NFC Notes: Falcons, Bryant, Vikings, Vedvik, Cardinals, Crabtree

The Falcons had one of the most stable kicking situations in the league until this year. Matt Bryant had been the team’s kicker for the past ten seasons before they finally decided to move on and cut him back in February. The team had Giorgio Tavecchio all set to replace him, but Tavecchio has faltered during the preseason. In response, Atlanta went out and signed Blair Walsh to provide some competition for him. Now we’ve learned Walsh wasn’t the only kicker they kicked the tires on.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team discussed bringing Bryant back before ultimately going with Walsh, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Ledbetter notes that Quinn said it will be an open competition now between Tavecchio and Walsh. Bryant has kicked in the league since 2002, but the 44-year-old has been unable to find a new gig. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and was usually a reliable option, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Falcons reach back out midseason if whoever they roll with to start the year slips up.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Speaking of kicking controversies, it sounds like the Vikings might have one on their hands. Minnesota traded a fifth-round pick to the Ravens for Kaare Vedvik, seemingly putting the issue to rest. Vedvik then missed his first two field goal attempts as a Viking in their most recent preseason game, prompting head coach Mike Zimmer to say he has a “high” level of concern about the position, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com. “I honestly don’t know” what the team will do now, Zimmer said. “Since we brought Vedvik in, Wile has been punting good and Bailey has been kicking good, and then Vedvik goes out there and misses field goals. I don’t know. I’m at a loss on that.” Vedvik was initially expected to handle both punting and kicking duties, and now it sounds like he might not even make the team. Dan Bailey seemed like he was soon to be out of a job last week, but he’s been given new life now. This will be a situation to monitor during the team’s fourth and final preseason game.
  • The Cardinals signed receiver Michael Crabtree a few days ago, and now we have the details on his contract. Crabtree got a one-year deal worth $3.25MM that can be upped to $5.5MM if he hits incentives, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Crabtree originally visited with the Cards weeks ago, but a potential deal was called off over a disagreement about compensation. Arizona reportedly offered him a one-year, $2.5MM deal the first time around, so they upped their offer by $750K in base value.
  • In case you missed it, Lions starting linebacker Jarrad Davis will miss some regular season time with a high ankle sprain.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/25/19

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

  • Released with an injury settlement: OL Garrett McGhin

Green Bay Packers

  • Claimed off waivers from Ravens: LB Nicholas Grigsby
  • Signed: LB James Folston, CB Jocquez Kalili

Houston Texans

  • Signed: OT Christian DiLauro

More Fallout From Andrew Luck’s Retirement

Earlier this morning, we brought you all the fallout from Andrew Luck‘s shocking decision to retire. Not surprisingly given how big of an event it was, there’s now even more fallout to cover. One of the nuggets we heard earlier was how the Colts weren’t going to try to recoup any of the money from Luck’s contract that they could’ve under the CBA. If they had chosen to, they apparently wouldn’t have faced too much resistance.

Luck “was open to returning at least a portion of the money that had been paid to him,” a source told Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. Colts owner Jim Irsay ultimately declined, and let Luck keep a whopping $24.8MM that he could’ve gotten back. Robinson speculates that Irsay could’ve made the call as a gesture of “good will that keeps a door open should Luck ever recuperate physically and hope to return to the NFL.” That’s certainly a reasonable take considering Irsay not very subtly indicated he was hoping Luck would change his mind during his own press conference.

Here’s the latest on everything related to Luck:

  • There’s been some slight confusion over the timeline of Luck’s decision, and Stephen Holder of The Athletic sought to clear the air (Twitter link). After speaking with sources, Holder writes that he is “now even more convinced in the timeline that Luck and Colts laid out last night. Luck was working toward a return and the Colts fully expected that return to happen.” There have been some rumblings that Luck was considering walking away further back, but Holder doesn’t believe that to be the case.
  • If Luck does want to come back, it isn’t going to be in 2019. The Colts have officially placed him on the reserve/retired list, which means Luck would have to clear waivers to come back this season, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). As Garafolo points out, that would never happen. Rumors will likely swirl for years to come about a potential Luck comeback, but the door seems to be slammed shut on 2019 at the very least.
  • It was only a matter of time before someone brought this up. In an article from early this afternoon, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com floats the possibility of Luck playing in the XFL. The reason this connection was always going to be made by somebody is that Luck’s father, Oliver Luck, is the commissioner of Vince McMahon’s upstart league. Florio himself acknowledges the idea is far-fetched, and it’s hard to imagine any scenario that it happens even though the ten-game season would be less taxing on his body. For starters, Luck would have to receive permission from the Colts to play in another league since he’s still under contract, and that seems extremely unlikely to say the least.
  • Luck’s sudden retirement sent shockwaves around the league. To get a sense of what other organizations were feeling, Mike Sando of The Athletic talked to coaches and executives around the league about his decision. One exec compared Luck’s handling of the situation favorably to the way Brett Favre handled his multiple retirements. “Completely healthy, Favre makes the Packers wait, he’s down in Mississippi, he’s taking private jets and has trouble deciding, and finally they trade him,” the exec said. “Luck was straining through rehab and probably going to all the meetings. He had to face the cameras and get booed instead of keeping it quiet and making the decision after the season if he has to sit out. This is much more courageous. This is what defines him.”

 

Dolphins Release S T.J. McDonald

Surprising news out of Miami, as the Dolphins announced on Twitter that they’re releasing veteran safety T.J. McDonald

The move came as a surprise to most writers covering the team, and they won’t save a ton of money by cutting him. McDonald still had $3.7MM of his $5.1MM salary guaranteed for this season, and Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets that they added $4.6MM in dead cap while saving just $1.4MM in cap space. Last we heard, McDonald had been receiving starters’ reps in training camp. It’s been widely speculated that the Dolphins were heading for a split with safety Reshad Jones, although this move might suggest that Jones is safe.

We heard just yesterday that Jones was being shopped in trade talks, but now it’s unclear if that’s still the case. The Dolphins also have been using Bobby McCain at safety, and they have last year’s first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick as well. McDonald originally entered the league as a third round pick of the Rams back in 2013. After spending his first four seasons in with the Rams, the USC product signed with Miami.

He was suspended for eight games prior to his first year with the Dolphins, but he still managed to make a strong impression with the team. Before he ever appeared in a game for them, they gave him a four-year, $24MM extension in September of 2017. The old regime of Adam Gase and Mike Tannebaum was always high on him, but things have clearly changed with Miami’s new leadership. McDonald is still only 28, and he should have no problem finding a new home on the open market. He started 14 games for the Dolphins last year, recording 86 tackles and three interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams LB Josh Carraway Tears Achilles, OL Aaron Neary Fractures Ankle

The Rams’ depth took a blow in their most recent preseason game. Linebacker Josh Carraway tore his Achilles while offensive lineman Aaron Neary fractured an ankle, per Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com (Twitter link). 

Both players will now undergo surgery and miss the entire 2019 season. As Thiry points out, they were both fighting to make the team. Neary was suspended for the first four games of the season back in June, which wasn’t going to help his cause of making the initial 53, although it’s a moot point now. Neary originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Broncos back in 2016.

He started for the Rams at center back in Week 17 of 2017, the only regular season appearance of his career so far. He’s spent most of the past two seasons on the Rams’ practice squad. The Rams are going with unproven second-year player Brian Allen as their starting center this year, and now they’re pretty thin at the position.

Carraway was drafted in the seventh round by the Titans in 2017. He spent some time on the active roster but only appeared in one game. After langing on Washington’s practice squad last year, he signed with the Rams back in May. A productive pass-rusher at TCU, Carraway was facing an uphill battle to make the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Add RB Robert Martin, Make Other Minor Moves

The Patriots have signed RB Robert Martin and LB Scooby Wright, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss (Twitter links). Both players practiced with the team today.

Martin, who spent 2014-17 at Rutgers, will add depth for New England, as Damien Harris is dealing with minor injuries and the team isn’t likely to play any of its top running backs in its fourth preseason contest. The franchise worked out former Washington State running back James Williams before signing Martin, as Doug Kyed of NESN relays.

Wright was a seventh-round pick in the 2016 draft. He’s played for the Browns and Cardinals in addition to briefly playing in the failed AAF league.

New England waived DE/OLB Keionta Davis and placed special teamer Brandon King on injured reserve to accommodate the signings.

Patriots To Cut WR Maurice Harris

After some initially encouraging signs Maurice Harris would make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, the veteran wide receiver received word he will be released. The Pats are cutting another recent addition, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

Harris has dealt with a recent leg injury, and the Patriots have seen both Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas re-emerge in their plans. Gordon returned to practice on Sunday; Thomas is now off the Pats’ active/PUP list. An injury settlement may well be how this ends, with Harris being limited in recent days.

A former Redskins UDFA out of Cal, the 26-year-old wideout signed a one-year Pats deal for the league minimum. He caught 28 passes for 304 yards last season in Washington, his first campaign with north of 100 receiving yards. But the Pats subsequently added promising UDFA Jakobi Meyers and received word of another Gordon reinstatement. The team also re-signed Phillip Dorsett, making Harris’ roster path more complicated.

The Pats have a much higher-profile receiving corps now than they did to start the offseason, with two Pro Bowlers, a Super Bowl MVP and two first-round picks set to make the team. Harris joins Bruce Ellington and Dontrelle Inman as 2019 UFA wideout additions (Dorsett and N’Keal Harry) the defending Super Bowl champions jettisoned before Week 1.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals To Place WR Hakeem Butler On IR

The hand fracture Hakeem Butler suffered will end his rookie season early. Butler will be placed on the Cardinals’ IR list, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

Butler will not be carried through to the Cardinals’ 53-man roster and will instead be placed on IR now. He will be out for the season. The fourth-round pick suffered an avulsion fracture recently and was expected to be out until at least October. His first season will now become a developmental year of sorts.

The Cardinals appeared to prepare for this by signing Michael Crabtree. They drafted two other receivers — Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson — and have Christian Kirk back to reprise his role as Larry Fitzgerald‘s top sidekick.

An Iowa State product, Butler broke out in 2018 with the Cyclones. He posted 1,318 yards and nine touchdown receptions. For a Cardinals team that has a 36-year-old wideout playing on a year-to-year basis, Butler still profiles as a key player in the long term.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Elliott Extension Now Cowboys’ Top Priority

Entering the offseason with several high-profile players eligible for extensions, the Cowboys still have their big three on offense attached to rookie deals. But Amari Cooper has voiced no issue with playing into a contract year, and Jerry Jones said he has no concern about Dak Prescott doing the same.

Jones said the Cowboys only have to have Ezekiel Elliott signed before Week 1, per Ed Werder of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Elliott has been a holdout since the Cowboys began training camp.

While Cooper has a guaranteed fifth-year option of $13.9MM, Prescott is only set to make $2MM this season. The fourth-year quarterback obviously stands to earn a lucrative contract at some point in the near future, but signing before the season would give him a chance to avoid having to play a fourth season on a Round 4 contract. Prescott, though, has been resolute during this lengthy negotiation. He voiced opposition to a potential team-friendly deal and is believed to have declined a $30MM-AAV proposal.

Elliott has two seasons left on his deal, but the high-volume back (NFL-most 1,003 touches since 2016, getting there in just 40 games) has prioritized an extension before an age-24 season that will also stand to feature an extensive workload. There has not been any recent movement between the Cowboys and the two-time rushing champion. Two weeks before Dallas’ opener, Elliott remains in Mexico training away from the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals To Release Andre Branch

Andre Branch‘s Cardinals stay did not last too long. The team will release the veteran defensive end less than a month after signing him, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The Cardinals signed the former Jaguars and Dolphins edge player shortly after training camp began. After the Dolphins cut Branch earlier this offseason, the Cards were the only team to bring him in for a visit or workout. He combined for 10 sacks between the 2016-17 seasons but registered just 1.5 in 14 games last season.

This stands to be Branch’s age-30 season. The Cards added Terrell Suggs and Brooks Reed as Chandler Jones sidekick options. They also claimed Jeff Holland, who came to Denver as a UDFA during Vance Joseph‘s stay, with their No. 1 overall waiver priority.

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