Vikings’ Harrison Smith May Miss Rest Of Year

Vikings safety Harrison Smith will miss Sunday’s game against the Jaguars while dealing with a high ankle sprain, and the possibility exists that Harrison could miss the remainder of the season, a source tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.Harrison Smith (Vertical)

[RELATED: Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart]

Smith could need surgery at some point, but for now, team doctors will evaluate him on a weekly basis and assess his condition. Smith, who was originally injured in the Minnesota’s November 20 game against the Cardinals and has aggravated the issue in two contests since, has a grade three sprain, the most serious form of the ailment, per Tomasson. Smith could potentially return late in the regular season, but that decision will likely be affected by the Vikings’ playoff position (the club currently sits at 6-6, second place in the NFC North).

Smith, 27, is one of the premier safeties in the NFL, and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2015. Signed to a five-year, $51.25MM extension prior to 2016 that made him the third-highest paid safety in the league, Smith has continued to produce, starting all 12 games while posting 64 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and two passes defensed. Pro Football Focus currently grades Smith as the No. 7 safety in the NFL among 89 qualifiers.

Poor injury luck has hit the Vikings harder than any other NFL club, but most of those issues have come on the offensive side of the ball, where Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil, Andre Smith, Mike Harris, Jake Long, and others have been lost for most (or all) of the season. Minnesota’s defense has been more stable, but could struggle to uphold its No. 6 DVOA ranking with Smith sidelined.

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Looking Ahead To 2017 Franchise Tags

The NFL’s salary cap for 2017 won’t officially be set until sometime after the Super Bowl, but based on the direction the cap has trended in recent years, we have a general idea of where it may end up. Predicting an increase of about 8.2% on this year’s $155.27MM cap, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com projects a 2017 cap of $168MM, and uses that figure to get a sense of what next year’s franchise-tag figures would look like. Although the 2017 cap isn’t yet confirmed, Corry has confirmed the amounts necessary to perform calculations using the franchise-tag formula. So while the official amounts may end up looking a little different, these should be pretty close.

Here are the non-exclusive franchise tag amounts projected by Corry, using a presumed cap of $168M for 2017:

  • Quarterback: $21.395MM
  • Running back: $12.377MM
  • Wide receiver: $15.826MM
  • Tight end: $9.894MM
  • Offensive line: $14.444MM
  • Defensive end: $16.955MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
  • Linebacker: $14.754MM
  • Cornerback: $14.297MM
  • Safety: $10.961MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.863MM

All of those figures are modest increases on the 2016 amount, which can be found right here. The most significant increase comes at quarterback, where a new contract for Andrew Luck and a franchise tag for Kirk Cousins helped boost that figure. Wide receiver, which should see an increase of 8.4%, was buoyed by fresh deals for Keenan Allen, Doug Baldwin, and Allen Hurns.

With those numbers in mind, Corry also examines a few potential candidates to be franchised or to receive the transition tag. Cousins is perhaps the most obvious candidate to be tagged again, but Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, Cardinals edge rusher Chandler Jones, Browns linebacker Jamie Collins, and Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul could also get franchised. For the full list, along with explanations, be sure to check out Corry’s piece, which is an interesting read.

Portions of this post have been modified from an earlier post by PFR editor emeritus Luke Adams.

Christian McCaffrey Expected To Enter Draft

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is — unsurprisingly — expected to declare as an early entrant for next year’s draft, sources tell Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (video link), who ranks McCaffrey as a lock to be chosen in the top-50 picks.Christian McCaffrey (Featured)

[RELATED: Leonard Fournette To Enter Draft]

McCaffrey, who won’t turn 21 years old until next June, broke out as a sophomore in 2015, averaging six yards per rush while totaling nearly 2,700 yards from scrimmage. For that performance, McCaffrey earned consensus All-American honors, was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, and finished second to Alabama’s Derrick Henry in Heisman voting. This year, McCaffrey ranks first in the nation in all-purpose yards per game, and fourth in rushing yards per game.

The son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, Christian McCaffrey ranks highly on nearly every major draft board, including that of CBSSports.com, which ranks the Cardinal running back 21st overall and third among backs, behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. Miller, meanwhile, has McCaffrey at 17th overall, while Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) places him fourth among RBs but doesn’t list McCaffrey among his top-25 players.

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NFL Workout Updates: 12/6/2016

The Broncos worked out a dozen players today, including quarterbacks Sean Renfree and T.J. Yates, running backs Bernard Pierce and Zac Brooks, and wide receivers Keshawn Martin and Corey Washington, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter links). Yates, 29, has only started seven games during his regular season career, but has somewhat miraculously managed two playoff starts, both for Houston. Each of the tryouts conducted by Denver today were for futures contract consideration, tweets Mike Klis of 9NEWS.

Here’s more from the workout front:

  • Searching for emergency interior line options, the Patriots tried out OL James Stone and Chris Watt today, reports Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter links), who adds that New England also took a look at wide receiver Dez Stewart. As Reiss wrote earlier today, the Pats could be forced to make a move at WR following an injury to Danny Amendola, and Stewart could potentially fill that void.
  • The Chiefs, dealing with injuries to Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard (placed on IR), auditioned veteran defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis and Montori Hughes, per Caplan (Twitter link). Kansas City also worked out inside linebackers James Burgess and Darnell Sankey on Saturday, Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star tweets.
  • The Packers tried out tight end Kennard Backman, quarterback Mike Bercovici, wide receiver Mitch Mathews, and running back Daryl Virgies, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Backman is familiar with Green Bay, as the Packers chose him in the sixth round of the 2015 draft.
  • Defensive back Dezmen Southward, defensive end Josh Boyd, and linebacker Ron Thompson all worked out for the Raiders today, per Caplan (Twitter link). Southward was a third-round pick by the Falcons in 2014.
  • The Buccaneers are working out 6’4″, 220-pound wide receiver Joe Hills, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He was the 2016 Arena League offensive Player of the Year for the Jacksonville Sharks.
  • Defensive lineman Frank Beltre and defensive back Tony Burnett were among the players that tried out for the Vikings today, according to Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link).
  • The Jets worked out long snappers Zac Triner, Rick Lovato, Daniel Dillon, and Kameron Canaday, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. New York’s current long snapper is veteran Tanner Purdum.

Jeremy Maclin On Track To Play Thursday

The Chiefs could see the return of one of their top offensive weapons this week, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link) reports Kansas City is “optimistic” that wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will be ready to play on Thursday night against the Raiders. Maclin, who has missed the past four games with a groin injury, has been a full practice participant in each of the past two days."<strong

[RELATED: Chiefs Place Jaye Howard On IR]

Kansas City fared well during Maclin’s quarter-season absence, posting a 3-1 record with impressive wins coming over the Panthers, Broncos, and Falcons. On Thursday night, however, the Chiefs will face their most important game to date, as they’ll go up against the division rival Raiders, who are currently leading the AFC West with a 10-2 mark. A Kansas City victory would give the Chiefs the division lead, as though both clubs would have the same record, KC would have won both head-to-head matchups and thus own the tiebreaker.

Upon his return, Maclin will rejoin a Chiefs’ receiving corps that includes recent breakout star Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, De’Anthony Thomas, and Demarcus Robinson. In eight games this season, Maclin has registered 30 receptions for 376 yards and two touchdowns.

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Falcons Sign DL Malliciah Goodman

After putting him through a workout earlier today, the Falcons have signed free agent defensive lineman Malliciah Goodman, the club announced. Atlanta also announced that is has promoted offensive lineman Kevin Graf from the practice squad, and waived defensive lineman Cliff Matthews and offensive lineman Trevor Robinson.Malliciah Goodman (Vertical)

[RELATED: Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart]

The Falcons were reportedly on the hunt for a defensive end after Adrian Clayborn suffered an MCL injury that could shelve him for the rest of the regular season. In Goodman, they’ve reunited with a player that spent time in Atlanta from 2013-15 after being selected as a fourth-round draft choice. Goodman, 26, has spent most of this season on the audition circuit, but he did play in one game for Seattle last month. Now he’ll settle in behind Tyson Jackson, Brooks Reed, and Courtney Upshaw at defensive end for the Falcons.

Like Goodman, Matthews had posted two separate stints with Atlanta, re-signing with the club this October after a brief tenure with the Buccaneers. He’s appeared in 35 games during his four-year career, mostly serving as a special teams player during that time. Robinson, meanwhile, is a former 13-game starter at center for the Chargers, and had just landed a contract with the Falcons a week ago.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 12/6/2016

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Dolphins announced that they’ve waived offensive tackle Bryce Harris. Miami had just claimed Harris, 27, off waivers from Jacksonville a few weeks ago. Harris has 34 games of experience under his belt, but has only started four contests during that time.
  • The Colts have waived tight end Mike McFarland off injured reserve, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). McFarland, a 2015 undrafted free agent, signed with Indianapolis this March but was placed on IR just two months later.

Jaguars Waive LB Arthur Brown

The Jaguars announced today that they’ve waived linebacker Arthur Brown, while they’ve filled the open roster spot by promoting fellow linebacker Sean Porter from their practice squad.Arthur Brown (Vertical)

[RELATED: Jacksonville Jaguars Depth Chart]

Brown, a former second-round pick of the Ravens, has essentially been recast as a special teams player at this point in his career, as he’d fallen out of favor in Baltimore before being waived this summer, and hadn’t contributed on the defensive side of the ball for Jacksonville this season. The 26-year-old had only played on six defensive snaps for the Jags in 2016 (while seeing time on nearly 85% of the club’s ST plays), and had only been on the field for 10 total defensive snaps during his final two seasons with the Ravens.

Porter, 25, was also a relatively high draft choice (fourth round, Bengals, 2013), but has only played in one game thus far in his career. Waived by Cincinnati in November 2015, Porter has spent much of the time since on the Jaguars’ practice squad. He’ll likely fill a role similar to that of Brown, playing on special teams while serving as depth behind Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, Myles Jack, and Dan Skuta.

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NFL Practice Squad Updates: 12/6/2016

Today’s practice squad moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

  • Signed: RB Stephen Houston

Clevleand Browns

  • Signed: S Justin Currie

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Signed: WR Bernard Reedy

Tennessee Titans

Cowboys’ Randy Gregory Won’t Practice This Week

Despite previous reports to the contrary, the league has informed the Cowboys that Gregory won’t be allowed to practice with the Cowboys this week, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com. It’s not immediately clear whether or not Gregory will be able to play in Week 16, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets.Randy Gregory (vertical)

Gregory was recently handed a one-year ban, but that suspension is under appeal. While he’s in that gray area, the Nebraska product is hoping to take the field against the Lions in Week 16.

[RELATED: Rolando McClain Banned Indefinitely]

Originally, Gregory was slated to return right around this point in the season, but that was before his latest positive drug test. The ban has put his NFL future in flux, but owner Jerry Jones says that the Cowboys are not giving up on the youngster:

I, of course, know the details of his situation, and I can’t and I won’t comment on details about it,” Jones said. “But I am not giving up on Randy Gregory for the Cowboys and certainly not giving up on him as a person in life — at all. Not that it makes any difference that I do, but I do not dismiss him from our future.”

If Gregory’s appeal is unsuccessful, he’ll be suspended for most or all of the 2017 calendar year.

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