Month: January 2018

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/19/18

Here are the latest reserve/futures contract signings from around the NFL. These deals will go into effect on the first day of the 2018 league year, with players joining their respective clubs’ offseason 90-man rosters:

Arizona Cardinals

  • LB Praise Martin-Oguike

Oakland Raiders

  • LS Andrew East

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • S Malik Golden
  • LB Darnell Leslie
  • P Matt Wile

Tennessee Titans

  • QB Tyler Ferguson

Washington Redskins

Titans Interview Matt LaFleur

The Titans have announced that they have finished their interview today with Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. The sides had to push back the scheduled meeting a day because of weather-related issues, but LaFleur has now completed his first interview for a head coaching role.

Matt LaFleur (Vertical)

LaFleur is young for a potential head coach at just 38 years old. He also is inexperienced as an offensive coordinator having served just one season under Sean McVay in Los Angeles. In his favor, LaFleur does have a tremendous track record as a quarterbacks coach, most recently helping to guide Matt Ryan through an MVP campaign just a year ago.

The Titans and former head coach Mike Mularkey parted ways because of the team’s wish to get the right guy for Marcus Mariota‘s development moving forward. LaFleur seems to fit the bill with what the front office is looking for.

With that said, Tennessee is still considering candidates of many background, including Mike Vrabel (HOU DC), Steve Wilks (CAR DC) and Frank Reich (Eagles OC). Just Wilks and Vrabel have been interviewed along with LaFleur.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: What Will Be The Super Bowl LII Matchup?

It’s almost here! Super Bowl LII is just a few weeks away, and by Sunday night, we will know what teams will get the chance to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Championship weekend is headlined by a team that everyone thought would be here and three others that have overcome the odds for their opportunity to play under the brightest of lights on February 4. But what will that matchup be come when all is set and done on Sunday? Here are the breakdowns of all four teams that are now a win away from appearing in the Super Bowl.

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New England Patriots (14-3)

The defending Super Bowl champs will play in their seventh straight AFC championship game. They’ve won two of the past three Super Bowls and have the greatest coach-quarterback combo in the history of football. However, even entering the playoffs as the favorite, New England has still faced some challenges in the last few weeks. The organization had to deal with a bombshell report that cited major drama between the three most powerful people in the Pats franchise. Despite the story, the team made easy work of the Titans in the divisional round. They’ll face a much tougher test on Sunday against the Jaguars, and they will have to win with Tom Brady dealing with a thumb injury. The five-time Super Bowl winner will almost assuredly be playing this weekend, but it could put more pressure on the team’s stable of running backs to make plays in the rushing and passing game. The Pats defense took a big step up in terms of pressuring Marcus Mariota and a repeat performance in that aspect will go a long way in the Pats getting to their second straight Super Bowl.

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6)

The Jags were expected to beat the Bills in the Wild Card round, but pulled off an upset of the Steelers in the Divisional round. Blake Bortles and the offense picked up the pace last Sunday, and they’ll need to continue that type of production in order to keep up with the Patriots in the AFC Championship. The team is still led by a fast and opportunistic defense that can cause turnovers at any time. If they can get pressure on Brady, especially with an injured thumb, they may be able to provide their offense with some breathing room throughout the game. The formula remains the same if the Jags are to pull an even bigger shocker on Sunday. They must run the ball, control the clock, play stellar defense and mix in some big plays if they hope to play in their first Super Bowl about two weeks from now.

Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)

The Eagles were a rare underdog as a number one seed in the second round of the playoffs. However, Nick Foles and the offense were just productive enough for the defense to hold the Falcons out of the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia is going to need a better effort against a better Vikings team that is possibly the most complete team in football. The Eagles ran the ball a ton last Saturday and found a nice rhythm offensively when Doug Pederson allowed Foles to have options to either pass or run later in the game. They’ll likely do this again to help their quarterback think less and find Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and others for first downs. The Eagles defense led by the likes of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry and Timmy Jernigan need to force mistakes and give the offense some short fields so they can put enough points o the board to win the game and advance to the team’s second-ever Super Bowl.

Minnesota Vikings (14-3)

Mike Zimmer‘s squad doesn’t seem to have a weakness on their roster. They can run the ball with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. They have an explosive passing game that can work in the redzone or down the field with weapons like Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. The defense has playmakers in every unit as well, so it’s tough for the opposing offense to exploit a certain area when on the field. Nevertheless, the team needed the “Minnesota Miracle” at the end of the game against the Saints in order to advance further into the postseason. They’ll face a different type of team in the Eagles who are more based of their pass rush and controlling the clock. The Vikings will be favored on Sunday because of the way Case Keenum is playing compared to Foles. But the Eagles won’t likely roll over because of the great front seven and the mistakes that they can create on passing downs. Minnesota’s offensive line could be the key to a victory because it would allow Keenum to find his playmakers on the outside to help put up points and force the Eagles to take their chances on Foles’ arm to win the game.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Brady, Maclin, Bowman, Jets

Tom Brady suffered a “painful” thumb injury during a practice that took place at the beginning of the week, reports Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. According to Curran, the 40-year-old quarterback cut his thumb badly when a running back smashed it while the team was running a play at practice. However, Curran notes that Brady can throw, but doesn’t know exactly just how much it will affect the Patriots gameplan this Sunday.

As always, Curran notes that the team is not letting much information out to the press or public at this time. It’s highly unlikely that Brady will not play in the AFC Championship game, but it is a story that people should keep track of as the game time approaches over the weekend. Perhaps the biggest development that Curran has to offer is that Brady is “not taking snaps from under center”.

The team has listed Brady as questionable on the most recent injury report, but the impact of the injury could have a major effect on Bill Belichick‘s gameplan even though nobody expects the five-time Super Bowl winner to miss such a big game.

Here are more stories coming out of the AFC:

  • The Ravens have a few players that could be cut in order to create some more cap space for potential offseason moves. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun listed some of the veterans that could be on their way out. These names included: Lardarius Webb, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Carr, Austin Howard, Breshad Perriman and Albert McClellan. However, the most interesting player on his list could be wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The Ravens thought Maclin would be a key addition after he has cut by the Chiefs last offseason, but it was mostly a pedestrian year for 29-year-old pass catcher. Baltimore needs a makeover at the receiver position and could make room for new targets for Joe Flacco by cutting Maclin and letting the likes of Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro walk in free agency.
  • While the addition of NaVorro Bowman could not stop the bleeding of a disappointing 2017 Raiders season, that doesn’t necessarily mean that new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther doesn’t want the veteran linebacker back in the fold in 2018, reports Scott Bair of NBC Sports“NaVorro is a prototype middle linebacker, really,” said Guenther. “The thing that impressed me most with NaVorro is that they got him here midseason and by the end of the year, it appeared to me that he was kind of the leader of the unit, making a lot of calls. You can see that on tape. It looks like he is a smart guy that understands the game. I love smart guys that love playing football. Hopefully we can get him back in the fold and keep him a Raider.”
  • Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson was arrested on a number of charges earlier this morning. Connor Hughes of NJ.com has more details about what occurred to bring this type of discipline. According to a police report that NJ.com obtained, Hughes reports that Anderson”rapidly accelerated” past cops at 105 mph after he saw them on the side of the road. As the cops followed behind Anderson, the report states that Anderson was “all over the road”, and seemingly “failed to maintain a single lane on numerous occasions.” Anderson did eventually stop the car and was arrested, but not until make a number of threats to the police officer’s wife. These details spell more bad news for Anderson who already was arrested back in May while he was at a festival in Miami. The wideout may face discipline from the NFL, but the league still must do their due diligence investigating the incidents until any punishments will be handed down to the 24-year-old.

Redskins Sign Orlando Franklin

The Redskins have made sure to bring some offensive line depth to training camp even before the offseason starts. The team has signed veteran offensive lineman Orlando Franklin to a futures/reserve contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Orlando Franklin (vertical)

Franklin, 30, actually signed with the team during this past regular season while the Redskins dealt with injuries to a number of offensive lineman. However, he was released after just spending a week in D.C. The move to bring Franklin back could be much needed as the Redskins could be losing offensive linemen Shawn Lauvao, Tony Bergstrom and Spencer Long to free agency this offseason.

Franklin spent four years in Denver after the Broncos took him in the second round back in 2011. He then played with the Chargers for two seasons before signing with the Saints last summer, but was cut just five days after agreeing to terms with New Orleans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers’ Eli Rogers Tore ACL Last Sunday

The Steelers will not be playing in the AFC Championship this weekend, but still have an injury to deal with after last Sunday’s game. We have learned that Pittsburgh wide receiver Eli Rogers did tear his ACL on the team’s final drive of their loss to the Jaguars in the divisional round, reports Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Eli Rogers (Vertical)

Rogers, 25, sat as the Steelers fourth receiver on the depth chart for most of the year, but did get a lot more chances in the slot when Antonio Brown went down with an injury in the last two weeks of the regular season. In all, the former undrafted free agent made 18 catches for 149 yards and one touchdown in 14 games. This stands well below his productive 2016 season in which he caught 48 balls for close to 600 yards and three scores.

According to Dulac, head coach Mike Tomlin did not mention the injury in a season ending press conference that took place on Tuesday. However, the wideout will now have all offseason to recover from his torn ACL. He will be a restricted free agent this offseason after signing a three-year contract coming out of college in 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals Complete Second Interviews With Keith Armstrong, Steve Wilks

With the Giants, Colts and Lions all having head coaches likely to accept job offers, the Cardinals continue to talk to different candidates about their vacant head coaching gig. Today, the team has just completed a second interview with Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link) and Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

Keith Armstrong (vertical)

Armstrong originally spoke to the team on January 8, but received a second interview request after it was revealed that other potential candidates Matt Patricia and Pat Shurmur would likely accept other jobs after their respective teams are eliminated from the postseason.

The 54-year-old Armstrong has held his special teams post in Atlanta since 2008. The Cardinals have been the only team that has requested to interview him for a head coaching role. On the other hand, Wilks has been spoken to a number of teams about their vacant head coaching gigs, including the Titans, who still have their spot open.

Arizona is still considering multiple coaches, including current defensive coordinator James Bettcher, Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo, Patriots linebacker coach Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fritz Pollard Alliance Responds To Raiders Ruling

The NFL has decided that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule during the interview process that resulted in Jon Gruden‘s hiring. The Fritz Pollard Alliance is less than pleased. Jon Gruden (vertical)

We strongly disagree with the NFL’s conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement (via PFT). “We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction. In his enthusiasm to hire Jon Gruden, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis failed to fulfill his obligation under the Rule and should step forward and acknowledge he violated the Rule.”

The league feels that the Raiders complied with the Rooney rule by interviewing a pair of minority candidates before officially hiring Gruden. But, it appears that Gruden verbally accepted the job and agreed to terms with the club well before Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin met with GM Reggie McKenzie. The Fritz Pollard Alliance says it will push to change the Rooney Rule to ensure that a black candidate is genuinely considered for every head coaching vacancy.

The NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance,” the statement said. “Davis crossed the line, and we are disappointed in the League’s decision. The Rooney Rule and all of the League’s equal opportunity efforts need to be strengthened. We have called for meetings with the League to ensure that a process like this never happens again.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance is led by John Wooten and U.S. civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri. Mehri, a tenacious lawyer who ran an aggressive campaign to take over the NFLPA last year, figures to fight hard for an update to Rooney Rule protocol.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL: Raiders Complied With Rooney Rule

When the Raiders seemingly agreed to hire Jon Gruden without interviewing any other candidates, black or otherwise, many wondered if the team would face sanctions for violating the Rooney Rule. The NFL investigated the matter and concluded on Friday that the team did comply with the rule, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Jon Gruden (vertical)

The ruling is sure to draw eye rolls from many around the game. In Gruden’s introductory press conference, owner Mark Davis insinuated that he had reached agreement with the coach on Christmas Eve. Two minority candidates Oakland tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin – were technically interviewed before Gruden signed a contract, but it seems that the job was already taken by the time they met with team brass in the New Year.

I felt pretty confident that he was all-in,” Davis said of the Dec. 24 discussion. “And that’s the term that we were using in our discussions and everything, are you all-in? And I never wavered from all-in. And this time he didn’t waver, either.”

First implemented in 2003, the Rooney Rule stipulates that at least one minority candidate must be interviewed for all head coach or senior football operations positions in the NFL. It’s possible that there will be changes to the rule in response to the Raiders’ conduct.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.