Dalvin Cook Ahead Of Schedule

In late April, it was reported Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was on track to be ready for training camp in July. In an interview with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Sunday, head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that report and added that the second-year back is ahead of schedule. 

“He’s done really well. He’s ahead of schedule and we’re excited about where he’s at. I think he’ll get in OTAs some but it’ll be limited until we get to training camp.”

The Florida State product got off to a hot start in 2017, rushing for 288 yards in Minnesota’s first three games. In Week 4 against Detroit, however, Cook tore his ACL and was lost for the remainder of the season. He returned to the field and participated in some on-field drills when the team held their voluntary workouts in April.

With Cook returning and the addition of Kirk Cousins in the offseason, Minnesota appears to have improved upon an offense that ranked in the top 10 in points in 2017. When Cook returns, he will share the load with Latavius Murray, who rushed for 593 yards and seven touchdowns following the team’s Week 9 bye week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Rams, Manziel, Eagles, Colts

The majority of the 2018 NFL Draft class is now signed, but that’s not the case in Los Angeles. The Rams have yet to sign a single pick.

Should fans be concerned? To put it simply, no.

This isn’t new to the team, as Michael David Smith of PFT writes, as it likes to address financial planning with its players before giving them a large signing bonus. Like in years past, the Rams rookies will all generally sign at once sometime in the next few weeks.

“One of the things that we think is important with that is bringing the rookies in as a group, having them live together as a group, and not having any real differentiation between the first-round pick and the undrafted rookie,” Demoff said. “They’re in the hotel together. They’re eating meals together. They’re doing things together. And then [by the time] they all scatter, we’ll sign their contracts. They’ll leave knowing the contract’s done, so they don’t have to worry about that headache when they go on vacation.”

So no need to panic Rams fans. This is par for the course.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Eagles signed running back Matt Jones earlier in the week. The Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski has the details at two years for $1.5MM, none of which are guaranteed (Twitter link). He joins a crowded backfield that includes Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles.
  • The Colts have had visits from Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston and Bashaud Breeland in recent days. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star tweets, however, the meetings were merely informational and no signings are imminent.
  • And we’ll also make pitstop in the CFL, where Johnny Manziel is not guaranteed to start for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith writes. Smith quotes head coach June Jones, who praised current starter and former Oregon standout Jeremiah Masoli. “Let me tell you something right now, he’s got his work ahead of him to beat out Jeremiah,” Jones said of Manziel. “He’s got a lot to catch up on, but he’ll spend the time to get that done. I know he will because he’s already learned that lesson.” Though Masoli has the leg up, it won’t be long before Manziel is given the reins, given he can stay out of trouble.

Vikings Looking To Extend Barr, Diggs, Hunter

Despite spending heavily on Kirk Cousins this offseason, the Vikings are still intent on trying to keep their core of young players together. This includes Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs and Danielle Hunter, who the team hopes to extend according to Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Though they hope to get the deals done, the Vikings know that will be a tough task. General manager Rick Spielman said, “We’re still going to try. Is it going to be easy? No.”

Diggs and Hunter are some of the best bargains in the business at the moment, both costing just $1.9MM against the cap in 2018. The Vikings picked up Barr’s fifth-year option in 2017 and he is set to cost $12.3MM in the upcoming season. All three deals are set to expire after the 2018 season.

Scoggins adds that Spielman and team executive vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski have been planning for this for three years, which led them to signing Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph to extensions despite them having additional years remaining.

Though it might be difficult to keep everyone around, if they are able to crunch the numbers they won’t have any pushback from ownership. Spielman said they have never heard “no” from the Wilfs on a potential deal.

It would be difficult to see the Vikings parting with Diggs, who just authored arguably the most famous play in team history when his touchdown grab vs. New Orleans as time expired sent Minnesota to the NFC Championship game.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Junior Galette Mulling Offers, Retirement

Former Redskins defensive end Junior Galette has three offers on the table but is also considering retirement, the veteran pass rusher wrote in a post on Instagram on Sunday. 

Galette, 30, reportedly had interest from the Rams and Browns earlier this offseason, and in April the Raiders were kicking the tires on the former Saints linebacker who posted double-digit sacks in back-to-back season in 2013 and 2014. Initially, Washington had interest in bringing Galette back, but team senior vice president for personnel Doug Williams shot that down in March.

After those two breakout campaigns in New Orleans, Galette was ravaged by a pair of Achilles injuries that cost him each of the next two seasons. He returned in 2017 with the Redskins and was productive, posting three sacks and managing 25 pressures to grade out as the league’s No. 30 edge defender among 106 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Galette has also been troubled by off-the-field issues in recent years. He was arrested in January 2014 on a domestic violence charge that was later dropped. A video then surfaced from 2013 showing a man that appeared to be Galette striking a woman with a belt while involved in a beach brawl. A month later, Galette was released from the Saints, who absorbed significant cap penalties. In 2017, he was also arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to comply with police officers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

5 Key NFL Stories: 5/13/18 – 5/20/18

Panthers have a new owner. The NFL’s Carolina franchise is in new hands, as Steelers minority owner David Tepper purchased the club from Jerry Richardson for a league-record $2.2 billion. That enormous figure may not have even been the high bid, but the NFL looked favorably on Tepper, who not only has league experience, but will own the Panthers in their entirety and without any other investors. While Tepper could make changes to the business side of Carolina’s infrastructure, he’s reportedly unlikely to alter the club’s football operations staff.

Reuben Foster‘s accuser recants allegations. Foster’s ex-girlfriend admitted she fabricated a domestic violence story against the 49ers linebacker, and instead suffered visible injuries during an altercation with another woman. San Francisco had been adamant that it would released Foster had the allegations been proven, but he now appears ready to return to the club at some point. That won’t be during organized team activities, as the 49ers will bar Foster from participation as his case is ongoing.

Johnny Manziel finds work. Although Manziel won’t be playing in the NFL in 2018, he will be on a football field. The former first-round pick signed a two-year deal with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, meaning he’ll be under center for the first time since 2015. Manziel, who will earn a base salary of $122K for the upcoming season, won’t be able to ink another NFL contract until his CFL deal expires, but Hamilton could do Manziel a favor and release him after the 2018 campaign.

Cardinals address cornerback hole. Arizona had been looking for a defensive back to play opposite All-Pro Patrick Peterson, and began seriously exploring options last week. The Cards first took a visit with free agent Bashaud Breeland, whose three-year, $24MM pact with the Panthers was voided following a failed physical. But instead of inking Breeland, Arizona made a trade, shipping a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Browns in exchange for cornerback Jamar Taylor, who figures to see the majority of snaps as the Cardinals’ CB2.

Safety market heating up? Free agent safeties have largely been out of luck this season, as Tyrann Mathieu‘s one-year, $7MM deal with the Texans still represents the largest annual average for any non-franchised player at the position. The tide could be turning, however, as the Colts met with both Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro last week. The Jets, too, had planned to visit with Vaccaro following his summit with Indy. Boston, Vaccaro, and Eric Reid comprise the top of what is still a strong free agent safety crop.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Lions, Packers, Steelers

The Lions are still in need of reinforcements at defensive tackle, and it seems inevitable Detroit will make a free agent addition before the regular season gets underway, as Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes. Although the Lions have already added a few new players to their interior, veteran Sylvester Williams and fourth-round pick Da’Shawn Hand aren’t likely to be full-time contributors. Detroit’s front four ranked in the bottom third of the league in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, an indication the unit struggled against both the run and pass. Free agents such as Alan Branch and Ricky Jean-Francois could make sense for the Lions given their familiarity with new head coach Matt Patricia‘s defensive scheme, while Johnathan Hankins, while Quinton Dial, Karl Klug, or Frostee Rucker could also speculatively be on Detroit’s radar.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • While his contract is currently a matter of discussion, it doesn’t sound as though Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has plans to hang up his cleats any time soon, per Aaron Nagler of PackersNews.com. “It’s sustained greatness I think is what drives me,” Rodgers said (link via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “It’s to be the best and to be able to choose when I’m done playing. I think as you’ve seen here recently with Jordy [Nelson] but even you go back a few years to whether it’s Julius Peppers or A.J. Hawk or John Kuhn or Brett Favre, the fairy tale ending of starting a career and ending it with the same organization rarely happens. So that’s kind of my goal, is to be able to be indispensable to this organization into my 40s to where you’ve got to keep me around.” Rodgers, 34, is currently signed through the 2019 season, but Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst expects a contract extension to come together relatively soon.
  • Free agent wideout Eli Rogers is likely to re-sign with the Steelers as soon as he’s healthy, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Rogers tore his ACL in January before being non-tendered by Pittsburgh, so it could some time before he regains full use of his knee. Although the Steelers should have more targets up for grabs after trading Martavis Bryant to the Raiders, second-round pick James Washington would be standing in Rogers’ way if he’s re-upped. Rogers, 25, managed 48 receptions from the slot in 2016, but came back to earth with just 16 catches a season ago.
  • The Packers will work out former BYU wide receiver Jonah Trinnaman as a cornerback this week, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The Jets also plan to audition Trinnaman in the near future, although it sounds like New York will take a look at the ex-Cougar at his natural pass-catching position.While Trinnaman didn’t put up much in the way of production during his collegiate career, he exploded during his pro day with a 4.30 40-yard dash, 12-foot broad jump, and a 40.5-inch vertical jump.

PFR Originals: 5/13/18 – 5/20/18

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past seven days:

East Notes: Eagles, Gronk, Clayborn

Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com does not believe that there will be any tension between Carson Wentz and Nick Foles this year, but he does say that Foles is universally loved in the Eagles‘ locker room. Given that, and given that Foles led the club to its first Super Bowl victory in the wake of Wentz’s ACL tear last season, Shorr-Parks suggests that there is at least a small part of Wentz that feels the need to “re-prove himself” to his team. Shorr-Parks wonders if that desire will impact how quickly Wentz returns to the field and how he interacts with his veteran backup this year.

Let’s round up a few more east notes, starting with several additional items out of Philadelphia:

  • In the same piece linked above, Shorr-Parks says “it appears obvious” that the Eagles do not plan on paying DE Brandon Graham until next offseason at the earliest. Graham will be eligible for free agency at that point, but he is still seeking a long-term extension from Philadelphia prior to that, and Shorr-Parks’ suggestion is somewhat surprising in light of the fact that the Eagles were said to be working on a new contract for Graham in November (and in light of Graham’s on-field performance).
  • In two separate pieces, Shorr-Parks breaks down the Eagles’ current roster into long shots, locks, bubble players, and wildcards, and he also takes a look at some of the biggest names still remaining on the free agent market and whether Philadelphia could be interested in some of those players. He thinks the Eagles could be in play for some of the top available DBs — like Kenny Vaccaro and Bashaud Breeland — but does not see a fit for top WR Dez Bryant or LB Brian Cushing (though he thinks a reunion with Jeremy Maclin should not be ruled out).
  • Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com evaluates the Giants‘ top positional battles going into OTAs, and he believes the fight for the backup QB job is the most intriguing. Second-year pro Davis Webb has a stronger arm than rookie Kyle Lauletta, but Lauletta receives high marks for his intelligence and accuracy, plus he was drafted by Big Blue’s new regime. Whoever wins the job will be the favorite to ultimately succeed Eli Manning.
  • It is unclear whether Rob Gronkowski will report to the Patriots for Phase 3 of the team’s offseason program, which begins tomorrow, though Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Gronk is still putting in plenty of time at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which he says has him feeling good from a conditioning perspective. Phase 3 will be the last chance for Gronkowski and Tom Brady — who is also yet to attend OTAs — to get some multiple-week football work in with the majority of their teammates before training camp. Brady has frequently touted the importance of Phase 3, so it would be notable if he does not attend.
  • Adrian Clayborn, the Patriots‘ top free agent acquisition this offseason, tweaked his quad during recent workouts, per Reiss. Clayborn could be limited for Phase 3 of OTAs, but he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

Community Tailgate: Where Will Dez Bryant Play In 2018?

Dez Bryant sits atop PFR’s most recent ranking of the top 10 offensive players still available on the free agent market. Still just 29, he is a three-time Pro-Bowler with one first-team All-Pro nod to his credit, and he was targeted 132 times last season. Though he is clearly no longer the player he was earlier in his career, the fact that he has only piqued the interest of just one team — the Ravens — since he was released by the Cowboys is a surprise.

Of course, the timing of his release was a bit unfortunate. He was cut over a month after free agency opened, and at that point, most of the WR1/WR2 vacancies had been filled, and teams did not have as much money to spend. Plus, with the draft right around the corner, clubs were devoting more attention to collegiate prospects than anything else.

Baltimore did offer Bryant a three-year, $21MM pact, but he turned it down, as he prefers a one-year deal that would enable him to boost his value and give himself one more shot at a big-money contract (if he had his way, he would also sign on with an NFC East team). Outside of the Ravens’ offer, however, the only news on Bryant is that teams are not interested in him, even on a league minimum deal. There are a number of clubs that still make sense as a potential landing spot — like the Packers and Bills — but those teams have generally indicated that they do not plan to pursue the former first-round selection.

Bryant was never a gifted route runner, and his earlier success stemmed largely from his athleticism and his ability to make contested catches. As he has gotten older and dealt with injury problems, his physical advantages have evaporated to a large degree, and that reality, combined with his perceived attitude issues, is doubtlessly scaring teams away. But still….no interest at all?

As always, players will sustain injuries, players will underperform, and front office executives will reassess their roster on a daily basis. Bryant will find a job, even if he has to accept a contract not at all to his liking. But we would like to know your thoughts on the matter. Why is no one willing to entertain the notion of signing him right now, where will he ultimately end up, and what does the future hold for the Oklahoma State product who was one of the most exciting players in football not too long ago?

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Ray, Rivers, Thomas

Most of the fifth-year option decisions this offseason were no-brainers, but what the Broncos would do with respect to Shane Ray‘s 2019 option was a little tougher to predict. Ultimately, Denver chose to decline the option, which means that Ray will be eligible for free agency following the 2018 campaign, and head coach Vance Joseph believes that the chance to hit the open market will make the Missouri product especially motivated to produce at a high level this year.

Joseph said (via Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post), “[Ray] is really motivated. He understands it’s business. And he’s ready for a challenge. He wants to be a great player and, in my opinion, before he got hurt last year (early in training camp) he was on his way to having a great year. I am not surprised that he is motivated and engaged. The ball is in his court. He can earn a lot more than what the option offered him if he goes out there and does what we think he can do.”

As O’Halloran notes, however, this could be Ray’s last season with the Broncos regardless of how he performs. If he does well, he could price himself out of Denver’s budget, and if he struggles, the Broncos may not want him back anyway.

Now for more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Joseph is not only impressed with Ray’s effort level this spring; he is also pleased by what he has seen from the Broncos‘ marquee free agent signing, Case Keenum. Joseph said (via the same piece linked above), “[W]atching Case the last couple of weeks on the field, man, he’s a lot better than I remember. It’s definitely a good thing to watch him lead the guys and watch the guys respond to him. It’s refreshing for all of us to be in the presence of a veteran quarterback who has command. I think everyone is loving the fact we have a quarterback in place that can lead this team from spot 1, and that’s good for all of us.” 
  • In response to a reader’s question as to when the Chargers should plan for Philip Rivers‘ retirement, Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com suggests that it won’t be anytime soon, and that Rivers could play for another five years. After all, Rivers, 36, has already indicated he would like to play for a few more seasons, the club has not drafted a QB since 2013, and in addition to his continuing strong performance, he has not lost an ounce of motivation or even mentioned retirement, per quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen. And, as Williams notes, Rivers — who has not missed a start in more than a decade — predicates his game on anticipation and moving within the pocket, so loss of speed is not a huge issue.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins, whom the Chargers selected in the fourth round of last year’s draft, was primarily a special teams contributor in his rookie campaign, but as Williams notes, Los Angeles is giving the Miami product a shot at free safety this offseason. The team is intrigued by his athleticism, speed, and physicality, and the hope is that he can use those qualities to become a consistent presence on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Whether the Seahawks will trade Earl Thomas this offseason has been something of an open question over the past few months, but it sounds as if his next contract — he is eligible for free agency next year — will not come from Seattle. As Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets, even though Thomas will command top dollar, the Seahawks could pay him if they wanted to. But in light of Thomas’ age (29), the fact that the team is in something of a retooling phase, and what has happened to some of the Seahawks’ older players over the last few years, Seattle seems unlikely to make the kind of commitment that Thomas is looking for.

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