NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

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Bombers, Cats to kick off CFL schedule … The day after confirming that the league will play in 2021, the CFL released its modified 14-game schedule. Hamilton will open the season in Winnipeg on August 5th in a replay of last year’s Grey Cup championship weekend. Saskatchewan will then host the B.C. Lions the following evening with Toronto scheduled to play at Calgary and Ottawa at Edmonton on August 7th. In fact, all games through the first two weeks of the CFL schedule will be played in western cities which have generally been less impacted by covid. The 2021 Grey Cup is scheduled for December 12th in Hamilton.

Panthers sign top pick; ten #1s left unsigned … Carolina has become the latest team to sign its first-round pick from the 2021 draft as the Panthers have reportedly come to terms with former South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn. Horn was the 8th player selected this past April and gets a 4-year deal worth $21.1 million with a club option for a 5th year. Horn is also the 22nd opening round pick to have signed leaving ten still to come to terms.

CFL season gets green light … There are still some hurdles out there, but the CFL Board of Governors voted unanimously earlier today to go ahead with the 2021 schedule beginning August 5th. Teams will play a 14-game schedule – its usually 18 – culminating in the Grey Cup game in Hamilton on December 12th. The actual schedule has not yet been released, but it is believed that the first few games will be played in western Canada. It is also not clear if – and how many – fans will be allowed to attend games, but its good news for the CFL which did not play at all last fall.

Ravens sign second first rounder … Baltimore has signed former Penn State DE Odafe Oweh, the 31st player selected in this year’s opening round. Oweh signed a 4-year deal worth a reported $11.3 million. The Ravens had previously signed WR Rashod Bateman, taken 4 picks earlier.

Ravens tweak scout staff … With the 2021 draft in the books Baltimore has tweaked its scouting staff promoting four scouts. Andrew Raphael is now a national scout after serving as the team’s Southeast area scout. Joey Cleary, previously the team’s West area scout, is now operating as the Southeast area scout. Corey Frazier has been elevated from pro scout to West Coast area scout. And Chas Stallard has been bumped up from a college and pro scout to the Southwest Area scout. At the same time, Nick Matteo has been promoted from director of football administration to vice president of football administration, a role that includes salary cap management and general roster transactions. He’s also the Ravens’ key liaison with the NFL Management Council and NFL Players Association.

Pigskin reviews NFC North draft … GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette continues his review of the 2021 draft with a report on the NFC North. His previous reports include those for the NFC East, AFC East, NFC South, and AFC South.

College playoff expansion recommended … Over the years, glaciers have tended to move faster than any change coming to the world of college football. However, that may change as an NCAA working group has reportedly recommended expanding the current four-team CFP playoff field to 12 teams. The 12 teams would include the 6 top-ranked conference champions and the 6 top-ranked remaining teams. The top four conference champions would get byes in the first round while the other eight teams would play on the campuses of the highest ranked remaining teams. The working group’s recommendation will be discussed by the CFP Management Committee next week and if approved, would be forwarded to the CFP Board of Managers, which is meeting on June 22. At the same time, there is no real timetable if the recommendation does go forward. The current CFP contract has 5 years to run with ESPN, but there is nothing to preclude ESPN from agreeing to a new arrangement, although its unlikely will change for the 2021-2022 playoffs. It is also likely that the major conferences such as the SEC, ACC and Big Ten will still dominate any new playoff format, but it will open the door to participation by non-Power 5 teams. The new format will also likely put a lot of pressure on the non-playoff bowls which have become increasingly irrelevant in recent years, although they may survive in some fashion as programming filler for ESPN.

First rounders Fields, Parsons and Phillips come to terms … Three more players selected in this year’s opening round signed with their respective team in the past day or so including former Ohio State QB Justin Fields whom Chicago selected with the 11th pick overall after trading up with the NY Giants. Fields signed the obligatory 4-year deal with a club option for a 5th year worth a reported $18.8 million. At the same time, Dallas signed former Penn State LB Micah Parsons, who was chosen one pick after Fields after the Cowboys flipped the 10th and 12th picks with Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Miami signed DE Jaelen Phillips, the second of their two 2021 first round picks. Phillips was the 18th player selected this year. With these three signings the number of players selected in this year’s opening round who have signed is up to 20 with another 12 to go!

Eagles release pair of top-rated undrafted rookies … Philadelphia has released former Wake Forest/Georgia QB Jamie Newman and former Florida WR Trevon Grimes, two of the highest rated prospects for the 2021 draft who were not selected this past April. Newman, for example, was the 12th rated played on the GBN’s list of top-rated undrafted players, while Grimes was 18th. Grimes was released because of an injury and subsequently was placed on injured reserve after he cleared waivers.

Jags continue front office rebuild … While most of the rebuilding efforts in Jacksonville are focused on the field after the Jaguars selected former Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the first pick overall at the 2021 draft, the team has quietly continued to revamp their personnel department. Earlier today, Jacksonville confirmed that Regis Eller has been hired as director of pro scouting, while Tom McConnaughey is coming on board as a national scout and Dave McCloughan was added to their college scouting staff. Eller spent the past 6 seasons with the Chargers with whom he was assistant director of pro scouting. McConnaughey, a former NFL wide receiver also comes over from the Chargers where he spent 23 years as a national scout. The restructuring of the team’s player personnel department comes after the Jaguars hired Urban Meyer as coach and Trent Baalke as G.M. earlier this year.

Saints sign top pick … New Orleans became the latest team to sign its opening round pick coming to terms with DE Payton Turner, the 28th player selected at this year’s draft. Turner agreed to a contract that is being reported as a 4-year deal worth just over $12.5 million. In fact, the Saints signed all their 2021 draft picks. They were able to do so after reportedly restructuring veteran CB Marshon Lattimore.

Cards sign top pick LB Collins … Arizona has reportedly signed former Tulsa LB Zaven Collins, the Cardinals’ first round pick at the 2021 draft, to a 4-year deal worth $14.7 million. Collins was the 16th player selected at this year’s draft; ironically he’s also the 16th player taken in this year’s opening round to come to terms to date, meaning that half of this year’s first round has now signed.

Pigskin reviews AFC South draft … GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette continues his review of the 2021 draft with a report on the AFC South. His previous reports include those for the NFC East, AFC East and NFC South

Irish OL adds ‘dump truck’ … Marshall RG Cain Madden announced late last week that he is transferring to Notre Dame where he’ll help to plug an offensive front that was severely depleted at the 2021 draft. At Marshall, the 6-3, 315-pound Madden, who is known affectionately as ‘Dump Truck’, went from walk-on to 2020 All-American. In his career, Madden started 31 career games for the Thundering Herd, but is taking advantage of the NCAA’s blanket waiver that gives players an extra year of eligibility if they want it. In fact, Madden will be a 6th year senior this fall which could impact his draft next spring, but he’s obviously chosen to have a dream final year in college playing for one of the country’s top programs.

Falcons send vet WR Jones to Titans for picks … Atlanta finally pulled the trigger on a trade for veteran WR Julio Jones, the Falcons all-time leading receiver, shipping him to Tennessee in exchange for a second round pick in 2022 and a 4th rounder in 2023. To complete the deal, the Titans will get the Falcons’ 6th round pick in 2023.

Pigskin reviews NFC South draft … GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette continues his review of the 2021 draft with a report on the NFC South. His previous reports include those for the NFC East and AFC East.

Bills sign top pick … Buffalo has signed DE Greg Rousseau, the 30th player selected at the 2021 draft, to a 4Y, $11.6M deal.

Iggles, Jints sign top pick WR … It was a busy day in the NFC East where division rivals Philadelphia and the Giants both signed their opening round picks from the 2021 draft. The Eagles came to terms with former Alabama WR DeVonta Smith on a 4-year, $20.1M deal, while the Giants signed former Florida WR Kadarius Toney to a 4-year contract worth $13.7M. Philadelphia, of course, traded up two spots with Dallas in order to get Smith ahead of the Giants in this year’s first round. Having lost out on Smith, the Giants then traded down with Chicago and took former Toney with the 20th pick overall, in the process acquiring the Bears’ #1 pick next year.

UGA adds pair of top transfers … Georgia has confirmed that both of former Clemson CB Derion Kendrick, a two-time All-ACC performer, and former LSU TE Arik Gilbert have indeed transferred to the program. Kendrick was actually never going to play for the Tigers this fall as he had been dismissed by Clemson after he was arrested in his hometown of Rock Hill after he was discovered by police asleep in his girlfriend’s car with a handgun in his lap. He was charged with unlawful possession of a gun and simple possession of marijuana, but there are hopes that the charges may ultimately be dropped. Ironically, Kendrick’s first game with his new team will be against his old team as Georgia and Clemson open the season on September 4th in Charlotte. For his part, Gilbert was a big-time recruit at LSU and had a respectable 35 receptions as a freshman last fall before opting out of the season with  two games to play. Gilbert, a Georgia native, also originally committed to Florida once he decided to transfer, but the flipped to Georgia.

Bengals, Pack sign top picks … Two more first round picks from the 2021 draft have come to terms as Ccinnati has signed former LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase, the 5th player selected this year, while Green Bay agreed to terms with former Georgia Eric Stokes, the 29th player chosen this past April. Both were signed to 4-year deals with a club option, although the exact terms are not yet available. Chase and Stokes are the 11th and 12th first round picks to have come to terms with their respective clubs so far.

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