Month: April 2024

Dolphins, Packers Willing To Pay Jonathan Taylor Among Highest-Paid RBs

Jonathan Taylor‘s relationship with the Colts has deteriorated to the point of no return. While owner Jim Irsay’s comments about the state of the running back market seemed to be the final straw, Taylor’s frustrations with the organization first popped up when the front office refused his extension request this offseason.

[RELATED: Packers Engaged In Jonathan Taylor Trade Talks With Colts]

While Indy was unwilling to negotiate Taylor’s next contract, it sounds like two trade suitors were willing to pay up for the running back’s services. Per Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, both the Dolphins and Packers were willing to give Taylor a contract that would place him “among the highest-paid running backs in the NFL.”

As Mike Florio of points out, the only RB making serious money is Christian McCaffrey at $16MM per year, and the likes of Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, and Alvin Kamara (when accounting for his phony final year) are all earning around $12.5MM. Without knowing the specific structure of the deal, Florio opines that it’d be difficult to truly know where a Taylor extension would land at the position.

Taylor is set to earn $4.3MM in base salary this season, so he’ll undoubtedly see a raise on a new deal. It’s uncertain if Taylor would even insist on a new contract following a trade, but he can probably rest easier knowing that some suitors are willing to bump his pay.

As we noted recently, the Packers invested in the position a few years ago when they signed Aaron Jones to a four-year, $48MM extension. However, the team can easily get out of that contract (with a $6MM dent in dead cap). With fellow RB AJ Dillon set to hit free agency following the 2023 campaign, the Packers could be considering a completely new-look backfield for 2024.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins will have a number of tough decisions to make from a financial standpoint in the near future, so locking in Taylor could ruffle some feathers. Yesterday, general manager Chris Grier told reporters that the Dolphins are tabling extension talks with Tua Tagovailoa and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins until after the season.

Offseason In Review: Washington Commanders

The Commanders’ roster moves did not receive too much attention this offseason. Dan Snyder‘s prolonged exit overshadowed his former team’s football matters. The Snyder-to-Josh Harris transfer represents the most important storyline involving this franchise this century. Without the historically unpopular owner, the once-respected organization can begin to pick up the pieces.

As the team does so, an interesting blueprint has formed. No head coach’s seat should be considered hotter than Ron Rivera‘s, and longtime HC candidate Eric Bieniemy is now in place as the team’s play-caller. The unusual circumstances surrounding Bieniemy’s arrival aside, the Commanders have operated curiously — and intently — at quarterback. Rivera’s job security will be tied to a fifth-round quarterback — Sam Howell — the team has backed since his Week 18 debut.

Extensions and restructures:

The Commanders’ most expensive roster maneuver came before free agency, and it became a seminal development for the defensive tackle market. Payne’s extension laid the groundwork for the new second tier of D-tackle contracts that bridge the gap between Aaron Donald and the field. This agreement came to pass after Payne delivered a strong contract year, starring alongside Jonathan Allen to help a Commanders team still without the full services of Chase Young. After Payne’s 11.5-sack season — which more than doubled his previous single-slate best — Washington unholstered the franchise tag.

Payne and Terry McLaurin loomed as 2022 extension candidates, but the Commanders took care of their top receiver and drafted a potential Payne replacement (fellow Alabama alum Phidarian Mathis) in the second round. But Mathis went down four plays into his rookie season, which turned into a breakthrough year for Payne.

The Commanders expressed a greater interest in extending Payne after his contract-year showing, and his deal at the time became the highest non-Donald AAV at the position. Payne’s pact provided a baseline for Dexter Lawrence, Jeffery Simmons and Quinnen Williams‘ second contracts — each of which ending between $22.5MM and $24MM per year — and has given the Chiefs a Chris Jones price range. The veteran All-Pro, however, has viewed that level as beneath him, holding out for Donald-level dough.

Payne’s deal gives the Commanders two D-tackle AAVs of at least $18MM. The Giants match this and are doing so with Daniel Jones extended. Washington getting off Carson Wentz‘s contract, moving to Howell, will allow for a higher volume of payments elsewhere on the roster. With Payne and Allen extended, it sets the stage for an interesting decision at defensive end — where Young and Montez Sweat are going into contract years.

Free agency additions:

Six teams used the franchise tag this year. The Commanders were the only one to hammer out an extension before free agency. Doing so took Payne’s tag price out of the equation and dropped the sixth-year defender’s 2023 cap hit by nearly $10MM. This, along with some notable cuts, gave Washington some cash to spend. The team primarily targeted middling offensive linemen, though Brissett secured a pay increase after a better-than-expected Cleveland campaign.

Wylie, 29, enhanced his value considerably in 2022. While a Chiefs regular, Wylie did not earn much — by NFL standards, at least — during his five seasons in Kansas City. The Chiefs re-signed him on a one-year, $2.54MM deal during the 2022 offseason. Despite the low-end contract, Kansas City stashed Wylie — a former guard — at right tackle. This became an important transition for the former UDFA.

A Chiefs 2021 O-line makeover — after a disastrous blocking effort in Super Bowl LV — produced answers at the four other O-line spots. But the AFC powerhouse skimped at right tackle. (Wylie started 11 games for the Super Bowl LIV-winning Chiefs team but missed those playoffs due to injury.) The only Chiefs Super Bowl LV O-line starter who remained a first-stringer in the aftermath, Wylie held a part-time role in 2021 and lined up with the first-stringers in every game for the Super Bowl LVII-winning team.

Pro Football Focus barely ranked Wylie inside the top 60 among tackles last season, and the Chiefs paid up — via a four-year, $80MM Jawaan Taylor deal — to replace him. But this year’s right tackle market boomed. Mike McGlinchey secured a $17.5MM-per-year contract (and a whopping $52.5MM in practical guarantees), while Kaleb McGary fetched $11.5MM per year to stay with the Falcons. Wylie settled in at a lower rate, but given his pre-2023 earnings, this contract is a game-changer for the Eastern Michigan alum. Wylie’s five-season Chiefs run overlapped entirely with Bieniemy’s OC tenure.

Washington paid market value for Gates, who was among five centers to score a deal worth between $4MM and $6MM per year in March. Gates’ career paused after a severe leg injury during a September 2021 game in Washington. The Giants had given him an extension to be their center, but New York’s revolving door post-Weston Richburg at the position kept spinning once Gates went down. Gates, 27, made it back for a midseason activation last year, helping the Giants to a surprising playoff berth. The former UDFA finished the season in a platoon setup at left guard, but he is returning to the pivot in Washington, potentially manning the job as third-round pick Ricky Stromberg develops.

It is fair to wonder if the Commanders are taking too big a risk by fielding an O-line full of modest investments. This group still features Charles Leno, a Bears castoff going into his age-32 season, at left tackle. Sam Cosmi has shifted from tackle to guard; this will be the former second-rounder’s first season as a full-time starter. Washington held a position battle for the left guard spot, with 2020 fourth-round pick Saahdiq Charles (eight starts in three seasons) expected to open the season as the starter. Howell looks to be stepping in behind an average-at-best unit.

The Commanders gave Barton a “prove it” deal. Seattle’s Bobby Wagner Seahawks replacement alongside Jordyn Brooks, Barton will replace Cole Holcomb in Washington. The Steelers brought in Holcomb in free agency. This will only be Barton’s second season as a starter; PFF assessed his first modestly, ranking the former third-round pick just inside the top 60 at the position. Statistically, Barton delivered a career year — 136 tackles, six passes defensed, two sacks and two INTs — and Jack Del Rio will attempt to plug him in at a position that has caused some issues for the team in recent years.

While Howell received tremendous votes of confidence despite a fifth-round pedigree and a one-game rookie year, the Commanders added Brissett as insurance. Brissett, 30, has made a career out of this, stepping in on short notice twice for Andrew Luck and then backing up Tua Tagovailoa before becoming the Browns’ Deshaun Watson stopgap. After struggling for the Dolphins, Brissett performed admirably in his Browns one-off.

Cleveland went just 4-7 during Brissett’s starter run, but QBR placed the journeyman eighth. Brissett completed a career-high 64% of his passes (at 7.1 yards per attempt, also a career-best mark during a season in which he operated as his team’s primary starter), keeping the Browns in most of their games. Among backup options this year, only Andy Dalton received more guaranteed money ($8MM). The former Patriots third-round pick has made 48 career starts, providing a backstop if Howell does not deliver on this offseason promise.


Notable losses:

Wentz’s staggering descent has reached the point he looks unlikely to be on a team ahead of what would be his age-30 season. The former No. 2 overall pick has been working out in preparation of playing an eighth season, but no team has provided an opportunity (or Wentz has not accepted one). The 2017 would-be MVP has been jettisoned in three straight offseasons, with each exit more ignominious than the last. Wentz played four seasons on a $32MM-per-year contract and has pocketed more than $128MM in his career. Said career would still go down as disappointing if a notable second act does not commence.

The Commanders parting with two third-round picks for Wentz, taking on his contract after Jim Irsay was driving the bus over his 2021 starter, was surprising. But Washington’s efforts to trade for Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr (and a potential inquiry into Andrew Luck‘s status) failed. Wentz being the consolation prize helped illuminate this franchise’s standing within the league. Predictably, the Wentz-Washington fit proved poor. A thumb injury limited Wentz to seven starts with Washington, which kept him on the bench as Heinicke provided a spark after Wentz had the team at 1-4.

Rivera turned back to the more talented quarterback in Week 17, but Wentz’s three-interception game sank the Commanders in a make-or-break game against the Browns. Due to the Eagles-constructed contract being traded twice, the Wentz cut did not leave the Commanders with any dead money. The $26MM in cap savings financed the Payne franchise tag.

The Falcons gave Heinicke a two-year, $14MM contract ($6.32MM guaranteed) to back up another 2022 mid-round-pick-turned-starter (Desmond Ridder). Washington had tried to keep Heinicke on the bench, signing Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2021 and then trading for Wentz. But the former Rivera Panthers charge kept finding his way into the lineup. Fitzpatrick’s 16-play Washington career led to 15 Heinicke starts in 2021, while the 2022 Commanders’ best work came with Heinicke at the controls. Heinicke, 30, improved his passer rating, yards per attempt and QBR figures last season, and Washington fans will always have his stunning wild-card duel with Tom Brady. The Old Dominion alum used his Washington stay to carve out a place as a decent NFL backup, a path that could lead to a few more years in the league.

The team did not make any secret of its Howell plans, letting it be known in January he had the inside track to start. Few quarterbacks have parlayed a meaningless season finale into a better opportunity. (Patrick Mahomes and Rob Johnson come to mind, but few others). But the Commanders placed a second-round grade on Howell, who fell from a player on the first-round radar to the top of the fifth. North Carolina losing most of Howell’s established weapons from 2020 to 2021 harmed the QB’s stock. It is safe to say he has rebounded in Washington.

Rivera’s instability makes the Howell call one of the bolder moves in recent memory, and it represents a swerve from the Commanders’ 2022 plans. Calling on just about every quarterback available or potentially available, the Commanders showed desperation — to the point they acquired Wentz without any contractual adjustment — last year. This pattern surely would have seen the Commanders place a call to Lamar Jackson, had the Ravens standout been tagged a year prior. Instead, the team joined the rest of the league in passing on a negotiation with the then-franchise-tagged superstar.

This fascinating pivot to a low-cost option offers high-risk, high-reward potential for the Commanders’ coaching staff. Washington does have a history of coaxing quality work from mid- or late-round passers. Even under Snyder, Kirk Cousins bailed the team out — to a degree, at least — of the mess the Robert Griffin III trade-up caused. Howell propping up Rivera (22-27-1 in Washington) would mark a similar save.

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Patriots Claim QB Matt Corral

The Panthers had expressed interest in bringing Matt Corral back via a practice squad invite, but they took a risk by waiving the former third-round pick. The Patriots will prevent a quick Carolina-Corral reunion from taking place.

New England put in a successful waiver claim for Corral on Thursday, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Corral will join an interestingly constructed quarterback room. The Pats now have two QBs on their active roster — Corral and Mac Jones — and two more on their practice squad (Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham).

Although the Pats had been connected to wanting a veteran — perhaps Colt McCoy — to be Jones’ backup, Corral is now in that position. Considering Corral missed all of his rookie season and was viewed as a developmental player after last year’s draft, the Ole Miss product might not be New England’s true QB2 in Week 1. But the Pats thought enough of him to use a roster spot via this claim.

Corral spent all of last season on Carolina’s IR, suffering a Lisfranc injury during the preseason. He underwent surgery, but upon recovering, the Panthers had revamped their QB room. Carolina gave up plenty of assets to move from No. 9 to No. 1, via the Bears, for Bryce Young. The team gave Andy Dalton a two-year deal, featuring the largest QB2 guarantee this offseason ($8MM), to mentor the young prospect. Frank Reich spoke highly of Corral’s development, as he aimed to keep him on the taxi squad, but the second-year passer will pack his bags for Foxborough.

The Patriots were the team that allowed the Panthers to move up for Corral in last year’s third round, collecting an additional third-rounder (in 2023) to give up 2022’s No. 94 overall pick. The Carolina selection became No. 76 this year, and the Patriots took promising defender Marte Mapu. Corral also suffered his foot injury during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium last August.

Corral was the last of the third-round QBs chosen last year. He, Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis generated buzz about going much higher than they did, but the draft hit a signal-caller lull after Kenny Pickett went off the board at No. 20. Corral was developing behind Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold when he went down. With P.J. Walker also on the Browns’ practice squad, all four of the Panthers’ QBs from last season are now elsewhere.

New England now has two QBs from the 2022 draft in the mix, though Zappe’s stock has fallen a bit since he generated buzz about competing with Jones. While Corral’s 2021 stats did not measure up to Zappe’s record-setting Western Kentucky numbers, he excelled in the SEC. He averaged 10.2 yards per attempt in 2020, targeting the likes of Elijah Moore and Jonathan Mingo, and posted a 20-5 TD-INT ratio in 2021. Three years remain on the 24-year-old passer’s rookie contract; he is due an $870K base salary this season.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 8/31/23

Today’s practice squad moves:

Arizona Cardinals

  • Signed: WR Kaden Davis, OL Marquis Hayes

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/31/23

Following a busy roster deadline day on Tuesday, teams continue to reshuffle their rosters. Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

  • Placed on IR: TE Stephen Sullivan

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

New York Jets

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

The Ravens brought back a trio of veterans to their 53-man roster. Brent Urban is probably destined for the biggest role, with the veteran lineman serving as the top backup to Broderick Washington at defensive end. Urban got into 16 games for Baltimore last season, collecting 21 tackles and one sack. Veteran QB Josh Johnson will slide behind Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley on the depth chart, and Kevon Seymour will continue his role as a key special teamer.

The Cardinals are temporarily losing some production with offensive lineman Dennis Daley and linebacker Myjai Sanders being placed on IR. Daley joined the Cardinals on a two-year deal this offseason after starting 15 of his 17 appearances for the Titans in 2022. Sanders had a productive rookie campaign, with the third-round pick collecting 23 tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble.

Julian Okwara has turned into a productive pass-rushing option in Detroit. The former third-round pick has collected seven sacks over the past two seasons, but he’ll now be sidelined for the start of the season while recovering from a knee injury suffered during in the preseason finale.

Dolphins Tabling Extension Talks With Tua Tagovailoa, Christian Wilkins

Two notable members of the Dolphins won’t be signing extensions with the organization during the 2023 campaign. General manager Chris Grier revealed to reporters that the front office is tabling contract talks with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins until after the season. Per ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques, Grier is tabling negotiations “as to not cause a distraction” during the upcoming regular season.

Wilkins would be the more pressing extension, as the defensive lineman is playing on his fifth-year option and is set to hit free agency following the season. The former 13th-overall pick has compiled 108 tackles and eight sacks in 34 games over the past two seasons, transforming into one of the team’s leaders on the defensive line.

However,Wilkins decided to stage a hold-in and not participate in training camp and preseason games while pursuing a new contract. Wilkins will be with the team in Week 1, and Grier revealed that there was no ill will between the two sides after they failed to agree to an extension.

“We’ve had a lot of great dialogue with him and his agent, very positive,” Grier said (h/t Alain Poupart of “We made an offer that we thought was fair, and when you do things like that it has to work for both sides. And so there was never any ill will from each side. I enjoy his agent. We have good conversations. For right now we’re going to hold off until in my mind at the end of the season because I don’t think it’s fair to distract Christian from his goal of what he wants to achieve and for the team.”

Tagovailoa, meanwhile, is locked in through the 2024 campaign after the Dolphins picked up his fifth-year option earlier this offseason. The QB first became eligible to sign a new deal with the organization this year, which was good timing with the former fifth-overall pick coming off a career year.

Tagovailoa finished last season with 25 touchdowns passes vs. only eight interceptions, leading to his first career Pro Bowl nod. However, he was limited to 13 games for a second-straight season. Grier said the player’s ongoing concussion issues had nothing to do with a lack of an extension.

“I think just think for him, it’s just to let Tua play again,” Grier said (via Poupart). “Those things can be a big distraction, family, friends, you guys (the media), everyone constantly asking him about it. His agents and I have had discussions just general but not really about that and just kind of agreed, like, let’s just let him play out the season and then we’ll attack that in the offseason.”

Five Teams Placed Claims On WR Elijah Higgins

Elijah Higgins was a popular name on the waiver wire yesterday before he ultimately landed with the Cardinals. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), the Colts, Titans, Commanders, and Packers also tried to claim the receiver.

It’s not a surprise that there’s plenty of intrigue in the Stanford product. Higgins had productive 2021 and 2022 campaigns, hauling in 104 receptions for 1,204 yards and six touchdowns. Thanks to that performance, the former four-star recruit found himself on the NFL radar, and the Dolphins ended up using a sixth-round pick on him during this past year’s draft.

However, Higgins found himself joining a deep receivers room in Miami. The rookie still had a shot at making the roster, but Miami ended up rolling with the likes of Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Erik Ezukanma, and River Cracraft to round out the WRs room behind Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Higgins could have a chance to contribute in Arizona, though it’d likely require an injury for him to see a significant role on offense. Behind Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore, the Cardinals are rostering Zach Pascal, rookie Michael Wilson, and Greg Dortch.

Per Fields, Higgins was one of only two players to earn more than two waivers claims. The other was new Texans lineman Nick Broeker, who also drew interest from the Cardinals, Titans, and Giants.

Vikings Sign T David Quessenberry, Place RB/KR Kene Nwangwu On IR

AUGUST 31: Quessenberry’s Vikings deal is official. To make room on their 53-man roster, the Vikes shuttled kick returner Kene Nwangwu to IR. Minnesota’s kick returner for the past two seasons, Nwangwu suffered a back injury that has forced him to miss multiple weeks of practice. The third-year running back has already ripped off three kick-return touchdowns. That is the most in the NFL over the past two seasons; only one other player (Nyheim Hines) has more than one in that span. The Vikings also signed Myles Gaskin to help on the running back depth front behind Alexander Mattison.

AUGUST 30: Beaten out for the Bills’ swing tackle position, David Quessenberry is on track to have another opportunity. The Vikings are planning to sign the veteran offensive lineman, Mike Garafolo of tweets.

Quessenberry, 32, spent last season as Buffalo’s swing tackle. Rookie UDFA Ryan Van Demark, however, beat out the experienced blocker for the job. This will be an active-roster addition, Garafolo adds.

The Vikings have Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill in place at tackle. Oli Udoh replaced O’Neill when he went down late last season. The former Minnesota guard starter resides as the only backup tackle option on the team presently, but if Quessenberry passes a physical, that will soon change.

Best known for his AFC South work, Quessenberry has 26 career starts on his resume. Seventeen of those came for the 2021 Titans. As the Titans struggled to replace Jack Conklin, Quessenberry gave them a full season of starter work at right tackle. The team’s Isaiah Wilson whiff preceded its Dillon Radunz pick not producing a ready blocker, leading to Quessenberry taking over. A 2013 Texans sixth-round pick, Quessenberry will bring extensive experience to a Vikings team flush with homegrown O-linemen.

Only Minnesota and New Orleans boast starting O-lines housing five homegrown first- or second-round picks. O’Neill represents the longest-tenured Vikings blocker and their only big-ticket contract. He missed time to close last season. Quessenberry is set to join Udoh, Austin Schlottmann and Blake Brandel as Vikes backup blockers.

Colts To Sign DE Jacob Martin

Jacob Martin will bounce to a third team this year. This move will be an intra-AFC South switch. After the Texans released the veteran pass rusher, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes the Colts will sign him.

The Texans showed interest in bringing Martin back after the Tuesday release, per Wilson. A number of teams have re-signed vested vets they released Tuesday, doing so after rearranging their roster — largely via IR moves — following submissions of their initial 53s. But Martin will instead head to Indianapolis.

Indy will be Martin’s fifth NFL destination. Going from the Seahawks to the Texans in the 2019 Jadeveon Clowney trade, Martin then signed a multiyear Jets deal. The Broncos acquired Martin shortly after sending Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins. Weeks after Sean Payton took over as head coach, Denver released Martin, leading him back to Houston.

The Colts did not bring back Yannick Ngakoue this offseason, despite his extensive history with DC Gus Bradley. Ngakoue signed with the Bears earlier this month. Indianapolis did sign Samson Ebukam, who comes over after two years with San Francisco. Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo remain on their respective rookie contracts, and former second-round pick Tyquan Lewis is on the active roster 10 months after suffering a patellar tendon rupture. Lewis re-signed on a one-year, $2.1MM deal in March.

Martin, 27, is coming off a down season that ended with him on the Broncos’ IR list. He finished with 2.5 sacks last season. However, Martin earned a three-year, $13.5MM Jets deal in 2022; this came after his four-sack, two-forced fumble 2021 slate (which also included a safety). Martin profiles as a depth piece for the Colts, who continue to hope their top two 2021 draftees take steps forward.

Rams Sign K Brett Maher To Practice Squad

AUGUST 31: The Rams still do not have a kicker on their active roster, but they now carry one on their practice squad. Maher’s deal is a P-squad agreement, the team announced. The veteran specialist is a clear candidate to begin the season as Los Angeles’ kicker; that move would require a promotion or a gameday elevation.

AUGUST 30: After seeing the Broncos replace him with a trade for Sean Payton’s longtime Saints kicker, Brett Maher is on the verge of landing another gig. The veteran kicker is finalizing terms with the Rams, Tom Pelissero of tweets.

The Broncos acquired Wil Lutz via trade Tuesday and released Maher, who had been the only kicker in Denver for a bit. Maher competed against Elliott Fry to replace Brandon McManus, but after Fry suffered an injury, the Broncos had Maher effectively competing with kickers on other rosters. Lutz, who lost the Saints’ kicking competition, won out and is back with Payton.

The Rams let Matt Gay walk in free agency; Gay joined the Colts on a big-ticket (for kickers) deal. They brought in rookies to compete for the kicker job but set their initial 53-man roster with that spot vacant. Maher, 33, is set to fill it.

Although this is a Rams team in a vastly different place compared to Sean McVay’s previous seasons, Maher should still be considered a short-leash player. He has managed to both make the most 60-plus-yard field goals in NFL history (four) and miss five extra points in a single playoff run. Maher’s four misses in Tampa did not affect Dallas’ wild-card effort, but he missed another PAT in a close loss to San Francisco.