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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he's "excited about the potential return" of rookie running back Benny Snell Jr. (knee) for Week 12 against the Bengals. Snell has missed the last two games and will be evaluated in practice this week. The 21-year-old has 28 rushing attempts for 118 yards in five games this season. He could have a role in the team's backfield if he returns this weekend if James Conner (shoulder) remains sidelined, but Jaylen Samuels would still likely see most of the touches as Pittsburgh's lead back. Snell is only worth stashing in deeper leagues if you own either Conner or Samuels.
The NFL was hoping to start training camp on July 28, but the league and the players' union have not agreed on dates of reporting to camp or prior dates for testing of COVID-19, according to a source. Most importantly, the two sides need to agree on what the testing protocols will be as players arrive to their respective training sites. As we've seen with Major League Baseball, there have been some hiccups related to testing protocols and in getting test results back in a timely manner so that players can continue working out. There will surely be players that aren't comfortable with playing a season during a pandemic, which will lead to notable players opting out of the 2020 campaign.
The New England Patriots were down to less than $500,000 in salary cap space earlier this week, but they now stand at $7.794 million with flexibility for in-season roster moves. They achieved that by reaching settlements in compensation grievances with wide receiver Antonio Brown ($4 million) and tight end Aaron Hernandez ($2.55 million). For a New England team trying to remain competitive after watching future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady defect to the Buccaneers in free agency, this is huge. A team-friendly, incentive-based deal with former MVP QB Cam Newton will also allow the Pats to do some in-season roster maneuvering in 2020.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry isn't expecting a long-term contract extension before the deadline of Wednesday, July 15, so he expects to play the 2020 season under the $10.6 million franchise tag. The 25-year-old doesn't seem to be too worried about it, though, and he's focused on the 2020 season. He views this year as a prove-it deal because he hasn't played a full season in his four-year career due to injuries. Henry spent May and June working out with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and recently had throwing sessions with Tyrod Taylor. Henry had career highs with 55 catches and 652 receiving yards in 2019. Among tight ends, Henry has the best passer rating when targeted at 132.3 since 2016. He's surely a top-10 fantasy tight end, but injuries and a downgrade at QB limit his overall ceiling.
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell had a "great talk" with disgruntled All-Pro safety Jamal Adams on Thursday and came away with the impression that Adams wants to stay in New York if he gets a new contract. Bell doesn't oppose Adams' hard-line stance in negotiations. Adams formally requested a trade last month and has two years remaining on his rookie contract. He's making $3.6 million in 2020 and $9.9 million in 2021 under the fifth-year team option. Adams is believed to be looking to become the highest-paid safety in the league, and the Jets continue to say they want to make him a "Jet for life," but they aren't putting a timetable on it. Bell doesn't want Adams to be traded and doesn't think he will. Adams hasn't had a ton of interceptions, but his ability to play the run and rush the passer makes him unique and the top overall IDP defensive back.
The Philadelphia Eagles announced on Friday that they fined wide receiver DeSean Jackson "for conduct detrimental to the team," which included controversial posts on Instagram and sharing an image of a quote falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler earlier this week. Jackson has since offered multiple apologies, but he "must also commit to supporting his words with actions" in order to remain with the team. The 33-year-old missed all but three games in 2019 because of an injury and is now desperately trying to repair his image before the season. If healthy, D-Jax should be the team's primary deep threat, but as usual, he'll be a boom-or-bust WR3 for fantasy owners.
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell has tested positive for COVID-19. The team thinks he contracted the virus while traveling and spending time on the East Coast for several weeks. Bidwell's doctor recommended that he admit himself to the hospital. His symptoms have subsided and he's expected to be released from the hospital sometime this weekend. Bidwell has been working remotely since the team's facility was first shut down in March due to the coronavirus, and he hasn't had any in-person contact with coaches, players or football staff.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett is signing his franchise tender on Friday and has filed a grievance against the team that he should be tagged as a defensive end and not as a linebacker. The franchise tag for a linebacker pays around $15.8 million, while the tag for a defensive end pays around $17.8 million this year. Barrett and the Bucs are not close to a long-term extension and the hope is that they can find common ground on a one-year deal moving forward. Most teams aren't looking to shell out tons of cash on extensions with COVID-19 potentially negatively affecting the salary cap in 2021 and beyond. The 27-year-old was fantasy relevant for the first time in his career in 2019, recording a whopping 19.5 sacks, 58 tackles and 81 total pressures. But can the pass-rushing linebacker do it again? He had 14 combined sacks in four seasons with the Broncos prior to last year. Barrett will need to continue being a sack monster in order to maintain relevance in IDP leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers pass-rusher Bud Dupree has filed a grievance in hopes that he will be paid as a defensive end instead of as a linebacker for the 2020 season. The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Dupree earlier in the offseason, designating him as a linebacker. The franchise tag for a linebacker pays roughly $15.8 million, while the franchise tag for a defensive end will pay around $17.8 million. There was talk of Dupree signing a long-term deal with the Steelers this offseason, but the two sides are not currently close to a deal, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Dupree racked up 11.5 sacks for the Steelers in 2019.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who is currently in the middle of an armed-robbery case, is allowed to be at training camp and is expected to report later this month. Dunbar recently hired a second attorney for his case despite the team hinting at positive developments for Dunbar's case in June. He has pled not guilty to his armed-robbery charges, and his lawyer has claimed that Dunbar had no involvement in a robbery during his night out with DeAndre Baker in Florida. Even though Dunbar will be a allowed to take part in training camp, there's no guarantee that he'll be available for the entire 2020 season, depending on how his case plays out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith expressed his concerns about playing football during the coronavirus pandemic. Expecting his first child in three weeks, Smith is rightfully questioning how the league will keep players and their families safe. These concerns are warranted, considering that social distancing is effectively impossible on a football field. In addition to concerns about safety, Smith called for salary raises, considering the risks the players will be undertaking. The veteran tackle isn't the only player feeling this way. It will be interesting to see what the league does to assuage the players. If Smith chooses not to play this year, it will be a downgrade on quarterback Tom Brady's blind side in his first year in Tampa.
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