2021 NFL Draft

Washington Interested In Trading Up For Quarterback?

Although Washington signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and extended Taylor Heinicke this offseason, the team remains in need at the sport’s most important position. The franchise may be prepared to trade up for a quarterback.

Ron Rivera is interested in moving up for a passer, according to ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline. Washington is believed to be high on Trey Lance, but there may be a catch. The WFT is not overly interested in giving up a mountain of draft capital to climb from No. 19 to No. 4, but Pauline notes a quarterback sliding to around the No. 8 spot would be appealing to the franchise. However, a climb to the Falcons’ No. 4 slot should not be entirely ruled out.

Three QBs will be gone by No. 3, and the Falcons are in play to select the fourth. No draft has begun with four straight quarterbacks going off the board, and the Falcons are also interested in dealing down the board. Many believe, however, Atlanta will select Kyle Pitts. The Bengals will not take a quarterback and do not sound too interested in trading out of their No. 5 slot. Trading in front of the Broncos (No. 9) could behoove Washington, and it will be interesting to see if the Panthers (No. 8) pull the trigger on the fourth- or fifth-QB prospect. That scenario is not off the table, even after Carolina acquired Sam Darnold, though the Panthers now loom as a team that could trade down.

Washington also may have to compete with the Bears, though Pauline adds that, in addition to trade-up rumors, they will be in the mix for a second-round quarterback. It cost the 49ers two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-rounder to move up nine slots this year. Should one of the top five QBs slide toward the bottom of the top 10, that would still require a considerable haul — given the value these passers are carrying. Lance not being the 49ers’ pick at 3 could prompt Washington to make its move. Justin Fields is expected to be available beyond No. 3 as well.

Rivera said Friday the team’s offseason moves — such as signing Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel and William Jackson — created more flexibility going into the draft.

I think [execs] Martin [Mayhew] and Marty [Hurney] and their guys really helped put us in a position where we’ve got to really look at drafting best player available, but always keeping in mind what we feel the true need is,” Rivera said, via NBC Sports Washington. “I think what our front office did and what we were able to do in free agency really helped us. I think we freed ourselves up because of what they did.”

Washington has Fitzpatrick signed for 2021; he will turn 39 later this year. Heinicke is signed through 2022, and Kyle Allen could be under team control through the ’22 season as well. He is attached to an ERFA tender. However, none of these players profiles as a long-term option. Washington, after missing on its past two efforts to acquire a true QB solution (Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins), may be keen on addressing the issue in Rivera’s second draft.

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Giants Leaning Toward Edge Rusher In Round 1?

Having needed an edge rusher for a few years now, the Giants may be set to address this need with their top offseason resource.

They have done a lot of work on the top edge defenders in this year’s draft, and sources informed SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano the current sense is this will be the direction the team takes with its No. 11 overall pick. The Giants have spent big to fill needs at wide receiver and cornerback, in adding Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson, but have lacked a long-term, starter-caliber edge rusher since trading Olivier Vernon in 2019.

The Giants could be faced with a major decision — not exactly uncommon for them in recent drafts — if Alabama wide receiver prospects DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle remain on the board. Five quarterbacks may well go in the top 10, pushing down this offense-heavy draft’s top non-QB talents. The Giants have Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton penciled in as their top three receivers, but it should not be considered a lock the team would pass on potential value here in one of the ex-Crimson Tide stars.

New York is believed to be high on Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Vacchiano adds. The former ranks as Scouts Inc.’s top draft’s top pass-rushing prospect. With Ojulari ranked outside the top 20 overall, it may be difficult to envision the Giants going in that direction over a higher-value player at 11. Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock has the Giants taking Waddle. A trade-down maneuver seems unlikely, given that GM Dave Gettleman‘s streak of never trading down has now lasted eight drafts — five in Carolina, three with New York.

Should the Giants stay at 11, they are also high on Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, per Vacchiano. The Giants went tackle at No. 4 overall last year and used a third-round pick on tackle Matt Peart. Nate Solder is also in line to return.

The Giants pursued Leonard Floyd, but he re-signed with the Rams. They passed on the rest of the 2020 pass rusher lot, which was rather crowded for the big-ticket position, and only kept Markus Golden via the rarely used UFA tender last year. The Giants waited until Round 7 to draft a pass rusher in 2020 and have since traded Golden and let 2020 signing Kyler Fackrell sign with the Chargers.

Gettleman passed on edge talent Josh Allen in 2019, drafting Daniel Jones instead and lost out on Chase Young thanks to a late-season win over Washington in 2019. The Giants’ need at outside linebacker has persisted, though the emergence of Leonard Williams as a sack artist may lessen the desperation at this spot to some degree.

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Oregon’s Penei Sewell Training At Both LT, RT

Oregon’s Penei Sewell is already regarded as the best tackle in this year’s draft. Still, versatility is critical for today’s offensive linemen. To market himself to teams with left tackles already in place, Sewell has also been training at right tackle (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).

[RELATED: Latest On Bengals’ Draft Plans]

Sewell projects as a top ten pick and, in all likelihood, a Week 1 starter. Still, he’s hoping to appeal to teams that may already have an older left tackle in place. That way, a team could draft him and play him at RT in his rookie year before shifting him to LT down the road.

The draft is expected to start with three quarterbacks coming off the board, giving the Falcons a chance to snag Sewell at No. 4 overall. Sewell would be a solid and safe choice, though they could opt for a young quarterback or a dynamic playmaker instead (i.e. Florida’s Kyle Pitts or LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase). If the Falcons pass on him, the Bengals will have Sewell on the table at No. 5 overall. They already have Jonah Williams on the left side, but Sewell is willing to man the right tackle position.

Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, but he is still regarded as one of the top prospects in the ’21 class. The 6’6″, 330-pound prospect did not allow a single sack in 2019 while surrendering just seven quarterback pressures.

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Jabril Cox To Hold Pro Day

LSU linebacker Jabril Cox will hold a Pro Day on April 26 — just three days before this year’s draft — as his agent, Andy Ross, tweeted. Cox was unable to work out with his teammates at LSU’s Pro Day in March due to a hamstring injury.

Cox is widely seen as a Day 2 talent. His biggest selling point is his versatility, which will make him attractive to any number of clubs. He can line up as an outside linebacker in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme, and his rare combination of size and speed allows him to excel in coverage. He is not as polished against the run, but that coverage ability is one of the first things talent evaluators looks for when studying modern-day ‘backers. His speed and burst also give him some upside as a pass rusher.

Cox began his collegiate career with FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, and he did so well there that, when he graduated and entered the transfer portal, Alabama and LSU both went after him. In his one year with the Tigers, he tallied 58 tackles (6.5 TFL) and three interceptions, including a pick-six. The Butkus Award semifinalist is also lauded for his leadership abilities and character.

The Rams, the Washington Football Team, and the Patriots are among the clubs that could have interest.

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Alabama’s Devonta Smith, Najee Harris Pass Medical Checks

Two of Alabama’s brightest stars got good news on Wednesday. Running back Najee Harris’ ankle checked out well with “no concerns,” according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Meanwhile, wide receiver Devonta Smith’s dislocated finger is said to be healing fine, despite his torn ligaments. 

[RELATED: NFL Teams Expect Falcons To Draft Kyle Pitts?]

Harris is viewed as one of the best running backs in this year’s class. Teams have been keeping tabs on his recovery, but his ankle shouldn’t affect his stock, according to sources who spoke with RapSheet. Harris, a skilled pass-catcher, set Alabama records with 57 total touchdowns, 3,843 rushing yards, and 46 rushing TDs. His pass-catching ability is a major plus, though teams are equally intrigued by his combination of power and elusiveness.

Smith, meanwhile, is viewed as one of the three best wide receivers in this year’s class — somewhere behind Ja’Marr Chase and neck-and-neck with teammate Jaylen Waddle. While Waddle is known for his high-end speed, Smith has drawn rave reviews for his soft hands and ability to win 50/50 balls. His finger shouldn’t cause any long term issues, so it’d be a surprise to see him slip outside of the top ten.

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NFL Teams Expect Falcons To Draft Kyle Pitts?

There’s no shortage of suitors for the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick, but it’s not a given that they’ll trade down. There’s also the possibility that they’ll stay put and draft a quarterback. Meanwhile, a number of league sources tell Peter King of NBC Sports that they expect the Falcons to stand pat and select Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.

[RELATED: Cowboys Infatuated With Pitts?]

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Falcons connected to the dynamic athlete. Pitts personally believes that the Falcons are high on him and new head coach Arthur Smith would reportedly prefer to take a non-quarterback while banking on the continued health of Matt Ryan. For all intents and purposes, the Falcons know that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson won’t be available at No. 4, which leaves two of the three remaining QBs (Mac Jones, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields) on the table for them. That’s not a bad group to choose from, but they may prefer Pitts’ combination of wide receiver skills coupled with an offensive lineman’s wingspan.

There’s little doubt that the Falcons are high on Pitts, because just about every team is drooling over his potential. That includes teams like the Cowboys, who are well out of rangeJerry Jones has more pressing needs to fill than the tight end position, but some believe it’s possible that he could move up the board for him anyway.

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Trey Lance, Justin Fields To Run 49ers Drills

Justin Fields and Trey Lance are clearly gearing their workouts towards the 49ers. When they do their second pro days, both quarterbacks will run drills that are favored by Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter).

[RELATED: Washington Interested In Trey Lance?]

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, prospects are not able to do individual workouts for specific teams. That’s led to some scheduling conflicts throughout the process. As a result of that – plus their own separate chess game to keep their plans under wraps — Shanahan and GM John Lynch have yet to get an up-close look at Lance or Fields. Meanwhile, many believe that the Niners are leaning towards Alabama’s Mac Jones at No. 3 overall, so both players are eager to show their stuff. By tailoring their drills towards Shanahan, the hope is that they can unseat Jones for the most lucrative rookie contract possible.

Even if the Niners go with Jones, both quarterbacks seem likely to fall inside of the top ten. The Washington Football Team, for example, is said to be eyeing a trade up from No. 19 to grab Lance. Meanwhile, the Patriots will be on hand for Fields’ pro day — they would also have to slingshot up the board to guarantee his availability.

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Panthers Considered Trading Up For QB

Connected to Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford this offseason, the Panthers moved to Sam Darnold. They sent three draft choices (two in 2022) for the former Jets top-five draftee, who is on track to replace Teddy Bridgewater next season.

But the Panthers, whose quest to land a franchise quarterback was no secret this offseason, also considered making the kind of move the 49ers did. Carolina held internal discussions about vaulting up the draft board for a quarterback, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. However, the franchise that entered the 2020 offseason in rebuilding mode deemed the price to do so too extreme for its present situation.

[RELATED: Panthers Give Bridgewater Permission To Seek Trade]

It cost the 49ers their No. 12 pick, a 2021 third-rounder and 2022 and 2023 firsts to climb up nine spots to No. 3. The Panthers, who resumed Darnold talks with the Jets in Columbus while there for Justin Fields‘ first pro day, do not boast the roster talent the 49ers do at this point. Dealing away two future first-rounders for this draft’s second- or third-best quarterback, though the Jets are not believed to have received a firm offer for No. 2, would cost the Panthers chances at adding long-term starters. That said, Carolina did offer its No. 8 pick, Bridgewater and a fifth-rounder for Stafford in January.

With legal issues ensnaring Watson, his top would-be suitor will have Darnold under contract for two more seasons — on a rookie salary in 2021 and an fifth-year option price ($18.9MM) in 2022 — unless the sides agree to an extension. Darnold’s presence should not take the Panthers out of the running for Watson down the road, and Breer notes they should be expected to draft a quarterback at No. 8 — should one they like fall that far. Mac Jones and, to a lesser degree, Trey Lance have been the passers connected to the 49ers at 3. Lance and Fields seemingly have the best chance of falling to the eighth spot.

The Panthers did not want to part with their second- or third-round picks in this year’s draft for Darnold, Breer notes, so they and the Jets settled on a package that included a 2022 second-rounder as the centerpiece. The Panthers were offering their 2021 fifth-rounder, the same one they dangled as a Stafford throw-in, but swapped that out for a 2022 fourth to sweeten their offer to the Jets. The sixth-rounder Carolina gave up this year was a compensatory pick, the lowest of the team’s three 2021 sixths.

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Malcolm Butler, A.J. Bouye Expressed Interest In Joining Cowboys

As the draft approaches, cornerback continues to be a need area for the Cowboys. While they re-signed Jourdan Lewis this offseason, the Cowboys received interest from multiple veterans with more experience.

Both Malcolm Butler and A.J. Bouye expressed an interest in joining the Cowboys, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes, and each third-contract-seeking vet was willing to take a discount to do so. However, Dallas was not open to that prospect — even at lower rates than the corners ended up signing for — and moved on, Hill adds.

The Titans and Broncos, respectively, made Butler and Bouye cap casualties this offseason. Butler ended up signing a one-year, $3.25MM deal with the Cardinals. Bouye joined the Panthers late last week, agreeing to a two-year, $7MM pact. Butler’s contract is fully guaranteed, while Bouye will receive $3.5MM fully guaranteed. That will tie him to the Panthers for the 2021 season. These third contracts represent steep downgrades. Butler, 31, signed a five-year, $61.25MM deal with the Titans in 2018; Bouye, 29, landed with the Jaguars on a five-year, $67.5MM deal in 2017. They joined many free agents in taking major discounts this offseason, which featured a near-$20MM salary cap reduction.

The Cowboys communicated to both defenders they did not have the money to sign them, Hill notes. The team has added a host of free agents, but they have largely been on low-end contracts. As of Monday, Dallas holds just less than $8MM in cap space. Much of that will go to signing draft picks.

Dallas drafted Trevon Diggs in last year’s second round and used a fourth-round pick on Reggie Robinson. Slot corner Anthony Brown is signed through the 2022 season. Lewis re-signed a three-year, $13.5MM deal; only $4.75MM of that is fully guaranteed. Despite these investments, the Cowboys are expected to add a corner early in the draft, Hill adds, perhaps with the No. 10 overall pick.

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49ers, Patriots To Attend Justin Fields’ Pro Day

The 49ers and Patriots have committed to attend Justin Fields’ second pro day, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB. Fields’ showcase has been set for April 14th at Ohio State, while fellow quarterback Trey Lance will take the field on April 19th.

[RELATED: Trey Lance To Hold Second Pro Day]

Fields and Lance plan to have the NFL staffers run the throwing sessions, rather than their throwing coaches. Both players are eager to show that they can adapt to any system — specifically, the 49ers’ system, because they hold the No. 3 overall pick. In recent weeks, the buzz out of SF has largely pointed to Mac Jones, the Alabama quarterback who may be viewed as a safer choice than Lance or Fields.

The 49ers and Patriots are the only clubs to have committed to Fields’ pro day part two, Breer hears. Ideally, Fields would probably like a larger group, one that includes teams like the Bears. The Bears are currently out of range for this year’s top five QBs, but they could trade up as high as No. 4 to find a younger alternative to new QB Andy Dalton.

Niners brass skipped Fields’ first pro day, opting instead to see Jones at Alabama. However, assistant GM Adam Peters was still on hand, a sign that they still have Fields in consideration.

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