Arik Armstead

COVID-19 Latest: Ravens, Williams, Browns

Earlier Wednesday, the NFL took the Ravens-Steelers rematch off its Thanksgiving schedule. That game is now on tap for 12:15pm CT Sunday. More is emerging on why the Steelers will see another of their games delayed. The Ravens disciplined a strength and conditioning coach for “conduct surrounding the recent COVID-19 cases that have affected players and staff.” The Ravens are levying the discipline because the unnamed staffer did not report symptoms or consistently wear a mask or a contact tracing device, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). This is believed to have contributed to the Ravens’ outbreak — one that comes nearly two months after a Titans outbreak altered the Steelers’ schedule. Seven Ravens players and at least five staffers have tested positive for COVID. This will not only weaken Baltimore against Pittsburgh but potentially deplete team’s roster for its Week 13 Thursday game against Dallas.

Several teams shuffled their rosters because of COVID on Wednesday. Here is the latest:

  • 49ers left tackle Trent Williams tested positive for COVID-19 last week, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano (on Twitter). A cancer survivor, Williams has not experienced issues with the virus yet, Graziano tweets. Williams, who landed on the 49ers’ COVID list earlier this month as a high-risk close contact, is on track to miss San Francisco’s Week 12 game in Los Angeles.
  • Six players remain on San Francisco’s virus list. The 49ers removed Arik Armstead and center Hroniss Grasu on Wednesday.
  • Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki tested positive Wednesday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter). Takitaki played against the Eagles and returned an interception for a touchdown. The Cleveland starting linebacker’s positive test follows Myles Garrett‘s. Neither they nor Denzel Ward (injury) will be available for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. The Browns closed their facility Wednesday, but their Jags game remains on schedule.
  • The Bengals placed wide receiver Auden Tate and recently acquired offensive lineman B.J. Finney on their reserve/COVID-19 list. Cincinnati has seen staffers test positive, with D-line coach Nick Eason being the most recent. Eason was alerted of his positive test Tuesday. The Bengals now have five players on their reserve/COVID list.
  • Christian Wilkins is off the Dolphins‘ COVID list. Wilkins was not reported to have tested positive, but the second-year defensive lineman still missed two games after landing on the team’s virus list.
  • The Raiders activated Cory Littleton from their COVID list. The high-profile free agent addition has been out for two weeks due to a positive coronavirus test. Las Vegas’ defense remains shorthanded due to virus issues, with Clelin Ferrell testing positive last week and Lamarcus Joyner missing Sunday’s Chiefs game because of his status as a close contact.
  • Dante Fowler also tested positive two weeks ago and missed the Falcons‘ Week 11 game, but the big-ticket free agent addition is off the list now and on course to return to Atlanta’s lineup Sunday.
  • The Vikings and Chargers also removed players from their respective virus lists Wednesday. Minnesota activated guard Dru Samia; Los Angeles activated cornerback Brandon Facyson.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/16/20

We’ll put all of today’s minor moves here:

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans 

Fortunately it looks like all these COVID-19 list placements were due to contacts and not positive tests, meaning the Chiefs will likely have both of their starting tackles available on Sunday assuming they don’t test positive between now and then.

West Rumors: Chargers, Cardinals, Armstead

In signing Chris Harris, the Chargers now employ three first-team All-Pros (Harris, Derwin James, Desmond King) and a second-team All-Pro (Casey Hayward) in their secondary. Harris resided as the NFL’s slot kingpin for many years, but the injury-depleted Broncos used him almost exclusively on the outside last season. The four-time Pro Bowler confirmed Tuesday the Chargers informed him he will be their primary slot defender, per Daniel Popper of The Athletic (on Twitter). For most of his Broncos career, Harris played outside in base sets and inside in sub-packages.

Harris’ Los Angeles arrival puts King in an interesting position. King has become a high-end slot player for the Bolts, earning All-Pro recognition for the role in 2018. Harris said (video link via Pro Football Focus; h/t Chargers Legion) earlier this offseason the Chargers planned to move King to safety, where he played at Iowa. The contract-year defender being a full-time safety would allow the Bolts to start their four All-Pro defensive backs, but Anthony Lynn has yet to indicate how the team’s new secondary will look.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • On the subject of defensive alignments, the 49ers are not expected to make Arik Armstead a full-time defensive tackle despite trading DeForest Buckner and seeing fellow Super Bowl D-tackle starter Sheldon Day join him in Indianapolis. Armstead is expected to remain a base-downs defensive end and inside pass rusher, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Armstead has shown the ability to be an outside and inside pass rusher, leading the 49ers with 10 sacks last season.
  • Kliff Kingsbury‘s offense did not feature too much from the tight end position last season, though the Cardinals did extend Maxx Williams. Neither he nor Charles Clay reached 250 receiving yards in 2019. The Cardinals, however, are eyeing tight ends in this coming draft class, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com tweets. They had planned to bring in some for pre-draft workouts, but the NFL nixed those early in the process. This draft class is not viewed to be especially deep at tight end, however.
  • The Cardinals also are interested in Utah running back Zack Moss, according to Weinfuss (on Twitter). Moss already went through a FaceTime conversation with Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon, per Weinfuss. Moss ended the 2019 season as the Pac-12’s offensive player of the year, totaling 1,804 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns as a senior.
  • Arizona’s Marcus Gilbert contract is not quite as lucrative as initially advertised. While it is worth up to $3.75MM, the veteran right tackle’s deal will be for the veteran minimum ($1.05MM, in Gilbert’s case), Howard Balzer of SI.com writes. The longtime Steelers starter will see just $150K guaranteed. Gilbert missed all of last season with an injury, one that severely limited him on the open market.
  • The Broncos are guaranteeing Jeremiah Attaochu $500K, per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter). That includes $250K of his $1MM base salary. Attaochu will be expected to be a backup to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.

Contract Details: JPP, Cousins, Weatherly

Deals are coming in quickly, so we’ve compiled some important contract details below:

49ers, Arik Armstead Agree To Deal

The 49ers are taking care of a major piece of offseason business. The defending NFC champions agreed to terms with Arik Armstead on a five-year extension, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

News emerged earlier on Monday the sides were closing in on a deal, and after the 49ers did not use their franchise tag on Armstead, they finalized an extension. Armstead will receive up to $85MM on this five-year contract, per Rapoport.

Many labeled Armstead as a bust early on, but he silenced critics with his performance in 2019. Pro Football Focus pegged the former first-rounder as the sixth-best edge defender out of 107 qualified players in the category. Meanwhile, Jadeveon Clowney ranked 20th, Shaquil Barrett ranked 25th, and Yannick Ngakoue ranked 36th. Barrett led the league with 19.5 sacks while Armstead recorded “just” ten sacks, but he had more quarterback hurries, which is perhaps a better indicator of sacks to come.

Some may say that Armstead is something of a one-hit wonder, dismissing his 2019 season as a well-timed burst before free agency. However, the talent has been there all along, and the Niners are confident that he’ll continue to build on that performance. It’s worth noting that Armstead has generated a hurry on over 9.2% of his pass-rush snaps over his career – none of the aforementioned players have topped 7.8%.

Along with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, Armstead has helped to turn one of the Niners’ biggest weaknesses into the team’s greatest strength. With a new deal, SF will aim to keep that momentum going.

49ers, Arik Armstead Nearing Deal

The 49ers and Arik Armstead are on the verge of a brand new deal, Mike Florio of PFT (via Twitter) hears. That agreement is expected “very very soon,” he adds.

Many labeled Armstead as a bust early on, but he silenced critics with his performance in 2019. Pro Football Focus pegged the former first-rounder as the sixth-best edge defender out of 107 qualified players in the category. Meanwhile, Jadeveon Clowney ranked 20th, Shaquil Barrett ranked 25th, and Yannick Ngakoue ranked 36th. Barrett led the league with 19.5 sacks while Armstead recorded “just” ten sacks, but he had more quarterback hurries, which is perhaps a better indicator of sacks to come.

Some may say that Armstead is something of a one-hit wonder, dismissing his 2019 season as a well-timed burst before free agency. However, the talent has been there all along, and the Niners are confident that he’ll continue to build on that performance. It’s worth noting that Armstead has generated a hurry on over 9.2% of his pass-rush snaps over his career – none of the aforementioned players have topped 7.8%.

Along with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, Armstead has helped to turn one of the Niners’ biggest weaknesses into the team’s greatest strength. With a new deal, SF will aim to keep that momentum going.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Arik Armstead

While teams will surely apply the franchise tag to a number of the best pass rushers on the market, one has seemed to receive much less buzz than warranted. 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead failed to live up to his first-round selection early in his career but has quietly become a difference-maker along the San Francisco front four.

In free agency rankings and previews Jadeveon Clowney, Shaquil Barrett, and Yannick Ngakoue have all consistently ranked ahead of the 17th overall selection in the 2015 Draft. However, there is a pretty compelling argument that Armstead is the best player of the bunch.

Few experts would argue that Armstead wasn’t the most productive of the group last season. Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Armstead was the 6th highest graded edge defender last season of the 107 qualified players. Clowney ranked 20th, Barrett ranked 25th, and Ngakoue ranked 36th. Barrett accrued a league-leading 19.5 sacks (Armstead recorded 10, Ngakoue had 8, and Clowney just 3), but recorded fewer hurries than Armstead, which tend to be more predictive of future sack production.

It seems that most experts view Armstead as a one-hit-wonder, only producing in his contract year, but the evidence is a bit more complicated. With the exception of the 2016 season (when he missed 8 games with injury), Armstead has always graded out by PFF as a solid defensive lineman (receiving grades of 79.0, 70.1, and 74.8 in 2015, 2017, and 2018) who was particularly effective against the run. There’s no denying that Armstead reached another level of productivity in 2019, but it appears a bit disingenuous to say it came entirely out of nowhere.

Most impressive of all, even as Armstead built his reputation on run-stopping ability, he has generated hurries at the greatest rate of the group, not in 2019, but over his entire career. Armstead has generated a hurry on over 9.2% of his pass-rush snaps over his career, according to PFF, none of the other three have surpassed 7.8%.

Of course, the 49ers have been especially baron along the defensive line (aside from DeForest Buckner) for most of Armstead’s career. Obviously the additions of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford this offseason turned one of the team’s previous weaknesses into its greatest strength. But, some evaluators attribute Armstead’s jump to the improvement in his teammates more than a true change in him as a player.

Injuries, which were problems for Armstead in his second and third NFL seasons, have been a nonfactor over the previous two seasons and especially this season-when he played on 912 snaps between the regular season and playoffs as a part of the 49ers NFC Championship run.

At just 26 years of age, Armstead, an Oregon alum, appears poised to enter his prime of productivity, but will the market view him that way? Or will teams remain skeptical that his elite production in 2019 is sustainable without an elite supporting cast alongside him?

The top of the market for a player like Armstead would likely approach Frank Clark‘s 5-year, $104MM contract with the Chiefs last offseason, on the flipside, Armstead’s floor is probably around his teammate Dee Ford‘s 4-year, $85MM deal. Reports have suggested the 49ers want to resign Armstead, but limited on cap space following their Super Bowl loss to Kansas City, the team will have to shuffle some money around to make a new deal feasible (ironically, a new deal for Armstead could result in the release or trade of Ford).

If they are unable to resign him, San Francisco, already short of draft capital, could very likely recoup a strong return for Armstead via a tag-and-trade move, but the team would need to clear the necessary cap space to apply the franchise tag before they made any move.

Since most focus remains on Clowney, Ngakoue, and Barrett, few rumors have tied Armstead to any other teams, but don’t be surprised if teams seem to evaluate Armstead at the same level (or maybe even above) some of the other options.

49ers, Arik Armstead In Extension Talks

Faced with a genuine possibility of losing one of their five first-round defensive linemen in free agency, the 49ers are not giving up on keeping Arik Armstead in the fold.

The team holds barely $13MM in cap space and is in the early stages of talks with George Kittle and DeForest Buckner on what will be mammoth extensions. However, the 49ers still want to extend Armstead. And they are working on a deal, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets.

Armstead completed a dominant contract year, posting a team-high 10 sacks, and was productive in the playoffs for a 49ers team that held a fourth-quarter lead in Super Bowl LIV. But the 2015 first-round pick was not exactly a dependable asset during his first four seasons, totaling nine sacks from 2015-18 and missing 18 games due to injury in that span.

While Nick Bosa looms as a surefire extension candidate, he is under contract through 2023. An extension for the 26-year-old Armstead pact may not overlap with a future Bosa accord. As for the 49ers of 2020, they have both Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Sanders as free agents — at positions featuring less talent than San Francisco features up front. A Dee Ford release would save the 49ers $9MM-plus, while cutting Jerick McKinnon would add $4MM to that. If the 49ers find a taker for Marquise Goodwin, they could save an additional $3MM.

An Armstead re-up would still be tricky and hamstring the 49ers’ offseason efforts. A franchise tag in the $18MM vicinity would pose a bigger impediment, so an extension makes the most sense. But with Chris Jones, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree and possibly Yannick Ngakoue set to be franchise-tagged, it may be difficult for the 49ers to convince Armstead to sign a deal before seeing the interest that would come his way on a thinning pass rusher market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Rumors: Armstead, Running Backs, Thomas

In his 49ers mailbag, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports addressed Arik Armstead‘s impending free agency. The seventeenth overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft struggled early in his career with injuries and consistency but emerged as an integral part of San Francisco’s defensive line over the past two seasons. Armstead has the versatility to play the edge of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense on early downs and then move inside on passing situations.

Armstead has started each of the 49ers last 35 games (playoffs included) and set career-marks this season in sacks (10.0), tackles for loss (11), quarterback hits (18), and tackles (54) as a part of the vaunted Niners defensive front. Now, set for unrestricted free agency, Maiocco downplays the chances San Francisco franchise tags the defensive lineman to trade him. He believes if the team has the cap space to apply the tag, they’ll work out an extension.

Here’s some more rumors out of Santa Clara:

  • Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic continued their “State of the 49ers” series, this time looking at the team’s running backs. While no halfback amassed 1,000 yards on the season, the team’s depth at the position was obvious to anyone following the team. Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert all played like the team’s number one back at different points in the season. They place a primary focus on the future of Jerrick McKinnon-who missed the past two seasons with injuries-with the team. If he returns on a team-friendly contract, San Francisco may be comfortable letting Tevin Coleman pursue opportunities elsewhere.
  • Following their Super Bowl defeat, the 49ers now face a series of difficult salary-cap decisions. Patrick Holloway of Niners Nation speculates the team could attach a draft pick to defensive lineman Solomon Thomas to save more than $4MM in cap space. Since Thomas was selected with the third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, his entire contract is guaranteed and the Niners cannot gain any cap relief from releasing him. However, if he were traded, his dead cap hit would be cut in half, saving the team half of his nearly $9MM cap hit.

49ers Want To Extend Arik Armstead

The 49ers employed five first-round defensive linemen this past season and were able to do so because four of those were on rookie contracts. Arik Armstead‘s has expired, leading to uncertainty for San Francisco’s sack leader.

Armstead is open to the franchise tag, but the 49ers are hoping they can either bypass that arrangement or use it as a bridge to ensure he will be a part of their defensive line well into the 2020s.

Arik is an excellent player,” 49ers GM John Lynch said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “He had an excellent year. I think everything is on the table. We want to find a way to keep him and make him a part of the 49ers for a long time.”

This would be a promising development for the 49ers, but it won’t be easy. Even with releases of Jerick McKinnon and Marquise Goodwin saving them north of $8MM, the 49ers would still barely hold $20MM in cap space. They also have Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Sanders as free agents at positions of greater need. San Francisco’s extension pecking order is also clear, with George Kittle and DeForest Buckner slotted ahead of Armstead in that figurative queue.

Armstead led the 49ers with 10 sacks in 2019 and accumulated two more in the playoffs. The versatile pass rusher only registered nine in four prior injury- and inconsistency-marred seasons, however. But another team will likely be willing to offer Armstead more than the 49ers will, should he reach free agency. A tag-and-negotiate scenario may be the team’s only chance to retain the 6-foot-7 talent, and said tag is expected to cost nearly $18MM.

This will not be an easy process for the NFC champions, but they are not resigned to losing the contract-year wonder just yet.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.