Drew Brees agrees to third deal with Saints after prolific decade with team

METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints waited until the 11th hour. But they finally agreed to a contract extension Wednesday, according to league sources — four days before the quarterback’s self-imposed Week 1 deadline.

Brees, 37, acknowledged that he would have preferred a long-term deal.

“I plan to play for longer than two years, so yeah, I think my mindset going into this was to be able to secure a deal that would take me for as long as I plan on playing,” he said. “But this is what was in the best interest of the team. And so that’s why it was a two-year deal.”

This is Brees’ third contract with the Saints after he originally signed with the team in 2006. In 2012, he became the highest-paid player in NFL history to that point, thanks to his five-year, $100 million contract.

Brees was headed into the final year of his previous contract.

His decade in New Orleans has been the most prolific of any quarterback in NFL history. His 48,555 yards and 348 touchdown passes are the most of any quarterback in any 10-year span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Brees has won exactly 100 games with the Saints — including the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history, a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts after the 2009 season.

He could pass Peyton Manning for No. 1 on the NFL’s all-time passing yardage (71,940) and passing touchdown (539) lists before his next deal is up. He’s on pace to do so within three or four years.

Brees ranks fourth in NFL history with 60,903 passing yards and will likely pass Dan Marino for third in Week 2. He and Tom Brady are tied for third in NFL history with 428 touchdown passes.

Man, it would have been fun. Just like it would have been fun to see Andrew Luck hold out for full guarantees. Alas, it was not to be. Quarterback deals almost always work out the way you expect them to work out in the NFL, mainly because everybody’s got too much to lose.

From the Saints’ standpoint, this is the right move. Yeah, Brees is 37 and the group around him is nothing like it was in their Super Bowl heyday. They face major salary-cap issues in the next couple of years, with or without this deal. You could make the case that the right thing to do would be to move on. But any such case leads to a situation where the Saints don’t know who their quarterback is next year. And there’s nothing scarier for a team than that.

When you don’t know who your quarterback is, Howie Roseman can take your lunch money, your locker combination and that copy of the chemistry final you swiped off the teacher’s flash drive. It’s a bad situation. The Saints obviously weren’t feeling great about Garrett Grayson, next year’s draft will be the fifth in a row that doesn’t include Luck, and the best free agents on the market would be Kirk Cousins and Brees himself. Nobody wants to be lost in that particular wilderness. The Saints will stick with Brees until his arm falls off if that’s cool with him, and it appears it is.

Yes, the really interesting thing about this deal is how badly Brees apparently wanted it done. While it may have seemed fun from the outside to think about Brees on the open market, people close to Brees say it didn’t sound fun to him. He didn’t want to be seen as a guy trying to cash in one last time. He’s basically a New Orleans legend at this point — a very wealthy and comfortable one at that. So taking what amounts to a one-year, $24 million extension ended up being fine. It mattered to Brees that he stick it out with Sean Payton and the Saints in the hope that they could build the roster up around him just enough to make one more run.

Glenn Gronkowski is more tame version of his fun-loving brother Rob

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The AFC East can officially make room for another Gronk.

Undrafted free-agent fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who played at Kansas State, will join his older brother Rob Gronkowski in the division this season after surviving the Buffalo Bills’ cuts to a 53-man roster Friday.

Burfict has missed games before. He missed 11 games in 2014 due to microfracture surgery and spent the first part of the 2015 season on PUP. But this time it’s a little different.

He’s essentially been in limbo this summer. He has been allowed to practice in training camp and could have played in the preseason but Bengals coach Marvin Lewis held him out of all four games to negate the injury risk.

The Bills also released fullback Jerome Felton. With that move, Glenn Gronkowski made the Bills’ roster at fullback.

In all, the Bills released 21 players Friday as they trimmed their roster to the 53-man limit.

Without Manny Lawson, the Bills will start veteran Lorenzo Alexander at outside linebacker.

“Lorenzo Alexander has earned the right to be a starter on this team. He won the job. That’s why he’ll start,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “As far as specifics [on Lawson], I’d rather not get into specifics.”

Gronkowski, an undrafted rookie from Kansas State, is the youngest of five Gronkowski brothers who are natives of the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville. Rob Gronkowski is a star tight end for the New England Patriots, and Chris and Dan Gronkowski are both former NFL players.

“I think with Glenn, I thought we did a lot of things with him. We put him in at some tight end spots. We put him in a the ‘U’ tight end. We put him in at fullback. And he gives some special teams depth,” Ryan said. “So I think that was what’s been impressive with this young man. But I wanted to see him be more physical. And I think he showed that a little bit [in the final preseason game].”

Glenn Gronkowski, whose nickname is Goose, was congratulated Friday on Instagram by his brother Gordie, a former draft selection of the Los Angeles Angels.

Chargers release veteran wide receiver James Jones

James Jones is back on the market.

Four weeks after Jones signed on with San Diego, the Chargers have released the 32-year-old wideout, the team announced Monday.

You know who else must be stunned about what’s going on right now? April Trevor Siemian. That dude was about to go lunch pail shopping.

Per @JamesPalmerTV, Trevor Siemian had a regular person job lined up before the draft because he didn’t know what his future was.

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston finished just outside QB1 territory (QB13) last season, but I like him to step up in his second-year. He had 22 touchdown passes which was the fourth-most among rookie quarterbacks. Which isn’t a surprise because it’s not like Terry Bradshaw was slinging the rock as a rookie. Hell, did he even play as a rookie? A lot of those dudes sat the bench. The one thing I kind of like about Winston is that he isn’t afraid to force the issue and go downfield. He was among the leaders in yards per attempt, so he’s not a dump-off specialist. He’ll frustrate you some with his interceptions, but then he’ll seed one to Adam Humphries to make you best friends again.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
Mariota opened like Guns N’ Roses with a huge debut in the first couple of weeks, and everybody scrambled to get him off the waiver wire. He had some ebbs and flows like most rookies, but he had at least 30 fantasy points twice in his rookie year. Tied for most by a rookie. I love his scrambling ability. He had a number of sick runs, and that always helps to propel a quarterback’s value. He’s much more cautious than Winston, but make no mistake, he can make all of the throws that he needs to. He’s really got something cooking with tight end Delanie Walker. I like Mariota to have the safer floor than Winston because he does do a great job. Well, maybe a decent job. He did have 10 picks last year. So maybe I’m driving down narrative street.

DeAndre Washington, RB, Oakland Raiders
Mostly when you pick a rookie fantasy running back, you’re damning the guy who is starting ahead of him. I’m not super-stoked on Latavius Murray. Which is strange because I love to take Murray in the fourth-round because I find him a great value and really love the Raiders offensive line. That’s why I have Washington here. He’s going to have a defined third-down role at some point. And he could actually become a Danny Woodhead-type, who ranks in Top 25 each season kind of way. I also believe he could end up being the No. 1 in Oakland. And then stuff will go crazy.

Russell Wilson finds rhythm, picks apart Cowboys

SEATTLE — Entering Thursday night, the Seattle Seahawks’ first-team offense had failed to produce any points on six possessions this preseason.

But Russell Wilson & Co. found their rhythm against the Dallas Cowboys, scoring four times in six possessions during the 27-17 victory on Thursday night. Wilson was sharp, completing 16-of-21 passes for 192 yards and a pair of scores.

Wilson’s first touchdown came off of a play-action. He showed perfect touch, lofting the pass into the hands of wide receiver Paul Richardson for a 9-yard touchdown.

The second touchdown was vintage Wilson. He bought time, spun out of the pocket, rolled to his right and hit Tyler Lockett in the end zone for another 9-yard score.

And while coach Mike Zimmer would not confirm ESPN’s report that Bridgewater missed the game with a sore shoulder, he did say he will lean toward playing it safe with injured players, especially in the preseason.

“If he had an issue with his shoulder, I’m going to make sure I’m going to err on the side of caution,” Zimmer said. “If I played him and he got hurt, you guys would be killing me in the press. I’m always going to protect the players, I’m going to do what I think is best for the organization, and you’re going to have to respect that.

Two league sources told ESPN on Friday that Bridgewater could have played if it was the regular season, but the Vikings decided shortly before Thursday’s game to sit him.

Bridgewater stuck mostly to checkdowns and throws over the middle in Tuesday’s practice, with a long throw of about 15 yards that was intercepted by Harrison Smith.

As the Vikings eased Bridgewater back in, Zimmer said it’s not imperative that the third-year quarterback plays again in the preseason, following two series of work in the team’s exhibition opener Aug. 12.

Christine Michael does it again: The Seahawks running back had seven carries for 58 yards. In three preseason games, Michael has carried 24 times for 157 yards (6.5 yards per carry). He continues to look like a player who will have a role on this offense in 2016.

Ron Rivera calls on architect of Osama bin Laden raid to help with ‘Super Bowl hangover’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In his search to help the Carolina Panthers get past the disappointment of losing Super Bowl 50, Ron Rivera turned to a man who spent many disappointing years searching for Osama bin Laden.

McRaven’s disappointments didn’t involve sports — they involved life and death. But Rivera grew up the son of a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army and learned at an early age that the discipline it takes to handle success and failure in the military can also be applied to sports.

McRaven reinforced that for him.

“One of the biggest things I learned from military personnel is the debriefing, how important that is, how important it is to sit around the table and take your rank off, throw it in the middle of the table and be honest, unfiltered, no repercussions for speaking the truth,’’ Rivera said. “That’s important.’’

McRaven noted that in special operations there is an expectation that you’re going to succeed, whether it’s the Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Army Rangers or the Army Green Berets.

He said it is no different in sports.

It wasn’t a highlight-reel hit, but it’s the kind of block Watt will need to make on a consistent basis at this level — and it’s something the Wisconsin product has shown he can do, both in practice and training camp.

The physical part of the game doesn’t seem to be a concern for Watt.

“At this level, you’re not going to get many pancake blocks, so I’m just relying on my technique and footwork, getting that power step down, keeping a good base and just covering a guy up,” Watt said. “You’re not going to knock a guy over or knock him 5 yards back always, so it’s kind of covering a guy up and letting whoever the running back is back there do his thing.”

Along with serving as San Diego’s starting fullback, Watt has played on all four special teams units for the Chargers. Watt and tight end Sean McGrath also are competing for the team’s emergency long-snapper job behind starter Mike Windt.

Watt’s versatility was an attraction to the Chargers — and one of the reasons the team selected him in the sixth round of this year’s draft. The younger brother of Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, Derek Watt has proved football is in his genes.

“I’ve been very pleased with the physical part of the run game,” Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “With a guy that’s 237 pounds who played fullback in college, it’s a position where you can’t find guys anymore.

“He’s got a very good feel for being able to navigate his way through the line and find his guy, drop his pads and finish the block. So he’s looked good. That can help us. Football is in his blood, and you can tell he’s a football player.”

Derek Carr says nothing to worry about after Raiders struggle at Green Bay

“We obviously want to play better, but at the same time, without game planning you just have to play football and sometimes it works like last week, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Carr’s interception came on a deep pass that intended receiver Amari Cooper did not appear to fight all that hard for in coverage. And yes, coach Jack Del Rio had something to say to Cooper on the sideline.

“We had a one-on-one with Coop and I had a guy coming to my right, so I just tried to throw it up and give him a chance,” Carr said. “This is the time to do it. I am risky, and at this time, maybe a little bit more risky. But I would have liked to put it a little more inside for him to have a better shot at it. But that was just a chance for him to let him go get it.”

The erstwhile training camp roomies did hook up on the Raiders’ first offensive series, and Carr fit a ball into an extremely tight window between cornerback Damarious Randall and safety Chris Banjo for a 20-yard pickup on 3rd-and-11.

So there was a positive.

“That was such growth because I alerted him in the huddle that, hey, if they play a certain coverage, to be ready for that on that particular play,” Carr said. “They played it and he knew what to do. He ran the route perfectly and knew where the ball was going to be.

“Last year I don’t know if we would have done that. That is definite growth and that was good to see.”

Still, with the rebuilt, massive offensive line, the Raiders had issues running the ball, gaining just 35 yards on the ground in the first half.

Murray carried the ball six times for 19 yards, with a long of 6 yards.

“I just need to make more plays for the offense,” Murray said. “I need to do more and make the extra plays. If I can do that, I will be satisfied with the results I have on the field.”

The same could be said for the entire offense.

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers left Heinz Field on Thursday night with what seems like a murky quarterback picture behind Ben Roethlisberger.

But Landry Jones’ disastrous four-interception half likely won’t change the Steelers’ approach.

Here’s why:

The numbers don’t tell the full story: Notice how coach Mike Tomlin called the interceptions “unit plays” after the game. Jones was one of 11 Steelers executing the play.

That sounds cliché, but the phrasing was not a coincidence. Jones looked as though he was placing the ball where he wanted it for the most part. Sammie Coates said he had miscues on two routes that resulted in picks. Jones was making a basic three-step drop on a hitch route when he got hit on the last interception.

NFL Preseason Blitz: Carson Wentz has rocky debut

Nobody expected Wentz to look like a polished pro, especially coming from an FCS program at North Dakota State, and he was predictably uneven. Wentz won’t start the regular season for the Eagles unless something unexpected happens to Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel over the next few weeks. So he’ll have plenty of time, over the next three weeks and beyond, to get used to the NFL.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to make a nice jump this season, and the first look at them in the preseason won’t slow down that hype.

Allen Robinson was in midseason form in Jacksonville’s 17-13 loss to the New York Jets, with a few nice catches including an incredible grab for 45 yards. He had 80 yards in the first quarter. Thanks to his No. 1 receiver grabbing everything thrown his way, quarterback Blake Bortles was 6-of-7 for 105 yards.

The run game looked good too. Chris Ivory had 26 yards and a touchdown on six carries. T.J. Yeldon made the most of his four carries, getting 26 yards. The Jaguars’ starters played most of the first quarter, and they led 10-0 at the end of it.

The Jaguars had a great offseason, grabbing a few high-priced veterans and getting Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack in the draft. If the starting offense is as efficient as it was Thursday night, the Jaguars should be fun to watch this season.

I watched about 200 plays from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston’s rookie season. I saw all his third-down throws and many first-down passing attempts. Seeing that many plays one after another gives me a good sense of how good a quarterback is.

And the more I watched Winston, the more impressed I was with him. He has a very bright future ahead of him.

There’s a lot to like about Winston, and we could get a good sense of who he is as a quarterback because the Buccaneers did not run a simple offense. This was a full-throated NFL passing game last season. There was no sense that Dirk Koetter’s offense (Koetter was the Bucs’ offensive coordinator last year, and was promoted to head coach in the offseason) was geared toward a rookie who was still learning. There were a ton of concepts in the offense, both under center and from the shotgun. The offense did not seem to be simplified.