2017 NFL Draft

This Date In Transactions History: Steelers Sign JuJu Smith-Schuster

Three years ago today, JuJu Smith-Schuster officially joined the Steelers by signing his rookie deal. The USC product had considerable buzz heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, but the Steelers managed to snag him in the second round, at No. 62 overall. All in all, the Steelers secured four years of his services for just $4.2MM, including a $1.2MM signing bonus.

[RELATED: Steelers Deny James Harrison’s Allegations]

Their investment paid dividends immediately. As a rookie, Smith-Schuster caught 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in just 14 games. In his last regular season game as an NFL frosh, he took a 96-yard kickoff all the way to the house and became the youngest player in NFL history to record more than 1,o00 all-purpose yards in a season. He celebrated his 21st birthday in November, so, yes, Smith-Schuster could drink to that.

In 2018, Smith-Schuster took things to a whole ‘nother level, recording 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven scores en route to his first ever Pro Bowl performance. With Le’Veon Bell staying home, Smith-Schuster was the talk of the town and the focal point of the Steelers’ offense, which didn’t exactly thrill longtime star Antonio Brown.

When Brown was shipped to the Raiders before the start of the ’19 season, Smith-Schuster became the Steelers’ unquestioned offensive superstar. Unfortunately, the Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger for much of the year and Smith-Schuster’s year was marred by a knee injury, plus a concussion suffered in their now infamous Week 11 game against the Browns. It was a year that everyone in Pittsburgh would rather not think about.

What’s next for Smith-Schuster is anyone’s guess. He’s now set to enter the final year of that rookie pact with a modest cap number of $1.335MM. Last year, we expected the Steelers to be gearing up for a massive contract extension that would put him at or near the top of the market. Right now, Smith-Schuster’s best bet would probably be to wait things out so that he can restore his value. The Steelers might not be in a huge rush either – they’ll want to see how Smith-Schuster does before making a monster commitment and, even if he reprises his ’18 season, they’ll have the franchise tag at their disposal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

These 2017 NFL Draft First-Round Picks Had Their Options Declined

After much deliberation, the Colts declined Malik Hooker’s fifth-year option on Monday afternoon. With that, every verdict has been rendered on the first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft class. Out of the top 32 picks, 13 of them are now ticketed for free agency after the 2020 season.

Here’s the full breakdown:

Declined (13):

Exercised (17)

Extended (1)

Released (1)

NFC Notes: 49ers, Bears, Lions, Saints

The 49ers considered Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft before deciding to trade the pick to the Bears, who ended up selecting the North Carolina product, coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco.

“I really liked Mitchell. He was really the only guy I flew out and saw. I spent some time with Mitchell and got to work him out. I spent a few hours watching tape with him,” Shanahan said.

“But that wasn’t something we were going to do with our pick. We felt like we had to go a lot of other different directions. Our goal was to add picks and get as many players as possible, and we are happy with what we did.”

Instead of taking the quarterback, San Francisco traded back one spot with Chicago and picked up the team’s first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 2017, and the team’s third-round pick in 2018. Interesting to note, that third-round pick was traded to the Saints, who tabbed breakout running back and Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Alvin Kamara.

Shanahan will get to see Trubisky up close on Sunday when the Niners travel to take on the Bears.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Sticking with the Bears and 49ers theme; Shanahan also said he was interested in hiring Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. A well-respected and longtime NFL coach, Fangio could be a candidate to replace John Fox in Chicago, should the coach be let go in the coming weeks. “I think Vic definitely deserves to be [a head coach]. He’s one of the coaches I’ve respected the most, just from going against him,” Shanahan said.
  • Though Fangio is an option, the Bears are likely to invest in an offensive coach to groom Trubisky, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Leading the list, of course, is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel, who always seems to be atop everyone’s wish list.
  • Lions head coach Jim Caldwell should be safe if the team finishes 10-6, even if the team misses the playoffs writes ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. He added that he expects Caldwell will return as head coach as of right now, but that could change in the coming weeks. Caldwell has managed two winning campaigns in his first three seasons in Detroit, or the same amount the Lions produced in the 14 years prior to his arrival.
  • The Saints will not use their remaining IR-to-return spot, writes Joel A. Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate. The hope was that tackle Zach Strief would be an option to return, but that shelved after he underwent to repair his ACL and MCL two weeks ago. No other players on IR have a time table that would allow them to return.

Jets, Jamal Adams Agree To Deal

The Jets have agreed to a contract with their first-round pick, safety Jamal Adams, tweets Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. As the sixth overall selection, Adams will land a four-year deal worth approximately $22.25MM, including a $14.3MM-plus signing bonus.

Jamal Adams

Adams was a three-year starter at LSU, where he posted a career-best 76 tackles last season en route to second-team All-America honors. The year before, Adams racked up a personal-high four interceptions. The hard-hitting 214-pounder is a “natural-born leader of men,” according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who likens him to former Cowboys star Darren Woodson. Adams, along with second-round safety Marcus Maye, will now take control of the back end of a Jets defense that has cut ties with veteran DBs Marcus Gilchrist, Calvin Pryor and Darrelle Revis in recent months.

With Adams under contract, Solomon Thomas (49ers), Corey Davis (Titans), Gareon Conley (Raiders) and Jabrill Peppers (Browns) are the only unsigned first-round picks remaining. Raiders second-rounder Obi Melifonwu also remains unsigned.

Meanwhile, the Jets’ entire nine-player draft class is now under control as training camp nears. Here’s a refresher:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Sign Patrick Mahomes

The Chiefs have signed their first-round pick, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, reports Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link). It’s a four-year deal worth a guaranteed $16.4MM, including a $10MM-plus signing bonus.

Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes, the 10th overall selection, went to the Chiefs after they paid a heavy price in a deal with the Bills to move up for him. Kansas City was originally in line to pick 27th, but then-general manager John Dorsey boldly packaged that choice with a third-rounder this year and a first-rounder in 2018 to go up 17 spots for Mahomes. In doing so, Dorsey surrendered a whopping 170 cents on the dollar, according to Chase Stuart of Football Perspective.

Formerly a star at Texas Tech, where he combined for 93 touchdowns, 29 interceptions and 11,252 yards from 2014-16, Mahomes will sit behind veteran Alex Smith initially. But if the Chiefs, who went to the playoffs for the third time in four tries under Smith in 2016, don’t take a step forward this season, Mahomes could grab the reins under center by 2018. The Chiefs have gone just 1-3 in the playoffs with Smith at the helm (they were one and done last winter after a 12-4, AFC West-winning campaign), and releasing him after the season would save the team $17MM of his $20.6MM cap hit in 2018 – the final year of his contract.

With Mahomes under contract, Solomon Thomas (49ers), Corey Davis (Titans), Jamal Adams (Jets), Gareon Conley (Raiders) and Jabrill Peppers (Browns) are the only members of this year’s first-round class who haven’t signed yet. Raiders second-round pick Obi Melifonwu also remains unsigned.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Sign Rookie DT Eddie Vanderdoes

The Raiders have signed third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, the club announced today.Eddie Vanderdoes (Vertical)

Vanderdoes, the 88th overall selection, spent four seasons with UCLA but only saw action in three of those campaigns, as he tore his ACL in the 2015 season opener and was granted a medical redshirt. In 2016, the 6’3″, 305-pound Vanderdoes appeared in 11 games, managing 27 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Prior to the draft, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compared Vanderdoes to current Seahawks interior defender Ahtyba Rubin, while Pro Football Focus lauded Vanderdoes’ quick hands and low pad level.

The Raiders released veteran defensive tackle Dan Williams this offseason, so Vanderdoes will certainly have an opportunity to pick up some of Williams’ 366 defensive snaps. At present, Oakland is projected to start Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis at defensive tackle, with Darius Latham, Vanderdoes, and fellow rookie Treyvon Hester in reserve.

With Vanderdoes, only eight 2017 draft picks remain unsigned, and that list that includes two other Raiders: first-round cornerback Gareon Conley and second-round safety Obi Melifonwu.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Sign Rookie Montravious Adams

The Packers have signed third-round pick Montravius Adams. With the defensive tackle under contract, Green Bay has now signed its entire 2017 draft class.Montravius Adams (Vertical)

Adams was highly recruited coming out of high school but it took him a little while to really get started at Auburn. In 2016, he seemed to put it all together has he totaled 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. The 6’4, 304 pound athlete may wind up starting at nose tackle for the Packers in the early going as Letroy Guion serves a four-game suspension.

Adams was one of ten unsigned rookies heading into Wednesday. With Raiders sign third-round pick Eddie Vanderdoes also under contract, we’re now down to just eight unsigned draft picks league-wide. Interestingly, seven of those eight players are first-round selections.

Here’s the complete rundown of the Packers’ draft class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Only 10 NFL Draft Picks Remain Unsigned

Rookie contracts are no longer a negotiation nightmare for general managers, but some deals take longer than others to come together. When PFR’s Dallas Robinson checked in on unsigned rookies in June, there were a dozen stragglers. Weeks later, we still have ten players without deals, including some very notable names: Mitch Trubisky (Vertical)

First Round

Second Round

Third Round

Nearly 22% of this year’s first round picks are still without contracts and the likely culprit is offset language. No one wants to be this year’s Joey Bosa, but teams don’t want to risk having a holdout situation in training camp either. For what it’s worth, Trubisky says that he’ll be practicing with the Bears no matter what. The 49ers’ situation with Thomas, on the other hand, has the potential to get complicated. The Niners already made a big concession when they agreed to give No. 31 overall pick Reuben Foster guarantees that extend into his fourth year, so they could have a hard time standing their ground with Thomas on something like offset language. Last year, it took the Niners and Joshua Garnett until July 29th to agree to terms. They might have to play the waiting game again with this year’s first round pick from Stanford.

Besides the glut of unsigned first round picks, the list also has one other common thread: the Raiders. Although the Raiders have agreed to terms with six of their draft picks, their top three rookies remain unsigned. The extended talks for Conley, Mlifonwu, and Vanderdoes could be a sign that the Raiders are holding firm on the same issue, but they could also be for entirely different reasons.

In the case of Conley, his legal situation could be holding things up, in addition to the typical offset language issues with first round picks. Vanderdoes is only one of two third round stragglers this year, but as we saw in 2016, negotiations with third rounders can be complicated. That’s because base salaries are usually maxed out for all first- and second-round picks while picks in rounds 4-7 receive the minimum. However, there is no set number for third round picks, which means that there is extra wiggle room.

Photo via Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

Cowboys Sign Rookie CB Jourdan Lewis

The Cowboys have agreed to terms with third-round cornerback Jourdan Lewis, and as such, wrapped up their 2017 draft class, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com.Jourdan Lewis (Vertical)

Lewis, a Michigan product, was the No. 92 overall selection earlier this year, and was one of three cornerbacks drafted by the Cowboys in 2017. Dallas lost several members of its secondary, including starting corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, to free agency, so Lewis should be able to garner playing time immediately. Per Archer, Lewis will start out seeing action in sub packages.

Here’s an overview of the Cowboys’ draft class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Who Will Be The Best Top Ten Pick?

This year’s draft took a number of unexpected twists and turns. The surprises started early and the top part of the draft shook out in a way that few expected. Now, we want to know who you think the best player to come out of the top 10 will be. Here’s a refresher on each pick, followed by a poll. We also encourage you to back up your selection in the comments.

  • Browns – Myles Garrett, DE (Texas A&M, No. 1 overall): Heading into the draft, Garrett seemed to be everyone’s consensus No. 1 talent. Despite some rumblings that the Browns could take a certain quarterback at the top of the draft, Cleveland went with convention and took the Texas A&M star. In three seasons in College Station, Garrett recorded 31 sacks and 47 tackles for loss. He also graded as a top-three edge defender during all three of his collegiate campaigns, per the advanced numbers at Pro Football Focus. Unfortunately, Garrett sprained his left foot during practice and that’s a bit worrisome since he had left ankle trouble last season. The good news is that he has been able to play through the pain before and doctors say he should be ready to go in time for training camp. Myles Garrett Browns
  • Bears – Mitch Trubisky, QB (North Carolina, No. 2 overall): Few people saw this one coming. Not only did the Bears take Trubisky without warning, but they moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 in order to secure him. The pick also took free agent addition Mike Glennon by surprise since his $45MM deal led him to believe that he would be the man in Chicago for at least a couple of years. Some say that Trubisky has the potential to blossom into a star. Others say that Trubisky was merely the best signal caller in a class full of unimpressive QBs.
  • 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DT (Stanford, No. 3 overall): Thomas was among the top-ranked players on the 49ers’ board and they received extra draft compensation for taking him. You can’t argue with the value that San Francisco got in the draft night swap, but you’ll have to overlook the size concerns in order to vote for him as the best player to be drafted in the top 10. “Tweener” talk aside, Thomas had 61 total tackles last season – including 14 tackles for a loss – and 8.5 sacks. He now joins an up-and-coming defensive line in SF and the potential is there for him to do great things.
  • Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU, No. 4 overall): Fournette was widely regarded as the best running back in this year’s class and he silenced doubters at the combine with his faster-than-expected 40-yard-dash time. The 6’1″, 230-pound running back averaged an eye-popping 6.5 yards per carry in his final two seasons on campus, making evaluators around the league salivate at his potential.
  • Titans – Corey Davis, WR (Western Michigan, No. 5 overall): The buzz around Davis grew in the weeks leading up to the draft, but this pick still caught some by surprise. The Titans went with the Western Michigan standout with their top selection, even though he had ankle surgery in February. They believe that the 6’3″, 213-pounder will produce at the next level and it’s not hard to see why they have faith in him. Last year, he finished with personal highs in receptions (97), yards (1,500), and scores (19).
  • Jets – Jamal Adams, S (LSU, No. 6 overall): Early on in draft season, it seemed like a coin flip between Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker for the mantle of best safety in the draft. As late April approaches, more and more people in the football world went into Adams’ camp. The Jets had tons of needs on both sides of the ball, but they used the draft as an opportunity to revamp the safety position. Some say that it doesn’t make sense to take a safety early in the draft, but it seems like analysts everywhere are on board with the Jets’ pick.
  • Chargers – Mike Williams, WR (Clemson, No. 7 overall): The NFL now has another wide receiver named Mike Williams. The Bolts could have gone with a defensive upgrade with guys like Hooker and cornerback Marshon Lattimore still on the board, but they chose instead to get Philip Rivers a big target to throw to on the outside. Williams has all the physical tools to succeed, but there are some concerns about his tendency to drop the occasional ball.
  • Panthers – Christian McCaffrey, RB (Stanford, No. 8 overall): Many saw the Panthers taking Fournette with this pick, but once he was off the board, they went to McCaffrey. McCaffrey battled through injury in his final year and still finished out with 1,639 rushing yards. The running back has the ability to make defenders miss and the field vision to break off big runs, but there are some concerns about whether he’ll be able to be an every-down back given his lack of size.
  • Bengals – John Ross, WR (Washington, No. 9 overall): Speed kills and it also pushes you up draft boards. Many expected Ross to be a first round pick, but his selection within the top 10 caught some by surprise. He can torch just about any defender you put in front of him, but it remains to be seen whether he can stay healthy. Ross has suffered a torn ACL and torn meniscus in the past. He also underwent labrum surgery after the combine. If those kinds of ailments are behind him, however, Ross could be a star as he lines up opposite of A.J. Green.
  • Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes, QB (Texas Tech, No. 10 overall): The Chiefs gave up quite a bit to get the No. 10 pick, so they obviously believe Mahomes can blossom into a top-tier quarterback. The former baseball pitcher has a naturally strong arm and also has the wheels to gain yards on the ground when needed.

When all is said and done, who do you think will be the best player out of this year’s top 10? Vote below and defend your pick in the comment section.

Photo via Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.