Broncos Considering Drew Lock IR Stay

After ceding his Ravens job to Lamar Jackson last season, Joe Flacco does not look to be in danger of a demotion in Denver. Drew Lock‘s injury timetable may be longer than initially anticipated.

Expected to need at least five weeks of recovery time before he can resume throwing, Lock is now a candidate for the Broncos’ IR list. Vic Fangio acknowledged (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold) that is in play for the second-round pick. Lock suffered a “fairly serious” sprain against the 49ers on Monday and said Thursday he is not sure when he will be able to throw again.

Should Lock land on IR to start the season, after being carried through to the Broncos’ 53-man roster, he would need to remain there for a minimum of eight regular-season weeks. That would use up one of Denver’s two IR-return slots. The team also will have running backs Andy Janovich and Theo Riddick sidelined into the season. Both are expected to return from injury fairly early in the regular season, so they don’t profile as IR candidates at this point.

This injury would stand to stunt Lock’s growth, and while it clears the way for Flacco to potentially start the whole season, Denver’s new starting quarterback has dealt with maladies in three of the past four seasons. A torn ACL ended Flacco’s 2015 campaign, a back injury limited him in the 2017 offseason, and a hip problem brought Jackson into Baltimore’s 2018 lineup. Flacco will not play in the Broncos’ fourth preseason game, with Fangio set to sit most of his starters then and in the team’s fifth and final August contest.

As was the case last season, Kevin Hogan is now expected to be the Broncos’ backup. The Broncos used Lock as their No. 2 passer in recent practices and in Monday’s game. They have rookie UDFA Brett Rypien as well, but the Boise State product did not play in either of the team’s past two preseason games and profiles more as a practice squad stash.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Cowboys’ Contract Situation

We’ve nearly reached the daily-update stage of the Cowboys’ contract matrix. Even after the team extended Jaylon Smith, who would have been a 2020 RFA, its three stars remain on rookie contracts. With no news of Amari Cooper progress coming, and the fifth-year wide receiver indicating comfort in playing out a contract year, we will limit this to Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott hypotheses.

Both marquee Cowboys have been in the news constantly this month. Multiple reports pegged Prescott as turning down a $30MM-per-year deal, with another indicating he wants to surpass Russell Wilson‘s $35MM-AAV mark to become the NFL’s highest-paid player. Elliott, meanwhile, returned to Mexico after a Jerry Jones joke that did not go over well. Elliott’s holdout is nearing a month. Will the Cowboys resolve these situations by Week 1?

Dallas has done well to take care of its homegrown players in recent years. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are all on long-term contracts. The Cowboys extended DeMarcus Lawrence and Dez Bryant as well and just gave Smith $19MM fully guaranteed. But the team has angled for its current batch of standouts to take less for the greater good. Judging by Prescott’s comments on that subject this summer, and Elliott remaining in Mexico despite receiving an offer reportedly north of the Le’Veon BellDavid Johnson tier, the players do not look to have this strategy in mind.

Prescott is entering his contract year, doing so in the same type of situation Wilson did four years ago. After he drove a hard bargain all summer, the Seahawks quarterback signed an August extension rather than play on a third-round salary for a fourth season. A 2016 fourth-round pick, Prescott faces the prospect of a $2MM 2019 salary.

Elliott is under contract for two more seasons, thanks to the fifth-year option, but he’s accumulated a historic workload and may not be in as strong of a negotiating position next year were he to go through 2019 on a similar pace. Elliott’s holdout makes sense from that perspective, and he does not intend to play another down on his rookie contract. Despite Jones talking up rookie Tony Pollard, Elliott is a two-time rushing champion and has been essential in the Cowboys’ recent success.

The Cowboys also have Byron Jones and La’el Collins entering contract years, though the team having drafted Connor Williams and Connor McGovern may be a sign Collins will be allowed to test free agency. The defending NFC East champions have amassed perhaps their best talent core since their 1990s group, but the steps toward retaining it long-term have been elusive (and frustrating?) for the franchise. Although Jones remains confident in deals being finalized, we are now within two weeks of opening night.

How will the Cowboys proceed with Elliott and Prescott? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/22/19

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Indianapolis Colts

New York Jets

East Rumors: Cowboys, Patriots, Copeland

The Jaylon Smith extension tethers the emerging linebacker to the Cowboys through the 2025 season, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes the deal will give 24-year-old standout $19MM fully guaranteed at signing. Both this figure and Smith’s AAV ($12.5MM) place him sixth among off-ball linebackers, giving this pact a win-win feel for the Cowboys and a player who recovered from a serious injury to move into lucrative extension position.

Smith will be 30 by the time this contract expires but will only be 27 by the time the guarantees stop in 2022. The deal contains a $5.17MM base salary for 2020, which is fully guaranteed, and a $7.2MM base for 2021. This contract includes injury guarantees for both Smith’s 2021 and 2022 base salaries — $7.2MM and $9.2MM, respectively — and those become full guarantees on the fifth day of each year. Additionally, the deal contains a $500K de-escalator, Florio adds. This will take effect if Smith fails to show for 90% of Dallas’ offseason workouts.

The Cowboys still have the same four key UFAs-to-be as they did to start the week — Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones and La’el Collins — and Ezekiel Elliott remains a holdout. But the team checked off a key piece of its complicated contract checklist in locking down Smith, who would have been a 2020 RFA.

Here is the latest from the East divisions:

  • More good news for the Patriots‘ wide receiver situation. Demaryius Thomas came off the active/PUP list, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. This marks a key step for the former Pro Bowler. Thomas is not a lock to make New England’s 53-man roster and can no longer be stashed on the team’s reserve/PUP list to start the season. With Thomas unlikely to play in New England’s fourth preseason game, he has a short time to prove he belongs on the final roster. But the Pats taking him off their PUP list leads NESN.com’s Doug Kyed to project the 31-year-old target will be one of the 53-man unit’s receivers.
  • Josh Gordon‘s return obviously strengthens the Pats’ receiving corps, but it will make their roster crunch more difficult. Gordon, Thomas, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, rookie Jakobi Meyers, Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris will not all be on the Pats’ 53-man roster, and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe looks to have Harris on the wrong side of the bubble (Twitter link). The former Redskins auxiliary cog signed with the Pats in free agency and impressed early in camp, but he’s dealing with a leg injury presently. The recent developments involving higher-profile players may push him back to free agency.
  • Brandon Copeland issued a denial in knowingly taking a banned substance, via Instagram. While this could be expected, given how post-PED fallouts usually unfold, the Jets linebacker is out four games. This further thins out the Jets’ edge defender crew, which was already a weak spot for the AFC’s Big Apple franchise. Copeland registered five sacks last season.

Chargers To Place Derwin James On IR

Derwin James underwent foot surgery on Thursday, and the second-year Chargers safety will soon have a clearer timeline. The Chargers will place the All-Pro talent on IR before Week 1, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

The Bolts will carry James through to their 53-man roster, making him eligible for one of their two IR-return slots. Were the Chargers to place James on IR before finalizing their 53-man unit, he would be out for the season. With James on IR after roster cutdown day, the Bolts will have to play at least two months without him.

That lines up with James’ timetable. He is expected to need at least three months to recover from the stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot, making an IR stay logical. He will not be eligible to return from IR until Week 9, and if this recovery timeline is accurate, it may be further into the season before the Chargers have their back-line chess piece available again.

While the Chargers will obviously miss their do-it-all defender, they re-signed All-Pro special-teamer/hybrid linebacker Adrian Phillips in March and drafted Nasir Adderley in the second round a month later.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Not Interested In Trent Williams?

The Patriots have been loosely connected to Trent Williams during the Redskins tackle’s holdout, but it does not look like they will be making a play for the seven-time Pro Bowler.

This does not appear to be a destination for Williams, with Field Yates of ESPN.com reporting (on Twitter) the defending Super Bowl champions are not interested in the 10th-year veteran.

New England obviously made a substantial recent investment at left tackle, taking Isaiah Wynn with 2018’s No. 23 overall pick. Wynn has spent the offseason recovering from a torn Achilles and return to game action in the Pats’ second preseason contest, playing 19 snaps Saturday against the Titans. He started at left tackle. That remains the team’s ideal course of action.

Multiple reports Thursday had the Patriots being willing to surrender a first-round pick for Williams, and the Redskins spurning the offer (Twitter links). This would be quite the return for Washington, were a team to make that proposal. Yates, however, refutes the notion such an offer arrived. The Redskins have held firm on Williams, who has two years left on his contract, and signed Donald Penn as insurance. He and 2018 third-round pick Geron Christian are battling for Washington’s left tackle job during Williams’ absence.

The Dolphins have reportedly checked in on the 31-year-old holdout, despite employing fourth-year tackle Laremy Tunsil. While the Patriots plan to go with Wynn, they have also been using 6-foot-9 Dan Skipper as a potential option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brian Flores Talks Dolphins’ QB Competition

Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the Dolphins’ third preseason game against the Jaguars, which to some, may be odd given the team is in the rebuilding stages rather than pretending to be a contender. Reports out of Miami’s camp have indicated that both neither Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen has proven to be head-and-shoulders above the other.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was among the reporters to ask coach Brian Flores why the team wouldn’t go with Rosen if the two quarterbacks are close in competition.

“A case could be made [for] playing the older guy,” Flores said. “A case could also be made that the younger guy is not ready. I understand that thought process, but I’m the one dealing with the individual player, and sometimes guys just aren’t ready.

“The whole sink-or-swim mentality, it’s easy for somebody on the outside to say. But for that individual player and the best interests of that individual person, that might not be the case. For those who aren’t in the trenches and dealing with the day to day, they wouldn’t understand that. If a guy is ready, we’ll put him out there. If he’s not, we won’t put him out there. I think that’s the right way to approach it.”

Fitzpatrick has received the majority of first-team snaps this week, if not all of them, Jackson writes. Rosen may or may not see time with the first-string on Thursday. Flores said that the team’s third preseason game will not be the only factor in the decision of who will start come week 1.

Rosen said he doesn’t have any more insight on where he stands than the public does, Jackson relays. The former first-round pick said he’s not focusing on the competition but rather, he’s zeroing in on individual improvement.

Cowboys Make Massive Offer To Ezekiel Elliott

The Cowboys, regardless of Jerrah’s “Zeke who?” charades, value their top running back very much. According to Ed Werder of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Dallas has made an offer to Ezekiel Elliott that would make him one of the two highest-paid running backs in the league.

Todd Gurley, who is the highest paid running back in the league, has an average annual salary of approximately $14.38MM. Le’Veon Bell, who signed a deal this offseason, makes $13.13MM per season and is currently the second highest-paid back by AAV.

It’s been reported that Elliot is looking for a deal with annual values in the $15MM range. It would be surprising if he hits that mark but getting close seems like a realistic outcome given Werder’s report.

Members of the franchise have remained in contract with Elliott throughout his holdout with Jason Garrett describing the conversations as “very positive.”

Eagles, Cardinals Swap S Rudy Ford, DT Bruce Hector

The Eagles and Cardinals have agreed to a trade. Safety Rudy Ford, who was a sixth-round pick in 2017, will head to Philadelphia. Defensive tackle Bruce Hector will head to Arizona, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (Twitter link).

Hector came into the league in 2018 out of the University of South Florida. He was not selected in the 2018 draft but found his way onto the Eagles’ roster, appearing in eight games as a rookie and recording a half-sack. The big man was unlikely to make Philadelphia’s final roster this year.

Ford, who played college ball at Auburn, hasn’t carved out a major role on defense during his two seasons in the league. The 5’11” safety has top level speed and has played on Arizona’s special teams.

Steelers Sign Jayrone Elliott, Waive Lavon Hooks

The Steelers are bringing in linebacker Jayrone Elliott, according to the team’s website. To accommodate the move, the team has waived Lavon Hooks.

Elliot spent most of career with the Packers, appearing in 38 games for the franchise. He’s been a football nomad since Green Bay traded him to the Cowboys in 2017 with Dallas waiving him after just one game. Since then, he’s had stints with the Saints and Dolphins as well as an appearance in the Alliance of American Football league before it shut down.

Hooks tore his Achilles this preseason, which put the writing on the wall for his release. The 27-year-old defensive tackle has yet to play in an NFL game, instead, spending most of his time on practice squads.

NFL News & NFL Rumors