Hawks Sign Round 2 Pick D’Wayne Eskridge

The Seahawks started their rookie minicamp Friday; their top 2021 draft pick is now under contract. The team agreed to terms with second-rounder D’Wayne Eskridge, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com tweets.

One of college football’s top deep threats in recent years, Eskridge went to the Seahawks at No. 56 overall. The team dipped into the Mid-American Conference’s talent pool here, with Eskridge attending Western Michigan, and will pair him with former Day 2 picks Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.

Eskridge played parts of five seasons at the mid-major program, redshirting after four games in 2019. In his final two full seasons, the 5-foot-8 wide receiver eclipsed 20 yards per reception. While Eskridge never tallied an 800-yard season, he was on pace to post a dominant stat line as a senior. The MAC limited its schedule to six games in 2020; Eskridge still posted 768 receiving yards and a career-high eight touchdowns.

Seattle lost backup wideout David Moore this offseason and recently severed ties with Josh Gordon, paving a path for Eskridge. Day 3 picks and UDFAs populate the rest of the Seahawks’ receiving corps.

Eskridge and sixth-round tackle Stone Forsythe are under contract. Fourth-round cornerback Tre Brown is participating in minicamp but is not yet signed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Signings: 5/14/21

We’ll keep track of today’s lower round signings here:

Baltimore Ravens

Detroit Lions

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

Texans Sign 3 UDFAs

The Texans are the latest team to unveil a smaller-than-usual undrafted free agent class. Here are the three players added to Houston’s roster post-draft:

The two ex-Aggie offensive linemen will each receive six-figure guarantees. Both will collect $125K, with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Drew Davison noting the deals come with $100K base salary guarantees and $25K signing bonuses (Twitter links).

Scouts Inc. graded McCollum and Green as seventh-round-caliber prospects, slotting the former 236th overall and the latter 244th. Green started from 2018-20 for the Aggies, earning second-team All-SEC acclaim as a senior. McCollum started as a senior. The Aggies led the SEC in sacks allowed and yards per carry (5.45). Hazelton played a three schools, contributing for Ball State and Virginia Tech prior to spending his senior season in central Missouri.

Rams Sign Round 2 Pick Tutu Atwell

Lacking a first-round pick for the fifth straight draft, the Rams opted to add to one of their strongest position groups with their second-round choice. They selected Louisville receiver Tutu Atwell 57th overall.

The diminutive wideout agreed to terms on his four-year rookie contract Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Atwell will join a Rams receiving corps that houses Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and DeSean Jackson. The team also drafted Van Jefferson in the 2020 second round. It has invested considerable capital at this position.

Los Angeles’ pick surprised also because of Atwell’s stature. The 5-foot-8 target checked in at 149 pounds earlier this offseason. He will be one of the smallest players to suit up for an NFL game in generations. Atwell’s size did not prevent him from becoming one of this draft’s top receivers available, however. He caught 69 passes for 1,272 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2019 and added a 46/625/7 line in 2020’s abbreviated season.

The Rams traded two first-round picks and change for Matthew Stafford earlier this year. Jackson and Atwell stand as players who could maximize the longtime Lion’s arm strength. They will pair with intermediate targets Woods and Kupp. Atwell, Woods, Kupp and Jefferson are signed through at least 2023, with the rookie’s deal running through 2024.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kelvin Benjamin Works Out For Giants

FRIDAY: Benjamin is working out as a tight end, Raanan tweets. Once referred to on Monday Night Football as being a Popeyes biscuit away from being a tight end, Benjamin — at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds — was one of the biggest wide receivers in NFL history. Rather than attempt to join a crowded Giants receiving corps, the former first-round pick will opt to try his hand at tight end. The Giants have Evan Engram going into his contract year, and they signed Kyle Rudolph earlier this offseason.

THURSDAY: The Giants are going to be having a surprising familiar name tryout this weekend. New York will host veteran Kelvin Benjamin alongside some young guys, a source told Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

While this news certainly wasn’t expected since Benjamin hasn’t played in a game since 2018, it’s also not totally out of left field. Giants GM Dave Gettleman drafted Benjamin when he was with the Panthers, so there’s at least a connection here. Benjamin was drafted by Carolina 28th overall back in 2014, and he put up big numbers with Cam Newton as a rookie.

In his first pro season, Benjamin had 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. After missing 2015 with a torn ACL, he had 941 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. He was traded to the Bills midway through the 2017 season, and his career went downhill quickly after that.

Buffalo cut him toward the end of the 2018 campaign, he latched on with the Chiefs for the final few games, and hasn’t signed anywhere since. Not only that, but we haven’t even heard of any known interest in him since then.

The Giants have a crowded receiving depth chart after drafting Kadarius Toney in the first-round, so Benjamin should be considered a long-shot to make the team. That being said, it’d be a fun story if this does lead to a contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Release T Ja’Wuan James

Ja’Wuan James revealed Friday he underwent surgery to repair his torn Achilles’ tendon (Twitter link). He is also now a free agent. The Broncos released the veteran tackle late this afternoon, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

This will be a post-June 1 cut, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. The transaction will allow the Broncos to spread out the dead-money hit caused by James’ signing bonus. What may well become a contentious matter, however: James’ $10.58MM base salary. James suffering the injury while working out away from the Broncos’ facility leaves him vulnerable on this front.

The Broncos will likely move to void James’ salary, Klis adds (on Twitter). This will likely precede an NFLPA grievance, though that is not certain. Following fellow Bronco DaeSean Hamilton‘s offsite ACL tear Friday, James tweeted the NFLPA needs to have players’ backs after advising them to boycott voluntary offseason workouts. This figures to set off a bigger-picture issue, with Hamilton’s 2021 salary — worth more than $2MM — now in jeopardy as well. Both would have been protected had they been training at the Broncos’ facility, which the NFL reiterated in a memo following James’ injury.

Denver had previously placed James on its reserve/NFI list, laying the groundwork for Friday’s move. The remaining $9MM in prorated signing bonus money will be due. The Broncos could go after James’ 2021 prorated amount ($3MM), but Klis tweets that is unlikely. The post-June 1 move means the Broncos will be docked less than $5MM in dead-money charges. That number would have been considerably higher had James, whose salary was guaranteed for injury (an onsite injury, that is), opted to attend the team’s voluntary workouts.

James’ injury will mean the Broncos’ run of different Week 1 right tackle starters will reach nine. The team has moved on and is set to hold a Bobby MassieCameron Fleming competition come training camp. Both veterans signed earlier this week. Each worked as a starter last season, Massie for the Bears and Fleming with the Giants. Signed to a four-year, $51MM deal in 2019, James was ticketed to be the Broncos’ long-term starter. But knee injuries in 2019 limited the former first-round pick to three games that season. Because of his 2020 opt-out and this Achilles development, the 29-year-old lineman’s Denver career will be capped at 63 snaps.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DaeSean Hamilton Tears ACL; Broncos Had Trade In Place

Although the Broncos had prepared to waive DaeSean Hamilton on Thursday, they are believed to have found a taker in a trade for the fourth-year wide receiver. But an injury will scuttle those plans.

The former fourth-round pick suffered a torn ACL, according to NFL.com’s Taylor Bisciotti (on Twitter). This injury occurred away from the Broncos’ facility Friday morning, per 9News’ Mike Klis (Twitter links). This comes shortly after Denver right tackle Ja’Wuan James offsite Achilles tear.

[RELATED: Broncos T Ja’Wuan James Tears Achilles]

However, the Broncos were set to trade Hamilton in the coming days, Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com report (Twitter links). The trade partner is not known, but Denver7’s Troy Renck tweets a deal was in place. The former Penn State wideout was due a $2.18MM salary this year but now finds himself in a situation similar to James’.

The young receiver going down away from the team’s facility will, like James, put his salary in jeopardy. The Broncos were the first team to stand in solidarity with the NFLPA’s proposed boycott of voluntary offseason workouts, but the team has become ground zero for offsite injuries during this span. Some Broncos have worked out at the team’s facility since the voluntary sessions began last month, but the injuries to James and Hamilton display the risks players take when opting to train on their own.

The Broncos have four receivers firmly ahead of Hamilton on their depth chart — Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick — and they drafted Seth Williams in the sixth round earlier this month. Hamilton has seen extensive time as a backup and spot starter in three seasons but did not eclipse 300 receiving yards in any of those campaigns. This injury will certainly affect his stock going forward.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Washington To Sign DB Bobby McCain

After meeting with the Washington Football Team earlier this week, Bobby McCain will join the defending NFC East champions. The parties agreed to a one-year deal Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The Dolphins released the veteran defensive back last week. Now, McCain will follow Ryan Fitzpatrick to the nation’s capital. McCain has worked as both a starting safety and cornerback in his six seasons as a pro.

A former fifth-round pick, McCain joined the Dolphins two regimes ago. But he endured and signed an extension with the Chris Grier-era front office. The Dolphins moved McCain from cornerback to safety in 2019. After an injury-shortened season, the veteran bounced back to play in 16 games for the 2020 Dolphins edition. He will join Washington’s Landon Collins-led safety corps.

Washington may be lining up McCain, 27, to play alongside Collins. The team has Kamren Curl, a seventh-round pick last year, in place at safety and used a fifth-round pick recently on Darrick Forrest. Although McCain ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 55 overall safety last season, he brings considerable experience (55 pro starts) and possesses the versatility that would allow Washington to use him in multiple capacities.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Sewell, Bateman

In a comprehensive piece, Adam Jahns of The Athletic details how Bears GM Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and the rest of Chicago’s brain trust approached their quarterback situation this offseason. These types of behind-the-scenes stories are always worth a read, especially for fans of the team in question, and particularly notable here is that the club identified the No. 8 through No. 12 overall selections as the “sweet spot” to target a collegiate QB. Pace’s predraft research indicated that trying to acquire the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick would require too much draft capital, but he didn’t want to start calling teams holding picks eight through 12 too early for fear of tipping his hand.

So he waited until the day of the draft to start making those calls, and while the early run on QBs pushed down quality players at other positions, Pace identified Ohio State QB Justin Fields as his top target. 11 Bears staffers filed reports on Fields, and all of them had very similar grades on him. Pace and Giants GM Dave Gettleman had worked out the parameters of a trade earlier in the day, and when Fields was still on the board after the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants — Pace feared Philadelphia might have been targeting Fields — Chicago and New York were able to swing a trade that brought the former Buckeye to the Windy City. Now, Pace and Nagy will hope that the bold maneuver will help them keep their jobs.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Even though the Bears just signed Andy Dalton this offseason, they extended him a courtesy that the Packers did not extend to Aaron Rodgers when they drafted Jordan Love last year: they told Dalton that they might pick a QB. “I talked to [Dalton] earlier in the day on [the day of the draft], and we were just catching up,” Nagy said (via Albert Breer of SI.com). “And at the same time I said, ‘Hey, listen man, I have no idea which way this thing may go, you never know, but all positions are open and we can do a lot of different things, including at quarterback. So I just want you to understand that and be aware for that.'” Of course, the news couldn’t have come as a surprise to Dalton, who was signed to a one-year contract and who presumably has no delusions that the Bears acquired him as their quarterback of the future, but it’s the type of gesture that might have helped ease the strain on the Packers’ relationship with Rodgers.
  • The Lions‘ first-round pick, No. 7 overall selection Penei Sewell, has tested positive for COVID-19, as Sewell himself tweeted several days ago. He will therefore miss this weekend’s rookie minicamp, but at this point it sounds like he is either asymptomatic or else has mild symptoms, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
  • The Packers selected Georgia CB Eric Stokes with the No. 29 overall pick of the draft, but if Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman had still been around, execs around the league believe he would have been the choice, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes (subscription required). Of course, taking a first-round receiver this year after selecting Love in the first round in 2020 might not have been enough to placate Rodgers. The Ravens took Bateman off the board with the No. 27 overall selection.
  • The Vikings have been busy over the past couple of days, trading cornerback Mike Hughes to the Chiefs and signing first-round pick Christian Darrisaw.

Aaron Rodgers Believes Packers Promised To Trade Him?

A number of factors have contributed to Aaron Rodgers‘ frustration with the Packers: the selection of Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, the team’s overall approach to the wide receiver position, and Rodgers’ own contract situation are just a few of those factors. And, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Rodgers apparently believes Green Bay promised him he would be traded, only to renege on that pledge.

Hours before this year’s draft, veteran NFL broadcaster Trey Wingo reported (via Twitter) on the Packers’ alleged reversal, and now Florio is also hearing that Rodgers is under the impression the team has gone back on its word. If that really happened, his anger would be understandable, but as Florio observes, no one from Rodgers’ camp has communicated Rodgers’ belief to the Packers.

For their part, the Packers are adamant that they made no such promise to their star signal-caller, and they say that any reports to the contrary are “unequivocally false.” And in a press conference today, Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said nothing has changed with respect to the team’s view of the matter. “We still obviously feel the same way,” LaFleur said (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network). “We want him back in the worst way. I know he knows that. And we’ll continue to work at it each and every day.”

We recently heard that the team is “deflated” about where things stand at the moment, which makes it sound as if the Packers are bracing themselves for a Rodgers departure. But Green Bay still has plenty of leverage here. If the club refuses to deal Rodgers, the 37-year-old passer would miss out on his $14.7MM salary for 2021 and the $6.8MM roster bonus that was earned earlier this offseason — but that hasn’t been paid out yet — and he would also have to pay back $23MM of unearned signing bonus money. Rodgers has earned $240MM from his Packers contracts alone, to say nothing of his endorsement deals, so it’s unclear if the financial ramifications of a holdout would be enough to make him change his mind.

In the meantime, the club has added Blake Bortles to the quarterback room. Bortles could theoretically open the season as Green Bay’s starting QB if Rodgers is traded or refuses to play and if the team does not believe Love is ready to take the reins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL News & NFL Rumors