Why the Jets gave Joe Flacco a new team before Cam Newton signed with one

Another veteran QB found a new home in 2020 NFL free agency who isn’t named Cam Newton. The Jets signed Joe Flacco to a one-year deal, a move announced by his agent. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the contract for the former Ravens and Broncos starter has a base worth of only $1.5 million with incentives maxing out at $4.5 million.

Flacco, 35, is recovering from neck surgery to correct an ailment that cut short his lone season in Denver. The 2007 first-rounder and Super Bowl 47 MVP for Baltimore didn’t want to retire and now can get to stick around in the league for at least another season, if he proves to be healthy enough.

Meanwhile, 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton, released by the Panthers in March, remains a free agent and still the best veteran QB on the market. So why did the Jets take a flyer on Flacco instead, given that he also carries a level of recent injury history mystery?

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First, Flacco, who has made plenty of money in his career and once was the highest-paid QB in the NFL, settled for relative little money to keep playing for someone. Second, after his time with the Broncos proved, pre-injury, that he no longer could be counted on as a starter, Flacco clearly settled on being a willing backup behind 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold in New York.

Flacco’s deal is similar to the last QB of first-round note to sign. Jameis Winston, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, went from Buccaneers five-season starter to settling for a $1.1 million base salary plus incentives to back up Drew Brees with the Saints late last month.

For Newton, as the 2015 NFL MVP, reports are it’s been difficult for him to accept both a lesser deal and one that doesn’t come with a real chance to compete for a starting job. So far, the Patriots and Jaguars have held firm on rolling with second-year third-day picks Jarrett Stidham and Gardner Minshew, respectively, instead of wanting to bring Newton or another viable veteran alternative into the mix.

The Redskins (Ron Rivera and Scott Turner) and Broncos (Mike Shula) are Newton’s best remaining coaching staff fits. But Washington has Dwayne Haskins and already traded for former Panther Kyle Allen to compete with him, while Denver is gung-ho on Drew Lock, far removed from Flacco, to the point that it doesn’t want him looking over his shoulder.

Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains, who oversee the Jets’ offense as coach and coordinator, needed more of a regular pocket passing type behind Darnold. Before Flacco, the Jets’ best No. 2 option was David Fales. When Darnold had mononucleosis early last season, their backup situation was badly exposed.

Newton as a unknown quantity to teams because of his durability was never really a fit for New York. Jets general manager Joe Douglas also is vary familiar with Flacco’s makeup and skill set. Douglas started as a longtime scout with the Ravens from 2000 to 2014, and Flacco was drafted by Ozzie Newsome in the middle of that tenure.

Is it shocking that Newton hasn’t found a fit with any team, even at the lowest price? Yes. Is it surprising that the Jets would roll the dice with Flacco as a No. 2 instead of considering Newton? In their current situation, not at all.

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Lautaro Martinez nearly gave up football for basketball

Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez nearly gave up football for a career in basketball… but ‘The Bull’ now has the potential to become one of the finest strikers of his generation after a stunning start to life at Inter Milan

  • Lautaro Martinez has impressed since arriving in Europe in 2018 with Inter Milan
  • Inter love an Argentine centre-forward, but Martinez has potential to be the best
  • Nicknamed ‘The Bull’, he nearly gave up football for a career in basketball in 2015
  • He is now wanted by Barcelona and club’s hierarchy are desperate to sign him
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

From Hernan Crespo to Diego Milito to Mauro Icardi, Inter Milan have long had a soft spot for Argentine centre-forwards – and in current No 10 Lautaro Martinez they might just have found the best of the lot.

Quick, strong, brave and effective both in the air and on the deck, Lautaro – he is known by this name rather than ‘Martinez’ – has the potential to be one of the finest strikers of his generation. When football finally emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, fans will look for heroes to lead the sport out of the crisis, and at 22, ‘El Toro’ – ‘The Bull’ in Spanish – is perfectly-placed to realise those dreams.

Thanks to a stellar display when Inter lost 2-1 at Barcelona in the Champions League in October, Lautaro is regarded so highly at the Nou Camp that Luis Suarez – the man he may one day replace as the club’s centre-forward – is already paying him compliments. Similarly, Lautaro’s compatriot Lionel Messi is thought to be a huge fan.

Lautaro Martinez has the potential to become one of the best strikers of his generation

He impressed as a teenager at Argentina’s Racing Club (pictured) before moving to Italy

‘Lautaro Martinez has grown up a lot in Italy,’ Suarez told newspaper El Mundo Deportivo. ‘He is a special striker with fantastic movement.

‘We all want to win, and if someone who can help us do that were to come here, he would be welcomed. I’m not worried about the rivalry in attack: competition between talented players is a good thing.’

Lautaro’s release clause is thought to be about £95m – an attractive option prior to the pandemic, but which may prove too expensive if – as expected – austerity grips football in the post-coronavirus world.

Lautaro’s development is all the more impressive when you consider that when he joined Inter he had fewer than three years’ senior football behind him, and no experience of the European game. 

Martinez celebrates a goal for Racing, not long after he nearly gave it all up for basketball

Now, at Inter Milan, Martinez has forged a brilliant partnership with Romelu Lukaku (right)

Indeed, he was close to dedicating himself to basketball, rather than football, at the age of 15. ‘I love basketball,’ he told Argentine magazine El Grafico in a 2017 interview. ‘At 15, I had to choose and I went with football but if I hadn’t made it, I’d have played basketball. I’d rather watch a basketball game than a football match.’

When Crespo joined Inter in 2002 to replace the great Brazilian, Ronaldo, he had been a regular scorer for Parma and Lazio for six years. Milito had scored 24 goals for Genoa the season before he joined Inter, while Icardi’s star had risen sharply during two years at Sampdoria. When they bought these players, Inter knew what they were getting.

As for Lautaro, many doubted whether he would succeed in Europe at all. Not because of his ability, which was never in question, but because of his attachment to his homeland.

It had been a wrench for Lautaro, then 16, to leave his home city of Bahia Blanca, to the south-west of Buenos Aires, and travel nearly 400 miles to the capital to join Racing Club. He missed his old life so much that he considered abandoning his new one in order to be back with friends and family again.

Lionel Messi is a big fan and is understood to want his countryman at the Nou Camp

Back in 2015, Martinez had the change to join Real Madrid but opted to stay with Racing Club

‘I wanted to go back to Bahia,’ Lautaro recalled. ‘I am very family-orientated and I missed everything, especially my older brother, Alan. We did everything together – we went to school, we went out, we trained together.

‘It was very hard to leave him, especially as he had health problems just when I left, so the combination of everything made me feel bad. Luckily, my family and Racing Club supported me a lot.’

There were similar ‘sliding doors’ moments in Lautaro’s early career. According to his father, Mario, Lautaro could have joined Real Madrid in 2015 but decided to remain in Argentina. Two years later, he came close to joining Atletico Madrid, only to stay put at Racing once again as the club increased his release clause.

Those near-misses allowed Inter to strike in the summer of 2018, concluding a deal worth around £20m – an outstanding piece of business. After a slow start in Milan, Lautaro has rapidly become a key man and this season his partnership with Romelu Lukaku in attack has developed into one of the most potent in the world.

After a slow start in Milan, Lautaro has rapidly become a key man and is flying high this term

Martinez is nicknamed ‘The Bull’ and is always capable of taking the game by the horns

Before the coronavirus crisis halted Italian football on March 9, the pair had 39 goals between them in all competitions and were helping Antonio Conte’s side build a serious title challenge to champions Juventus. ‘We are good friends; we spend time together off the field, too,’ said Lukaku. ‘I am really happy with the way we are going but we can do much better.’

Nevertheless, Lautaro has kept racking up the personal milestones. His strike at Barcelona made him the first Inter player to score at the Nou Camp since Roberto Boninsegna in 1970. Later in the competition, he became only the fourth Inter player to score in four consecutive Champions League matches. Barring injury or dramatic loss of form, he will be leading the line for Argentina in two years’ time as they try to win the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Nobody can be sure when football will return after its greatest crisis. Yet when it does, expect The Bull to take the game by the horns.

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