Benny Cunningham

NFL Workout Updates: 9/17/19

Here are Tuesday’s updates from the workout circuit, all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter unless otherwise noted.

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

  • T Gerhard deBeer, Christian DiLauro, Brandon Hitner, C James Murray (link)

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Redskins

Jaguars Sign T Ben Ijalana

Doug Marrone revealed Saturday the Jaguars’ tackle situation may not be optimal until after the regular season begins. A day later, the Jags added an experienced blocker.

Former Jets tackle Ben Ijalana agreed to a Jaguars deal Sunday. The team also released running back Benny Cunningham with an injury designation. Cunningham, who signed with the Jaguars in April, is dealing with a hamstring injury.

Left tackle starter Cam Robinson, who is in the final stages of recovering from the ACL tear he suffered last September, may not be ready in time for Week 1. The Jags signed former Bengals first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi and Buccaneers UDFA Leonard Wester this offseason. They drafted Jawaan Taylor in Round 2; the former Florida Gator is expected to be Jacksonville’s opening day right tackle, with the other two vying to be the Robinson stopgap on the other side. Ijalana, 30, may now be in that mix while also representing a depth option.

The Jets used Ijalana in 30 games from 2014-17. His most notable work came as New York’s starting left tackle for 13 games in 2016. He wound up on Gang Green’s IR list in August of 2018. Ijalana’s NFL action has come in spurts, with the former Colts second-round pick not playing in the 2013, ’15 or ’18 regular seasons.

Cunningham has played six NFL seasons, for the Rams and Bears. He will exit a Jaguars running back room headed by Leonard Fournette but also housing Alfred Blue, Thomas Rawls, Roc Thomas and fifth-round pick Ryquell Armstead.

The Jags also signed rookie offensive lineman Ka’Jahn Armstrong and tight end Ethan Wolf. They waived fellow blockers Jordan Agasiva and Andrew Lauderdale, Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com notes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Sign RB Benny Cunningham

The Jaguars have signed running back Benny Cunningham, per a team announcement. The move comes on the heels of signing running back Alfred Blue, giving the Jaguars two backup options behind starter Leonard Fournette

Blue profiles as more of a traditional ball carrier while Cunningham figures to be more of a special teams contributor.

I’m just excited to have the opportunity,” the seventh-year veteran said in a press release from Jacksonville. “I feel like this place will be home for me. I’m excited to get started. There are pieces in place that this team can win the Super Bowl. I just want to be part of something special.”

Cunningham has a 26.3-yard average on 110 career kickoff returns. He had just 14 carries for 36 yards in two seasons with the Bears, but he has shifted gears and now embraces his role on special teams.

Meanwhile, the deal reunites Cunningham with former Rams teammate Nick Foles.

I can’t wait to call Nick, talk to him and catch up,” the running back said.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Meet With Alfred Blue

The Jaguars are on the hunt for backup running backs. This week, the Jags will meet with Alfred Blue and Benny Cunningham, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). 

Injuries have opened up opportunities for Blue with the Texans, though he has dealt with maladies of his own. Last year, Blue had 150 carries playing mostly as a reserve, but he had just 499 yards, resulting in a 3.3 yards per carry average. In terms of efficiency, Blue enjoyed his best season in 2016 when he averaged 4.2 yards per tote. Blue has five career 100-yard performances, but his last one came in 2017 in a blowout loss to the Steelers.

Cunningham, meanwhile, had just eleven carries for 20 yards with the Bears in 2018, but he made his mark on special teams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Re-Sign Benny Cunningham

Benny Cunningham enjoyed an interesting Monday. The veteran running back made a visit to New Orleans to meet with the Saints, and he reached an agreement. Only not with the Saints.

The Bears agreed to terms to re-sign Cunningham, Joel Erickson of The Advocate reports (on Twitter). Cunningham also visited the Buccaneers during his latest stay in free agency but will come back to Chicago.

Going into his sixth season, Cunningham will turn 28 in July. He only received nine carries last season in playing behind Jordan Howard and alongside Tarik Cohen. But the Bears used Cunningham in the passing game. The former Rams runner caught 20 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns last season, and he’ll continue to provide depth in the Windy City.

New Orleans has former seventh-round pick Daniel Lasco, now-journeyman ball-carrier Jonathan Williams and 2017 UDFA Trey Edmunds representing its depth behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Cunningham would have a better chance of seeing offensive work with the Bears, but the Saints are clearly looking around the market for reserve options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints To Meet With Benny Cunningham

Running back Benny Cunningham is expected to visit the Saints soon, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. He adds that other teams are interested in Cunningham, who has appeal both as a backup running back and special teams standout.

The Saints are set at the top of their running back depth chart with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, but there could be room for Cunnigham in a group behind them that currently includes Trey Edmunds, Daniel Lasco, and Jonathan Williams. The Saints are the bottom ten of the league in salary cap space, per Over The Cap, but Cunningham would not be a costly addition for them.

Cunningham averaged 27.8 yards per kick return with the Rams from 2014-16, which would make him an intriguing special teams pickup. Last year, Alvin Kamara averaged 31.5 yards per return for the Saints, but they may look to protect him a bit more going forward and use him less frequently on kick returns. Tommylee Lewis had the most KR attempts of any Saint (13) and he averaged 23.6 per try.

Cunningham visited the Buccaneers on Sunday but left Florida without signing a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Host RB Benny Cunningham

The Buccaneers are meeting with free agent running back Benny Cunningham on Sunday, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).

Tampa Bay’s running back depth chart is currently in flux, as the club released Doug Martin earlier this offseason while Charles Sims is an unrestricted free agent. While the Buccaneers still employ Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers, Cunningham could help replace Sims, who spent the past four years as Tampa’s receiving back. The 27-year-old Cunningham only managed 20 receptions working behind fellow Bears Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in 2017, but he posted 45 catches as recently as 2014.

Cunningham also has a history as a kick returner, as he averaged 27.8 yards per return with the Rams from 2014-16. The Buccaneers used three kick returners — Rodgers, wide receiver Bernard Reedy, and Sims — in 2017, but the latter two are no longer on the team’s roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Sign Benny Cunningham

After hosting him for a visit today, the Bears have signed running back Benny Cunningham to a one-year deal, the club announced.Benny Cunningham (Vertical)

Cunningham, 26, will slot in behind Jordan Howard, Jeremy Langford, and Ka’Deem Carey on Chicago’s running back depth chart, but most of his impact will be as a kick returner. On 22 kick returns, Cunningham ranked third in the NFL with 27.2 yards per return in 2016, while the Bears lost 1.1 yards of field position in the return game, according to Football Outsiders.

While it’s not out of the question Cunningham could chip in on offense if injuries affect the Bears, he’s averaged only 43 carries during his four-year NFL career. Cunningham did put up a career high 45 receptions in 2014, so perhaps a passing game role is in his future. More likely, he’ll compete with Deonte Thompson (who was re-signed today) for return duties.

Cunningham ranked as PFR’s No. 9 free agent running back still on the board. He’d visited the Jets already this offseason, and had also been loosely linked to the Seahawks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Host RB Benny Cunningham

The Bears are meeting with free agent running back Benny Cunningham on Tuesday, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, and have also re-signed wide receiver Deonte Thompson, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).Benny Cunningham (Vertical)

Given that clear-cut starter Jordan Howard is backed up by both Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey in Chicago, Cunningham would take on a purely special teams role with the Bears. The 26-year-old Cunningham didn’t play much on offense in 2016, anyway, as he managed only 21 carries for the Rams. His role as a returner, though, was far more clear.

On 22 kick returns, Cunningham ranked third in the NFL with 27.2 yards per return. Thompson, meanwhile, was Chicago’s kick returner last season, but only averaged 23 yards per return. The Bears lost 1.1 yards of field position on kick returns in 2016, according to Football Outsiders, so adding Cunningham could theoretically offer an improvement over Thompson.

Thompson is now under contract, however, which could lead the Bears to rethink a Cunningham acquisition. In contrast to Cunningham, Thompson played a bit of an offensive role last year, as he reeled in 22 of 36 targets for 249 yards and two touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Offense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Jay Cutler
  2. Chase Daniel
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  4. Colin Kaepernick
  5. Josh McCown
  6. Robert Griffin III
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Christian Ponder
  11. Blaine Gabbert
  12. Ryan Nassib
  13. Shaun Hill
  14. Kellen Moore
  15. Austin Davis

Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.

Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018. Jay Cutler (Vertical)

Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.

Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.

Running back:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. LeGarrette Blount
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Rashad Jennings
  5. Tim Hightower
  6. DeAngelo Williams
  7. Chris Johnson
  8. Christine Michael
  9. Benny Cunningham
  10. Bobby Rainey
  11. Brandon Bolden
  12. Denard Robinson
  13. James Starks
  14. Matt Asiata
  15. Kenjon Barner

Honorable mention: DuJuan Harris, Antonio AndrewsKhiry Robinson

Adrian Peterson (vertical)The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.

Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.

In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.

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