Month: November 2017

Myles Garrett Declares For Draft

Viewed as a strong candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in April, Texas A&M edge defender Myles Garrett will declare for the upcoming draft, according to ESPN.com (Twitter link).

This does not come as a surprise, with the Aggies top prospect already making comments about the kind of NFL city in which he’d like to play. The Browns would not be one of the junior pass-rusher’s preferred destinations, Cleveland being quite cold in certain months, but Garrett has been on the 1-14 team’s radar for a while. The Browns placed an “astronomical” grade on Garrett. A Cleveland loss or 49ers win Sunday gives the Browns the No. 1 selection.

Garrett finished his third season in College Station, Texas, with 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. The 8.5 sacks represent Garrett’s lowest single-season total, although he struggled with an ankle injury this season, but give him 31 for his career. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound performer profiles as a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker. He finishes his college run with 47.5 tackles for loss.

He will be entering as one of the youngest players in the draft, turning 21 just two days ago. Garrett rates behind only Leonard Fournette on ESPN.com draft analyst Todd McShay’s big board (Insider link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, 49ers, Williams

Carson Palmer has attempted to convince Larry Fitzgerald to play for at least one more year, Dan Bickley of the Arizona Daily Republic reports. The 37-year-old quarterback’s having “frequent” conversations with the 33-year-old Cardinals wide receiver regarding his future in the NFL.

This runs counter to what came out of Arizona last week, when neither Palmer nor Arians admitted to making efforts to convince Fitz to return. Fitzgerald said he’s “uncertain” about his future as recently as last week, but he’s put up numbers that indicate he should have some time left as a productive pass-catcher. He’s notched the fourth 100-plus-reception season of his 13-year career and is 20 yards away from his eighth 1,000-yard campaign.

Fitzgerald is under contract through 2017 after signing a preseason extension, one that secured him an $11MM salary for next season. The Cardinals have needed Fitzgerald’s best this season after the other two members in a once-formidable receiving top trio have largely disappointed. Michael Floyd is no longer with the team, and John Brown has often been unavailable due to injuries related to a sickle-cell condition.

Here’s more from the NFC West.

  • A potential Arians retirement has become part of the Cardinals’ news cycle as the team drifted out of contention. But the 64-year-old coach who suffered a health scare earlier this season is not operating like he’s retiring. The fourth-year Arizona leader has begun making offseason plans for the franchise, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reporting Arians is preparing for free agency meetings, the draft and OTAs. A source close to this situation told Florio that everything Arians is saying publicly and privately go against a notion he’s going to step down. Arians himself said last week he’ll be back, and the coach has not been known for mind games since taking the reins in the desert.
  • The 49ers appear to be pulling the plug on the Trent Baalke era after six years, and Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wonders if the team will go after what’s become a successful GM tree started by Ron Wolf. The former Packers executive helped the likes of John Schneider, John Dorsey, Reggie McKenzie and Ted Thompson to their current GM roles. Barrows points to branches beneath these decision-makers as options for the struggling franchise. Barrows names Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard, 31-year-old Eagles scouting director Troy Brown and Seahawks scouting staffer Trent Kirschner as options, along with longtime Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio.
  • Gregg Williams would be open to staying on as Rams DC but doesn’t sound like he thinks that’s going to be in the cards. The 58-year-old defensive boss thanked reporters after Rams practice Friday, per Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, understanding the new coach will likely want to select his own DC. “I don’t have hobbies. I’m happiest at practice; I’m happiest in games,” Williams said. “The coaches and players get fed up with me in the meetings, so we like to get out here. But, yeah, sure. I’m going to coach for as long as I can.” Los Angeles’ defense ranks 10th in the league in Williams’ fourth year in this position.

49ers Expected To Fire Trent Baalke, Chip Kelly

The 49ers are expected to fire both Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly after Sunday’s game as part of “widespread changes” set for this franchise, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Schefter reports both are said to know their time is coming to an end in San Francisco, and the ESPN.com reporter notes meetings about the duo’s fate are expected to occur as early as Sunday night and no later than Monday.

Sources also informed NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport a house-cleaning involving both Baalke and Kelly being fired is likely. Ownership is prepared to eat the rest of Kelly’s four-year contract, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets, and met this week to discuss the roles of Baalke, Kelly and Jed York (Twitter link). Baalke still has two years left on his deal.

York, though, looks to be secure in his position. Schefter reports the CEO, along with executive VP Paraag Marathe, will lead the search for Baalke and Kelly’s successors.

While Baalke has long been rumored to be a chopping-block candidate after six years in charge of the team, a consensus on Kelly had not previously emerged. The coach’s willingness to adjust his accelerated offensive pace and reshuffle his staff — including DC Jim O’Neil — played a role in this decision, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reports.

Should the team make these moves, it would mark the first time in 12 years the 49ers will have needed to replace both a head coach and GM. The 49ers did so when they hired Mike Nolan and Scot McGloughan in 2005. That came after the team finished 2-14 in 2004. If the 49ers drop their Week 17 game, it will mark the fourth 2-14 season in the franchise’s 70-year history. It also represents a staggering freefall from Baalke’s early years.

The Baalke-Jim Harbaugh partnership dominated during the early 2010s, rocketing the franchise to relatively similar heights to which the teams of the 1980s and ’90s soared. San Francisco glided to three straight NFC championship games, came within a Baltimore goal-line stand of winning a sixth Super Bowl title and went 36-11-1 in that three-year span. Harbaugh’s departure after a tumultuous 2014 season marked the beginning of a rapid conclusion of this freefall under the 52-year-old Baalke’s watch, with the 49ers going 7-24 in the Jim Tomsula/Kelly seasons.

Despite being hailed for his fast-paced offense, Kelly’s unit has only moved up two spots in the NFL hierarchy, rising from 31st to 29th. It’s a steep fall for Kelly if he’s fired for the second time in two years. In that same stretch, the 49ers’ defense has diminished much further, slinking from the No. 4-ranked unit in 2015 to the league’s worst this season. At 408.yards allowed per game, the 49ers are the only team yielding more than 400 yards per contest.

The 53-year-old coach has not been given much to work with after the 49ers almost completely bypassed free agency and featured a depleted roster. But the team’s win total sinking to these depths after a 5-11 campaign under Tomsula may have nullified belief among ownership the former Eagles and Oregon coach could turn it around.

If Kelly is axed, this will mark the first time a team has fired head coaches in consecutive years since the 1976-77 49ers. San Francisco already holds the distinction of being the only team since the AFL-NFL merger to do this and actually cycled through four coaches between 1976-78 before hiring Bill Walsh in 1979.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Prospect Jake Butt Suffers Knee Injury

7:14pm: It’s a torn ACL for Butt, who will need to undergo surgery, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

9:51am: A potential first-round pick may have seriously injured his knee during last night’s Orange Bowl. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com writes that Michigan tight end Jake Butt left last night’s contest with an injury. Coach Jim Harbaugh was unsure of any specifics, but he acknowledged that the offensive weapon likely tore his ACL or MCL.

Jake ButtIt can take months for athletes to recover from an ACL or MCL tear, meaning Butt will likely miss both the Combine and individual workouts with NFL teams. CBS Sports recently projected that Butt would be selected towards the end of the first round or beginning of the second round. He ranked second behind Alabama’s O.J. Howard among tight end prospects.

It’s certainly admirable that Butt prioritized his team over himself, and some NFL team’s will presumably appreciate that team-first attitude. However, while Butt should still be taken in the upcoming NFL draft, we shouldn’t expect to see him selected in the first two rounds. We can only assume that Butt’s draft stock has dropped with this recent injury, which will also cost the prospect significant money.

Butt had collected three catches and 28 yards last night prior to the injury. This season, the senior tight end compiled 46 receptions for 546 yards and four touchdowns.

Despite the injury, Butt said that he doesn’t regret playing in last night’s Orange Bowl.

“Never once crossed my mind to sit this game out and I would never change that mindset,” Butt tweeted. “I play this game because I love it, my teammates and coaches.”

We’ve seen a number of potential first-round draft prospects announce that they’ll skip out on their team’s bowl game to avoid injury, including LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens To Fire Marty Mornhinweg?

Fishing up their third season in four years without a playoff berth, the Ravens are likely to part ways with another offensive coordinator.

Baltimore promoted Marty Mornhinweg from quarterbacks coach to OC after firing Marc Trestman in October, but Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun writes the team will likely begin searching for his replacement after the season.

A new hire would make six OCs in six years for the Ravens, who previously moved from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell to Gary Kubiak to Trestman to Mornhinweg between 2012 and 2016. While both Caldwell and Kubiak guided the offense to perches that garnered them second head-coaching opportunities, the franchise will have experienced significant upheaval here after possessing stability in the position during its half-decade playoff streak. Cameron served as John Harbaugh‘s OC for the first four-plus seasons of his tenure.

Zreibec notes the switch from Trestman to Mornhinweg hasn’t resulted in a major improvement, with the Ravens’ ground game not particularly effective and a lack of big plays occurring. Baltimore ranks 18th offensively a year after Trestman’s offense — which was missing several pieces as injuries ravaged the ’15 Ravens — finished as the league’s 14th-ranked unit. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric places the Baltimore offense at 23rd.

Despite the Ravens being 31-32 since their second Super Bowl title, Zreibec does not anticipate Harbaugh’s job being jeopardy. Having guided the Ravens to six playoff appearances in his nine years, Harbaugh signed an extension last offseason through 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/31/16

Here are the minor moves NFL teams made on New Year’s Eve.

  • Another Saints cornerback will head to IR, with the team placing Ken Crawley on the season-ending list, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets. Crawley will join Delvin Breaux, P.J. Williams, Damian Swann and Kyle Wilson as IR-stationed corners in New Orleans. The team promoted cornerback Taveze Calhoun, a rookie UDFA, from its practice squad to fill the roster spot. Crawley started in five games for the Saints this season.
  • The Bears promoted Josh Shirley from their practice squad, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports (on Twitter). Chicago will be without Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee in its Week 17 game against Minnesota. Shirley resided on the workout circuit for much of this season before catching on with the Bears’ practice squad earlier this month. The 24-year-old UDFA edge defender played in five games for the Buccaneers last year.
  • The Vikings promoted wide receiver Isaac Fruechte from their practice squad, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Minnesota moved safety Andrew Sendejo to IR (Twitter link, via Tomasson) to make room for the UDFA second-year man. Both Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell are doubtful for the Vikes’ season finale, creating the need for some pass-catching depth. A knee issue will end Sendejo’s season prematurely. He finished his seventh NFL campaign with 66 tackles and a career-high two interceptions.
  • It appears the Chargers are going to finish with an even 20 players on IR this season after the team placed cornerback Craig Mager on the season-ending list, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (on Twitter). Inside linebacker Carlos Fields received a promotion from the practice squad as a result.

Jets Notes: Revis, Harris, Geno, Tyrod

Opinions of Darrelle Revis appear to be divided within the Jets organization as he concludes a 10th NFL season that was probably his worst. A faction of Jets personnel believe the declining cornerback can be an asset at a lower rate and are of the opinion he would be open to taking a pay cut to stay with the team, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports.

Another Jets staffer described Revis as being “a pig in terms of his money,” pointing to the 31-year-old defender being less receptive to slashing his 2017 salary. Mehta points to the $6MM figure as being what the Jets would want to reduce his salary to since that’s the fully guaranteed portion of his prospective ’17 earnings. On Friday, Revis categorized this impending showdown with management as one revolving around the question of whether the franchise will treat him with class or not.

The four-time first-team All-Pro’s 2017 cap number currently sits at $15.3MM, with a $2MM roster bonus due on the second day of the ensuing league year. Arguing the Jets should move on from Revis instead of renegotiating his deal or asking him to transition to safety, Mehta notes the former star cornerback will not see that bonus. Pro Football Focus ranks Revis as its No. 77 corner (out of 119 who qualify for full-time status). It will cost the Jets $8MM in dead money to release Revis while saving the team $7.3MM.

Here’s more from the Jets as they prepare to end one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

  • While including Revis among potential Jets departure candidates — along with Brandon Marshall, Calvin Pryor and Sheldon RichardsonESPN.com’s Rich Cimini expects veteran David Harris to avoid such a fate and return next season. The longtime Jets inside linebacker will make $6.5MM, all of which is nonguaranteed, in 2017 as part of the three-year deal he signed prior to the 2015 season. A Jets starter since 2007, Harris will turn 33 in January.
  • Geno Smith should be a viable Jets option as a starter in 2017, Bob Glauber of Newsday writes. Noting there might not be many more attractive options on a quarterback market that could house Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick, Glauber points out Smith’s ACL tear will keep his price tag down and allow a potential reunion as Christian Hackenberg attempts to develop.
  • Conversely, Tyrod Taylor would not fit in Chan Gailey‘s system, Cimini notes, despite the run-centric quarterback being possibly on the move after this season. Should the Jets retain their OC for a third season, Taylor’s style wouldn’t mesh with the spread-passing setup Gailey’s created since arriving. However, Taylor would profile as a stopgap solution, something the Jets do not have presently.
  • Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan are likely to receive a third year with the team.

49ers Move Marcus Martin To IR

The 49ers have now placed two centers on IR this season after moving Marcus Martin to the season-ending injured list. He joins Daniel Kilgore and several other San Francisco starters there.

San Francisco filled Martin’s roster spot by promoting running back Raheem Mostert from its practice squad.

Martin became a key member of the 49ers’ front in both the 2014 and ’15 seasons after subbing in for Kilgore following the starter’s severe leg injury. The former third-round draft choice received more than a season’s worth of starts during Kilgore’s recovery, but after the first-stringer returned last December, Martin hasn’t factored in as much this season. However, Kilgore’s return trip to IR earlier this month opened the door for two more Martin starts.

The 49ers previously ruled out Martin for their Week 17 game against the Seahawks with an ankle injury. The 2-13 team now has 19 players on its IR list, including Carlos Hyde, whose MCL injury forced the team to reshuffle its backfield. Mostert caught on with the 49ers’ practice squad in late November; the second-year UDFA played in two games earlier this season for the Bears.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Place Theo Riddick On IR

The Lions already ruled Theo Riddick out of a potential elimination game on Sunday night, but if the team advances to the playoffs, it won’t have its top healthy running back’s services.

Detroit placed Riddick on IR to end his season, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. He’s missed the past three games with a wrist injury and will now have a full offseason to recover from the malady. The Lions signed wide receiver Jace Billingsley off their practice squad, Michael Rothstein reports.

Should the Lions either beat the Packers or receive help with a Redskins loss, they will have to use their backup running backs in the playoffs. Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and the recently re-signed Joique Bell represent the Lions’ backfield contingent heading into their pivotal Week 17 contest.

The recently extended Riddick finished his fourth season with 728 yards from scrimmage. Following Ameer Abdullah‘s early-season injury, the former passing-down back became the Lions’ top ground option. Riddick’s career-high 357 rushing yards still lead the team despite the 25-year-old back playing in just 10 games.

Last month, a report pointing to a possible Abdullah return emerged. Nothing has transpired on that front since. Both Zenner and Washington have amassed 265 rushing yards this season for a Lions rushing attack that ranks 30th, but Zenner is averaging 3.9 yards per carry compared to the rookie’s 2.9.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.