4 per cent. The average for left tackles was 9.4.

Stats Perform data had Brown losing just 35 of his 300 pass protection one-on-ones last season, while he came off worst on seven of the 28 stunts he faced.

That gave Brown a stunt-adjusted pass protection win rate of 88.19 per cent, sixth among tackles with at least 200 one-on-ones.

Brown's success, which saw him named to the Pro Bowl for a third straight season, and that of the Chiefs' offensive line rebuild did not inspire Kansas City to Super Bowl glory, as they suffered a shock defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game.

Kalon Barnes came within a hundredth of a second of John Ross' NFL Scouting Combine record in his stunning 40-yard dash.

The Baylor cornerback ran a 4.23 on Sunday, the second-fastest time since media were allowed into the event in 2003.

Barnes becomes the fastest defensive back in Combine history in the fastest defensive back class.

There were a record 13 DBs who ran sub-4.40 dashes, including Texas-San Antonio cornerback Tariq Woolen, who was close behind Barnes with his 4.26.

Remarkably, Baylor had three players to run sub-4.40, with Barnes joined by wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (4.28) and safety JT Woods (4.36).

They became the first school since 2003 to have three such players at a single Combine, while no other school have had two sub-4.30 players across that entire period – as Baylor did in 2022 alone in Barnes and Thornton.

"It feels amazing to be out here competing with a bunch of guys on the same mission as me," Barnes said in a short social media message. "It's a real blessing to be here."

Ikem Ekwonu's NFL draft stock has seen a meteoric rise over the past few months, to a point where the North Carolina State offensive lineman has emerged as a serious candidate for the number one overall pick.

Ekwonu confirmed he met with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the current holders of the top choice, earlier this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, and told reporters on Thursday he would not be surprised if he winds up as the team's selection in April.

"I wouldn't be shocked if I went number one overall," he said during his news conference in Indianapolis. "I feel like that's something I've put the work in for it. I feel like when that time comes, I wouldn't be shocked by it."

In a draft that lacks a consensus top prospect and is considered devoid of a surefire franchise quarterback, Ekwonu has been generating increased buzz as a contender to go number one overall. Long-time ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. concurs, as he projected the Jaguars to take the Charlotte native in his latest mock draft released on Tuesday.

Ekwonu, who earned unanimous All-American honours following his junior season with the Wolfpack in 2021, would fill a need for the rebuilding Jaguars. Jacksonville enter the offseason with both starting left tackle Cam Robinson and left guard Andrew Norwell set to be unrestricted free agents. 

The six-foot-four, 320-pound prospect looms as a possibility for either position, as he started at both left tackle and guard during his three-year stint at N.C. State.

Ekwonu told reporters he would be open to playing any spot on the line, though he believes left tackle is where his NFL future lies.

"I've never been shy about bouncing inside and do the best thing for the team, but if you're asking me, personally, I definitely see myself as a left tackle," he said.

"I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of my potential at left tackle, and I feel like with some work and some refinement in my game, I can definitely be great at it."

Ekwonu is currently considered one of four main candidates to go first overall, along with fellow offensive tackle Evan Neal from Alabama and two edge rushers – Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Offensive linemen are scheduled to take part in combine testing and drills on Friday, with the defensive linemen slated to work on Saturday. 

Tua Tagovailoa will be the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins going forward and there will be no trade for Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson, according to general manager Chris Grier.

As Tagovailoa has been inconsistent since the Dolphins selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, there had been talk Miami would be interested in bringing in a different quarterback. 

Miami did take the first steps towards acquiring Watson last year, with owner Stephen Ross being granted permission to talk to the Texans quarterback.

However, no trade was finalised for Watson, who is facing 22 civil lawsuits that remain unresolved as the NFL conducts its own investigation into sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him.

Mike McDaniel was hired as Miami's new coach early last month after five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, serving last season as the team's offensive coordinator. 

"I think the door is shut on Deshaun," Grier said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"At the end of the day, Mike and the staff have come to do a lot of work and studied Tua and they feel good about his developmental upside, what he can be and then the fit in the offense. I think we're good with Tua."

There are questions about exactly how high a ceiling Tagovailoa has, and Grier was asked whether he thinks he can be an elite quarterback.

"I can't say he can't be," Grier said. "It's a situation now where this will be built around his skill set and what the offense can be and Mike's vision of how he fits.

"So, I wouldn't say he can't be. It's too early. He's played 20 games maybe. The first year was in and out and missing games this year, but I know he's won games even this last year, and it's hard to win games in this league.

"I know people want to say he doesn't throw the ball downfield, but he's incredibly accurate, and that's the real exciting part for Mike and the coaching staff, his accuracy."

Tagovailoa completed 67.8 per cent of his passes last season and threw 16 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. 

"I will say Mike and the offensive staff watched every game, every throw and put together this tape of the roster, and it was pretty cool," Grier said.

"Mike's vision for how Tua fits into this scheme and what he can do, they're all every excited about it.

"So, I think at the end of the day, probably Tua is going to have to come in and work with him and do it on the field, but right now there's a very good comfort level with how they feel he fits into what Mike wants to do with our offense."

Matt LaFleur intends to give Aaron Rodgers time and space to decide his future rather than "annoying" the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

For the second straight offseason, the Packers are waiting to learn if the reigning MVP will return next year.

Despite a long-running saga prior to the 2021 season and then a coronavirus controversy during the campaign, Rodgers excelled again for Green Bay.

The 38-year-old then promised "a decision in the near future", but a series of cryptic social media posts and quotes followed.

While the Packers face uncertainty again, head coach LaFleur is determined not to interfere with Rodgers' thought process.

"I told him: I don't want to be overbearing and tell him every day how much we love him and how much we want him back," LaFleur said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"So you just want to be respectful of his space and allow him to think through everything clearly without being annoying, I guess."

Meanwhile, LaFleur confirmed Rodgers had a "significant role" in Tom Clements returning to the team as quarterbacks coach.

Clements was previously with the Packers between 2006 and 2016, including working with Rodgers as QB coach for the Super Bowl season of 2010.

He has been credited with having a key role in Rodgers' development by the player himself.

Former Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams’ recovery from an ACL tear in his left knee seems to be going off without a hitch.

Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the potential first-round draft pick told reporters he’s progressing well in his rehab from the injury he sustained in January’s College Football Playoff National Championship game.

"I was hearing five to seven months, but I'm hearing I'm ahead of schedule," Williams said. "I'm six weeks out of surgery right now. I've been walking without the brace for two weeks, without the crutch for three weeks.

"Hopefully things keep going on this track, and I'll be back as soon as possible."

Prior to getting hurt in Alabama's loss to Georgia in the national title game, Williams emerged as one of the 2022 draft's top receiver prospects with a superb junior season. The first team All-American tied for third in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) with 15 touchdown receptions while recording 79 catches for a team-high 1,572 yards.

Nine of Williams' 15 touchdown catches were from 40 or more yards, the most in the FBS last season, while his 11 receptions of 40 or more yards tied for second among major college players.

Williams spent just one season at Alabama after transferring from Ohio State, where the St. Louis native registered only 15 catches in two seasons playing behind two other well-regarded draft prospects in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

The soon-to-be 21-year-old is meeting with teams in Indianapolis despite not being able to take part in testing and drills. Williams said he's hopeful he can be fully cleared in time for the start of his rookie season, but added that he will let the healing process play itself out.

"I won't be rushing anything … really, it's going to take time," he said. "I just want to be ready when it does happen."

Any phone call to the Seattle Seahawks asking about the availability of Russell Wilson will get the same reply – the quarterback is not on the market.

Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said general manager John Schneider has told potential suitors the team are not interested in trading the franchise QB.

"What John says is, 'We're not shopping the quarterback'. That's what he tells them," Carroll said.

"He has talked to other teams. He's had teams that have asked, just because of all of the media. They think that something is going on, so he's fielded a lot of calls.

"But he's fielded a lot of calls on everybody. But that one in particular, he's got a pretty standard response."

Wilson, 33, has two years left on a $140million contract he signed in 2019, which includes a no-trade clause. Trading Wilson, however, would clear significant salary cap space while also yielding a significant return of draft picks.

"At this time of year there are conversations about everybody," Carroll said. "We talk about everybody and it's commonplace to have conversations with other teams about all of the players, particularly marquee players, and that's not changed.

"It's been the same every year we have been here, so it's the same as it's been. We have no intention of making a move there. But the conversations, John has to field those. He always has. But nothing specific to talk [on Wilson]."

Seattle are coming off a disappointing 7-10 season – missing the playoffs for only the second time since Wilson was drafted in 2012 – and Wilson missed three games due to a broken finger – the first time he was sidelined due to injury in his illustrious 10-year career. He struggled at times after returning and later admitted he came back too fast.

Last offseason, it was rumored Wilson wanted out of Seattle, but he insisted he did not ask for a trade and he had a good relationship with Carroll and Schneider.

Late in the 2021 season, he again said he did not want to leave Seattle, saying he wanted to win more Supers Bowls with the Seahawks.

Wilson finished the season with 3,113 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, but his 64.8 completion percentage and 103.1 passer rating were both his lowest since 2017.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim have signed contract extensions with the Arizona Cardinals through 2027.

Kingsbury has been the Cardinals' coach for three seasons, having been brought in by Keim, who has completed nine years as GM.

That partnership helped deliver the Cardinals to the playoffs in 2021 for the first time since 2015, finishing with an 11-6 record in second place in the NFC West.

Arizona made a 7-0 start before quarterback Kyler Murray went down with an ankle injury.

"The leadership of both Steve and Kliff have been key factors in the team's turnaround over the last three seasons," Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We are all looking forward to continuing that progress and recognise these two individuals will be a big part of achieving our long-term goals as an organisation."

The statement also made reference to Murray's contract situation, as the QB pursues improved terms on his rookie deal.

Murray's agent Erik Burkhardt released his own statement earlier this week, addressed to Cardinals fans, in which it said the former first overall pick "absolutely wants to be your long-term QB" and "desperately wants to win the Super Bowl".

However, he added Murray's team had already sent a contract proposal to the Cardinals and were waiting on the team to make the next move.

"It is now simply up to the Cardinals to decide if they prioritise their rapidly improving, 24-year-old, already two-time Pro Bowl QB, who led the organisation from three wins before his arrival to 11 wins and their first playoff appearance in five years," Burkhardt said.

"Or rather, if they choose to financially prioritise committing to other areas and continuing to merely talk about addressing Kyler's long-term future as their QB."

Kingsbury, speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week, said he was not aware Murray's team were to release a statement but that he and the player were "in a great place". The pair have the same agent.

It isn't clear what the San Francisco 49ers' asking price is for Jimmy Garoppolo, but interested buyers have been provided with a very good reason to go under it this offseason.

The Niners appear destined to trade Garoppolo this offseason to pave the way for Trey Lance, for whom they traded three first-round picks to acquire with the third overall selection in last year's draft, to take over as their starting quarterback.

That is despite a 2021 season that saw the 49ers reach the NFC Championship Game with Garoppolo at quarterback.

San Francisco surrendered a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead to lose 20-17 to eventual Super Bowl champions the Los Angeles Rams, the tale an all too familiar one for the Niners with Garoppolo intercepted on the final drive having proven unable to deliver victory in similar circumstances in their Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of the 2019 season.

Garoppolo's inability to elevate the 49er passing game on the biggest of stages is one reason why the Niners are set to move on from him and any teams in the market for a quarterback were given a reminder of another reason on Tuesday.

According to multiple reports, Garoppolo is set to have surgery on a shoulder he injured in the Niners' Wild Card Round win over the Dallas Cowboys and will be out of action for 16 weeks, meaning he will not be able to throw until after the start of organised team activities.

Durability, or lack thereof, has been a continued problem for Garoppolo, who has missed 25 regular-season games in his 49ers career due to injury.

And the prospect of him starting his career with a new team behind the 8-ball due to his surgery is sure to dent his value to those considering making a move for the former second-round pick.

Yet, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, there is "significant interest" in Garoppolo from multiple teams even with the prospect of him missing the start of preparations for the new season.

The Niners, minus a day-one pick in the draft, are hoping to recoup capital for Garoppolo as they look to retool the roster around Lance.

However, even if the level of interest in high, the compensation on offer to the 49ers may not be for a quarterback with injury issues and consistent problems with turnovers.

Garoppolo finished the 2021 season second in the NFL with 8.64 yards per attempt, but he also led all quarterbacks in yards after the catch per pass attempt with (6.6), illustrating his reliance on short passes and the ability of the likes of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk to do damage with ball in hand.

A limited downfield thrower, Garoppolo completed just nine passes of 21 air yards or more in 2021. Only six quarterbacks (min. 200 pass attempts) averaged fewer air yards per attempt than Garoppolo's 7.38, while his pickable pass rate of 4.82 per cent was the sixth-highest in the league, according to Stats Perform data.

In other words, Garoppolo was not regularly attempting ambitious throws but put the ball in harm's way more than the vast majority of his counterparts.

Having seen San Francisco win and go deep into the postseason in each of the two full seasons in which Garoppolo was healthy, at least one team will be ready to bet they can build an offense around him to allow them to do the same. But, between his injury history, his imminent lengthy rehabilitation period and his obvious shortcomings, they might not be willing to gamble as much as the Niners are hoping for.

The Green Bay Packers have not had a single inquiry regarding a trade for Aaron Rodgers, according to general manager Brian Gutekunst.

Rodgers has yet to make a decision on his future, with another season with the Packers, a move elsewhere and retirement all seemingly on the table for the four-time MVP.

Though there has long since been talk about which teams could get involved in a potential Rodgers sweepstake, Gutekunst is yet to field a single offer.

"Not at all. Not at all. Not a single person," Gutekunst replied when asked if anybody had phoned regarding Rodgers' availability.

Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Gutekunst added that he expects a decision from Rodgers before the start of free agency on March 16.

"I would hope so, yeah," Gutekunst added. "That's obviously the start of the new league year.

"There's a lot of decisions that have to be made before that. So that would be helpful. I would think we would know something before then."

Relations between Rodgers and the Packers certainly appear more amiable than they were when reports emerged before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft that he wished to part with Green Bay.

Rodgers has recently said as much, telling The Pat McAfee Show of his conversations with the franchise after the Packers' playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers: "I would say the meetings were much different than they've been in the past, in a positive way, and that there were some real, honest conversations that I appreciated."

His words seemingly point towards Rodgers potentially remaining in Green Bay, and the Packers' vice president of football operations Russ Ball has been in talks with David Dunn, who represents Rodgers, over a contract.

"It's part of the process [of Rodgers' decision-making]," Gutekunst said of those discussions. "You know, Russ, obviously, does a good job, and he's kind of prepared for kind of any which way we might go."

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to move into a new era without Tom Brady, but they have made it clear their door remains open if he wishes to come out of retirement.

Brady called time on a remarkable 22-season NFL career, which saw him win a record seven Super Bowl titles, last month.

He spent the final two years of his career with the Bucs, leading them glory in Super Bowl LV at the end of the 2020 campaign.

Brady has since insisted he is "at peace" with his decision but would "never say never" regarding a potential return.

Head coach Bruce Arians previously said it would be a shock if Brady reversed his decision, but the Bucs are more than willing to welcome him back should he do so.

"That door is never closed. Whenever Tom wants back, he's back," said Arians on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

General manager Jason Licht echoed those sentiments, saying: "I think with a Tom Brady, I personally, never want to completely close the door.

"Now, I don't have any information that suggests that he is going to come back. I'm very good friends with him. We talk, [but] we haven't talked about that.

"I don't want to apply any pressure in that regard right now. But, he's Tom Brady. If a Tom Brady wants to come back, we'd welcome him back."

The Bucs still own Brady's rights even though he is retired and would have to agree to a trade if Brady wanted to return and play elsewhere.

But Arians ruled out that possibility, describing letting Brady play for another team as "bad business".

Asked how they will approach replacing Brady, Arians replied: "Well, we addressed it last year. We drafted Kyle Trask [in the second round] for a reason.

"He fits everything we want to do [at the] quarterback [position]. I really, really liked what I saw for a year, so I doubt drafting is an option.

"For all the other guys, it's going to be a trade. Well, you don't trade by yourself – you've got to have a partner, so that could be out of the question."

 

Kyler Murray wants to stay in Arizona but needs the Cardinals to "prioritise" a new long-term contract for their quarterback, his agent says.

Murray's future has been the subject of some discussion at the start of the offseason after mixed messages emerging from his camp.

However, the Cardinals still see the 24-year-old as their QB "long-term", owner Michael Bidwill has said.

And a lengthy statement from Murray's agent Erik Burkhardt – widely released on Monday – has stated the two-time Pro Bowler also sees his future in Arizona.

"He absolutely wants to be your long-term QB [and] he desperately wants to win the Super Bowl," read a statement addressed to "loyal Arizona Cardinal fans".

To achieve this goal, however, Burkhardt said there needed to be "long-term stability for both the organisation and [Murray]."

Murray and his team have therefore proposed a lucrative deal for a player due just $5.5million in the fourth year of his rookie contract in 2022.

"To overtly communicate Kyler's desire to be the Cardinals' long-term QB, we sent a detailed contract proposal to the organisation," the statement said.

"It was important to Kyler that his proposal reflected all of the following: provides financial protection, is in line with the current QB market that compares his results alongside relevant comps, lowers his 2022-23 salary cap number to allow the Cardinals to re-sign other deserving team-mates and add additional free agents, and most importantly represents a real commitment from the organisation to see if their ultimate goals align with his two above (consistently competing for championships and Kyler being their QB)."

In an apparent challenge to the Cardinals, the statement continued: "Actions speak much louder than words in this volatile business.

"It is now simply up to the Cardinals to decide if they prioritise their rapidly improving, 24-year-old, already two-time Pro Bowl QB, who led the organisation from three wins before his arrival to 11 wins and their first playoff appearance in five years.

"Or rather, if they choose to financially prioritise committing to other areas and continuing to merely talk about addressing Kyler's long-term future as their QB.

"Unfortunately, every player, coach and executive in the NFL knows (or should know) that words and hypothetical contractual promises are regularly dismissed and fleeting in this business."

The 11-6 Cardinals finished second in the NFC West in 2021, following a 7-0 start.

Murray missed more than a month of the season due to an ankle injury, after which his and the team's form tailed off after MVP-calibre early performances.

He threw for 3,787 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 14 games, while he also had 423 yards and five TDs rushing on 88 carries.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.