2023 NFL Draft

Giants Meet With Quentin Johnston, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers; Veteran WRs Still On Radar

Although the Giants used a first-round pick on a wide receiver in 2021, connecting them to a dive back into that pool is not especially difficult. Kadarius Toney is gone, and the team’s lot of free agency moves led complementary-type options coming in or staying put.

Unsurprisingly, this year’s top receiver prospects have heard from the Giants. The team has now met with TCU’s Quentin Johnston, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Boston College’s Zay Flowers at pre-pro-day dinners, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com notes (Twitter links). Johnston’s meeting occurred Thursday. The other top-four wideout in this year’s class, USC’s Jordan Addison, said the Giants were the most recent team to contact him.

Mentioning Smith-Njigba as a wideout GM Joe Schoen is doing extensive homework on, NJ.com’s Darryl Slater notes the team filled its quota of signings in this year’s unremarkable free agency class. The next step would be to take a swing at a player with a better chance of becoming a lead pass catcher.

I think we’re better than we were,” Schoen said of the team’s receiver situation. “I think Daniel [Jones] has a better group. It goes back to: It’s not fantasy football. So to say, ‘Go get a No. 1 receiver,’ you’re only afforded what’s on the market and what’s available. So all these things sound great. But with the receiver group that was out there…

Schoen’s voice trailing off effectively illustrated the leaguewide view of this year’s free agent receiver class. No top-25 contract at the position ended up going to a wideout, which marks a change from recent years, when the likes of Christian Kirk, Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay and Corey Davis scored such deals as UFAs. John Mara said the team might not be done in free agency, and the owner said earlier this week the team is not out on Odell Beckham Jr.

The former Giants Pro Bowler has received multiple offers, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com adds, though they have clearly not met with the mercurial talent’s approval. Attempting to pair him with Aaron Rodgers, the Jets remain the most likely Beckham destination, per Graziano, who adds OBJ may be waiting on the Rodgers deal to be finalized before he commits.

Schoen said a trade for a receiver remains in play. The Giants made a push for Jerry Jeudy before the 2022 deadline, but the Broncos want a first-round pick for their top wideout. That seems like a non-starter for the Giants, who prioritized draft capital — a third-rounder, which turned into Darren Waller — over waiting on Toney’s potential. Denver also wants a second-rounder for Courtland Sutton. Barring a big offer, the Broncos are standing pat at wide receiver.

The Giants could be a DeAndre Hopkins suitor as well; they will have competition for the Cardinals standout. The Waller move makes it a bit more difficult to envision the Giants dealing away another prime draft asset for a veteran pass catcher.

The Giants doing work on Smith-Njigba adds up, after the promising playmaker finished an abbreviated junior year. JSN broke through for 95 receptions, 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, leading the Buckeyes in receiving by a substantial margin despite that squad housing 2022 first-round picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. That included a monstrous 347-yard showing in that season’s Rose Bowl. Smith-Njigba, however, only played three games last season, catching just five passes. ESPN’s Todd McShay said in December Smith-Njigba had healed from his nagging hamstring injury by the Buckeyes’ semifinal game against Georgia but was protecting his draft status. That claim drew backlash from the junior wideout’s family, but his third-season no-show has undoubtedly prompted teams to examine the lengthy absence.

This year’s receiver class has not generated the buzz of recent crops, but ESPN’s Scouts Inc. rates Johnston, Addison, Smith-Njigba and Flowers as first-round talents. Johnston is coming off an MCL injury in TCU’s semifinal win over Michigan. None are viewed as top-10-level talents, though the top three here are each listed in the scouting service’s top 20 at the position. New York holds the No. 25 overall pick in next month’s draft. Mel Kiper Jr. mocks Addison to New York at 25.

The Giants, who retained Isaiah Hodgins as an RFA, re-signed Sterling Shepard and 2022 receiving leader Darius Slayton and added Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder. Wan’Dale Robinson still represents the centerpiece here, being signed through 2025. Though, the Kentucky-developed slot player is coming off an ACL tear. There probably will not be room for this sextet to each be part of Brian Daboll‘s second roster, and how the Giants proceed early in the draft will play a major role in determining this position group’s 2023 outlook.

Cowboys Notes: Schultz, Barr, Draft

The Cowboys have made a number of moves so far this offseason, including the trade acquisition of wideout Brandin Cooks. While that gave the team a new, accomplished pass-catcher, the departure of tight end Dalton Schultz has created a vacancy at that position.

Conflicting reports have emerged on whether or not the Cowboys attempted to retain the 26-year-old, who played on the franchise tag in 2022. Confirming his earlier offering that Schultz turned down a multi-year offer from Dallas, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer notes that Schultz declined a three-year, $36MM deal. That far outpaces the one-year, $9MM pact he signed last week to join a Texans team facing far more uncertainty at the quarterback position than the situation he departed.

Schultz established himself as a highly dependable target for Dak Prescott during their time together in Dallas. The former recorded exactly 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past three seasons, production which he will look to replicate with the Texans and their new-look offense in 2023. A standout campaign would go a long way to earning him a new free agent deal similar to the one he chose not to take from the Cowboys.

Here are some other notes out of Dallas:

  • The Cowboys have retained a number of in-house free agents on defense this year, but the team’s linebacking corps will still look different in 2023. ESPN’s Todd Archer notes that veteran Anthony Barr will not be back in Dallas next year. The 31-year-old joined the Cowboys last season after eight years with the Vikings; he saw a notable role with 10 starts and a 63% snap share. After making 58 tackles and putting up underwhelming numbers in coverage, though, he will be headed elsewhere this year. Dallas has the recently-retained Leighton Vander Esch, along with the likes of Damone Clark, Jabril Cox and Devin Harper in their middle linebacker room, one which only sparingly includes dynamic edge rusher Micah Parsons.
  • With Schultz no longer in the fold, tight end is a position of need for the Cowboys heading into the draft. This year’s class is said to be extremely deep, and Jon Machota of The Athletic writes that Dallas is “intrigued” by it (subscription required). The door is open to the Cowboys using their first-round pick (No. 26) on a tight end, which would put them in play to add a prospect like Michael MayerLuke Musgrave, Darnell Washington or Dalton Kincaid.
  • Isaac Alarcon has spent the past three seasons on Dallas’ practice squad as an offensive lineman after joining the team through the International Player Pathway program. He will be making a position switch to defensive line this offseason, however (Twitter link via Archer). The 24-year-old will look to find a 53-man roster spot along the d-line as a depth option.

Latest On Colts’ QB Situation

With one month remaining until the 2023 draft, teams at the top of the board are increasingly turning their attention to this year’s class of prospects. That includes the quarterback position for several teams slated to pick in the top five – such as the Colts – who find themselves in an interesting situation.

[RELATED: Colts Undecided On Lamar Jackson Offer Sheet]

Indianapolis holds the fourth overall selection, which has led to the widespread belief that they will draft a quarterback with that pick. They have a vacancy at the top of the depth chart, after their 2022 experiment with Matt Ryan failed and led to the veteran’s release. The Colts have since signed Gardner Minshew in a move which reunites him with head coach Shane Steichen, but the latter confirmed that a backup role awaits him with his new team.

“Right now, obviously, he’s coming in to just compete and be the best he can be, you know, and that’s where we’re going,” Steichen said, when asked whether Minshew could compete for the vacant starting job. “That’s where we feel he’s at right now and that’s his role right now” (h/t Brenna White of NFL.com).

Minshew signed a one-year deal with a maximum value of $5.5MM, giving the Colts a No. 2 option with 24 starts and 32 appearances to his name. However, the team’s Week 1 starter in 2023 has long been expected to be the signal-caller drafted with their top pick. On that note, though, The Athletic’s Zak Keefer notes that the Colts feel “pretty strongly” that the 2023 class is devoid of a can’t-miss franchise QB (Twitter link).

With the quarterback-needy Panthers and Texans slated to select first and second, respectively, there is a strong chance both Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud will be off the board before the Colts’ pick. The other top options at the position, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson, are generally seen as more volatile prospects in terms of their ability to transition successfully into the NFL. Given the lack of attractive options likely to be available to Indianapolis under center, the team could be steered toward an unexpected move.

Keffer’s colleague James Boyd opines that the Colts could consider drafting the best player available at No. 4, and saving their QB pursuits for later in the draft (subscription required). A number of high-end defenders will be on the board assuming Carolina and Houston take Young and Stroud in one order or another, so Indianapolis could be well-positioned to bolster their roster on that side of the ball. Their next selection is at No. 35, which Boyd notes may be too low for the team to secure Hendon Hooker, the next highest-rated passer.

For that reason, Boyd points to a trade-down from the fourth overall pick being a possibility if the Colts aren’t sold on selecting Levis or Richardson early. Hooker, coming off a torn ACL, carries risk of his own, of course, which will make the Colts’ evaluations and plans at the QB spot a key storyline in the coming weeks.

Jets Trade WR Elijah Moore To Browns

Shortly after agreeing to terms with Mecole Hardman, the Jets have a trade in place involving one of their holdovers. They are sending Elijah Moore to the Browns, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

A former second-round pick, Moore will head to Cleveland in a deal involving a Day 2 pick swap. The Browns will send their No. 42 overall pick for Moore and the Jets’ No. 74 overall choice, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Two years remain on Moore’s contract; he is going into his age-23 season.

As the Jets’ wide receiver room became crowded, the Browns were connected to wideout interest. The team was looking into Jerry Jeudy, but the Broncos have continued to set a high price for teams regarding their top pass catcher. Instead, Cleveland will add Moore to its receiving corps as a slot piece to pair with Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones.

This will be a nice vault up the draft board for the Jets as well. Moving up 32 spots, the Jets now hold the Nos. 42 and 43 overall picks. Although the Packers have been seeking a first-round pick and change for Aaron Rodgers, the Jets now having two mid-second-round choices figures to come up in the Joe DouglasBrian Gutekunst trade talks involving the superstar quarterback.

Moore voiced frustration about his role last season and asked the Jets to trade him. The 2021 second-rounder, who was sent home after a heated argument with then-OC Mike LaFleur ahead of a midseason hiatus, did not match his rookie-year numbers in 2022. But Zach Wilson‘s presence hindered Jets receivers, hence the all-out Rodgers pursuit. In reaffirming the team’s desire to retain Moore, Douglas issued strong support for the disgruntled wideout in November. Four months later, Moore has a new team.

As a rookie, Moore showed immediate promise coming out of Ole Miss. The 5-foot-10 target caught 43 passes for 538 yards and five touchdowns, reaching these numbers despite Wilson’s inconsistency and despite missing six games. The Browns will bet on Moore’s upside with Deshaun Watson targeting him, and the team will move out of another early draft slot to do so. The Watson trade cost the Browns their first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024. Cleveland’s first 2023 draft choice will now arrive at No. 74.

Moore, who clocked a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at his pro day two years ago, is due base salaries of just $1.5MM and $1.9MM this season and next. This bet on potential notwithstanding, it does invite some risk for the Browns. Cleveland has now traded out of the first and second rounds of the draft, and the Watson swap also will send the Browns’ 2023 third-rounder (No. 73) to the Texans. Cleveland does have a compensatory third-rounder — No. 98, acquired from the NFL for the Vikings hiring ex-Browns exec Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as GM — but sliding down from No. 42 to No. 74 will make for a long wait on draft night.

The Jets targeted Moore on just 13% of his routes run last season, per ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter, who adds that was a league-low number for players who ran at least 400 routes. Paired with Cooper and Peoples-Jones, Moore should have a clear-cut opportunity in Cleveland. His exit will also free up space in a Jets receiver room that has seen both Hardman and Allen Lazard added since free agency started.

Gang Green’s receiver cadre now includes Hardman, Lazard, Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis and Denzel Mims. While Mims is an obvious candidate not to be part of a Rodgers-led receiver room, it will be interesting to see if the Moore trade allows for Davis to avoid cap-casualty status — the Jets can save $10.5MM by cutting him — or enables the team to pursue Odell Beckham Jr. and/or Randall Cobb. Rodgers is believed to have encouraged the Jets to sign both players, and they have begun doing so. Hardman’s arrival throws a wrench in both OBJ and Cobb coming to the Big Apple, but the Jets still have some space to add another weapon soon.

Panthers Targeting C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson With No. 1 Pick?

The Panthers’ decision to move up to the top spot in next month’s draft has left them with opportunity to land a long-term solution at the quarterback position for the first time since Cam Newton‘s decline and departure. Carolina has a quartet of passers ranked in the top tier of this year’s class to choose from, but they may have their eye on a pair of prospects.

Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network Network reports that the Panthers are “targeting” either Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Florida’s Anthony Richardson with the No. 1 pick (Twitter link). He adds that debate is ongoing within the organization regarding whether or not it would be worthwhile to select the latter with the top selection, something which would no doubt mark a surprise move.

Richardson started just 13 games in his college career, spending only the 2022 campaign as the Gators’ full-time starter under center. That lack of experience contributed in large part to the sense among many that he would have been better suited to stay in school for one more year, and that declaring for 2023 could hurt his draft stock. The other main factor in that situation, of course, was his erratic performances on the field.

The 6-4, 236-pounder was inconsistent in the passing game in particular, completing less than 54% of his passes and compiling a 17:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. While that has led to calls for him to sit for at least one year upon being drafted into the NFL, his production on the ground is considerable. Richardson totaled 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, and showed off his athleticism with an historic performance at the Combine earlier this month.

Opinion is split considerably on Richardson, but Stroud profiles as a much safer prospect to project at the NFL level. An accomplished pocket passer, his time with the Buckeyes included two years as a starter and a high degree of personal and team success. Stroud went 21-4 at Ohio State, totaling 85 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, though his rushing stats pale in comparison to Richardson’s in particular.

A two-time Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year, Stroud finished fourth and third in Heisman voting in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Stroud nearly decided to remain at Ohio State for his senior season, but he will enter the draft as one of the most known commodities at the QB position. Alabama’s Bryce Young is generally seen as the top signal-caller in this year’s class, but Stroud would not be an entirely unexpected selection for the start of the team’s new era with head coach Frank Reich.

Much is yet to be determined with respect to any player evaluations, but how the Panthers choose to proceed will have a significant effect on several other teams near the top of the board, including those eyeing a rookie QB. While Young or Kentucky’s Will Levis could emerge on Carolina’s radar, their attention seems to be steering them towards either Stroud or Richardson.

DT Jalen Carter Reaches Plea Deal

The two misdemeanor charges in connection with a fatal car accident will not lead to jail time for top prospect Jalen Carter. The former Georgia defensive tackle reached a plea agreement with Athens-Clarke County solicitors Thursday, according to Seth Emerson of The Athletic (on Twitter).

Carter was hit with misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing. These charges came in connection with the accident that killed Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy. Carter will not serve jail time, per Emerson, and will instead pay a $1K fine. The standout defensive tackle must complete a driving course and perform 80 hours of community service.

Carter was driving a separate vehicle Jan. 15, and a police investigation found the two vehicles were “operating in a manner consistent with racing.” Police initially determined the crash a single-car accident caused by LeCroy speeding. Evidence suggests Carter’s vehicle, a 2021 Ford Tomahawk, and LeCroy’s, a 2021 Ford Expedition, were switching lanes — including on the opposite side of the road — and speeding.

Just before LeCroy’s fatal crash, her vehicle was traveling approximately 104 mph. A toxicology report measured LeCroy’s blood-alcohol level at .197, well above the legal limit, and the investigation has deemed alcohol, racing and reckless driving were “significant contributors” to this accident. Police did not find Carter had been drinking.

Thursday’s development prevents the state of Georgia from bringing any additional charges against Carter in connection with the crash, Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com reports. Carter left the scene of the accident, but his attorney indicated (via Schlabach) he did not do so without being given permission first. Upon being charged, Carter left the Combine earlier this month but later returned after being released from jail on bond.

This obviously represents good news for Carter, who entered the Combine as a candidate to be a top-three pick. Teams will undoubtedly continue their own investigations into the top interior D-line prospect’s actions that night in January, along with an overall character background check, and Georgia’s recent pro day created new hurdles. Carter came in nine pounds heavier than his Combine weight, weighing 323 pounds, and failed to finish his position drills. Carter did not run the 40-yard dash or participate in parts beyond drills at his workout, Schlabach adds, noting the 6-foot-3 pass rusher was “cramping up and breathing heavily” during the drill portion.

Head coaches Mike Tomlin, Matt Eberflus and Arthur Smith were in attendance Wednesday, after Carter did not work out at the Combine. Although Carter should still be expected to be drafted early, the recent charges and this workout have dealt blows to his stock.

Bears-Panthers Trade Fallout: Timeline, QB Plans, Moore

The Bears made history Friday by becoming the first NFL team to trade the No. 1 pick in the draft prior to April – since the draft was moved to April in 1976. Their return from the Panthers – four draft picks spread across three years and receiver D.J. Moore – will go a long way in determining both team’s futures for years to come.

Further details have emerged regarding the blockbuster deal, including the negotiating process which led up to the deal being finalized. Talks started at the Combine, with the Panthers being one of a number of teams reaching out to the Bears, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin and David Newton. That comes as little surprise, considering how willing Bears GM Ryan Poles was to move down the board, given his and the team’s support of quarterback Justin FieldsThe ESPN duo add that talks intensified over the past few days, and Friday’s negotiations were sufficient to consummate the trade before the start of free agency this coming week.

By moving up to the No. 1 slot, the Panthers now have a free choice of the 2023 class’ top quarterbacks. Newton reports, to no surprise, that QB is indeed the position which Carolina will use their top pick on (Twitter link). That will invite plenty of debate and speculation in the coming weeks, as this year boasts a number of intriguing options, but not necessarily a can’t-miss passer. Newton notes that the Panthers were high on Kentucky’s Will Levis at the end of the 2021 campaign, and the performances of Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud also drew positive reviews from GM Scott Fitterer and Co.

Many have Young, the 2021 Heisman winner, rated as the top signal-caller in the class (which is headlined by the aforementioned three QBs, along with the raw but uber-athletic Anthony Richardson). However, Joe Person of The Athletic reports (subscription required) that Stroud is believed to be in pole position at the moment, one which obviously represents something well short of a final evaluation of any draft prospect on the Panthers’ part. The Buckeyes star put up huge production in his college career, and has long been discussed alongside Young as a blue-chip in the running to become the top passer out of this year’s class.

Interestingly, Newton adds that Carolina could become sufficiently content with more than one QB at the top of the board that they elect to trade down slightly; Person corroborates this (on Twitter). With the Texans (who hold the second overall pick) and Colts (No. 4) each in need of a new signal-caller, moving down any amount would carry a high degree of risk. If the Panthers were assured that at least one of their preferences would be available at their new slot, though, they could use a second trade to recoup some of the capital they spent to acquire the top pick.

Draft maneuvering and the success the Bears have in restocking their roster with the additional picks will be a key determining factor in the legacy of this trade, but the inclusion of Moore has immediate ramifications. Carolina was reluctant at first to include the 25-year-old in the trade package, but Person notes that the Bears viewed him as a “must-have” to finalize the deal (Twitter link). While losing Moore marks a substantial blow to the Panthers’ passing attack, Newton and Person add that his inclusion saved Carolina from having to add another first-round pick to their offer.

The way Carolina approaches their newfound leverage and which passer(s) emerge as their top targets will be an interesting storyline to watch in the coming weeks. The willingness Poles had to move out of the top slot so quickly, meanwhile, will be a key takeaway from the Bears’ perspective as attention will turn to how Chicago uses their added draft capital for the next few years.

Panthers To Acquire 2023 No. 1 Pick From Bears

It has long been expected that the Bears would part with the top pick in this year’s draft. They have reportedly done so, shipping the No. 1 selection to the Panthers for a package including multiple first-rounders (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport).

The full compensation coming Chicago’s way, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter) is as follows: picks No. 9 and 61 in 2023, the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2024, their second-rounder in 2025 and receiver D.J. Moore. That will make this deal a franchise-altering one for both parties, as the Bears acquire substantial draft capital along with a proven No. 1 wideout, while the Panthers will have a prime opportunity to land a long-term option at the quarterback position.

Bears GM Ryan Poles has been consistent in his praise of quarterback Justin Fields, leaving the door wide open to a move down the board. He said upon learning that Chicago had the top selection (rather than the QB-needy Texans, who will pick second) that he would need to be “blown away” by this year’s class of passers to consider staying at No. 1 and replacing Fields. The latter took a step forward in terms of production, particularly on the ground, in 2022, but questions remain about his potential as a passer. The Bears are clearly staying true to their commitment to him in 2023 and beyond.

Only twice in the 21st century has the top selection been traded, and a No. 1 pick has never been dealt in the month of March. Poles recently hinted at that being a possibility, and it has now come to fruition. Rapoport adds that part of the reason this blockbuster is taking place now is the Bears’ desire to land Moore prior to free agency opening next week (Twitter link).

The 2018 first-rounder immediately established himself as a focal point of the Panthers’ passing attack, recording three consecutive seasons of 1,100+ receiving yards from 2019-21. He has been targeted at least 118 times in all but his rookie campaign, and scored 21 touchdowns across his five seasons in the league (including a career-high seven in 2022). Moore, 25, is under contract through 2025 with scheduled cap hits of over $20MM in each of the next three years.

The Maryland alum’s base salaries (ranging from $14.85MM to $19.965MM) could turn out to be money well spent for the Bears, a team which has been in dire need of a true impact-making wideout to unlock Fields’ potential. They traded for N’Keal Harry and Chase Claypool from the Patriots and Steelers, respectively, in 2022, though neither young pass-catcher was able to put up significant numbers in their time in the Windy City. Moore will slot atop the WR depth chart and increase expectations dramatically for Fields and Co. in his third NFL season.

The Panthers were one of many teams thought to be in the market for a significant addition at the quarterback position this offseason. The draft has long been considered their preferred route to find a legitimate Cam Newton successor; this deal will give them that opportunity. Rather than jockeying with teams like the Texans, Raiders and Colts in the top-10, Carolina will jump to the front of the line and have their pick of the lot amongst the 2023 QB class.

Alabama’s Bryce Young is generally regarded as the top signal-caller available this year. The 2021 Heisman winner has drawn plenty of questions about his frame and build with respect to withstanding NFL contact, but his production across the past two seasons makes him an appealing prospect. Young was at the Combine for measurements, but did not take part in drills, unlike other high-end signal callers C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson.

The Panthers’ preference amongst those four options will go a long way in determining the future of their franchise. Meanwhile, it will be worth monitoring how this shake-up affects other teams in need of drafting a quarterback who are now no longer in the running to trade up to No. 1. The Bears now have even more draft capital than they did before today, and a top-10 pick should still allow them to secure an impact player for the foreseeable future. That, coupled with their league-leading cap space, will allow them to be highly aggressive this offseason.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Draft, Purdy, 49ers, Ebukam, Clark, Seahawks, Staff

The Cardinals have fared well when picking in the top five over the past two decades, landing the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson and Kyler Murray. The team’s second-half swoon last season led to a rebuild, giving a new regime the No. 3 overall pick. Similar to the Bears, the Cards are prepared to move down. GM Monti Ossenfort made that clear, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). The team gave Murray a landmark extension last summer, and although Year 1 of that deal did not go well, he remains Arizona’s franchise quarterback. As such, the team will be prepared to move down to accommodate a QB-seeking team (or one eyeing the top non-passer available) that was unable to land Chicago’s pick. Such a move would bolster a roster that enters free agency with several holes.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Ossenfort also said the Cardinals have been in talks with free agents-to-be Zach Allen and Byron Murphy. The first-year GM indicated the Cardinals “would love” to keep both players, though he noted the obvious financial caveat (via AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban) that could lead each out of town. Both were drafted to play in Vance Joseph‘s system in 2019, and each will be among the top free agents at their respective positions. If Murphy and Allen leave, cornerback and defensive line would become areas of dire need in Arizona. The Cards did not put much around Murphy since Peterson’s 2021 exit, and Allen following J.J. Watt off the roster would obviously put the onus on the NFC West squad adding reinforcements up front.
  • Brock Purdy‘s postponed elbow surgery will take place Friday, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets. The breakthrough 49ers quarterback was initially scheduled to undergo the UCL repair Feb. 22, but swelling led to a delay. The seventh-round pick who would be on track to retain his starting role is expected to face a six-month recovery timetable, which would run up against Week 1. This creates more QB uncertainty in San Francisco, though Trey Lance is on track to participate in OTAs. The plan remains for Purdy to have a less invasive elbow procedure, but he acknowledged Tommy John surgery — elbow reconstruction — could take place. The latter route would threaten to hijack Purdy’s 2023 season.
  • The 49ers discussed trading for Frank Clark before the veteran defensive end agreed to a Chiefs restructure in 2022, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. Clark is now available, having been a Chiefs cap casualty this week. The former Seahawks draftee’s 13.5 playoff sacks are the third-most in NFL history, but he never topped eight during a regular season with the Chiefs. The 49ers could consider Clark opposite Nick Bosa, with Samson Ebukam being viewed (via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com) as likely to price himself out of San Francisco. Ebukam, 27, recorded 9.5 sacks in his two-year 49ers run. He could command an eight-figure-per-year deal, per Fowler, as this edge rusher market is fairly light. Even ahead of his age-30 season, Clark may not come much cheaper.
  • Azeez Al-Shaair figures to join Ebukam on the way out of the Bay Area, Barrows adds. The 49ers have already given Fred Warner a top-market contract, and they reached a midlevel agreement to retain ascending sidekick Dre Greenlaw last year. Al-Shaair will join a crowded off-ball linebacker market next week.
  • The Seahawks went through with some front office promotions recently. Nolan Teasley has moved into the role of assistant GM, while Matt Berry will become the team’s senior director of player personnel. Teasley has been with the team since 2013, moving up from the scouting level. Berry has been working with the Seahawks longer than GM John Schneider, having started with the team in 2008. Additionally, Willie Schneider will step into Beasley’s former role of pro personnel director. Aaron Hineline will replace Berry as director of college scouting.
  • The Seahawks’ recent Phil Haynes deal will be a one-year, $4MM pact, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com tweets. The prospective guard starter will receive a fully guaranteed $1.3MM base salary and a $2.2MM signing bonus.

NFL Draft Rumors: Young, Safeties, Skinner

Sitting pretty with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Texans are reportedly very high on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. Despite his diminutive stature, Young has always been considered a top prospect at his position dating back to high school. How much will it affect his draft stock?

In evaluating the former quarterback of the Crimson Tide, the Texans have formed an extremely high opinion of Young in many regards. The only area that concerns Houston is a potential lack of durability due to his slight frame. While his height has been a minor concern, when combined with a reported weight at Alabama of 194 pounds, his size becomes a concern for NFL teams. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the concerns certainly are a factor but not enough so to remove him from his status as the top passer in the draft.

At the NFL Combine today, we received an official measurement. One of the first to report on the matter, ESPN’s Field Yates provided us with Young’s height (5-foot-10 and 1/8 inches), weight (204 pounds), and hand size (9 and 3/4 inches). The increased weight is seen as a big win in Young’s camp as a factor that should help bolster his projected durability.

Yates also provided us with a comparison to former No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray. While the two are not quite alike in play, Murray measured the same height, three pounds heavier, and with hands that were a quarter of an inch smaller, effectively negating any arguments that Young’s size should be a factor that would keep him from being a top draft pick.

Here are a few other rumors from this year’s upcoming draft:

  • Due to what is perceived to be a lack of safety depth in this year’s draft, the market for second-tier free agent safeties is expected to heat up when free agency opens, according to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network. There’s an opinion that after the top three draft prospects at the position, which include Illinois’s Sydney Brown, Georgia’s Chris Smith, and the draft’s only expected first-round safety Brian Branch from Alabama, there is a large drop off in safety talent. This should result in more fervent bidding for free agent safeties who otherwise would’ve been looking at average contracts behind the top-tier earners at the position. While top free agent safeties like Jessie Bates and Jordan Poyer will be searching for top money, players like Eric Rowe, A.J. Moore, J.T. Gray, and Lamarcus Joyner should expect to compete for higher contracts than they would have if competing with a deeper draft class.
  • Contributing to the lack of depth at the position, Boise State safety JL Skinner was unable to perform at the Combine this week due to a torn pectoral muscle, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Skinner is currently projected as a Day 2 draft pick but could have improved his draft stock even more with a strong performance at the Combine, which many expected he would do. He still met with teams, but Skinner was not able to participate in any drills with the other defensive backs. He’ll have surgery next week.