Alex Smith, Julian Edelman Hang Up Cleats

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Nick Mensio
·6 min read
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The 2020 Comeback Player of the Year, Alex Smith decided to hang up his cleats earlier this week. Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft and started 167 career games, overcoming a season-ending shoulder injury in 2008 and miraculously working back from a gruesome broken leg in 2018 that required 17(!) surgeries. He missed all of 2019, beat an infection in the leg, and went on to start six games for Washington last season, going 5-1 under center and guiding the Football Team to an NFC East title and playoff berth. Smith, 36, was later released by Washington this offseason as the team moved in a different direction with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smith garnered some interest from the Bears and Jaguars, but there were still major concerns with his leg and medical checks. Smith chose to retire instead of settling for a backup job. Smith made the playoffs six times, once with the 49ers, four times with Andy Reid’s Chiefs pre-Patrick Mahomes, and last year in D.C., but Smith was never much more than a game manager. He made a good living in the NFL and rides out on top after all he went through with his leg. Smith threw for 199 career touchdowns and ran for 15 more on the ground.

Smith wasn’t the only notable player to retire over the last week or so. Patriots legend Julian Edelman called it quits after 12 seasons in Foxboro. The former seventh-round pick and small-school quarterback at Kent State made his hay as a playoff hero alongside Tom Brady, posting a career 118-1,442-5 line across 19 postseason appearances, winning Super Bowl MVP in 2018. Edelman played so hard as a slot receiver that he could rarely seem to stay healthy for a full 16-game schedule. But the three times he did manage to appear in all 16 contests, Edelman posted 1,000 yards each year. There’s some talk of Edelman having a Hall of Fame resume, but that could be a stretch. He’ll surely go into the Patriots Ring of Honor, however. Edelman turns 35 next month, and New England moves forward with a wideout group led by Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers ahead of the draft next weekend.

Cardinals Pair Conner with Edmonds

After the Cardinals let Kenyan Drake walk as a free agent, the Cardinals settled on a one-year, prove-it deal with James Conner. 26 next month, Conner teams with Chase Edmonds in the current state of the Arizona backfield. Plodder Conner is a definite hit to Edmonds’ 2021 fantasy outlook. Even though Conner is on the books for just $1.75 million, he’s very likely to handle early-down carries and is the favorite for goal-line work. The Cardinals fed Drake 35 carries inside the 10-yard line last season to only three for Edmonds. Those 35 carries for Drake led the league from inside 10 yards, so if Conner does land that role for the Cardinals, he would absolutely be on the RB3/FLEX map at the very least. Edmonds is a candidate to be overdrafted, and Conner can likely be had in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.

Burrow On Track for Week 1

Recovering from a torn ACL and MCL suffered last Week 11, 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow is reportedly ahead of schedule and on track to play Week 1. Among the league leaders in pass attempts at the time of his injury, Burrow’s arrow is screaming upward in an offense flush with playmaking talent and in prime position to add to it with the No. 5 overall pick next week. Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon are great weapons to have at one’s disposal, and coach Zac Taylor showed he wasn’t afraid to let Burrow drop back and sling the rock as a rookie. If the Bengals can protect Burrow a little better with an offensive line that should continue to gel, Burrow will have an outside shot at top-12 fantasy numbers at the position.

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Quarterback & Running Back Quick Slants

Broncos GM George Paton emphasized he wants competition for Drew Lock this summer. Denver is a candidate to trade up in next weekend’s draft. … Clemson QB and presumed No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence (shoulder) resumed throwing earlier this month. … The 49ers signed RB Wayne Gallman. After filling in adequately for injured Saquon Barkley last season, Gallman slides in as competition for Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. The Niners will again use multiple backs. … San Francisco is reportedly leaning toward Alabama QB Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick next week. … The Eagles have refused to commit to sophomore Jalen Hurts as their starter, with coach Nick Sirriani saying there will be a competition this summer. We’ll have to see what the Eagles do in the draft. … Despite already having Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, the Bucs signed Giovani Bernard to a one-year deal. Bernard is expected to handle pass-game work, which will be a big hit to Fournette’s fantasy cap after he filled that role last season. … Seahawks re-signed QB Geno Smith. He’s been backing up Russell Wilson for the past couple seasons but is one of the shakier backups in football. … There’s word Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond could “sneak” into the back of the first round of the draft. … Free agent RB Adrian Peterson wants to sign with a contender. … Washington waived RB Bryce Love. He’s never been the same since tearing his ACL in 2019. … Steelers beat writers expect the team to consider using their first-round pick on a running back after James Conner was let go as a free agent. … Raiders waived QB Kyle Sloter. … The Falcons cut RB Ito Smith. With Todd Gurley still unsigned, Atlanta heads into the draft with newcomer Mike Davis atop the depth chart, followed by third-year pro Qadree Ollison.

Wide Receiver & Tight End Quick Slants

Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson signed his RFA tender and will slide back in as a sub-package depth option. … Former Washington and 49ers TE Jordan Reed announced his retirement after eight seasons. Always battling some sort of injury, mainly concussions, Reed never played a full 16-game season in the NFL but was one of the premier playmaking tight ends in his Washington career. … Bears signed deep threat specialist WR Marquise Goodwin after he sat out last season due to COVID concerns. … Washington signed TE Sammis Reyes. The former college basketball player stands 6’6/260 and has never played organized football. He’s obviously a long-term project. … WR and return man Cordarrelle Patterson signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Falcons. … Texans signed depth TE Antony Auclair.