Extra Points: Wilson, Harbaugh, Cutler, Bears

The NFL sent a memo to teams today informing them that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is changing agents, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN (via Facebook). Wilson, who will be eligible for a new deal after this season, is leaving Bus Cook and one source tells Schefter that he’s likely to join up with his baseball agent, Mark Rodgers. Wilson is apparently leaving Cook on good terms and opted to go with Rodgers out of a desire to keep all of his business under one roof. More from around the NFL..

  • Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune (on Twitter) doesn’t see Jim Harbaugh joining the Raiders without getting a hand-picked GM. Harbaugh doesn’t want to have another relationship like the one he has with 49ers GM Trent Baalke and he has no background with Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie. Earlier tonight, we learned that Harbaugh has received a six-year, $48MM from the University of Michigan.
  • The Bears are benching Jay Cutler for his poor play, calling his future into question. Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap looked at Cutler’s contract and how they can move on from him. Ultimately, cutting him is not an option for Chicago.
  • Michael Silver of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears that Bears coach Marc Trestman could no longer play Cutler “simply to justify a contract” when his performance was so poor.
  • The Bears‘ real motivation behind benching Cutler could be to protect him from injury, ensuring that they’ll be able to trade him this offseason, suggests Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Draft Notes: Wednesday

It’s about that time of year when NCAA underclassmen decide whether they’re in or out with regards to the draft. We’ll keep track of the latest news here. All news comes from Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, unless otherwise noted:

  • Boise State running back Jay Ajayi is heavily leaning toward entering the 2015 NFL Draft, a source close to the situation tells Getlin (on Twitter).
  • Indiana running back Tevin Coleman is strongly considering entering the 2015 draft, sources tell Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).
  • Nebraska defensive lineman Randy Gregory is preparing to enter draft, sources tell Getlin (link). The 6’6″ prospect is widely considered to be a top five candidate.
  • Though it’s unclear who Georgia running back Todd Gurley will ultimately sign with, multiple sources have indicated to Getlin (link) that Jay Z’s Roc Nation is in the mix.
  • Washington’s Shaq Thompson is leaning toward declaring for the 2015 NFL Draft, multiple sources tell the Yahoo scribe (link). “I’d say it’s 60/40“, said one source of the all-purpose star’s chances of going pro.
  • Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is leaning toward staying in school, multiple sources tell Getlin. Buckner is a highly rated prospect who figured to hear his name called early in the spring. Getlin hears from one source (via Twitter) that it’s 80/20 towards staying at Oregon.
  • South Carolina tailback Mike Davis is considered to be a lock to enter the 2015 NFL Draft, multiple sources tell Getlin (link). Davis declaring himself eligible for the draft has been widely expected for some time.
  • Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney is considered a lock to enter the draft, Getlin writes. The camp of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound inside linebacker has started vetting potential representatives.
  • Florida State junior Eddie Goldman is leaning heavily toward entering the 2015 NFL draft, multiple sources familiar with his thinking tell Getlin.
  • Michigan State defensive back Trae Waynes is considered to be a lock to enter the 2015 NFL draft, multiple sources tell Getlin. Waynes had three interceptions this season as Michigan State’s top cornerback. Last season, teamed opposite first-round pick Darqueze Dennard, Waynes also notched three interceptions. Waynes has started meeting with potential reps (Twitter link).
  • USC tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen is considering entering the NFL Draft, Getlin hears (link). He has had lengthy discussions with potential representatives.

Practice Squad Updates: Wednesday

A number of practice squad players have received promotions to their respective clubs’ 53-man rosters this week, or have been signed by a rival club. As such, we should expect plenty of signings today, as teams fill in their openings. Here’s the latest:

  • After his suspension was lifted by the league, fullback Nikita Whitlock signed on with the Giants‘ practice squad, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (via Twitter).
  • Chargers taxi squad guard Craig Watts has been suspended four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego (via Twitter). To replace him, the Bolts signed former San Diego State offensive lineman Bryce Quigley (link).
  • Wide receiver and kick returner Greg Jenkins, who spent last season with the Raiders, has returned to the club, signing today with the taxi squad, per Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link). The team has since confirmed the signing, tweeting that defensive back Vernon Kearney has joined the practice squad as well.
  • The Saints have filled the final opening on their practice squad by signing kicker Dustin Hopkins, head coach Sean Payton confirmed today to reporters (Twitter link via Chad Sabadie of FOX8).

Earlier updates:

  • The Vikings have signed rookie guard Jordan McCray to their practice squad to fill the spot vacated when Ahmad Dixon received a promotion, tweets Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Minnesota will have another spot to fill after losing cornerback Chris Greenwood to the Ravens.
  • In addition to making changes to their 53-man roster today, the Patriots also tweaked their practice squad, adding quarterback Garrett Gilbert, according to a team release.
  • The Packers have filled out their practice squad by signing safety Jean Fanor to the unit, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Fanor played for the Arena League’s Tampa Bay Storm this year, setting a team record for tackles in a season.
  • Former sixth-round guard Jon Halapio has signed with the Broncos‘ practice squad, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (via Twitter).
  • Having entered the day with three openings on their practice squad, the Dolphins added a pair of players to the unit, signing defensive end Emmanuel Dieke and guard Mark Asper, according to Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (via Twitter).
  • The Falcons have filled the 10th and final spot on their practice squad by signing cornerback Jordan Mabin, the team announced today in a press release. The opening was created earlier in the week when the club promoted cornerback Ricardo Allen to the 53-man roster.
  • The Steelers have also filled out their taxi squad, signing former South Carolina offensive lineman Ronald Patrick, tweets Burt Lauten, the team’s PR rep.
  • Defensive back Varmah Sonie, who played this year for Portland’s Arena League team, has signed to the Buccaneers‘ practice squad, per Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com (Twitter link).
  • The Panthers have signed linebacker Horace Miller to their practice squad, giving them a full 10-man unit, tweets David Newton of ESPN.com. Miller was cut by Carolina over the weekend and has since cleared waivers.
  • Offensive tackle Tyler Hoover, who started the season with a brief stint on the Colts‘ practice squad and has since spent time with the Eagles as well, has rejoined Indianapolis’ squad, according to Mike Chappell of RTV6 (Twitter link).

Workout Notes: Wednesday

Today’s workouts, auditions, visits, pow-wows, get togethers, tryouts, and pop-ins..

  • The Raiders worked out former Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan, a source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • The Saints worked out offensive lineman Will Simmons and Andre Miller, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (on Twitter).
  • The Buccaneers worked out linebacker Brandon Denmark, safety M.D. Jennings, and defensive back Jocquel Skinner , Wilson tweets. The Bucs also tried out defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, who wound up being signed to the active roster, and defensive back Varmah Sonie, who has joined their taxi squad.
  • Defensive end Sammy Brown visited the Buccaneers, according to Wilson (on Twitter).
  • The Seahawks worked out former Memphis defensive linemen Johnnie Farms, Marcus Forston, Rufus Johnson, Zach Minter, Brandon Moore, Will Pericak, Andru Pulu, and Jared Wheeler, according to Wilson (via Twitter).
  • The Cardinals tried out defensive end Shawn Lemon, wide receiver Jalil Carter, and defensive back Delvin Breaux, according to Wilson (on Twitter).

Bears To Bench Jay Cutler, Start Clausen

Few saw this coming. The Bears will bench Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen on Sunday against the Lions, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter).

Cutler is owed a guaranteed $15.5MM next season but with today’s news, it’s certainly not guaranteed to be paid by Chicago. The Bears, who have been an absolute quagmire on the field and in the locker room this season, are ostensibly thinking about moving on from their franchise quarterback after this season.

Clausen, a Notre Dame product, hasn’t played much since his rookie year in 2010 with the Panthers. For his career, Clausen has three career touchdowns versus nine career interceptions. If the Bears are giving some thought to getting rid of Cutler, then they’ll be able to see what they have in Clausen, and maybe third quarterback David Fales. In theory, the Bears can start Clausen against Detroit this week and allow Fales to start against the Vikings in the season finale.

The Bears signed Clausen over the summer and ultimately cut Jerrod Johnson and Jordan Palmer to carve out a spot for him on the depth chart. From the outset, head coach Marc Trestman was highly complimentary of the longtime prodigy.

Jimmy’s done a very good job, very maturely fit in and taken the place of trying to learn and work to learn the offense,” Trestman said. “He’s grinded at it. He spent long hours here. He’s had help from the guys in the room to get him to the place he is today. So we’ll see. We’re going through the process of working with our roster. I think he’ll be one of the guys that we do bring back, and we’ll take it one day at a time when we get to training camp.”

Michigan Offers Jim Harbaugh $48MM Deal

The University of Michigan has its sights set on Jim Harbaugh and they’re not giving up. After initially being rebuffed by the polarizing coach, the Wolverines have upped their offer to a six-year, $48MM deal, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (on Twitter).

A week ago, Harbaugh indicated to UM officials that he preferred to stay in the NFL, according to Rapoport, but this whopping offer might bring about a change of heart. It’s clear that the former Michigan quarterback is their top choice to take over for their coaching vacancy and with the 49ers out of the playoff picture, this could be the right time for them to strike. Harbaugh had previously indicated he wouldn’t give the Michigan gig serious consideration but a source tells Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports (on Twitter) that’s changed very recently.

Harbaugh is under contract through 2015 with San Francisco but there has been talk all season long that there are some in the front office and in the locker room that would like to see him go. Back in October, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that there was “no way” the 49ers would bring Harbaugh back for that season; not even if he won the Super Bowl.

The offer is potentially bad news for the Raiders, who have been said to have Harbaugh at or near the top of their list. With Jon Gruden effectively contracted to stay in the Monday Night Football booth through 2021, the Raiders would be dipping into their secondary tier of coaching candidates.

The Michigan deal would carry an average annual value of $8MM. Assuming that $48MM total is base salary and does not include incentives, it would make him the highest paid coach in college football, edging out Nick Saban of Alabama, who is earning $7.16MM this season before bonuses (h/t USA Today Sports).

Extra Points: Draft, Rolle, Cobb, McCoy

We’re still about four and a half months away from the 2015 NFL draft, and a week and a half from even knowing what the draft order will look like, but that didn’t stop ESPN’s Todd McShay (Insider link) from publishing his first mock draft of the season today. McShay’s first ’15 mock has the top two quarterback prospects coming off the board first, with the Buccaneers selecting Marcus Mariota at No. 1 and the Titans nabbing Jameis Winston at No. 2. The Jets, meanwhile, picking sixth overall, land standout Alabama receiver Amari Cooper in McShay’s scenario, but would still need to find a quarterback to get him the ball.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Calling the Giants a “great fit” for him, safety Antrel Rolle indicated today that he’s hoping for a three-year offer from the team this offseason as he approaches free agency, writes ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano. According to Graziano, Rolle believes that if he doesn’t receive such an offer from the Giants, he could get it from another team.
  • In his weekly ESPN Milwaukee radio show, Aaron Rodgers suggested it’s “important” that the Packers lock up wide receiver – and prospective free agent – Randall Cobb (link via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com).
  • The Fritz Pollard Alliance has identified nine minority coaching candidates for NFL teams to consider this offseason, including Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press has the details.
  • Washington quarterback Colt McCoy says he wants to return to the team next season, but he’ll almost certainly be seeking a raise, writes Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com. Tandler expects Washington to be McCoy’s first choice, but points out that he likely won’t give a “hometown discount” to a team he has only been with for a year.
  • The NFL has lifted the suspension of free agent fullback Nikita Whitlock, who received a four-game ban from the league last month, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

Minor Moves: Wednesday

Here are Wednesday’s minor roster moves from around the league, with the latest transactions added to the top of the list throughout the day:

  • Cut yesterday by the Jets, defensive back Josh Thomas has already found a new home, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, who tweets that the Lions have claimed Thomas off waivers. Thomas will take the roster spot vacated by LaAdrian Waddle, who was placed on injured reserve today, as noted below.
  • Safety Josh Bush is receiving a promotion to the Broncos‘ active roster from the club’s practice squad, reports Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com adds (via Twitter) that the club is also re-signing tight end Dominique Jones, who was let go earlier in the week. Denver, after making multiple roster moves yesterday, had two roster spots available, so no corresponding move is required to clear room.

Earlier updates:

  • A pair of player will make the leap from the Jaguars‘ practice squad to their active roster, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, who tweets that quarterback Stephen Morris and safety Matt Daniels have been promoted. The Jags had one opening, and created another by placing linebacker Khairi Fortt on injured reserve with a hamstring issue.
  • The Ravens are back up to 53 players on their roster after signing cornerback Chris Greenwood off the Vikings’ practice squad, tweets Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Greenwood is the latest player added to a secondary that has been decimated by injuries this season and lost Asa Jackson and Terrence Brooks in Week 15.
  • The Lions are placing offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle on the injured reserve list due to his partially torn ACL, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).
  • After waiving tackle J’Marcus Webb yesterday, the Vikings will fill the open roster spot by signing safety Ahmad Dixon from off their practice squad, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. The well-traveled Dixon has already spent time with the Vikes, Dolphins, and Bears since being drafted by the Cowboys in May.
  • According to agent Howard Shatsky (Twitter link), his client, tight end Jerome Cunningham, has received a promotion from the Giants‘ practice squad to their active roster. The team has yet to officially confirm the call-up, but there’s an available roster spot at the moment, so it wouldn’t require a corresponding move.
  • The Buccaneers, another team with an open roster spot, have signed defensive end Lawrence Sidbury as their 53rd man, the team announced today in a press release. The ex-Falcon, who was released by the Texans in August, replaces cornerback Crezdon Butler, whom the Bucs cut yesterday.

AFC Notes: L.A., Dolphins, Workouts

The Chargers announced last night that the franchise would be remaining in San Diego for at least one more year, and that doesn’t appear to bode well for an NFL team landing in Los Angeles for the 2015 season, writes Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. As Farmer writes, it’s “almost inconceivable” that Chargers owner Dean Spanos would make such an announcement so much earlier than necessary if he weren’t fairly confident that neither the Raiders nor the Rams would be moving to L.A. for 2015 either.

As we wait to see whether that’s indeed the case, let’s round up a few more notes from across the AFC….

  • If the Dolphins finish strong and end up with a 9-7 record, the head coaching picture for the team is murky, writes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. As Salguero explains, owner Stephen Ross won’t necessarily replace Joe Philbin for 2015 if he surveys the market and doesn’t identify anyone who would be a clear upgrade on Philbin.
  • According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter), the Colts worked out a handful of players this week, including offensive lineman Terrael Williams, defensive back Demond Washington, and wide receivers Dan DePalma and John Chiles.
  • Wilson also passes along the names of the players who auditioned for the Raiders this week (Twitter link): defensive back Malcolm Bronson, offensive tackle Chris Faulk, defensive back David Van Dyke, and offensive tackle Tyler Hoover, who signed with the Colts’ practice squad today.
  • Defensive end Travis Chappelear tried out for the Chiefs yesterday, a source tells Wilson (Twitter link).
  • Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News looks into whether the Bills might take a shot at Bears quarterback Jay Cutler at some point, if the underachieving signal-caller becomes available via trade or free agency.

49ers Release Ray McDonald

With Ray McDonald being investigated following accusations of sexual assault, the 49ers have elected to release the veteran defensive lineman, general manager Trent Baalke told reporters today (Twitter link via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle). According to Baalke, McDonald – who was investigated earlier in the year for an alleged domestic violence incident – is being cut without due process this time because of a “pattern of poor decision-making” (Twitter link).Ray McDonald

A search warrant for McDonald’s home was served on Tuesday, the same day that San Jose police received a call from a hospital to report a possible sexual assault victim, writes Robert Salonga of the San Jose Mercury News. The woman told police investigators that she had been assaulted on Monday, and a police spokeswoman confirmed that McDonald is the suspect in the investigation.

The Santa Clara district attorney’s office decided last month not to file charges against McDonald in a domestic violence case due to insufficient evidence, and the defensive lineman has yet to be charged in this instance either. However, the police investigation is ongoing, and the NFL figures to perform its own investigation into the incident, under the terms of the new personal conduct policy. If McDonald is charged, or if the league determines that he has violated the conduct policy, he could be placed on paid leave and/or suspended.

The 49ers allowed McDonald to continue to play during the earlier domestic violence incident, citing due process, and the 30-year-old played well — according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), McDonald has been the league’s 11th-best 3-4 defensive end this season, grading well both against the run and as a pass-rusher. Despite the former third-round pick’s strong play on the field though, the team appears to have tired of his off-field run-ins, which drew negative attention to the franchise.

McDonald had been on the 49ers’ books for a cap number of about $6.476MM in 2015. The team will create a little cap room by cutting him, but will still carry a little over $4.6MM in dead money for next year. As for McDonald, if he clears waivers, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team. However, it’s hard to imagine a contending club trying to sign him for the playoffs while the sexual assault investigation is ongoing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.