Month: September 2017

NFC Notes: Cowboys, Eagles, Saints

The latest from the NFC:

  • Tony Romo won’t like this, but the injuries he and Cowboys backup quarterback Kellen Moore suffered last summer might have been “a little blessing in disguise,” Moore told 93.1-FM Idaho Sports Talk (via the Dallas Morning News). Both the broken bone in Romo’s back and Moore’s broken leg paved the way for the Dak Prescott era, and instead of acting as a caretaker as a rookie, he performed like a star for a 13-3 club. The Cowboys are now Prescott’s team as a result, leaving Romo’s future with the franchise in doubt. It’s unlikely he’ll be a Cowboy again next season, which could open the door for the recently re-signed Moore to serve as Prescott’s primary backup.
  • The Eagles released pass rusher Connor Barwin earlier this month, and believe it or not, he then helped the team find his replacement. Before signing with Philadelphia on Tuesday, defensive end Chris Long talked with Barwin, who gave glowing reviews of the city and the franchise, writes Zach Berman of Philly.com. Now that he’s an Eagle, Long expects to thrive in their system. Even though Long’s numbers dropped over the previous three seasons, during which he combined for eight sacks in 34 games with the Rams and Patriots, the 32-year-old believes he still has “a lot left.”
  • Safety Rafael Bush’s one-year deal with the Saints is worth $855,000, including $100K in guarantees and an $80K signing bonus, tweets Nick Underhill of The Advocate.
  • Recapping Friday’s NFC news: The Vikings added a familiar backup quarterback; the Lions lost a coach to Pro Football Focus; and the Bears bailed on a recent second-round pick.

Josh Scobee To Retire

Longtime NFL kicker Josh Scobee is retiring. The 34-year-old announced Friday that he’s going to sign a one-day contract with the Jaguars on April 13 and officially call it quits (Twitter link).

Josh Scobee

Scobee spent nearly all of his career in Jacksonville, which selected him in the fifth round of the 2004 draft. He stayed with the team through the 2014 campaign and became the franchise’s all-time leading scorer during his 11-year tenure. Scobee was so effective at one point that the Jaguars placed the franchise tag on him in 2012, which came after he connected on 23 of 25 field goal attempts the previous season. In the aggregate, Scobee was accurate on 235 of 291 field goals as a Jag (80.1 percent).

Scobee’s time in Jacksonville ended when it traded him to the Steelers in advance of the 2015 season. He only lasted six games in Pittsburgh, where he missed four of 10 field goals in what will go down as his last NFL action. Scobee had a two-month stint last offseason with the Saints, who released him in May, and then turned down an offer to audition for the then-kicker-needy Giants in August.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Trubisky, Mahomes, Steelers

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky figures to go early in this year’s draft, though Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is concerned that he only started one year with the Tar Heels. “A really talented player,” Arians said of Trubisky (via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com). “The growth potential is obviously there. The question is why wasn’t all that talent starting for the last three years? That’s always bugging me. So you have to go and answer those questions with him, with his coach, but the physical talent is there.” Arians isn’t the only talent evaluator around the NFL who’s leery that Trubisky was a backup prior to 2016, as another one told Cabot he has similar concerns.

More on the upcoming draft…

  • Cognizant that Ben Roethlisberger isn’t going to be around forever, the Steelers have made it known that they’ll consider drafting a potential long-term successor this year. That could be Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, whom the Steelers observed Friday at his pro day. Pittsburgh sent “at least one” representative to watch Mahomes, writes Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
  • The Browns worked out Florida cornerback Teez Tabor on Friday, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It’s unclear how early Tabor might go in the draft – while Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com places him 35th overall among prospects, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report could see the defender lasting until Day 3. Tabor’s stock seems to be dropping on account of subpar 40-yard dash times.
  • Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt, brother of Texans superstar J.J. Watt, is drawing interest from a bevy of teams and getting looks at various front seven positions. The younger Watt has lined up at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and along the defensive line in recent workouts. Watt told Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com that he has worked out for the Cowboys, Lions and Patriots in the past week. He’s scheduled to work out for the Panthers, too, and will visit the Cowboys’ and Redskins’ facilities soon.

Reinstatement Likely For Martavis Bryant

It appears Steelers wide receiver Martavis’ Bryant year-plus suspension is on the verge of ending. Those close to Bryant are “confident” the league will reinstate him soon, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com). The Steelers are also optimistic, reports the NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala, who tweets that there’s “legit hope” Bryant will be back in the fold when the team begins offseason workouts April 17.

Martavis Bryant (vertical)

The league banned Bryant last March after he missed multiple drug tests. Bryant previously sat four games in 2015 for marijuana usage, meaning suspensions have cost the ex-Clemson Tiger 20 contests since he entered the league as a fourth-round pick in 2014. The 25-year-old has also missed seven games while dealing with injuries, so he has only suited up 21 of a possible 48 times in the regular season.

When on the field, Bryant has been a major threat. He caught 50 passes for 765 yards and eight touchdowns in just 11 games in 2015. That came after he hauled in eight scores and averaged a ridiculous 21.1 yards per catch in 10 games as a rookie. In all, the 6-foot-4, 211-pounder has amassed 76 receptions, 14 scores and posted a 17.3 YPC. Should he gain reinstatement and rejoin the Steelers, he’d immediately become their best wideout after Antonio Brown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Miller’s Latest: Panthers, 49ers, Saints, Mixon, Webb, Mahomes, Chiefs, Tabor

The Panthers, who own the eighth pick in the draft, are interested in trading up to No. 2, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report hears. If they were to swing a deal to acquire the 49ers’ selection, the Panthers would draft either LSU running back Leonard Fournette or Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera will attend Fournette’s pro day April 5, and he attended Thomas’ last week. San Francisco, meanwhile, has expressed a willingness to move down, and Miller notes that the Panthers could use the second-rounder they received from New England in the Kony Ealy swap (No. 64) to help facilitate a trade. The 49ers would hope to land Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster at No. 8.

Here’s more from Miller:

  • At least five teams won’t consider drafting controversial Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, per Miller, who notes that “many” others “are digging in hard” on the 20-year-old. The Saints are among the latter clubs, with Miller reporting they could reel in Mixon in Round 2 (No. 42). Head coach Sean Payton said earlier this week that the Saints plan to meet with Mixon soon.
  • Count Miller among the latest pundits who expects Cal quarterback Davis Webb to come off the board in the opening round – in the late 20s, to be specific. Someone could trade up from the second round to draft Webb in order to get his rights for an extra year, Miller adds.
  • Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes has visited with the Chiefs, according to Miller. Kansas City is set to pick 27th overall, when Mahomes still might be available. The second-round-graded Mahomes has drawn plenty of interest from around the league.
  • Florida cornerback Teez Tabor gave an interview at the combine that was “the worst we had all year,” one scout told Miller. Between that and his poor 40 times, it’s possible Tabor will be a Day 3 selection, writes Miller. That would be a notable drop for a player who entered the season as a prospective first-rounder.

Latest On Seahawks QB Trevone Boykin

Seahawks backup quarterback Trevone Boykin is facing misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession and public intoxication stemming from a weekend arrest, but it won’t cost him his roster spot. Not yet, anyway.

Trevone Boykin (vertical)

“Early indications are that we’ll give him an opportunity to be back with us,” head coach Pete Carroll told John Clayton of ESPN (via Michael Gehlken of Pro Football Talk). “We’ll see what happens though.”

That doesn’t come off as a strong endorsement of Boykin, who was already on probation for allegedly striking a police officer while with TCU in 2015. That incident cost Boykin a chance to play in the Alamo Bowl for TCU, which suspended him, and may have hurt his draft stock. Boykin ended up going unpicked before signing with Seattle. He ultimately earned a roster spot behind star Russell Wilson and appeared in six games as a rookie, completing 13 of 18 passes for 145 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

If the Seahawks were to look for another backup, it’s certainly worth noting that Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned, though they’re not inclined to spend much on a No. 2 QB. Nevertheless, Kaepernick thinks highly of Carroll, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Carroll told Tom Pelissero of USA Today earlier this week that a Kaepernick revival is “there to be had,” adding, “I hope the guy gets a chance to play.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/31/17

Friday’s minor moves:

  • The Titans reinstated safety Josh Aubrey from the reserve/retired list and then waived him, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN. Aubrey, 25, totaled nine appearances between Cleveland and Houston from 2013-15.
  • The Packers have signed long snapper Derek Hart, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Until Friday, Hart hadn’t gotten a contract since going undrafted out of James Madison in 2015.

East Notes: Jets, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles

The Jets did not make a real effort to re-sign Geno Smith, as NJ.com’s Connor Hughes writes. When asked whether he had any contact with the quarterback during free agency, coach Todd Bowles replied, “No. I would have been happy to have him back. But things don’t work out like that all the time.” Smith will now look for a fresh start with the other tenant of the Meadowlands.

More from the East Coast:

  • With Smith on hand, the Big Blue QB depth chart could get crowded as the team is open to taking a signal-caller early in the draft. The Giants had scouts at the pro days for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Miami’s Brad Kaaya, tweets James Kratch of NJ.com. Kaaya had an encouraging showing at his pro day, per Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). He would seemingly be a more realistic target for the Giants than Watson, who could be off the board when the Giants’ first-round pick (No. 23) comes up. Kaaya might have to wait until Day 3 to come off the board.
  • The Cowboys had two big-time defensive end prospects, Michigan’s Taco Charlton and UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley, in for visits, according to the Dallas Morning News. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com ranks both players among his top 25, though McKinley could be on the shelf until late in the summer after undergoing shoulder surgery. Dallas is also looking at Washington cornerback Kevin King, whom it worked out, relays Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). King has the makings of a Day 1 pick, so he could be a possibility for the Cowboys at No. 28.
  • Eagles defensive back Ron Brooks took a pay cut Friday, reports Field Yates of ESPN (via Twitter). He’s now slated to make $1MM in 2017, down from the $1.85MM he had been scheduled to collect. The Eagles also changed 2018 into an option season for Brooks, whom they signed to a three-year, $6MM deal last March. Brooks missed most of last season with a ruptured quad, appearing in six games and picking up five starts.
  • Defensive end Chris Long‘s two-year contract with the Eagles is worth $4.5MM plus incentives, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Chiefs To Sign Gavin Escobar

The Chiefs have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent tight end Gavin Escobar, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link).

Gavin Escobar (vertical)

Escobar, who visited the Chiefs on Friday, will now join his second team since going in the second round of the 2013 draft. The 25-year-old spent the first four seasons of his career in Dallas, where he never developed into a serious receiving threat behind all-time great tight end Jason Witten.

Escobar averaged just 12 targets per year as a member of the Cowboys, with whom he totaled 30 catches and eight touchdowns in 62 regular-season games. Escobar hauled in a career-low four passes last year, and it’s worth mentioning that Pro Football Focus wasn’t enamored of his work as a blocker, either.

In Kansas City, Escobar will once again serve as depth behind a top-tier tight end, Travis Kelce. He’ll be the fifth TE in the organization, joining fellow reserves Demetrius Harris, James O’Shaughnessy, and Ross Travis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Vikings To Sign Case Keenum

The Vikings are signing quarterback Case Keenum, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26. Keenum’s deal is for one year and is worth $2MM plus incentives, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.
Case Keenum (vertical)

In two years with St. Louis/Los Angeles, Keenum appeared in ten games with nine starts. The results, frankly, were not great. He threw for 2,201 yards in total with nine touchdown passes against eleven interceptions. After the Rams selected Jared Goff No. 1 overall last year, the writing was on the wall for Keenum. He lost the job midway through the season and we haven’t heard any word of the Rams trying to re-sign him.

Keenum first made a name for himself as the QB of the high-powered University of Houston offense. He was with the hometown Texans from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to the Rams. Now, he’ll join the third team of his NFL career.

The Vikings already had quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, and Taylor Heinicke under contract. With uncertainty about whether Bridgewater will be able to take the field, the Vikings are giving themselves some additional padding by adding Keenum.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.