Ravens Rumors

Zach Ertz Clears Waivers; Eagles Expected To Pursue Reunion

No one claimed Zach Ertz‘s Cardinals-constructed contract on waivers before Friday’s deadline, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, leading the veteran tight end to free agency. Ertz can now resume his goal of landing with a contender.

A familiar team is expected to be interested. The Eagles are believed to be prepared to pursue an Ertz reunion, Schefter adds. Ertz spent nine seasons in Philadelphia, being dealt to Arizona during the 2021 campaign. With Dallas Goedert still out after arm surgery, the Eagles do not have much in the way of depth behind their starter.

With Ertz spending months in Nick Sirianni‘s offensive system, the Eagles make sense as a landing spot. So do the Ravens, who lost Mark Andrews to what is likely a season-ending ankle injury. The Ravens, Chiefs and Bills also loom as possible Ertz options, according to Schefter. Extensive interest exists, per Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz, who adds Ertz should have a new team soon.

Ertz’s Eagles ending involved a contract dispute. The veteran had aimed for a deal in the range of the pacts given to Travis Kelce and George Kittle, who each signed extensions in 2020. The Eagles refused to move Ertz into that NFL salary bracket but then gave Goedert a deal in that range. Goedert’s four-year, $59MM extension came to pass barely a month after the Eagles sent Ertz to the Cardinals in exchange for a fifth-round pick and cornerback Tay Gowan.

This value gap between Ertz and the Eagles came about in 2020, and the team gave the disgruntled tight end permission to find a trade partner during the 2021 offseason. Ertz did not show for Philly’s offseason program. Given the turbulence that emerged toward the end of Ertz’s Eagles stay, it would certainly be interesting if the sides huddled up about a reunion two years later.

Philadelphia drafted Ertz in the 2013 third round, the team’s first draft under Chip Kelly. GM Howie Roseman was in place when the team drafted the Stanford product and, after a 2015 demotion as Kelly enjoyed an eventful year calling the personnel shots, when the team extended ascending tight end during the 2016 offseason. The Eagles gave Ertz a five-year, $42.5MM extension in January 2016. That deal was in line with upper-echelon TE contracts at the time, with the Patriots’ 2012 Rob Gronkowski extension effectively freezing the market for several years. With Kelce and Kittle moving the AAV bar past $14MM per year in 2020, Ertz became dissatisfied with his terms.

The Eagles have listed Goedert as doubtful for their Week 13 49ers matchup. They rolled out an imposing Ertz-Goedert duo for three-plus seasons, but the younger player has become one of the NFL’s top tight ends since the Eagles made the Ertz trade. Behind Goedert, however, the 10-1 team has little of note. Jack Stoll‘s 27 receiving yards sit second among Philly tight ends. The Eagles have not used August trade acquisition Albert Okwuegbunam much.

While an Ertz Pennsylvania comeback would fill a need for the Super Bowl contender, the Eagles have only $2.7MM in cap space. An Ertz pact likely would not cost much, given his recent run of injuries and the calendar flipping to December. Fit may play the lead role here. Cap space-wise, however, the Chiefs also check in at $2.7MM. The Bills hold $1.5MM, while the Ravens are at $6.4MM.

The Eagles fired Andy Reid three months before drafting Ertz, but with the Chiefs’ receiving corps not moving the needle much this season, a veteran to work alongside Kelce would make sense. A Baltimore fit would be more logical, with Andrews undergoing ankle surgery to address his recent injury. Andrews looms as a long shot to return in the event of a deep Ravens playoff run. Once a presumptive Ertz suitor, the Bills have Dawson Knox moving closer to a return. Since the 2021 offseason when Ertz was available, Buffalo extended Knox and drafted Dalton Kincaid in this year’s first round.

Ertz suffered a torn ACL in November 2022, and while he was back on the field for Week 1 of this season, the Cardinals’ shift to a rebuild made him one of the veterans who did not seem to fit any longer. He ended up on Arizona’s IR due to a quad injury, missing the past five weeks. For the season, Ertz has just 27 receptions for 187 yards and one touchdown. He does hold the Cardinals’ Arizona-years record for yards in a season by a tight end, with 574, and posted five straight 800-plus-yard seasons from 2015-19 in Philly. Ertz’s 579 receptions as an Eagle are also just 10 shy of Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael‘s franchise record.

Updated 2024 NFL Draft Order

With Week 13 underway, the picture at the top of the NFL draft board continues to become clearer. Plenty is yet to be determined with respect to the top of the order, however.

The Panthers’ ongoing struggles led to Frank Reich‘s firing, but the Bears own Carolina’s top pick this year due to the 2023 swap which landed Bryce Young via the No. 1 selection. Chicago being able to have the top pick once again – coupled with their own selection landing in the top-10 – would make the Bears a team to watch closely come April. The race for the top two or three slots (and, as such, the ability to draft QBs Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, along with wideout Marvin Harrison Jr.) will also be a key late-season storyline for the Cardinals and Patriots.

The Commanders have lost three straight games, overshadowing a promising season from first-year starter Sam Howell. After deciding to move on from defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat at the trade deadline, the team’s defense has continued to struggle. DC Jack Del Rio is out as a result, and head coach Ron Rivera‘s position is not believed to be on strong footing. A top-five pick could make the job in Washington more attractive presuming a opening arises this offseason.

For non-playoff teams, the draft order will be determined by the inverted 2024 standings — plus a series of tiebreakers, starting with strength of schedule — with playoff squads being slotted by their postseason outcome and regular-season record. Here is an updated look at the current draft order:

  1. Chicago Bears (via Panthers)
  2. Arizona Cardinals: 2-10
  3. New England Patriots: 2-9
  4. Chicago Bears: 4-8
  5. Washington Commanders: 4-8
  6. New York Giants: 4-8
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 4-7
  8. New York Jets: 4-7
  9. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-7
  10. Tennessee Titans: 4-7
  11. Las Vegas Raiders: 5-7
  12. New Orleans Saints: 5-6
  13. Green Bay Packers: 5-6
  14. Los Angeles Rams: 5-6
  15. Cincinnati Bengals: 5-6
  16. Buffalo Bills: 6-6
  17. Arizona Cardinals (via Texans)
  18. Denver Broncos: 6-5
  19. Atlanta Falcons: 5-6
  20. Minnesota Vikings: 6-6
  21. Seattle Seahawks: 6-6
  22. Indianapolis Colts: 6-5
  23. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-4
  24. Houston Texans (via Browns)
  25. Miami Dolphins: 8-3
  26. Detroit Lions: 8-3
  27. Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-3
  28. Dallas Cowboys: 9-3
  29. Kansas City Chiefs: 8-3
  30. San Francisco 49ers: 8-3
  31. Baltimore Ravens: 9-3
  32. Philadelphia Eagles: 10-1

WR DeSean Jackson To Retire

One of the great deep threats in modern NFL history, DeSean Jackson is not planning to play a 16th season. The veteran wide receiver instead intends to announce his retirement as a member of the Eagles, according to the team.

Jackson, who had joined the Raiders and Ravens as an in-season addition over the past two years, played 15 seasons for six teams. While the 2008 second-round pick will primarily be remembered for his contributions in Philadelphia, he made an impact in a few cities. Jackson started 159 games and is one of just 40 players to surpass 11,000 receiving yards for his career.

DeSean Jackson was a dynamic playmaker who captivated Eagles fans with his game-breaking speed, unique skill set, and explosive play,” Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie said in a statement. “What made DeSean truly stand out during his accomplished 15-year career was his ability to make miraculous plays look routine.”

The Cal product spent time in Philly, Washington, Tampa, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Baltimore during his NFL run. He led the NFL in yards per reception in four seasons, most recently in 2018 with the Buccaneers, and remained a coveted player into his mid-30s. Jackson will turn 37 on Friday, choosing that notable date to retire with the team that drafted him.

While no wide receivers went off the board in the 2008 first round, the second produced quality performers. Jordy Nelson and Eddie Royal also became Round 2 picks 15 years ago. Jackson made a quick impact, becoming an immediate long-range threat for Donovan McNabb on an Eagles team that voyaged to the 2008 NFC championship game. Jackson became the fifth player to reach 900 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons; he eclipsed 1,000 in two of those slates. Over the course of his career, Jackson produced five 1,000-yard seasons; the most recent came with Washington in 2016.

Jackson scored 66 touchdowns over the course of his career; one will probably stand out as his most memorable. Used regularly as a punt returner early in his career, Jackson finished off a 24-point Eagles rally to stun the Giants in Week 15 of the 2010 season, completing a walk-off 65-yard punt return. This came a week after he accumulated a career-high 210 yards against the Cowboys, helping the Eagles to the NFC East title in Michael Vick‘s first season as the team’s starter.

Although the deep passing game was more prominent in prior eras, Jackson stood out on that front in this one. Only Devery Henderson produced a higher yards-per-catch average in a season than Jackson’s 22.5 (2010) during the 21st century. Despite Jackson’s deep-ball brilliance, he wore out his welcome in Philly in 2014. Deemed a poor fit during Chip Kelly‘s second offseason in charge, Jackson wound up in Washington on a four-year, $24MM contract. This came after the Eagles had given the 5-foot-10 weapon a five-year, $47MM extension in 2012, Andy Reid‘s final year at the helm.

Washington’s Jackson and Pierre Garcon additions ignited Kirk Cousins, who set single-season franchise records for touchdown passes and passing yards while targeting the two free agency pickups in the mid-2010s. Jackson topped 1,000 yards in 2014 and ’16, but Washington let both veterans walk in 2017 — a year before losing Cousins. While Jackson’s post-Washington years did not generate the same kind of production he offered during his initial run in the NFC East, Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s 9.6 yards per attempt in 2018 came with significant Jackson contributions. The then-Mike Evans sidekick finished that season with a 18.9 yards per reception.

The Eagles reacquired Jackson via trade in 2019, sending a fifth-round pick to the Bucs. But injuries marred Jackson’s second Philly stint. In two seasons back with the Eagles, Jackson suited up for just eight games. The team cut him once again in 2021.

After the Rams released Jackson during the 2021 season, the veteran pass catcher was linked to a few teams. He ended up helping the Raiders to a surprising playoff run, which came after the exits of Jon Gruden and Henry Ruggs. A Ravens team that lost Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay to season-ending injuries sporadically used Jackson while limping into the playoffs last season. Jackson did not play in Baltimore’s wild-card game, however. He operated as the NFL’s oldest receiver in 2022.

Jackson made three Pro Bowls and earned more than $91MM over the course of his career. While Jackson ranks 39th in both career receiving yards and yards per catch, his 17.6 yards per grab rank second among 21st-century wideouts.

Ravens OLB David Ojabo Out For Season; Tyus Bowser’s Status Remains Uncertain

The Ravens had been holding out hope that at least one of David Ojabo or Tyus Bowser would be able to suit up late in the season. The former is now out for the campaign, though, and the latter’s availability remains in the air at this point.

Ojabo was diagnosed with a partially torn ACL, head coach John Harbaugh said (via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec). As a result, the second-year edge rusher underwent surgery last week. Harbaugh added that he expects Ojabo to be healthy by training camp, but the procedure confirms he will not play again in 2023. The 23-year-old was in danger of missing the rest of the campaign dating back to last month after after playing the first three weeks of the season.

Ojabo suffered an Achilles tear during his Pro Day in 2022, an injury which hurt his draft stock and forced him to miss much of his rookie campaign. The Michigan alum played just three combined regular and postseason games last year, but expectations were high for him entering the summer. A path to increased playing time was in place, and he did see an uptick in usage during his brief time on the field this September. He will now turn his attention to rehab, though, as the Ravens hope to see Bowser suit up for the first time in 2023.

The latter has been dealing with a knee injury since the summer, when a setback landed him on the NFI list. That threatened to delay Bowser’s 2023 debut, but the team has remained hopeful he will be able to play at some point down the stretch. On that point, Harbaugh said the 28-year-old’s knee will need to “calm down” before he is able to play, likely a reference to swelling which needs to be reduced.

If Bowser is able to play this year, his addition would be welcomed on a Baltimore defensive front which has relied heavily on veteran additions Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy along the edge so far. That pair has combined to post 13.5 of the team’s league-leading 45 sacks, but added depth would be beneficial. The Ravens have Odafe Oweh – who has himself dealt with an injury-induced absence earlier this season – and fourth-round rookie Tavius Robinson in place as their other main edge rushing options.

Bowser is attached to a four-year, $22MM deal signed in 2021. That pact marked an understandable commitment on the team’s part for his development early in his career into a starter, but injuries have hindered his ability to live up to the pact. He is set to carry a reasonable cap hit of $7.5MM next season, but none of his $5.5MM base salary is guaranteed. Managing to play some role late in the current campaign could thus be highly beneficial for both team and player in Bowser’s case.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/25/23

Here are today’s minor moves and callups for Week 12’s Sunday slate:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Ravens Aiming To Retain Justin Madubuike

Justin Madubuike entered 2023 with the potential to boost his free agent stock through a strong performance in the final year of his rookie contract. To say he has done so would be an understatement to say the least.

The Ravens defensive lineman has enjoyed a breakout campaign this year, essentially upping his market value on an every-game basis. Madubuike has easily surpassed his previous career-high for sacks in a season with 9.5 and counting. That figure leads the team, and he has recorded at least 0.5 sacks in eight consecutive contests.

That production has the 26-year-old in line for a signficant payday this offseason. A report from last month made it clear teams around the NFL expected a notable raise to come Madubuike’s way either on a Ravens extension or a deal from an outside team. The DT market made considerable gains in 2023 with Quinnen Williams, Jeffery Simmons, Daron Payne, Dexter Lawrence and Ed Oliver among the young contributors at the position who landed sizeable second contracts with their respective teams.

Madubuike could very well be next in line to join that group from a financial standpoint. Oliver’s Bills deal carries an AAV of $17MM, while the other four aforementioned players range between $22.5MM and $24MM in that regard. No firm numbers have emerged with respect to an asking price from Madubuike, but to no surprise Baltimore is interested in reaching an agreement. The Ravens hope to retain the Texas A&M product, Dianna Russini of The Athletic writes (subscription required).

Baltimore already made one notable investment in its D-line in 2023, signing Broderick Washington to a three-year, $15.75MM extension in the summer. Madubuike, a fellow 2020 draftee, will be able to command a much larger deal than that if/when he reaches the open market. Working out a long-term agreement with the latter could prove to be a challenge for the Ravens, given the structure of Lamar Jackson‘s mega-contract and its scheduled jumps in cap hits in future years.

Of course, the franchise tag could be an option at Baltimore’s disposal to at least prevent Madubuike from reaching free agency. The one-year tender is projected to cost roughly $20.9MM, a sign of the upward trend the DT market experienced last summer. The Commanders took the franchise tag route with Payne before ultimately working out an agreement. A similar path could be in store for Madubuike and the Ravens, though it will be interesting to see how high his asking price climbs in the wake of his breakout campaign.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/21/23

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Harrison was among the Colts’ final roster cuts in August, but he was immediately retained via the practice squad. Despite that move, the 26-year-old has yet to make an appearance in Indianapolis as a gameday elevation. He will now have the chance to make his Colts debut, having taken the 53-man roster spot of Shaquille Leonard after the latter’s surprise cut.

Muse will be required to miss at least the next four weeks as a result of the IR move. The former Seahawk has played exclusively on special teams to date during his first season with the Chargers, logging a 73% snap share in that capacity. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports Muse could still play later this season, something which will give Los Angeles a boost in the third phase if they are still in playoff contention down the stretch.

Ahmed’s foot injury, coupled with a new round of uncertainty regarding the healthy of rookie sensation De’Von Achane, could leave Miami shorthanded in the backfield. While it remains to be seen if the latter will miss time after coming back from an IR stint, the former will not be available moving forward. Ahmed is out for the season, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. The 24-year-old scored two total touchdowns on 38 touches this year, his fourth with the Dolphins. He is set to hit free agency this offseason, but the injury will no doubt hurt his market.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 11/21/23

Tuesday’s taxi squad moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

  • Released: DB Cameron McCutcheon

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Mark Andrews To Undergo Surgery; Ravens TE Has Outside Chance To Return In 2023

NOVEMBER 21: Andrews will end up undergoing surgery, with NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo indicating that operation will take place Tuesday in Charlotte. The sixth-year tight end missing the rest of the season remains the most likely scenario, though Garafolo adds he still may have an outside chance to come back if the Ravens make a deep playoff run.

NOVEMBER 20: Thursday night’s AFC North matchup cost the Bengals their quarterback and sidelined the Ravens’ top pass catcher as well. Baltimore, however, is not giving up on Mark Andrews playing again this season.

Although Andrews suffered ligament damage and a cracked fibula, John Harbaugh said Monday the injury is not as a bad as initially feared. Pointing to the damage being cleaner than expected, the 16th-year Ravens HC said (via The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec) an outside chance exists Andrews will be able to return this season.

An Andrews return would not be in play until the playoffs, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport adds a deep playoff run may be required for an Andrews comeback to commence. But Andrews having a potential reentry point represents positive news for the AFC North-leading team. Andrews will meet with foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson this week, per Harbaugh. That will provide more clarity on the potential return window. Until that appointment, however, Harbaugh is limiting optimism here, per ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley.

Andrews, 28, has never missed more than two games in a season. That run of relatively good health will test the Ravens in a different way moving forward. The team has second-year cog Isaiah Likely in place as its top pass-catching tight end beyond Andrews, but perhaps more importantly, its cadre of wide receivers is healthy as well. The team has seen Zay Flowers become an impact rookie, and Odell Beckham Jr. has showed improvement in recent weeks. Rashod Bateman and Nelson Agholor are available, with each scoring a touchdown in the Ravens’ Week 11 win over the Bengals. Lamar Jackson will likely need to lean on his deeper collection of wideouts during Andrews’ lengthy upcoming absence.

The 49ers found themselves in a similar situation last year, with Jimmy Garoppolo having an outside chance to come back from his early-December Jones fracture. The injuries are obviously not the same, but San Francisco did not move its then-starter to IR in an effort to keep that scenario on the table. Last year’s 49ers were in worse shape in terms of IR activations compared to these Ravens, who have five remaining. The team hopes David Ojabo will represent one such activation, but it should be expected Andrews will be placed on IR. A return would, then, require an activation.

Becoming a top-tier tight end early in his career, Andrews has been Jackson’s lead target for most of the former MVP’s run as the Ravens’ starter. The former third-round pick has a 1,300-yard season under his belt, and that came during a 2021 campaign in which Jackson did not finish. Even after Andrews missed Week 1 and went down early in Week 11, his 544 receiving yards per game are third among tight ends this season — behind only T.J. Hockenson and Travis Kelce. It is a near-certainty Andrews will not add to that total this season, but with more than two months until the divisional round, a door is open to playoff contributions taking place.

Poll: Who Will Win NFL MVP Award?

Through 11 weeks, this NFL season has not produced an MVP favorite. Oddsmakers have slotted a number of usual suspects as frontrunners, but the stretch run will be important to generating a lead candidate.

No non-quarterback has won this award since Adrian Peterson‘s 2,097-yard rushing season edged Peyton Manning‘s Broncos debut in 2012, though J.J. Watt did finish second in voting in 2014. A quarterback will be expected to claim the honors this season, but that player has not declared himself just yet.

Two of the favorites faced off Monday night, with Jalen Hurts‘ Eagles besting the Chiefs in a Super Bowl LVII rematch. The Chiefs stifled Hurts for much of Philadelphia’s 21-17 win, but the dual-threat passer came through late. He is also the quarterback on the NFL’s only one-loss team. Hurts would have represented a strong MVP challenger to Patrick Mahomes last year, but a late-season shoulder injury led to the Chiefs superstar pulling away. QBR ranks the Super Bowl LVII QBs fifth and sixth, respectively, with Mahomes slipping to No. 5 after Kansas City’s loss.

After Hurts’ breakthrough 2022, the Eagles gave the fourth-year QB a then-record five-year, $255MM extension — one that set the market for Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow. Hurts has accounted for 24 touchdowns — nine on the ground, as he makes a case as the most unstoppable short-yardage QB rusher in NFL history — and has upped his completion percentage (68.5) from 2022.

Mahomes responded to the Tyreek Hill trade by notching the first MVP-Super Bowl MVP since Kurt Warner in 1999, and the Chiefs updated his contract to fall in line with the market Hurts helped set. Kansas City, however, has seen its oft-questioned wide receiver setup play a big role in both its home losses this year. Mahomes ranks 20th in yards per attempt, at 6.9; he cleared eight in each of his two MVP campaigns. With Travis Kelce in his age-34 season, will the seventh-year QB be able to overcome a suspect receiver setup?

Brock Purdy is leading the NFL (by a wide margin, at 9.7) in yards per attempt. After a midseason slump, Purdy has put together two strong games. He accomplished the 49ers’ first perfect passer rating in a game since 1989. Last year’s Mr. Irrelevant has been a revelation for the 49ers, who have his seventh-round contract on the books through 2025. Purdy also leads the league in QBR, providing an efficient season while blessed with an elite skill-position corps. Although this skill group could end up working against Purdy, he would become the most unlikely MVP since Warner.

No. 2 in QBR, Dak Prescott has put together a strong stretch since the Cowboys endured a blowout loss in San Francisco. After four straight one-touchdown showings, the eighth-year Cowboys starter has 13 TD tosses over his past four games. At this pace, the 30-year-old passer will be in position for another monster contract. With the franchise tag off the table and a $59MM cap hit awaiting in his 2024 contract year, Prescott is in one of the most player-friendly extension positions in league history.

Jackson sits ninth in QBR but has the Ravens perched as the AFC’s top seed for the time being. Given a $52MM-per-year deal that differed from his peers’ 2023 re-ups — in that it contains no extra years of control due to it coming after a Ravens franchise tag — Jackson is still operating a run-oriented offense. His 12 touchdown passes rank 16th, though his yards per attempt (8.1) and completion rate (69.5) figures are in the top six. Among this year’s contenders, Jackson joins Mahomes as the only former MVPs.

No rookie has claimed this award since Jim Brown in 1957, but this particular season does keep the door slightly ajar for C.J. Stroud. Almost no one expected the Texans to be in the playoff race, and the team sweeping the Jaguars would move an AFC South title closer to reality. Stroud has run away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year race, doing so despite numerous O-line injuries. The No. 2 overall pick’s 2,962 passing yards sit second, but QBR places the Ohio State product 12th. Stroud’s three-INT game against the Cardinals hurt his cause, but the Houston rookie still has some time to make a historic push.

While Jared Goff (seventh in QBR) was once the throw-in in a trade that keyed a Matthew Stafford-led Rams Super Bowl charge, the Lions are 8-2 for the first time in 61 years. Detroit is 1-2 against teams with winning records, but a favorable schedule down the stretch stands to allow Goff — in Year 2 with OC Ben Johnson running the show — to make a case. The Lions ending up with home-field advantage in the NFC would obviously strengthen the former No. 1 overall pick’s cause. Regardless, the 29-year-old QB has moved into position for a lucrative Lions extension.

How the AFC East plays out stands to produce a contender. Although Josh Allen‘s turnover issues helped lead the Bills to fire OC Ken Dorsey, the sixth-year superstar leads the NFL with 22 TD passes (while pacing the league with 12 picks) while adding seven more scores on the ground. Tua Tagovailoa ranks just 10th in QBR — six spots behind Allen — and the Dolphins have fallen short in matchups against the Bills, Chiefs and Eagles. That said, the Bills have five losses to the Dolphins’ three. Miami first-place scoring ranking will obviously benefit its ascending passer, though Tua could conceivably split votes with Hill.

No wide receiver has ever won MVP acclaim, and Hill’s off-field history will not help his case. But his impact on the Dolphins has been undeniable. The former Chiefs speed merchant has changed Tagovailoa’s career trajectory, and the eighth-year wideout leads the NFL with 1,222 receiving yards — in front by 209 — despite the Dolphins already resting during a bye week. While Jerry Rice and Calvin Johnson could not parlay their receiving yardage records into MVP honors — respectively losing out to Emmitt Smith (1995) and Peterson (2012) — this QB pace persisting would stand to keep Hill going. Christian McCaffrey also makes sense as a candidate. His midseason 2022 arrival catalyzed the 49ers, and despite missing a game, the ex-Panthers extension recipient leads the NFL with 825 rushing yards. No other RB has posted more than 700, and this would obviously be an interesting year to see a running back emerge as a true MVP candidate.

Could this be the year a defender sneaks through? Only Alan Page and Lawrence Taylor have done so, but with no QB residing as a clear frontrunner, is a door ajar for Myles Garrett or T.J. Watt powering offensively limited teams? Is there an off-grid player who shapes up as a late-season threat? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on the race in the comments section.