NFC Notes: Bears, Cowboys, Washington


Bears TE Jimmy Graham admitted the thought of retirement crossed his mind this offseason. But the veteran, who will turn 35 in November, ultimately elected to run it back for another year in 2021. 

“I feel like I can still be used and I can still be a weapon and I can still be a leader for this team,” Graham said via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “And help these young kids to make a run and to share some of my knowledge of what I’ve learned in this league.”


  • While first-round LB Micah Parsons should be among the team’s top tacklers in 2021, Jon Machota of The Athletic writes that Parson’s most noticeable impact could come from rushing the passer at times.
  • Regarding WR Michael Gallup and his future in Dallas, Machota believes it’s unlikely he’ll be back with the Cowboys next year, considering the cap constraints Dallas will likely have. Should Gallup be open to a team-friendly deal, Machota says that would obviously improve his chances of returning.
  • Machota writes that if LB Leighton Vander Esch stays he’ll and returns to his prior form, the Cowboys will certainly try to retain him. Machota points out that if Vander Esch has a great season, it will likely come at the expense of Jaylon Smith‘s playing time.


Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is the clear favorite to start this season given his resume, experience and the fact he signed a deal worth $10 million this offseason. But HC Ron Rivera, going off his experience last season when he didn’t allow much of a competition between Dwayne Haskins and the other options on the roster, insists there will be a competition between Fitzpatrick and QB Taylor Heinicke for the starting job. 

“Ryan has the job right now, and it’s his to have. I’m not gonna say his to lose — I think that’s the wrong way to look at things. It’s his to have,” Rivera said via the Athletic’s Ben Standig. “(If) he goes out and does the things that he’s done in the past, do the things that we saw in OTAs and minicamp, the way that he’s built a rapport with his teammates on both sides of the ball, I think that’s important. We’ll see — but I’m not going to discount Taylor.”

Heinicke made waves with his valiant performance in the wildcard game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, and Rivera said he’s earned what he’s got, which is a two-year, $4.75 million extension and a chance to compete. 

“The things that Taylor did last year, the momentum he built up as a player, you’ve got to give them equal opportunities and equal chance,” Rivera said. “And that’s what I want to do. I want to create that here. I think it’s important. It’s important for everybody to see it. Players, coaches. I think that’s how you develop your football team.”

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