Month: November 2019

Extra Points: Goodell, Hunt, Foster, Redskins, Kyler Murray, Whitehead

Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his annual press conference Wednesday, and was unsurprisingly asked about former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. Goodell said the investigation into the incident that led the Chiefs to cut Hunt “should conclude ‘soon’ and that he’ll go back on the exempt list whenever” he ends up signing with a team, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

As Rapsheet points out, Hunt is looking at a “likely suspension”, although it’s unclear what the length may be. We heard a couple of weeks ago that the investigation was likely to be over by March. Shortly before that, it was reported that the Bears had spoken to Hunt. Chicago seems like a strong possibility for Hunt, as Jordan Howard struggled heavily this year and it would reunite Hunt with his former offensive coordinator in Matt Nagy.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of possible suspensions, Goodell also weighed in on Reuben Foster‘s situation. In the same tweet, Rapoport wrote that Goodell said “just because his charge was dropped doesn’t mean he won’t be suspended.” Foster recently saw the charges dropped for his most recent arrest, but he’s apparently not out of the woods yet. Goodell also said that he plans to speak in person with Foster again before making a decision, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. Foster was claimed off waivers by the Redskins after the 49ers cut him late in the season, but he’s been on the exempt list ever since.
  • The Redskins recently promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell to offensive coordinator, but that doesn’t mean head coach Jay Gruden is giving up play-calling duties. Redskins team president Bruce Allen said during a recent radio appearance that as of now the plan is still for Gruden to call the plays, according to John Keim of ESPN.com. Allen did leave the door open for things to change, and other sources told Keim that a change is still in play.
  • Despite declaring for the NFL draft, Kyler Murray is still very much undecided about whether he’ll play football or baseball, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). Rapoport notes in the video that Murray hasn’t yet hired an agent for football or committed to attending the combine next month, and says the A’s, the MLB team that holds Murray’s rights, are still negotiating to potentially sweeten his deal and convince him to play baseball. He’ll have to make a decision pretty soon, and we should know a lot more within the next few weeks.
  • Former Cowboys and Jets kick returner Lucky Whitehead was arrested in Virginia earlier this week and charged with driving under the influence, according to TMZ. Whitehead was released by the Cowboys in 2017 after a bizarre incident where it was wrongly reported that Whitehead had been arrested after someone had given his identity to police. He was claimed off waivers by the Jets, and spent the 2017 season with them. Cut this past August, he spent the entire 2018 season out of football. Now arrested for real, this won’t help his chances of getting back into the league.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/31/19

Here are Thursday’s reserve/futures contracts:

Kansas City Chiefs

Ripkowski is most well known for spending a few years as the Packers’ fullback. Green Bay drafted him in the sixth round in 2015, but cut him this past September. For his career Ripkowski has rushed 39 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns, with 17 catches for 103 receiving yards and another touchdown. The Chiefs already have Pro Bowler Anthony Sherman at fullback, but he is set to be a free agent this March, so perhaps the Chiefs are signing Ripkowski as insurance in case Sherman departs.

 

Eagles Rework S Rodney McLeod’s Contract

The Eagles have agreed to rework Rodney McLeod‘s contract, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

McLane doesn’t have details on the revised contract yet, but he notes that it’ll keep him with the team for 2019. As McLane wrote in a follow-up tweet, a lot of people thought the team might move on from McLeod this offseason, but this move apparently guarantees his return. His cap number had been set to be $9.9MM for this year, although that’s presumably been reduced.

McLeod signed a deal that went through the 2020 season back in 2016, but he tore his ACL in Week 3 of this year. McLeod signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent back in 2012, and blossomed into a nice player in St. Louis. His strong play landed him a five-year, $37MM deal with Philly.

McLeod is a key part of the defense and his injury was a large part of the reason the Eagles’ secondary collapsed this year, so it’s not surprising they figured out a way to keep him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Packers’ Coaching Staff

The Packers are just about done filling out Matt LaFleur’s inaugural staff. They’ve made a bunch of moves over the past couple of weeks, and made several more today. While LaFleur is keeping defensive coordinator Mike Pettine from Mike McCarthy’s staff, most of the assistants are being changed out. Pettine is staying and the team previously hired Nathaniel Hackett to coordinate the offense, and today they found their third coordinator.

Vanderbilt special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga will take the same job with the Packers, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link). As Demovsky points out, Green Bay’s special teams were some of the worst in the league last year, so Mennenga will have his work cut out for him. Mennenga was previously an assistant special teams coach with the Browns while Pettine was the head coach in Cleveland.

The team also has a new wide receivers coach, as they’re hiring Alvis Whitted, according to Demovsky. Whitted has been in the same position at Colorado State for the last seven years. Before that Whitted spent nearly a decade in the NFL as a player, with stops in Jacksonville and Oakland.

The team also announced they were keeping four of McCarthy’s other assistants, tweets Jason Wilde of ESPN. Running backs coach Ben Sirmans, defensive backs coach Jason Simmons, defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, and assistant defensive backs coach Ryan Downard are all staying. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that both Simmons and Downard actually received promotions.

Cam Newton Expected To Be Ready For Training Camp

New Panthers owner David Tepper sparked panic among the team’s fanbase when he compared Cam Newton‘s shoulder situation to Andrew Luck‘s, and seemed to hint that Newton could miss the entire 2019 season. Less than a week later, it was announced that Newton underwent another shoulder surgery.

That only increased the uncertainty surrounding his status, but Panthers fans got some good news today. Newton is recovering well, and the Panthers’ coaching staff is “optimistic that Newton will fully rehabilitated by training camp”, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. Rodrigue had head coach Ron Rivera speaking on the record, and he sounded fairly confident that Newton isn’t in any danger of missing any regular season time.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network followed up with a tweet pointing out that the “surgery was not to his rotator cuff like last year’s was”, so it wasn’t necessarily an aggravation of the previous injury. In Rodrigue’s piece, which is worth a read, Rivera details how Newton was dealing with crippling pain the second half of the season that significantly limited his range of motion in his arm and hurt his accuracy.

It doesn’t sound like a Luck situation is going to play out, and while Rodrigue notes that the team plans to take it easy with Newton this spring, we should see him at close to full speed this summer. Rivera said Newton has already shown “marked improvement” and that “he has gotten a lot of range of motion back.” The Panthers started the year 6-2, but everything went downhill when Newton popped up on the injury report with his shoulder issue. The team went 1-7 the rest of the way, and Newton was shut down for the final two games of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Carr, Broncos

As the Raiders transition further into the second Jon Gruden era, more staff turnover can be expected. Mike Mayock has replaced Reggie McKenzie as GM, and another of McKenzie’s lieutenants is no longer with the team. Director of pro personnel Dane Vandernat recently left the Raiders, according to Sirius XM’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter). Vandernat’s contract was to expire after the draft, per Caplan, who adds Dave Razzano will take over some of Vandernat’s pre-draft workload. This comes after player personnel director Joey Clinkscales received his walking papers. Teams that make front office changes often wait until after the draft to revamp scouting departments, and Mayock recently said he is scouting the in-house scouts. Vandernat’s Raiders arrival predated McKenzie’s. He had been with the team since 2008. Reggie McKenzie’s twin brother, Raleigh McKenzie, is still working for the Raiders as a scout.

Here is the latest from the AFC West, shifting to the Raiders’ quarterback situation.

  • Rumors are circulating about Gruden and Mayock bringing in their own quarterback, with Peter King of NBC Sports writing “lots” of suspicion has arisen about the Raiders drafting a passer in the first round. This prospective move would not be accompanied by a Derek Carr trade, per King, who adds an NFL exec said the team may be tempted by the Chiefs’ draft-and-wait model they used with Patrick Mahomes. Of course, Alex Smith was 33 during Mahomes’ rookie season; Carr will turn 28 this year. That would not make for a smooth setup. Additionally, the Raiders’ first-round picks acquired via trade sit at Nos. 24 and 27. Several potential quarterback-seeking teams pick ahead of them, with the Giants (No. 6), Jaguars (7), Broncos (10), Dolphins (13, though they are eyeing the 2020 QB class) and Redskins (15) stationed in the first round’s top half. It would be a bit odd if the Raiders gave up assets to replace Carr, and King is hearing buzz about it even taking a top-10 pick to select Kyler Murray (if he ends up in the draft).
  • The Broncos‘ $41MM-plus in cap space places them in the upper middle class this offseason, but they have a few possible cuts they can make to increase that figure. Coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 46 years, the Broncos are expected to be active in free agency, ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold notes (on Twitter). Denver needs help at cornerback, on the offensive line and at tight end, to name three spots. The Broncos have several notable UFAs, but so far, Matt Paradis has been the only higher-end UFA mentioned as a player the franchise would like to retain. Bradley Roby, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett, the latter eyeing a starting role he cannot obtain in Denver, are expected to depart.
  • DeMarcus Ware worked as a pass-rush consultant in Denver last season, but he might not be back in 2019. Vic Fangio has not spoken with Ware about returning, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. Fangio said he will spend time with Denver’s outside linebackers, and he brought Brandon Staley over from Chicago to directly oversee this spot.
  • The Broncos hired the grandson of former Colorado coach Bill McCartney to be their quarterbacks coach, and they are adding former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington HC Tyrone Willingham‘s son, Nathaniel Willingham, to serve as their defensive quality control coach, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The younger Willingham spent the past four seasons as a Stanford coach.
  • Melvin Gordon will see how Le’Veon Bell‘s deal affects the market before discussing a Chargers extension.

No Extension Planned For Jason Garrett?

As the Cowboys plan to make two recent backup quarterbacks their core offensive assistants, they are not planning an extension for their former backup-turned-longtime head coach.

After talk of a Jason Garrett extension surfaced earlier this month, nothing on that front is now being planned, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports. No short- or long-term re-up is on tap at this time, per Archer. Garrett is going into the final season of his five-year, $30MM contract.

En route to the NFC East title, the Cowboys finished the season 7-1 and won a playoff game for the first time since the 2014 season. Garrett has been Dallas’ head coach since the 2010 season. He is now the NFL’s sixth-longest-tenured head coach. The five ahead of him — Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll — have each won Super Bowls, four of those coaches having been to at least two.

It would make sense for the Cowboys to apply pressure for Garrett to sustain success, as he enters his ninth full season as a head coach. He has not taken the Cowboys to back-to-back playoff brackets. The 52-year-old HC coached into a lame-duck year in 2014, when a 12-4 Cowboys team nearly voyaged to the NFC championship game. Garrett signed his current deal after the season. A similar timeline may have to occur this year, with Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweeting another lame-duck season will be the franchise’s plan.

The Cowboys are tabbing 29-year-old Kellen Moore, who was still at Boise State when Garrett’s Dallas tenure began, to become the league’s youngest active OC. Moore is expected to call plays, leaving Garrett in his usual CEO role.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Melvin Gordon To Wait On Le’Veon Bell Deal

Two of Melvin Gordon‘s peers reset the stagnant running back market in 2018, but the Chargers back will wait to see what happens with a unique free agent before entering into extension talks with his own team.

By virtue of hitting the open market, Le’Veon Bell may land a deal which could conceivably surpass those of Todd Gurley and David Johnson. Or Bell’s workload and injury history compared to those two may prevent his deal from breaking records.

Either way, the running back market will look different after the soon-to-be ex-Steelers back signs his long-sought-after contract. And Gordon, going into his fifth season, will not commit to a Chargers long-term pact until this happens.

I’m waiting. I’m sitting back waiting, waiting on Bell,” Gordon said during an appearance on NFL Media’s Around The NFL podcast (via the Orange County Register). “I’m glad it’s changing because we (running backs) were getting devalued for a little bit. But me, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, I can go down a whole list, Bell, you name it, ‘Zeke,’ just game-changers, Alvin Kamara, all those guys.”

Entering the 2019 offseason, the running back market is vastly improved from where it rested the previous few years. After Adrian Peterson‘s contract came off the Vikings’ books, LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM-per-year deal led the way, before Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM-AAV accord — a lower percentage of the cap when the Falcons back signed, compared to McCoy’s pact — raised it. Gurley pushed that to $14.38MM per year, with Johnson settling in at $13MM.

With no other backs signing for between the new top tier (Gurley and Johnson) and the second tier (topped by McCoy and Freeman’s contracts) since last year, a sizable gulf exists. Averaging a career-high 114.6 yards from scrimmage per game last season, Gordon seemingly would be in line to land a deal in between the Gurley-Freeman gap. Bell may help determine what Gordon’s next deal’s numbers look like, with Ezekiel Elliott surely monitoring the proceedings closely as well.

Like Bell, Gordon’s injury history (December IR trips in each of his first two seasons and four missed games in 2018) may come into play, only the latter likely will not have the luxury of hitting the market. The Chargers have Gordon locked down via team-friendly $5.61MM fifth-year option next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Promote Kellen Moore To OC

The Cowboys have filled their offensive coordinator post, and it will be Kellen Moore who will take over for Scott Linehan. The team announced Moore, rumored to be the frontrunner for this post, will become an OC in his second season as a coach.

Jon Kitna will be the team’s new quarterbacks coach, taking over for Moore. The latter’s playing career did not conclude until after the 2017 season, and it is now fair to label Moore, at 29, as one of the fastest-rising assistants in NFL history.

Moore is expected to call plays next season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Jason Garrett was initially rumored to reclaim play-calling duties, but the Cowboys prefer their head coach in a CEO-type role on game days. Dallas will be taking a gamble on an inexperienced coach, who will be flanked by Kitna — a high school head coach until being brought back to Dallas this month. Moore and Kitna served in their new roles at the Pro Bowl, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets.

The Cowboys made Dak Prescott a major part of this process, and the three-year starter again gave Moore a ringing endorsement, despite his lack of coaching credentials.

He can be crazy-creative,” Prescott said, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “From the time he was a player to his time now, he sits over there, we’re watching plays and he’ll draw a play up and say, ‘Hey, this is a complement off that.’

“I mean that was the main reason I pushed for him to be the quarterback coach in the first place because I knew the intelligence he has in the game, how smart he is, how creative he can be. He’s a phenom when it comes to the game.”

Both Moore and Kitna, like Garrett, served as Cowboys backup quarterbacks for a time. Moore and Kitna started games with the team this decade. Kitna, 46, finished his career in 2011 as Tony Romo‘s backup, playing that role for two seasons. Moore was not turned to as frequently, last playing in a game in 2015. But the Cowboys kept the former Boise State standout around as a third-stringer through the 2017 campaign.

Over the past three years, the Cowboys’ offense regressed from fifth to 14th to 22nd — both in scoring and yardage — and the team wanted to promote from within to see if it could improve. No outside candidates were believed to have been interviewed, though tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier — a college OC from 2008-17 — will take on more responsibility.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jeffery Simmons Barred From Combine

The NFL Draft scouting combine is weeks away, but one of this year’s top prospects will not be taking part in the event. Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, a potential top 10 pick, will not be invited because he does not meet the criteria for the NFL’s policy regarding past issues involving violence, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hears (Twitter link). The same goes for Colorado State wide receiver Preston Williams

Simmons was arrested for simple assault in 2016 after repeatedly striking a woman. For his part, Simmons says he was attempting to stop said woman from assaulting his sister. The incident occurred just before Simmons began his collegiate career and he was allowed to enter MSU while completing counseling programs. Williams, meanwhile, was arrested in 2017 for an altercation involving a woman.

So far, these are the only two known players to be barred from the combine for this year, sources tell Pelissero. However, invitations have been pulled in past after failed background checks.

Simmons, who stands 6’4″, 300 pounds, appeared in 37 total games in his three-year career with the Bulldogs, managing 159 tackles (30.5 for loss), six sacks, and five forced fumbles during that time. He was named first-team All-SEC in both 2017 and 2018, and this season won the Conerly Trophy as the top college football player in the state of Mississippi.

Despite the red flags, Simmons is widely expected to be an early first-round selection. CBSSports.com ranks him as the draft’s No. 7 overall prospect.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.