Friday's NFL: Wide receiver Allen Lazard signs 4-year deal with Jets
Allen Lazard enjoyed everything about New York when he visited for the first time a few months ago.
Now, it will be home for the Jets' newest wide receiver. And he'll be reunited with his former offensive coordinator in Nathaniel Hackett— and perhaps soon quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Lazard signed a four-year contract with the Jets on Friday, a deal worth $44 million and includes $22 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports.
“For me, I just wanted to get to a big city,” Lazard, who is from Iowa, said during a Zoom call. “I wanted to get to a spot that especially has just a melting pot of culture and just be able to get that experience. You know, the bright lights, New York City.”
The Big Apple spotlight might soon shine on Rodgers, Lazard's former Packers teammate, who said on “The Pat McAfee Show” this week that he intends to play for New York this year after 18 seasons in Green Bay. The sides are still working on compensation details to try to complete a trade.
Lazard knows expectations will rise enormously if Rodgers lands with the Jets, a franchise that hasn't been to the Super Bowl since 1969 and has the NFL's longest active playoff drought at 12 seasons.
"Him being here definitely helps the entire organization be able to take that next step that they need to to make a deep playoff run and go win that Lombardi trophy,” Lazard said.
The 27-year-old wide receiver said Rodgers' decision wasn't necessarily a determining factor on where he'd sign as a free agent, but “it definitely helps.”
Lazard said coach Robert Saleh's presence also was a factor, but he raved about Hackett, who worked with the receiver in the same role as offensive coordinator in Green Bay from 2019-21.
“He’s the best teacher I’ve ever had in my life,” Lazard said. “And I go from school to football, he just makes learning fun. ... He makes it really easy and he allows you to go out there and just play fast and not think. Because of that is why I've had a lot of success these past few years."
Lazard tweeted Thursday night that he and Hackett were at dinner together, hinting the signing was imminent. On Wednesday, he posted on Twitter a farewell to the Packers and their fans: “It’s been an honor to represent the ‘G’ and to rock the green and gold with each and every one of you.”
The 6-foot-5 Lazard, regarded as a terrific blocker as a receiver, is coming off his best NFL season. He had personal highs of 60 catches and 788 yards receiving to go along with six touchdowns; in 2021, he had a career-best eight TD receptions.
“I think objectively, a lot of people can look at Allen Lazard and go, he’s a really good player, we would love to have him on our team,” Rodgers said on “The Pat McAfee Show." “Anybody would be lucky to have him in the locker room.”
Lazard was signed by Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State in 2018 and was signed by Green Bay off the Jaguars' practice squad that season.
“I still feel undrafted,” Lazard said with a smile, “because the checks haven't hit yet.”
After starting just 12 games in his first three seasons, Lazard moved into a starting role and developed a strong rapport with Rodgers while starting 28 games the last two years. In five NFL seasons, Lazard has 169 career receptions for 2,236 yards and 20 TDs.
“During my time with Aaron in Green Bay, he really put his arm around me and he's a big reason for why I'm here today,” Lazard said of his NFL career. “I can't deny that. ... He's relied on me in a lot of heavy-pressure situations and always believed in me.”
Eagles, QB Marcus Mariota agree on 1-year deal
The Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Marcus Mariota have agreed on a one-year, $5 million contract, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Friday.
The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced the deal, said Mariota’s contract is worth up to $8 million, including incentives.
Mariota, who was released by Atlanta last month, will be the backup for Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.
Former Eagles coach Chip Kelly coached Mariota at Oregon and coveted him in the 2015 draft but couldn’t trade up to get him. Mariota went No. 2 to Tennessee.
Mariota completed 61.3% of his passes last season for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 starts for the Falcons. He also had a career-high 438 yards rushing and four TDs.
Mariota is 34-40 as a starter with the Falcons and Titans. He played sparingly behind Derek Carr in two seasons as backup for the Raiders in 2020-21.
Mariota replaces Gardner Minshew, who agreed to a deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
Colts, QB Gardner Minshew agree on 1-year deal
The Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Gardner Minshew have agreed on a one-year, $3.5 million contract, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Friday.
The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced the deal, said Minshew’s contract is worth up to $5.5 million, including incentives.
Minshew was 1-3 in four starts filling in for Jalen Hurts over the past two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He reunites with Shane Steichen, the Colts' new coach who was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator.
Minshew, a sixth-round pick by Jacksonville in 2019, was 7-13 as starter in two seasons with the Jaguars. He has completed 62.8% of his passes for 6,632 yards, 44 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in four seasons.
The Colts have had different starting quarterback for five straight seasons, and this year will make it six in a row after Matt Ryan was released.
Indianapolis has the No. 4 overall pick in the draft and is expected to select a quarterback.
The team is not interested in 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, the person said. Jackson, who received the non-exclusive franchise tender from the Baltimore Ravens, can sign an offer sheet with any team. If the Ravens don’t match the offer, they would receive two first-round picks.
... The Seattle Seahawks continued the overhaul of their defense on Friday by reaching agreement on a two-year deal with versatile safety Julian Love, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.
Love's agreement is worth up to $12 million and came after Seattle announced the signing of former first-round linebacker Devin Bush to a one-year deal. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the team had not announced Love's signing.
Love, who turns 25 on Sunday, started 16 games last season for the New York Giants and recorded career highs in tackles and interceptions. Love played a variety of defensive back positions for the Giants before settling in at safety last season and thriving in the role.
Bush's signing could end up filling a significant void for Seattle. The 24-year-old was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2019 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and had a standout rookie season where he had a career-high 109 tackles and was third in defensive rookie of the year voting. But Bush suffered a torn ACL during the 2020 season and has struggled to rediscover the form from his rookie season.
Last season, Bush appeared in 17 games and started 14. He had 81 tackles and played 62% of the defensive snaps for the Steelers.
... The Buffalo Bills released receiver Isaiah McKenzie in a salary cap-saving move on Friday, and following a season in which the sixth-year player struggled in an expanded offensive role.
Cutting McKenzie on the day he was due a roster bonus frees up about $2.2 million in salary cap space for a team general manager Brandon Beane projected had about $9 million to work with a day earlier. The move also comes days after the Bills signed free agent receiver Deonte Harty, who is more than two years younger and possesses similar speedy qualities as the 27-year-old McKenzie.
McKenzie had one year left on his contract after completing his fourth-plus season in being the longest-tenured receiver on Buffalo's current roster. Drafted by Denver in 2017, he was claimed off waivers by Buffalo the following season and eventually established himself as a multi-use specialist on offense and as a returner.
Though coming off a season in which he scored four touchdowns and posted career-bests with 42 catches and 423 yards, McKenzie committed numerous drops — he was targeted 65 times — in being given the opportunity to take over the slot receiver’s job. His inconsistencies led to Buffalo making the mid-season move of signing Cole Beasley out of retirement to shore up the position.
McKenzie also struggled with handling the ball, with a series of bobbles leading to him briefly losing the return job in 2021.
Overall with Buffalo, McKenzie had 137 catches for 1,316 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns, including a career-best five in 2020. He also scored four touchdowns rushing, scored another on a punt return, and completed a touchdown pass on a trick play to quarterback Josh Allen in 2020.