NFC Notes: 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Vikes, Lions

It doesn’t appear that new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly is ready to change his uptempo offensive ways. During the team period at OTAs on Wednesday, the 49ers ran 24 plays in an eight-minute span, good for one snap every 20 seconds, reports Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter). As noted by Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk, Kelly’s taxing, fast-paced attack eventually wore out its welcome with some of his Eagles players during his three-season tenure in Philadelphia.

Here’s more on San Francisco and a few of its NFC counterparts:

  • One of Kelly’s players, safety Eric Reid, said Wednesday he’d like to sign a contract extension to remain with the 49ers for the long haul (link via Maiocco). San Francisco already has control over Reid through 2017, having picked up his fifth-year option earlier this month. General manager Trent Baalke stated in April that he’d be open to inking the 2013 first-rounder to an extension, though that was before the fifth-year option decision. The 24-year-old Reid has been a full-time starter for the 49ers since entering the league and has a Pro Bowl nod under his belt. He failed to record an interception last season, however, after piling up a combined seven during his initial two campaigns.
  • The Cowboys seem content with Kellen Moore serving as Tony Romo‘s primary backup this year, per head coach Jason Garrett (Twitter link via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). “We just feel like Kellen has earned the right to compete for the No. 2 spot, and that’s what he’s doing,” said Garrett. In his first pro action last season, the 26-year-old Moore – a former Lion – appeared in three games, made two starts, and threw four touchdowns against six interceptions. It’s worth noting that the Cowboys visited with veteran passer Matt Moore earlier this offseason before he re-signed with Miami and also selected Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
  • Master Tesfatsion of The Washington Post wonders where rookie inside linebacker Su’a Cravens will fit in the Redskins‘ defense. Listed as a safety coming out of USC, the Redskins used Cravens at inside linebacker during rookie minicamp. Going forward, it’s possible that Cravens can be used at linebacker, safety, or even nickel cornerback if necessary. Cravens’ label of “moneybacker” helped him vault up the boards in April, leading to his second-round selection in the draft.
  • Second-year Vikings defensive tackle B.J. Dubose tore his ACL during OTAs on Wednesday and will miss the 2016 season, according to Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Dubose, a sixth-round pick from Louisville, hasn’t yet appeared in an NFL game.
  • In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com about the Lions‘ perceived lack of change at the running back position. While the Lions did not make a major splash, they did add veteran Stevan Ridley in free agency and Dwayne Washington in the draft. Washington, Twentyman writes, is a no-nonsense tailback who boasts big-play potential thanks to his size and speed. Those two backs will support incumbent starter Ameer Abdullah and pass-catching specialist Theo Riddick.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Latest On Talks Between Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick

It’s nearly June, which means NFL training camp is creeping closer, but the Jets and free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continue to make no progress toward a new contract. The two sides haven’t engaged in discussions in several weeks, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post (on Twitter).

For his part, Fitzpatrick indicated on Monday that he’d like to return to the Jets, saying, “I had a great time with the guys last year and I want to continue doing this. I’m still preparing for the season.”

Fitzpatrick added that “the discussions have been behind closed doors,” but if Costello’s report is accurate, those closed-door Ryan Fitzpatrick (vertical)talks haven’t happened in a while.

The 33-year-old Fitzpatrick, whom the Jets acquired from the Texans for a late-round pick in March 2015, has been pushing for a contract commensurate to his performance last season. The well-traveled Fitzpatrick had a career campaign as part of a 10-6 club, amassing personal bests in yards (3,905) and touchdown passes (31) against 15 interceptions.

The Jets aren’t as bullish on Fitzpatrick as he is on himself, however, as they’ve reportedly tried to lock him up to a deal in the $7MM-per-year range. That’s similar annual value to the contracts Robert Griffin III and Chase Daniel signed earlier this offseason with the Browns and Eagles, respectively, but Fitzpatrick has been significantly more productive than those two in recent years.

With Fitzpatrick currently out of the Jets’ equation, the club has three less-than-ideal signal-calling options in Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Smith has struggled mightily during his three-year NFL career, while Petty and Hackenberg have a combined zero pro snaps between them. New York did invest respectable resources in the tandem, though, with Petty going in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and Hackenberg in the second round this year. Further, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey stated Wednesday that Gang Green would be content with any member of its current troika under center this year. Receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, both of whom were absent from voluntary OTAs on Tuesday, might disagree. Marshall’s absence is unrelated to Fitzpatrick’s situation, however, per Costello (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Marshawn Lynch Rethinking Retirement?

The Seahawks removed Marshawn Lynch from their 90-man roster three weeks ago when they placed the running back on the reserve/retired list, but the 30-year-old still hasn’t officially walked away from football. Now, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link), some close to Lynch have conflicting beliefs as to whether he actually is planning to retire.

Lynch told a pair of ex-teammates that he intends to play this year, per Cole, which comes on the heels of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman‘s recent reluctance to put the rusher’s NFL tenure in the rear-view mirror.

On the notion of Lynch returning in 2016, Sherman said, “I don’t put anything past him. He’s about as predictable as a pair of dice. So I don’t try to call his plays.”

Meanwhile, Doug Hendrickson – Lynch’s agent – doesn’t expect his client to take the field this season, but Cole reports “there’s a Marshawn Lynchguessing game going on” and adds that the four-time Pro Bowler is far from a sure bet to remain a Seahawk if he elects against retirement. The Seahawks may be ready to move on from Lynch because of his 2016 cap charge and the injury issues he dealt with last season, relays Cole.

Seattle would rack up significant savings if it were to move on from a non-retired Lynch this summer, recouping $9MM in breathing room, and the club’s ground game was elite even without him last season.

While Lynch battled hamstring and abdominal injuries that limited him to seven games and career worsts in rushing attempts (111), yards (417) and touchdowns (three), Thomas Rawls burst on the scene as an undrafted rookie and averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 147 tries. Rawls also wasn’t the picture of health last year, however, as he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in December that required surgery. The 22-year-old should be good to go for the upcoming season, though, and the Seahawks invested heavily behind him when they selected fellow backs C.J. Prosise (third round), Alex Collins (fifth round) and Zac Brooks (seventh round) in the draft. The club also has veteran Christine Michael on its depth chart, so even if Lynch does go back on his initial instinct to retire, it does appear that his days in a Seahawks uniform are over.

Originally acquired from Buffalo in 2010 for pennies on the dollar (two late-round draft picks), Lynch was the driving force behind Seattle’s offense for most of his five-plus-year career there. In each of his four 16-game seasons as a Seahawk, Lynch finished with at least 280 carries, 1,200 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. He also made a pair of Super Bowl trips, one of which ended in victory.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Notes: Marshall, Decker, QBs, Richardson

The latest on the Jets:

  • Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were both absent from OTAs today and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey told reporters (Twitter link via Brian Costello of the New York Post) that both players were also absent yesterday. There is speculation that the two are staying home to put pressure on the Jets to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick. When asked if Decker and Marshall are making a stand, Gailey said that he doesn’t think that’s the case, “but you’ll have to ask them that question.” Center Nick Mangold has also been away, but his wife gave birth Tuesday, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).
  • Gailey claims that the team will be comfortable with whoever wins the quarterback job (Twitter link via Costello). Currently, the Jets have Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and second-round pick Christian Hackenberg in camp. Of course, the shadow of Fitzpatrick looms large and there is pressure on the team to get a deal done.
  • Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson says he has spoken to the NFL with regards to its investigation, Costello tweets. Richardson, who served a four-game suspension at the start of the 2015 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, was his usual effective self upon returning, picking up five sacks and forcing a couple fumbles. Pro Football Focus, which classified him as an edge defender, ranked him 30th out of 110 qualified players in the group.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/25/16

Today’s minor moves:

  • Offensive lineman Darius Johnson, whom the Lions cut on Tuesday, has cleared waivers, per Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Johnson signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent from Middle Tennessee State earlier this month.
  • The Buccaneers have waived cornerback C.J. Wilson, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Wilson missed all of last season after losing two fingers in a July 4 fireworks accident. Prior to that horrific accident, he appeared in a total of four games from 2013-14 – his first two seasons in the league.
  • Wide receiver Andre Debose, whom the Raiders waived/injured Tuesday, cleared waivers and has reverted to injured reserve, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
  • The Titans have been awarded tight end Jerome Cunningham off waivers, reports Jim Wyatt of Titans Online. Cunningham, whom the Jets waived Tuesday, appeared in nine games last season and caught eight passes for 59 yards.
  • The Broncos have an agreement with second-round defensive lineman Adam Gotsis, Mike Klis of 9NEWS tweets. As per his slot, Gotsis’ deal comes with a signing bonus of just over $1MM. Gotsis, a Georgia Tech product, is currently sidelined due to the torn ACL he suffered last year.
  • The Bengals signed fourth-round defensive tackle Andrew Billings, as Wilson tweets. In related news, the team signed fullback Andrew Bonnet and waived-injured kicker Jonathan Brown.
  • The Bears announced that they have signed linebacker Jarrett Grace, an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame. To make room, fellow linebacker Danny Mason has been placed on waivers.
  • The Falcons announced that they have waived offensive lineman Cody Elenz. Elenz was signed as a college free agent following the draft. Even after cutting Elenz, Atlanta has 15 offensive linemen on their 88-man roster.
  • The Packers released guard/tackle Vince Kowalski, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets.

Dwight Freeney To Visit Falcons

3:40pm: The Falcons confirmed that Freeney will be visiting with them next week.

1:47pm: Dwight Freeney will likely visit the Falcons next week, according to ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter (Twitter/Vine link). Freeney visited the Bengals today and took a physical with the team, but it does not sound like the two sides have struck an accord. Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Freeney, 36, is rated as Pro Football Rumors’ fourth-best defensive free agent still on the board. Despite his age, Freeney was remarkably effective in his 11-game campaign last year. The Cardinals inked Freeney to a veteran’s minimum deal midway through the season and they were rewarded with eight sacks and three forced fumbles. Freeney may not be the elite player that he once was, but he has proven that he is still a force to be reckoned with on passing downs.

The Falcons are not necessarily hard up for edge rushers, but Freeney could be a fit for Dan Quinn‘s aggressive defensive scheme. The Falcons are currently slated to start Vic Beasley and Derrick Shelby at defensive end with support from Adrian Clayborn and Tyson Jackson.

In 2015, the advanced stats at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Freeney as (tied) for the 51st best edge rusher in the NFL out of 110 qualified players. In total, Freeney saw 276 pass snaps and just 41 run snaps last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Falcons, Brandon Boykin

The Falcons are not signing Brandon Boykin at this time, according to a league source who spoke with Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. The free-agent cornerback worked out for the team on Monday. Brandon Boykin

Boykin was released by the Panthers back on May 16th. Prior to his signing, the 25-year-old was one of the more intriguing cornerbacks to linger on the free agent market in late March. Still, Carolina opted to bail on the low-guarantee, one-year deal. Even though the Panthers parted ways with Josh Norman this spring, they felt that they were already set at cornerback after adding three in the draft.

The Falcons (and three other teams) reportedly had interest in the slot corner before he signed with the Panthers in late March. Boykin, a Georgia native who played for the Bulldogs in college, seemed like a logical fit for Dan Quinn‘s defense.

Despite not seeing significant playing time in Pittsburgh, Boykin ranked as a top-40 cornerback in 2015 (out of 111 qualified players), per Pro Football Focus. The diminutive corner has always shown flashes of upside, particularly in his six-interception 2013 campaign, but has never really gotten the opportunity to be a full-time player with just seven career starts. He’ll now look elsewhere for his chance to shine.

While Boykin didn’t earn a spot on PFR’s top 50 free agent list, we placed him sixth among free agent cornerbacks when we broke down 2016’s top defensive free agents, placing him ahead of veterans like Leon Hall and Patrick Robinson due to his relative youth and upside.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Sign Entire Draft Class

The Colts have officially signed their entire 2016 draft class by reaching agreement with third-round pick Le’Raven Clark today, as Mike Chappell of CBS4 writes. According to his slot, Clark will earn a four-year deal worth ~$3.2MM. That deal includes a signing bonus of $750K. Le'Raven Clark (vertical)

Clark, the last of eight Colts rookies to put pen to paper, was selected as part of a larger effort to help bolster the Colts’ offensive line. Prior to the draft, draft analysts Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBSSports.com wrote that Clark projects as a NFL starter at tackle or guard. Clark boasts the kind of “wide base [and] moldable frame” scouts look for in offensive line prospects, but the duo did note that he lacks power as a drive blocker. The Texas Tech product earned three-time All-Big 12 first-team selections and started all 51 games during his four-year collegiate career.

Here is the complete rundown of the Colts’ 2016 draft:

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AFC South Notes: Colts, Jones, Jaguars

The Colts have 33 million reasons to be getting antsy with Arthur Jones, Mike Wells of ESPN.com writes. In 2014, Jones inked a five-year, $33MM contract with Indianapolis. Since then, he has played only nine games in two seasons due to two different ankle injuries. Because he has been unable to stay on the field, the Colts asked the defensive tackle to take a $2MM pay cut from his 2016 base salary. In 529 snaps for the Ravens in 2013, Jones recorded a +15.7 PFF grade, performing very well against the run while also compiling 25 quarterback pressures. The Colts would love to see that kind of production from Jones in blue and white.

Here’s more out of the AFC South:

Packers Open To Re-Signing John Kuhn

In recent weeks, we have heard conflicting reports on whether the Packers intend on bringing back fullback John Kuhn. Earlier this month, one report cited an NFL source claiming that “mutual interest” remained between the two sides with ongoing talks. However, the next day, a separate report cited a Packers source saying the team had “moved on” from the veteran. This week, coach Mike McCarthy went on the record and indicated that the team has not ruled out a reunion with Kuhn. John Kuhn

Player acquisition is year round so I would never say doors are closed, especially on any of our former players, especially John Kuhn,” McCarthy said (link via the Journal-Sentinel). “As far as his situation, we’re still focused on the players we have right now. So as far as John and his future, those are probably questions for other people. But I don’t think you ever close the door. But guys filled out our roster and right now we’re working and focusing on these young players.”

The Packers don’t necessarily need Kuhn after selecting fullback Aaron Ripkowski in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. Beyond the second-year man, Green Bay also added undrafted free agent Alstevis Squirewell this offseason. Still, Kuhn has an intimate knowledge of the team’s offense and he’s a popular figure within the Packers’ locker room. The 33-year-old has spent the last nine seasons with the Packers, a stretch that is topped only by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been with the club for eleven seasons.

Kuhn was also in limbo last offseason despite being the fullback on the 2014 All-Pro first team. Ultimately, he agreed to play for the league minimum in April 2015. In total, Kuhn played in 23.4% of the Packers’ offensive snaps last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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