Month: November 2020

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/30/20

We’ll post all the minor moves from what has been a very busy Monday here:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

New England Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

 

Will Fuller Suspended Six Games For PEDs

Huge news out of Houston, as star receiver Will Fuller has been suspended for six games for violating the league’s policy on PEDs, he announced on Instagram.

Earlier this year, I sought treatment from a medical professional who prescribed medication that he believed to be permitted under the NFL’s drug policy. As it turns out, my trust in this professional was misplaced because this medication was NOT a permitted substance under the NFL Policy on Performance Enhancing Substances. As a result of this mistake, I have been suspended for six games for taking this prohibited medication. I want to sincerely apologize to the Texans organization and all of my fans for this mistake. I am looking forward to putting this all behind me and returning better than ever in 2021,” he wrote in the caption.

It’s a devastating blow for a Texans team that had started to pick up some steam recently after Bill O’Brien was fired. They’ve won three of their last four games, but it’s going to be hard to keep that momentum going without Fuller in the lineup. The speedster had been having a career year, with 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games after the trade of DeAndre Hopkins.

It also complicates things personally for Fuller, as he’s slated to be a free agent at the end of the year. It’s quite possible he’s played his last down in Houston. Assuming there’s not more to this story it shouldn’t effect the money he’ll get too much, as he’s expected to be one of the most sought after free agents on the market. That being said, whether it’s with the Texans or another team, he’ll have to sit out the first game of the 2021 season.

The 21st pick of the 2016 draft, Fuller struggled with injuries in his first few years in the league, tearing an ACL in 2018 among other ailments. He was finally on track to play a full 16-game season for the first time before this ban hit. This will now be the fourth straight year that he plays in 11 games or fewer.

Randall Cobb is on injured reserve and the team just cut Kenny Stills, leaving them suddenly very thin at receiver. Deshaun Watson just can’t catch a break, and Brandin Cooks should see very heavy volume moving forward. It’ll be very interesting to see what kind of contract Fuller lands come March. The Notre Dame product will turn 27 in April.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens – Steelers Game Moved To Wednesday

The Ravens/Steelers game is getting postponed, again. This time the game is being moved from Tuesday to Wednesday, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Ravens players were apparently pounding the table asking for the game to be pushed, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets they recently held a players-only meeting where they were “adamant” of getting in a full day of practice before the game. Considering they haven’t been able to practice at all since this has been going on, their concerns of health-risks from playing with no prep are certainly understandable.

This will be only the third NFL game in history on a Wednesday, and just the second since 1948. The last time was Dallas and Washington playing the opening week of 2012. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com had tweeted earlier that there were fears some Ravens players would refuse to play on Tuesday “which technically would be a wildcat strike.” Florio wrote that would cause a major rift between the NFL and NFLPA. Multiple reporters tweeted out that Baltimore would now have a walkthrough practice tonight at their facility.

It’s unclear if the move to Wednesday will solve all of those issues. Some players still have concerns even with playing on Wednesday, Mark Maske of The Washington Post tweets. He adds that there are “still some deliberations occurring.” The league is clearly very reluctant to cancel the game and trigger a Week 18.

This is likely just the first domino to fall, as Sunday’s Washington/Pittsburgh game will now likely have to be moved, potentially to Monday. A source soon confirmed to Albert Breer of SI.com (Twitter link) that the Washington game is indeed being moved to Monday, giving us a triple-header for MNF next week. It’s a crazy situation, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted as more info comes in.

Packers To Sign Tavon Austin

Tavon Austin is back in the league. The Packers will be signing the veteran wide receiver, a source told Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Austin signed with the 49ers back in August, but was placed on injured reserve before the season started. He was released from IR last month, and has been a free agent ever since. Green Bay isn’t super deep at wideout beyond Davante Adams, so this is a flyer that can’t really hurt. That being said, Austin has been used more as a gadget player and returner than a true receiver in recent years.

The eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft, Austin spent his first five seasons with the Rams. Current Packers coach Matt LaFleur was his offensive coordinator with the Rams for the 2017 season, so there’s some familiarity here. He never came close to living up to his draft status, but Austin had some electric moments with the Rams due to his speed.

He’s got big play ability, although at 30 now he’s probably not quite as explosive as he used to be. Austin spent the past two seasons with Dallas, and caught 13 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown last year. He also returned punts for the Cowboys and Rams, and it’s possible he’ll reprise that role in Green Bay. We don’t know the terms yet, although it’s fairly safe to assume he didn’t get any significant money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers CB Jamar Taylor Has Torn ACL

The injuries keep on coming for a banged up 49ers team. San Francisco picked up a huge win over the Rams yesterday but cornerback Jamar Taylor tore his ACL in the process, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets.

Obviously, he’ll miss the rest of the season. It’s an especially tough blow for Taylor since, as Barrows wrote in a piece just last week, he was having a strong season. Making it even tougher is the fact that Taylor is set to be a free agent at the end of the year, and this will surely negatively impact his market. If he avoided any other ligament damage he should be ready for the start of the 2021 campaign.

Taylor signed with the 49ers back in June, but was released right before the start of the season. He was soon added to the practice squad, and promoted to the active roster shortly thereafter. Due to injuries he quickly started getting real playing time, and has started three of their past seven games. He intercepted two passes during the 49ers’ win over the Patriots, his only two picks of the year.

A second-round pick of the Dolphins back in 2013, Taylor has bounced around a bit. He started 29 games for the Browns from 2016-17, but hasn’t been able to find a consistent home since. As Barrows wrote in his piece, the coaching staff is fond of Taylor, and all the team’s cornerbacks will be free agents this spring. Perhaps he’ll be brought back on a one-year prove-it deal. He turned 30 in September.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updtes: Callahan, Broncos, Jones, Giants, Linsley, Packers, Hamilton, Jaguars

We’ve got a batch of next-morning injury updates to pass along. Starting in Denver, where Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan went down with a foot injury. Unfortunately, that injury will sideline him for a “significant” amount of time, head coach Vic Fangio said Monday, via Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link). Fangio said it was too early to tell if it would knock him out for the rest of the season, but that certainly sounds possible.

It’s a big blow for a Broncos team that has already been besieged by injuries. Callahan is an every down guy and one of their best players on defense. He’s in the second year of a three-year, $21MM deal he signed in March of 2019. He missed all of last season with a foot injury, although this new issue thankfully appears to be unrelated.

Here are some more health updates from around the league:

  • We heard last night that Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was feared to have a significant hamstring injury that could cause him to miss some time, but it sounds like things aren’t quite as bad as they seemed. Jones avoided major injury and has an “outside shot” at playing this Sunday, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). It appears it won’t be anything long-term, although Colt McCoy still seems like the favorite to be under center this coming weekend against the Seahawks. Every game is pivotal for Big Blue as they jockey for position in the pitiful NFC East.
  • Packers center Corey Linsley had to be carted off with a knee injury during the team’s win over the Bears last night, and fortunately it looks like a worst case scenario was avoided. That being said he’s not entirely out of the woods, as a source told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that Linsley will miss some time with a knee sprain (Twitter link). Matt LaFleur told reporters he hopes Linsley can make it back for some of the regular season, but it sounds like he should at least be ready for the playoffs. Linsley has been the guy snapping balls to Aaron Rodgers for every game of the last four seasons, so this is a big loss.
  • The Jaguars fell to 1-10 yesterday, and the hits keep on coming. Rookie defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton had to be carted off against the Browns and while head coach Doug Marrone said today it wasn’t as bad as was initially thought, he’ll still be going to injured reserve with a knee issue, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Hamilton was the 73rd overall pick of April’s draft. The Ohio State product had been playing a big role in his first pro season, starting the last six games and playing around 60 percent of the defensive snaps.

49ers To Play Home Games In Arizona

The 49ers have officially come up with a plan after Santa Clara county officials barred them from playing at home. The team will play their home games in Arizona at the Cardinals’ stadium for the rest of the year, they announced Monday.

“The San Francisco 49ers have come to an agreement with the National Football League and Arizona Cardinals which allows the 49ers to host their Weeks 13 and 14 home games against the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team at State Farm Stadium in Arizona,” the release reads. “Information regarding the 49ers future practice arrangements will be shared at the appropriate time.”

We heard yesterday that a stadium in Texas was also a possibility, but that the league office preferred they play in an NFL arena. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said after his team’s game yesterday that it was “extremely disappointing” the county didn’t give them more notice, and that they were essentially blindsided by the announcement.

The 49ers also have a home game in Week 17, although since it’s more than three weeks away (the timeframe of the halt in Santa Clara county), they may still be able to play that one in their normal stadium. As their statement says it’s unclear what they’ll do for practice, although NFL Network reported over the weekend that the team might just get a hotel in Arizona and form a bubble of sorts out in the desert. It’s a tough situation for the players and their families, who will likely now have to be separated for the time being.

NFL Cancels Ravens Practice

The NFL canceled the Ravens’ Monday morning practice, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Their game against the Steelers has been postponed twice and it’s far from certain that it’ll actually take place on Tuesday night.

The Ravens haven’t practiced in over a week due to their COVID-19 outbreak and they’re severely shorthanded. Sunday’s round of testing revealed multiple player and staff positives, marking eight straight days of unfortunate results. Wide receiver Willie Snead was among the latest, and star quarterback Lamar Jackson is out of the equation too. It’s worth noting that the Steelers have also had their fair share of COVID-19 issues. Over the weekend, the Steelers learned that they’ll be without special teams coordinator Danny Smith and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada.

Meanwhile, the Ravens players who are available for the game may have a tough time getting to the game. As of this writing, forecasts indicate that Pittsburgh could get up to six inches of snow. A third postponement of the game may prompt the NFL to reschedule the game all the way to a newly created “Week 18” or cancel it entirely.

Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr. To Enter NFL Draft

Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. announced that he will opt out in order to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft. Samuel — the son of four-time Pro Bowler Asante Samuel — profiles as a potential early-round pick.

The last three years at Florida State has had its ups and downs, but I will forever cherish the memories and relationships that I have created while I was here,” Samuel said in a statement. “When I committed to Florida State, I didn’t realize how much I would grow as a football player, and better yet, as a person. I’m thankful for my family, teammates, coaches, the athletic trainers, academic staff and fans for always guiding and supporting me throughout the years.”

Samuel leaves FSU with 97 stops, four interceptions, and 29 pass breakups across three seasons. He thrived on the whole, despite a down stretch for the Seminoles and a recent coaching staff overhaul. At 5’10”, he lacks the prototypical size for the cornerback position, but the same could be said of his dad who was only an inch taller.

The 2021 NFL Draft will be held from April 29 – May 1 in Cleveland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Tagovailoa, Colts, Castonzo, Broncos, Calabrese

Ryan Fitzpatrick helped the Dolphins improve to 7-4 with a win over the Jets on Sunday, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll get his starting gig back anytime soon. Speaking after the game, head coach Brian Flores confirmed rookie Tua Tagovailoa would remain the team’s starter when healthy. “Yeah, if he’s healthy, he’s the guy. I don’t know how many different ways we have to continue to say that. You keep asking, I’ll keep answering the same way,” Flores said, via Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Clearly he didn’t leave much wiggle room. It’s not like Fitzpatrick lit the world on fire against New York, but he did have two touchdowns and no turnovers. The offense has undeniably moved better with Fitzpatrick under center than Tagovailoa, but obviously Tua is the future. Flores felt comfortable benching Tagovailoa during their Week 11 loss to the Broncos, but clearly doesn’t want to make a full-on change. That being said with Tagovailoa potentially looking at a multi-week absence due to his thumb injury, Fitzmagic might not be ending too soon. If Fitzpatrick plays the Dolphins into the playoffs, it’ll be very interesting to see whether Flores can avoid changing his tune.

Here’s more from around the AFC as we wrap up Week 12:

  • Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo went down with a knee injury, and Philip Rivers started coming under immediate pressure the moment backup Le’Raven Clark entered the game. While Castonzo was quickly ruled out with the knee injury, fortunately it looks like he avoided major injury, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet writes that it sounds like an MCL sprain for the long-time Colt. Head coach Frank Reich said after the game a worst-case scenario had been avoided. It sounds like Castonzo won’t be out too long, but any missed time would be a brutal blow for this offense. Indy will need him as they make their playoff push.
  • The Broncos were in an unprecedented situation Sunday as all of their quarterbacks were ruled out due to COVID-19 issues. That led to practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, who played some quarterback in college, getting the start under center. But before Denver turned to Hinton they initially wanted to make offensive quality control coach Rob Calabrese their starting quarterback against the Saints, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Calabrese has been with the team the past two years and Denver felt he knew the system better than anyone else. Schefter notes the league rejected the request out of principle against coaches being activated to keep teams from stashing potential players on the coaching staff. Calabrese played some quarterback at UCF, and ended his college career in 2012. Calabrese apparently ran the offense during practice on Sunday. It’s too bad Roger Goodell didn’t allow it, as that would’ve been even more bonkers and fun than the Hinton situation.