49ers Notes: Verrett, Front Office, Taylor

Jason Verrett has had a long road. Ever since the 2014 first round pick debuted with the Chargers, it’s been clear he has a ton of talent. In 2015 he had a breakout sophomore season and made the Pro Bowl, but unfortunately that’s the only year he’s been able to stay healthy. In his other four years in the league, he’s only played in 11 total games. Most recently, he missed the entire 2018 campaign with a torn Achilles. Verrett said earlier this offseason he was in a “dark place” after his most recent injury and that the contemplated retirement, but the cornerback ended up signing a one-year, $3.6MM deal with the 49ers.

San Francisco is understandably taking it slowly with him, but he appears to be making some progress. Verrett said recently that he’s “on track to be ready for training camp,” per Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports. Verrett has played at an elite level in the past, but it’s unclear what he’ll look like in 2019 after all the injuries. If he can get back to anywhere close to his 2015 self, he’ll be a huge addition for a 49ers secondary that struggled mightily last year.

Here’s more from San Francisco:

  • The 49ers made a historic promotion earlier this week, elevating Salli Clavelle to the role of pro personnel analyst, per Matt Maioccio of NBC Sports. Clavelle is the league’s only woman who holds a full-time scouting job. Maioccio also has updates on a handful of other moves the 49ers made in their scouting department, including hiring Steve Slowik away from Pro Football Focus to be a scouting assistant.
  • The 49ers have receivers Deebo Samuel, Dante Pettis, and Marquise Goodwin all playing on the outside, but they’ve got an interesting battle going on for their starting slot receiver job. In a separate piece, Maioccio writes that “Trent Taylor clearly created separation against Richie James,” for the role, and that Taylor has “created a nice rapport with [Jimmy] Garoppolo.” Taylor, a fifth round pick in 2017, had a promising rookie season but a disappointing 2018. Now fully healthy after back surgery limited him last offseason, it sounds like he could be in for a bounce back year.

NFC East Rumors: Wentz, Eagles, Redskins

More details have emerged on Carson Wentz‘s contract. The deal, which stands to tether the quarterback to the Eagles through 2024, contains a $16.4MM signing bonus and a 2020 team option, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. This $30MM option will serve as a bonus and thus be spread in $5MM installments through the duration of the deal (for cap purposes), Joel Corry of CBS Sports notes. But Wentz will receive all of that cash in 2020, Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia notes. The Eagles must exercise that option by the 10th day of the 2020 league year, Yates tweets. Interestingly, if the Eagles decline the option, Wentz’s 2020 base salary morphs from $1.383MM to $31.383MM. As could be expected based on the franchise’s sizable commitment to its starting passer, the parties have already agreed that option will be picked up, Zangaro adds. As far as the 26-year-old quarterback’s new base salaries, they are as follows: $720K in 2019, $1.383MM in 2020, $3.9MM (2021), $18.5MM (2022), $18MM (2023) and $21MM (2024), per Yates.

  • Trent Williams remains at odds with the Redskins, with issues related to his contract and the team’s handling of his offseason medical issue coming between the parties. The nine-year veteran tackle underwent another procedure this week. This was, however, believed to be a minor cleanup related to the growth on his head, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • The Redskins’ running back group is deeper than it was last season, with Derrius Guice set to debut and Bryce Love arriving via fourth-round pick. While it’s not certain how much Love will be able to contribute as a rookie, due to his December ACL tear, the new cogs joining Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson may spell trouble for Samaje Perine. The third-year player, though, may have a chance to stick around as a fullback. “We tried him there a couple of times a couple of years ago,” Jay Gruden said, via J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. “I’m sure that he could probably do it. That’s an option, but he’s also a tailback in his mind and he wants the ball. Push comes to shove, if we need to have a fullback and he’s the only one here, then he surely could do it because he’s got the power to do it.” However, Gruden added Elijah Wellman and J.P. Holtz are more natural fits for this job, putting Perine’s roster spot in peril.
  • Washington made some adjustments to its staff this week. Cole Spencer and David Whittington will transition from college scouts to national scouting roles. Spencer previously served as the Redskins’ southeast area scout, which is notable due to the number of Alabama players on this roster. Northeast area scout Matt Evans will take over in Spencer’s former role in the southeast. Spencer has been with the Redskins for 10 years, while Whittington and Evans sport 11 and six years, respectively, with the organization. Additionally, the Redskins plucked a Pro Football Focus staffer, Connor Barringer, to become their football strategy analyst. It appears the team is beefing up its analytics commitment.

This Date In Transactions History: Broncos Sign Brandon Lloyd

While Josh McDaniels‘ stint in Denver is not remembered fondly, one of the fliers the coach/de facto GM took during his tumultuous tenure turned out to pay big dividends. Ten years ago today, the Broncos signed wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. This led to one of the more randomly great receiving seasons in modern NFL history.

After stays as a starter with the 49ers, Redskins and Bears between 2003-08, Lloyd signed a one-year pact with the Broncos on June 15, 2009. The deal paid him less than $700K. However, the Broncos used the ’09 season as an evaluation period for the former fourth-rounder. Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley resided on the ’09 Broncos, who deactivated Lloyd for 14 games. But their 2010 team relied on him heavily.

McDaniels kept Lloyd in Denver via multiyear deal worth more than $2MM in 2010. Although the Broncos stumbled to one of the worst seasons in franchise history, a 4-12 campaign that included McDaniels’ midseason firing, Lloyd blew up for one of the organization’s greatest receiving showings. After an eight-catch 2009, Lloyd produced 77 receptions, 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. That yardage total not only led the NFL by a fairly healthy margin, it remains the third-highest single-season figure in Broncos history — trailing only Demaryius Thomas (2014) and Rod Smith (2001). Thomas and Eric Decker took a backseat to Lloyd as rookies.

The then-29-year-old wideout’s showing with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow at that offense’s controls — after the Broncos had parted ways with Marshall and Stokley — earned Pro Bowl acclaim. But less than a year later, the Broncos traded Lloyd to the Rams. A contract dispute, and the team’s Tebow-based shift to one of the more run-centric offenses in recent NFL annals a year later, led to Lloyd’s midseason departure.

Both sides benefited from the exit. Thomas and Decker helped attract Peyton Manning to Denver in 2012, and Lloyd signed a three-year, $12MM deal with the Patriots (who had recently rehired McDaniels) that year. Lloyd, who recorded one 1,000-yard receiving season in 11 NFL campaigns, was the Patriots’ second-leading receiver in 2012 but was released the following offseason.

The conditional pick the Broncos received from the Rams turned into a 2012 fifth-rounder, which became Malik Jackson. The defensive lineman started in both Super Bowl XLVIII and Super Bowl 50 and remains a well-regarded interior presence eight years into his career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bay Area Notes: Joseph, Joyner, McGlinchey

Given Jon Gruden‘s moves involving several other Reggie McKenzie-era high draft picks, and the Raiders‘ decisions this spring, it would appear Karl Joseph is not in the team’s long-term plans. The Raiders, who benched Joseph to start last season, did not pick up his fifth-year option and proceeded to sign Lamarcus Joyner before drafting Johnathan Abram in the first round. Nevertheless, Joseph is not planning (at least publicly) for a 2020 free agency foray.

Obviously I want to be here, I’ve expressed that already with Coach Gruden and (Mike) Mayock,” Joseph said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I want to be a Raider for life, but at the end of the day, I have to take care of my business on the field. I’m not focused on the contract. That stuff will take care of itself.”

Among McKenzie’s first-round picks, only Joseph and 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley remain Raiders. Despite starting in just eight games last season, the 2016 first-round pick graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 23 overall safety (in just 509 snaps) and worked alongside Abram in Oakland’s starting lineup at minicamp. Erik Harris is working as a backup, per Bair.

Here is the latest out of northern California:

  • As for Joyner, the Raiders are following through on their spring talk of playing him as a slot corner. The player the Rams used as a safety starter the past two years worked exclusively as a slot defender during the minicamp and OTA sessions available to the media, Bair notes. The Raiders gave Joyner a four-year, $42MM contract. If they intend to confine him to slot duty, this would make him the league’s highest-paid pure slot corner — a distinction Kenny Moore was believed to hold when he signed a Colts extension this week. Joyner worked as a corner for the Rams from 2014-16 and would join Trent Brown as recent Raiders signees asked to change positions.
  • Mike McGlinchey sustained a knee injury that required a recent procedure. The 49ers‘ right tackle starter did not participate in minicamp, instead receiving platelet-rich plasma injections on a knee he recently injured, Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. McGlinchey, who started 16 games for the 49ers last season, is expected to be ready for training camp.
  • Garrett Celek has more significant issues to surmount. In addition to remaining in concussion protocol, the veteran 49ers tight end will need back surgery, Kyle Shanahan said. The seventh-year tight end may well miss the start of training camp, per Chan. This would point to Celek’s back problem being rather minor. As for his concussion concern: Celek, who saw a head injury end his 2018 season, remains in the protocol because the next time he can take a concussion test will be training camp. But he’s certainly not out of the woods on the injury front.

Extra Points: Bradberry, Jenkins, Lions

Count Panthers head coach Ron Rivera among those who’d like to see cornerback James Bradberry signed long-term.

“He is a guy that I hope we do keep around because he is important to what we’ve done,” Rivera told Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. “We’ve kind of shown that you have to be able to keep that type of a corner around.”

It’s pretty easy to surmise that Rivera is talking about former cornerback Josh Norman, who left the organization following a messy contract dispuit. Since then, Bradberry has been one of the lone consistencies among Panthers defensive backs, so it only makes sense that the coaching staff would want to keep him around. The 25-year-old is heading into the final season of his rookie contract.

“I think I’ve shown that I am capable of being a top corner in this league,” Bradberry said. “I just had to make sure I stayed on my P’s and Q’s, on top of my toes. Did a lot of film study each and every week.”

That commitment has certainly paid off. The former second-rounder had another solid season in 2018, finishing with 70 tackles, 15 passes defended, and one interception.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie played a role in convincing safety Malcolm Jenkins to attend the team’s minicamp. The veteran had previously missed the team’s voluntary workouts, and there was concern that he’d skip training camp in pursuit of a new deal. However, after talking to Lurie, Jenkins was in a better frame of mind. “One of the reasons that I feel comfortable being here,” Jenkins told Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, “is because of my relationship with Jeff Lurie and understanding that I do feel valued and respected.”
  • The Lions did not waive Michael Roberts as an injured player, meaning there was no injury settlement, tweets Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. We learned yesterday that Roberts’ trade from the Lions to the Patriots was called off, and the tight end was subsequently waived by Detroit While a failed physical has been the assumed reason for the failed trade, Birkett notes that different teams’ doctors could have differing opinions.
  • Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton has yet to ink his exclusive rights free agent tender and continues to push the club for a new deal. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes that the player may have been inspired by teammate Alejandro Villanueva, who pulled off a similar move in 2017. “I can’t say if it’s better to sign now or later,” Villanueva said. “But betting on yourself, in this business, usually works.” Fowler writes that the two players have discussed the matter, although Hilton may not see the same kind of resolution as Villanueva.

Latest On Raiders ST Competitions

The Raiders have Daniel Carlson locked in as their starting kicker, but the coaching staff has some tough decisions to make elsewhere on special teams. As Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes, the organization currently has competitions at both punter and long snapper.

The punter competition is between Johnny Townsend and rookie A.J. Cole. The 24-year-old Townsend is the incumbent after appearing in all 16 games for the Raiders in 2018. However, the Florida product struggled at times during his rookie campaign, and he ranked 30th in the NFL with a 38.3-yard net average. The Raiders ended up adding Cole as an undrafted free agent, but Gehlken notes that Townsend is still the favorite for the position.

“He’s really done a great job working on his hang time,” said special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. “That’s improved tremendously (over) the course of the year. Now, we’ve given up a little bit of direction to get his hang time where he’d like it to be, and hopefully we can get both — the hang and the direction — going into training camp.”

Meanwhile, veteran Andrew DePaola is the favorite at long snapper, although the 31-year-old missed the majority of last season with a torn ACL. The Raiders signed Trent Sieg to fill in, and the rookie ended up appearing in 15 games last year. While DePaola wasn’t able to get on the field with a rookie punter and rookie kicker, the veteran was still instrumental in their development.

“If we had any questions, we’d always ask him because he’s been through it a little more than we have,” Carlson said. “It was just huge for us last season to have that resource. It’s good to have him back and healthy and competing now again.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Nick Caserio, Patriots, Texans

It’s been a tumultuous few days for the Patriots and Texans, as the two sides went back and forth regarding the availability of executive Nick Caserio. In an attempt to diffuse any lingering tension between the two organizations, Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement last night (via Twitter):

“The Houston Texans and New England Patriots have always had a great working relationship. We appreciate the way Cal McNair has handled this situation.”

To review, the Texans owner said yesterday that the organization learned of “certain terms” in Caserio’s contract and would no longer be pursuing the executive for the general manager opening. At the same time, New England had agreed to drop their tampering charges against Houston, which would seemingly end the entire ordeal.

Of course, nothing ever ends in the NFL. There have been plenty of additional opinions regarding the Caserio fiasco, which we’ve compiled below…

  • Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explores the contract language that prevented Caserio from leaving New England for Houston, and the writer wonders if the terms violate league rules. Florio points to the NFL’s anti-tampering policy, which says “If . . . the inquiring club is prepared to offer a position as a high-level employee . . . the employer club may not deny the employee the opportunity to discuss and accept such employment.” Based on this description, Florio believes the anti-tampering clause would supersede any clause in Caserio’s contract.
  • Furthermore, if the Texans wanted to challenge the clause, the NFL may have had their back. A source told Florio that at least one other NFL team was employing a “non-high-level employee” with that kind of stipulation in their contract. The source said that one rival team attempted to challenge that clause, and the NFL ultimately invalidated the specific contract terms. In other words, if the Texans had challenged the Caserio clause, there’s a good chance they would have been successful.
  • Meanwhile, Florio wonders if the Patriots and Caserio will be able to repair their relationship, as it appears that the executive was focused on moving to Houston. If the relationship has deteriorated beyond repair, Florio believes the Patriots will “begin to implement a strategy for eventually replacing him.”

Colts Sign Third-Round LB Bobby Okereke

The Colts have wrapped up their draft class. The team announced last night that they’ve signed third-round linebacker Bobby Okereke.

Indy selected the Stanford product with the 89th pick of the draft. The 6-foot-1, 239-pound linebacker had a standout collegiate career, compiling 240 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in 51 games. He earned an All-PAC-12 Honorable Mention nod in both 2017 and 2018, and he served as one of the team’s captains during his senior campaign.

We learned some discouraging news about the rookie linebacker earlier this month. Back in 2015, a Stanford student told school administrators that she was sexually assaulted by a player on the football team at a fraternity party, and the case went on to make national news. Colts GM Chris Ballard later told beat reporters that the player in question was Okereke, although the linebacker was not charged in connection with the alleged incident.

Okereke informed the Colts of the matter, and Ballard said the organization investigated the incident themselves. Because there were no charges filed or disciplinary action against the Stanford product, the Colts went ahead with the selection. Ballard also cited Okereke’s otherwise clean record as one of the reasons for drafting him.

The Colts had been hunting around for a three-down linebacker to pair with Darius Leonard, and the team was apparently encouraged by Okereke’s performance during voluntary workouts. The rookie will likely be competing with Anthony Walker for the club’s starting MIKE spot.

As we mentioned, the organization has now signed all of their 10 draft picks, which we’ve listed below:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Texans, Patriots, Packers

The big story of the day has been the drama surrounding Patriots exec Nick Caserio. The Texans announced earlier today that they’d be backing down from their pursuit of Caserio, and the Patriots in turn agreed to drop tampering charges. The Texans’ statement from owner Cal McNair indicated there was a provision in Caserio’s contract they were unaware of, and now we have some clarity. It was initially thought he would be allowed to interview since the Texans’ job is a clear promotion, but Caserio apparently has language in his contract that specifically forbids him from interviewing with any other team.

Caserio’s contract ends right after the 2020 draft, sources told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Pelissero floats the possibility that the Texans could wait until then to hire a GM and then go after Caserio, which is in line with another recent report that indicated the Texans might go without a GM for the rest of the season. In a follow-up tweet Pelissero writes that “the call between Cal McNair and Robert Kraft was very cordial,” and that after the Texans learned of the contract language they “asked what a trade would cost,” but the Patriots declined. It’s fair to question why the Texans wouldn’t be aware of such language before they made it very clear that they wanted Caserio for the job, although that’s now a question for another day. Pelissero also was told that for now “the process will continue,” so it seems like they aren’t closing the door on hiring a GM for this year quite yet. Non-Caserio candidates reportedly include former GMs Ray Farmer, Martin Mayhew, Reggie McKenzie, and Scott Pioli.

Here’s more from around the league on a quiet Friday night:

  • The Texans aren’t the only team shuffling around their front office. The Packers promoted Richmond Williams to director of pro personnel and Brett Thiesen to college scout, per Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com. Williams is entering his twelfth year with the team, and originally joined Green Bay as a scouting intern all the way back in 2007. Green Bay’s power structure remains unchanged, with team president Mark Murphy and GM Brian Gutekunst still running the show.
  • In addition to everybody on their 90-man roster, the Colts also had a group of tryout players at their minicamp this week, per Joel Erickson of The Athletic (Twitter link). There were a couple of notable names trying out, including former Jaguars receiver/kick returner Jaydon Mickens. Mickens, a 2016 UDFA out of Washington, showed very well as a returner in 2017, but was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury last October. The Jags elected not to tender him a contract after the season. It’s a bit surprising he hasn’t been able to resurface on anyone’s offseason roster yet.
  • Star Lions cornerback Darius Slay skipped the team’s minicamp, and is apparently undecided on when his holdout will end. “Time will tell” whether he shows up to training camp next month, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Slay still has two years left on his contract, but feels grossly underpaid. He’s set to earn about $12.5MM in 2019 and $10MM in 2020, which has him outside of the top-10 among cornerbacks in average annual value. Slay has already forfeited $250K in workout bonuses this offseason, and will be fined more if he doesn’t report soon. This will be an important situation to monitor, as Slay is Detroit’s best player on defense.

NFC West Notes: Gurley, Rams, 49ers, Gould, Shanahan, Seahawks, McDougald

One of the biggest stories of this NFL offseason has been the drama surrounding Todd Gurley‘s knee. Gurley clearly wasn’t right down the stretch last season, and C.J. Anderson ended up taking the bulk of the Rams’ running back snaps during their Super Bowl run. Gurley’s health has been clouded in secrecy, with conflicting reports emerging seemingly every week. We’ve heard everything from Gurley having arthritis in his knee and it being degenerative, to him being just fine. Gurley stayed away from the team’s OTAs so he wasn’t available to reporters, but he finally broke his silence this week at minicamp.

Gurley tried to quell any concern at his press conference, saying “I had bigger problems to worry about coming out of college. This is small,” per Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com. Gurley is presumably referring to the ACL tear that he had coming out of Georgia. While it’s nice to hear that Gurley doesn’t sound too concerned, it doesn’t mean we should expect him to be a workhorse in 2019. The Rams raised a lot of eyebrows by drafting Memphis running back Darrell Henderson in the third round back in April, and it’s very likely they’ll take it easy with Gurley early on to keep him fresh for a playoff run.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • The 49ers have had one of the best kicking situations in the league the last couple of years, as Robbie Gould has been incredibly consistent. San Francisco is hoping for big things this season as Jimmy Garoppolo returns from his torn ACL, and Gould is a big part of their plans. Unfortunately the two sides are in a bit of a contract standoff, as Gould still hasn’t signed his franchise tag and is demanding a trade. Gould may wait until the last minute to show up, and that’s just fine with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. “If he doesn’t want to show up until Week 1, it is what it is,” Shanahan said on Tuesday, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. “I’ll take a very good kicker at any time, whether it’s Week 1 or on third down, just one play before we’re going to have to kick.” Gould is set to make $4.971MM under the tag in 2019, but is holding out for a longterm deal. Judging by Shanahan’s comments, it doesn’t sound like the 49ers are going to blink anytime soon.
  • Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald is recovering from a recent knee surgery, and now we have more details. McDougald revealed to reporters that he played with a partially torn patellar tendon in his knee from Week 8 on last year, and that he initially tried just rehabbing it before opting for surgery last month, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). McDougald also said “for sure” when asked if he’d be on the field at the start of training camp. McDougald, 28, started all 16 games for Seattle last year after being a part-time starter in 2017.
  • In case you missed it, Sean McVay fully committed to Jared Goff recently, saying there’s a “zero percent chance” he doesn’t get extended.

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