Now that the muzzles have been removed for NFL team executives and the players they either re-signed or added in free agency, Thursday was a time for explanations and reflections.
Yes, there were more transactions: Las Vegas getting running back Kenyan Drake while Denver bid adieu to RB Phillip Lindsay. New England bringing back Kyle Van Noy, Buffalo grabbing Mitchell Trubisky, and Tennesse getting All-Pro long snapper Morgan Cox.
There also were plenty of words from guys switching teams (Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Thuney, A.J. Green), players staying put (Leonard Williams, Derek Wolfe) and even a player coming out of retirement (Kyle Long).
Wentz was the headliner, in great part because of the perceived nastiness of his split with the Eagles, who got two draft picks from Indianapolis for their once-franchise quarterback. Wentz took the high road in his Zoom news conference.
“Anytime you hear those things you want to play detective and figure out who said it. But it really doesn’t matter,” he said of anonymous comments in Philadelphia during and after the season ended. “If it’s out there, then you have to ask yourself how can I learn from it? It’s unfortunate people have those opinions and if any of my teammates didn’t think I was the best teammate, I apologize. I wish I could have been better.”
The Colts expect Wentz to be the right successor to the retired Philip Rivers.
“I can’t emphasize how strongly I feel Carson is the man for the job for the Colts at this time,” team owner Jim Irsay said. “I really think he can be that guy that’s going to be the centerpiece for the next decade who can give the Colts a chance at greatness.”
Fitzpatrick joins his ninth team in his soon-to-be 17th pro season, and he’s never been to the playoffs. He left Miami, which has its likely franchise QB in Tua Tagovailoa, for DC, where there is an opening, particularly after NFL Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith was released.
“It’s me. That’s part of my story,” the quarterback nicknamed FitzMagic said. “Part of my story is skipping around to different teams and just trying to instill belief and just show that passion to these guys. … Every time I go to a new place, it’s just a new opportunity. It’s just a new adventure, a new journey for me, and I kind of get to reinvent myself every year on a new deal and I have to prove myself again.”
One of several additions to the Cardinals, Green got a one-year deal worth around $8 million. The star wideout missed the entire 2019 season (ankle injury) and his production was down in 2020 when the Bengals went 4-11-1.
“I feel like I have a lot left in the tank,” said Green, who will be joined in the desert by center Rodney Hudson, kicker Matt Prater and, oh yeah, edge rusher and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. “I still feel young. My legs feel young. Last year was a difficult year for me playing with three different quarterbacks and coming off an injury. But I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world. I think that made me a better person on the field, mentally stronger.”
AP Sports Writers David Brandt, Stephen Whyno and Michael Marot contributed.