Month: March 2021

Broncos Re-Sign Nate Hairston

It’s officially official. The Broncos have re-signed defensive back Nate Hairston, according to the league’s transactions wire.

Hairston, 26, was released by the Broncos on Thursday, but he wasn’t gone for long. The Broncos released him only as a procedural move — likely in order rework his contract.

Hairston, a 2017 fifth-round pick out of Temple, appeared in 27 games with the Colts through his first two seasons in the NFL, compiling 65 tackles, two sacks, and an interception. He was traded to the Jets for a conditional sixth-rounder in 2019 He wound up starting six of his eleven appearances for Gang Green that season.

The 26-year-old saw two games with the Jets last year before being dropped in October. He went to spend time with the Ravens’ practice squad before coming to Denver towards the end of the season. Hairston suited up for the Broncos’ final three games, primarily on special teams. Now, he’ll battle for his spot in camp behind newcomers Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller. Of course, the cornerback group could also get more crowded between now and the fall — especially if the Broncos tap Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Caleb Farley with the No. 9 overall pick.

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NFL Distributes Performance-Based Payouts

Since 2002, the NFL’s performance-based pay system has rewarded low-salary players who exceed their expected playing time. This year, due to the pandemic, the league and the players’ union negotiated a gradual payout schedule, one that will meter out the money between now and 2024.

All in all, the league divested $8.5MM per club. This year’s top earner is Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa, a 2018 third-round pick who played every single snap for the eventual champs. Cappa will now receive an extra $622K on top of his $750K base salary for 2021. Per the union’s records, 25 other players also topped $500K, including Cardinals tackle Kelvin Beachum ($604K), Bills cornerback Taron Johnson ($579K), Rams guard Austin Corbett ($573K), Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye ($572K), Bears tackle Germain Ifedi ($571K), Steelers offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor ($568K), Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier ($561K), Ravens safety DeShon Elliott ($557K) and Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead ($555K).

The full list, going team-by-team, can be found here, courtesy of the NFLPA.

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49ers To Re-Sign Ronald Blair

The 49ers are set to re-sign defensive lineman Ronald Blair, according to Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area. The deal – pending the outcome of his physical — will give Blair a chance to return after botched ACL surgery. 

Blair ruptured his ACL midway through the 2019 season, which should have given him enough time to return for 2020. Unfortunately, something went wrong while Blair was on the operating table, leaving him sidelined for the entire year.

Before all of that, the former 2016 fifth-round pick enjoyed a spot in the Niners’ defensive rotation, compiling 13.5 sacks across four seasons. This year, he could be in line for an even larger role, depending on how newcomer Samson Ebukam is used. The Niners deployed Ebukam as an outside linebacker, but could see more time up front in 2021.

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PFR Poll: Which QB Will Be Traded Next?

The NFL’s quarterback carousel continued earlier this week when the Jets finally traded former third-overall pick Sam Darnold to the Panthers. The 23-year-old became the fifth quarterback to switch teams via trade this offseason:

While teams have already shifted focus from veteran acquisitions to the draft, that doesn’t mean we won’t see another QB trade. Sure, it takes two to tango, and a number of teams already have already solidified their quarterback situation (or they will in the upcoming draft). Still, teams like the Patriots, Broncos, Bears, Saints, and Washington could be in the market for a signal-caller depending on what happens with the draft.

So who could be available? We know one name is definitively on the block: Teddy Bridgewater. Following the Panthers’ acquisition of Darnold, the front ofice gave the 2020 starter permission to seek a trade. It seems like a trade is inevitable, with reports indicating that multiple teams have reached out to Carolina about the veteran. Many of these teams are apparently eyeing Bridgewater as a backup, which could complicate a trade if the veteran is hunting for a suitor who will let hm start. Further, interested teams would also like to rework Bridgewater’s contract, adding another hurdle to negotiations.

It was widely assumed that Jimmy Garoppolo would be on the trade block after the 49ers made a blockbuster trade for the No. 3 pick. However, the organization appears to be playing hard ball. After declaring that the veteran would be sticking around San Francisco for the 2021 season, the 49ers are reportedly seeking a first-rounder for Jimmy G. This could obviously just be leveraging via the media, and the 49ers will be hard pressed to find a team that will give up that type of draft capital and inherit Garoppolo’s hefty deal. Either way, the rumors will surely persist, especially if Garoppolo’s former team, the Patriots, roll into the regular season with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham as their top quarterbacks.

What about Gardner Minshew? The former sixth-rounder took a step back from a team-record perspective in 2020, but he still proved to be a capable game manager, connecting on 66.1-percent of his passes and tossing 16 touchdowns vs. only five interceptions. The Jaguars will presumably take Trevor Lawrence will the first-overall pick in the upcoming draft, relegating Minshew to a backup role. Minshew has a low salary and plenty of upside, so Jacksonville won’t just give him away. However, if a team is willing to pony up for the mustached quarterback, the Jaguars will probably listen. For what it’s worth, we heard back in March that the Jaguars weren’t shopping Minshew “at this point” in time.

Those three quarterbacks appear to be the most realistic trade targets, but there are plenty of additional quarterbacks who have lingered in trade rumors. Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson were the biggest names thrown around this offseason, but it’s unlikely either player is dealt any time soon (Wilson because he’s a franchise quarterback and the Seahawks aren’t dumb, Watson because of the ongoing sexual misconduct allegations against him (and the Texans prior refusal to trade him despite demands)). Some less sexy names include Nick Foles, who could be displaced in Chicago after the Bears signed Andy Dalton. Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, and Drew Lock have also been tossed around, but it’s unlikely any of those players switch teams.

So that leads to our question: who will be the next quarterback to be traded? Let us know if we forgot anyone in the comments.

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This Date In Transactions History: Packers Re-Sign TE Robert Tonyan

Two years ago today, a minor transaction by the Packers was tucked into our daily roundup. The move likely went unnoticed by many (the signing of former Alliance of American Football players probably caught more eyes), but fast forward to today, and Green Bay certainly deserves some praise for their under-the-radar move. On April 10, 2019, the Packers re-signed tight end Robert Tonyan.

The Indiana State product went undrafted in 2017, but he managed to secure a lucrative three-year, $1.66MM deal with the Lions. He didn’t end up making the regular season roster, and he spent the majority of his rookie year as a free agent before catching on with the Packers practice squad. Following that 2017 campaign, Green Bay retained the young tight end via a futures contract.

Tonyan ended up sticking the team in 2018, appearing in all 16 games. However, other than a memorable 54-yard touchdown catch, the tight end didn’t do much on the offensive end, and he ended the season having appeared more on special teams (191 snaps) than on offense (67). Still, the Packers apparently believed in his potential, as they extended him a tender as an exclusive rights free agent. That decision (and the subsequent negotiations) culminated in the minor move that was made two years ago today.

Tonyan’s 2019 campaign was similar to his 2018 season; he saw a bit more offensive responsibility, but he still didn’t put up notable numbers. Following that season, the Packers made him an exclusive rights free agent once again, and the player ultimately signed the tender.

The tight end rewarded the Packers’ commitment with a breakout season in 2020. The 26-year-old emerged as one of Aaron Rodgers‘ favorite targets, finishing the season with 52 receptions for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. He continued producing in the playoffs, hauling in eight catches for 82 yards and one score in two games.

Tonyan was slapped with a second-round tender this past offseason, locking him into a $3.3MM salary for 2021. If he continues producing next season, he’ll see an even larger pay raise as an unrestricted free agent, and a hypothetical bidding war could end up spelling the end of his tenure with the Packers. Still, regardless of what the future holds, the Packers clearly made the right decision by retaining the tight end two years ago today.

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WR Taylor Gabriel Announces Retirement

It sounds like Taylor Gabriel is calling it a career. The veteran wideout announced his retirement late last night on Twitter.

Despite going undrafted out of Abilene Christian in 2014, Gabriel managed to play six NFL seasons, a great accomplishment for an UDFA. The wideout spent the first two seasons of his career with the Browns, including a rookie campaign where he broke onto the scene with 621 receiving yards. He was waived by Cleveland prior to the 2016 season, and he ended up catching with the Falcons.

In Atlanta, Gabriel emerged into a solid third receiver behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. He had 630 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns during his first season with the team, and he added another nine receptions in three playoff games that year (including three catches for 76 yards in the Super Bowl). Gabriel would play another season in Atlanta before joining the Bears on a four-year, $26MM contract prior to the 2018 campaign.

Gabriel started a career-high 11 games during his first year in Chicago, collecting 749 yards from scrimmage. Following a 2019 campaign that saw him limited to only nine games, Gabriel was cut by the Bears last offseason, and he ultimately sat out the 2020 campaign due to COVID concerns.

In total, the 30-year-old will have finished his career having collected 228 receptions for 2,860 yards and 14 touchdowns.

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QB Notes: Rodgers, Steelers, Broncos, Pats

While Aaron Rodgers is content to go year-to-year with the Packers, who have declined to restructure his contract to create cap space this offseason, the reigning MVP has made no secret of the fact he is gunning for the job Alex Trebek held for 36 years. The first week of the Jeopardy! episodes Rodgers previously taped wrapped Friday, and although the show’s run of guest hosts will continue after next week’s shows, the 37-year-old quarterback wants to become Trebek’s successor. With Jeopardy filming five episodes per day two days a week — on Mondays and Tuesdays — Rodgers believes he can become the show’s next full-time host without retiring from the NFL.

I don’t think I’d need to give up football to do it. They film 46 days a year. I worked 187 this year in Green Bay. That gives me, eh, 178 days to do “Jeopardy!” So I feel like I could fit 46 into that 178 and make it work,” Rodgers said, via The Ringer’s Claire McNear. “It would be a dream job for sure, and I’m not shy at all about saying I want the job. That’s how I went into it. I want an opportunity to be in the mix.”

Jeopardy! films in Los Angeles, so it may create some issues if the show — in the event Rodgers landed the gig — filmed episodes during training camp, the regular season or the playoffs. Just ahead of his most recent contract agreement, in 2018, Rodgers said he would love to play until at least age 40. Four hosts, including Jeopardy! mainstay Ken Jennings, preceded Rodgers this year. Five more will take their turns after Rodgers’, creating a crowded mix to succeed Trebek, who died in November 2020. Shifting back to strictly NFL matters, here is the latest from the quarterback world:

  • Among QBs in his age range, Ben Roethlisberger stands alone. The other two 2004 first-round QBs — Eli Manning and Philip Rivers — retired. So did Drew Brees. Tom Brady relocated, and the Packers drafted Rodgers’ would-be heir apparent in Jordan Love. The Steelers, however, are still Roethlisberger-dependent. They will not trade up from No. 24 to draft a quarterback, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (subscription required), who notes that it would not be too surprising if Roethlisberger ended up staying on for his age-40 season in 2022 while the organization figures out its long-awaited plan.
  • Washington looms as a team that appears interested in trading up for a quarterback, but the team may have company. The Broncos and Patriots loom as other candidates to move up the board for a passer, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (video link). A trade-up maneuver would not cost the Broncos (No. 9) what the Patriots (No. 15) would have to pay. New England is usually big on trading back and accumulating picks, but the franchise zagged by splurging in free agency this offseason. And its QB situation is considerably different from what it was when Bill Belichick trade-downs were commonplace. Both teams would benefit from the run of quarterbacks pushing non-QB prospects down the board, but neither appears to have a viable long-term answer. The Broncos are planning to add to their Drew Lock-centered QB room and discussed Matthew Stafford and Sam Darnold. But Lock may remain unchallenged going into the draft.
  • Nate Sudfeld‘s 49ers contract is a one-year deal worth $990K, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). The former Eagles third-stringer will receive $252K guaranteed, and $138K is available via incentives.

Washington Interested In Trey Lance?

On Day 1 of the legal tampering period, Washington moved to add its bridge quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick joins Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke on Washington’s roster, and while he will have to win a competition for the QB1 job, it is expected Fitz will be the team’s starter. But Alex Smith‘s injury and Dwayne Haskins‘ quick exit leaves Washington without a long-term option. They may use this draft to acquire one.

Washington “loves” Trey Lance as a prospect and may be willing to part with considerable assets to acquire him, The Athletic’s Michael Lombardi said during his latest GM Shuffle podcast. Lance is expected to be drafted somewhere in the top 10. Washington holds the No. 19 overall pick.

[RELATED: Trey Lance To Stage Second Pro Day]

How much capital Washington would be willing to part with for Lance may depend on how the draft unfolds, but moving up from No. 19 into Lance range may mean climbing 15 spots to No. 4 overall. Although the Chiefs and Texans made similar trades for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017 — Kansas City climbing from No. 27 to No. 10 and Houston moving from No. 25 to No. 12 — and gave up just one future first-rounder to make those jumps (the Chiefs also threw in a third), the 49ers trading up from 12 to 3 this year took their 2021, ’22 and ’23 first-rounders and a 2021 third. The Falcons are open to dealing their No. 4 choice, but Washington would likely have to sacrifice future first-rounders and change to acquire that pick.

It does not sound like the Bengals are willing to trade down from No. 5 to 19. Were Lance to drop to No. 6, the Dolphins may be interested in accumulating another haul of picks. The rebuilding Lions (No. 7) would surely listen as well, should the North Dakota State prospect fall that far. The Panthers have indicated they are still interested in QBs at No. 8, even though Sam Darnold is Charlotte-bound, and the Broncos have not made a move to bolster their position. Denver has started an NFL-high 10 quarterbacks since 2016, and GM George Paton indicated the team will bolster its QB group this offseason.

Of course, the 49ers could render all of this moot if their trade-up was for Lance. Mac Jones has emerged as the early clubhouse leader to go third overall, but Lance is not out of the picture. Both Lance and Justin Fields will hold second pro days, seemingly with the partial purpose of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch — who were not present at either’s initial workout — traveling to watch.

While a move into the top 10 would be costly, Washington does reside in an unusual situation. The team tried to land a long-term option by trading for Smith and extending him in 2018. After Smith’s injury, the team selected Haskins a year later. Haskins is now in Pittsburgh, having seen his stock crater after two rough Washington seasons. Fitzpatrick will turn 39 in December, and Allen and Heinicke are ex-UDFAs either coming off a major injury (Allen) or were out of football entering last season (Heinicke). Washington attempted to trade its first-rounder and change for Matthew Stafford and inquired on Darnold.

Lance is one of the most unusual prospects in modern draft history, having played one season at a Division I-FCS school. The 20-year-old QB played 17 college games, flashing immense promise as a dual-threat talent (28 TD passes, zero INTs, 1,100 rushing yards in 2019), but his profile points to him benefiting from a season developing in a backup role. With Fitzpatrick signed to a one-year deal, Washington could offer such an arrangement.

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Washington Looking To Add Left Tackle

Trent Williams last suited up for Washington in 2018. The team has not replaced the perennial Pro Bowler with a long-term option, but that will be the goal going into the draft.

Washington will look to add a new starting left tackle, with John Keim of ESPN.com noting the team believes it can do so in the first three rounds of this draft. While Washington should be on the radar for a quarterback trade-up, the team sticking at No. 19 and drafting a tackle or trading down and selecting one soon after appears to be firmly in play.

Cornelius Lucas and Geron Christian split time there last season, and Pro Football Focus graded Lucas as a top-25 tackle over the course of the season. Washington has Lucas signed through 2021, with the former UDFA agreeing to a two-year, $3.8MM deal in 2020. Washington only used the 29-year-old blocker as an eight-game starter last season; Christian started six games. PFF graded the latter 60th among tackles. The team drafted Saahdiq Charles in last year’s fourth round, though Keim notes it views the LSU product as a tackle or guard. Charles played one game last season.

While Williams battled myriad injuries as his Washington career waned, the team did not have to worry about adding at this spot. Ron Rivera has since said the O-line is a priority. If Washington either trades up for a passer or does not end up with a tackle fairly early, the team could look to longtime Steelers starter Alejandro Villanueva. However, Washington will not consider the veteran until after the draft, Keim adds.

Beyond Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, Scouts Inc. grades Oklahoma State’s Taven Jenkins and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw as first-round prospects. The likes of Jalen Mayfield (Michigan), Liam Eichenberg (Notre Dame) and Texas’ Samuel Cosmi profile as possible second-round selections. Stanford’s Walker Little once loomed as a potential first-round prospect, but his stock has dropped due to a season-ending injury in Week 1 of the 2019 campaign and the fact that he opted out of the 2020 season.

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Deshaun Watson Accusers To Be Identified

Friday brought more clarity on the Deshaun Watson case. The accusers who have alleged the Texans quarterback committed sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct will be identified.

Going into Friday, two of Watson’s 22 accusers had identified themselves. As of Friday morning, nine of the accusers were willing to reveal their identities. Houston courts ruled Watson’s accusers must identify themselves to proceed with civil cases, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes. By Friday’s end, at least 14 of the accusers will be revealed, Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com reports. The attorney representing the accusers, Tony Buzbee, said after Friday’s hearing all of his clients who have accused Watson are prepared to be identified.

Additionally, Watson attorney Rusty Hardin said Friday sexual encounters did take place between his client and some of the massage therapists accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct, per Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com. Hardin, however, contends all of those encounters were consensual. He declined to specify how many masseuses with whom Watson engaged in sexual acts.

The 22 accusers’ suits will also be consolidated into one, according to Rapoport (video link). This only applies to the civil suits Watson is facing. The Houston Police Department began an investigation into Watson last week, which will be separate from the civil process. The NFL is investigating Watson as well.

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