BREAKING: New York Jets trade TE Chris Herndon to Minnesota (Report)

Herndon’s once-promising New York Jets career has reportedly come to an end, as a deal has been reached with the Minnesota Vikings.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the New York Jets have traded tight Chris Herndon to the Minnesota Vikings for an undetermined draft pick compensation. Minnesota recently lost primary tight end Irv Smith Jr. for the season due to a meniscus injury.

Thus ends Herndon’s New York Jets career, which began with such promise in 2018. He was chosen in the fourth round out of Miami (107th overall) and developed a strong connection with fellow rookie and camp roommate Sam Darnold. Herndon ranked second on the Jets and led all rookie tight ends with 502 yards on 39 receptions, four of which went for scores.

However, Herndon was never able to replicate his freshman success. His sophomore season was a lost cause thanks to a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL substance abuse policy and a rib injury that limited his participation to a mere 18 snaps. He regained the Jets’ primary tight end role last season but earned only 287 yards on 31 receptions, dropping four passes in that span. This summer, Herndon lost the primary training camp snaps to veteran newcomer Tyler Kroft, making him expendable as league rosters trickle down to 53 players. His preseason participation was mostly limited to second half reps, earning a pair of receptions good for 14 yards.

Upon Herndon’s departure, only two of six players (Nathan Shepherd, Foley Fatukasi) remains from the Jets’ 2018 draft class. Herndon was also called upon to model the Jets’ new uniforms during the ensuing offseason after his breakout rookie campaign, joining Darnold, Jamal Adams, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Leonard Williams in a reveal party hosted by Curb Your Enthusiasm star J.B. Smoove. None of those veterans remain with the team.

The Jets open their regular season in Charlotte on Sept. 12 against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

[[[UPDATE: 7:00 p.m. ET]]]: In officially announcing the trade, the Jets will also send over their sixth round pick in the upcoming draft to Minnesota in exchange for a fourth-round choice in the same selections.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

BREAKING: New York Jets sign WR Elijah Moore to rookie deal

elijah moore, jets

Moore was the New York Jets’ second-round draft choice in April. Zach Wilson is now the only green draft pick left unsigned.

The New York Jets have signed second-round draft pick Elijah Moore to his rookie contract, the team announced on Wednesday night. Per ESPN’s Field Yates, the four-year rookie deal includes full guarantees in each of his first three seasons. Ian Rapoportof NFL Network claims that three-year salary amounts to just under $9 million.

Zach Wilson, Moore’s presumed franchise quarterback, is the only Jets draft pick who has yet to sign with the team, following their inking of Alijah Vera-Tucker on Tuesday night.

His New York status secure, Moore is set to join a revamped receivers room that features sophomore and fellow second-round pick Denzel Mims as well as free agent acquisitions Corey Davis and Keelan Cole and reigning slot target Jamison Crowder. Moore’s 189 receptions in college are currently good for third-best in Mississippi football history, tied with current Tennessee Titans star A.J. Brown. The 2,441 yards he earned in that span are good for third in program history.

“Moore is a dangerous playmaker who is a threat to score and rip off long gains on any reception,” WalterFootball’s Charlie Campbell said of Moore prior to the draft. “With his speed off the line and his second gear, Moore is fast through his route and his burst out of his breaks consistently creates separation. He is deadly on double moves because his route running and suddenness allow him to get open downfield while challenging defenses vertically.”

Moore has shown no hesitation sharing the wealth of his newfound NFL windfall; over the weekend, a video posted on his Instagram account documented a promise to his mother Elisa to pay off her debts while partying with friends and family off the coast of Miami.

Jets rookies reported to One Jets Drive in Florham Park for training camp on Tuesday, while veterans are set to arrive on July 27.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

BREAKING: New York Jets opt out of in-person voluntary workouts

New York Jets

The New York Jets are the latest team to opt-out of in-person voluntary workouts, becoming the 13th NFL team to do so.

The New York Jets became the 13th NFL team to opt-out of voluntary offseason workouts, submitting a statement through the Players Association’s social media accounts. Teams have begun opting out of in-person activities in the wake of the ongoing health crisis. The Denver Broncos were the first team to do so, making their announcement on Tuesday.

“Football is a labor of love for our men, who work year-round to stay in shape on prepare ourselves to perform at the highest level,” the statement read. “Given that we are still in a pandemic and based on the facts provided to our membership by our union about the health and safety benefits of a virtual offseason, many of us will exercise our CBA right and not attend in-person voluntary workouts.”

“We respect that every player has a right to make a decision about what is best for him and his family, and we stand in solidarity with other players across the NFL who are making informed choices about this offseason.”

Despite ongoing vaccinations across the country, COVID-19 continues to make an impact on the sports world. Two NHL teams (the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks) are currently on pause in the wake of positive tests while the New York Mets’ opening series with the Washington Nationals was delayed due to issues in the latter’s organization.

In their notes distributed by the NFLPA, some teams have stated a preference for virtual workouts, especially with COVID-19 still prevalent in some areas. Others have noted that they emerged from last season with fewer injuries when virtual workouts were conducted last season in the height of the pandemic.

“Injury data and game performance from last year show that a virtual offseason is beneficial to health and safety,” the Atlanta Falcons’ statement reads. The Cleveland Browns noted in theirs that “missed time injuries” decreased by 23 percent.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NASCAR: Christopher Bell steals first career win at Daytona Road Course

Bell’s late pass of Joey Logano allowed him to capture his first NASCAR Cup Series victory, a week after Michael McDowell earned his.

Joe Gibbs hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2007. Yet, his teams are still finding ways to win on Sunday.

Less than 24 hours after his grandson Ty earned a win in his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start, Gibbs’ unit at the premier Cup level also featured a first-time victor. Christopher Bell earned his first Cup Series victory at Daytona International Speedway’s road course in just his second career start in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Bell would pass Joey Logano with less than two laps remaining to secure the win.

“This is the happiest moment I’ve had in a very long time. 2020 was one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever had in my racing career,” Bell said. “To be able to come back in 21 and win in the Cup Series this early on a road course is something that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.”

Bell has been part of Gibbs’ developmental endeavors for several seasons, previously winning 16 races over three years in his Xfinity program. The 26-year-old also won the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title in a Toyota Tundra owned by his current teammate Kyle Busch. His rookie season at the Cup level was a struggle, driving the No. 95 Toyota for the Gibbs-affiliated Leavine Family Racing. Bell struggled in lesser equipment but showed some speed in last season’s maiden voyage on Daytona’s road course.

Early in the race, Bell took an early risk, staying on the track during a caution for debris on the track toward the end of the first 16-lap stage while a majority of the rest of the field pitted. The No. 20 failed to earn stage points with a 12th-place finish, but there was no denying its speed. Defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, also the winner of the past four road course events, dominated the early portions of the race, but Bell’s Toyota was matching his times. Elliott and Bell were running in the top two spots after each pitted at lap 57 of 70 when a caution came out for rain.

Both Bell and Elliott visited pit road, but Elliott fell out of contention after two separate incidents with Corey LaJoie and later Bell’s teammate Denny Hamlin, relegating him to a 21st-place finish. Bell won the race off pit road and restarted 12th, quickly making his way through the field on fresher tires. He made it up to sixth after the Elliott-LaJoie get-together and another incident involving Tyler Reddick brought out cautions.

Going back green, Bell worked his way through on-track chaos and some of the sport’s most renowned names to earn his way to the front. His pass of Logano left behind Hamlin, as well as prior champions Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick.

“The last lap was pretty surreal,” Bell recalled. “All race long I kind of felt like I was trying to do my best job and not screwing up, hit my marks, not overdriving the corners. Whenever I got by the 22 coming to the white flag, I knew I was faster than him. I ran him down from a while back. All I had to do was get a couple of good corners and get away.”

With his win, each of the first two events of the Cup Series season has featured a first-time winner, following Michael McDowell’s win at the Daytona 500 (run on the traditional oval) last weekend. This is the third time a season has opened with consecutive first-time winners, with such a feat also occurring in 1949 and 1950.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Dixie Vodka 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox).

Race Notes

  • McDowell got into trouble on the first lap of the race, missing the first turn and losing his steering. However, the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford recovered to finish 8th, earning consecutive top-ten finishes for the first time in his 14-year career.

 

  • AJ Allmendinger ran his first Cup Series race in November 2018, finishing 7th in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet. Allmendinger earned his lone career Cup victory at another road course, Watkins Glen, in 2014 and has won four more on the Xfinity circuit. He is currently racing full-time for Kaulig in the Xfinity Series.

 

  • Reddick was one of four cars not to finish, a list that also included Josh Bilicki (brakes), Ross Chastain (crash), and Quin Houff (engine).

 

  • Hamlin takes over the Cup Series points lead, pacing Logano by 12 points.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The Legacy of Hinchliffe Stadium Part III: Fall of a Champion

Hinchliffe Stadium has played host to some of the most renowned names in baseball history. How did it revert to this state of neglect?

At its core, Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, NJ should be a shrine to American resilience and ingenuity.

It was the site where the professional career of Hall of Famer Larry Doby began through a tryout in front of the Manley family, the owners of the Newark Eagles. Doby would become one of many legends whose cleats would touch what is now a concrete lot. Barnstorming and Negro League endeavors gave way to Monte Irvin (a longtime friend of Doby’s and another Newark Eagles discovery at Hinchliffe), Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, and many others as they worked their way through games that recently gained recognition from Major League Baseball.

“I think the story of the Negro Leagues embodies the story of the American spirit unlike any story in the annals of our country’s history,” Bob Kendrick, President of Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said about why preserving the Hinchliffe Stadium is so important. “It contains everything that we pride ourselves about being American. It is about pride and it’s about passion, it’s about perseverance, determination, courage, the refusal to accept the notion that you’re unfit to do anything…that is the American way.”

“The Negro Leagues, to me, were about as American as you can be, because it was one of the most living examples of American ingenuity,” said Larry Doby Jr., the son of the first African American to hit a home run in World Series history at a recent event hosted by the Union Public Library. “Necessity is the mother of invention…(the Wright) brothers that were in Ohio and looked at that bird and thought ‘we want to fly like that’…it’s kind of the same with Rube Foster and all those other guys that started the Negro Leagues. They knew that guys were good enough to play, but they knew they didn’t have a venue. American ingenuity being for everybody, they decided to start their own league.”

The stadium is being treated as anything but the shrine Kendrick, Doby Jr., and many others feel it should be. It is instead laden with graffiti and uncontrolled greenery that seeps through the concrete. Potholes litter the sidewalks leading to the dilapidated entry gates. There have been some slight refurbishments in the form of a bright, colorful mural in Doby’s honor, but the area remains an eyesore, especially compared to the neighboring Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.

How did it come to this? According to those in charge, bureaucratic turmoil and promises lost led to the unfortunate deterioration.

The Paterson Public Schools has had control of the facility since 1963 and countless failings of the stadium have followed. The city’s high school athletic programs continued to be staged at the stadium through the mid-1990s, almost a decade after the New Jersey Eagles of the short-lived American Soccer League staged two seasons in Paterson. By then a supposed lack of funds and even outright indifference led to the stadium’s deterioration. The baseball field was controversially realigned in 1963 (creating a right field fence that is approximately 200 feet from home plate), Astroturf was installed over asphalt (leading to injuries), and extensions added to the stadium led to the formation of a sinkhole that caused structural damage.

In 1997, shortly after the Paterson Public Schools deemed the stadium unfit for events, Hinchliffe had a chance to either be demolished for $4 million or restored for an additional $800,000. The lack of action from the superintendent, Laval Wilson, has placed the stadium on its slovenly path.

Efforts to preserve the stadium, spurred on by the inactivity and threats of demolition, had been further hindered on the national level. After the National Register of Historic Places offered its seal in the mid-2000s, the Paterson Public Schools applied for a grant through “Save America’s Treasures,” a program set up by the U.S. National Park Service.

However, through a clerical error by the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office, the “Save America’s Treasures,” funding was denied on the grounds that Hinchliffe held only “local” value and significance…despite Hinchliffe’s role in changing the course of baseball history by introducing names like Doby and Irvin to wider audiences.

Paterson native Brian LoPinto has been at the forefront of the ongoing restoration efforts. As co-founder of the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium (FOHS), LoPinto says that such endeavors are not centered on fundraising, contrary to popular belief. Rather, FOHS focused on grant writing and spreading awareness.

LoPinto’s journey is perhaps comparable to the song “The Pretender” by the Foo Fighters, namely the lyrics “I’m the voice inside your head you refuse to hear, I’m the face that you have to face mirroring your stare, I’m what’s left; I’m what’s right, I’m the enemy.” It’s one of his particular favorites off the 2007 album Echos, Silence, Patience, & Grace.

“I think the biggest obstacle (in restoration), quite frankly, would be the Paterson Public Schools,” LoPinto said. “They have owned the stadium since 1963. From that point to the present day, they’ve made bad decisions.”

“At the end of the day, they just neglected it and neglected it,” he continued. “The old saying dictates that, if you take care of the little things, the bigger things take care of themselves. Not only did they not just take care of it, but they also didn’t want to let it go. It just didn’t make sense. They still own it today, but really the city should own it.”

Progress has been made in recent months through an allotment in tax credits to the city with a good portion expected to go toward the Hinchliffe’s renovation efforts. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy made this an announcement in December, with Dwight Gooden on hand as well.

Gooden never played at Hinchliffe Stadium but made his mark across the river as a star hurler for both the Mets and Yankees. On that cold day on Hinchliffe’s asphalt, debate playfully rose over whether his time in the orange and blue, or pinstripes with an interlocking NY was more prominent. Regardless, Gooden created unity through one issue that could never be disputed: the national impact that Hinchliffe Stadium has had on America’s Pastime.

“I think it’s a great thing that can build the city back up, to see people giving their time, especially with everything that has taken place this year, it means a lot,” Gooden said.

In speaking of the ultimate goal behind the restoration, he added: “I think the message is that it’s amazing the things we can do when we all come together. At the end of the day, we’re all brothers and sisters and we’re shooting for the same goal: to help the upcoming generations in the things that they know.”

ESM’s series on Hinchliffe Stadium in celebration of Black History Month concludes next Sunday, centering on the future of the site 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Three-time champion Natasha Howard headed to New York Liberty

Former Seattle All-Star Natasha Howard is coming to the New York Liberty in exchange for the top overall pick.

Following the signing of Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb played coy when asked if the team was finished making moves. He gave a more concrete answer on Wednesday afternoon.

The Liberty announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have acquired Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb from the Seattle Storm in a three-team deal. Howard is a three-time WNBA champion and the 2019 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

“We have the privilege of welcoming multiple-time WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb to Brooklyn,” Kolb said in a team statement. “The magnitude of Natasha choosing to be in New York cannot be overstated. She is an All-WNBA talent who has worked for and earned everything that she has achieved, who has contributed to championship runs on multiple teams, and who will fit seamlessly into Walt Hopkins’ system.”

New York bids farewell to the top pick in April’s draft, which went to Seattle, as well as former All-Star Kia Nurse and 2020 first-round pick Megan Walker, who were each dealt to the Phoenix Mercury. The Liberty also sent over a 2022 first-round choice (acquired from Phoenix) to Seattle. They get back the sixth overall pick in 2021 from the Mercury, who also get the rights to Stephanie Talbot from New York. Talbot opted out of the 2020 season after coming over in a draft day trade with Minnesota.

Howard, 29, played a major role in three of the last four WNBA championships with the Storm, who took home the most recent title from the Bradenton bubble last fall. She also captured the 2017 championship with the Minnesota Lynx, working alongside then-Minnesota assistant Walt Hopkins, now the head coach of the Liberty.

After winning the Most Improved Player Award in 2018, Howard earned All-WNBA First Team honors in the following year and also picked up the Defensive Player of the Year title. She has averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in her WNBA career, which began as the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft with Indiana.

“I am very excited to be a part of the New York Liberty organization,” said Howard in a statement. “I’m also excited to meet my new teammates and the fans. I’m so pumped about the 2021 season.”

Howard was previously cored by the Storm, giving the team exclusive free agency rights, but now heads to New York as part of a sign-and-trade.

Also joining the Liberty is sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb. At 32, she is now the oldest member on the Liberty roster. Whitcomb has earned numerous accolades in Australia’s WNBL and was part of the Storm’s last two championship treks. Though born in California, Whitcomb holds Australian citizenship and has earned numerous accolades at the WNBL level. She led Seattle reserves with 8.1 points per game off the bench last season and sank all 22 of her free throw attempts.

“Sami Whitcomb will be an instant fan favorite, not only for her elite shot-making ability, but also for her tenacity and drive,” Kolb said. “A two-time champion in her own right, Sami knows what it takes to win in this league, and is exactly the kind of tough, talented, culture-first player we covet in New York.”

In the process, the Liberty will part ways with Nurse and Walker, each of whom partook in the Liberty’s 22-game endeavor in Florida last year. Nurse was one of the so-called “baby vets” on a New York squad that dressed seven rookies last season, alongside Amanda Zahui B. and Kiah Stokes. Nurse tallied 11.6 points per game last season after appearing in her first All-Star game in 2019. One of the aforementioned rookies was Walker, a fellow University of Connecticut alumna who was chosen ninth in last year’s draft. After missing the first four games due to a positive test for COVID-19, Walker partook in 18 games in the bubble, averaging 3.3 points.

“I would like to thank Kia Nurse and Megan Walker for their contributions to our organization,” added Kolb. “The unfortunate part of transactions such as these is that you have to say goodbye to people who have contributed to the team in so many ways. Kia shone particularly brightly in New York, becoming an All-Star in just her second season in the league. Megan’s rookie season was undoubtedly stunted by a preseason COVID diagnosis, but I have no doubt that she will return to top form in the coming years, and that both players will continue to flourish in Phoenix.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty sign 2020 Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney

The newest member of the New York Liberty enjoyed a breakout season in Atlanta and also appeared on the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team.

Betnijah Laney is used to putting on a show on tri-state area hardwood as a Rutgers alumna. She’s about to do so on a professional level.

The New York Liberty announced on Tuesday that the team has brought in Laney as a free agent signing. Laney is the defending winner of the league’s Most Improved Player Award as a member of the Atlanta Dream.

“We are beyond excited to welcome Betnijah to the New York Liberty,” said Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said in a team statement. “As a player, Betnijah represents everything it takes to wear the seafoam and black, from her resilience, to her dedication, to her never quit attitude. As a person, she is someone New Yorkers will fully embrace as she is as committed to making an impact in the community as she is on court.”

Laney, 27, will appear on her fifth WNBA team after entering the league as a second-round pick of the Chicago Sky in 2015. She previously spent four years at Rutgers under the watch of legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer in Piscataway. Laney was on the team’s 2014 squad that won the WNIT and later set a Rutgers Athletic Center single-game record with 24 rebounds in a tilt against North Carolina later that year. The previous holder was original Liberty representative Sue Wicks, who carried the mark since 1987.

After prior stints with Chicago, Connecticut, and Indiana, Laney enjoyed a breakout season with the Dream in the Bradenton bubble. She smashed her career-bests with averages of 17.2 points and 4.9 rebounds. Laney made a huge statement during Atlanta’s 84-78 win over the Liberty on July 31, reaching 30 points for the first time in her career. She would top that mark less than a month later in an August loss to Washington.

For her efforts, Laney was awarded the 2020 Most Improved Player Award, previously bestowed to her fellow Piscataway alumna Kia Vaughn, who won it with the Liberty in 2011. Laney was also named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team alongside Atlanta teammate Elizabeth Williams.

In other Liberty roster news, Rachel Galligan has reported that Joyner Holmes has been re-added on a training camp deal. The rookie put up 2.9 points and 2.7 rebounds over 19 games after being signed from Seattle prior to the bubble’s inflation.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Buffalo Bills clinch AFC East division title

The Buffalo Bills’ Saturday win over the Denver Broncos allowed them to clinch their first division title since 1995.

After a 25-year sabbatical, AFC East supremacy is returning to Western New York.

Josh Allen tallied 392 total yards of offense, with 259 of his passing tallies going to Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. Jerry Hughes took back a fumble for a score, while Devin Singletary capped things off with a long touchdown of his own, giving the Buffalo Bills a 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday night in the Rockies. The victory allowed Buffalo (11-3) to capture their first AFC East division crown since 1995 and Orchard Park will likely host its first playoff game since the 1996 wild-card round. In closing yet another dubious streak, Buffalo has also won 11 games for the first time since 1999.

It’s the latest big accomplishment of the Brandon Beane/Sean McDermott era, one that began back in 2017. The pair inherited one of the longest active playoff droughts in American sports, but have now made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons.

Appropriately, it was the on-field cornerstones of the Beane-McDermott regime that rose to the occasion during their historic evening, launching themselves up the ledgers of Orchard Park’s record books. Josh Allen put in 392 yards and four total touchdowns, the latter tie tying him with Jack Kemp for the most ground scores by a quarterback in team history (25) and moved into the top ten amongst all rushing scorers (passing Willis McGahee and tying LeSean McCoy). The Minnesota transfer Diggs began his Week 15 exploits by breaking his with Eric Moulds for Buffalo’s single-season receptions, creating an 11-reception margin with two more games to go. Diggs wound up with 147 receiving yards, joined in the brotherhood of triple-digits by Beasley (117), who is breaking the career-highs he set in Dallas.

McDermott’s former Carolina pupil Mario Addison was a constant backfield invader on defense, while undrafted gem Levi Wallace helped hold Denver’s potent rookie receiving pair in check, with Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler combining for 23 yards on a reception each. A first-round choice, Houston’s Ed Oliver, likewise earned a sack and got an early pass breakup in. Only adding to the fairy-tale setting was Hughes’ march of glory, as one of the two leftovers from the lean years took back a Drew Lock fumble for six points. While the other, tight end Lee Smith, was denied a touchdown due to a penalty, Hughes’ six-pointer more or less kept the game in Buffalo’s control. Another Beane choice, running back Devin Singletary, put one last exclamation point, a 51-yard touchdown dash that served as the unofficial kickoff to Buffalo’s divisional title party.

The effort led to one of the biggest dominoes toppled in the Bills’ return to respectability. Buffalo has officially ended the stranglehold the New England Patriots held on the quartet, as they become the first non-New England to finish atop the four since Miami in 2008.

However, in their celebration, the partygoers made it clear: the AFC East, while spurring a celebration a quarter-century in the making, is nowhere their ultimate goal. Words weren’t even necessary to convert such a message. The Bills’ celebratory t-shirts commemorating the division title bore what’s sure to become an oft-repeated insignia: “Won Not Done”.

“(The shirt) says ‘won not done’. Everything is still in front of us,” Allen said of the slogan per Daniel Fetes of WHAM. “This just gives us an opportunity to give it a shot and that’s all we can ask for.”

“This team here, we’re on a mission,” cornerback Tre’Davious White added in a report from Jenna Callari of WKBW. “I can feel it.”

But in more jovial matters, Saturday’s victory was a strong culmination of brotherhood and perseverance. No one can deny that this is a team whose camaraderie is riding at an all-time high as the most important games of their NFL careers approach. It was a development seen in the preparation for Denver, as the Bills turned Winter Storm Gail into a battleground, partaking in a snowball fight after practice earlier this week.

Expectations will widely vary with this Buffalo squad. Some see them as the biggest threat to a budding dynasty in Kansas City. Others feel like this they should be satisfied with topping the eastern quartet, confident that they’ll be a staple on the AFC bracket for years to come.

Either way, the Bills have made it clear…whatever they do in the near future, they’ll be doing it as a family…a family that has ended some of the most dubious streaks in professional football.

“Buffalo has been waiting for this for 25 years. It’s just special. It’s just an unexplainable feeling,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said in Callari’s report. “It’s a family, a family that stays together will win, cherish, and conquer it all. This was just step one.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

BREAKING: Buffalo Bills sign GM Brandon Beane to multi-year extension

After ending the longest playoff drought in Buffalo Bills history, Beane has been locked up through a multi-year extension.

The Buffalo Bills announced on Friday that they have signed general manager Brandon Beane to a multi-year extension. Beane has been with the team since 2017.

“Brandon is an outstanding leader, and he has brought a great level of stability throughout our organization. One of the things we appreciate and respect about Brandon is that he is very thorough in his decision-making process,” Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula said in a statement on the team website penned by Maddy Glab. “No decision he makes comes without a great deal of study and research. We appreciate his strong communication skills, and he works extremely well with us, with Sean, and with all levels of the organization. We are happy to extend his contract and to have Brandon and Sean leading our football team for many years to come.”

In his first season at the helm, Beane helped end the Bills’ franchise-long playoff drought at 17 seasons. The team has now been to the postseason in two of the past three years and is currently on pace to earn its first division title since 1995. Buffalo won 10 games for the first time since 1995 during the last campaign.

Head coach Sean McDermott offered his praises after news of Beane’s extension emerged. The two previously collaborated in Carolina, where Beane served in a variety of front office roles. McDermott served as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator for the final six years of Beane’s watch and was brought over when the latter came to Buffalo.

“I think for most GMs to have that experience on the business side of the football end of things, I really can’t envision myself working with anybody else but Brandon moving forward,” McDermott said in Glab’s statement. “For coaches, as I mentioned earlier, it’s one thing to be a good coach and develop players. But if you’re not being fed good players, it’s almost like drinking from a dry hose. That’s a hard thing to sustain over the course of time. So being fed good players, being fed players that match what we’re looking for, Brandon has done a phenomenal job. I can’t envision myself working with any other GM.”

Among Beane’s most notable Buffalo moves is the selection of quarterback Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and a trade that brought former Minnesota Viking Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. Allen is on pace for career-highs in his third season and has also garnered MVP consideration. Diggs currently leads the NFL with 90 receptions.

The Bills (9-3) return to action on Sunday night, as they battle the Pittsburgh Steelers at home (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). In another sign of how far they’ve come under Beane’s watch, Sunday will mark the first time a Sunday night game has been staged in Orchard Park since 2007.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING NEWS: New York Jets release RB Le’Veon Bell

New York Jets, LeVeon Bell

The New York Jets released the former star running back less than two years into a four-year, $52.5 million contract.

The New York Jets have released running back Le’Veon Bell, the team confirmed on Tuesday night. Bell’s Jets career ends less than two years into a four-year contract ink during the 2019 offseason.

“After having conversations with Le’Veon and his agent and exploring potential trade options over the past couple of day, we have made the decision to release Le’Veon,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in a statement. “The Jets organization appreciates Le’Veon’s efforts during his time here and we know he worked hard to make significant contributions to this team. We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success.”

Bell’s Jets career ends after just 17 games that saw him tally 863 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. He joined the Jets on a deal worth $52.5 million after an illustrious five-year career in Pittsburgh, one that saw him put up 5,336 yards over five seasons. Bell sat out the entire 2018 season after long-term contract talks between him and the Steelers broke down.

Bell’s relationship with head coach Adam Gase was a point of contention during his brief time in New York. Gase’s usage of the running back was constantly called into question, as Bell’s 245 carries were his lowest tally since his rookie season. His 789 yards and three scores were also full-season lows for the former Michigan State Spartan.

Upon Bell’s release, Frank Gore and rookie La’Mical Perine are the active returnees on the Jets’ roster. The team has also promoted free agent signee Ty Johnson to their active 53-man unit. Johnson, a former Detroit Lions’ draft pick, was signed on October 2.

The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags