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49ers WR/TE Jordan Matthews Tears ACL

Jordan Matthews‘ quest to change positions took a major hit this week. The 49ers wideout-turned-tight end tore his ACL during practice on Monday, reports Can Inman of the San Jose Mercury (on Twitter). The veteran will be placed on injured reserve.

Matthews announced his plan to switch to tight end last offseason, and he added 30 pounds in preparation for his new role. The 49ers decided to ease the former receiver into his new position, so Matthews ended up spending the majority of the 2021 campaign on San Francisco’s practice squad. The 30-year-old apparently made good use of his time, with Inman noting that the veteran had “made strides” in converting to the tight end position over the past year. Inman also described Matthews as a “strong contender” to make the 53-man roster. Now, the player will have to wait another year to prove he can stick at the position.

The former second-round pick made a name for himself as a receiver on the Eagles. Between the 2014 and 2016 seasons, Matthews averaged 891 receiving yards and more than six touchdowns per season. Since then, he’s bounced around the league a bit, mostly alternating stints with the Eagles and 49ers. He’s also spent time with the Bills and Patriots.

Fortunately for the 49ers, they have plenty of options behind starting tight end George Kittle. Ross Dwelley has seen time in 60 games over the past four seasons, and the team is also rostering the likes of Charlie Woerner, Tyler Kroft, Troy Fumagalli, and Tanner Hudson.

Rams Deny Matthew Stafford Experienced Elbow Setback

An elbow injury kept Matthew Stafford from throwing during the Rams’ OTA sessions, and although the Super Bowl-winning quarterback started to throw at training camp, this injury continues to be an issue.

The Rams have scaled back Stafford’s workload since he started at camp full-go, and Sean McVay said the 14th-year passer experienced some pain Monday. As a result, Stafford has not participated in team drills since and, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic (subscription required), is unlikely to do so until the team returns to its regular facility in Thousand Oaks, Calif., later in August.

No, it’s consistent with what’s been going on,” McVay said, via Rodrigue, regarding a setback. “When you really look at the totality of it, wanted to try to have him operate in as little pain as possible. I think that anytime that you’ve played as long or are as tough as he is, I don’t know if you’re ever truly ‘pain-free,’ but the goal would be for Sept. 8 and looking towards 17 games, hopefully some games after that … that’s kind of the perspective and the big-picture approach that we want to be able to take.

… We’re really taking it a week at a time, really a couple of weeks. Don’t expect him to do anything in these team settings for this block or the next three days, next week. Nothing has changed. … This is part of the plan that we feel like is in his best interest.”

Stafford received an anti-inflammatory injection during the spring, so his right elbow problem — an ailment NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport classified as “bad tendinitis” (video link) — lingering months later is a cause for potential concern. The former No. 1 overall pick, who signed a four-year extension worth $160MM this offseason, has thrown well when available during camp, per Rodrigue, and has continued to throw during red zone and individual drills on his limited days. This plan still differs from the Rams’ 2021 training camp, when Stafford was a full participant throughout.

Until Stafford debuts or can practice consistently without limitations, this will be a situation worth monitoring. The longtime Lions starter has been known to play through injuries over the course of his career, which included no missed games from 2011-18 and just one season (2019, when back fractures sidelined him) with any missed starts over the past 11. Back and ankle injuries did not deter Stafford from making 21 starts last season, a rather notable campaign for the Rams. John Wolford remains Stafford’s backup.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/4/22

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Los Angeles Rams

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Washington Commanders

Panthers To Sign WR Rashard Higgins

The Panthers are not certain who their 2022 starting quarterback will be, but that passer will have a nice array of wide receivers to target. Rashard Higgins is joining Carolina’s group, Jake Trotter of ESPN.com tweets. It’s a one-year deal.

A six-year Browns contributor, Higgins will call a place outside Ohio home for the first time since college. No, Higgins has no Temple or Baylor ties, having played at Colorado State. But Matt Rhule nevertheless is adding a veteran wideout to a receiving corps that includes D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall.

Higgins, 27, has two 500-plus-yard receiving seasons on his resume. Last season, he finished with 275 yards as part of a Browns passing game that struggled for most of the year. Carolina’s aerial attack did as well, but the team is highly equipped at receiver for 2022.

The team remains in pursuit of Deshaun Watson, but the Texans passer has at least four suitors as he determines a second NFL employer.

Bears LB Matthew Adams Arrested

Bears linebacker Matthew Adams was arrested earlier this week. According to Patrick Finley and David Struett of the Chicago Sun Times, Adams was arrested on Thursday night in Chicago and charged with “misdemeanor illegal gun possession and possession of a high-capacity magazine and metal-piercing bullets.”

According to the report, police were investigating a car that was reported stolen. Adams was spotted near the vehicle and later told police the car was his. Following a search, the guns were found.

Per Finley and Struett, possession of a high-capacity magazine and metal-piercing bullets is “municipal code violation” in Chicago. Adams has a license for the guns that isn’t usable in Illinois. He has a court hearing on August 24.

“Earlier this morning, we were made aware of an incident involving the arrest of Bears linebacker Matthew Adams,” the team said in a statement yesterday morning (via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin on Twitter). “We are in the process of gathering more information. We will refrain from making any further comment at this time.”

Adams was a seventh-round pick by the Colts in 2018, and he ended up spending four seasons in Indy. He eventually settled into a special teams role, and he collected 55 tackles across 58 regular season contests. He inked a one-year deal with Chicago this offseason, following former Colts defensive coordinator (and current Bears head coach) Matt Eberflus. As the Sun Times points out, this is the second Bears acquisition to get arrested this offseason; receiver Byron Pringle (who has a connection to new Bears GM Ryan Poles) was arrested in February for “reckless driving and driving with a suspended license.”

Browns Unlikely To Re-Sign Rashard Higgins

The Browns are expected to part ways with wide receiver Rashard Higgins, according to sources who spoke with Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Nothing’s official yet, but that’s the likely outcome as the Browns look ahead to free agency later this month. Cabot also hears that defensive tackle Malik McDowell is trending towards a non-tender.

[RELATED: Browns Won’t Extend Mayfield This Offseason]

The 2016 fifth-round pick has spent his entire career in Cleveland, appearing in 82 regular season games in parts of six seasons. The wideout had one of his best seasons in 2020, hauling in 37 receptions for 599 yards and four touchdowns. In 2021, he finished with just 24 grabs for 275 yards and one touchdown in 15 games. All in all, the 27-year-old has collected 137 career receptions for 1,890 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Higgins re-upped with the Browns last year on a one-year, $2.37MM deal. He likely could have fetched a similar contract in 2021 but, this time around, he’d be looking at a much softer market.

Just a year ago, the Browns figured their receiving corps was set for years to come with Higgins backing top targets Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Now, OBJ is in Los Angeles following a messy divorce and Landry profiles as a potential release candidate. The five-time Pro Bowler has one year left on his deal with a 2022 cap hit of $16.4MM — cutting him would clear the bulk of it with just $1.5MM in dead money remaining. A restructuring is also possible, though they’d have to furnish Landry with more in the way of guarantees.

In other Browns news, the team is reportedly willing to keep tight end David Njoku off the market with a ~$10MM/year deal.

Falcons, Jake Matthews Agree To Extension

The Falcons and Jake Matthews have agreed to terms on a three-year extension (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The new pact furnishes the left tackle with $52.5MM over the first three years with an average of $18.5MM per annum. 

[RELATED: Falcons Restructure Ryan’s Contract]

The deal makes sense for both sides. Matthews picks up additional dollars and security while the Falcons gain some much-needed cap space. It’s a big step up for Matthews, who previously played on a five-year, $75MM contract. At the time, that deal made Matthews one of the three highest paid left tackles in the league. Now that the market has advanced, Matthews had to be taken to the next tier.

Matthews has a perfect attendance record across eight NFL seasons, save for one missed game as a rookie. Last year, the Texas A&M product finished with a 71.4 overall grade, per the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. However, in years past, he’s placed as one of the top-ranked LTs in the league.

The Falcons also gained some breathing room last week by restructuring Matt Ryan‘s contract. With help from their longtime quarterback, Atlanta gained an extra $12MM in cap space for 2022.

Cowboys Cut CB Rashard Robinson

The Cowboys have cut cornerback Rashard Robinson, per a club announcement. The move doesn’t come as a huge surprise, since he was already unavailable until Week 3.

Robinson has his latest suspension in April, a two-game ban for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Before that, Robinson received four- and 10-game suspensions in 2018 and ’19, respectively. Both of those bans were for substance abuse — this was the five-year vet’s first PED ban.

The Cowboys signed Robinson to the taxi squad in September of last year, giving the former fourth-round pick a chance to show his stuff. Once a 13-game starter in San Francisco, he hasn’t seen much playing time since. The Cowboys used the soon-to-be 26-year-old cover man in just four games last season, though he did start three of those, shuttling him on and off their active roster.

All in all, Robinson has two interceptions, 15 passes defensed, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries to his credit across 42 career games.

NFL Suspends Cowboys’ Rashard Robinson

Rashard Robinson has incurred another suspension. The NFL handed the Cowboys cornerback a two-game ban for violating its performance-enhancing drug policy, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

This is familiar territory for the veteran defender. Robinson received four- and 10-game suspensions in 2018 and ’19, respectively. Both bans were for substance abuse. This marks the five-year vet’s first PED ban.

The Cowboys signed Robinson in September, adding him to their practice squad. The former fourth-round pick has also played for the 49ers and Jets. San Francisco traded Robinson to New York at the 2017 deadline.

While Robinson was a 13-game starter with the 49ers, he has not received extensive playing time since. The Cowboys used the 25-year-old cover man in four games last season, though he did start three of those, shuttling him on and off their active roster. Robinson is signed through the 2021 season.

Jets Waive Rashard Robinson

On Friday, the Jets waived cornerback Rashard Robinson. Pink slips were also handed to wide receiver Stacy Coley and defensive lineman Charles Tapper

[RELATED: Jets Sign 16 Undrafted Free Agents]

The Jets acquired Robinson prior to the trade deadline in 2017 and gave up a 2018 fifth-round choice in the deal. Robinson went on to appear in 16 games for the Jets between ’17 and ’19, but tallied just nine tackles in total.

The Jets still need veteran help at the cornerback position, but they were unwilling to keep Robinson around at a paltry $2MM cap hit. By cutting him, the Jets will take that entire obligation off of the books.

Browns To Tender Rashard Higgins

The Browns will tender restricted free agent Rashard Higgins, according to GM John Dorsey (via Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer). However, Dorsey did not indicate whether the Browns will employ the first- or second-round tender to cuff the wide receiver. 

[RELATED: Teams Interested In Browns’ Duke Johnson]

The first- or second-round tender will determine what pick a team would have to give the Browns if they were sign him. The first-round tender in 2019 is worth $4.407MM and the second-round tender is worth $3.095MM. It stands to reason that the second-round tender would be enough to scare away interested teams, even though this year’s wide receiver group in both free agency and the draft is underwhelming.

Higgins caught 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. More importantly, he developed a nice rapport with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield in the second half of the season. With Jarvis Landry entrenched in the slot, Higgins should have an opportunity to start outside next year.

Browns, Rashard Higgins Talk Extension

The Browns and Rashard Higgins have begun preliminary talks on a contract extension, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. The wide receiver is currently on track for free agency after his one-year, $910K deal expires. 

Higgins, a fifth-year pro, enjoyed a solid 2018 with 39 grabs for 572 yards and four scores. Unfortunately, a knee injury kept him from building on that in 2019, but he still drew a fair amount of interest as a free agent. Despite having more lucrative offers on the table, Higgins opted to re-up with the Browns, favoring his chemistry with Baker Mayfield over short-term dollars.

So far, that decision has paid off. Higgins has 25 grabs for 400 yards and three TDs through ten games, and he could be on the verge of a pay bump in Cleveland. And, after a 6/95/1 showing to help beat the Titans, there couldn’t be a better time for him to negotiate. If the season ended today, Higgins’ 16.0 yards per grab would represent a career best, and the season is far from over. The 9-3 Browns — with the Ravens on the horizon — are on track to break the league’s longest-standing playoff drought.

Rashard Mendenhall Retires

Free agent running back Rashard Mendenhall is retiring, reports ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Mendenhall, 26, spent his first five seasons with the Steelers, then started 13 games last year for the Cardinals, rushing for 687 yards and eight touchdowns.

A first-round draft pick from Illinois in 2008, Mendenhall totaled 4,236 yards and 39 touchdowns in his six-year career. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Mendenhall hinted at retirement in a February 25 column for Huffington Post: “And as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.”

PFR’s Luke Adams ranked Mendenhall in the second tier of free agent running backs.

Jordan Matthews To Audition As TE

Longtime wide receiver Jordan Matthews is set to audition for teams this weekend as a tight end (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Matthews seems serious about the move, having added more than 15 pounds to his frame in recent months.

[RELATED: Kelvin Benjamin Switches To TE, Signs With Giants]

Matthews teased his plans earlier this summer and began working out with tight ends including George Kittle and Robert Tonyan. He even switched representation, signing with Steve Caric, the agent for notable TEs like Zach Ertz, Austin Hooper, and Devin Asiasi.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Matthews always had the height to play tight end. Now tipping the scales at somewhere above 230 pounds, he has the bulk too. We’ve already seen one former wideout switch to tight end this offseason — Kelvin Benjamin has joined the Giants and old pal Dave Gettleman as a TE. Of course, there’s also former quarterback Tim Tebow, who is attempting a switch to TE with the Jaguars.

Matthews, a former second-round pick, had at least 800 receiving yards in each of his first three NFL seasons. He hasn’t matched that production over the past few years though. Since 2017, Matthews has hauled in just 49 receptions for 615 yards and three scores. He saw time in the 49ers’ final two games of the 2020 season, appearing on 14 offensive snaps without recording a catch.

Browns’ Rashard Higgins Wants Extension

Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins could receive some significant interest on the open market this offseason, but the young wideout is making it clear he wants to stay in Cleveland. “I want to be in Cleveland, no other team. Tell (John) Dorsey, Tell Lonzo (Alonso Highsmith) to get it done”, Higgins said this week at the Super Bowl, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

Dorsey, the Browns’ GM, said last week that the team had talked to Higgins’ representatives about a new contract, and it sounds like the interest is definitely mutual. Higgins is only scheduled to be a restricted free agent anyway so the Browns could match any offer he receives from another team, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll get to that point.

Higgins’ agent Michael Swensen told Kay Cabot “we’re getting there”, meaning a deal could be close. The Browns drafted Higgins in the fifth round out of Colorado State back in 2016. They cut him before the 2017 season, but quickly re-signed him. He didn’t do much as a rookie, but showed signs of progress last season before breaking out in 2018.

This past year he caught 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns in only 13 games, and showed a nice rapport with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. With Jarvis Landry entrenched in the slot, Higgins should have an opportunity to start outside next year. Higgins sounded excited to help turn around the Browns, raving about Mayfield, new coach Freddie Kitchens, and the organization in his comments to Kay Cabot. At this point it would be surprising if he’s not locked up by the time free agency rolls around in March.

NFL Suspends Jets’ Rashard Robinson

Jets cornerback Rashard Robinson has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He’ll be eligible to return to the active roster on October 1 after the team’s Week 4 contest against the Jaguars. In the interim, he’ll be allowed to participate in all preseason practices and games.

The Jets acquired Robinson in a pre-deadline trade in 2017, giving up a 2018 fifth-round choice in exchange for the former fourth-round pick. Robinson appeared in six games but recorded just two tackles.

Robinson’s suspension stems from a December incident in which he was pulled over by cops and found to have marijuana-laced candy in his possession. Apparently, that was not the cornerback’s first instance of off-the-field trouble. The 23-year-old reportedly also had an “embarrassing and troubling incident” on a Niners team flight in 2017. He had words with SF coaches in the midst of that outburst, and that prompted the team to ship him to New Jersey.

Robinson’s first game with the Jets in 2018 – if he sticks on the roster – will be against the Broncos on October 7.

Browns To Re-Sign WR Rashard Higgins

Rashard Higgins is heading back to Cleveland. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Browns are re-signing the free agent wideout. It will be a one-year deal for Higgins.

The 2016 fifth-round pick has spent his entire career in Cleveland, appearing in 67 regular season games in parts of five seasons. The wideout had one of his best seasons in 2020, hauling in 37 receptions for 599 yards and four touchdowns.

In total, the 26-year-old has collected 113 career receptions for 1,615 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Browns have been a bit quiet this week, but securing Higgins’ services assures that they’ll return much of the same receiving corps next season. Barring a trade, Higgins will likely slide in behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on the depth chart.

Extra Points: Buccaneers, Matthews, Haskins

The Buccaneers announced that five individuals would be joining the organization via the The Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship: Trai Essex, La’Roi Glover, Andre King, Heather Marini, and Louis Murphy Jr.. These coaches will be allowed to “observe, participate, [and] gain experience” throughout training camp and the preseason, and the experience could ultimately lead to a job offer.

Marini made a name for herself this past season at Brown University as the QB coach, making her the first female position coach in Division I history. Marini previously served as an offensive quality control coach with the Bears, and she served as a scout on Todd Bowles’ staff with the Jets.

Essex and Grover had distinguished careers in the NFL. Grover made six Pro Bowls and was a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team while Essex won a pair of Super Bowls with the Steelers (while playing under current Bucs head coach Bruce Arians). King also has experience playing under Arians, with the two having spent four seasons together in Cleveland.

Murphy Jr. has the best connection to the Buccaneers after spending a few years playing for the organization. The receiver had 41 receptions for 578 yards during his two seasons in Tampa Bay, and that was part of a nine-year career that saw him collecting 2,589 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He most recently served as a high school head coach in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Some more notes from around the NFL:

  • Jordan Matthews is set to audition for teams as a tight end, and at least one squad will have interest in the veteran. Paul Kuharsky reports (via Twitter) that the Titans are expected to kick the tires on the veteran. Tennessee could use some extra depth at the position after losing Jonnu Smith, but suitors shouldn’t expect too much from Matthews. The 28-year-old has appeared in only five games since the 2019 season, and it’s been four years since he last topped 800 receiving yards.
  • Steelers QB Dwayne Haskins was involved in a dispute earlier this month that resulted in his wife facing a domestic violence charge, per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. Kalabrya Gondrezick-Haskin is accused of punching Haskins in the mouth, leading to a “felony charge of battery and domestic violence resulting in bodily harm.” Haskins reportedly had a split upper lift and a lost tooth, but the quarterback disputed that today on Instagram. “I appreciate the concern… however I have all of my teeth,” Haskins wrote (via Pryor). “Don’t believe everything you read. Peace.”
  • “We are aware of the situation but will have no comment,” the organization said in response to ESPN’s inquiry. Haskins inked a one-year deal with Pittsburgh earlier this offseason, and he’ll be competing with Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs to be Ben Roethlisberger‘s primary backup.
  • Earlier tonight, we posted a poll asking which head coach will be the first to lose his job. Bears head coach Matt Nagy and Broncos head coach Vic Fangio are neck-and-neck for the lead.

Patriots Work Out Matthew Wright, Tristan Vizcaino, John Baron

After failing to secure a full-time kicker gig in the years immediately prior to his New England arrival, Nick Folk has re-established himself with the Patriots. The veteran has made at least 92% of his field goal tries in his two full seasons with the team.

The team took some time to look into a younger leg Monday, however. Matthew Wright, Tristan Vizcaino and John Baron worked out for the Pats, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus tweets. Vizcaino is busy this week; the Raiders are auditioning him Wednesday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (via Twitter).

While Vizcaino has yet to hold a full-time role for a lengthy stretch, Wright spent last season as the Jaguars’ primary kicker. The Central Florida alum made 88% of his field goal attempts, including two late 50-plus-yarders in London, giving the Jags their first victory last season. Jacksonville waived Wright, 26, last month, going with Ryan Santoso and rookie UDFA Andrew Mevis.

Vizcaino started last season with the Chargers but proved shaky on extra points, making just 10 of 15 PATs in his abbreviated Los Angeles stint. The Bolts cut bait midway through the season, capitalizing on Washington’s decision to can Dustin Hopkins. Vizcaino, 25, also kicked in a game with the 49ers as a rookie in 2020. San Diego State’s kicker from 2016-18, Baron has not kicked in the NFL previously. He was, however, part of the Bears’ much-publicized post-“double doink” kicking competition in 2019.

The Pats gave Folk a two-year, $5MM deal in March, making him the heavy favorite to enter the season as the Pats’ kicker. Folk, 37, stabilized New England’s briefly unsteady post-Stephen Gostkowski kicker spot in 2019 and finished last season going 36-for-39 — including 11-for-11 from 40-49 yards — on field goal efforts. Folk did miss five PATs (42-for-47). Folk, who did not kick in 2018 and spent part of 2019 in the Alliance of American Football, is tied to a $2.2MM cap number in 2022.

Like Folk, Daniel Carlson is signed to an extension. The Raiders have just Carlson on their roster at the position. The Raiders have the former Vikings draftee signed to a long-term deal; he made an NFL-high 40 field goals (on 43 attempts) last season and has hit at least 93% of his tries in each of his three Raider years.

Browns Officially Re-Sign Rashard Higgins

The Browns have re-signed Rashard Higgins, per a club announcement. The wide receiver will return on a one-year deal, giving him an opportunity to prove himself before trying his hand in free agency next year. 

Higgins came into the league as a fifth-round pick of the Browns and he’ll return to Cleveland for his fifth pro season. Over the past four years, he’s tallied 76 catches for 1,016 yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, necessarily, but he did shine in 2018 when he finished out with 39 grabs for 572 yards and four scores.

Last year, a knee injury kept him from building on that performance, but a healthy season could put him back on the right track. Most of Baker Mayfield‘s targets will be going to the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and new addition Austin Hooper, but Higgins could benefit from the double teams against those stars.

In addition to Landry and OBJ, the Browns’ WR depth chart also features JoJo Natson and sixth-round rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones. Higgins is the longest-tenured player of the group.

In a corresponding move, the Browns have also waived defensive tackle Brandin Bryant.

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