Month: November 2022

Offseason In Review: Miami Dolphins

The post-Ryan Tannehill era in Miami has seen the Dolphins go 24-25 through three seasons. The organization is looking to take that one final step of their rebuild and return to the playoffs in 2022, and their offseason moves indicate that they’re serious about that goal. They have a new coach in Mike McDaniel leading the way, and they made a number of moves (including acquiring wideout Tyreek Hill and offensive tackle Terron Armstead) to put QB Tua Tagovailoa in a position to succeed (despite their continual flirtation with other quarterback options).

The Dolphins distracted a bit from their successful offseason following the fallout from the organization’s tampering investigation, leading to the suspension of owner Stephen Ross. With those distractions now behind them, the team can focus on the upcoming campaign, and the front office is clearing banking on their offseason moves guiding them back to the postseason:

Trades:

  • Acquired WR Tyreek Hill from Chiefs for 2022 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick, and 2023 sixth-round pick
  • Traded WR DeVante Parker and 2022 fifth-round pick to Patriots for 2023 third-round pick

The Dolphins made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason, winning the Tyreek Hill sweepstakes. Miami had to pay up to acquire the Chiefs Pro Bowl receiver, both in draft capital and in literal dollars. The organization gave up basically a year’s worth of draft picks to acquire Hill, and they later signed him to a four-year, $120MM megadeal with $72.2MM guaranteed. Sure, there’s question marks surrounding Tua Tagovailoa‘s ability to guide a top-end offense, but the acquisition of Hill gives the QB one of the deepest WR corps in the NFL, with the 28-year-old wideout joining a depth chart that also features Jaylen Waddle and Cedrick Wilson. Considering that depth and the obvious downgrade from Patrick Mahomes, it’s tough to see Hill reaching the career-high 111 receptions or 159 targets he saw in Kansas City last year. Still, there’s no denying his talent, and Hill provides a huge upgrade to an offense that’s hoping to take a step forward in 2022.

The Hill trade ultimately cost one of the Dolphins’ longest-tenured players their job. DeVante Parker spent seven seasons in Miami, but the former first-round pick only had one standout season during his stint with the Dolphins (2019, when he finished with 72 receptions, 1,202 yards, and nine touchdowns). Of course, Parker’s lack of production was reflected in the team’s trade haul, as the Dolphins only managed to upgrade a 2022 fifth-round pick to a 2023 third-round pick. There’s a world where the team could have rostered all of Parker, Hill, and Waddle, but the offseason signing of Wilson would have downgraded Parker to a fourth WR at best. The Fins ultimately decided to hand that role to a younger player and acquire an asset for their former top wideout.

Notable signings:

The Dolphins made a big trade to add to their offense, but the team was also active adding receivers and running backs in free agency. Former Cowboys wideout Cedrick Wilson is the most notable of the bunch, especially after the 26-year-old set career-highs across the board in 2021 (45 receptions, 602 yards, six touchdowns). The Dolphins clearly believe he’ll be an important part of the offense, as the front office gave him close to $13MM in guaranteed money. The acquisition of Hill probably means Wilson will be on the second-tier of receiving options in Miami, but that’s probably an ideal role for him, anyway.

The Dolphins also completely revamped their RB depth chart. Chase Edmonds‘ combination of age and recent role probably makes him the favorite to see a consistent role out of the backfield. While James Conner led the Cardinals in carries last season, Edmonds still saw a career-high 116 rushes for 592 yards. Plus, Edmonds has already shown to be a high-end receiving back, having averaged 48 receptions over the past two seasons. Mostert could be Edmonds’ biggest threat to steal rushing work between the 20s, especially considering his experience in Mike McDaniel‘s system. Mostert was limited to only one game last season and eight games the season before, but if he’s able to stay healthy, he’ll undoubtedly have a role. The addition of Alec Ingold probably hints that Miami will run their RBs similarly to how McDaniel operated in San Fransisco; while the free agent acquisition didn’t threaten Kyle Juszczyk‘s place atop the fullback salary hierarchy, the Dolphins were still willing to commit a chunk of money to an often-overlooked position.

The Dolphins’ biggest free agent splash came on the offensive line, as the team committed a whopping $43MM to offensive tackle Terron Armstead. The Dolphins were in dire need of offensive line help; Pro Football Focus ranked the team’s offensive line 32nd in 2021. The three-time Pro Bowler will help in that regard after finishing as one of PFF’s top-10 tackles each season between 2018 and 2020 (including a first-place ranking in 2018). There are a handful of risks, of course. Armstead has missed a game in each of his nine NFL seasons, including nine games missed in 2021 thanks to elbow and knee issues. Still, whenever Armstead does take the field, he will help provide a consistent, veteran presence to an uncertain OL. Connor Williams is another notable add on the offensive line, as the former second-round pick started 51 games for the Cowboys over the past four years. The lineman ranked as PFF’s 10th-best offensive guard in 2021, although he drew 15 flags and found himself in and out of the lineup.

Teddy Bridgewater was brought in to help provide some continuity to the offense if Tua Tagovailoa is forced to miss any time. The eight-year veteran held off Drew Lock to be Denver’s starter last season and had the team at 7-6 before suffering his second concussion of the year. Entering his age-30 season, he’s an elite backup QB, and while the Dolphins have made it clear that they’re all-in on Tua, there’s a world where Teddy could crack the starting lineup if his teammate struggles.

Defensively, the Dolphins added some intriguing depth to their defensive line and secondary. Melvin Ingram was a pass-rushing monster during his time with the Chargers, and he was expected to play a similar role opposite T.J. Watt in Pittsburgh during the 2021 campaign. Things didn’t go according to plan, as Ingram saw a reduced role during his stint with the Steelers. He ended up starting only one of his 10 games, collecting only 10 tackles and one sack. He was traded to Kansas City late in the season and matched his Steelers numbers in only six games. He also started three playoff games for the Chiefs, collecting another two sacks. There’s probably a reason why the veteran saw a drastically reduced role in 2021, and the Dolphins will see if they can squeeze something out of him as a linebacker on defensive coordinator Josh Boyer‘s 3-4 defense.

Trey Flowers signed with the Dolphins earlier this week, returning to the AFC East after three years spent with the Lions. He was a full-time starter in Detroit, but injuries marred the final two years of his tenure there. He’ll provide the team with another rotational pass rusher, especially if he can rediscover the pass-rushing skills he showed during his stint with the Patriots.

Keion Crossen profiles as more of a special teams ace, although he did play a role on Houston’s secondary in 2020. Speaking of special teams, the Dolphins brought in veteran punter Thomas Morstead. The long-time Saints punter spent last season split between the Falcons and Jets, with his 47.2 yards per punt being his best mark since the 2016 season.

Notable losses:

The Dolphins mostly added to their squad this season, with the team’s most notable losses having already been replaced by clear upgrades. Offensively, offensive lineman Jesse Davis is the most notable of the bunch after having started 72 games for the Dolphins over the past five seasons. He was mostly made expendable following the signing of Terron Armstead, but Davis didn’t do himself any favors with his performance last season. He graded as one of PFF’s worst offensive tackles (79th among 83 qualifiers), and he surrendered eight sacks in 1,063 snaps. His release saved the Dolphins a chunk of money, and there was no coincidence that the move immediately followed the Tyreek Hill acquisition (and mega extension).

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AFC West Rumors: James, Waller, Hobbs, Waitman

Back in June of 2021, Ravens offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James filed a grievance against the Broncos seeking $15MM consisting of his 2021 and 2022 salaries of $10MM and $5MM, respectively. James has reportedly settled with his former team and will receive $1.09MM, according to Charean Williams of NBC Sports.

The grievance stems from a torn Achilles that James suffered while working out away from the Broncos’ facility during the 2021 offseason. He missed out on a $9.85MM guaranteed salary that Denver claimed was only guaranteed for injuries sustained at the team facility.

James has not played since the injury and is currently listed as the backup to Baltimore’s starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Ravens fans are hoping not to have to see James come in, but, historically, Stanley has only played in two games since signing a contract extension in October of 2020.

Here are a few more rumors from the AFC West, starting with two rumors out of Sin City:

  • Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels told reporters that star tight end Darren Waller returned to practice today, according to Paul Gutierrez of ESPN. Waller had missed six practices since mid-August due to a hamstring injury. Adding Waller back to the mix gives Las Vegas a dangerous array of pass catchers with Waller and receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow.
  • After the trade yesterday that sent former second-round pick Trayvon Mullen to Arizona and with Darius Phillips not making the initial 53-man roster, Raiders nickel cornerback Nate Hobbs is finally set to move to an outside cornerback gig, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic. The team’s coaches have long been boasting of their plans to move Hobbs around on defense, and they now have a prime opportunity to see what he can do on the outside of the secondary.
  • The Broncos surprised quite a few when punter Sam Martin failed to make their initial 53-man roster. Instead, Denver will move forward with former-Steelers punter Corliss Waitman. General manager George Paton attempted to defend the cut by telling reporters that the move was not a reflection of contracts but one of abilities, according to Troy Renck of Denver 7. Martin has been a starting punter since being drafted in the league back in 2013 by the Lions. He had signed a three-year, $7.05MM contract to join the Broncos and was headed into the final year of the deal set to make $2.25MM. Martin reportedly refused to take a pay cut for the 2022 season and Denver now will rely on the leg of Waitman, who holds an $825K cap hit. According to Paton, though, the $1.4MM cap room cleared by cutting Martin had nothing to do with it. Also according to Paton, Waitman, who has two games of NFL play under his belt, simply beat out the veteran kicker with 139 games of NFL experience. Broncos fans will get to judge for themselves when they see Waitman’s regular season debut in a Broncos uniform in Seattle on Monday Night Football.

Injury Updates: Giants, Leonard, Smith, Rivers, Sharpe

In a sequence of events that no one ever wants to see, the Giants had four players leave their final preseason game this Sunday with injuries. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor was carted off the field after a vicious hit to the chest by Jets pass rusher Micheal Clemons. New York also saw three players leave the game with concussions, but only one of them made the final roster: tight end Daniel Bellinger.

Head coach Brian Daboll has insisted that Taylor’s back injury is not serious, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com. This is great news for Giants fans who may have worries that starting quarterback Daniel Jones will continue his trend of not being able to appear in every regular season game the Giants play. Since being drafted in 2019, Jones has missed at least two games each year, sitting out of six contests over the past year alone.

The Bellinger-concussion is significant as the fourth-round rookie out of San Diego State is currently set to start at tight end for New York with Ricky Seals-Jones on injured reserve to start the year. Going into the season as a rookie starter, Bellinger needs all the practice he can get before the season opener in Nashville.

Here are a couple other injury updates from around the league, starting with some good news from the Hoosier State:

  • The Colts are thrilled to get star linebacker Shaquille Leonard back in practice after the three-time first-team All-Pro missed the entirety of training camp, according to Nick Shook of NFL Network. Indianapolis activated Leonard just before it would be forced to commit him to the reserve/physically unable to perform list to start the season. This means he won’t be forced to miss the first four games of the year after offseason back surgery, but it doesn’t rule out that he still might. General manager Chris Ballard told James Boyd of The Athletic, “I can’t give you a timeline. Maybe Week 1, maybe Week 6. We’ll work and we’ll deal with it however we gotta deal with it.”
  • The Ty Smith that will start at left tackle for the Cowboys against the Buccaneers on September 11 may not be the one Dallas’s fans were hoping for. First-round pick Tyler Smith is being forced out at tackle with incumbent starter Tyron Smith on injured reserve. The latter Smith is set to undergo surgery this Friday that will “reattach a torn hamstring tendon to his left knee,” according to Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News. The “uncommon sports injury” will likely hold the 31-year-old out until at least December.
  • Texans defensive end Derek Rivers will start the season on injured reserve after suffering a torn biceps tendon this week, according to Mark Berman of FOX Houston. Rivers earned his first career start with the Texans last year, tallying one sack on the year for Houston. The elbow injury is expected to keep Rivers out for up to three months.
  • Offseason free agent addition for the Bears wide receiver Tajae Sharpe will miss the entire 2022 season with a rib injury, according to Adam Jahns of The Athletic. The length of the absence was confirmed by head coach Matt Eberflus.

Restructure Details: Stanley, Hill, Smith-Schuster, Vannett

As teams around the NFL attempt to navigate the salary cap while putting together the rosters with which they will open the season, a couple of players have agreed to rework their current contracts in order to give their teams a bit more breathing room. Here are a few notable examples:

  • Ronnie Stanley, LT (Ravens): Baltimore addressed a major stressor today by converting $8.47MM of star left tackle Stanley’s salary this year into a signing bonus, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. The move resulted in the creation of $6.35MM of cap space for the 2022 season. This is a win-win for both sides. The Ravens gave Stanley a five-year, $112.8MM contract extension mid-season in 2020 that made him the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL at the time. Since signing the contract, Stanley has played in two total games. With this compromise, Stanley still gets money from the contract while giving the Ravens a bit of relief on what stood to be the 20th largest cap hit in the NFL this season. After initially holding a cap hit of $18.55MM, Stanley will now represent a much easier to swallow $12.2MM of the Ravens’ cap space this year.
  • Troy Hill, CB (Rams): Los Angeles will make its cap struggles a bit easier by exercising a pre-existing option in Hill’s contract that will lower his 2022 cap hit by about $2MM, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Hill returned to his long-time home in Los Angeles sporting a one-year-old contract from the Browns. The Rams decided to trade for their former cornerback a year after losing out on him to a two-year, $9MM deal from Cleveland. The option will lower Hill’s 2022 cap hit from $4.5MM to only $2.5MM.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (Chiefs): Smith-Schuster decided in his second stint with free agency to join a new franchise, signing with the Chiefs on a one-year, $3.76MM contract. The deal was already extremely incentive-laden, but Kansas City decided to give the former-Steelers’ receiver an opportunity at a bit higher of a bonus total in a cost-efficient, cap-savvy move. According to Yates, the Chiefs agreed to an amended contract that will increase Smith-Schuster’s per-game active roster bonus from $30K to $60K. This will increase his potential season total in such bonuses from $510K to $1.02MM. What’s interesting is that, of the additional $510K, only $150K will be attributed to this year’s salary cap. Since Smith-Schuster only appeared in five games last season, only five games-worth of the additional $30K per game will count against the 2022 salary cap. The remaining $360K will be applied to the 2023 salary cap.
  • Nick Vannett, TE (Saints): New Orleans brought in a solid run-blocking tight end in Vannett last offseason on a three-year, $8MM deal. Unfortunately, the Saints were only able to get seven games of action out of Vannett last year in a season that saw him miss the first 10 weeks of the season. Perhaps a reaction to the absences last year, the Saints were able to convince Vannett to sign a reworked deal that would lower his 2022 base salary from $2.6MM to $1.04MM, according to a tweet from Yates. The lowered payout will result in about $1.55MM of cap space for New Orleans.

Latest On Jets WR Denzel Mims

Despite his trade request last week, wideout Denzel Mims remained on the Jets as teams set their 53-man rosters. Speaking with reporters today, Mims expressed frustration at his situation and reiterated his desire to start.

“I feel like I already pretty much [showed I could start], from OTAs until now,” Mims said (via ESPN’s Rich Cimini). “I mean, they’re pretty set on who they want.

“I feel like, yeah, I feel like [the coaches] have made their mind up, honestly. But I feel like I can change their mind on that. I feel like I’ve been doing that. Their minds are pretty made up, though.”

Mims also mentioned that he expects to be inactive for the Jets Week 1 contest against the Ravens, and he noted that he doesn’t have any issues playing special teams. However, the receiver made it clear that he wants to play, something that probably won’t be possible when he’s behind a deep wide receiver group of Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios, and rookie Garrett Wilson. Those frustrations have led the organization to surmise that Mims doesn’t necessarily want to play elsewhere.

“I wouldn’t say he wants to be somewhere else; he wants to play,” GM Joe Douglas said. “He wants to start. Denzel is very confident. He has voiced that, that he wants to be a starter. Ultimately, you want a team full of guys that feel like they should be the No. 1 guy.”

While the Jets didn’t end up trading the former second-round pick, they still fielded calls on the wideout. According to Connor Hughes of SNYtv (on Twitter), the Vikings, Cowboys, Seahawks, and Panthers were among the teams that reached out to the Jets. However, New York was seeking a fourth-round pick in return for the receiver, and no team was willing to meet that asking price.

Bills To Sign P Sam Martin

Sam Martin didn’t spend much time on the open market. The veteran punter is signing with the Bills, reports NFL Network’s Peter Schrager (on Twitter). His college Tom Pelissero adds that it is a one-year deal. 

The move comes just hours after ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Martin visited Buffalo (Twitter link). That comes as little surprise, given the team’s need at the position. Indeed, Mike Klis of 9News indicated (via Twitter) that, assuming his physical went well, a contract would be inevitable.

Martin, 32, was released by the Broncos on Monday. That ended his two-year tenure in the Mile High City, where his punting average (46.4) slightly outperformed that of his time with the Lions. While he was only mid-pack statically speaking last season, it was reported that the decision to move on from him was financially driven. Denver will replace Martin with Corliss Waitman.

The Bills have been in need of a punter since they waived Matt Araiza. The sixth-round rookie was named in a lawsuit alleging he was involved in a gang rape at San Diego State; the team parted ways with him shortly thereafter. That left Buffalo without a punter, and they worked out a number of options to potentially serve as replacements.

Martin was one of a pair of notable veterans to be let go recently in favor of younger, less expensive options. The Titans released Brett Kern on Monday, leaving him as arguably the top option on the market. His personal ties to the Buffalo area made Kern a favorite to land with the Bills, but their special teams should nevertheless be much less of a concern now with Martin in the fold.

Latest On C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s Potential Extension With Eagles

C.J. Gardner-Johnson‘s contract isn’t expected to be an issue in Philadelphia, but it remains to be seen if the Eagles will extend the recently acquired defensive back. As Zach Berman and Bo Wulf write, while Eagles GM Howie Roseman didn’t specifically discuss Gardner-Johnson’s contract status today, he said he would “never want to rule anything out” when it comes to a potential extension.

[RELATED: Eagles Acquire DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson From Saints]

Gardner-Johnson was only available in the first place because his contract talks with the Saints hit an impasse. As Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com tweets, the player and the Saints were about $4MM apart in negotiations. New Orleans ultimately decided to prioritize other impending extensions and deal from a position of strength, leading to their trade with Philadelphia.

While the impending free agent was pushing for a deal in New Orleans, it’s still uncertain if he’ll get a new contract in Philly. As Berman and Wulf write, the Eagles have “consummated others deals contingent upon a new contract,” so it wouldn’t be shocking if a new deal suddenly materialized. On the flip side, the team also didn’t give up a significant haul (like they did for, say, A.J. Brown), so an extension wouldn’t appear to be a “necessity,” per the writers. Plus, while Gardner-Johnson was negotiating as a slot cornerback in New Orleans, he’s expected to play safety in Philadelphia, which could set him up for an even bigger pay day if he performs well at the position. As a result, the player may just prefer to just hit free agency next offseason.

With Gardner-Johnson now on the roster, the organization had to make some tough decisions at the position. The Eagles ultimately moved on from veteran Anthony Harris, who was released and later re-signed this summer. He was expected to serve as a starting safety, but with the emergence of Marcus Epps and the acquisition of Gardner-Johnson, Harris was ultimately eyeing a backup role. However, Roseman seemed to hint that a reunion could still be in order.

“We felt like since there was a possibility that his role had changed from when we had signed him, that because we were looking at options, he also deserved to kind of look at options himself,” Roseman said. “Obviously, you don’t want to close any doors on anyone or anything right now at this time.”

S Tony Jefferson To Join Giants’ Practice Squad

Tony Jefferson was a notable name amongst the Ravens’ final roster cuts, but the belief was that he would return to the team’s practice squad. The veteran safety is indeed joining a taxi squad, but not in Baltimore. 

Jefferson is signing with the Giants, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec and Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano (Twitter links). That represents a surprise given where things stood two days ago, though New York is a logical landing spot. With the Giants, Jefferson will be reunited with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who held the same post during their shared time in Baltimore.

Jefferson has significant starting experience dating back to his time with the Cardinals to start his career. That led him to the Ravens in free agency, where he partnered with Eric Weddle until his midseason 2019 knee injury. That opened up a starting spot for Chuck Clark, who has remained a first-teamer ever since. He, along with free agent addition Marcus Williams and first-round rookie Kyle Hamilton will serve as the Ravens’ top safeties.

Jefferson will likely face less of a logjam in the Big Apple. New York has Xavier McKinney and Julian Love at the top of the depth chart, but a lack of experience behind them. 2021 fifth-rounder Jason Pinnock and fourth-round rookie Dane Belton are currently projected as backups, so Jefferson could take on at least a rotational role on the team’s backend.

If he has fully recovered from the four surgeries required by his knee injury, Jefferson could find a spot under Martindale, as the Giants look to take a step forward in 2022.

Wednesday NFL Transactions: AFC East

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These BillsDolphins, Jets and Patriots moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s AFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Buffalo Bills

Placed on IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Miami Dolphins

Signed to practice squad:

New England Patriots

Signed to practice squad:

New York Jets

Signed to practice squad:

Wednesday NFL Transactions: NFC South

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These BuccaneersFalcons, Panthers and Saints moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s NFC South transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Atlanta Falcons

Claimed:

Released:

Signed to practice squad:

Carolina Panthers

Signed to practice squad:

New Orleans Saints

Claimed:

  • T Tanner Owen (from Bills)

Released:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Signed to practice squad: