Month: December 2018

Saints Designate WR Tommylee Lewis For Return

The Saints have designated wide receiver Tommylee Lewis to return from injured reserve, according to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link).

Lewis was placed on injured reserve on September 19 after he suffered a knee injury. NFL rules mandate a minimum eight-week absence., so Lewis won’t be able to return to game action until Week 11. Now that he’s back at practice, the Saints have a three-week window during which they must decide to active Lewis to their 53-man roster. If he’s not activated, Lewis must remain on IR for the rest of the season.

Lewis, 26, hasn’t been much of an offensive contributor in New Orleans, as he’s recorded just 17 receptions over two seasons with the Saints. But he has been a factor on special teams, serving as one of the Saints’ primary kick and punt returners over the past two years. With Lewis (and Ted Ginn Jr.) out, New Orleans has deployed running back Alvin Kamara on punts and jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill on kicks. On a macro level, New Orleans ranks ninth in special teams DVOA.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Bucs, Colts, Vinatieri, Jaguars

Although the Buccaneers ultimately stood pat prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline, they did inquire on available cornerbacks, tweets Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Only one cornerback — former Giant/current Saint Eli Apple — was traded near the deadline, but others, including Janoris Jenkins (Giants), Chris Harris and Bradley Roby (Broncos), and Gareon Conley (Raiders), were thought to be available. Tampa Bay has already lost corners Vernon Hargreaves and Marcus Williams for the season, and are currently fielding the NFL’s worst pass defense by DVOA, so adding help in the back end was certainly a priority. The Buccaneers reportedly also targeted Giants safety Landon Collins but weren’t able to come to an agreement with New York.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, now the NFL’s all-time scoring leader, has no interest in playing for any team besides Indianapolis, according to Mike Chappell of FOX59 (Twitter link). Although he’s now 45 years old, Vinatieri intends to play beyond the 2018 campaign, and the Colts would have interest in re-signing him if he keeps producing at his current level. As Chappell notes, Vinatieri and his family have settled in Indianapolis — he’s now been with the Colts for longer than he played for the Patriots — and the Colts should be contenders in 2019. Vinatieri, who signed a one-year, $3.625MM deal in the spring, has converted 14-of-16 field goals and 21-of-23 extra points this season.
  • Both the Jaguars and the Rams believed that moving Dante Fowler out of his home state of Florida would be beneficial to the young pass rusher, as Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com writes. Fowler, who was traded to Los Angeles on Tuesday, played collegiately at the University of Florida, and there’s a feeling that relocating — be it to California or anywhere that is not Florida — will be a positive. Additionally, Jacksonville has several looming defensive extensions on the horizon, including deals for stars Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue, so keeping Fowler around wasn’t a must. Plus, as Breer details, Fowler wasn’t exactly a key cog on the Jaguars’ defense, as he’d played on only 32% of the club’s defensive snaps to this point.
  • In case you missed it, Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport — whom New Orleans traded up to select in the first round of this year’s draft — is expected to miss a month or so after suffering a toe injury. Here’s how the Saints intend to replace the rookie pass rusher.

NFL Workout Updates: 10/31/18

Today’s workout updates, all courtesy of veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer:

Cincinnati Bengals

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

Redskins Designate RB Byron Marshall As IR/Return

The Redskins have designated running back Byron Marshall to return from injured reserve, tweets veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer.

Marshall was placed on injured reserve in September after initially being carried through to the Redskins’ initial 53-man roster. NFL rules stipulate that any player who returns from IR must have been on his club’s original 53-man roster, and also mandates a minimum eight-week absence. As such, Marshall can now be activated at any point over the next three weeks; if he’s not, Marshall must stay on IR for the remainder of the season.

At one point, Washington’s running back depth chart looked extremely dire after Derrius Guice, Rob Kelley, and Marshall were all placed on injured reserve. Of course, Adrian Peterson has turned back the clock since then and established himself as the club’s clear top running back. But that doesn’t mean Marshall can’t find a role behind Peterson, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, and Kapri Bibbs (although one of the latter two would likely be cut if Marshall is brought back off IR).

Marshall joined the Redskins last November after Washington signed him away from the Eagles’ practice squad. An undrafted free agent in 2016, Marshall managed nine carries for 32 yards in four games with the Redskins in 2017, and also chipped in on 34 special teams plays. However, a hamstring injury ended his campaign in early December.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Best Acquisition On Deadline Day?

In 2014, the year Pro Football Rumors was established, there were 23 NFL trades that involved veteran players (ie. deals that didn’t simply involve teams moving up and down the board on draft day). Just four years later, that number has more than doubled, as the league has seen 61 deals go down since the league year opened in March.

There are myriad reasons why the NFL is becoming a more trade-happy league, and Andrew Brandt of Sports Illustrated outlined several of them yesterday: younger general managers that are more comfortable making swaps; gobs of cap space; and the NFL’s decision to move the trade deadline back by two weeks. Whatever the explanation, it certainly makes the league more fun on deadline day.

Five trades occurred on Tuesday, with five contending clubs making what can only be described as win-now moves. Let’s take a look at each deal before deciding which team made the best acquisition at the deadline:

Texans acquired WR Demaryius Thomas and a 2019 seventh-round pick from the Broncos in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick.

  • Houston needed another pass-catcher after losing Will Fuller to a torn ACL, and while the 30-year-old Thomas isn’t exactly a perfect replacement for the speedy Fuller, he’ll give head coach Bill O’Brien and quarterback Deshaun Watson another option as they look to build on their five-game win streak. Thomas was the only player acquired on Tuesday who is signed beyond the 2018 season, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll stick with the Texans next year barring a contract restructure. He’s due a $14MM base salary in 2019, which seems untenable for a player whose production has dipped in recent campaigns.

Eagles acquired WR Golden Tate from the Lions in exchange for a 2019 third-round pick.

  • Nelson Agholor has been among the least productive wide receivers in the NFL this season, ranking next-to-last in Football Outsiders’ DYAR, which measures value over a replacement level player. Tate figures to usurp Agholor in the slot, and the Eagles could now play quite a bit more “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers). To date, Philadelphia has deployed that personnel package on only 54% of plays, fourth-least in the league, per Warren Sharp. Another plus for the Eagles? They don’t have any cap space to use in 2019, and their projected lack of free agent activity almost certainly ensures they’ll reap a compensatory selection in 2020 if Tate leaves via the open market.

Ravens acquired RB Ty Montgomery from the Packers in exchange for a 2020 seventh-round pick.

  • The Montgomery trade is a horse of a different color, as the Packers likely felt forced to deal Montgomery after he allegedly went rogue by taking a kickoff out of the end zone (and subsequently fumbling) against the Rams on Sunday, depriving Aaron Rodgers a chance at a late game comeback. As Michael Silver of NFL.com detailed, Green Bay veterans were understandably flabbergasted by Montgomery’s decision, so his departure could be viewed as addition by subtraction. That doesn’t mean Montgomery can’t be effective for the Ravens, however, as he can contribute in the passing game, the running game, and on special teams.

Rams acquired LB/DE Dante Fowler from the Jaguars in exchange for a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick.

  • The Rams didn’t exactly need more help getting after opposing quarterbacks given that they’ve managed a league-high 39.2% pressure rate. Los Angeles is getting most of that pressure from the interior (see: Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh), but outside linebackers Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre are also playing well despite not being household names. Fowler, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, is in the midst of his best season to date, and he’ll now likely be asked to rush from a stand-up, outside ‘backer position instead of his usual 4-3 defensive end spot. Jacksonville had already declined Fowler’s 2019 fifth-year option, so the Rams don’t have to worry about another high salary hitting their books next year.

Redskins acquiredHa Ha Clinton-Dix from the Packers in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round pick.

  • In terms of player-for-player upgrade, perhaps no team did better on Tuesday than the Redskins. Clinton-Dix, who ranks as Pro Football Focus‘ fifth-best safety in 2018, will be replacing Montae Nicholson, whom PFF grades a bottom-three defensive back league-wide. Washington already ranks ninth in pass defense DVOA, and the club only figures to improve after acquiring Clinton-Dix from Green Bay. Clinton-Dix is scheduled to become a free agent next spring, and while he almost certainly wouldn’t agree to an extension before hitting the open market, the Redskins do have the option of using the franchise tag to keep him around. Washington doesn’t have any other obvious franchise tender candidates, and the salary for safeties should only be worth ~$10MM.

So what do you think? Which team made the best acquisition on Tuesday? Vote below and leave your additional thoughts in the comments section! (Link for app users.)

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/31/18

Today’s minor moves:

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Seattle Seahawks

Buccaneers LB Kendell Beckwith Returns To Practice

Buccaneers linebacker Kendell Beckwith, currently on the non-football injury list, returned to practice on Wednesday, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

Beckwith was injured in an April car accident, suffering a fractured ankle that required surgery. He missed the entirety of Tampa Bay’s offseason program and the first eight weeks of the regular season, but he’s now healthy enough to begin practicing. The Buccaneers now have a three-week window during which they must decide whether to activate Beckwith or keep him on the NFI list for the remainder of the season.

“It’s really remarkable,” head coach Dirk Koetter said. “Off-season accident and when he had that surgery, they were saying this was going to be a tough injury to come back from. He’s worked his tail off. He’s had a couple setbacks along the way. They finally cleared him. I know he was excited to be out there today and we’ll have to see how he responds. If it’s positive, they’ll add more reps to his plate and as soon as he feels like he’s ready and the doctors feel like he’s ready, he could possibly return.”

The Buccaneers can use all the linebacker help they can get, as they lost both Kwon Alexander and Jack Cichy to season-ending injuries in Week 7. On Sunday, Tampa Bay deployed Adarius Taylor as its primary ‘backer opposite Lavonte David, with Devante Bond, Cameron Lynch, and Riley Bullough in reserve.

Last year, the Bucs used Beckwith at all three linebacker spots as he appeared in all 16 games with eleven starts. The 23-year-old had 73 total tackles on the year, including a 14-tackle game against the Patriots in the first month of the season. Beckwith wasn’t originally ticketed for a starting role, but he wound up playing on 847 snaps as a rookie after being selected in the third round of the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 10/31/18

Here are the practice squad decisions teams have made on Halloween:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

Seattle Seahawks

North Notes: Tate, Packers, Browns, Burns

The Lions are only one game out of the NFC North lead, but they nonetheless made the decision to trade their most productive wide receiver since Calvin Johnson to the Eagles. Golden Tate is now in Philadelphia, and some Lions staffers are “very surprised” about that transaction, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. This led Breer to wonder if there was a conflict between Tate and the Lions, and a team source informed him that wasn’t the case. Instead, the Eagles’ offer of a third-round pick for a player who was likely on his way out after 2018 was too good to pass up. Tate would have netted the Lions a compensatory pick had he left in free agency, but that selection would’ve come in the 2020 draft. Now, Detroit has an additional Day 2 pick in 2019. Tate’s departure, though, makes any Lions playoff hopes less likely.

Several of the North divisions’ teams made moves before the trade deadline. Here’s more fallout from some others, along with the latest from some other North franchises:

  • Ty Montgomery‘s fumble on Sunday in Los Angeles didn’t just prompt non-essential Packers to anonymously gripe about the mistake. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes respected veterans called out the since-traded running back/return man. That, coupled with Montgomery not accepting full responsibility for his mistake and publicly expressing trust issues with teammates, signaled the Packers had to move on from the former third-round pick, per Silverstein. Montgomery stands to finish out his contract year with the Ravens.
  • The Packers were not happy about the way Ha Ha Clinton-Dix‘s 2017 season ended, with Silverstein writing Green Bay brass believed the 2014 first-round pick avoided tackles in the season finale against the Lions. This helped influence the Packers’ decision to not enter contract talks with Clinton-Dix prior to the 2018 season. While this tactic isn’t uncommon for the Packers, who let established starters Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga, Sam Shields and others play out their contract years before re-signing them, it led Clinton-Dix to believe he wasn’t going to be back next season. Hence, the trade to Washington. GM Brian Gutekunst, however, said (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky) these trades weren’t meant as a message for the locker room.
  • As far as replacing Clinton-Dix, the Packers have some interesting options. One NFC scout told Silverstein their best choice might be to move recently added cornerback Bashaud Breeland to safety and play him in tandem with Jermaine Whitehead. Kentrell Brice served as Clinton-Dix’s safety running mate this season. A four-year Redskins starter, Breeland has not played a snap for the Packers yet. Another option, as Demovsky details, would be to play 2017 second-rounder Josh Jones. He’s worked as a special-teamer thus far. Tramon Williams could be an option as well, so Green Bay is not lacking in possible solutions.
  • The Browns named former Cardinals quarterback Ryan Lindley as their running backs coach today. This is interesting on multiple levels. The 29-year-old now-coach’s highest level of experience came as a San Diego State graduate assistant. Lindley, though, played under new Browns OC Freddie Kitchens with the Cardinals when Kitchens was their QBs coach.
  • Artie Burns did not play a snap in the Steelers‘ win over the Browns on Sunday. Mike Tomlin said he benched the former first-round cornerback because he was late for a walkthrough, but Burns said Wednesday (via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) he was back with the starters at practice. Coty Sensabaugh started in place of Burns in Week 8.

Giants Claim G Jamon Brown Off Waivers

A full-time starter for the 2017 Rams, Jamon Brown received notice on Tuesday he was being waived. He will not pass through waivers to free agency and didn’t advance far through the claim hierarchy.

The Giants claimed Brown on Wednesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The offensive line-needy team is 1-7 and getting a player in a contract year, but Brown figures to see action soon in the Big Apple.

Brown served as the Rams’ starting right guard during their playoff drought-snapping 2017 slate, and the former third-round pick had started 30 games since the 2015 season. But a suspension sidetracked his run in Los Angeles. Austin Blythe took over because of Brown receiving a two-game substance-abuse ban. Brown worked as a backup in five games this season before the Rams waived him to make roster room for Dante Fowler.

This season has obviously not gone well for the Giants. They made multiple sellers’ trades, in shipping out two defensive starters, and have struggled in many areas. Their most key problem, though, is still their offensive line. Eli Manning‘s taken 31 sacks, despite Nate Solder and Will Hernandez now being in the fold. That matches his 15-game total from 2017 and is on pace to be well north of the 15th-year veteran’s previous career high. Big Blue also recently benched Patrick Omameh, opening a spot at right guard.

Brown’s contract-year status doesn’t make much sense for the 2018 Giants, but they’re in need of blockers regardless. With answers long-term answers needed, it’s probable the Giants are ready to evaluate the longtime starter to see if he’s a candidate for an extension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.