Jul 28, 2022; Metairie, LA, USA;  New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) runs during training camp at Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Saints WR Michael Thomas (ankle) making more progress

New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas continued his recovery from a left ankle injury by competing in 11-on-11 drills Saturday for the first time since the 2020 season.

Thomas missed the entire 2021 season after surgery on the ankle. He initially hurt it during the 2020 season opener and was limited to seven games.

The three-time Pro Bowler is ramping up his conditioning and looking to improve the strength in the ankle.

Saints coach Dennis Allen can see the progress.

“Honestly there was a couple of times he ended up on the ground,” Allen told reporters on Saturday. “That’s all part of the process in building that confidence. I think he’s in a good mindset right now, I think he looks good physically. I’m excited about where he’s at.”

Thomas was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 after setting the league’s single-season record with 149 receptions. He also had 1,725 yards and nine touchdown catches that season.

Overall, Thomas has 510 receptions for 5,950 yards and 32 touchdowns in 70 games (62 starts) over five seasons.

Three-time Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu (personal reasons) also appeared in 11-on-11 drills for the first time during training camp.

“That was cool to see,” Allen said of Mathieu. “I was excited about getting him out here. We’ve kind of held the reins back on him, our decision more so that it’s been his. It’s part of the ramp-up process, so we’ll continue to ramp him up.”

Also, linebacker Kiko Alonso was a no-show at Saturday’s practice with multiple reports indicating he has decided to retire.

Alonso, who will turn 32 on Aug. 14, officially signed with the Saints on Friday after missing the previous two seasons due to injuries.

In 86 career games (67 starts) with the Buffalo Bills (2013), Philadelphia Eagles (2015), Miami Dolphins (2016-18) and New Orleans, Alonso had 588 tackles, 10 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and three sacks.

–Field Level Media

Jun 14, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Saints S Tyrann Mathieu rejoins team

Safety Tyrann Mathieu joined the New Orleans Saints at training camp on Wednesday after missing the first six days to address a “personal matter.”

Mathieu, born in New Orleans and developed at LSU, reported to camp on Tuesday night. He signed a three-year, $28.3 million contract in May and is expected to start alongside Marcus Maye in the reconstructed Saints’ defense.

Head coach Dennis Allen said earlier this week he didn’t have a timetable for Mathieu to join the team on the practice field.

The three-time All-Pro, who turned 30 on May 13, started 16 games for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021 and posted 76 tackles, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), three fumble recoveries and one sack.

A third-round pick out of LSU in 2013, Mathieu has 26 interceptions (three pick-sixes) and 10 sacks in 129 contests (120 starts) with the Arizona Cardinals (2013-17), Houston Texans (2018) and Chiefs. He won Super Bowl LIV in his first season with Kansas City.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Malcolm Brown (34) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Saints sign RB Malcolm Brown, two others

The New Orleans Saints agreed to terms with running back Malcolm Brown on Tuesday.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed by the Saints.

Brown joins Mark Ingram, and others, as insurance with the NFL reportedly still monitoring Alvin Kamara’s legal situation stemming from his February arrest on battery charges in Las Vegas.

Kamara, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, has an Aug. 1 court date and potentially could be suspended by the league under the personal conduct policy.

The Saints also announced that safety Tyrann Mathieu has been excused from the beginning of training camp to handle a personal family matter. The club did not provide details.

Also on Tuesday, the Saints agreed to terms with center Nick Martin and defensive end Scott Patchan, and waived cornerback Jordan Miller, offensive lineman Derek Schweiger and punter Daniel Whelan.

Brown, 29, had 33 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown in seven games last season with the Miami Dolphins. He has totaled 331 rushes for 1,313 yards and 12 scores in 77 career games with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams and Dolphins.

Martin, 29, has started 62 of his 79 games played with the Houston Texans and Las Vegas Raiders.

Patchan was signed by the Indianapolis Colts following the 2022 NFL Draft. He was waived on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones (2) splits Kansas City Chiefs free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) and defensive end Michael Danna (51) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

10 sign-now free agents still available

Only a few shopping days remain for teams scrambling to fill needs ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.

But the cupboard isn’t bare, especially for those with the budget to sweeten the pot for some of the best available veterans on the market.

Here are the top 10 free agents still standing six weeks into the 2022 league year:

10. WR Julio Jones
Age: 33
Credentials: Two-time All-Pro, 2010s All-Decade Team
Best Fit: New England Patriots

We’re not here to suggest the old Julio Jones might return. He’s a 220-pounder who could flash as a second or third option and deliver a game-changing play on occasion. Teams that aren’t confident there is a solution in the 2022 draft could come knocking.

The light barely flickered in Tennessee with 31 catches in his only season with the Titans.

Bill Belichick has turned aging receivers into valuable pieces before, and the Patriots are a team with WR concerns.

9. DT Larry Ogunjobi
Age: 27
Credentials: 21.5 career sacks
Best Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars

A priority for the Chicago Bears in the 2022 free agent class, their deal with Ogunjobi didn’t stick because of a failed physical. He started 16 games last season and has been a starter for the Browns and Bengals with the skill set to play all three downs.

If the price is right, there are a dozen teams Ogunjobi can help. He turns 28 in June.

8. RB Melvin Gordon
Age: 29
Credentials: Two-time Pro Bowler
Best Fit: Buffalo Bills

If there’s one thing the Bills can improve on the offensive side by adding another veteran, running back depth is a consideration. With no bell-cow back, Gordon could be part of the existing rotation and relative Old Reliable in a backfield still reliant on quarterback Josh Allen to move the sticks.

7. Edge Jadeveon Clowney
Age: 29
Credentials: Former No. 1 overall pick, three-time Pro Bowler
Best Fit: Dallas Cowboys

Nine sacks last season showed Clowney can get to the QB when blockers are focused elsewhere — Myles Garrett — and Dallas can create pressure on the other side. The Cowboys subtracted Randy Gregory and might be able to score Clowney on a shorter deal and relative discount. But there’s also a point at which Clowney might not be an upgrade over a cheaper, healthier developmental-type prospect.

6. OT Duane Brown
Age: 37
Credentials: One-time All-Pro, Five-time Pro Bowler
Best Fit: Denver Broncos

Following Russell Wilson isn’t the worst plan for Brown, who fits the scheme and could play on the right side, where the Broncos don’t have a proven veteran. Or he could be called into rescue duty on the left side, where Garett Bolles was an All-Pro in 2021 but has to show it in a new scheme after a rocky four seasons prior.

5. TE Rob Gronkowski
Age: 33
Credentials: Four-time All-Pro, 92 career TDs
Best Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gronk is no guarantee for even half the regular season. But he’s reliable, proven as Tom Brady’s go-to in big games and undeniably carries the clutch gene TB12 wants on his side.

The questions are whether the Bucs want to invest elsewhere or wait until September to assess Gronkowski’s desire to play.

4. WR Jarvis Landry
Age: 29
Credentials: Five-time Pro Bowler, two 100-catch seasons
Best Fit: Indianapolis Colts

Dumped by the Browns, Landry was essentially replaced (again) when Cleveland traded for Amari Cooper. The previous regime brought in Odell Beckham to be the Batman to Landry’s Robin.

Gander at the depth chart of the Colts and even the most grandiose projections for Michael Pittman Jr. as the lead receiver for Matt Ryan don’t cover the lack of talent at the position. Landry could be a security blanket for Ryan, who also could use a true No. 1 tight end.

If not the Colts, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers wouldn’t mind having another reliable set of hands with Davante Adams gone to Vegas.

3. DT Akiem Hicks
Age: 32
Credentials: Size-strength combo to play multiple roles
Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers

Hicks hogs blockers and is best in a rotation. His size and strength allow him to be used in a 3-4 or 4-3 front and a team with consistent edge rushers could get a steal considering Hicks devours single blocking against interior offensive linemen.

Reality might have set in with just seven games played last season and durability can’t be ignored, but for an almost-there defense like the Chargers, Rams or Bengals, Hicks’ energy and impact is potentially profound.

2. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Age: 29
Credentials: Two-time All-Pro
Best Fit: Green Bay Packers

A swing-and-miss last season by the Packers in a bid to sign Beckham Jr. shouldn’t shift the team’s interest, especially given the predicament of the depth chart. Beckham Jr. tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and his previous return was slower than expected, so factoring in a late-season return is part of the bigger picture.

There’s also the benefit of getting multiple seasons on a three-year deal that could be backloaded for health and performance.

1. S Tyrann Mathieu
Age: 29
Credentials: Three-time All-Pro
Best Fit: New York Giants

Mathieu remains a heart-and-soul chess piece and Wink Martindale could employ him in a dozen ways if the Giants can hit on other needs in the draft.

His price was an issue in a split with the Chiefs. If Mathieu agrees to a shorter deal with less guaranteed money, he could be a steal.

–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) leaves the field after the win over the Las Vegas Raiders at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) questionable for AFC title game

The Kansas City Chiefs could have star safety Tyrann Mathieu on the field for Sunday’s AFC title game against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

Mathieu was listed as questionable on Friday, five days after sustaining a concussion in the team’s divisional round victory over the Buffalo Bills. He is still in the concussion protocol.

Mathieu was a full practice participant for the second straight day and coach Andy Reid indicated a decision on his status could come Saturday.

“Tyrann is still in the protocol, but he did practice,” Reid said after Friday’s workout. “We think he’ll be ready to roll in a day or so.”

Mathieu, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, had 76 tackles, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 16 of the team’s 17 regular-season games this season.

The Chiefs also listed running back Darrel Williams (toe) as questionable. Williams missed the Buffalo game after being hurt the previous week in the wild-card round against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Williams was a limited practice participant on Friday.

Williams rushed for 558 yards and six touchdowns and caught 47 passes for 452 yards and two scores in 17 regular-season games.

As for the Bengals, defensive tackle Josh Tupou (knee) was listed as questionable after missing both his team’s first two playoff games. He was a limited practice participant for the third straight day.

Receiver Stanley Morgan (hamstring) and defensive end Cam Sample (groin) are both doubtful for the contest. Both players missed practice on Friday.

Quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) is good to go and didn’t miss any practice time this week.

Burrow, who guided the Bengals to playoff wins over the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans, said the team is ready for the raucous atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium.

“It’s always going to be a topic when you’re playing on the road in the playoffs,” Burrow told reporters on Friday. “It was loud last week (vs. Tennessee). We handled it OK. We had a couple of mistakes.

“But I think we’ve had a good week of practice within that noise. I think we’re going to be more well prepared for it.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 24, 2021; Kansas City, MO, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (19) runs between Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32), defensive end Frank Clark (55) and free safety Daniel Sorensen (49) during the fourth quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu, DE Frank Clark return to practice

Safety Tyrann Mathieu is back at practice and should be in the lineup when the Kansas City Chiefs meet the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, coach Andy Reid said.

Reid said before practice Wednesday the Chiefs would have full participation and no injury concerns. That includes defensive end Frank Clark, who was inactive last week with a hamstring injury.

Mathieu was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and did not play in Kansas City’s Week 1 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Mathieu wanted to return last week, but Reid cited conditioning as the primary reason he remained inactive.

In the final year of a three-year contract, Mathieu has said he hopes to work out a long-term deal before free agency arrives in March. Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has concurred.

–Field Level Media

Jan 17, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) is introduced before an AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu remains out with COVID-19

Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu did not practice on Friday and his availability for Kansas City’s matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday is up in the air.

Friday was the ninth day since Mathieu tested positive for COVID-19. He is participating in team and position meetings via Zoom.

Mathieu, 29, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Sept. 1. He’s reportedly vaccinated, meaning to rejoin the team he would need two negative tests more than 24 hours apart and to be asymptomatic.

It’s unclear which of those prevented him from practicing this week.

The Chiefs are preparing to play without Mathieu on Sunday but holding out hope that he will be cleared.

“It’s up in the air and it’s a little bit challenging to game plan for,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday. “We’ve got Plan A and Plan B.”

Barring a roster move, Plan B would come from some combination of Daniel Sorensen, Juan Thornhill and Armani Watts at safety.

–Field Level Media

Aug 14, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Kansas City Chiefs free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) stands on the sideline during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu tests positive, hits COVID list

Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday.

The Chiefs did not comment on the move, which was listed on the NFL’s official transaction report.

Mathieu was named All-Pro in each of his two seasons with the Chiefs and is in the final season of his existing contract. Mathieu and general manager Brett Veach have stated their commitment to working on a new deal, but that won’t likely happen before the start of the regular season on Sept. 12.

Veach said Wednesday nothing has changed in contract talks but the team is “committed to seeing that process through.”

Mathieu, 29, will make $14.55 million in 2021.

That’s well below the new bar for players at the position after Jamal Adams signed a four-year, $70 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks to become the NFL’s top-paid safety. He makes an average of $17.5 million per season.

Mathieu said it would be hard to wear “any other uniform” after going to back-to-back Super Bowls with the Chiefs.

–Field Level Media

Aug 3, 2021; St. Joseph, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) talks with free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during training camp at Missouri Western State University. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

S Tyrann Mathieu, Chiefs keenly aware of new market value

One chief concern in Kansas City entering the 2021 season is the contract status of safety Tyrann Mathieu. Keeping him became slightly more complicated on Tuesday.

Mathieu, 29, is entering the final season of a three-year contract he signed as a free agent. He will make $14.55 million in 2021.

That’s well below the new bar for players at the position after Jamal Adams signed a four-year, $70 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks to become the NFL’s top-paid safety. He makes an average of $17.5 million per season under the terms of the contract inked Tuesday.

Mathieu said it would be hard to wear “any other uniform” after going to back-to-back Super Bowls with the Chiefs.

“The fans here are amazing. My teammates are amazing. I spoke about the relationships that I have with my coaches,” Mathieu said in the spring. “Some of these things, you can’t buy other places. I’m a guy that’s had to start over quite often, so I would like to stay here — for sure.”

The Chiefs have multiple sizable salaries on the ledger for 2022, and general manager Brett Veach tends to ramp up negotiations closer to the end of an existing contract. He’s also no stranger to the franchise tag.

“We’ve had a chance to talk to Tyrann and his representation, and I think it’s a little bit difficult with the landscape right now of having two cap-shortened offseason and where we are in regards to our offseason projections,” Veach said in an interview with Sirius/XM Radio. “But as we’ve discussed with Tyrann and his crew, it’s one of those situations that where we are now will certainly not be where we are once the season ends, and once we correct some of the things when you have extensions, conversations, trades, (players) move on — every team is certainly in a different position (with) what their books say than (what) they will be in the offseason.

“And we like to think that we’re going to find a way to get this done. And he knows we love him, and we know he wants to be here. And right now, for him, and for us, I think it’s just a timing thing. But there’s not a guy in this league I respect as much as him for the way he goes about his business. And, you know, listen, a lot of these guys, and a lot of these teams — I think we saw the franchise tag period come and go, and no one got done. And there have been a couple of deals, but a lot of these bigger deals haven’t been done for the same reason. Different players handle it in a different way. And just like you’d expect from Tyrann, just complete class. I mean, the guy is special. We love him. And we’re certainly going to work our tail off to keep him here.”

The combined salary cap figures for the Chiefs’ five highest-paid players in 2022 based on existing contracts totals $130 million, with quarterback Patrick Mahomes at $35.8 million.

Defensive linemen Chris Jones ($29.4 million) and Frank Clark ($26.3 million) are next with wide receiver Tyreek Hill ($20.7 million) and offensive guard Joe Thuney ($17.8 million) ahead of Mathieu’s projected annual salary of $17.5 million.

–Field Level Media

Jan 17, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) warms up before the AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady: Bucs must find Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu before every play

Familiarity with the Kansas City Chiefs’ top defensive playmaker might be an asset the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can utilize on Sunday.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians pushed with two hands for the Arizona Cardinals to draft Tyrann Mathieu out of LSU in 2013. The diminutive cornerback was flagged by multiple teams because of off-field issues that included positive drug tests.

Mathieu made his mark on the Chiefs’ win at Tampa in Week 12 this season with an interception and five tackles.

“I saw him pregame warmups last time we played him. My favorite draft choice of all time,” Arians said Wednesday. “I just love him. His passion for football. I am so proud of the man that he has become. He’s a great football player, but he’s a better man.”

Mathieu was released by the Cardinals in 2017 when Arians retired, spent one year with the Houston Texans and then signed with the Chiefs. He smiled when asked about the reunion with Arians this weekend.

“Me and coach BA, we’ve had a great relationship,” Mathieu said. “Ever since my time in Arizona, and even beyond that, he’s always been somebody (whose) opinions and what he says meant a lot to me. You’ve got to remember, he was one of the first people in the National Football League that really believed in me and my abilities, and really allowed me to really flourish at a young age in this league. And he’s still been a guy that I keep in touch with to this day.”

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady identified Mathieu as the player he must find and interpret his intentions prior to every snap in Super Bowl LV.

“Half of it is me being in awe of really just the art, it’s almost like poetry in motion,” Mathieu said. “The other half is me as a defender, like ‘How do I stop this? How do I prepare for this?’”

In past triumphs over Brady, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has used back-end defenders to blitz on occasion but primarily used his back four to cover and front four to rush.

Brady, who threw three interceptions in the NFC Championship game, will be wary of Mathieu.

“I really love him as a player,” Brady said. “I think he’s got great ball-hawking ability. He seems like he’s always coming up with the biggest plays in the biggest moments.”

–Field Level Media