Month: May 2017

Giants Notes: OL, Blount, Engram, Mahomes

The Giants exit draft weekend without many questions about their defense, but their offense has a few. Mainly, Big Blue’s offensive line may still have some issues, particularly after the blocking prospect the team preferred, Garett Bolles, went just before New York made its first-round selection. The Giants were hoping the Broncos, whose left tackle need is probably bigger than theirs since former first-rounder Ereck Flowers is an option in New York, would bypass Bolles in favor of Ryan Ramczyk or Cam Robinson, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports. Multiple sources told Vacchiano the Giants zeroed in on Bolles at No. 23, but Jerry Reese has not made a first-round draft maneuver — up or down — in his 11 years leading the franchise.

With Vacchiano noting the Giants were not as high on Ramczyk or Robinson, the Giants moved on. They did not select an offensive lineman until the sixth round, though, which is interesting for a team that has concerns — per the New York-embedded reporter — about Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and newly signed D.J. Fluker entering contract years. Earlier this month, Reese said the positions up front weren’t solidified. So, the statuses of Flowers and Fluker, who played right tackle and right guard with the Chargers, are probably yet to be determined.

Here’s more from the Giants, courtesy of Vacchiano.

  • Multiple sources refuted talk of the Giants wanting to trade up to No. 10 to select Patrick Mahomes, who went to the Chiefs after they made a 17-spot jump. The Giants would have been willing to consider Mahomes at No. 23, per Vacchiano. But with Eli Manning likely to play out his contract as the team’s starter, and he’s signed through 2019, using a first-rounder on a quarterback may not have made much sense.
  • LeGarrette Blount was linked to the Giants on multiple occasions earlier this month, but the team’s selection of Clemson running back Wayne Gallman in the fourth round may have closed that avenue for the 30-year-old Blount. The Giants, though, haven’t moved on from the prospect of adding Blount, Vacchiano reports. However, it looks like they are going with a backfield depth chart that houses Gallman, Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen and Shaun Draughn.
  • The Giants opted to select Evan Engram over David Njoku, doing so despite the Miami product receiving a bit more pre-draft hype, and that pick was viewed by some as a reach. But Vacchiano notes buzz swirled about a team trying to trade up in front of the Giants to select Engram, identifying the Bills and Falcons as interested suitors. The Browns traded back into the first round to take Njoku, so they may have been in on this pursuit as well. Njoku was scheduled to visit the Giants earlier this month, but the team cancelled the meeting.
  • A jump in front of the Buccaneers or Broncos for the right to take O.J. Howard, whom the Giants “loved,” or Bolles would have cost the team a third-round pick, Vacchiano reports. The Giants stood tight at 23, viewing Engram and third-round pick Davis Webb as a better package than either Howard or Bolles.
  • Webb’s addition makes Geno Smith‘s place in New York odd, with Vacchiano writing the former Jets starter is almost certain to open camp on the PUP list and is a likely candidate for the Reserve/PUP come the regular season. Smith is recovering from a torn ACL and is signed through 2017 only. Vacchiano views returning backup Josh Johnson as the favorite to beat out Smith for a job. This could end up being a paid rehab year for the fifth-year passer, especially considering Manning hasn’t missed a start since becoming the starting quarterback in 2004.

Draft Expands Rift Between Pace, Fox?

Ryan Pace and John Fox are entering their third year together with the Bears, but the duo was not seeing eye to eye before this draft commenced, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com notes. After this controversial weekend for the franchise, the rift between the GM and coach may well have expanded.

Chicago’s decision to trade multiple draft picks for the right to move up from No. 3 to No. 2 and take Mitch Trubisky has Fox “fuming,” according to an executive of an annual playoff contender, because the veteran head coach might not have been too involved in the decision-making process. After all, this didn’t do much to help the 2017 Bears before a season that could involve Fox coaching for his job.

We don’t know what the hell they were doing,” the anonymous exec told La Canfora. “It’s all anyone is talking about. It’s really bad between Pace and Fox. Fox is fuming about being left in the dark on the trade. I don’t know anyone who likes their draft. From the first pick on, we can’t figure out what they were doing. Go back and look at how many small-school kids they took. People around the league are shocked. It’s really bad between Pace and Fox.”

Beyond Trubisky, the Bears took injury-risk Alabama safety Eddie Jackson and three small-school prospects: Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen, North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen and Kutztown offensive lineman Jordan Morgan. So the odds that this draft class can do a lot to help this particular Bears team may be quite slim. But for the future, Pace believes he’s found his version of Drew Brees, although it’s likely damaged the young relationship between the GM and presumptive 2017 starting quarterback Mike Glennon, Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes.

Fox has guided the Bears to nine wins in two seasons with the Bears. He led the Broncos to three straight 12-plus-win seasons from 2012-14, although he was gifted Peyton Manning midway through his Denver tenure. Campbell points to Jeff Fisher‘s firing, and Rams GM Les Snead being allowed to pick the next coach, months after the Jared Goff maneuver as an example of how this Trubisky pick could go badly for Fox. Noting that Trubisky will eat into the still-raw Glennon’s practice reps, Campbell argues the Bears won’t be getting the optimal version of the passer for whom they gave an $18.5MM guarantee.

Either the Bears know something no one else in the league knows, or that draft just got a lot of people fired only they don’t know it yet,” another exec told La Canfora.

Should Pace be allowed to shop for a Fox successor as early as 2018, La Canfora expects Saints OC Pete Carmichael, whose Saints tenure overlapped with Pace’s run in their front office for a nine-year period. La Canfora also speculates Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald would be a logical candidate, though he’s skeptical if Fitzgerald would leave Northwestern.

Fallout From Bills’ Front Office Shakeup

The Bills deciding to trade out of their No. 10 slot, when the Chiefs surrendered their 2018 first-rounder to headline a package that netted them Patrick Mahomes, indicated Doug Whaley was not going to be around much longer, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Buffalo moving down 17 spots — a move the Bills were believed to be pushing for prior to the draft — signaled a long-term plan more than one designed to help an embattled GM’s team win now. (However, Chiefs GM John Dorsey told B.J. Kissel of KCChiefs.com — Twitter link — Whaley was involved in talks that originated early this week.)

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com notes the Bills’ chaotic front office situation goes back to 2014, when Terry and Kim Pegula took over and were surprised when Doug Marrone exercised an opt-out option that garnered him $4MM and left the Bills without a coach despite having completed a rare over-.500 season in 2014. The current Jaguars HC’s 9-7 campaign, aided the Patriots resting starters in Week 17 of that season, represents the most the Bills wins since 2004.

La Canfora notes Whaley has not gotten along especially well with any of his coaches, describing less-than-ideal relationships with both Marrone and Rex Ryan, and the one with Sean McDermott did not take off. Bill Polian declined to join the Bills in January of 2015, and La Canfora notes that decision kept Whaley in charge and helped lead to Marrone bolting on his contract.

Now running the show in Buffalo, McDermott was not happy the Patriots plucked Stephon Gilmore in free agency, La Canfora writes. The RFA decisions on Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee did not help, either. The CBS-based reporter notes some of Pegula’s confidants advised him to fire Whaley years ago. The Bills signed Whaley to an extension last year, however.

A source categorized the Bills’ draft room this weekend as “one of the weirdest three days,” per Breer, due to the fact a leadership component wasn’t entirely present. McDermott, though, was the one who was providing the final say, Breer reports. The first-year HC was given autonomy to remove prospects from the draft board as well. Pegula said today Whaley put together the draft and the organization decided to fire him after the three-day event, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com relays.

Scouts were upset with Ryan’s program last year, Breer notes, adding that Bills coaches felt some of Whaley’s draft decisions — be it the trade-up for Sammy Watkins or selection of injury-risk Shaq Lawson — didn’t fit the schemes they were using. As for Watkins, it’s possible the Bills made his injury situation worse. Breer reports that the wideout’s foot injury was too severe for him to complete walkthroughs, but no one put a stop to his comeback attempt, and the pain worsened as he pushed through it to lead to a two-month shutdown. Watkins returned for the final six games but only cleared 80 receiving yards twice, albeit on a run-centric team. Already rumored to be set to decline Watkins’ fifth-year option, the Bills are probably more likely to go in that direction now that Whaley is gone, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap tweets.

Further complicating things with McDermott: Anthony Lynn was Whaley’s first HC choice, according to Breer, and ownership went with the former Panthers DC — with whom Whaley did not have much of a relationship — while letting Lynn proceed to the Chargers’ job. Tyrod Taylor‘s return on an adjusted deal also went against Whaley’s wishes and was more in line with new OC Rick Dennison‘s. The latter was the Broncos’ OC when the team pursued Taylor in 2015.

As far as the selection of the next GM, the Pegulas might not lean on team president Russ Brandon too much, with Terry Pegula saying today the owners would ask Brandon questions if they believed they need to (Twitter link via Breer). Former Eagles president and Browns CEO Joe Banner understandably expects the new GM to be someone with close ties to McDermott, the longtime exec told Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane could well become a candidate.

Colts To Make Personnel Changes

The Colts made a change by ousting GM Ryan Grigson and bringing in Chris Ballard, but with Jim Irsay waiting until a few weeks had transpired in the offseason to fire Grigson and begin a search, the team did not make a sweeping staff overhaul immediately following Ballard’s arrival. After the draft, though, the franchise has more changes planned.

T.J. McCreight will not see a sixth season running the Colts’ scouting department, with ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reporting (via Twitter) the Colts are moving on from their director of college scouting. Schefter adds that others within the department won’t be back under Ballard, who already has some new scouting staffers in mind, according to the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder (on Twitter).

Holder adds that the changes to the franchise’s personnel department will be widespread (Twitter link), but considering Ballard’s late-January hire, letting the scouts continue through the draft isn’t exactly surprising. McCreight spent five seasons working under Grigson after arriving from the Cardinals, with whom he served as the director of pro personnel.

One new staffer the Colts are interested in: Seahawks senior personnel executive Ed Dodds. Both Holder and CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora report (Twitter links) that Dodds is a Ballard target. Dodds has been on the Colts’ radar for more than a month. Ballard decided to make this scouting pivot now rather than have scouts working in a largely lame-duck capacity going forward.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/30/17

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Chargers have waived OT Tyler Johnstone, per Howard Balzer of BalzerFootball.com (via Twitter).
  • The Falcons announced that they’ve waived guard Blake Muir, defensive end Martin Ifedi, and tight end Brian Vogler. Atlanta is clearing out roster space in order to sign its draft class and a crop of undrafted free agents. None of Muir, Ifedi, and Vogler has ever appeared in an NFL game.

5 Key Stories: 4/23/17 – 4/30/17

Teams move up for quarterbacks. Three clubs made traded up the draft board to acquire long-term options under center on Thursday night, as the Bears moved up to No. 2 for North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, the Chiefs went to No. 10 for Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech), and the Texans came up to No. 12 for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Each of the three clubs sacrificed a good deal, as both Kansas City and Houston gave up 2018 first-round selections, while Chicago may have been bidding against itself to move up one spot. None of Trubisky, Mahomes, or Watson is entering training camp as a starter, but that could certainly change as the season progresses.DeShone Kizer (vertical)

Browns land a quarterback, as well. Cleveland sat tight at No. 1 overall and selected Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, and the club eventually made two other picks in the first round: Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers and Miami tight end David Njoku. After reportedly discussing trades for veteran quarterbacks during Round 1, the Browns ultimately drafted Notre Dame signal-caller DeShone Kizer during the second round, and could allow him to start during his rookie campaign. In Round 6, Cleveland picked up Florida’s Caleb Brantley, who is facing assault charges (but may not keep him on the roster).

Gareon Conley comes off the board in Round 1. Despite being accused of sexual assault in the week leading up to the draft, Conley was still drafted in the first round, as the Raiders selected him 24th overall. Conley has strongly refuted the allegations, and spoke with representatives of all 32 NFL clubs before the draft got underway. Initial reports suggested the Ohio State product could fall to the third round, but Oakland will have acquired a value pick if the accusations Conley prove unfounded.Doug Whaley

Bills fire GM Doug Whaley. Just one day after the conclusion of the draft, the Bills fired Whaley, who had been running the club’s front office since 2013. The move was somewhat expected, as reports had indicated major changes could be coming to the Bills’ personnel staff. New head coach Sean McDermott has reportedly taken the lead in much of Buffalo’s machinations recently.

Veteran backs find new homes. A trio of running backs found landing spots this week, as the Saints signed Adrian Peterson to a two-year deal, the Raiders formally acquired Marshawn Lynch (and signed him to a new contract), and the Patriots landed Mike Gillislee after the Bills declined to match New England’s offer sheet. New Orleans, notably, selected another running back in the draft (Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara) despite now employing both Peterson and Mark Ingram.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Sign 15 Undrafted Free Agents

The Chargers announced that they’ve reached agreements with 15 undrafted college free agents. The full list is as follows:

PFR Originals: 4/23/17 – 4/30/17

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

  • The 2017 NFL Draft is in the books! We kept track of each and every selection, both by round and by team. Make sure to bookmark those pages for a record of which prospects landed where.
  • Heading into the draft, Zach Links and I conducted a 2017 live mock draft, basing our picks on what we would do were we in charge of each club. Things didn’t quite turn out the same way in the actual draft, but it was still a fun exercise.
  • The Browns, unsurprisingly, owned the most 2017 draft capital after amassing a number of picks over the past calendar year, while the Patriots owned the least following draft pick trades that brought in veterans. Here’s a full list of how much draft capital each club had entering the draft.
  • Teams have until May 3 to exercise or decline their 2018 fifth-year options of 2014 first-round picks. Follow along with PFR’s 2018 Fifth-Year Option Decision Tracker.

Packers Nearly Traded QB Brett Hundley

The Packers put backup quarterback Brett Hundley on the trade block during the draft, and nearly made a deal to during Day 2, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Instead, Green Bay will likely retain Hundley for another season, but the club is expected to trade him before his contract expires after the 2018 campaign. The Packers believe they can recoup “much more” than the fifth-round pick they used to initially draft Hundley, per Demovsky.Brett Hundley (Featured)

This isn’t the first time a potential Hundley trade has been mentioned, as Demovsky reported earlier this month that the Packers intend to deal Hundley at some point in the next calendar year. Any club interested in acquiring Hundley would largely be relying on its predraft analysis of Hundley and his preseason tape, as the former UCLA signal-caller hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity thus far in the NFL. With Aaron Rodgers firmly entrenched under center, Hundley has attempted just 10 passes during his pro tenure.

Green Bay was reportedly eyeing Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer with the No. 33 pick at the top of the second round, and the team could have dealt Hundley had they selected Kizer in Round 2. Ultimately, the Packers drafted Washington cornerback Kevin King with the pick. But Green Bay could aim to draft another quarterback in 2018 if they hope to trade Hundley, as the only other signal-caller on the roster aside from Rodgers and Hundley is 2016 undrafted free agent Joe Callahan.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams Agree To Sign 11 UDFAs

The Rams have signed 11 undrafted college free agents following the conclusion of the draft, the club announced on Saturday. Here’s the full list of the prospects headed to Los Angeles: