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#pounditSaturday, April 10, 2021

Stories by Dan Benton:

Giants approve replacement Super Bowl ring for Steve Weatherford

Earlier this week, retired New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford revealed that his Super Bowl XLVI ring had been stolen as part of a string of neighborhood break-ins.

Weatherford said in a Facebook post that he gave his wife permission to put the ring in her purse following a speaking engagement, and that the entire purse and some other items were then stolen from their car.

“No, it’s not a joke⁣,” Weatherford wrote in a social media post. “Recently, a string of car break-ins happened in my neighborhood — all in one night, eight cars were broken into.

“I gave my ring to my wife the night before after speaking at an event, she put it in her purse, and… Well, if anyone sees a Super Bowl XLVI ring on eBay with a name largely engraved on the side –⁣ WEATHERFORD (spelled like that) — kindly text me.”

As part of Weatherford’s plea, he expressed hope that Giants co-owner John Mara would approve a second mint of his ring courtesy of Tiffany & Co., which would be paid for through insurance money.

The good news? TMZ Sports reports that the Giants have given the thumbs up to Tiffany & Co. to create a replacement ring for Weatherford.

The New York Giants tells us they will allow Tiffany & Co. to make a replacement Super Bowl 46 ring for Weatherford.

Remember, the former Giants punter has insurance on the missing ring … but isn’t allowed to get a replacement without the green light from NYG ownership.

According to the team, that ain’t a problem … ’cause the G-Men tell us they’re actively working on getting in touch with Steve, and are down to make him a replacement.

Weatherford spent four season with the Giants from 2011-2014 and set a Super Bowl record against the New England Patriots by downing three punts inside the 10-yard line.

5 NFL players who are likely to be overpaid in free agency

Logan Ryan

Free agency is always a crazy time in the NFL, and the frenzy promises to be just as wild this year. That also means that teams will rush to sign players before their competitors are given a chance, driving up prices, and leading to some massive over-payments.

Here’s a look at five impending free agents who are bound to be overpaid in 2020.

5. Logan Ryan, CB, Tennessee Titans

Just a few short years ago, Logan Ryan was considered one of the best up-and-coming cornerbacks in the NFL, and there were 32 teams that would have been happy to have him. However, Ryan has seen a production decline in recent seasons, finishing 2019 with a Pro Football Focus grade of just 64.9 after surrendering 80 receptions for over 1,000 yards. Despite those struggles, Ryan is still on the right side of 30 and has a stretch on his resume that will intrigue any team in need of a veteran cornerback. And while there are some similar talents potentially becoming available in March, Ryan is still likely to command top dollar — far beyond what his 2019 season should warrant.

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5 NFL players who could be cut before free agency

Long before the new league year arrives and the frenzy that is free agency gets underway, NFL teams will need to tinker with their rosters. They will be releasing players and/or adjusting contracts in an effort to secure as much salary cap space as possible.

As a result, the already robust free agent market will be flooded with additional talent, providing teams that many more options to plug holes on their roster.

Here’s a look at five of the bigger names who could be released leading up to the start of free agency.

5. A.J. Bouye, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

When the Jacksonville Jaguars originally signed A.J. Bouye, he was one of the best up-and-coming cornerbacks in the league. However, over the last three seasons, Bouye has seen a sharp decline in his production, which was capped off with a 58.4 Pro Football Focus score in 2019 after allowing 52 receptions on 80 targets. As things sit, he has two years and nearly $31 remaining on that deal, and there’s next to no chance the Jaguars see that out. Here in 2020, Bouye would account for a dead cap hit of $4 million if released, but that pales in comparison to the nearly $11.5 million in cap savings the Jaguars would receive if they cut their losses. Ultimately, expect Jacksonville to attempt to swing a trade before releasing Bouye outright — assuming they find no takers, of course.

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5 XFL players who could resurrect their career

Cardale Jones

The 2020 XFL season is officially underway and by most metrics, things got off to a relatively hot start for the WWE product its second time around. Many fans who tune into the XFL aren’t just watching it for the sake of taking in more football, but also to see which players end up in the NFL. After all, that is the primary goal for most players in the league.

And the talent is there. The league features a plethora of fringe talent that may just need that one opportunity. So with that in mind, here’s a look at five XFL players who could resurrect their football careers.

5. Scooby Wright, LB, D.C. Defenders

In 2014 while at Arizona, Wright had a career season, being named a unanimous All-American and first-team All-Pac-12, while also winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Two years later, he was a seventh-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, and all career momentum seemed to come to an end. Wright bounced around the NFL for a couple of years before joining the AAF in 2019 and then landing back on an NFL roster, this time with the New England Patriots. Again, his professional career seemed to go nowhere, and he ended up joining the XFL. At 25 years old, Wright is still relatively young, healthy and riddled with potential. Receiving consistent playing time under NFL-level coaches might be just what the doctor ordered for Wright, but it may also be his last chance.

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Colin Kaepernick still has desire to play football

Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick still wants to play football.

Of course, that comes with a caveat. Kaepernick wants to play football, but he wants to do so at the right price — at least according to XFL commissioner Oliver Luck, who revealed earlier this week that Kap had some pretty unrealistic salary demands for the start-up league.

But salary didn’t come up on Thursday when Kaepernick sat down with USA TODAY to discuss his upcoming memoir, which will be published trough his newly formed company, Kaepernick Publishing, in a partnership with Audible.

However, the word “desire” most certainly did.

“My desire to play football is still there,” Kaepernick said. “I still train five days a week. I’m ready to go, I’m ready for a phone call, tryout, workout at any point in time. I’m still waiting on the owners and their partners to stop running from this situation. So I hope I get a call this offseason. I’ll be looking forward to it.”

Kaepernick had an NFL-sponsored workout scheduled in November, but he ultimately chose to move the location and workout on his own after a disagreement with the league. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell later called it a “credible opportunity” that Kaepernick “chose not to take” and that the league had moved on.

Since that workout snafu, no NFL teams have expressed an interest in Kaepernick and he’s kept all alternative leagues/options at arms length.

Myles Garrett calls suspension ‘a blessing in disguise’

Myles Garrett

Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett was officially reinstated on Wednesday after serving what amounted to a six-game suspension for striking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet during a Week 11 contest.

With the entire incident now behind him, Garrett expressed a sigh of relief, telling TMZ Sports it “feels pretty nice” to be back. He also acknowledged that the entire situation, suspension and all, was a blessing in disguise.

“Everything that happens to you is for a reason,” Garrett said. “If you take the lesson and make the best out of it, everything a blessing in disguise.

Although Garrett was feeling optimistic following his reinstatement, he refused to answer a question about whether or not he’s spoken to Rudolph since the incident. However, he did promise big things in 2020.

“When I get back onto the field, you’ll see,” Garrett cautioned.

Tyrod Taylor could start for Chargers in 2020, Anthony Lynn says

Tyrod Taylor

The Los Angeles Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers “agreed to part ways” earlier this week, ending a 16-year run with Rivers leading the way — first in San Diego and then in L.A.

With Rivers now out the door, the Chargers will usher in a new era in 2020, including, quite obviously, a new starting quarterback. And while a first-round rookie or an experienced veteran are both possibilities, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn believes there may also be a third option.

Lynn, who reportedly signed a contract extension on Thursday, told AM 570 LA Sports in Los Angeles that last year’s backup quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, could earning the starting job out of training camp.

“Tyrod Taylor is a heck of a quarterback,” Lynn said. “We couldn’t have a better backup right now, and now he has an opportunity to maybe step up into a starting role. I’ve had Tyrod before, and I know what this young man brings to the table, in the passing game and the running game.

“One of the things he does very well is take care of the football. I believe every year he’s started in this league he’s been the No. 1 quarterback in taking care of the football. I believe more games are lost than won. So if we can just take care of the football and take it away, we’ll be okay.”

Taylor, a sixth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2011 NFL Draft, signed a two-year deal with the Chargers last year after spending the 2018 season with the Cleveland Browns. He also called Buffalo home from 2015-2017.

In 70 career games (46 starts), Taylor has completed 61.6% of his passes for 9,562 yards, 54 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. A dual threat, he’s also gained 1,843 yards and scored 16 additional touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

5 most important Super Bowl matchups

George Kittle

Super Bowl LIV is nearly upon us, and the football world is elated to see a matchup that does not include the New England Patriots.

Instead, we’ll see a battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. One team has an elite passing offense with a creative defense, and the other a group of ground-and-pounders who rely on dominating in the trenches. It’s somewhat of a new school vs. old school matchup.

But which battles within the battle will decide the game? Let’s take a look.

5. Nick Bosa vs. Eric Fisher

Leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, we’ve seen a lot of stories about Nick Bosa vs. Patrick Mahomes, but that’s not how football structure works. Bosa will not have free lanes to chase Mahomes around. Instead, in order to get to the quarterback, he’ll have to get through offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who finished the regular season with a Pro Football Focus grade of just 64.3. Despite that grade, Fisher excelled in pass protection, allowing just a single sack while committing just two penalties. He’ll need to find that same success against Bosa or risk having the rookie completely disrupt the game and force Mahomes to make plays under pressure.

4. Joe Staley vs. Frank Clark

Frank Clark is feeling himself leading up to Super Bowl LIV, essentially crediting himself for the team’s defensive turnaround. While that might be a bit hyperbolic, he has certainly played his part, but it doesn’t mean a thing if they come up short. The ageless wonder, Joe Staley, certainly knows that. He will use his years of experience competing against Clark from his time in Seattle to his advantage. After missing half of the season due to a fractured fibula, Staley returned and immediately made an impact, saving his best performances for the playoffs. He’s played off the charts in recent weeks, and the 49ers need him to dial up one more top-end game before potentially calling it a career.

3. Chris Jones vs. Laken Tomlinson

Some would argue that Mitchell Schwartz vs. Dee Ford should be in this spot. However, Schwartz has played at a very high level this season and should matchup well with Ford, whereas Chris Jones has been a pocket-collapsing monster at times, impacting both the run and the pass. Tomlinson will likely be tasked with stopping him on most snaps throughout the game, and that battle could be just as important as any other. Jones should enter Sunday’s game relatively healthy, which could give him a slight advantage, but Tomlinson has seen a career rebirth with the 49ers, using his strength, athleticism and football IQ to anchor what has been a physically dominating offensive line. If Tomlinson and the other interior linemen can contain Jones, it opens San Francisco’s full bag of tricks. If not, they’re going to have to adjust on the fly and switch things up mid-game.

2. K’Waun Williams vs. Tyreek Hill

I’ve touched on this matchup previously, adding Williams to a list of players/coaches who could directly impact the outcome of Super Bowl LIV. Since then, there’s been some talk about Richard Sherman shadowing Hill, but that’s not what Sherman does. As talented as Sherman is, Williams is speedier and capable of keeping up with Hill and has limited big plays with the best of ’em. The 49ers will rely heavily on Williams to keep that pace for four quarters because if he can’t, it’s going to put San Francisco in a deep hole.

1. George Kittle vs. Tyrann Mathieu

As the Super Bowl nears, it appears more and more likely that San Francisco will lean heavily on Kittle offensively. And why wouldn’t they? In just a few short years, Kittle has established himself as one of the best all-around tight ends in football, capable of breaking a game wide open if not contained. That onus falls on the shoulders of veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has been up-and-down against TEs this season. It will be up to him and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to find a way to limit Kittle’s production or, ideally, take him out of the game entirely and force the 49ers to rely on other offensive weapons.