Month: September 2022

Chargers DL Jerry Tillery On Roster Bubble?

When Jerry Tillery had his fifth-year option declined back in May, the Chargers made it clear that they still saw the defensive lineman as part of their future. However, it sounds like Tillery could find himself on the roster bubble come preseason. Daniel Popper of The Athletic writes there is a “realistic scenario” where the Chargers look to move the former first-round pick in a trade toward the end of training camp.

Tillery had a standout career at Notre Dame, leading to him being the 28th pick by the Chargers in 2019. The defensive lineman found himself in and out of the starting lineup through his first two seasons in the NFL, but he firmly established himself as a starting defensive tackle in 2021.

In 16 games (15 start), Tillery set career-highs across the board, including tackles (51), sacks (4.5), tackles for loss (six), and QB hits (14). While the numbers were solid, ProFootballFocus didn’t grade him particularly well, ranking Tillery 96th among 106 eligible interior defensive lineman.

After the season, the Chargers decided they didn’t want to commit to Tillery’s $11.8MM cap hit for 2023, so they declined the player’s fifth-year option. When the news broke, we heard that the defensive lineman was still “firmly in [the Chargers’] long-term plans.” GM Tom Telesco also gave the player a vote of confidence, stating that the organization was expecting “an even bigger role” for the lineman in 2022.

Fast forward to today, and it’s tough to find a clear role for Tillery on the Chargers defense. As Popper writes, all of Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Morgan Fox, Christian Covington, and Otito Ogbonnia appear to be locks to make the roster. That means Tillery would be fighting for the final defensive line spot, and there’s a chance that the Chargers could roster only five lineman like they did in 2021. Popper opines that Breiden Fehoko, Forrest Merrill, and Joe Gaziano could each bring more to that sixth role thanks to their run-stopping ability, and while Tillery is the superior pass rusher, his skills overlap too much with Fox. Ultimately, the writer decided to keep Tillery on his proposed 53-man roster, but he believes the organization could move on if they prefer to keep a run stopper.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/30/22

One minor transaction to pass along:

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons brought in some experience at punter earlier today when they signed former Buccaneers special teamer Bradley Pinion. Atlanta ultimately decided to hang on to UDFA Seth Vernon as the second punter on their current 90-man squad, leading to Maggio getting waived.

Maggio made three All-ACC teams during his time at Wake Forest. He ultimately saw time in 52 games in college, ranking second in school history with 291 punts and 12,703 yards. The 24-year-old hasn’t seen the field for a regular-season NFL contest.

Latest On LB Devin Bush’s Future With Steelers

Steelers linebacker Devin Bush is heading into the final year of his contract, and it sounds like the 2022 campaign could be his final season in Pittsburgh. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes that the 2022 campaign “is likely Bush’s last year with the Steelers.”

The writing was on the wall when the Steelers refused to pick up the former first-round pick’s fifth-year option. After tearing his ACL during the 2020 season, Bush struggled following his return to the field in 2021. While the linebacker managed to start each of his 14 games, he finished with only 70 tackles…a far cry from the 109 he compiled in 16 games as a rookie. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus ranked Bush 82nd among 87 qualifying linebackers, with the site being particularly harsh when it came to his rush defense.

Of course, this wasn’t the intended outcome. The Steelers traded up during the 2019 draft to select Bush with the 10th overall pick, and the expectation was that the Michigan product would be a mainstay on Pittsburgh’s defense for the foreseeable future. His rookie campaign saw him earn All-Rookie honors, but the 2020 ACL tear has derailed his career. A report from last December indicated that while Bush was well liked within the locker room, the organization had grown frustrated with his lack of development.

“I think Devin Bush will be a better player in 2022,” Colbert said earlier this offseason.

If the Steelers had picked up Bush’s fifth-year option, the organization would have been on the hook for $10.5MM. Following a dreadful 2021 campaign, it’s not a surprise that the Steelers didn’t want to commit that kind of future money to the linebacker, and barring a remarkable turnaround in 2022, it’s unlikely Bush will command that kind of money once he hits unrestricted free agency next offseason.

Rams HC Sean McVay Has Regrets Over Handling Of Jared Goff Trade

It’s been a bit more than a year since Jared Goff was sent packing to Detroit. Things worked out well for the Rams; trade acquisition Matthew Stafford helped guide the organization to a Super Bowl championship. The front office obviously has no regrets with how things turned out, but Sean McVay recently admitted that he’d like a re-do when it comes to how he handled the trade with his former starting QB.

During an appearance on Mike Silver’s Open Mike podcast, McVay said he could have done a better job of communicating the team’s intentions at quarterback to Goff.

“That was a hard thing for me because the thing that’s more important than anything is being a good communicator — clear, open, and honest. Making sure people aren’t caught off guard and really having respect for the players and the coaches for what they have to do. And I wish that there had been better in-person communication,” McVay said (h/t to Myles Simmons of ProFootballTalk.com). “The one thing that hurt me is that I would never want anything to be misunderstood about my appreciation, my respect for Jared. Was it a tough decision? Yes. Were there some things that I could’ve handled better in terms of the clarity provided for him? No doubt.

“If I had it over again, what I would do is, before I had even gone to Cabo, when there was a possibility of, alright, if Matthew Stafford’s available, if there’s other quarterbacks available, that would be something that we would explore — you sit down with him, you look him in the eye, you tell him that instead of calling him and setting up a meeting where that was my intention when I got back from Cabo.”

At one time, it would have been crazy to suggest that the Rams would move on from Goff. The 2016 first-overall pick earned Pro Bowl nods in both 2017 and 2018, and he made it to the Super Bowl during that latter season. Following that Super Bowl loss, the Rams signed Goff to a four-year, $134MM extension, with the $100MM in guaranteed money setting a then-record. Indeed, it seemed like the Rams and McVay were fully committed to their starting QB.

However, after averaging 12 wins between the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, the Rams averaged only 9.5 victories in 2019 and 2020. The Rams started considering changes, and with Stafford available in Detroit, the organization decided to make a move. According to McVay, the trade negotiations came together quicker than anticipated; what the Rams “thought was going to be a week’s worth of time ended up happening in about 24 to 36 hours.” As a result, the organization didn’t have an opportunity to truly prep Goff for the impending move.

“So all in all, biggest thing I regret, [not] being able to sit down, look him in the eye and be able to communicate kind of where we are, what we were going to try to do moving forward,” McVay said. “And for that, I regret it, I’ll not make those same mistakes again.

“But, I care about Jared. He sure as hell did a lot of good things. And I think the thing that shows what a stud, what a class act he really is, is one of the best text messages I got after the Super Bowl was from Jared Goff. And so, I think the further we get away, the more appreciation that we’ll have for the great four years that we did have together — because there were a lot of really good times. … But all in all, just the better communication, better clarity is what I would’ve wanted. And I didn’t like the outside narrative, but I think he knows where my heart was. And I was glad we were able to connect, sit down, be honest with each other, and I think we both have a lot of respect for each other. And I wish I’d handled it better as a leader for him.”

Latest On Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins continues to make good progress on his torn ACL, but don’t expect him to be a full participant at training camp or preseason. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes that the Ravens running back is “probably highly unlikely” to play during the preseason.

We heard previously that Dobbins would likely start training camp on PUP, and Zrebiec indicates that that’s still the plan. Dobbins tore his ACL last August, so he’s looking at about a year recovery before he’s ready to return to the field.

“The knee injuries are a little tougher to say what the schedule really is,” coach John Harbuagh said earlier this month (via Zrebiec). “So, you talk to J.K., he’s the starting running back today, (and) he should have been practicing today, but he’s got work to do still.”

Per Zrebiec, the organization continues to be confident that Dobbins will play a significant offensive role in 2022. However, the reporter also notes that there’s some “outside pessimism” about the running back’s ability to be a legitimate contributor next season. If the organization is just saving face and also shares similar fears, we could see Dobbins sidelined through the start of the regular season as the organization looks to maximize their late-season and postseason chances (although this is just my speculation).

The 2020 second-round pick had a productive rookie campaign, finishing with 925 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns. He formed a two-headed monster with fellow RB Gus Edwards, but Edwards also missed the 2021 campaign with a torn ACL. Both players will be looking toward a comeback season in 2022, but they’ll see some competition for reps from free agent acquisition Mike Davis. The Ravens are also rostering Tyler Badie, Ricky Person, Justice Hill, and Nate McCrary.

Deshaun Watson Hearing Wraps After Day 3; Decision To Be Delayed

The Deshaun Watson hearing lasted three days, but the cases made by the NFL, NFLPA and Watson’s camp have concluded. While an appeal may follow, the next step will be for disciplinary officer Sue Robinson to render a decision.

That decision was rumored to be possible by Friday, which would be prime news-dump territory ahead of a holiday weekend, but it does not look like it will emerge for several more days. If Robinson moves to have the NFL and NFLPA file briefs, Mark Maske of the Washington Post notes a punishment would not surface for at least another week. Robinson has since called for post-hearing briefs, according to ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano, who adds the briefs are not due until the week of July 11 (Twitter links).

Although the NFL indeed focused on five Watson accusers’ cases, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tweets the league has interviewed 12 of the women who have accused the Browns quarterback of sexual misconduct and/or sexual assault. The league conceded it is seeking an unprecedented punishment, Florio adds. The NFL has long been linked to aiming for a season-long ban or an indefinite suspension that includes a baseline of Watson missing the 2022 season.

Watson’s side was expected to attempt to compare potential punishment for the Pro Bowl passer to the penalties (or lack thereof) given to Robert Kraft, among other owners. NFL reps said at the hearing the Patriots owner was investigated by an NFL security director, and no punishment was recommended for his involvement in a solicitation scandal. Kraft pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution in connection with the January 2018 incident. His case was later dismissed.

While the number of women to accuse Watson and the nature of the alleged crimes differ wildly in this case, Florio notes the NFLPA is pushing for the recently traded QB to not be suspended for any length of time. This was believed to be the union’s plan. If Robinson rules Watson did not violate the league’s personal conduct policy, the NFL cannot appeal. Should Robinson punish Watson and the NFL still appeal for its preferred full-season ban, Roger Goodell or a commissioner-appointed overseer would handle that component of this saga.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 6/30/22

Here are the mid- and late-round picks to sign their four-year rookie deals Thursday:

Carolina Panthers

  • LB Brandon Smith (fourth round, Penn State)

The Panthers made a notable trade-up maneuver on Day 3 to acquire Smith, sending the Commanders two fifth-round picks in exchange for the No. 120 overall selection. Washington used one of those Carolina choices to nab Sam Howell atop Round 5 (at No. 144). The Panthers, who had already traded back into the third round for Matt Corral, focused on defense atop Day 3. Smith made 81 tackles (nine for loss) and tallied two sacks as a senior, doing so ahead of clocking a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. This signing leaves Corral as the last unsigned Panthers draftee.

 

AFC West Notes: Wilson, Chargers, Chiefs

The Chargers made the biggest cornerback splash this offseason, signing ex-Patriot J.C. Jackson. While Jackson’s starting spot is known, the rest of the Bolts’ corner arrangement is not. Asante Samuel Jr. will enter training camp with the lead to be the team’s other outside starter, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic (subscription required). With Bryce Callahan signed to play in the slot, this would move Michael Davis to a bench role. Davis, who signed a three-year deal worth $25.8MM to stay in Los Angeles last year, started all 14 games he played for the 2021 Chargers. He has worked as a starter for the past three seasons. Pro Football Focus ranked both he and Samuel outside its top 80 corners last season, however. Samuel playing in the slot over Callahan, with Jackson and Davis outside, is another option for the Bolts, Popper adds. Callahan, who dealt with extensive injury problems in Denver, signed for barely the league minimum after the draft.

Shifting first to Denver, here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Although the NFL is amid its quiet period, the Broncos‘ new quarterback will host a pre-training camp of sorts ahead of the team reconvening. Russell Wilson will gather his pass catchers for a mid-July summit in San Diego, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The Broncos have their top four wide receivers (Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler) and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam back, and Melvin Gordon‘s re-signing kept the team’s 2021 backfield intact. But Denver newcomers Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett‘s presences obviously loom larger, and the 11th-year QB will take advantage of some off time to accelerate his rapport with his new teammates.
  • Shifting back to L.A., the Bolts are planning to keep Kyle Van Noy in the versatile role he held with the Patriots. The post-draft free agency addition is expected to both work as an edge rusher and an off-ball linebacker, per Popper. Van Noy played both spots during the Bolts’ offseason program. The 31-year-old linebacker should be expected to be the team’s No. 3 edge rusher, behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, Popper adds. With the Pats and Dolphins over the past three years, Van Noy combined for 17.5 sacks.
  • Easton Stick‘s rookie contract expires after the 2022 season, and despite the Chargers having Chase Daniel back to be Justin Herbert‘s top backup, Popper notes the team is grooming the North Dakota State product to be Herbert’s post-Daniel QB2. Dating back to Tyrod Taylor‘s tenure, Stick, 26, has been L.A.’s third-stringer throughout his career. Carson Wentz‘s Bison successor has thrown one regular-season pass.
  • A Chiefs exec since 2017, Tim Terry is staying put with a new title. The team bumped him up to senior director of pro personnel, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Terry, 47, has been a key front office staffer for a while. Prior to coming to Kansas City, he spent eight years as the Packers’ assistant director of player personnel. The Chiefs lost one of Brett Veach‘s top lieutenants, assistant director of player personnel Ryan Poles, this offseason. Poles is now the Bears’ GM.

Falcons, P Bradley Pinion Agree To Deal

Not long after his Buccaneers release, Bradley Pinion found a new home. The veteran punter is signing with the Falcons, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). It’s a one-year agreement.

A seven-year veteran specialist, Pinion spent the past three seasons with the Bucs. Pinion played through a torn hip labrum last season, but after passing a physical on the way out of Tampa, he should be in line to take over as the next Falcons punter.

Pinion, 28, has been a punter and his team’s primary kickoff man throughout his career. The 49ers used him in these capacities from 2015-18, and the Bucs deployed Pinion as their kickoff man during his stay as well. As for punting, Pinion reached his top average in the Bucs’ Super Bowl-winning season. The Clemson alum averaged 45.2 yards per boot that year. The hip trouble likely contributed to Pinion’s average dropping to a career-low 42.5 in 2021.

The Falcons used three punters last season and they have not featured any consistency at this specialty spot since injuries ended Matt Bosher‘s run during the 2019 season. Veterans Dustin Colquitt and Thomas Morstead joined Cameron Nizialek in working as Atlanta’s primary punter throughout the 2021 campaign. None of those three are on Atlanta’s 2022 roster.

The Falcons have Dom Maggio and rookie UDFA Seth Vernon on their 90-man offseason squad. Neither has punted in an NFL regular-season game.

CB Joe Haden Weighing FA Offers

After entering last season without extending Joe Haden, the Steelers signaled they were prepared to move on. Three months after the 2022 league year began, Pittsburgh has followed through with that plan. Haden is not expected to return to Pittsburgh.

But the 12-year veteran appears to have other options. Offers have come in for Haden to play a 13th season, according to Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed, who notes those proposals remain on the table. Haden spent the past five years as a valuable defensive starter in Pittsburgh, helping the team craft a late-2010s defensive resurgence. The former Browns first-rounder may have a third NFL employer soon.

The offers Haden has received have not, however, induced him to sign. Haden, 33, inked two contracts with the Steelers — a three-year, $27MM pact late in the summer of 2017 and a two-year, $22.4MM extension agreed to in 2019 — but it is likely he will need to play at a reduced rate in 2022.

Stephon Gilmore is a year younger than Haden, but the Colts gave him a two-year, $23MM deal. That contract differs from other pacts given to over-30 outside corners this offseason. Patrick Peterson re-signed with the Vikings for one year and $4MM, while the Ravens landed Kyle Fuller for one year and $2.5MM. Other veterans are in Haden’s boat. Xavier Rhodes, Robert Alford, Jason McCourty and Jackrabbit Jenkins remain unsigned.

PFF viewed Haden’s 2021 season as his worst in Pittsburgh, ranking him outside the top 60 corners. Haden’s passer rating as the closest defender vaulted to 100.1; that figure stood at 75.9 in 2020. Haden made the Pro Bowl in 2019. The Steelers do not have a corner with Haden’s pedigree, but they did re-sign Ahkello Witherspoon and add Levi Wallace in free agency. What other teams could be out there for Haden?

The Cardinals come to mind as a team in need. Kliff Kingsbury said veterans will be on the radar, and although Arizona added Josh Jackson, the team that tragically lost free agency addition Jeff Gladney in a fatal car accident figures to keep exploring the market ahead of training camp. The Giants, who cut James Bradberry in May, are thin at corner. Though, they are much closer to rebuilding than contending. The Patriots lost J.C. Jackson and may end up relying on Jalen Mills and the recently unretired Malcolm Butler, though the team is high on fourth-round rookie Jack Jones. With Wallace joining the Steelers and Tre’Davious White not a lock to be ready for Week 1, could the Bills come into play?

Haden signing somewhere would make him just the second corner to be on a team ahead of his age-33 season this year. Casey Hayward, who turns 33 in September, is the only such player exiting June.