Month: November 2022

Matt Rhule Takes Issue With Panthers’ Rebuild Timeline

Matt Rhule‘s Nebraska agreement severs the ties between he and the Panthers, who are now evaluating to see if Steve Wilks can become the first interim HC in six years to stick around as a full-time hire. But the team’s previous coach offered candor regarding his Carolina tenure.

When asked what he would do differently as Panthers HC, Rhule said he would have steered clear of the job he accepted in 2020. The Panthers gave Rhule a monster contract — seven years, $62MM — and the deal led the former college rebuild architect to believe he had more time than he did to turn the team around.

I think I probably would just probably [have] taken another job,” Rhule said during an appearance on The Season with Peter Schrager podcast (via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio). “It’s a great place. Wonderful people. But I just don’t know if I was a fit there.

You know, at the end of the day, you know, we talked about, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have a four-year plan, a five-year plan.’ You know, if you tell me, ‘Hey, we got a two-year plan,’ then I’m gonna go sign a bunch of free agents and do it. So what was a four-year plan became a two-year-and-five-game plan real quick.”

In most cases, NFL coaches in this era cannot execute four- or five-year plans without progress in the win column. The Panthers went 11-27 under Rhule. Rhule’s college rebuilds progressed much faster, with Temple going from two to six to 10 wins in the longtime college coach’s first three seasons and Baylor vaulting from one to seven to 11 victories during his three-year stay at the Big 12 school. This made Rhule a coveted commodity, leading to David Tepper‘s blockbuster offer.

At the time, reporting linked Rhule to preferring the Giants over the Panthers. The Giants represented the New York native’s only previous NFL experience — a one-year stint (2012) on Tom Coughlin‘s staff — but John Mara balked at matching Tepper’s offer. Rhule also had a pretty clear idea of his standing late in the 2021 season, when hot-seat rumors swirled. The Panthers brought Rhule back for a third season, but he took issue with how the franchise changed the timetable. This would not be the first time Tepper has drawn criticism for his ownership style and it is certainly not the first time in recent years a college coach has been unable to replicate success at the NFL level.

I’m not angry about it,” Rhule said. “At the end of the day, I understand. But if it’s gonna be that quick, then we’re gonna sign some more free agents, we’re gonna go make the blockbuster trade, we’re gonna do those things. I think the trajectory we were on was correct.”

Highlighted by their three-year, $63MM Teddy Bridgewater deal in 2020, the Panthers made some notable free agent signings during Rhule’s run. They did not, however, wade into the market’s deep waters. The team gave ex-Rhule Temple charges Robbie Anderson and Haason Reddick midlevel deals (a two-year, $20MM pact for Anderson in 2020 and a one-year, $6MM Reddick accord during 2021’s reduced-cap offseason) and handed out a three-year, $26.25MM contract to Austin Corbett this year. Carolina also sent Jacksonville a third-round pick for C.J. Henderson and added Stephon Gilmore. These players supplemented a Carolina core that drew trade interest after Rhule’s firing. Though, teams’ top Panthers trade targets — Christian McCaffrey, Brian Burns, D.J. Moore — were on the roster before Rhule’s arrival.

The Panthers did try to make what would have been the biggest trade in their history, being a finalist for Deshaun Watson. But the then-Texans quarterback did not have them first on his list. And Tepper, joining Arthur Blank on this front, was uncomfortable with the Browns’ five-year, $230MM fully guaranteed proposal. The Panthers pursued Watson for two years. In 2021, Watson was only believed to have waived his no-trade clause for the Dolphins. By 2022, Rhule’s uncertain status impacted Watson’s view of the Panthers. The team also traded three picks for Sam Darnold and added Baker Mayfield via lower-level swap; it is safe to say Rhule is back in the college ranks because the Panthers whiffed on the quarterback position under his watch.

It will be interesting to see how Rhule fares in attempting to rebuild the Cornhuskers while simultaneously observing if his cornerstone Panthers draft picks — Derrick Brown, Jeremy Chinn, Jaycee Horn, Ikem Ekwonu — end up being part of a contender in the future.

Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr. Declares For Draft

Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. announced on Twitter today that he intends to forgo his senior season (as well as his team’s bowl game) in order to prepare for and enter the 2023 NFL Draft. The son of former NFL linebacker Joey Porter just concluded an impressive redshirt junior season that saw him breakup a career high 11 passes.

The younger Porter came to Happy Valley as a consensus four-star recruit and the fourth-best athlete in Pennsylvania out of North Allegheny HS outside Pittsburgh. Porter quickly added 40 pounds to his 6-foot-2, 160-pound frame, giving him a lean, long, NFL-ready physique. He also took his four-star potential out of high school and became the top cornerback on many pundits’ boards coming out of college. He’s a big, physical cornerback with elite speed. There’s not too much to nitpick besides his lack of turnover production.

Porter has been a staple on a Nittany Lions team that has ranked top-10 in scoring defense for each of the past two years. This season Porter held opposing receivers to 5.86 yards per pass attempt under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Over his four years of play, including a true freshman season that saw him appear in only three games, Porter racked up 113 tackles, two for a loss, 20 passes defensed, and one interception.

Porter is widely projected as a first-round pick with some placing him around the early 20s. He’ll compete with Georgia’s Kelee Ringo and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez to be the top cornerback off the board, according to early predictions from ESPN.

Injury Rumors: Jackson, Linsley, Johnson

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is on the team’s injury report for the third straight week after not finishing practice today, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. This is not a continuation of any previous injuries and his status for the weekend is still far from determined.

Two weeks ago, Jackson sat out of a practice due to illness and followed that up with a missed practice last week because of a hip injury. The former MVP was sidelined today with a quadriceps issue that caused him to seek treatment from a trainer and miss his usual media session.

Although many have assumed Jackson’s running tendencies would lead to an increase in injuries, he has been remarkably durable. Over five years in the league, Jackson has only missed four games over a four-week stretch last year as he dealt with an ankle injury. His continuous ability to play despite being banged up is an encouraging sign for Baltimore.

The team will want their most valuable player as they prepare to face one of the league’s more stout defenses from Denver this week. If Jackson is unavailable, the Ravens will turn to Tyler Huntley, who went 1-3 as a starter in the four games Jackson had to miss last season.

Here are a few more injury rumors from around the NFL, starting with a couple of bumps and bruises on the Chargers offensive line:

  • Los Angeles could be down two offensive linemen this week as they head to Las Vegas for a divisional battle, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic. Starting center Corey Linsley is in the league’s concussion protocol and may not be available in time to return. Trey Pipkins, who has performed as the Chargers’ starting right tackle this season, reportedly aggravated an MCL injury in his left knee. If neither player can go this weekend, Will Clapp is expected to fill in for Linsley at center and two others will contend for the open tackle position. Storm Norton is the team’s primary backup tackle, but the Chargers have given former practice squad tackle Foster Sarell an opportunity to start this season, as well.
  • The Seahawks have officially shut down outside linebacker Darryl Johnson after the fourth-year defender underwent foot surgery, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. He’s been on injured reserve since suffering a foot injury in Week 4. Johnson had earned the first start of his career in the game that saw his season come to an end. Seattle has used a combination of Darrell Taylor and veteran Bruce Irvin since Johnson went down.

Restructure Details: Woods, Lowry

Here are some details on recent contract restructures in the NFL:

  • Robert Woods, WR (Titans): Halfway through his first season in Tennessee, Woods has agreed to a restructure of his contract that opens up a bit of salary cap space for a team that sorely needs it, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. The new agreement converts a portion of his base salary into a signing bonus, freeing up $2.6MM in cap space for the Titans. The team has been among the bottom-five teams in the NFL in regard to cap space this year and is poised to be in a bad position next year, as well. The move shows that general manager Jon Robinson is starting to plan for the impending offseason and making sure that Tennessee is set up well for the future.
  • Dean Lowry, DE (Packers): Lowry agreed to make his contract a bit more team-friendly after seven years in Green Bay, according to Yates. The team will convert approximately $1.5MM in base salary into a signing bonus, similar to Woods’ agreement. The move will clear up about $1.1MM in cap space for the Packers. Lowry is in the final year of his second contract with the team. Helping Green Bay find a little cap space puts Lowry in a favorable position heading into negotiations for a potential third deal.

Buccaneers Designate DB Logan Ryan For Return

It sounds like the Buccaneers will soon be getting some reinforcement on defense. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter), Tampa Bay has designated defensive back Logan Ryan to return from injured reserve. The Buccaneers will now have three weeks to activate the veteran to the active roster.

Ryan suffered a foot injury back in October that ultimately required surgery. Prior to that, the Buccaneers were leaning on Ryan in their secondary. In his four games (two starts), the veteran appeared in more than half of Tampa Bay’s defensive snaps, with Ryan collecting nine tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception.

At the beginning of the year, Ryan generally took the field alongside safeties Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield whenever the latter was moved to the slot in sub packages. However, whenever Ryan returns, he could end up seeing a different role. Winfield is dealing with an ankle injury that forced him out of Sunday’s loss, while cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are dealing with their own injuries.

Ryan’s versatility could end up coming in handy as the Buccaneers approach the final stretch of the season. The veteran made a name for himself as a cornerback in New England, and following four seasons and two championships with the Patriots, Ryan landed a lucrative contract from the Titans in 2017. He ended up playing out his deal in Tennessee, and when he joined the Giants in 2020, he decided to switch to safety. It’s been a bit since the 31-year-old played cornerback, but considering his more than 100 games of experience at the position, he could surely fill in if needed.

Bears Add QB Tim Boyle

The Bears could be down their top two QBs when they take on the Packers on Sunday, so the team has added some reinforcement at the position. ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reports (via Twitter) that the Bears have signed quarterback Tim Boyle off the Lions’ practice squad.

Starting quarterback Justin Fields is currently dealing with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder that forced him to miss Sunday’s game against the Jets. Trevor Siemian gutted through an oblique injury to play in that loss to New York, and it’s uncertain if he’ll be able to suit up this weekend. That would leave Nathan Peterman as the only healthy quarterback on the roster, so the team ended up snagging Boyle off Detroit’s taxi squad.

Boyle served as a backup to Aaron Rodgers to begin his career before catching on with the Lions in 2021. He ended up getting three starts for Detroit last year, completing 61 of his 94 pass attempts for 526 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions. The 28-year-old re-signed with the Lions this past offseason, and after getting cut at the end of the preseason, he caught on with the organization’s practice squad.

He’ll likely be a temporary piece in Chicago once the team’s QB corps is completely healthy. However, Boyle wasn’t just a random fill-in. Cronin notes that the Bears signed him because of his familiarity with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who was the Packers’ QBs coach when the two were in Green Bay.

The Bears made two more moves today, placing defensive back Dane Cruikshank on injured reserve and signing defensive lineman Andrew Brown off the Cardinals practice squad. Cruikshank has gotten into eight games for Chicago this season, but a hamstring injury will sideline him for at least the next four games. Brown has 23 games of NFL experience, with the former fifth-round pick having collected 18 tackles and one sack in time with the Bengals, Texans, and Chargers.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 11/30/22

Today’s practice squad moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

  • Signed: WR Shemar Bridges

Denver Broncos

Los Angeles Rams

  • Signed: WR Jaquarii Roberson

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/30/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Atlanta Falcons

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

Tennessee Titans

Seahawks Claim S Johnathan Abram

The waiver process continues to produce Johnathan Abram headlines. Following the Packers’ decision to cut the fourth-year safety, the Seahawks submitted a successful waiver claim, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

The Seahawks will be Abram’s third team this month. The Raiders waived Abram not long after the trade deadline, and the Packers moved on after two games. While much of Abram’s first-round contract has been paid out, more than $500K remains on the through-2022 deal.

Bouncing around the league yet doing so without having reached free agency, Abram is now set to play in a fifth defensive scheme since 2020. The Raiders went from Paul Guenther to Gus Bradley to Patrick Graham at defensive coordinator over the past three years, and after a short time in Green Bay, Abram will attempt to carve out a role in Pete Carroll and Clint Hurtt‘s defense.

The Seahawks have been without Jamal Adams since a Week 1 injury and have Ryan Neal working as Quandre Diggs‘ sidekick. Beyond the starters, Seattle has former second-round pick-turned-journeyman Josh Jones and rookie UDFA Joey Blount on the roster. The Seahawks have also used Teez Tabor, who entered the NFL as a cornerback several years ago, as a safety in limited time this season. Tabor, who has bounced around the league as well, has been on the Seahawks’ active roster since they signed him off the Falcons’ practice squad in September. Neal was on Seattle’s injury report last week but played against the Raiders; he came out of that game with a bruised elbow, however.

Abram, 26, began this season as a Raiders starter and started six games for the team that once took him 27th overall. But Las Vegas’ new regime attempted to trade the Mississippi State product before the deadline and ended up reducing his role. That preceded a post-deadline cut, which led to a Packers claim. Green Bay, which at the time held waiver priority over Denver (which also tried to claim Abram earlier this month), used Abram on just one defensive snap in two games. Abram did contribute on special teams, however.

Abram’s start count remains at 34; most of those came from 2020-21. While coverage issues have affected his NFL development, Abram does have a 116-tackle season on his resume (2021). He has three career interceptions and 12 career pass deflections. The former first-team All-SEC defender will attempt to make this latest relocation stick — until being eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.

Ravens OC Greg Roman On Radar For Stanford HC Job?

Longtime Stanford head coach David Shaw stepped down from his post heading the Pac-12 program. The Cardinal will conduct their first coaching search in many years, and Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman is believed to be a part of that process.

Stanford has discussed the position with Roman, according to The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel (on Twitter). Roman, who has been Baltimore’s OC since 2019 and on John Harbaugh‘s staff since 2017, was an assistant at Stanford during Jim Harbaugh‘s time in Palo Alto. Roman was a Stanford position coach from 2009-10.

Both Shaw and Roman have been connected to NFL HC jobs in the past, though such talk has died down for both. Roman, 50, went through his most recent HC interview following the 2019 season, when he met with the Browns. No known HC meetings have taken place since, and Roman’s place as Baltimore’s OC was somewhat in question entering the 2022 offseason. John Harbaugh assured Roman would be back, and he is calling Ravens plays for a fourth season.

Roman has both been given credit for redesigning the Ravens’ offense to fit Lamar Jackson, leading to the run-oriented quarterback’s MVP season, and blamed for holding the dual-threat talent back. The Ravens ranked 17th in scoring offense last season, one played without their top two running backs, and are up to eighth this year despite more J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards injury trouble. Baltimore is also playing without No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who is out for the season. Jackson is also on pace for a third 1,000-yard rushing season, averaging 68.6 rushing yards per game.

Tailoring schemes to dual-threat quarterbacks has been a Roman staple. He made over the 49ers’ offense for Colin Kaepernick as Jim Harbaugh’s OC in San Francisco and did the same for Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo. The Bills fired Roman during the 2016 season, leading him to Baltimore. Roman’s offenses contrast to Shaw’s; the latter’s pro-style attacks produced the likes of Andrew Luck and Davis Mills and garnered the offense-oriented HC NFL interest. Shaw was on Harbaugh’s staff during Roman’s two years there.

Other names will come up in this search, and it would be quite interesting if Roman bailed on coaching Jackson. But he has never been a head coach and has seen that well dry up at the professional level. As the Ravens vie for their first AFC North title since Roman’s first year on the job, this will be a storyline to monitor. Stanford, which employed Shaw as HC for 12 years, has gone 3-9 in each of its past two campaigns.