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Sport 'Wait and see': Alabama enters offseason that hinges on pending NFL decisions of several key players

02:35  03 january  2020
02:35  03 january  2020 Source:   msn.com

Report: Boras already made $43.9M on major deals this offseason

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ORLANDO, Fla. — DeVonta Smith emerged from Alabama’s locker room beneath Camping World Stadium and looked around like a man with more to do.

a group of people wearing costumes: Alabama defensive back Shyheim Carter (5) and wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III, (11) after defeating Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday January 1, 2020.© Mickey Welsh Alabama defensive back Shyheim Carter (5) and wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III, (11) after defeating Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday January 1, 2020.

In that moment, the Crimson Tide’s leading receiver was headed to take care of media responsibilities as cameras and reporters hovered a few feet away following Alabama’s 35-16 season-ending win over Michigan in Wednesday’s Citrus Bowl.

But moving forward, Smith’s to-do list becomes even more complicated as the 21-year-old playmaker faces arguably the hardest decision of his young life as he weighs whether to leave school early for the NFL or return to Tuscaloosa for another title run.

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Enter City Name. But like Broncos, every team in conference faces key offseason decisions . With the NFL scouting combine about to get underway and free agency around the corner, here are some key considerations facing each AFC team as they begin building their 2016 rosters

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Still, as burdensome as his pending NFL decision may be, Smith sounded downright nonchalant when asked about how he’s handled the rampant speculation surrounding his and his teammates’ future.

“It’s just been fun enjoying everything during the moment and just going out there knowing we’re playing for each other, it’s really just the bond that we have,” Smith said.

“It’s been great. I came here to compete at the highest level and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Following recent announcements that junior offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and junior linebacker Dylan Moses would return next season (though Moses' situation remains in flux while his father's law firm pursues a loss of value claim), Smith is among seven Alabama juniors still weighing their options ahead of the Jan. 20 deadline for underclassmen to declare for April’s NFL draft.

Michigan football can't keep pace with Alabama, ends season with 35-16 Citrus Bowl loss

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of several key players , University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban will reportedly begin cryogenically freezing his entire team in the offseason . In an emailed statement to the media, Saban said the football program is exploring every option to keep its players on the path to success.

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Joining Smith in this endeavor are fellow receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, running back Najee Harris, offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., safety Xavier McKinney and injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (hip).

But while Smith appears to be taking everything in stride, the outside conjecture regarding their impending decisions can be taxing at times.

“People are always asking us, ‘who’s coming back?’ and they ask them — somebody asked Ruggs, ‘so you’re leaving or you coming back?’ — and I don’t think these guys know all the time, you know?” junior tight end Miller Forristall said Wednesday after the game. “They’re 19-, 20-, 21-year-old kids trying to make up their minds. So everybody’s asking them what they’re doing and a lot of guys are still trying to make up their minds, talk to family and pray about it.”

For Smith, any decision will be personal and won’t be influenced by any external factors — not even what his fellow juniors might do.

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“Just putting me, myself and my family in the best situation that we think is the best for us,” Smith said. “I don’t know what everybody else is thinking, I don’t know what everybody else’s decision is. You’ll just have to see.”

At least one decision has already been made after Moses announced he’s returning for the 2020 season late Monday night — a move that even surprised teammates according to sophomore cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who’ll inevitably be in a similar situation a year from now.

a close up of a baseball player holding a bat: Sep 14, 2019; Columbia, SC, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (4) and wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) celebrate after a play against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports© Provided by The Montgomery Advertiser Sep 14, 2019; Columbia, SC, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (4) and wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) celebrate after a play against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

After citing “a lot of unfinished business” as reason for his return, Moses' situation remains complicated as his father, Baton Rouge-based lawyer Edward Moses Jr., pursues whether his son would still qualify for the "loss of value" claim with Lloyd's of London Insurance that the family received a year ago based on his first-round projections in the spring. According to the release from his father's law firm, Moses recently received a second-round grade from the NFL advisory committee and the family remains in "negotiations with the University of Alabama to insure (Moses) and to secure the proper protections for his return to the University of Alabama's football team for his senior season."

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa announces date for NFL Draft decision

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a man wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: Jul 17, 2019; Birmingham, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dylan Moses speaks with the media during SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency-Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports© Vasha Hunt, Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports Jul 17, 2019; Birmingham, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dylan Moses speaks with the media during SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency-Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

“I think that the big thing with Dylan was he wanted to be a part of the team. He wanted to be a leader of the team,” Saban said Tuesday morning. “He wanted to come back and play well for Alabama, and that was probably the deciding factor for him. And, obviously, he's a great player. He's a good person and a good leader and he can make a significant impact on making us better next year.”

How quickly and how significant that impact is felt could be determined in the next couple of weeks.

Whether Moses’ move ultimately leads to more of his fellow juniors following him back to the Promised Land is yet to be seen, but there’s a high level of internal confidence there could be even more surprise decisions before Jan. 20.

“We’ll see,” Surtain said. “It’s their decision, but hopefully.”

Smith echoed that dubious sentiment, maintaining as noncommittal as possible while still holding tight to the mystery of his decision.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said both knowingly and uncertain himself.

At least there should be some resolution regarding one of Alabama’s most notable juniors after Tagovailoa announced he’d make his personal decision on Monday.

Insurance issue puts Dylan Moses’ return to Alabama in question

  Insurance issue puts Dylan Moses’ return to Alabama in question Alabama junior linebacker Dylan Moses announced earlier this week he would return to school for next season, but that decision now appears in question. A press release posted to Moses’ verified Instagram page on Thursday, attributed to the law firm of Moses’ father, stated the family is in negotiations with the University of Alabama about insurance. As a result, Moses’ decision to return to school has not yet been finalized, according to the statement. AL.com attempted to contact Moses’ father Thursday to verify the statement and seek clarification about the insurance dispute, but the call was not immediately returned. This post will be updated.

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Using offseason cap accounting rules, where only the top 51 cap numbers matter, the Eagles have Smith's return next season could hinge on the team's confidence in 2017 fourth-round The emphasis is building through the draft and signing key young players to cap-friendly contract extensions before

"I'll be making my decision on the 6th ... God bless and Roll Tide," Tagovailoa tweeted from his personal Twitter account shortly after 7 p.m. CT Wednesday.

Saban hinted earlier this week that Tagovailoa was the only Alabama junior to receive a consensus top-15 grade from the 20 or so NFL teams he spoke to personally, though admitted there were several others with first round grades from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee.

For Tagovailoa, who remains a premier NFL prospect despite suffering a horrifying hip fracture in mid-November, a lot will be determined after an already-scheduled post-op medical evaluation of his surgically-repaired right hip later this week.

But there remains strong optimism among fans and those around the program that the former Heisman Trophy runner-up could opt for one more national championship run in Tuscaloosa.

“That's a decision that I think his family needs to make. And I'm sure when they make that decision, they'll let everybody know,” Saban said Wednesday night. “I think it's our responsibility and our job to make sure that we give them all the information from an NFL standpoint, from a medical standpoint, from a rehab standpoint. And if there is any way that he could possibly be devalued because of his injury, what are the consequences of that and how does that affect his decision and what he does in the future.

“But he's been a great leader for us. He's a great player on our team. He was elected captain of the team by his teammates. And we just want what's best for him.”

First-round prospect Alex Leatherwood to stay at Alabama

  First-round prospect Alex Leatherwood to stay at Alabama Alabama left tackle Alex Leatherwood, who was expected to be a first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft, will instead wait until 2021. Leatherwood wrote on Twitter that hd has decided to stay for another year to finish his education at Alabama. “My three years at Alabama have been some of the best of my [more]Leatherwood wrote on Twitter that hd has decided to stay for another year to finish his education at Alabama.

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a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: Alabama head coach Nick Saban talks with Alabama injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa before the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday January 1, 2020.© Mickey Welsh Alabama head coach Nick Saban talks with Alabama injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa before the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday January 1, 2020.

Saban was then asked if he thought a return to college would benefit Tagovailoa professionally, allowing him time to rehabilitate in a comfortable situation while also possibly proving his health on the field before reentering the 2021 NFL draft.

To his credit, Saban effectively dismissed the suggestion outright.

“I’m not a doctor. I haven't operated on anybody's hip before, you know? I'm struggling to be a good coach, which is, you know, plenty to do for me,” Saban said. “I think that's a question for a medical person. We have a lot of hip specialists that have given the family a lot of information and we're going to continue to do that. Our medical staff has done a great job of getting Tua to this point and his rehab is going well, and that's what we're going to be responsible to try to help him with in the short term.”

Much like Moses, Tagovailoa’s decision to return or leave could certainly influence others still weighing NFL options, including several on the offensive side of the ball — even if they won’t admit it.

“Not at all,” Smith said when asked if Tagovailoa’s decision could impact his own. “I’m my own person, Tua’s his own person. And he’s going to make the decision that’s best for him and I’m going to make the decision that’s best for me.”

And when might that decision come?

“Just before the deadline,” Smith said with a smile.

So, until then, all that’s left to do is wait for the rest of the Crimson Tide’s dominoes to fall.

Alex Byington is the Montgomery Advertiser's Alabama beat reporter. He can be reached by email at abyington@montgome.gannett.com or on Twitter at @_AlexByington.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: 'Wait and see': Alabama enters offseason that hinges on pending NFL decisions of several key players

Report: Nationals, Thames agree to 1-year, $4M deal .
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