Bennie Fowler

Bears To Sign WR Bennie Fowler

In an offseason that’s seen the Bears overhaul their receiving corps, another name will be added to the mix. Chicago are bringing in Bennie Fowler on a one-year deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The Broncos non-tendered Fowler last month, sending the former UDFA into the veteran sector of free agency. The Michigan State alum played four seasons in Denver, serving as an auxiliary wideout in the Demaryius Thomas– and Emmanuel Sanders-dominated passing attack.

Fowler showed some promise during his first run of action in 2015, making a key catch in the Broncos’ narrow divisional-round win over the Steelers and hauling in a two-point conversion in Super Bowl 50 that doubled as Peyton Manning‘s final pass, but the Broncos did not view him as a fit at the near-$2MM rate it would have cost them to retain Fowler via RFA tender.

The 6-foot-1 pass-catcher enjoyed his most statistically productive season in 2017, grabbing 29 receptions for a career-high 350 yards. He’ll join new Bears wideouts Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/12/18

Here are today’s restricted free agent and exclusive-rights free agent tender decisions, with the list being updated throughout the day.

RFAs

Tendered at second-round level:

Tendered at original-round level:

Non-Tendered:

ERFAs

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

AFC Rumors: Ross, Patriots, Broncos, Bolts

John Ross endured a disastrous rookie season after seeing his stock rise during 2017 Combine weekend. The Bengals‘ 2017 first-round pick did not catch a pass and ended the season on IR after suffering multiple injuries last year. Ross, though, is expected to be ready to run routes come spring despite undergoing shoulder surgery in December. He had both shoulders operated on last year and couldn’t get on the field until the second week of training camp following a spring shoulder surgery.

That was the problem,” Ross said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “My body didn’t respond the way I wanted it to. Coming in late, I didn’t get to train. I was out of shape. That was pretty tough on my body. Rushing into it. Being out of shape. My body couldn’t take the physical aspects of the game we do every day. I thought I could. I think it kind of wore me out faster than I thought.

I really didn’t catch up until the end of the year when I started to have better practices. It all started to click together. It was already kind of too late. It was best to rest, get my body right.”

Ross has nowhere to go but up and figures to be a bigger part of the 2018 Cincinnati offense than he was last year.

Here’s the latest out of the AFC as new wideouts and cornerbacks aim to break Ross’ 4.22-second 40-yard dash record at the Combine.

  • Rumored to be a retirement candidate again, Dante Scarnecchia is back to work with the Patriots, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports. The longtime Pats offensive line coach, who retired after the 2013 season only to return in 2016, looks to be part of New England’s 2018 coaching staff. Now 70, Scarnecchia has been with the Patriots (aside from the 2014-15 seasons) since 1992. Excepting those two years after his initial retirement, Scarnecchia has been the Pats’ O-line coach since 1999.
  • The Broncos have two players who could warrant non-original-round tenders on the RFA market in Matt Paradis and Shaquil Barrett. Pro Football Focus’ top two RFAs, the starting center and part-time starting outside linebacker figure to receive second-round tenders, Mike Klis of 9News writes. Worth $2.9MM apiece, two second-round tenders would cost the Broncos nearly $6MM. That would further eat into Denver’s budget in an offseason in which the team is expected to pursue Kirk Cousins. The Broncos gave Brandon Marshall a second-round tender in 2016 and signed him to a long-term deal that summer and did the same with Brandon McManus. They could take the same route with Paradis, one of the league’s top centers.
  • Denver would like to have auxiliary wideout Bennie Fowler back next season, but Klis notes the team is expected to search for an upgrade at No. 3 receiver. The Broncos have struggled to replace the spot Wes Welker vacated three years ago, with now-UFA Cody Latimer failing to fill that role. Denver drafted Carlos Henderson in the third round of last year’s draft only to see him miss the whole season. The Broncos giving Fowler an original-round tender ($1.9MM) is in play, per Klis. Fowler (29 catches, 350 yards, three TDs) made just $615K last season. The Broncos would prefer to keep starting WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the fold rather than jettison them to create cap space.
  • The Chargers are seeking a complementary back to go with Melvin Gordon, Eric Williams of ESPN.com writes. But with Austin Ekeler working as a pass-catching back, Williams notes the team would want said supporting-caster to be more of a between-the-tackles bruiser who would spell Gordon.

West Notes: Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers

The Broncos have fallen quite a ways from their Super Bowl 50 win about two years ago. The team’s biggest question mark is obviously at quarterback, but there are a number of questions that John Elway and company will have to answer over the course of the offseason, explains Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

Jhabvala mentions that the Broncos wide receiver position could really change over the next few months depending on how the front office approaches some of the playmakers that could enter free agency. The big name she mentions is Demaryius Thomas who could test the open market should Denver decline his $4MM option. He’s controllable for non-guaranteed salaries for the next two seasons, but the team could save some money or re-negotiate a new contract before a decision has to be made about that option. In addition to Thomas, Cody Latimer is an unrestricted free agent, Bennie Fowler is a restricted free agent and Emmanuel Sanders is a controllable veteran that could hit the trade block if the team rather invest in Thomas long-term.

Jhabvala also focuses on veteran cornerback Aqib Talib. She notes how he’ll turn 32 in February and is set to make $11MM in 2018. Although, the Broncos would only be responsible for $1MM if he were to be released. With Chris Harris and Bradley Roby under contract as well, it’s unlikely the team would hold onto all three for next season.

The article finally keys in on Denver’s starting running back, C.J. Anderson. Anderson is paid well for his position as he’ll make $4.4MM next season. However, his last two years of his original four-year deal that he signed in 2016 are non-guaranteed, so there is definitely significant money to be saved should the team move onto the likes of Devontae Booker, De’Angelo Henderson or potentially a another running back that they draft in April.

Here’s more from the NFL’s West divisions:

  • Denver has to deal with an off-the-field problem at receiver as well. Their 2017 third-round draft pick, Carlos Henderson, was arrested this afternoon for possession of marijuana, per Brad Cesak of NBC6News (Twitter link). The 23-year-old was placed on the injured reserve with a thumb injury in the preseason, but could face league discipline for his most recent incident. This would be his first offense, but it’s not encouraging for a Broncos team potentially looking for steady contributors on that side of the ball.
  • The news that Pete Carroll would be replacing Darrell Bevell with Brian Schottenheimer as Seattle’s next offensive coordinator was met with some skepticism across the football world. However, Seahawks backup quarterback Austin Davis thinks that the change will bring some positivity to the team’s offense in 2018, reports Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. Schottenheimer coached Davis for three seasons while the two were in St. Louis. “We were very creative in St. Louis,” Davis told 710 ESPN Seattle. “We threw a lot of things at the defense, whether it was drop-back, whether it was play-action, whether it was quarterback movement, we had it all. And we were a really good screen team. If there was one thing I could pick out from last year, we couldn’t run screens.” The Seahawks offense was carried by Russell Wilson last season and is in need of a new identity as the team looks to get back into the postseason.
  • 49ers promising rookie linebacker Reuben Foster recently got in trouble with the law for having possession of marijuana, which is likely to effect his paycheck in the years to come. The 2017 first-round pick had about $2.5MM in guaranteed money from 2018-2020, but that will probably be voided because of specific wording in his contract, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Corry explained that Foster had a clause in his contract that if he were to be fined for a violation of the NFL’s drug policy, that money would lose its guaranteed status. The former Alabama defender fell down the draft board a bit last year because of some personality issues, and his immaturity has now clearly cost him in terms of his wallet.
  • Current 49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made some extra cash after the Patriots beat the Titans to advance to the AFC Championship, according to Corry in another tweet. Corry reports that Garoppolo received an extra $51k in playoff money for the victory because he was with New England for at least eight games this past regular season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/6/17

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • The Jets signed tight end Brian Parker, per a team announcement. This will be Parker’s second stint with the Jets, who initially employed him for two days last year before cutting him because of a failed physical. Parker entered the league in 2015 as a Chargers UDFA addition.
  • The Redskins signed former Bears offensive tackle John Kling, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).
  • Swing tackle Chris Hubbard signed his Steelers RFA tender, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). He will make $1.8MM as the Steelers’ presumptive No. 3 tackle in 2017 behind Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert. Hubbard will enter his fourth season with the Steelers. He started the first four games of his career last season.
  • Broncos contributors Bennie Fowler and Kabri Bibbs signed their ERFA tenders, Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post tweets. A fourth-year running back, Bibbs will continue to vie for a backfield job after seeing some time last season after C.J. Anderson went down. A third-year wide receiver, Fowler resides in the glut of auxiliary pass-catchers that sits beneath Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in Denver’s aerial hierarchy.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/7/17

Unrestricted free agent news will obviously dominate the day, but several clubs also had to make decisions on whether to offer tenders to restricted and exclusive rights free agents. All RFA tenders listed are original round/right of first refusal (worth $1.797MM), and all links go to Twitter:

RFAs:

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

ERFAs:

Tendered:

Non-Tendered:

AFC West Notes: Chargers, Edwards, Broncos

Joey Bosa‘s relationship with the Chargers did not include much of a honeymoon, with the sides still at an impasse over offset language and the structure of the No. 3 overall pick’s signing bonus. While some have sided with Bosa given the Chargers’ 21st-century history in dealing with draft picks, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that Bosa should be in camp by now. The Bolts make their preseason debut today.

Using the negotiations between Antonio Gates and the Chargers in 2005 and ’10 — both of which involved meetings with then-GM A.J. Smith to close the deals — Acee argues the onus is now on Bosa to make a decision on the team’s offer, which has reportedly been unchanged since training camp began.

The Chargers will play their second preseason game on Friday, and Bosa stands to miss at least that tilt as well at this juncture. We heard recently the relationship between Bosa and the Bolts could have endured “irreparable damage,” which is something the Chargers have experienced recently with Eric Weddle, but Acee points to several instances where rookies held out well into the preseason only to re-sign with the Chargers. LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers are among those, although both of the franchise icons’ delayed debuts came during an era where those were commonplace.

Here’s more out of San Diego and in the AFC West.

  • The Chargers’ latest pitch to voters regarding their downtown stadium measure is that fans of other teams will be paying for the $1.8 billion stadium/convention center project as opposed to Bolts backers. Their latest ad campaign states the stadium will be paid for by “Raiders, Broncos and Patriots fans,” as Brett Schrotenboer of USA Today points out. This is based around the stadium finance plan regarding the use of public money — which will be voted upon Nov. 8 — using a hotel tax hike. Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts voices over the piece, which is aimed at continuing to raise support for a ballot measure that, as of now, needs a two-thirds majority to pass this fall. Most experts deem that unlikely.
  • Mario Edwards left Friday’s Raiders-Cardinals game on a cart with a hip injury and needed crutches to leave the locker room, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Edwards in May received medical clearance to return from the nagging neck injury he sustained last season and remains a key component for Oakland’s defensive front despite the bevy of additions this offseason brought.
  • Currently the clubhouse leader to become the Broncos‘ No. 3 wideout, Bennie Fowler is expected to miss at least a few weeks with a fractured elbow, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports. Now vying with Cody Latimer and Jordan Norwood for that position, Fowler — a former UDFA from Michigan State — caught 16 passes for 203 yards as a rookie last season.
  • Many have doubted Gary Kubiak when he’s said 2015 third-stringer and seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian had a legitimate shot to win the quarterback job over Mark Sanchez, but Jhabvala notes history should lead skeptics to take the second-year coach at his word. Kubiak refused to say Peyton Manning had been benched for Brock Osweiler when many expected the healthier Osweiler to keep the job throughout once Manning returned to sufficient health. Sanchez and Siemian, their disparate profiles notwithstanding, have split reps in practice and each played a quarter on Thursday night in the defending champions’ preseason opener.

Minor NFL Transactions: 4/15/16

Here are Friday’s minor transactions from around the NFL:

  • Broncos wide receiver Bennie Fowler will officially stay with the team after signing his exclusive rights tender, Ben Swanson of DenverBroncos.com writes. Fowler, undrafted out of Michigan State in 2014, took the field in all 16 of the Super Bowl champions’ regular-season games and tallied 16 receptions, 203 yards, and a touchdown. He also added a key 31-yard grab on a third-and-12 play in the Broncos’ second-round playoff win over the Steelers.
  • Center Sam Brenner joined Fowler in signing his ERFA tender with the Broncos, per Swanson. The Broncos claimed Brenner off waivers in November, and he ended up on the team’s active roster for eight of its regular-season contests and its entire playoff run. Brenner was previously a member of the Dolphins, with whom he appeared in 10 games (four starts) from 2013-15.
  • Bears receiver Josh Bellamy posted a picture of himself on social media signing his exclusive rights tender with the club, as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Bellamy, 26, saw action in all 16 of the Bears’ games last season, started three, and totaled 19 receptions and two touchdowns.
  • Packers safety Chris Banjo has signed his exclusive rights tender, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Banjo hasn’t made much of a defensive impact in his three-year career, but he is one of the Packers’ top special teamers. The 26-year-old accrued a team-best 21 special teams tackles in 16 appearances last season.
  • The Browns have claimed defensive end/outside linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat off waivers from Washington, per Field Yates of ESPN (Twitter link). Jeffcoat, an undrafted free agent in 2014, logged nine appearances (one start), an interception and a forced fumble in two years with Washington.
  • The Cardinals have released running backs Marion Grice and Robert Hughes, reports Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. Both players were on the Cards’ practice squad last season. Grice racked up playing time in his rookie year, 2014, amassing 22 touches (15 carries, seven receptions) and a score in Arizona. Hughes, who has seen regular-season action for three different teams since 2011, recorded eight receptions for an impressive 140 yards (17.5 yards per catch) for the 2014 Cardinals.
  • Offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson, whom the Jaguars claimed off waivers from the Eagles earlier this month, has decided to retire (Twitter link via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union). Hawkinson, a former Kansas Jayhawk, was the Bengals’ fifth-round selection in 2013. He appeared in six career games with Cincy and Philly.
  • Lions defensive tackle Khyri Thornton has signed his exclusive rights tender, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Thornton, whom NFC North rival Green Bay took in the third round of the 2014 draft, debuted in the league last year as a member of the Lions, recording five tackles in six games.
  • The Bills have announced the release of offensive tackle Tyson Chandler with a non-football injury. Chandler signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent from North Carolina State last spring.

Sunday Roundup: Loadholdt, Dotson, Broncos

The Buccaneers and Vikings played each other on Saturday night, and both teams lost their starting right tackles. Minnesota’s Phil Loadholdt suffered a torn Achilles and is likely done for the season, while Tampa Bay’s Demar Dotson sprained his MCL and will undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of the sprain. Today’s Sunday Roundup begins with some fallout from those two injuries.

  • Greg Auman of The Tampa Bay Times notes that the Buccaneers could shift Kevin Pamphile from left tackle to right tackle to replace Dotson, or they could promote Patrick Omameh. However, if Dotson has anything worse than a sprained MCL, Auman expects Tampa Bay to look outside the organization to fill the void (Twitter links).
  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry tweets that the Vikings could be forced into a tough early decision on Loadholdt next season. As Corry notes, Loadholdt will be due a $500,000 bonus if he is on the roster on the third day of the league year (March 17, 2016), which may be too rich for a player who has suffered two major injuries in 10 months.
  • Mark Craig of The Star Tribune tweets that the Vikings are not panicking over Loadholdt’s injury or scrambling for outside help, as the team has confidence in its young tackles.
  • John Keim of ESPN.com breaks down Washington‘s potential options at tight end as it seeks to build depth behind Jordan Reed.
  • Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com observes (via Twitter) that the season-ending injury to Rams CB E.J. Gaines could open the door for someone like undrafted free agent Imoan Claiborne.
  • Broncos WR Bennie Fowler, whom Denver signed as an undrafted free agent last year, might be a long-shot to make the roster, but as Mike Klis of 9News.com writes, Fowler’s impressive showing in training camp and in the first preseason game is giving the Broncos’ brass a lot to think about.

Sunday Transactions: AFC West

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC West teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions are noted below.

Additionally, as of 11:00am today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. For the 2014 and 2015 seasons, changes were made to practice squad rules that allow teams to carry eight players instead of 10, and the eligibility requirements for those extra two spots were also loosened. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC West transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Denver Broncos:

Kansas City Chiefs:

Oakland Raiders:

San Diego Chargers:

  • Signed to practice squad (officially announced): Chas Alecxih, DL; Torrence Allen, WR; Greg Ducre, CB; Javontee Herndon, WR; Cordarro Law, OLB; Ryan Lindley, QB; Adrian Phillips, S; Jeremiah Sirles, T; Craig Watts, G