Month: September 2018

Extra Points: Payton, Ryan, Harbaugh, Panthers

Saints‘ head coach Sean Payton disputed reports that the team was considering signing Ray Rice, reports Evan Woodbery of NOLA.com (via Twitter). “I think I would know if I were interested in signing any player,” said Payton.

  • While Payton was dismissing rumors, he also shot down any idea that there was a rift between himself and Saints‘ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, reports Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
  • Jets‘ head coach Rex Ryan may be on his way out as coach of the team, but he will likely have his pick of jobs if he decides to leave coaching in 2015, writes Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated“He pretty much has everything TV networks would look for. He has personality, he’s not shy about his opinions, and he’s a colorful character,” said ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman, the executive in charge of hiring ESPN’s NFL studio talent. “I think he would be successful whether it is studio or doing games. When I close my eyes and listen to him I hear a little bit of John Madden in him. There is going to be a lot of interest in Rex if that is what he wants to do.”
  • 49ers‘ head coach Jim Harbaugh may also be looking for a new job in 2015, but the general thought is that he would like to continue coaching, either in the NFL or in a high-level college job. One NFL team that could consider him a savior would be the crosstown rival Raiders, writes Marcus Thompson II of InsideBayArea.com.
  • Coming off a disappointing 31-13 loss to the Vikings, the Panthers are sitting at 3-8-1 and only a game and a half out of first place in the depressing NFC South. Still, the team should be looking toward the future, not toward the playoffs, writes Joseph Person of Charlotte Observer. The team is weak in key spots, including the secondary and offensive line, with few bright spots elsewhere in the lineup. The roster needs to be fixed before this team can make a true playoff run.

Browns Could Move Forward With Manziel

After a strong start to the NFL season, Brian Hoyer has cooled off considerably in recent weeks. He threw eight touchdowns to only two interceptions in the first seven games of the season, as the team stayed in contention in the AFC North.

Since then, he has thrown only three touchdowns to eight interceptions. The Browns are still in the hunt in the AFC, but after playing horribly in a loss to the Bills earlier today, Hoyer was benched by head coach Mike Pettine. First-round pick Johnny Manziel promptly took over, completing five of his eight passes and adding a rushing touchdown.

Now that Manziel has seen the field as the leader of the huddle, it may be difficult to put him back on the sidelines. Hoyer’s play has not done much to convince the organization otherwise in recent weeks. Still, Pettine will wait until Wednesday to announce the starter heading into next week’s game against the Colts, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (via Twitter).

The moment wasn’t too big for Manziel, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. His poise in the moment makes him the frontrunner for the starting job the rest of the season. “It’s a football decision,” said Pettine. “Nothing else will factor into it, just pure football.”

Peter King of Sports Illustrated agrees that it is time for Manziel (via Twitter). With only four games left and the playoffs on the line, the team needs a spark if it plans on grabbing either the division title or a wild card berth.

Manziel is prepared for the opportunity to get his first NFL start, writes Jeff Schudel of the Morning Journal“That’s obviously up to Coach Pettine and some higher people than me in this organization,” Manziel said. “But if that’s the case and my name is called, I’ll definitely be ready.”

Hoyer was obviously unhappy with the prospect of losing his job midway through the season, according to Schudel“Obviously you never want to see someone else doing your job, but it’s the coach’s decision,” Hoyer said. “I mean this is my team and I’ve always felt that way. We’ll see what happens.”

Despite the recent rough times, Hoyer still supports the Browns’ playoff chances for the stretch run. “I just keep pressing on,” Hoyer continued. “I’m not the one that makes the decision. I’m not going to just hang my head and feel sorry for myself. We have four games left, and whatever Coach decides to do, I’ll be here to support this team.”

Rams Only A Quarterback Away From Contention

After a 52-0 blowout victory over the Raiders on Sunday afternoon, the Rams improved to 5-7 on the season. Remembering that the team lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford before the season began, the team has been very impressive competing in one of the toughest divisions in football.

Playing the way they have in 2014 with a combination of Shaun Hill and Austin Davis, the Rams have a lot to be proud of and more importantly, a lot to look forward to in 2015, writes Nick Wagoner of ESPN. The club has signature wins against the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers, with very close and competitive losses against the Eagles, Chargers, and Cowboys.

The team has already put together an impressive defense full of first-round picks. The defensive line has a cornerstone, with Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers, and Aaron Donald all developing exceptionally and providing a foundation for the team. Beyond the line, the team also has seen strides from linebacker Alec Ogletree, and has gotten solid play from 2009 second-round pick James Laurinaitis.

The Rams also have hope for former first-round pick Mark Barron, who was acquired via trade with the Buccaneers. Add to that a young secondary that needs to be more consistent, and the defense should only improve next season.

On offense is where the surprises have come. Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, and Stedman Bailey have all improved as the season has progressed, turning from a meager group of wideouts into a set of players who are able to make plays down the field. Third-round pick Tre Mason has set himself up to be the running back of the future, showing game-breaking speed to go along with the ability to be a lead back and absorb a heavy workload.

As long as the offensive line does not regress, it can be solid enough to round out the team, especially if second-overall pick Greg Robinson makes the leap as the left tackle next season.

Neither Hill nor Davis will likely be the starter going into 2015. If the Rams solve their quarterback problem, they could see an uptick in wins next season, and could compete in the tough NFC West. Their fifth win of the season will likely catapult them out of a top-10 pick, and move them out of the running for Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. If those two are selected before the Rams’ pick arrives, they might not have another passer on the board worth taking.

That will leave the team to search out other options at the position. There are some current NFL players who may be looking for starting jobs in 2015. Robert Griffin III might be on the outs with Washington, and Mark Sanchez may be playing his way into a starting job as well if the Eagles decide not to retain his services. Brian Hoyer played well for stretches early this season, but may not be wanted back in Cleveland.

Either way, this team more than most might be only one player away from the playoffs. Unfortunately, that player may not be very easy to find.

East Notes: Hughes, Coughlin, Harbaugh

Set to enter unrestricted free agency in March, Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes is enjoying his typically (since joining Buffalo) excellent season, posting 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and grading as the 15th-best 4-3 defensive end among 55 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). As Tim Graham of the Buffalo News writes, both club and player will only guardedly discuss the possibility of an extension. Buffalo management claims it wants to retain Hughes, and Hughes says he’s simply concentrating on football. Still, Graham posits that a $10MM average annual value isn’t out of the question for the pass-rusher. Here are some more notes from the East divisions…

  • The Giants 25-24 loss to the Jaguars today probably signaled the end of head coach Tom Coughlin’s reign, argues Jordan Raanan of NJ.com. New York could secure a top-five selection in next year’s draft depending on the rest of the season’s outcome, and clubs picking that high often choose to undergo a complete overhaul. As Raanan writes, it would be odd to hit the reset button while still employing a 69-year-old head coach.
  • Taking the same tack as Raanan above, ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano also believes the Giants need to start at square one, but places more of the blame for 2014’s failures on the shoulders of general manager Jerry Reese. Reese, writes Graziano, provided Coughlin with a roster that was even worse than last season’s, although Coughlin and his assistants did fail to “regenerate the roster from within.”
  • Following today’s report that the Jets could be interested in 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com wonders what a Harbaugh-to-NY move would mean for current GM John Idzik. Harbaugh would presumably would control over the roster if he does take over another team, meaning Idzik, whose work has been maligned this season, could be in trouble.
  • Jeremy Maclin is a free agent at season’s end, and according to Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer, he’s been a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s locker room culture, meaning that the veteran receiver could be a good bet to return to the Eagles in 2015.

Injury Updates: Sunday

Let’s take a look at some injuries that could force clubs to make a change to their rosters as they enter the final quarter of the regular season:

  • Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel suffered a triceps injury during today’s game against the Saints, meaning his season could be in jeopardy, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). Keisel, 36, contemplated retirement before re-signing with Pittsburgh earlier this year, so if this injury is serious, it could potentially signal the end of his career.
  • Receiver DeSean Jackson had to leave Washington’s game against the Colts after bruising his right fibula, but X-rays didn’t show any broken bones, per Zac Boyer of the Washington Times. Jackson, who allowed that he was in pain, called himself day-to-day.
  • In the same game, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis was forced to leave after suffering a concussion, writes Mike Wells of ESPN.com. Davis will presumably enter the league’s concussion protocol, which immediately leaves his Week 14 status in doubt.
  • Titans receiver Justin Hunter suffered an alarming injury today, as he lacerated his spleen against the Texans, tweets Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. He will remain in the hospital overnight.
  • Another receiver was sent to the hospital today, as Browns pass-catcher Miles Austin had to leave the field in a stretcher after suffering abdominal pain, per Tony Grossi of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • The Cardinals lost three starters during today’s game, as running back Andre Ellington (hip), defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (thumb) and guard Paul Fanaika (ankle) all left Arizona’s contest against the Falcons and were soon declared out for the day, the team announced on Twitter.

Updates On Players Traded At Deadline

The trade deadline passed a little over a month ago, and while the NFL never sees the level of activity that do other sports, there were several notable players dealt. With 33 days worth of observation, we can begin to assess how certain trades have worked out for the acquiring teams, and if the players involved will remain on their new clubs’ rosters for the long term. Using our list of 2014 NFL trades, here’s a look at the four deals that occurred within a month of the October 28 deadline:

Jets WR Percy Harvin (acquired from Seahawks on 10/18):

  • After sending a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick to Seattle for Harvin, the Jets have employed their new weapon on roughly 68.3% of their offensive snaps. He’s responded by catching 18 passes on 32 targets, totaling 176 yards; he’s also rushed the ball 11 times. New York has utilized Harvin on special teams as well, where he’s returned 11 kickoffs, averaging nearly 24 yards per return. The Jets are turning back to Geno Smith at quarterback, so perhaps the club will use the final five games to determine if Harvin meshes with the second-year QB (although it’s far from guaranteed that Smith will return as the starter next season). Because it acquired Harvin via trade, New York isn’t responsible for any of his prorated bonus money, meaning the club essentially holds a year-to-year option on the receiver. The 26-year-old is owed nearly $10MM in 2015 base salary, and given the Jets’ abundance of cap room, I’d tentatively expect them to retain Harvin.

Patriots LB Akeem Ayers (acquired from Titans on 10/22):

  • It’s odd to think that a player who seemingly couldn’t find a place on the defense of a 2-5 team could immediately slot in as a contributor to one of the best defensive units in the league, but that’s what happened with Ayers, whom the Patriots acquired for just a 2015 sixth-round pick. Ayers, a 2011 second-rounder, has already notched three sacks in only four games with New England. He’s played on about 72.7% of the the Pats’ defensive snaps, after seeing action in just one game (10 snaps) with Tennessee. Ayers is still just 25 years old, and though it’s only been a month since the trade, it looks like the Titans may have given up on a player with untapped potential. Ayers will hit unrestricted free agency after the season.

Patriots LB Jonathan Casillas (acquired from Buccaneers on 10/28):

  • Casillas hasn’t had nearly the impact in New England that has Ayers, as he’s played on less than 16% of defensive snaps. That number is a bit skewed however, as his role has been slowly growing each week — after playing just one snap in his Patriots debut, he saw action on 12 and 22 snaps in Weeks 11 and 12, respectively. Casillas, 27, is a reserve on a talented linebacking corps that includes Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Ayers, so while he might not play much, he could be a valuable piece if a starter suffers an injury. New England actually gave up more (a 2015 fifth-round pick) for Casillas than they did for Ayers; like Ayers, Casillas will be a free agent at season’s end.

Rams S Mark Barron (acquired from Buccaneers on 10/28):

  • Barron garnered the highest draft pick compensation of any of the four players traded near the deadline, as the Rams surrendered 2015 fourth- and sixth-round picks to acquire the 25-year-old defensive back. After playing on nearly half of St. Louis’ defensive snaps in Week 10, his role has been drastically reduced — he saw time on just 25 of 136 snaps during Weeks 11 and 12. Barron, the seventh overall pick in 2012, seems to have fallen behind both T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod on the Rams’ depth chart. He’s under contract for 2015 at a base salary of roughly $2.363MM. St. Louis holds a 2016 option on Barron, but if his playing time doesn’t increase, it could signal that the club doesn’t view him as a integral part of its future.

AFC Notes: Ray Rice, Colts, Broncos, Locker

Let’s look at the latest from around the AFC…

  • We learned earlier today that the Colts are one of four clubs that have expressed interest in free agent running back Ray Rice, but ESPN.com’s Mike Wells argues that the backlash from adding Rice would be too great for Indianapolis to withstand. The Colts recently lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the rest of the season, and fellow RB Trent Richardson is also dealing with injuries. Head coach Chuck Pagano is familiar with Rice from the duo’s time in Baltimore, but it doesn’t seem like a reunion is likely.
  • Meanwhile, Denver makes sense as a potential destination for Rice (at least on paper), as the Broncos’ running back situation has been in flux all year. Injuries to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman have clouded the backfield pecking order, and though C.J. Anderson is thriving as the new starter, Denver could conceivably use a veteran presence. However, sources tell Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that the Broncos have no interest in Rice; with just six regular season games remaining, Rice wouldn’t have much time to pick up Denver’s offense.
  • More on the Rice front, as Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun writes that although teams have declared interest in Rice, sources say that “nothing concrete has developed quickly.”
  • There will undoubtedly be several head coaching jobs available during the offseason, and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe identifies a few candidates for those positions by examining which assistant coaches have performed the best in 2014. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, and Dolphins OC Bill Lazor are among the coordinators singled out by Volin.
  • Titans quarterback Jake Locker entered today’s game following an injury to Zach Mettenberger, and completed just six of 12 passes for 93 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He’s a free agent after the season, and Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap wonders (via Twitter) if Locker will be able to secure any guaranteed money on his next contract, or whether he’ll be forced to attend a training camp as something of a “tryout” player.

PFR Originals: 11/23/14 – 11/30/14

The original content produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

  • With the offseason roughly two months away, Luke Adams looked at the 16 teams who are facing decisions at the quarterback position.
  • Rob DiRe asked which veteran running back is the best option for the Cowboys in 2015, and about 46% of voters thought that Adrian Peterson would fit well in Dallas.
  • Luke wondered which disappointing team will end up with the first overall pick in next year’s draft, and the majority of readers thought the Raiders have the inside track at the No. 1 selection. Thanks for voting!
  • Luke also listed the numerous features that can be found at PFR, from our new Trade Rumors app to our early work on 2015 free agency.

Week In Review: 11/23/14 – 11/30/14

The headlines from the past week at PFR:

Key News:

Signed:

Claimed Off Waivers:

Waived:

Major Injuries:

Sunday Roundup: Brees, Bucs, Revis

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that he expects the Saints to draft a quarterback in the early rounds of the 2015 draft as they begin to prepare for life after Drew Brees. On top of Brees’ struggles this season, Rapoport adds (via Twitter) that the Saints have watched the 35-year-old’s arm strength wane and therefore must be “prepared for the end.” Former agent Joel Corry, perhaps wondering if New Orleans would go so far as to release Brees after this season, tweets that the All-Pro carries a $26.4MM cap number for 2015 and the Saints have a league-high $161MM in 2015 cap commitments.

However, Rapoport notes (via Twitter) that releasing Brees after 2014 would create $15MM of dead money, a figure that becomes much more palatable if he were to be released following the 2015 season. As such, Rapoport believes it would be better for the Saints to simply draft Brees’ heir apparent and allow him to learn from Brees for at least one season.

Others, though, are more skeptical of Brees’ demise and of the Saints’ ability to draft a suitable replacement in short order. In a pair of tweets, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com writes that the Saints may well draft a quarterback this season, but the team does not feel as though Brees is in a steep decline, that a rookie would have to wait at least two years to be ready to lead the New Orleans offense, and that Brees has never relied on a big arm to be successful, so reports of diminished arm strength are not especially relevant. Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, meanwhile, tweets that the Saints will be hard-pressed to find their future quarterback in this year’s draft.

Now for a few more links from around the league:

  • Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune says it is not too soon to accept that the Buccaneers made a mistake with their offseason signings of Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson, whose futures in Tampa Bay are now very much in doubt. Although the Bucs have a little more flexibility with Collins than with Johnson, who would be owed a $4MM roster bonus on March 1 in addition to a $5MM base salary in 2015 (of which $3MM is guaranteed), Tampa Bay could realistically cut both players outright. Regardless of what the Bucs do, they will likely seek upgrades at offensive tackle and defensive end via the draft rather than dive once more into the free agency pool.
  • Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald believes the Patriots should retain star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has been a central figure of the team’s successful 2014 campaign, at all costs.
  • Tony Boselli, the former Jaguars great who was drafted by current Giants head coach Tom Coughlin when Coughlin was with Jacksonville, says that the Jaguars’ firing of Coughlin was a “huge mistake,” writes Conor Orr of NFL.com. Boselli believes the Giants would be similarly misguided if they were to fire Coughlin without allowing him to coach through the end of his contract, which expires after the 2015 season.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Washington has not spoken with Robert Griffin III regarding his fifth-year option. Although a decision does not have to be made on that option until May, it does not appear as though the team will exercise it at this point.
  • Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports tweets that 49ers DB Perrish Cox, who is in a contract year, has signed with agent David Mulugheta.
  • Though we heard earlier today from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Jets and Raiders were interested in pursuing 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh via trade after the season, Schefter does note that some in the organization believe the team could still work out an extension with Harbaugh.
  • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that the Rams have improved under Jeff Fisher and appear to be on the cusp of being a competitive club, but the histories of Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer suggest that St. Louis, which has primarily utilized a conservative ball control offense, will not take the next step unless it somehow lands an elite quarterback.