Latest On Chargers Rookie WR Mike Williams

Conflicting reports emerged this week regarding the health status of Chargers rookie wideout Mike Williams, and today Williams attempted to clarify the nature of his back injury, according to James Palmer of NFL.com (Twitter link)."<strong

I’m good,” Williams said. “Everything good. The back situation. That was some false information being released. I don’t know who released it, but everything is good.

While Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reported Wednesday that Williams may require season-ending surgery for a herniated disc, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicated that surgery wasn’t on the table for the No. 7 overall pick. Still, Williams is likely to begin training on active/PUP, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, which theoretically means he could start the regular season on reserve/PUP, which requires an absence of six weeks.

Williams is “feeling better” following a recent epidural, tweets Garafolo, but even if he is forced to miss time, Los Angeles should have enough wide receiver depth to overcome his unavailability. The Chargers boast Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, and Dontrelle Inman, giving the club ample weapons to withstand Williams’ hypothetical recovery period.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Robert Griffin III Generating “Mild Interest”

Free agent quarterback Robert Griffin III has begun to attract “mild interest” from NFL clubs, according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, who notes the operative word in that sentence is “mild.” A number of teams could be willing to give RG3 an opportunity during training camp, adds Freeman.Robert Griffin III (Vertical)

Griffin’s physical traits remain tantalizing, and clubs are surely still holding out hope that RG3 can come close to replicating the production he exhibited in 2012, when he arguably posted the second-best rookie quarterback campaign since the merger. Still only 27 years old, Griffin should also come rather cheaply, as he won’t come close to matching the $7.5MM annual salary he landed from the Browns last offseason.

But it’s also apparent why teams would be wary of Griffin (one executive said last month that he wouldn’t sign RG3 “under any circumstances”). Griffin simply can’t stay healthy, as injuries have limited him in every season during his NFL tenure. Last year, health concerns relegated RG3 to five starts, and he wasn’t effective during those contests, completing less than 60% of his passes and registering a 72.5 quarterback rating.

The Seahawks are the only club known to have expressed interest in Griffin this offseason, but Seattle ultimately chose Austin Davis over Griffin and a host of other signal-callers (including Colin Kaepernick). PFR recently ranked Griffin as the fourth-best free agent quarterback, behind Kaepernick, Christian Ponder, and Shaun Hill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/22/17

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Cardinals have signed linebacker Tevin Floyd and waived center Lucas Crowley, the club announced today. Floyd went undrafted earlier this year out of The Citadel, where he finished with 86 tackles a season ago. He started 38 games during his collegiate career. Crowley, meanwhile, signed with Arizona in May after not being selected in the draft. The North Carolina product will now try to latch on with another club before training camp gets underway.

Offseason In Review: Seattle Seahawks

After finishing first in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA efficiency metric in each season from 2012-15, the Seahawks fell to ninth in 2016. The fact that that ranking was Seattle’s lowest since 2011 speaks to the consistency of the organization, especially at the top (John Schneider and Pete Carroll each finished among the NFL’s top three general managers and head coaches, respectively, in Patrick Daughtery of Rotoworld’s excellent leadership lists). The Seahawks have advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs in each of the past five campaigns, and have shown a remarkable ability to lock up core players in order to maintain their run of success.

That’s not to say Seattle didn’t have areas to address this offseason, however, so let’s take a look at how Seattle fared:

Notable signings:

As I noted when assessing the Seahawks’ most pressing needs heading into the offseason, Seattle’s offensive line could have been listed first, second, and third on a list of the club’s glaring weaknesses. After ranking 25th in adjusted sack rate and 26th in adjusted line yards in 2016, the Seahawks and general manager John Schneider addressed the problem in free agency — something they didn’t do a year ago — by adding former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel on a one-year pact.Luke Joeckel

Joeckel received $8MM from Seattle, with $7MM of that total coming as a full guarantee. It’s an astonishing figure for a player who’s been considered a complete bust, and it’s hard to believe Joeckel was drawing enough interest to force the Seahawks to land at that number. Other offensive linemen earning ~$8MM include Marshal Yanda, Mike Iupati, Morgan Moses, and Brandon Brooks, all of whom are in a different stratosphere from Joeckel in terms of production. Former first-round selection D.J. Fluker scored only $3MM from the Giants on a single-season deal this spring, and Joeckel should have come in around the same amount.

Even more surprising is that Joeckel may not even play left tackle! The Seahawks are reportedly considering placing George Fant, who graded as Pro Football Focus‘ single-worst tackle in the NFL last season, on the blindside, meaning Joeckel would likely stick at guard, or perhaps even be forced to act as a reserve. Either way, Seattle’s financial commitment to Joeckel makes no sense if he’s not at least starting at left tackle, as his $8MM salary would make him the 11th-highest-paid guard in the league.

After securing the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft in Joeckel, the Seahawks also brought in the third overall selection from that draft: defensive end Dion Jordan, who’s been an even larger disappointment during his NFL tenure than Joeckel. The 27-year-old Jordan hasn’t played in a game since December 2014, with PED-related suspensions and knee issues delaying his return to the field. Seattle’s gamble on Jordan is more palatable than its Joeckel bet, especially given that Jordan only inked a minimum salary deal with no guaranteed money. If Jordan does earn a roster spot and perform well, the Seahawks can control him through 2018 as a restricted free agent.

While the Joeckel and Jordan risks are based on performance concerns, the main uncertainly with cornerback DeShawn Shead is his health, as he’s coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 15. After being non-tendered and then re-signed, Shead is expected to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, as head coach Pete Carroll said in March he’d be “really surprised” if Shead was able to suit up for Week 1. A 15-game starter a season ago, Shead played more than 1,000 defensive snaps and graded as the league’s No. 37 corner, per PFF.

Joining Shead in the defensive backfield will be Bradley McDougald, an excellent value signing by the Seahawks at cost of only $1.8MM. McDougald, who started 31 games for the Buccaneers over the past two years, will serve as a third safety for Seattle, but could conceivably be forced into action based on injury questions with the Seahawks’ starts. Earl Thomas is expected to be ready for the season opener as he recovers from a broken leg, but complications could certainly arise. Kam Chancellor, meanwhile, is working his way back from multiple ankle surgeries and wasn’t yet at full speed as of March.

Seattle didn’t make many other notable additions on defense, although it did load up on linebackers/defensive backs with special teams experience. While the Seahawks graded among the top half of the league in special teams DVOA, their No. 13 ranking was a ten-spot drop from 2015. Perhaps with the intent of pushing that ranking back up, the Seahawks signed Terence Garvin, Michael Wilhoite, David Bass, Neiko Thorpe, and Arthur Brown, all of whom played on more than 45% of their respective team’s special teams snaps in 2016. Not every member of that cadre will end up making Seattle’s roster, but as a group, it’s a cheap investment with an eye towards special teams improvement.Eddie Lacy (Vertical)

The Seahawks’ most high-profile signing was former Packers running back Eddie Lacy, whom Seattle landed on a one-year contract worth $4.25MM. Lacy hasn’t posted a complete, healthy season since 2014, and given that his conditioning has been questioned, the Seahawks inserted weight clauses into Lacy’s deal. He passed his first weigh-in last month, earning $55K for tipping the scales below 250 pounds. Lacy, who is still only 26 years old, will join a Seattle backfield that also includes Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins, and Mike Davis. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times indicated last month that Lacy and Rawls will likely split basedown touches while Prosise handles passing game work.

After considering Colin Kaepernick, the Seahawks landed on Austin Davis as their free agent quarterback addition. Davis hasn’t played since 2015, and has only attempted only 378 career passes, but it’s not even clear that he’ll in fact be Russell Wilson‘s direct backup. Trevone Boykin, a 2016 undrafted free agent who served behind Wilson last year, has avoided jail time for at least one legal incident and isn’t expected to be suspended by the NFL. If he’s available, Boykin will likely relegate Davis to the No. 3 job (or off the roster).

Read more

Draft Rumors: Allen, Clemson, Landry

The 2018 draft being nine months away won’t deter some NFL teams’ fanbases from advanced research. One of those franchises figures to be the Jets, who unloaded numerous veterans this offseason and are without a long-term answer at quarterback. Christian Hackenberg figures to receive a shot this season, at some point, despite Josh McCown‘s $6MM-plus-incentives agreement. But the Jets may be in a position to select a quarterback from a much-hyped contingent.

One of those prospective passers is not a lock to come out, with recent Sam Darnold rumors centering on the high-end USC prospect possibly staying in school for at least one more year. This would remind Jets fans of Peyton Manning‘s decision to do the same in 1997, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. The Jets ended up trading the pick — one that became Orlando Pace — after Manning returned to Tennessee. Other passers with similar pedigrees join Darnold entering the 2017 college football season, and Cimini recently spoke to an AFC scout who views Wyoming’s Josh Allen as having better long-term potential than Darnold, who will be beginning his redshirt-sophomore season with the Trojans.

Allen joins UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the quarterbacks who right now are viewed as possible top-five picks come April. The 6-foot-5 Wyoming signal-caller will be a junior this season. Cimini also doubts Darnold would be able to pass up on a $30MM fully guaranteed contract if he’s in position to be chosen near the top of next year’s draft.

Here’s more coming out of the prospective 2018 draft pool.

  • Clemson has generated a legion of first-round talent in recent years. Vic Beasley, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Deshaun Watson are among several Tigers to go early in recent drafts. The next prodigy coming out of the South Carolina program could be defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. Several scouts told DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline the interior defender is a top-three NFL prospect. The 6-foot-4 junior was a first-team All-American during the Tigers’ national championship season, and Pauline writes Clemson had him playing out of position at defensive end. After being shifted inside to tackle, Wilkins could be a top-15 pick in 2018, Pauline notes.
  • Pauline, though, views Wilkins’ line mate, edge defender Clelin Ferrell, as the better bet to be a top-10 pick. The 20-year-old defender will be a redshirt sophomore this season; he racked up 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2016. The 6-foot-5 talent’s athleticism and growth potential lead Pauline to rate him as the slightly superior Tigers draft prospect. CBSSports.com’s Jared Dubin rates Wilkins as a top-eight pick but doesn’t have Ferrell going in Round 1.
  • Pauline adds many scouts’ lists of the top senior prospects in the country start with Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry. Landry registered a Boston College-record 16.5 sacks last season despite standing roughly 6-2. This blend of stature and production prompts Pauline to compare Landry to Dwight Freeney, who did quite well for himself coming out of Syracuse as a smaller pass rusher. Pauline, who expected Landry to declare for this past draft, writes Landry could play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.

AFC West Notes: Hali, Reid, Raiders, Broncos

Entering his 12th season with the Chiefs, Tamba Hali‘s role might be closer to a part-time position when compared to his near-decade run as a consistent presence on Kansas City defenses. The team has Justin Houston healthy and Dee Ford back after a breakout season. Hali took to Twitter to address his status with the Chiefs, firing up a string of tweets shaped around his lack of usage in January’s divisional-round loss to the Steelers (Twitter links). The 33-year-old was not happy playing just seven plays and tweeted, “Am I needed in KC anymore?”

Hali added (on Twitter) he was told his minimized play was to preserve him for the playoffs, which is interesting considering the Chiefs were in an elimination game. But Ford and Houston were the team’s primary linebackers that night. Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, noting the tweets’ authenticity, pointed out how the outside linebacker kept quiet about this for a while but has obviously been upset about his lack of playing time in the Chiefs’ biggest game in 13 years (Twitter links). Paylor adds (on Twitter) Hali is not believed to be upset about being tied to the Chiefs but wants a prominent role.

A 2006 first-round pick, Hali is now on his third Chiefs contract — a three-year, $21MM pact — and that deal being backloaded inflates his cap charge from $3.8MM in 2016 to $8.6MM this season. Kansas City incurring a dead-money penalty of $8.91MM in the event of a 2017 Hali release makes that almost certainly a non-starter for a team up against the cap. But in 2018, the Chiefs can cut Hali and save $7MM. Ford’s salary also rises north of $8MM in 2018 due to the Chiefs exercising his fifth-year option. A five-time Pro Bowler whom Pro Football Focus rated as a top outside linebacker as recently as 2015, Hali started in front of slower-developing Ford in 2014 and ’15 but ceded ground as last season progressed and Houston returned.

However, the team could probably benefit from Hali as a part-time pass rusher, as several teams have from aging stalwarts in recent years. But his usage rate could be a point of contention, if Saturday’s string of posts is any indication.

Here’s the latest out of Kansas City and the rest of the AFC West.

  • The Chiefs’ ouster of John Dorsey and promotion of Brett Veach figures to give Andy Reid more power regarding personnel matters, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. Veach broke into the NFL with the Reid-era Eagles — as Reid’s personal assistant — in the 2000s and followed the coach to Kansas City in 2013.
  • UNLV hired a pricey lawyer to negotiate terms with the Raiders on the parties’ future use of the $1.9 billion domed stadium set for construction and future use, Adam Candee of the Las Vegas Sun reports. The Mountain West Conference program and the Raiders are legally bound, via state mandate, to co-exist at the to-be-constructed venue. But the sides have to negotiate the agreement. Florio notes the Raiders proposed the first draft of said agreement, one Candee and Florio note was tilted toward the NFL team.
  • The Broncos haven’t had a place for No. 4 cornerbacks since forming their dominant trio of Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby in 2014. Kayvon Webster hardly saw the field as a defender after Talib and Roby arrived, leading to his defection to the Rams, but the Broncos drafted a project corner in Brendan Langley out of Lamar in the third round. Langley doesn’t figure to play a big role this season, but Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post notes the team sees the ex-Division I-FCS defender as a potential No. 1 corner down the line.

Extra Points: Rookies, Irving, Oher

Last year, we saw first-round pick Joey Bosa hold out of training camp and refuse to sign his rookie contract. ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano believes we could several 2017 picks following this same path. There are still four first-round picks who haven’t signed their contracts, including 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas, Titans wideout Corey Davis, Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley, and Browns safety Jabrill Peppers.

Graziano attributes the hold outs to “contract language.” Specifically, the writer notes that several front offices pursue some type of offset language, which would prevent players from double dipping in the event that they’re cut. On the flip side, agents are seeking annual salaries that mostly consist of a roster bonus, protecting their clients in the event of a suspension or fine.

Over the past two days, we’ve sign two first-round picks finally sign their rookie contracts, with both Jets safety Jamal Adams and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes inking their deals on Thursday.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Following a mysterious absence from camp on Friday, Cowboys defensive end David Irving has returned to the team, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). The player is subject to a $40K fine for the no-show, and Irving is already set to miss the first four games of the upcoming season due to suspension. The 23-year-old appeared in 15 games last season, compiling 17 tackles and four sacks.
  • A Nashville Uber driver has filed a lawsuit against free agent offensive lineman Michael Oher, according to Mike Reader of the Charlotte Observer. The lawsuit said that Oher “acted maliciously, intentionally, willfully, wantonly, recklessly and/or negligently,” with the driver claiming that the lineman pushed him, kicked him, and called him a homophobic slur. The former first-rounder was released by the Panthers earlier this week with a failed physical designation.
  • In case you missed it, veteran wideout Anquan Boldin is set to work out for the Bills next week.

NFC Notes: Norman, Cardinals, 49ers

Cornerback Casey Hayward signed a three-year, $15.3MM deal with the Chargers during the 2016 offseason. While the money was certainly alluring, the 27-year-old acknowledge that he was particularly enamored by the opportunity to be atop his team’s depth chart… an opportunity he didn’t have while playing for the Packers.

“They didn’t offer me at all,” Hayward said of his former team (via Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne). “I felt like I was the best player at the position when I was there. It kind of was like, ‘Dang.’ I’m glad now I’m a L.A. Charger. I got to show my true talents. Got to travel with No. 1s and show people what I can do. I’m glad I’m not there with those guys. I’m glad I’m here.”

Current Redskins cornerback Josh Norman seemingly has similar resentment for his former team, the Panthers. During the 2016 offseason, the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag that was placed on Norman, making him an unrestricted free agent. When the organization made it clear that he wouldn’t be back, the cornerback was already anticipating the team’s downfall.

“I didn’t have to say anything,” he says. “They were thinking it was all D-line. No, it’s not. Who’s going to stop Julio? Who’s going to stop Mike Evans? Who’s going to stop Brandin Cooks?

“The heartbeat of that just went pshhhh. Who brought that whole thing together?”

Lets check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com passed along (via Twitter) that former NFL wide receiver Plaxico Burress and former defensive lineman Tommy Kelly will be joining the Cardinals as coaching interns. Kelly actually played in 16 games for Arizona back in 2014.
  • Undrafted rookie safety Chanceller James is an intriguing candidate for a role in the 49ers‘ secondary, writes Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. The Boise State product initially joined that team after an impressive showing during rookie minicamp, and his “size and aggression” could ultimately earn him a spot on the team.
  • The Cowboys special teams unit was rather mediocre last season, but Rick Gosselin of the Dallas News believes undrafted rookie Lucas Wacha could help shore up the squad. The Wyoming product may be a bit undersized, but his “4.58 speed” could be especially useful on special teams, as could his ability to rack up tackles. The Cowboys have a history of developing undrafted rookies into usable players, and Wacha said that’s a big reason why he chose to sign with the organization. “I know that they do work with their free agents,” Wacha said, “but knowing that they had a great team and watching the team continue to grow was the reason I decided to come here. I believe I’m here for a reason. I believe this was the best fit for me.”

Cowboys Won’t Sign RBs “At This Time”

The Cowboys worked out a pair of veteran running backs yesterday, but it doesn’t sound like a signing is imminent. According to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer (via Twitter), the Cowboys are not planning on signing either Ronnie Hillman or Denard Robinson “at this time.”

Ronnie Hillman (vertical)The workouts could have purely been exploratory, especially when you consider that the Cowboys are rostering an impressive trio of running backs in Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darren McFadden. For what it’s worth, the team did carry four running backs last season, with Lance Dunbar (who has since signed with the Rams) collecting 31 rushing yards on nine carries while also catching 16 passes for 122 yards. The Cowboys are also currently rostering undrafted running back Jahad Thomas and fullback Keith Smith.

Of course, the Cowboys could also be looking to cover their tracks in case Elliott is suspended. We learned yesterday that the NFL’s investigation was wrapping up, although we probably won’t learn of any discipline until next week. The organization could simply be delaying a running back signing until they get more clarity on their 22-year-old star.

Neither Robinson or Hillman were particularly productive last season. Hillman appeared in eight games with the Chargers and Vikings, compiling only 131 yards on 41 carries. Robinson finished the season with 144 yards on the same amount of attempts. The two running backs have plenty of pass-catching experience, with the duo having combined for four 20-plus reception seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Deone Bucannon’s Recovery

More than two months following his ankle surgery, the Cardinals have placed linebacker Deone Bucannon on the physically unable to perform list, according to AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban (via Twitter). The team has also placed linebacker Jarvis Jones on the active non-football-injury list.

Deone Bucannon (vertical)The Bucannon news isn’t particularly surprising, although the team was reportedly hoping that the linebacker would avoid the PUP and be healthy by early September.

“Deone is close,” coach Bruce Arians told AZCardinals.com. “He’s getting there. I think he’s a little bit ahead of schedule. We have our fingers crossed. The first game is his due date, so to speak. Hopefully we’ll have him ready to play.”

“I want to start the season,” Bucannon added. “I’m not here to rush anything and I’m not going to put a timetable on it, but at the same time, I want to get out there as quickly as I possibly can. But get out there at 100 percent so I can do the best for the team and not be a liability.”

Following two years at strong safety, the versatile defender spent most of his time at linebacker last season, compiling 89 tackles and one fumble recovery in 13 games. Following his solid campaign, the organization picked up the former first rounder’s fifth-year option, keeping him in Arizona through the 2018 season.

Meanwhile, Jones joined the organization on a one-year deal earlier this offseason. After having lost both Alex Okafor and Calais Campbell this offseason, Jones was supposed to provide some depth, especially at pass rusher. Of course, the 2013 first-round pick only has six sacks through four NFL seasons, but he did set several career-highs in 2016, including tackles (43) and forced fumbles (two).

Roster Resource currently has Chandler JonesKarlos DansbyMarkus Golden, and Bucannon listed at the team’s starting linebackers. If the team is eyeing a true inside linebacker to replace Bucannon in the lineup, they could opt for either Zaviar Gooden or Scooby Wright. Otherwise, they could consider the assortment of outside linebackers on the roster, including first-rounder Haason Reddick. Assuming Jones returns relatively soon, he’ll presumably be competing with Kareem MartinGabe Martin, and Alani Fua for second-team reps.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL News & NFL Rumors