Month: April 2022

Browns Want To Keep TE David Njoku, Willing To Pay $10MM+

The Browns are motivated to keep David Njoku in Cleveland. Mary Kat Cabot of Cleveland.com writes that the organization “definitely” wants to retain their tight end.

Specifically, the front office is “prepared to pay him the double-digit millions” that he’d presumably command on the open market. The team has also had consistent talks with Njoku’s representatives over the past few months. The report seems to hint that Njoku will listen to other suitors, but the Browns will be waiting with a sizable offer.

This news comes as a bit of a surprise after the organization inked Austin Hooper to a hefty four-year, $44MM deal in 2020. Njoku subsequently requested a trade, but his camp rescinded that request a few months later, and the tight end has remained in Cleveland. Things have clearly gotten better between the two sides; before this past season, Njoku made it clear that he wants to stay with the organization.

I’ve been here (Cleveland) for four years going on five,” Njoku said in August. “I don’t know anything different. I want to keep being here.”

While Njoku will presumably command a hefty pay day when he hits free agency, the former first-round pick hasn’t put up huge numbers during his time in Cleveland. He topped out in 2018 with 639 receiving yards and four touchdowns. After a pair of underwhelming, injury-riddle seasons in 2019 and 2020, the 25-year-old somewhat bounced back in 2021, finishing with 36 receptions for 475 yards and four scores.

Latest On QB Aaron Rodgers’ Future With Packers

The Packers are preparing for a future where Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter), the organization and Rodgers’ representatives have been working on a new contract should the QB stick around Green Bay.

sSpecifically, the two sides are eyeing a short-term deal that would make Rodgers the NFL’s highest-paid player on a per-year basis. Patrick Mahomes currently leads the NFL with a $45MM AAV. Rodgers ranks seventh at $33.5MM.

“Nothing is done, but they are having discussions,” Rapoport said (via NFL.com’s Michael Baca). “They are having negotiations to have a deal, hopefully for them, ready to go if and when Aaron Rodgers firmly and finally decides that he wants to return.”

There are some similarities here to 2018, when the Packers had to pony up a record-breaking deal to keep Rodgers with the Packers. We heard recently that Rodgers was seeking a contract that would pay him $50MM per season, although the QB quickly shot down those rumors. While this would be a monster number and represent a seismic increase in quarterback salaries over the past two years, Rodgers is now negotiating with back-to-back MVPs on his resume.

Of course, there’s still one obvious wrinkle interfering with the negotiations. Rodgers has not informed the Packers he wants to stay in Green Bay, and multiple teams have reportedly sent the Packers trade offers. Rodgers does intend to inform the Pack of his decision soon,

Panthers TE Ian Thomas Facing Five Misdemeanor Charges

After earning a new contract from the Panthers last week, tight end Ian Thomas is now dealing with some legal issues. According to Joseph Person of The Athletic, Thomas is facing five misdemeanor charges stemming from an incident last summer.

[RELATED: Panthers Re-Sign TE Ian Thomas]

According to the report, police approached Thomas after they noticed he was driving a motorized dirt bike that didn’t have a license plate (Thomas was also traveling with a driver of an ATV that also didn’t have plates). After initially slowing down for the officer, Thomas and the other driver accelerated and left the scene. Thomas later stopped and was arrested. He was booked on five counts, including reckless driving and felony fleeing to elude. Thomas’ attorney told Person that prosecutors have reduced the one felony charge to a misdemeanor.

A team spokesperson told Person that the organization was aware of the matter and notified the NFL following the arrest. In other words, this isn’t surprise news to the Panthers, and they were aware of the legal matter when they inked the tight end to a new deal.

Thomas’ rookie contract was set to expire, leading to the new deal. A former fourth-round pick, his rookie campaign was the most productive, as he totaled 36 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns. In the the past three years, the 25-year-old hasn’t topped 20 receptions or 188 yards. His work as a blocker has made up for that, earning him a snap rate of over 60% for each of the past two seasons. Durability hasn’t been an issue, either, as he has yet to miss a game in his career

Raiders, Jaguars To Pursue Davante Adams If WR Hits Free Agency

The Packers are preparing to use the franchise tag on Davante Adams, but that won’t stop other teams from expressing interest in the star receiver. According to Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com, if Adams doesn’t get tagged and hits the open market, the Raiders and Jaguars will be among the teams that will pursue the free agent. Pauline also mentions the Broncos as a suitor, backing a previous report, and he lists the Chargers as a “team to watch.”

[RELATED: Packers Preparing To Put Franchise Tag On Davante Adams]

Derek Carr played with Adams at Fresno State, and the two have publicly talked about a potential reunion for some time. The Raiders are armed with about $40MM in cap space, and Josh McDaniels and co. would surely like a top-end receiver to pair with receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller. DeSean Jackson provided a bit of a spark after joining the organization, but there’s no guarantee he sticks around. The team also lost a key future piece in Henry Ruggs, so it wouldn’t be shocking if the Raiders add to their receiving corps.

The Jaguars have an awe-inspiring $70MM to play with, and the organization has been interested in pairing Trevor Lawrence with an elite receiver. Adams is used to winning, so it remains to be seen (in the hypothetical where he hits the open market) if he’d pursue a lucrative contract with a lesser team. Of course, Adams could also be a key piece in helping Jacksonville return to the postseason.

The Chargers are an interesting suitor considering their current receiver situation. Keenan Allen is set to earn $19MM in 2022, while breakout star Mike Williams is hitting free agency. While Allen’s spot in Los Angeles seems secure, the team could end up punting on the up-and-coming Williams and pivot to an elite option like Adams.

Green Bay has not used its tag since 2010 (Ryan Pickett) but is prepared to cuff its All-Pro wide receiver. Hopes for an Adams extension continue to be on hold. The sides have not discussed an extension since the Packers’ season ended last month.

Jaguars Re-Sign OL Tyler Shatley

Tyler Shatley will be sticking around Jacksonville. The Jaguars have re-signed the offensive lineman, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).

It’s a two-year deal that can be worth up to $6.8MM, per Pelissero. The deal includes $2.35MM in guaranteed money.

Shatley’s versatility on the offensive line has made him a mainstay in Jacksonville. After going undrafted out of Clemson in 2014, the lineman caught on with the Jaguars, and he’s been with the team ever since.

The 30-year-0ld has seen time in 111 games (33 starts) during his eight years with the organization. That includes a 2021 campaign where he started eight of his 17 games, with the majority of his playing time coming at center. Considering his experience and ability to play multiple positions, the Jaguars made it a clear priority to re-sign the veteran. Now, he’ll be locked in through the 2023 campaign.

Evan Neal, Derek Stingley Jr., Matt Corral Won’t Work Out At Combine

After a threatened boycott of the NFL Combine was avoided, teams and prospects are indeed headed to Indianapolis for the annual event. Some of the class’ biggest names will not be conducting workouts there, however. Included amongst those are Alabama tackle Evan Neal, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jrand Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported (in a pair of tweets) the news about Neal and Stingley. The former, who is in contention to be picked first overall by the Jaguars, will participate in team interviews, he adds. The six-foot-seven, 350-pounder is generally seen as the top o-linemen in the class, and earned a PFF grade of 85.8 in 2021 en route to being named a consensus First-Team All American. He could slot in at either tackle spot, giving him plenty of value to other teams if Jacksonville passes on him.

Stingley, meanwhile, entered the draft cycle as the top cornerback when he declared in January. While there are some boards and mock drafts in which Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner has since eclipsed him for that position, the junior is still very highly touted. A starter in his freshman season, he helped the Tigers win the national title in 2019, notching six interceptions. Due to injuries (including a Lisfranc injury he had surgery on), however, he has only played 10 games since then. Still, at six-foot-one and 195 pounds, he has the size and pedigree to help any number of teams picking in the top ten.

Lastly, Rapoport’s colleague Tom Pelissero tweets that Corral is still recovering from the high ankle sprain he suffered in the Sugar Bowl. He likely would have been a full participant if not for the injury, but he is nevertheless ahead of the original six-to-eight week recovery schedule. The redshirt junior finished in the top ten in Heisman voting, scoring 31 total touchdowns and leading the Rebels to a 10-3 season. He is among a handful of QB prospects at or near the top of the board in what is considered a weak year at the position.

All three players will wait until their Pro Days (March 30th, April 6th and March 23rd, respectively) to conduct on-field workouts.

Steelers Reportedly Targeting Winston, Bridgewater, Trubisky At QB

The Steelers have repeatedly praised Mason Rudolph in public when asked about the team’s quarterback situation. However, they’ve also made it clear they intend to add competition for the starting job this offseason, something which will likely involve being active in free agency. According to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, three QBs the team is targeting are Jameis WinstonTeddy Bridgewater and Mitch Trubisky

Winston, 28, is coming off of his first year as the starter in New Orleans, following an up-and-down five year stint in Tampa Bay and one season as Drew Brees‘ understudy. He won five of his seven starts, throwing 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, but suffered a torn ACL and suffered MCL damage on Halloween which ended his season. The former first overall pick could help New Orleans transition out of the Sean Payton era by coming back on what would, presumably, be a relatively affordable deal for the cash-strapped Saints. It was reported recently that the team could be interested in doing just that.

As for Bridgewater, Denver marked his third team in as many seasons. The former Vikings starter also spent time as the backup in New Orleans, but couldn’t find much success as the No. 1 with the Panthers or Broncos. His numbers in Denver – from completion and touchdown percentage, to yards per attempt and rushing averages – were essentially on par with his career figures. The 29-year-old (whose season also ended on IR, due to a concussion) is the most proven commodity of the three listed, and could be an effective stopgap for the Steelers as they search for a more permanent solution.

Lastly, Trubisky spent the 2021 campaign as Josh Allen‘s backup in Buffalo. Despite a Pro Bowl season in 2018, his second in the league, he will forever be tied to the fact he was taken second overall in 2017 ahead of the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Without having developed as expected in Chicago, he found himself without a starting gig this past year, and threw only eight pass attempts. Like Winston, though, there is an appetite for the 27-year-old to re-sign with his current team.

As Wilson notes, and had been reported during the Senior Bowl, the Steelers are thought to like Liberty QB Malik Willis. He might have the best physical traits in this year’s class, though he is also said to be the least NFL-ready amongst potential first-rounders. Pairing him with one of these three veterans could add healthy competition to Pittsburgh’s in-house options, and increase their chances of finding Ben Roethlisberger‘s long-term successor.

49ers Planning Extensions For Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel

Change is inevitable for the 49ers this offseason, especially at the quarterback position. Two major pieces to their run to the NFC Championship game, though, could be getting new contracts in the near future. ESPN’s Nick Wagoner reports that extensions for Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel are in the team’s plans. 

We fully understand these guys are pillars of what we’re trying to do here”, general manger John Lynch said recently. “We’ve been blessed that we’ve been aggressive, because we’ve had a lot of players that we believe are some of the best in the league at what they do. And these guys are no different… I’m sure that we’ll find a way to get [extensions] done. It’s been budgeted for”.

Bosa has been the focal point of the team’s defense since being drafted second overall in 2019. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in his first campaign, helping the team to the Super Bowl. He missed almost all of his second campaign due to a torn ACL, but returned to play all 17 games in 2021. His 52 stops – including a league-leading 21 tackles for loss – along with 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles helped lead San Francisco on a late-season surge to the postseason, and all the way to the conference title game.

Samuel, the 49ers’ second selection in that 2019 draft, has followed a somewhat similar path in terms of his career arc so far. After an impressive rookie season, he missed nine games in 2020. His 2021 campaign, however, proved that he was back to full strength and capable of becoming the focal point of the team’s offense. Establishing himself as a ‘wide back’, he posted 1,404 receiving yards and six touchdowns, along with 365 yards and an additional eight scores on the ground.

Finding money to accommodate the two young stars should become easier in March. As Wagoner detailed last week, the contracts of not only Jimmy Garoppolo but also edge rusher Dee Ford are likely to come off the books. A Garoppolo trade (which would clear more than $25MM in cap space) has seemed inevitable since the selection of Trey Lance last April, while designating Ford a post-June 1st cut would yield another $2.4MM in savings. The latter move is believed to also be all-but guaranteed, after Ford battled injuries and totalled just 9.5 total sacks in three seasons with San Francisco.

Between those expected moves, and some other cap maneuvering such as restructures, the 49ers should open up enough space to be able to afford their next round of major extensions.

Broncos Looking To Re-Sign Josey Jewell

The Broncos have a number of key free agency decisions to make in the coming weeks, including with their linebacker corps. According to Mike Klis of 9News, one key piece the team is looking to re-up is Josey Jewell.

Klis reports that the team will meet with Jewell’s agent at the upcoming Scouting Combine this week. They will be in communication with any number of the team’s other pending free agents as well, but Klis notes that “there is an affinity for Jewell”, so he is likely to be among Denver’s priorities in March.

A fourth-round pick in 2018, Jewell has emerged as a key contributor to the Broncos’ defense. He played a larger role on special teams than defense in his first two campaigns, though he did make 12 starts during that span. In his third year, he took off, starting all 16 contests and recording 113 tackles, two sacks and four pass breakups.

The 27-year-old was limited to just two games in 2021 due to a torn pectoral muscle. However, as Klis writes, “all signs point to Jewell wanting to stay in Denver”, as he remained part of the team’s day-to-day routine even after the injury. If anything, it could drop the cost for any new deal he signs with Denver.

Besides Jewell, other pending free agents (both restricted and unrestricted) in the middle of the Broncos’ defense include Jonas Griffith, Natrez Patrick, Kenny Young, Alexander Johnsonand Micah KiserThere is plenty of room for overhaul at the position, though it seems at least one member of the linebacker corps could be staying put.