While the injury is listed in a week to week manner, Hill notes in his story that Vander Esch is not scheduled for an MRI for another three weeks. Given the particular dangers with severe neck injuries and Vander Esch’s well-documented history of injury woes, Dallas should be especially cautious with the linebacker.
In his second NFL season, Vander Esch has lived up to his billing when healthy. After being selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Vander Esch earned a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie and has already accrued 72 tackles in just 9 games this season.
Without the Boise State alum, Dallas will likely turn to veteran linebacker Sean Lee to take over the team’s weak-side (WILL) linebacker position. Lee is far removed from his days as one of the best linebackers in football, but may be the most qualified backup in the NFL to help fill the gap.
Holding three first-round picks and four in the first 35 selections, the Raiders have more than enough ammo needed to move up for a player they like or trade down to stockpile picks. Both scenarios seem like possibilities according to general manager Mike Mayock.
“Regardless of the scenario, we have to be ready to pick at four and be excited about a player,” Mayock said Thursday in a predraft news conference. “Right now, we might move up, and we might move back. Who knows? We won’t know until draft night. But if we’re ‘stuck’ at four, we have to be ready to go, and that’s a hell of a lot easier than worrying about all the permutations (of which players might be available) at 24, 27 and 35.”
In that same news conference, the first-year general manager noted that his preference would be to trade down and gather more picks to address the team’s deficiencies, NBC Sports’ Scott Bair writes.
Whether they move up or down, the Raiders will undoubtedly be one of the team’s to watch when the NFL Draft kicks off on April 25.
Here’s more draft news from around the league:
Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown had a private workout with the Texans, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets. The Texans is just one of the handful of teams the slot receiver plans to visit, with the Packers, Colts, Patriots, Eagles, Giants, Redskins and Bills also on the list, according to NFL Network’s James Palmer (Twitter link). Houston already has a deep receiver corps with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V and Keke Coutee, but the latter two have been repeatedly hampered with injuries.
The Broncos do not appear interested in Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen if he’s made available, Palmer tweets. He notes that things like asking price can change, but Denver appears more set with going with the newly acquired Joe Flacco or taking a quarterback in the upcoming draft.
The Falcons will be focusing on the line in the upcoming draft, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure writes. Owner Arthur Blank said as much, commenting they need to get younger on the offensive line and that defensive line is an area of need. Atlanta owns the 14th pick and have shown heavy interest in Oklahoma lineman Cody Ford. –
In 2017, Browns defensive coordinator and now interim head coach Gregg Williams made a strong push for the team to take Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick rather than take a quarterback.
On Friday, he reiterated that stance, saying he would still take the standout defensive end over quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.
“Yes, I would,’’ said Williams. “I really like (Garrett). They had me evaluate the quarterbacks, too, and they had me evaluate a lot of the top players on the other side of the ball. You do good things like that in successful organizations. Get the opinion of a defensive guy on an offensive guy. Get the opinion of an offensive guy on a defensive guy. You are trying to find all of the little itty bitty things before you make the final decision, I think those are important.”
Regardless of what he would or wouldn’t do, it looks like the situation is going to work out well for the Browns. Instead of taking a quarterback a year ago, the team tabbed Baker Mayfield with the top spot and have recorded the same amount of wins this season as the previous three combined (four).
Here’s more from around the league:
Though the Packers need to win out and get plenty of help to get to the playoffs, team CEO Mark Murphy wrote in a week Q&A on Packers.com that he is not ready to give up on the season. “Now, I realize that we are 4-6-1 (and as Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are”) and that we haven’t played well. However, we still have almost a third of the season left to play. I know that the odds of making the playoffs are slim (I’ve seen odds range from 3 to 15 percent), but we still have a lot to play for.” Like the odds say, there isn’t much left on the line unless the team can get hot and get some help.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone‘s firing of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett at this point of the season seems like a diversionary tactic to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. “It feels like an effort by Marrone to alter the conversation that inevitably will happen when owner Shad Khan, who had a taste of life in the NFL’s penthouse in 2017 and has taken the Super Fun Happy Slide straight back to the outhouse, starts asking tough questions after Week 17.”
The Patriots need to re-sign defensive end Trey Flowers, NESN’s Doug Kyed writes in a mailbag. “They either need to bring back Flowers, take a player high in the 2018 NFL Draft, sign a free agent (pass rushers are not cheap) or trade for a veteran edge defender. Isn’t the simplest option just to bring back Flowers?”
As training camp draws near, the overwhelming majority of this year’s NFL Draft picks have inked their rookie contracts. As shown on PFR’s tracker, 242 rookies have put pen to paper, leaving only the following 14 players in limbo:
Before fans panic about potential holdouts, it’s important to remember that elongated negotiations are not uncommon, even under the simplified parameters set forth by the current CBA. Late last June, we had a dozen stragglers still waiting to sign their first NFL deals. The time to worry, if there ever is one, will come when training camp opens later this month.
That’s a wrap. The Broncos have now signed every member of their 2018 draft class after inking Royce Freeman to his four-year rookie deal (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News).
In accordance with his slot, the third-round pick will receive a signing bonus of $997K on his contract. As the No. 71 overall pick, he’s set to earn $3.46MM over the course of the deal.
Heading into the draft, Freeman felt that he deserved to be one of the top running backs selected. As it turns out, there were seven running backs drafted before him. Some evaluators believe that his 947 carries at Oregon worked against him, but Freeman doesn’t think his odometer should be viewed as a negative.
“I feel like all of that durability and all of those carries just reflected my productivity throughout my four years at Oregon,” Freeman said in May. “It is not often you get backs playing as many games or taking as many carries. I feel like the fact that I was able to do so proves I am a durable running back.”
The Broncos released C.J. Anderson earlier this offseason, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the leading candidates to become the team’s next top running back. However, Freeman’s durability and history of production suggests that he could see a big role right off of the bat. Recently, Broncos coach Vance Joseph said that Freeman “absolutely” has a chance to wind up on top if he has a strong training camp.
Here’s the complete rundown of the Broncos’ 2018 draft class:
Players with offset language who are cut before the end of their rookie contract have the remaining guaranteed money reduced by whatever they earns elsewhere. Without offset language, players get to double dip. Top 10 picks expect to complete their rookie contracts, but it’s an important issue for agents nonetheless.
The following top 10 players are without deals and there’s a common thread in the representation for most of them:
As Florio notes, CAA also represents No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson. The new Colts guard agreed to terms back in May on a deal that contains offset language, but also includes large guaranteed training-camp roster bonuses in 2019 through 2021. The presence of those bonuses effectively offsets the presence of offsets and could be a good middle ground solution for the agency’s remaining unsigned top 10 picks.
There’s no sign of real acrimony between any of these players and the teams that drafted them, but Joey Bosa‘s situation in 2016 serves as a reminder that offset language can become a real issue that can lead to a training camp holdout.
Can you fairly evaluate a team’s draft haul before the rookies have even played their first NFL game? Well, no, not really. But we’re going to do it anyway because it’s a fun exercise.
Below, you’ll have the opportunity to select the team that you feel had the best overall draft. First, here are a handful of clubs you may want to consider:
Bears – The Bears addressed three serious needs with their top three picks. They began their draft by selecting inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who was viewed as one of the safest top talents in the draft despite his lack of ideal size for the position. They followed that up by taking Iowa’s James Daniels in the second round, a player with the ability to play all three spots on the interior offensive line. In the third round, they gave Mitchell Trubisky another weapon to work with in Memphis receiver Anthony Miller.
Broncos – Few could find fault with the Broncos’ first pick, defensive end Bradley Chubb. The hits kept on coming for GM John Elway & Co. as they added quality wide receivers Courtland Sutton (second round) and DaeSean Hamilton (fourth round) as well as bruising running back Royce Freeman (third round). The Broncos didn’t draft their quarterback of the future, but they picked up pieces that can contribute right away on both sides of the ball.
Bucs – With a draft class headlined by defensive tackle Vita Vea and running back Ronald Jones, Bucs fans have a lot to be excited about. It’s fair to question the wisdom of taking Vea after signing Beau Allen to a three-year, $15MM deal, but it’s hard to knock what they did here in total. The Bucs acquired two second round picks to move down from No. 7 to No. 12, where they selected the Polynesian phenom. The No. 53 pick from Buffalo became defensive back M.J. Stewart and they turned the No. 56 overall choice into a pair of worthwhile secondary players.
Giants – Your take on the Giants’ draft class may be swayed by your thoughts on taking a running back with the No. 2 overall pick. Still, it’s hard to find fault with Saquon Barkley‘s talent and none of this year’s top quarterbacks profile as slam dunks. At No. 34 overall, they selected guard Will Hernandez, who should help to open up running lanes for Barkley. With the next two picks, Dave Gettleman provided new defensive coordinator James Bettcher with front seven support by grabbing Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill. Not bad for Gettleman’s first draft as the Giants’ football czar.
Packers – The Packers also have a new GM at the helm who did a solid job in the draft. The Packers were in desperate need of help at cornerback and they landed two – Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Iowa’s Josh Jackson – with their first two selections. There were other intriguing picks in the Packers’ 11-man draft class, including linebacker Oren Burks (third round) and a group of wide receivers (J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown) that could help fill the void left by Jordy Nelson‘s departure.
Patriots – This year, the Patriots made eight draft day trades, the most in franchise history. That’s not including all of their pre-draft maneuvering, either. Ultimately, they fortified next year’s crop of picks while also fortifying their roster for this year’s championship run. Instead of reaching for Tom Brady‘s heir, they used their late-first round draft picks on tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel. With those selections, the Pats eased the hurt of losing Nate Solder and Dion Lewis in free agency. There’s also a lot to like about slot corner Duke Dawson and sixth-round wide receiver Braxton Berrios has the potential to become an effective slot weapon for the Pats on offense.
While the three players selected at pick Nos. 23-25 (Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, and Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst) each garnered significant fourth season base salary guarantees, Penny — who was chosen with the 27th overall pick — actually saw his fourth season salary guarantee percentage decrease when compared to 2017’s No. 27 selection, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, per Florio.
The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement implemented slotted rookie contracts which make negotiations a breeze, but there’s a still a bit of wiggle room. First-rounders selected near the end of the first round won’t often get the entirety of their fourth season base salary guaranteed, but that’s an area where agents can press for a bit extra in talks. Penny’s representatives, clearly, didn’t do so, which could now lead other teams with unsigned first-round picks to withhold guarantees.
Here are the unsigned first-round picks chosen after No. 20 overall:
Overall, the amount of fourth season guarantees shouldn’t stand in the way of getting deals for the above players done, as the dollar amounts in question are in the thousands, not millions. But the lack of signed contracts does speak to the small area of available negotiation still left in rookie pacts, and is something to watch as the offseason progresses.
This year’s NFL Draft was one of the most entertaining in recent memory and chock full of polarizing prospects. With no true consensus on this year’s top talent, we want to know which top ten pick you expect to make the biggest impact right out of the gate.
Early on in the draft process, few expected Baker Mayfield to be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. As it turns out, the Browns were laser-focused on the Oklahoma quarterback and took him first overall. We’ve heard nothing but praise for Mayfield’s competitive nature, but questions persist about his size. And, while many like Mayfield’s potential in the long run, he’s positioned behind Tyrod Taylor on the Browns’ depth chart.
Many football evaluators feel that Saquon Barkley is not only the best talent in this year’s crop, but also the safest. The Giants’ decision to use the No. 2 overall pick on a running back was not well received by everyone, but he profiles as a star at the next level with a prime opportunity to excel immediately. Barkley will anchor the Giants’ running game and should have room to run as opposing defenses account for an aerial attack led by Odell Beckham Jr.
The other tenants of MetLife Stadium also feel good about their top overall pick. Sam Darnold was the darling of the scouting world for years and few expected him to fall to No. 3 back in January. Darnold continues to draw rave reviews from camp, but he is still stationed behind Josh McCown – and maybe Teddy Bridgewater – on the depth chart. It’s possible that Darnold will wind up as the Jets’ starter at some point this year, but it’s also possible that he will not see the field in his rookie season.
Beyond the much ballyhooed top three, there are plenty of other quality bets in the top ten. New Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb has the size and athleticism to excel right away, guard Quenton Nelson could help to fix the Colts’ porous offensive line, and Roquan Smith‘s top-end speed could make him a terror right off of the bat for the Bears. Alternatively, you may feel bullish about Denzel Ward‘s coverage ability, Josh Allen‘s cannon of an arm, Mike McGlinchey‘s pro-ready blocking technique, or Josh Rosen‘s potential to overtake a pair of veterans to become the Cardinals’ top QB.
Click here to cast your vote and defend your choice in the comments section below:
As shown in PFR’s tracker, the overwhelming majority of this year’s draft picks are now under contract. Of this year’s 256 selections, 239 have inked their first NFL deal. As of Monday morning, that leaves just 17 players – or 6.6% of this year’s class – unsigned. Here’s the complete breakdown of the stragglers, round by round:
At this point, the bulk of this year’s stragglers are in the first round – specifically, within the top ten. So far, Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb (No. 5 overall), Colts guard Quenton Nelson (No. 6), and Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (No. 10) are the only players in the top ten who have signed their deals. The rest of those players are likely haggling over offset language. Offset language was at the root of Joey Bosa‘s protracted negotiations with the Chargers in 2016 and kept him from signing until the very end of August.