Antonio Brown Facing Extended Absence?

The ankle injury that kept Antonio Brown out of the Buccaneers’ Week 7 game could sideline him for a while. Brown was spotted on crutches Wednesday, and Bruce Arians said the injury could be “more long-term.” (Twitter links via The Athletic’s Greg Auman).

Being iffy on Brown returning immediately after the Bucs’ Week 9 bye, Arians essentially confirmed the team does not expect him for Sunday’s game in New Orleans. An IR move would shelve Brown until Week 12. Brown is dealing with an ankle sprain near his heel, Arians said.

This would be Brown’s first multigame injury-related absence since the conclusion of the 2017 season, when a partially torn calf sustained against the Patriots sidelined him for the Steelers’ final two regular-season games. Although Brown missed most of the 2019 and ’20 seasons due to off-field issues, he has not run into much injury trouble. A COVID-19 contraction and this ankle malady have interfered with what has otherwise looked like a Brown bounce-back season.

Brown, 33, has 29 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdowns in five games. The Bucs played without Brown and Rob Gronkowski in Week 7, having no issue doing so in beating the Bears 38-3. Gronkowski also returned to practice Wednesday, marking a sign he is on track to return after a four-game absence.

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Patriots To Sign CB Brian Poole

A week after working out Brian Poole, the Patriots are signing the veteran cornerback. The sides agreed on a practice squad deal Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Despite the practice squad agreement, this could be an impactful deal for the Pats. New England just lost longtime slot corner Jonathan Jones for the season with a shoulder injury and lacks a proven cog for the role behind him. Poole, 29, certainly brings considerable experience here.

The Saints reached an injury settlement with Poole earlier this month, cutting him from their injured reserve. Poole, however, spent the past two seasons in the AFC East. In the two Jets seasons, Pro Football Focus graded Poole as a top-12 corner. Prior to his Jets run, Poole spent three seasons with the Falcons.

The Patriots traded for potential slot corner Shaun Wade late this summer but have yet to see the Ohio State product debut. Wade sustained a concussion that has kept him out. New England has also not seen much from 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams. J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills reside as the Pats’ top two corners going into Week 8.

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Titans, Washington Audition D’Onta Foreman

D’Onta Foreman has made multiple trips for workouts this week. The former third-round pick is auditioning to return to the Titans on Wednesday, Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson tweets.

This comes a day after Foreman logged a Washington workout. The ex-Texas Longhorn has not been able to establish himself as a consistent pro, but he has remained a presence on the workout circuit and saw time with the Titans last season.

Serving as one of Derrick Henry‘s backups in 2020, Foreman rushed for 95 yards on 22 carries in his six-game Tennessee run. In the two seasons prior to that, Foreman played just one game. For his career, Foreman has just 107 carries.

This marks the second time in two months Foreman worked out with Washington, which also auditioned Kerryon Johnson on Tuesday. Antonio Gibson is playing through a shin injury — one ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter categorized as a hairline fracture. Gibson has played through that and a shin-area bruise this season and has yet to miss a game.

Tennessee activated 2020 third-round pick Darrynton Evans ahead of its Week 7 game, but the Appalachian State product has battled injuries as a pro. Evans has played in just six games since being a Day 2 pick. The 49ers released Johnson from their practice squad earlier this month.

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Jets To Start Mike White In Week 8

Joe Flacco‘s return to the Big Apple will not result in an immediate starting role. Mike White will take over for the injured Zach Wilson in Week 8, Robert Saleh said Wednesday (via SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, on Twitter).

Reacquired from the Eagles on Monday, Flacco will not return to the Jets’ facility until Friday, Saleh added. It is unlikely the 36-year-old quarterback will dress Sunday, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes (on Twitter). Josh Johnson is expected to be active to serve as White’s backup.

[RELATED: Jets’ Wilson To Miss 2-4 Weeks]

White took over for the injured Wilson in Week 7’s blowout loss to the Patriots but has never started an NFL game. Sunday marked the Western Kentucky alum’s first regular-season action since the Cowboys drafted him in the 2018 fifth round. The Jets faced scrutiny this offseason for not adding a veteran to serve as a Wilson mentor/QB2. While they rectified that shortly after Wilson went down, Flacco has a new system to learn after playing under Adam Gase in 2020.

White completed 20 of 32 passes for 202 yards against New England, throwing one touchdown pass and two picks. The Jets host the Bengals in Week 8. An extremely well-traveled veteran, Johnson has not thrown a regular-season pass since making three starts with Washington in 2018. Prior to that, Johnson went six years without throwing a pass in a regular-season game.

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Titans Designate LB Jayon Brown For Return

Following a big week for the Titans’ AFC standing, they are set to have a key defender back in uniform soon. Tennessee designated Jayon Brown to return from IR on Wednesday.

This starts Brown’s 21-day clock to come off IR. The Titans parked the fifth-year linebacker on their injury list because of a hamstring injury. The team also designated outside linebacker Derick Roberson and center Aaron Brewer to come off IR.

The Titans retained Brown this offseason, re-signing him on a one-year deal worth $5.25MM. The veteran second-level starter faces a key stretch run, having spent time on IR in each of the past two seasons. Brown’s 2020 season ended after 10 games. This and the pandemic-altered salary cap affected Brown’s free agency, putting some pressure on him to make an impact ahead of a 2022 free agency bid.

Tennessee has shown some improvement on defense this season and is coming off one of its best defensive outings in recent memory, having held the Chiefs without a touchdown. A 34-game starter since the 2018 season, Brown made 105 tackles in 2019 and profiles as a key helper for the Titans’ chances of repeating as AFC South champions. Tennessee faces its lone threat to doing so Sunday, in matching up with the Colts for the second time this season.

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Giants’ Evan Engram Drawing Trade Interest

One of the few Jerry Reese-era additions still on the Giants, Evan Engram is in a contract year. With the Giants in a position to be sellers ahead of another trade deadline, Engram’s name has come up around the league.

Multiple teams are interested in the fifth-year Giants tight end, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano (ESPN+ link). Engram’s sluggish start to the season notwithstanding, certain teams remain intrigued by the former first-round pick’s skill set.

After missing two games to start the season, Engram has totaled just 171 receiving yards on 20 catches. Although we are less than halfway through the season, Engram’s 8.6-yard average checks in far below his previous career-low mark. Ahead of the Nov. 2 trade deadline, the Giants will be faced with a decision.

New York is deep at wide receiver, though the team is currently dealing with a number of injuries at that spot, but does not have a long-term tight end. No extension talks are known to have taken place this year; Engram was eyeing a bounce-back season to generate a strong 2022 free agency market. The Giants also rejected Engram overtures before last year’s trade deadline. Big Blue has traded several pieces from the Reese era in recent years. In addition to the offseason moves that sent away Jason Pierre-Paul, Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon, the Giants dealt Eli Apple and Damon Harrison before the 2018 deadline.

Engram, 27, is playing on a manageable fifth-year option salary that contains a balance of less than $4MM. He was a somewhat surprising Pro Bowl selection last year, after hauling in 63 passes for 654 yards and a touchdown. But the former Ole Miss standout has not quite lived up to his first-round pedigree during his Big Apple stay.

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Texans, Dolphins Agree On Deshaun Watson Compensation?

Deshaun Watson has informed the Texans he would accept a trade to the Dolphins, and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports the teams have agreed on compensation. Talks between GMs Chris Grier and Nick Caserio heated up last week and are expected to continue through the Nov. 2 trade deadline, but this journey still has ground to cover.

Should this deal go through, McClain notes the Texans are likely to see their asking price of three first-round picks met. But the back end of the deal — Houston’s aim for multiple second-rounders — might not quite meet the Texans’ goals. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross may serve as the key party here, and his current stance is somewhat murky.

[RELATED: Panthers Not Expected To Pursue Watson In 2021]

Reported as being behind a Watson trade before the season, Ross has spoken “excitedly” regarding the prospect of the three-time Pro Bowler coming to Miami, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. However, NBC Sports’ Peter King adds Ross is not believed to be pressuring Grier to complete this deal. That said, McClain reports the longtime Dolphins owner has signed off on his team acquiring the embattled quarterback — with conditions. Those conditions make this deal difficult to finalize by the Nov. 2 trade deadline.

Ross wants more clarity on Watson’s legal situation and how the NFL will proceed regarding a suspension, McClain adds. Twenty-two women have accused Watson of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, with SI.com reporting (via Jackson) three of the 10 women who have spoken to the Houston Police Department have alleged Watson sexually assaulted them. That is a second-degree felony in Texas. Watson has long denied any wrongdoing and does not want to settle cases.

The NFL has not interviewed Watson, and his deposition in the civil suit is not slated to occur until after Super Bowl LVI. This has created a gray area, one that sets up the unusual and optically problematic prospect of Watson playing for another team this season before facing a lengthy suspension in 2022. Watson is not expected to be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, and Roger Goodell confirmed Tuesday night the NFL does not have enough information on these cases to place Watson on the list, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Dolphins (1-6) have quickly stumbled out of playoff contention, so a Watson move would be for the future.

This is not completely viewed as a Miami-or-bust scenario for Watson, with USA Today’s Josina Anderson noting the fifth-year QB is essentially fine with being traded to most of the teams connected to him (Twitter link). This might not include the Eagles, however. Watson invoked his no-trade clause to block a potential Philadelphia trade, McClain adds.

The Dolphins possess three first-round picks over the next two drafts, having acquired the 49ers’ 2023 choice in the deal that allowed San Francisco to move up for Trey Lance. Miami dealt the other first-rounder obtained in the Lance deal to move up for Jaylen Waddle. Still, a three-first-rounder package would be a historic haul and present tremendous risk for the Dolphins, given Watson’s present status. It will also be interesting if the Texans can land three first-rounders from the Dolphins if the Panthers are truly out of mix.

A Watson trade would, of course, bring a quick end to Tua Tagovailoa‘s run as Miami’s quarterback of the future. Though an August report indicated the Texans are not overly interested in Tagovailoa, Watson coming to Miami would lead to Tua becoming a trade chip at some point.

Brian Flores has repeatedly endorsed Tagovailoa as his starter, doing so again Wednesday morning, but Flores is now on the hot seat. The 81-year-old Ross’ win-now mindset may prevail over any PR blowback the Dolphins would face by acquiring Watson. It now looks like the Dolphins represent by far the best chance of Watson being traded this year. If the Texans do not unload the exiled passer now, McClain adds a trade may not happen until near the 2022 draft.

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Bears Considering Khalil Mack IR Stint

Khalil Mack is battling a foot injury that might send him to injured reserve. The elite edge rusher is not expected to play this week against the 49ers, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, who add the Bears are considering placing Mack on IR (Twitter link).

This would certainly be a blow to a reeling Bears team, which ranks last offensively. Chicago has again attempted to rely on its defense to stay in contention, but the Bears dropped to 3-4 after a blowout loss to the Buccaneers. Losing Mack for three games could KO the team’s fading postseason chances.

The 30-year-old star has gotten off to a strong start this season, having registered six sacks. Mack has not missed a game yet this year, and he has only missed two games during his three-plus-season Chicago stay. An IR trip would sideline Mack for games against the 49ers, Steelers and Ravens. With Chicago’s bye coming in Week 10, Mack would not be eligible to return until Week 12.

Acquired via the 2018 blockbuster trade with the Raiders, Mack has been the centerpiece of the past four Bears defenses. The former Defensive Player of the Year has delivered on the Bears’ investment, even if the high sack totals from Mack’s Oakland days have not followed him to Chicago. Mack’s streak of double-digit sack seasons stopped at four after his All-Pro 2018 showing with the Bears, but he is well on pace to post his fifth 10-plus-sack slate this year.

This foot problem stands to impede his pursuit, though it is not yet certain Mack will be down for more than just Week 8.

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Panthers Not Expected To Pursue Deshaun Watson Ahead Of Trade Deadline

The Panthers expressed significant interest in Deshaun Watson this offseason but backed off after the slew of off-field issues surfaced. They were thought to be re-entering the sweepstakes ahead of the Nov. 2 trade deadline, but it no longer looks like they are moving forward here.

Carolina is no longer expected to pursue a Watson deal before the deadline, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Panthers did re-engage the Texans on Watson last week, SI.com’s Albert Breer tweets, after not having previously discussed the Pro Bowl quarterback since before the season started. As of Wednesday morning, however, Watson has only waived his no-trade clause for the Dolphins, Rapoport adds.

This does not mean the Panthers are done with a Watson pursuit, with The Athletic’s Joe Person adding the no-trade clause is not an issue regarding a deal to Carolina (Twitter link). This would mean the Clemson alum would not be expected to veto a trade to the Panthers. While that would be a critical matter for a possible 2022 offseason trade, the Panthers standing down for now opens the door for the Dolphins.

The Panthers made the Texans an offer for Watson, and if the quarterback is on board with a relocation to Charlotte, it is interesting now that Carolina is bowing out. For 2021 at least, this breaks up a lengthy Panthers-Watson connection.

This past offseason, Carolina was set to outbid everyone for Watson, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (video link). Given the reports depicting David Tepper‘s interest in acquiring Watson — before the off-field issues surfaced — this is certainly not surprising. But 22 women have since accused Watson of sexual assault or sexual misconduct. In addition to potential criminal charges, the 26-year-old quarterback faces a lengthy suspension. That ban is unlikely to come down until 2022, but teams are certainly leery of surrendering prime assets for Watson without knowing what his future holds. The Texans have asked for three first-round picks and at least two seconds for the three-time Pro Bowler.

A report last week pegged the Panthers and Eagles as non-serious Watson suitors, but after Matt Rhule benched Sam Darnold in Carolina’s fourth straight loss Sunday, the Watson-Carolina connection resurfaced. For the season’s remainder, it appears Darnold and P.J. Walker will be Carolina’s QB options. Should the Dolphins not trade for Watson by next week, it should be expected the Panthers will be back in the mix in 2022.

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Panthers Place OL John Miller On IR

The Panthers offense keeps taking hits. The team is placing starting right guard John Miller on injured reserve, reports ESPN’s David Newton (via Twitter).

Miller was limited to only 39 snaps during Sunday’s loss to the Giants before suffering an ankle injury. The ailment will now knock the 28-year-old out of the lineup for at least the next three games.

After starting 14 games for the Panthers in 2020, Miller re-signed with Carolina this past offseason. After missing Week 1, the lineman started each of the Panthers’ next six games. The former third-round pick spent the first four seasons of his career with the Bills before starting 13 games for the Bengals in 2019.

The Panthers also swapped punters today, waiving Ryan Winslow and adding Lac Edwards to the practice squad. Per Newton (on Twitter), Edwards is expected to be promoted for Sunday’s game against the Falcons. Winslow was filling in for Joseph Charlton, who is currently sitting on IR. The 27-year-old saw time in Week 6 and Week 7 for the Panthers, averaging 38.6 yards on his 13 punts. Edwards served as the Jets punter from 2016 through 2019, and he led the NFL in punts and punting yards during his final season in New York.

 

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