Source: Chiefs looking to trade or cut LB Houston

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston has been informed the team will try to trade him, a source told ESPN, and that if no deal is reached he will be released.

Houston, who turned 30 in January, joined the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick (70th overall) from Georgia in 2011. He quickly showed his pass-rush ability by getting three sacks in a game against the Bears as a rookie. He had 22 sacks in 2014, missing the NFL record by a half-sack.

Houston hasn’t come close to that standard since. His best sack total in the past four seasons is 9.5 in 2017. Houston has 78.5 career sacks, fourth on the Chiefs’ all-time list.

Houston in 2015 signed a six-year contract worth $101 million, making him at the time the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

Houston was more than just a pass-rusher for the Chiefs. He was an excellent all-around player who defended the run well. He was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl four times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2014.

QBs Drew Lock, Daniel Jones bolster NFL case at Senior Bowl

Drew Lock got the starting nod. Daniel Jones left with the MVP award.

Two of the NFL draft’s top quarterback prospects bolstered their case a bit while leading the North squad to a 34-24 victory in Saturday’s Senior Bowl.

Lock didn’t get his team into the end zone. But he did cap off a solid week with a “wow” moment — doing his best Patrick Mahomes impression with an underhand throw.

Jones then led a second-half comeback with a touchdown run and a scoring pass to help make up for some of his practice struggles earlier in the week.

“It helps him,” North coach Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders said of Jones saving his best performance for the end of the week. “I’m sure he wanted to start the game. We looked at the game as if it was two different games. The first was gonna be started by Lock, and the second game would be started by Jones.

“But he showed a lot of mental toughness. He had some tough moments — he threw two interceptions in 7-on-7s in practice, which is uncommon. But he came back the next day, and the next day and the next day. And he shows the right stuff.”

Jones, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound redshirt junior from Duke, has been projected as anything from a potential top-15 draft pick to a second-rounder early in the draft evaluation process. But he said he hopes the way he handled the hectic Senior Bowl week will help his prospects.

“Hopefully, each practice, each opportunity, I showed progress, showed improvement, and played my best on Saturday,” said Jones, who completed 8 of 11 passes for 115 yards and a TD, while also running for a 1-yard score. “I had some bumps here and there, but I think everyone went through that, trying to learn a new system with new plays and a new team. And hopefully, I showed an ability to learn and keep progressing.”

Jones, who actually trains in Mobile with his longtime QB coach David Morris, said he’ll take some of the things he learned from this week, “and then hopefully, by the time I see Coach Gruden and those guys in Indianapolis [for next month’s NFL scouting combine], I’ve made even more progress.”

Lock, meanwhile, has his sights set on becoming the top QB drafted in April. A 6-foot-4, 226-pounder out of Missouri, he didn’t significantly help or hurt his stock during the week, as analysts seemed to grade his practice performance slightly ahead of Jones.

Lock completed 9 of 14 passes for 57 yards on Saturday, including one pretty deep ball into the end zone that his receiver wasn’t able to hold onto.

“I think I [helped my case this week],” Lock said. “Being able to talk to teams, really get to know them on a personal level, that was a big thing I was looking forward to. And then just improving every single day in practice. So, I was happy with this week.”

As for his improvisational skills on that underhand throw, Lock said, “That was my first time doing that one today.”

“Defender in between us, tight end was behind me, it just made sense. So, I just took it, rolled the dice on it. It worked out,” Lock said. “But that’s just the kind of player I am.”

No player had more of a memorable week, however, than Western Illinois defensive tackle Khalen Saunders.

Saunders’ fiancée, Ayanna, went into labor a little earlier than expected and gave birth to their baby girl, Kambridge, on Tuesday in Chicago.

Saunders flew home after Thursday’s practice to meet his daughter before returning in time to record a sack in the first quarter of Saturday’s game to cap off an impressive week that appeared to vault his draft stock.

Saunders actually went to the wrong Chicago airport on Friday night and wound up having to spend the night in Atlanta before making it back to Mobile on Saturday morning. But he was beaming after the game, while describing the time he spent with his daughter and how he thinks she recognized his voice when he got there.

Saunders said it was tough to miss the birth, but he and his fiancée had agreed that he would stay in Mobile if she went into a labor because it was such an important opportunity for his career, and therefore the family’s future.

“It’s been busy, to say the least. A lot of excitement in different ways,” Saunders said. “I’m just happy and blessed that I got to go through it.”

Benjamin Watson hopes to retire ‘with a great win’ at season’s end

Tight end Benjamin Watson says his 15th NFL season will be his last, and he hopes to go out on top as a member of the 13-2 New Orleans Saints.

“You hope you get to exit on your own terms. You hope to exit with a great win,” said Watson, who won his only Super Bowl ring while on injured reserve as a rookie with the New England Patriots in 2004.

Watson, who turned 38 earlier this month, ranks 14th among tight ends in NFL history with 528 career receptions for 5,856 yards and 44 touchdown catches.

“I knew coming into this year that it probably would be the last year. And I think our approach was as a family that we were fortunate to come and play for another year, but you kind of know,” said Watson, who spent six years with the Patriots, three with the Cleveland Browns, three with the Saints and two with the Baltimore Ravens before rejoining the Saints this offseason. “It’s been great to be a part of this team and have this sort of winning at this point of my career. But the injuries add up, the body struggles more and more. And it becomes evident that it’s time.

“It’s always a very hard thing, but my mentality this year has definitely been to perform to the best of my ability and fight through different things.”

Watson, who suffered a torn Achilles with the Ravens in 2016, has played in every game for the Saints this year with 33 catches for 371 yards and two TDs. And though he is admittedly feeling more of the aches and pains these days, he’s still a chiseled 6-foot-3, 251-pounder whom Saints running back Mark Ingram referred to as “the Under Armour mannequin” earlier this year.

Watson spent more than half of his career catching passes from future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Drew Brees, which he called “pretty incredible.” And he joked that he tells them if he goes into TV or broadcasting that, “I’ll always have something to talk about” because of them.

But Watson said he doesn’t know what’s next for him, with a number of possibilities that range from broadcasting to writing to public speaking to perhaps even politics.

A two-time finalist for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, Watson has become a prominent national voice on social issues and race in recent years, and he has authored two books since his Facebook post on racial issues following the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, went viral.

Watson has also been an advocate for criminal justice reform, which included a White House meeting with President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner earlier this year. He spent time in the Dominican Republic this offseason to help fight sex trafficking. And he has been a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, among many other endeavors.

Meanwhile, he and his wife, Kirsten, are expecting twins in the spring — which will give them seven children. Their family was featured on an NFL Films segment, during which Watson first revealed his plans to retire.

Watson said one of his fondest NFL memories was being elected as a captain with the Saints in 2015. And when asked what he hopes his legacy will be, he gave a lengthy response.

“I hope my legacy is that I tried to make every place better that I went to and that I grew as a player and as an advocate and as a citizen as my time went on. … I want people to be drawn and to look at the Lord when I do certain things,” Watson said. “I wanted to be somebody that’s good for justice, and that comes in all forms, when you talk about social justice or criminal justice, standing for life in the womb, standing for those who are sex trafficked or people who are refugees, or whether you’re wealthy or poor, treating everyone with equity, treating everybody right.

“I want my legacy to be somebody who loved his wife and somebody who loved his kids and tried to lead his family, and encouraged other guys that they have what it takes to be the men that they’re called to be. … And I want to be somebody that was reliable, that a coach could count on. A guy that when you put him out there, he did his job, whether it was with flash or without flash, he could be reliable and dependable on the field.”

Packers’ Randall Cobb set to return vs. Cardinals

Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who has missed six of the past eight games because of a hamstring injury, believes he will return to play against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

But that’s not the only thing he’s excited about.

He can’t wait to see what Aaron Rodgers does.

Cobb, Rodgers’ longest-tenured receiver on the team, has heard all the recent criticism of his quarterback — from talk about sloppy fundamentals and missing open receivers with the game on the line to being out of sync with coach Mike McCarthy’s playcalling.

Cobb thinks he knows what’s coming.

“I’m excited to get back out there because I know with all the noise that’s been said over the past week about him [Rodgers], he’s getting ready to light everybody up this week,” Cobb said Thursday. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and I look forward to helping him out.”

It could help to have a veteran receiver like Cobb back on the field.

Cobb has played in only five of 11 games this season. He initially pulled his hamstring during the Week 3 game at Washington. To that point, Cobb had 17 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown in less than three full games. He had the game-winning, 75-yard touchdown catch against the Bears in the opener. He initially missed three games (Weeks 4-6) and then returned after the Packers’ bye.

However, that lasted only two weeks. On the Thursday before the Nov. 11 game against Miami, he again pulled his hamstring in practice.

Cobb went through an extensive workout on the field before last Sunday’s game at Minnesota, but it was never the plan for him to play against the Vikings. Cobb said it was the first time since the injury that he felt no issues with his hamstring, but he admitted it’s always tricky to know when muscle injuries are fully healed.

“I think I might have pushed myself to come back a little too early and reinjured it, obviously,” Cobb said. “But I really do feel really good right now. I think that we’ve taken the proper steps and hopefully this is the right time and I’ll be able to push through this.”

Without Cobb and Geronimo Allison (abdominal surgery), the Packers have had to rely on rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown as the Nos. 2 and 3 receivers behind Davante Adams.

“[Cobb’s return] would be a big boost for us,” Rodgers said this week.

There’s also a chance left tackle David Bakhtiari, who dropped out of the Vikings game on Sunday, could play. That would be critical against Arizona’s top pass-rusher, Chandler Jones, who has 11 sacks.

Bakhtiari (knee) did some limited practice work on Thursday after going through rehab work Wednesday.

As deadline nears, Le’Veon Bell and Steelers not in contact

Le’Veon Bell has not had contact with the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, sources tell ESPN, and barring an unforeseen development in the next few days, is not expected to report to the team in time for Thursday night’s game against the Panthers, increasing the possibility that the star running back will not play at all this season.

Bell faces a deadline of Nov. 13 to report in order to play at all this season. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Bell must report to the Steelers by 4 p.m. ET next Tuesday or he will be ineligible for the remainder of the season, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The collective bargaining agreement mandates that any player on a contract or on a tender must report by the Tuesday after the 10th week of the season if he wants to play that year.

But one source pointed out to ESPN that it “doesn’t make any sense for [Bell] to play now.”

“If he doesn’t want to play for $14.5 million, why would he want to play for $5 million?” the source told ESPN, referring to the prorated balance remaining on Bell’s $14.5 million franchise tender.

Bell told ESPN in early October that he is staying away to preserve his long-term health for his next contract but intends to play football this season. Bell has been working out in Miami this season, but on Monday he tweeted “Fairwell Miami” without further explanation.

But despite Bell’s tweet, the Steelers still haven’t heard from him and their focus remains the same with the players and coaches in the building as they prepare for Thursday’s game vs. Carolina, a source told ESPN.

Bell said the Steelers told him they plan to place the transition tag on him this offseason, and a source confirmed to ESPN that the tag would be worth approximately $9 million to $10 million.

The transition tag would allow Bell to negotiate with other teams and allow the Steelers to match any offer. If the Steelers match, regardless of the offer, Bell would have to sign that deal with Pittsburgh.

Bell does not have to report to the Steelers by a certain date to get an accrued season to become eligible for free agency, contrary to what ESPN and others previously reported. Bell already has played the four-plus seasons he needs to become a free agent after the season.

Cowboys’ Terrance Williams suspended 3 games for substance abuse

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams has been suspended three games without pay for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

A source said the penalty falls under the NFL’s substance abuse policy stemming from a summer intoxication arrest.

The Cowboys placed Williams on injured reserve Oct. 6, in part because of a foot injury that required surgery during the offseason.

The league said Thursday the suspension will be in effect Sunday when the Cowboys visit Washington. After Dallas’ open week and a home game against Tennessee, the final game of the ban will be Nov. 11 at Philadelphia.

But Williams will miss at least three more games after that while on injured reserve. His first possible game is Dec. 9 at home against the Eagles.

In August, Williams’ misdemeanor public intoxication charge was dismissed after he attended an alcohol-awareness course and paid the city of Frisco for property damage caused when Williams’ Lamborghini knocked over a light pole in May.

During training camp, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he did not believe Williams would be punished by the league, although a player does not need to be found guilty in the legal system to face NFL discipline.

Williams is in the second year of a four-year, $17 million deal he signed in 2017. He had two catches for 18 yards in the first three games this season and played only 39 snaps. He is eligible to return to game action off injured reserve on Dec. 9 at Philadelphia. He can serve his suspension while on injured reserve.

Because he was punished under the substance abuse policy, he can still remain around the team while serving the suspension.