Month: November 2021

David Bakhtiari Likely Out For Season

In a brutal late-season blow, the Packers are not expected to have their left tackle for their Super Bowl push. David Bakhtiari is believed to have suffered a torn ACL in practice Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Recently given an offensive line-record contract, Bakhtiari has anchored Green Bay’s front for several seasons. He made his third Pro Bowl this year and is a first-team All-Pro candidate.

Pro Football Focus ranks the 29-year-old left tackle as its No. 2 overall tackle this season. He has certainly boosted Aaron Rodgers‘ chances of winning a third MVP award. The favorites to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed, the Packers will be hard-pressed to replace the eighth-year standout.

A 2013 fourth-round pick, Bakhtiari did miss time earlier this season. He suffered a chest injury during the Packers’ blowout loss in Tampa. But he returned after a three-game absence. The Colorado alum became an instant starter in Green Bay as a rookie and has never missed more than four games in a season.

Green Bay has deployed a top-tier offensive line this season, with guard Elgton Jenkins joining Bakhtiari as a Pro Bowl honoree and center Corey Linsley rating as PFF’s runaway top center. The Packers lead the NFL in points (474) and rank third in yardage in Matt LaFleur‘s second season. They will face a more difficult road to the Super Bowl as a result of this crushing New Year’s Eve news.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Watt, Green, Chiefs, Gordon, Pats

Vocal about his frustration with the Texans‘ situation, J.J. Watt is on track to play in 16 games for just second time in the past five seasons. Although a midseason report tabbed the future Hall of Fame defensive lineman as a “virtual lock” to be traded in the offseason, Watt has one season remaining on his Texans deal. He acknowledged his contract — a six-year, $100MM 2014 pact that has since been lapped by a few younger D-linemen — will need to be addressed in 2021.

There’s a whole lot of unknowns in that situation. We’ll see what happens,” Watt said, via Fox 26’s Mark Berman (video link). “I don’t have any guarantees left in my contact, so something’s got to happen one way or another. I’m not sure. There’s too many unknowns.”

Thanks to the Laremy Tunsil deal, the Texans do not have first- or second-round picks in next year’s draft. Despite Watt’s contributions, Houston’s defense ranks near the bottom of the NFL. And the team does not have many long-term cornerstones on offense beyond Tunsil or Deshaun Watson. Watt, 31, would be an interesting 2021 trade chip — should the Texans attempt to collect assets for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year — but the prospect of a new Watt contract in a year when the cap is set to decline would seemingly affect his market.

Here is the latest from the AFC heading into Week 17:

  • Another superstar from the 2011 draft class, A.J. Green may be set for his final Bengals game Sunday. The former perennial Pro Bowler has seen his role in Cincinnati’s offense reduced, despite playing on the franchise tag, and acknowledged Sunday might be it for him in western Ohio. “If this is my last game, I had an unbelievable 10 years here,” Green said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Baby, on Twitter) Thursday. The Bengals did not let Green test free agency this year, which understandably led to frustration from the veteran, and 2021 figures to be a crowded marketplace for wideouts. Green, 32, stayed healthy this year but has just 47 receptions for 523 yards — a distant third among Bengals.
  • The Broncos will have a decision to make at running back soon. They have Phillip Lindsay looming as an RFA, and Melvin Gordon‘s DUI arrest has him facing a three-game suspension — one that would stand to void the remaining guarantees on his two-year, $16MM deal. “Hopefully I did enough for them to want to keep me here,” Gordon said, via 9News’ Mike Klis. Gordon has rushed for 893 yards in 14 games but has a career-low 141 receiving yards.
  • A back injury ended Mitchell Schwartz‘s iron-man streak at 134 games; the Chiefs‘ All-Pro right tackle has been out since Week 6. Andy Reid said the veteran right tackle is making progress but was vague on a return timeline, per the Kansas City Star’s Herbie Teope (on Twitter). Another report, via the Star’s Sam Mellinger (on Twitter), indicated Schwartz is not expected to return this season. Schwartz, 31, has long been one of the NFL’s top right tackles. His absence would obviously make a Chiefs repeat championship more difficult.
  • Brandon Bolden was one of the eight Patriots to opt out because of COVID-19 concerns, but the longtime backup running back/special-teamer plans to play in 2021. The 30-year-old back tweeted he wants to return next season, though it is not certain if the Patriots will bring him back. Thanks to Bolden’s 2020 money tolling, he is under contract next year on a $1.3MM base salary.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/31/20

Here are the minor moves from 2020’s final day:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: C Alex Mack

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles

Rams Place Michael Brockers On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Rams continue to run into obstacles in the leadup to their Week 17 game against the Cardinals. While most of them have been on offense, Los Angeles’ defense may be set to be without a key player.

Michael Brockers now resides on the Rams’ reserve/COVID-19 list. It is not yet known if the veteran defensive lineman tested positive or is classified as one of the two types of close contacts. This classification will determine if Brockers is eligible to suit up Sunday in a game that may determine if the Rams make the playoffs.

This move comes after the Rams ruled out Jared Goff for Week 17, placed Darrell Henderson on IR and placed Cooper Kupp on the COVID list. Cam Akers did not practice Wednesday and, considering he is dealing with a high ankle sprain, must be considered iffy at best for Sunday’s game. The Rams moved Micah Kiser off IR this week but did so in a procedural move. The inside linebacker is not expected to play. Although Andrew Whitworth returned to practice, it is not certain if the longtime left tackle will be back this week either.

Aaron Donald‘s longtime sidekick up front, Brockers opted to return to the Rams after his Ravens agreement fell through. He has again delivered, registering five sacks — a half-sack shy of his career high — and a career-most 10 QB hits. The 30-year-old defender has been a key player for the Rams since being selected in the 2012 first round and has obviously been central to the team’s defensive resurgence this season.

The Rams can make the playoffs with a win over the Cardinals or a Bears loss to the Packers. Given their expanding list of unavailable or potentially unavailable players, the latter route is becoming increasingly more relevant.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ COVID-19 Situation

The Browns’ COVID-19 situation will keep at least four players out of their crucial Week 17 game. Linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant are the players who tested positive for the coronavirus, sources tell NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). They’ll be held out of Sunday’s tilt against the Steelers, along with linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo

[POLL: Which AFC Contender Will Miss Playoffs?]

Although the team reopened its facility after a contact tracing effort Wednesday, the Browns closed it again Thursday. They will, however, have their top four receivers back this week. Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge are off the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. So is linebacker Jacob Phillips. The Steelers-Browns rematch remains on schedule for 1pm ET Sunday.

Denzel Ward, however, is the latest Browns player to run into COVID trouble. The Browns’ No. 1 cornerback tested positive for the coronavirus and is out Sunday, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter). He is out for Sunday’s game and would be a long shot to play in the Browns’ playoff opener, should they qualify.

The Browns are playing to snap the NFL’s longest active playoff drought. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they’ll need the Colts to do the same, but that would hinge on a quality performance from the lowly Jaguars. If the Browns lose and the Colts win, they’ll need a Titans loss, plus wins from the Ravens and Dolphins to sneak into the postseason.

On the plus side, the Steelers indicated they will rest Ben Roethlisberger this weekend. Plus, they’ll be without top defenders Devin Bush and Bud Dupree, who limited the Browns to just six points in their October meeting. As it stands, Football Outsiders gives the Browns a 44% chance to hold at the No. 6 seed and a 20% chance to make it as the No. 7 seed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Won’t Consider College Coach

The Texans are casting a wide net in their head coaching search. However, they’re not looking to pull a candidate from college to the pros. Th Texans are planning to hire a coach with previous NFL experience, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle hears.

[RELATED: Texans Interview Marvin Lewis]

In recent weeks, we’ve heard buzz about Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, and others from the NCAA ranks. Meanwhile, the Texans’ early interview slate has been focused on seasoned NFL vets, like Jim Caldwell and Marvin Lewis.

The Texans’ next GM (who will not be the same person as the head coach) should help dictate the search the rest of the way. That hire will likely come before the HC pick. Many expect Seahawks OC Brian Schottenheimer to meet with Texans brass before all is said and done. The pool may also include Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, a reported fave of quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins’ Ryan Fitzpatrick Tests Positive For COVID-19

The Dolphins will be without Ryan Fitzpatrick for Sunday’s game against the Bills. The backup quarterback has tested positive for COVID-19, as Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweet.

Fitzpatrick has been the steady hand and occasional fill-in behind rookie Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins won’t have that safety net for their pivotal Week 17 game. Instead, they’ve signed Jake Rudock to serve as their temporary QB2.

It hurts. He’s a leader on our team. He brings energy,” Dolphins safety Eric Rowe said (via ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe). “I’m sure it’s worse for him because he loves the game and no one wants to catch COVID. With that, you have to push forward. COVID is a real-deal thing whether you don’t have symptoms or you do. Just praying he doesn’t have symptoms or he didn’t pass it to his kids.”

FitzMagic’s latest outing boosted the Dolphins to a 26-25 win over the Raiders. All in all, the 38-year-old is 4-3 as a starter in 2020. He’ll be watching from a distance as the Dolphins look to clinch their spot with a win over Buffalo.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens To Extend Jimmy Smith

The Ravens and cornerback Jimmy Smith have agreed to an extension, agent Drew Rosenhaus tells NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Once finalized, it’ll be a one-year add-on that, technically, could be worth up to $5MM. In reality, Smith will receive $500K to sign and $2MM in base comp (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). The rest of the $5MM figure comes from $2.5MM in not likely to be earned (NLTBE) incentives.

Smith was originally set for free agency, though it would have been a shock to see him land elsewhere. He’s spent his entire career in Baltimore since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2011. Last year, he briefly dipped his toe in the free agent waters only to return on a one-year deal worth $3.5MM, plus $2.5MM in incentives.

Smith made the fewest starts of his career (five) in 2019, thanks in large part to a knee injury that sidelined him for much of the season. This year, he’s managed to appear in 11 of 15 possible games. Smith has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, so he may or may not see time against the Bengals on Sunday. In any event, the Ravens have multiple paths to the playoffs and a 90% probability of clinching, per FiveThirtyEight.

Smith has been dogged by injuries, but he’s been a steady hand when healthy. Now, the versatile vet will remain in Baltimore through his age-33 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Want To Re-Sign Chris Carson

In a few months, running back Chris Carson will be free to sign with any team. Head coach Pete Carroll hopes that team will be the Seahawks. 

I do know Chris has got to…look out for himself,” Carroll said (via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times). “So he’s got to see what the situation is. We would love for him to be with us. He’s been a terrific part of our team, and hopefully we can keep that going. In my mind, I can’t imagine anything else happening.”

Carson has flashed serious ability since entering the league in 2017, greatly outperforming his seventh-round draft status. At the same time, he’s been hindered by injuries. In 2019, he notched 278 carries for 1,230 yards, both career-highs, to go along with seven touchdowns. He also tackled on 37 catches for 266 yards and two TDs though the air. Unfortunately, his season ended just before the postseason, due to a fractured hip.

Even though he lost four games to a mid-foot sprain this year, he been remarkably efficient. Heading into Week 17, Carson has an average of 4.9 yards per carry, which would edge his breakout 2018 season.

The Seahawks will have to balance their affinity for Carson with the numbers game. This year’s free agent class will also include safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Shaquill Griffin. Meanwhile, they still have 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny and youngsters Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas under contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions To Place Kenny Golladay On IR

For all intents and purposes, the Lions’ season is over. It’s also officially over for wide receiver Kenny Golladay, interim head coach Darrell Bevell announced. 

Golladay has been out of commission with a hip injury and limited to just five games throughout the year. It’s hardly the platform he wanted with free agency on the horizon. The 27-year-old, ideally, says that he would like to stay in Detroit for 2021 and beyond. But he also wants a market value contract, which could put him in the $18-20MM-per-season range — provided that he’s healthy.

“You know, [the Lions] believed in me,” Golladay said recently“If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Then I go somewhere else and ball out and play. But like I said, I’m a loyal person and of course I want to be here. I started my career here.”

The Lions, meanwhile, are in a holding pattern after the dismissal of Bob Quinn. The Lions’ next GM — whoever that may be — would have to clear significant salary cap space to either franchise tag Golladay or furnish him with a lucrative long-term pact.

Golladay’s fourth season will end with just 20 catches for 338 yards and two touchdowns. It’s a far cry from his 2019 showing of 65 grabs for 1,190 yards and an NFL-leading 11 receiving TDs, leading to his first-ever Pro Bowl nod.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.