Month: April 2024

Latest On Brandon McManus Lawsuit

Veteran kicker Brandon McManus has been accused of sexually assaulting two flight attendants while he was playing with the Jaguars in 2023. After the news broke yesterday, we heard from McManus’s camp, the Jaguars, and his current team, the Commanders. Now, we’re hearing from his former coach, as Doug Pederson revealed that he only learned about the lawsuit when the news broke yesterday.

[RELATED: Commanders K Brandon McManus Named In Sexual Assault Lawsuit]

“I saw the article that came out,” Pederson said today (via Mike Florio of “Obviously, disappointing to hear the news that took place. You know, other than that, honestly, being that it’s a legal matter at this time, I can’t really comment until more information is gathered.”

McManus is accused of rubbing himself against the anonymous plaintiffs during the Jaguars’ flight to London on September 28, 2023. The suit claims that the player was passing out cash to have the plane’s staff members “drink and dance inappropriately for him.” The suit also alleges that the kicker was among the members of the team who turned the flight into a “party,” a crucial note that could drag the Jaguars further into the controversy.

As Florio notes, the NFL frowns upon teams serving and consuming alcohol on team flights. Florio cites a pair of 2022 incidents. First, Titans OC Todd Downing was arrested for DUI “under a timeline that suggested he was drinking on the plane.” Later, Commanders players were disciplined for having beer on a return flight. At the time, the NFL sent a “strongly worded” memo that future penalties for consumption “would be even worse” and could include “significant discipline.”

“A typical flight is not that way, it’s a business trip,” Pederson said today (via Florio). “It’s a business trip. And that’s how we approach it from an organizational standpoint, you know, from the league standpoint. So, for that — when I read that, that part was disappointing.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Tony Buzbee will be representing the pair of women in the lawsuit, per Florio. Buzbee is known for representing the 20 women who accused Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct. In a statement, the lawyer hinted that he tried to settle with McManus before filing the suit.

“We filed the case on Friday, but before that filing we attempted, without success, to resolve this matter without the need for litigation,” Buzbee wrote. “Our efforts at resolution were met with arrogance, ignorance and stupidity, strikingly similar to how Deshaun Watson’s team responded when we tried to resolve those cases pre-filing.”

McManus’s representation called the allegations “absolutely fictitious and demonstrably false.” The lawsuit is calling for a jury trial and damages in excess of $1MM.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/28/24

A couple of draft pick signings to pass along:

Minnesota Vikings

Tennessee Titans

Gray earned first-team All-ACC honors in both 2022 and 2023, collecting 266 totals tackles at North Carolina over that span. Despite being selected in the fourth round, Gray was still only the seventh linebacker off the board, with scouts lauding the former UNC captain’s defensive savviness. The linebacker’s four-year rookie contract is worth $4.85MM, including $834K in guaranteed money (per Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 in Houston).vWith the signing, the Titans only have one unsigned draft pick: second-round defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat (Texas).

Jackson joins the Vikings following a productive lone season at Oregon. After transferring from Alabama, the defensive back had his best collegiate season, finishing with 34 tackles, three interceptions, and a pair of sacks for the Ducks. With this signing, Minnesota only has two unsigned rookies: first-round QB J.J. McCarthy and first-round edge rusher Dallas Turner.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/28/24

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans

  • Waived/injured: DE Marcus Haynes

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Waived from IR (with injury settlement): WR Keilahn Harris

The Ravens added some veteran depth to the middle of their defensive line today. Josh Tupou heads to Baltimore after spending the first chunk of his career with their division rival in Cincinnati. The nose tackle got into 65 games (23 starts) in seven years with the Bengals, collecting 86 tackles and a pair of sacks. He also got into five postseason games, compiling another six stops. He topped 400 defensive snaps in 2019 and 2021 (Tupou opted out of the 2020 campaign), but he’s been limited to around 280 snaps over the past two seasons. Senat spent the past two seasons with the Buccaneers, collecting 18 tackles in 15 games.

Haynes, a former UDFA out of Old Dominion, signed a reserve/futures contract with the Texans in February. The defensive end suffered a quadriceps injury that will likely lead to an injury settlement, per Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 in Houston.

Giants WR Darius Slayton Attends OTAs

While the Giants and Darius Slayton have yet to resolve the receiver’s salary concerns, it sounds like the player was at practice today. As Dan Duggan of The Athletic observes, Slayton was in attendance at Giants OTAs.

[RELATED: Trade Candidate: Darius Slayton]

Slayton was absent during the early portions of organized team activities as he pursues a new contract. The wideout re-signed with the Giants last offseason on a two-year, $12MM pact. He’s already earned a $2.6MM roster bonus this year, and he’s attached to a base salary of $2.5MM for the 2024 season.

GM Joe Schoen previously expressed optimism that the two sides would come to a resolution, and Slayton hinted that his camp was having conversations with the organization. However, since news first broke of Slayton’s contract pursuit, the Giants have only made it easier on themselves to move on from their top wide receiver. The team used the sixth-overall pick on LSU’s Malik Nabers, although Schoen did say the selection wouldn’t impact the front office’s handling of the Slayton situation.

While Slayton is apparently back at practice, his future in New York will continue to be murky until he signs an extension. The receiver has already been mentioned as a trade candidate, and even though the Giants couldn’t command a significant return for the veteran, they still might see some incentive in moving off his $8.15MM cap hit for 2024.

The former fifth-round pick has transformed into New York’s top receiver in recent years. Despite an inconsistent offensive role, the 27-year-old has still topped 700 receiving yards in four of his five NFL seasons, including a 2023 campaign where he finished with a career-high 770 receiving yards. While he’s sat atop the depth chart in recent years, Slayton would never be confused with a true No. 1 receiver, but the player could still justify a pay raise as a No. 2 wideout.

Cardinals Sign Round 1 DL Darius Robinson

The Cardinals are one step closer to completing their rookie signings. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Cardinals have signed first-round defensive lineman Darius Robinson. The rookie inked a four-year, fully guaranteed $13.8MM deal.

[RELATED: Cards Sign Round 1 WR Marvin Harrison Jr.]

The Cardinals entered the draft armed with a pair of first-round picks. After selecting star wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth-overall pick, the front office used pick No. 27 on the Missouri defensive lineman.

Considering the unprecedented run on offensive players to begin the draft, Robinson was still one of the first defenders to hear their name called. The 22-year-old was the eighth defensive player off the board (and the sixth defensive lineman). This wasn’t a huge surprise considering the prospect’s breakout 2023 campaign. After establishing himself as a starter at Missouri in 2022, he took it to another level this past year, finishing with 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. For his efforts, Robinson earned a first-team All-SEC nod after the season.

The Cardinals’ 33 sacks last season ranked 30th in the NFL, so the organization is hoping the rookie can provide a spark. Likened to Arik Armstead, Robinson has the ability to play multiple positions on the defensive line, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he slots in at defensive end during his first season in the NFL.

With Robinson now signed, the Cardinals have two unsigned rookies: third-round running back Trey Benson (Florida State) and fourth-round safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (Texas Tech).

Rams Sign First-Round DE Jared Verse, Complete Draft Class

The Rams entered Tuesday with only one draftee yet to sign his rookie deal. First-rounder Jared Verse is now on the books, however, per a team announcement.

2024 marked the first season of the Sean McVay era in which the Rams made a selection in the first round. Los Angeles was connected to a move up the board aimed at adding an offensive contributor. In particular, tight end Brock Bowers was a target, but no agreement was reached on that front. That left the team in position to bring in help on the other side of the ball.

Remaining in place at No. 19 in the draft order, the Rams added Verse as one of five edge rushers selected on Day 1. Two prospects – Laiatu Latu and Dallas Turner – were drafted slightly ahead of Verse at No. 15 and 17, respectively. The latter should nevertheless see plenty of playing time during his rookie campaign. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes this four-year pact (which will contain a fifth-year option for 2028) is worth $15.13MM and includes a $7.83MM signing bonus.

Verse put himself firmly on the first-round radar during his two-year career at Florida State. After transferring from FCS Albany in 2022, he thrived with the Seminoles. Verse totaled 18 sacks and 29 tackles for loss between 2022 and ’23, leading the team in sacks both years. Known for his strong run defense, those totals earned him first-team All-ACC honors as well. A number of teams showed interest in the build-up to the draft.

The Rams’ front seven was dealt a massive blow with Aaron Donald retiring. The future Hall of Famer’s absence will create a notable vacancy along the defensive interior in the pass-rush department and against the run. Verse will look to aid on both fronts along the edge while likely playing opposite Byron Young as a starter. He will have a familiar face alongside him with D-tackle Braden Fiske having been selected by the Rams in the second round.

Here is the final breakdown of Los Angeles’ 2024 draft class:

Texans, WR Nico Collins Agree To Extension

The Texans’ offensive success in 2023 included a breakout year for Nico CollinsThe ascending wideout has landed a lucrative new deal as a result.

Collins and the Texans have agreed to a three-year extension, Dianna Russini of the Athletic reports. This pact will keep him on the books through 2027. Providing further details, ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes the deal has a base value of $72.75MM which can max out at $75MM. $52MM is guaranteed, and Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 adds Collins will collect a $17MM signing bonus.

The 25-year-old had a modest start to his career as a member of a low-output Texans passing game. Collins nevertheless showcased his potential as a deep threat in particular during that time, and expectations were raised with C.J. Stroud‘s arrival last year. The two formed a productive partnership in 2023, with Collins posting 1,297 yards and eight touchdowns on 80 catches.

With an annual average value of $24.25MM, this agreement is a strong indication the Texans feel Collins can continue to develop into a focal point on offense. The Michigan product was the team’s top option at the receiver position for much of the 2023 season, although Stroud initially showed a strong connection with third-round rookie Tank Dell. The latter’s season-ending injury paved the way for Collins to take on a larger role, and he will now be expected to remain a top producer.

A February report indicated a mutual interest existed between team and player in Collins’ case. Since then, Houston has acquired Stefon Diggs via trade, a move which adds a four-time Pro Bowler to the mix. Diggs has received at least 149 targets in five of the past six years, and it will be interesting to see how he fits in an offense returning Collins, Dell and tight end Dalton Schultz. The Texans signed Schultz to a three-year deal of his own this offseason, and Collins will join him as a member of the team’s long-term offensive plans.

Dell – who is recovering from a minor gunshot wound suffered this offseason – is on the books for three more years via his rookie pact. With he and Stroud under team control for years to come, Houston can afford to make investments such as this one. Diggs is due just over $22.5MM in 2024 before hitting free agency. Especially if he were to depart next year, Collins would comfortably reside as the Texans’ highest-paid receiver.

This deal will slot the former third-rounder into seventh in the NFL in terms of annual average compensation amongst receivers. The top of the market has been on an upward trajectory with recent deals, and number of ascending talents at the position are set to move the bar even higher in the near future. Collins has understandably not moved to the top of the pecking order, but his 2023 production has vaulted him near the league’s top earners at a premium position.

Bills GM Brandon Beane Addresses Stefon Diggs Trade

The Bills’ receiver room was positioned to undergo change during the early portion of free agency with Gabe Davis expectedly departing on the open market. Buffalo followed that up with the blockbuster deal which sent Stefon Diggs to the Texans.

The Bills originally intended to keep Diggs in the fold for at least one more season, viewing the 30-year-old as still being capable of producing like a No. 1. However, the Texans’ willingness to acquire Diggs (with a return including a 2025 second-round pick) changed Buffalo’s approach. The latter team took on a dead money charge of just over $31MM to move on from Diggs.

Buffalo could have spread that charge out over multiple seasons, but doing so would have limited the team’s spending power in consecutive offseasons. When speaking about the trade, Bills general manager Brandon Beane confirmed an upfront approach with respect to dead money was the team’s preference once the decision was made to move on from Diggs.

“A player of his caliber, you weigh a lot of things in those situations,” Beane said during an appearance on The Athletic Football Show (video link). “But ultimately, we just talked about the cap. I don’t need to go through all the reasons why we decided to go ahead and do that. I would say, from a cap standpoint, we decided just to go ahead and eat it now. We think we can compete and do what we need to do by eating it now. And not next year.

“Because if we didn’t, if we tried to come up with some way to split it up too many different ways, then now it’s just like that albatross hanging on your neck all year. You look at your cap and you’re going, ‘Look how much money we still have dead.'”

The Bills have added a number of new faces at the receiver spot this offseason, including Curtis Samuel, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mack Hollins and Chase Claypool. After trading out of the first round, Buffalo also added Keon Coleman with a selection endorsed by quarterback Josh Allen. Those newcomers, along with returnee Khalil Shakir, will be counted on to replace Diggs and Davis’ production.

Of course, Diggs is now on track for free agency next offseason with Houston having removed the post-2024 years of his contract. The four-time Pro Bowler’s level of play with the Texans will be a key storyline related to this trade, as will its financial implications (or lack thereof, regarding future years) from the Bills’ perspective.

Saints DE Tanoh Kpassagnon Suffered Offseason Achilles Tear

Well before the 2024 season, the Saints’ front seven has been dealt a blow. When speaking to media at OTAs on Tuesday, head coach Dennis Allen said defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon suffered an offseason Achilles tear.

Allen added Kpassagnon will miss at least the start of the coming campaign as a result of the injury. He did, however, leave open the possibility of a return at some point in 2024. The 29-year-old has spent the past three seasons in New Orleans, logging 10 starts in 40 games.

During that span, he has maintained a steady rotational role along the edge. Kpassagnon – who served as a full-time starter in 2020, the final season of his Chiefs tenure – has posted 4.0, 2.0 and 3.5 sacks during his Saints campaigns. He was in line to continue as a key depth contributor in 2024, but this injury will obviously delay his debut or keep him off the field altogether. Considering the Villanova product is a pending free agent, the timing of the Achilles tear is particularly problematic.

New Orleans ranked just 28th in the league in sacks last season, one of the reasons the team made a notable (albeit one-year) investment in Chase Young during free agency. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year is sidelined as he continues to recover from offseason neck surgery. Young is still on track to take part in training camp, though, something which will not be true of Kpassagnon. Cameron Jordan, meanwhile, is rehabbing from ankle surgery, and he is aiming to be available for the end of OTAs.

The Saints also have the likes of Carl Granderson (who led the team in sacks in 2023), along with 2021 first-rounder Payton Turner and 2023 second-rounder Isaiah Foskey in place along the edge. They will be counted on to help New Orleans try and take a step forward in terms of sack production in Kpassagnon’s absence. It will be interesting to see if the latter manages to return in time to see game action in 2024, or if his injury will linger through the campaign and hinder his free agent value.

Patriots, QB Drake Maye Agree To Terms

As expected, three quarterbacks came off the board to begin the 2024 draft. Neither Caleb Williams nor Jayden Daniels have inked their rookie contracts, but that is now the case for Drake Maye.

New England came to terms with the latter on Tuesday, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports. Maye will now be under contract for the next four years, with the Patriots having the ability to keep him place for 2028 via the fifth-year option. This deal is worth $36.64MM, and KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson confirms it will include a signing bonus of just under $23.5MM.

Williams spent the pre-draft process as the presumptive No. 1 pick, and the Bears provided no surprise on draft night. Debate existed regarding the next tier of signal-callers, but by the time the Commanders were on the clock, Daniels was understood to be the team’s preference. That left the Patriots with a key decision at No. 3: select Maye, add a different prospect (quarterback or otherwise) or trade down.

In the lead-in to the draft, it became clear the Patriots were willing to listen on trade offers but the organization’s desired outcome (particularly on the part of owner Robert Kraft) was to stand pat and draft Maye. That ended up being New England’s ultimate choice, and as such the team has its next potential Tom Brady successor. Of course, all parties involved will be aiming for a better outcome than the Mac Jones era under center.

New England turned down considerable trade interest – specifically from the Giants and Vikings – to retain the No. 3 slot. Maye will therefore enter the league with considerable expectations, although he may not start right away. In anticipation of drafting a Jones replacement later in the offseason, the Patriots inked Jacoby Brissett to a one-year deal including $6.5MM guaranteed. He and Maye are set to compete for the No. 1 gig this summer.

The latter had a strong sophomore campaign at North Carolina, throwing for 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns that year. Maye’s production regressed last season, though, and his accuracy (66.3% completion percentage), yardage (3,608) and TD (24) totals dropped while his interceptions jumped slightly (from seven to nine). One of the younger signal-callers in a class which produced six first-rounders, Maye could begin his rookie campaign on the sidelines as he develops. He will nonetheless be expected to start relatively soon.

Here is an updated look at the Patriots’ draft class: