September 27th, 2021 at 8:45am CST by Zachary Links
Blake Martinez‘s season is over. On Monday morning, the Giants linebacker was diagnosed with a torn ACL (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo).
This was the immediate fear after Martinez was forced out of Sunday’s game with a non-contact injury. It’s a bad blow for the Giants, on the heels of their latest defeat and a gruesome leg injury for offensive lineman Nick Gates. The Giants are now 0-3, without two of their team captains for the rest of the year.
Martinez moved on from the Packers last year to ink a three-year, $30.75MM deal with the Giants. Installed as the Giants’ left inside linebacker, he tallied 151 tackles, three sacks, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one interception in his Big Blue debut. This year, he’ll finish with 23 stops in three games.
Martinez, 28 in January, will focus on recovery as he looks ahead to his next walk year in 2022. In theory, the Giants will have an escape hatch once Martinez gets medical clearance next year. He’s due to carry a $14MM cap number, but they can save $8.525MM with $5.5MM in dead money if they drop him. But, given his production while healthy, they’ll likely keep him in the fold.
Before the legal tampering period kicked off, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com said it was more likely than not that the Jets would trade Sam Darnold, assuming that BYU QB Zach Wilson — whom the Jets would select with the No. 2 overall pick to replace Darnold — “checks the important boxes during the pre-draft process.” Cimini said at the time that there was a market for Darnold, and he named Washington, the Bears, the Seahawks, the Texans, and the 49ers as potential landing spots.
But since then, WFT signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chicago acquired Andy Dalton. Obviously, neither of those QBs are long-term answers, but they do at least obviate an immediate need for a signal-caller. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are moving forward with Russell Wilson, Houston may be unable to trade incumbent QB Deshaun Watson in light of the sexual abuse allegations that have been levied against him, and it’s unclear how actively San Francisco is pursuing an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo. As such, the Jets might not be able to trade Darnold, and it will be interesting to see if that will impact the team’s decision with respect to Zach Wilson (or any other rookie passer).
Now for more out of the Empire State:
In less exciting Jets news, the team is still looking into free agent kickers and wants to find a starting-caliber corner, as Cimini writes. The CB need will probably be filled in the draft; Cimini does not expect the club to pursue Richard Sherman, despite the obvious Sherman-Robert Saleh connection.
It might go without saying, but when the Giants agreed to a three-year, $63MM pact with DL Leonard Williams a few days ago, Williams agreed to drop his grievance concerning his 2020 franchise tag, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Williams was tagged as a defensive tackle but believed he should have received a defensive end tag, and if he had prevailed, his tag number for 2021 would have jumped to $21.4MM. Since he got a $21MM AAV on his extension, things worked out just fine for him in the end.
The Giants signed veteran TE Kyle Rudolphearlier this week, but his addition does not impact Evan Engram‘s status with the team, a source tells Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. Engram will play out the 2021 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal and hopes for a strong platform performance after struggling a bit in 2020.
These days, instead of being forced to reach out to agents to convince their clients to play in western New York, agents are the ones calling the Bills, as Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News writes. Head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane have created a winning club and a positive culture, and players around the league are taking notice and now see Buffalo as an attractive destination. While the Bills didn’t have a ton of cap space heading into this year’s free agent cycle — or many major holes to fill — they did bring in WR Emmanuel Sanders, whom they had targeted for several years. Sanders is a prime example of the changing feelings towards Buffalo, saying “[w]ho wouldn’t want to be part of it?” (via John Wawrow of the Associated Press).
The Giants have agreed to sign Packers free agent linebacker Blake Martinez, as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. Once finalized on or after Wednesday, it’ll be a three-year deal worth $30MM.
Martinez, 26, has landed an uncommonly lucrative deal for a middle linebacker. Still, it’s important to remember that the market has shifted in recent years, with big names like C.J. MosleyandBobby Wagner leading the way. The Giants hope that their deal with Martinez turns out better than the Jets’ pact with Mosley; of course, the age differential between the two players is key. Martinez’s best years are still ahead of him and the Giants were happy to pay the price to land him.
Martinez turned in another productive season in 2019, tallying a career-high 155 tackles to go along with three sacks, two passes defended, an interception, and one forced fumble. The linebacker has finished with at least 140 tackles in each of the past three seasons.
The Martinez signing came hours after the club also agreed to terms with Panthers free agent cornerback James Bradberry. Giants GM Dave Gettleman is intent on revamping the team’s swiss cheese defense this offseason and he’s doing so with his trademark aggressiveness.
There are a variety of reasons why Garafolo came to this conclusion. For starters, general manager BrianGutekunst made it clear that they’ll “evaluate” the position, which would probably be an odd statement if the team was confident they’d retain their leading tackler. Further, Martinez was emotional following the Packers’ NFC Championship loss, and much of that could have been due to the fact that the 26-year-old had potentially played his final game with the organization.
Plus, Garafolo notes that the market for middle linebackers has exploded in recent years, with C.J. MosleyandBobby Wagner earning lucrative, market-setting contracts. Martinez has been one of the most productive linebackers in the league over the past few years, so teams will surely be lining up for his services. Even if the Packers are focused on retaining the veteran, there’s a chance that a rival could throw him an extraordinary amount of money.
Martinez had another productive season in 2019, compiling a career-high 155 tackles to go along with three sacks, two passes defended, an interception, and one forced fumble. The linebacker has finished with at least 140 tackles the past three seasons.
Packers starting linebacker Oren Burks is believed to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky writes. More tests are expected to determine the next course of action, Demovsky hears.
The second-year linebacker sustained the injury, originally believed to be a shoulder injury, in the first quarter of Green Bay’s preseason opener vs. the Texans. When asked on Thursday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur did not provide an update on whether the injury would cost the linebacker significant time.
“Honestly, I don’t really know anything right now,” LaFleur said. “It’s kind of wait and see, but I hope not.”
A third-round selection in 2018, Burks appeared in 14 games as a rookie, starting four. He logged 24 tackles and was expected to take over as a starting inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez in 2019. Though Burks was slated as a starter, it is essentially a part-time role in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme, which calls for a hybrid safety at times to fill the role.
January 13th, 2019 at 1:42pm CST by Dallas Robinson
According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.
If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $2MM in 2019. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.
Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2019 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:
November 22nd, 2016 at 9:10pm CST by Zachary Links
Could Donald Trump’s campaign promises affect the NFL’s games staged in Mexico? The league says that won’t be the case.
“I’m a firm believer that any international focus requires you to manage within the political climate that exists,” NFL executive vice president/International Mark Waller told Alex Marvez of The Sporting News. “You can’t control what government is or is not in place. Our job irrespective of that is doing everything we can do to expand the popularity of our sport.”
The NFL estimates that it has 28.3 million fans in Mexico with 9.9 million categorized as “hardcore” supporters. The league does big business south of the border and hopes to grow the fanbase going forward.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
The Saints added Kevin O’Dea as an assistant coach to help with their struggling special teams, as Christopher Dabe of The Times-Picayune writes. “I think when you have some struggles in an area immediately I think the reaction is people want heads to fly,” Payton said. “I think for us, it’s about bringing in someone that can help. I think [special teams coordinator] Greg [McMahon] and [special teams assistant] Stan [Kwan] and those guys, this is a low-ego business. We want to win, and that’s the most important thing. So a guy like Kevin I think can help us. He was fired up. He got in here (Monday) afternoon.”
Packers inside linebacker Blake Martinez is expected to miss multiple games with an MCL sprain, a source tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The fourth-round pick has started nine games for Green Bay this year.
The Broncos placed a claim on running back Ronnie Hillman, tweets Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (via Twitter). The 25-year-old was waived by the Vikings yesterday and landed on the Chargers today.
The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?
To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.
First Round – Kenny Clark, DL (UCLA, No. 27 overall)
Sometimes, even big men fly under the radar, as seems to be the case with this Bruins standout. Named his team’s MVP, he was a dominating force in the middle of the line, taking over starting duties as a sophomore. Well-respected by the staff and teammates, the co-captain preferred to not be in the limelight. However, NFL scouts saw him as a bright light on a dark night.
In three seasons, Clark delivered 153 tackles with six sacks and 18.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. In his two seasons as a starter, he delivered 117 of those tackles in run force, posted a total of 28 hits for losses (assists and solos) while bringing down twelve other ball carriers for no gain. Twenty-four of those stops came inside the red zone, including seven on goal-line stands.
Clark has really come on strong in recognizing blocking schemes and it was rare to see him bite on misdirection or play action during his junior season. He has no problems taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field, needing minimal reps to retain. He plays with very good awareness, taking advantage of his impressive arm length to keep blockers off his feet and legs. The UCLA product demonstrated that he picks up schemes quickly and he does well staying with the flow of the play to close on the ball.
Clark has a very explosive initial step with quick feet, good athleticism and balance for his size, along with the body control and low pad level to come off the snap and get an immediate advantage versus a lethargic offensive lineman. He flashes a strong, consistent hand punch, enough to consistently put the blocker up on his heels, driving with good leverage walking that lineman back into the pocket. He has that initial burst needed on movement and the suddenness to gain advantage when engaging double teams. He has good initial quickness coming off the snap and for a player of his size, that burst can surprise an offensive lineman.
Clark appears poised to show that he should have gone earlier than No. 27 in this year’s draft. Word out of Green Bay is that Clark will start at nose tackle in the base 3-4 and his skill set plus versatility will ensure that he sees plenty of time on the field as an NFL frosh.
The team might have hedged their bets on the offensive line jelling this year by taking Indiana’s Jason Spriggs in the second round. Injuries have always impacted the Packers front wall and Spriggs has obvious pedigree as a left tackle, having allowed just one sack for the pass-happy Hoosiers during his last three seasons in the lineup. He also showed impressive versatility for teams by playing well at Senior Bowl practices as a guard.
Spriggs has a tall frame with minimal body fat, but will need to add at least 20-to-25 pounds of bulk to succeed at left tackle. Fortunately, he’s entering a situation in Green Bay where he is going to be brought along behind starters David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. Still, he’ll be seeing plenty of snaps in relief of both players and, in the event of an injury, Green Bay won’t hesitate to throw him into the fire.
In pass protection, Spriggs demonstrates more than enough foot quickness to slide, good knee bend and hip flexibility, patience and a strong hand punch. He stays square and balanced when shuffling and sliding. Even when he gets over-extended, he is quick to recover, thanks to his above average athletic ability. The thing that separates him from others is his drop step/kick to gain depth and width needed to anchor. He struggled at times in 2014 with his kick slide (was playing with knee and neck injuries at the time), but made adjustments and, as the year progressed, he developed the balance and body control needed to make the reach blocks, use his change of direction agility to wall off and generate the foot quickness to recover.
When it comes to run blocking, Spriggs has a bit of work to do, but the potential is certainly there. He has the power to move the pile and drives block with leverage, but could be exceptional here with more weight. The Packers rookie is a good in-line blocker, possessing a wide base as he runs his feet well. He also has the good footwork to stay on his feet on the move and can handle the switch-off well when working in combination with his guard (see 2015 Wake Forest, Rutgers, Michigan and Purdue games).
When scouts see Martinez perform on the football field “old school” thoughts start going through their heads. While he may not be flashy, he plays with great aggression. He wasn’t the biggest “mike” guy in the draft, but when he attacks the inside gaps, he does so with authority. He is a lunch-pail toting, blue-collar level middle linebacker who has drawn comparisons to Nick Barnett and David Harris, two scrappy performers who played well above their athletic talent.
Martinez is a compactly built athlete who might lack the bulk to shed vs. the bigger offensive lineman, but shows very good balance and body control, along with the ability to stay on his feet. He has a strong hand punch to shock and reroute short area receivers, partially compensating for the lack of long arm reach to keep defenders off his body. He has a good feel for plays in front of him and the quick outside range to string plays wide.
This kid plays until the whistle and you will never see him throttle down when not involved in the play. He does a good job of making calls and no longer plays with the reckless abandon he showed at strong-side linebacker earlier in his career. The Packers recognize this and they already have him ticketed for big things on defense. As Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com noted recently, Martinez will start in the base 3-4 formation while also seeing time in other packages. The two-time captain will be relied upon as a leader, despite being one of the younger players in green and yellow on the field.
Dave-Te Thomas owns and operates The NFL Draft Report, a service providing insight to league scouting departments for over 40 years. All year round, you can read Thomas’ in-depth reviews of both blue chip prospects and diamonds in the rough by visiting the NFL Draft Report blog.
Checking in on the latest rookie signings from around the NFL…
Two offensive linemen – third-rounder Isaac Seumalo and fifth-rounder Halapoulivaati Vaitai – have agreed to deals with the Eagles, the team tweeted. Seumalo went 79th in the draft after playing various positions, mostly center, along Oregon State’s O-line. Vaitai, the 164th pick, made 30 starts at tackle (primarily on the right side) during his TCU tenure.
The Colts have signed fourth-round linebacker Antonio Morrison, the 125th overall choice, according to a team press release. Morrison was a four-year starter at Florida.
Packers general manager Ted Thompsonannounced the signings of four draftees — fourth-rounders Blake Martinez (linebacker, Stanford) and Dean Lowry (defensive end, Northwestern), fifth-rounder Trevor Davis (receiver, California) and sixth-rounder Kyle Murphy (offensive tackle, Stanford). Those four were Green Bay’s final picks of this year’s draft. The team still has to lock up its top three selections, including first-round defensive lineman Kenny Clark.
The Bears inked fourth-round defensive back Deiondre’ Hall to a four-year deal worth $2.85MM, including a $510,982 signing bonus, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hall, the 127th pick, piled up 13 interceptions during his four years at Northern Iowa.
The Vikings have signed fourth-round offensive lineman Willie Beavers and fifth-round linebacker Kentrell Brothers, per a team press release. Beavers was a stalwart at left tackle for Western Michigan before the Vikings grabbed him with the 121st choice, while Brothers – the 160th selection – was a prolific defensive playmaker at Missouri.
The Steelersannounced the signing of sixth-round linebacker Travis Feeney, a former University of Washington standout and the 220th overall pick.
The Eagles will work out Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynchand it’s not just for kicks, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Despite having Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel under contract, Rapoport says they’re serious about Lynch and they’re taking owner Jeffrey Lurie on each trip.
While we wait to see if the Eagles’ QB situation could get even weirder, here’s a look at some more draft news from the NFC:
Boston College linebacker Steven Danielsworked out for the Eagles on Wednesday, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (for WalterFootball.com). Daniels has also auditioned for New Orleans.
Coach Jay Gruden says he wants Washington to draft a developmental quarterback, as Tarik El-Bashir of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes. “You have your starter. You got your quality backup. And you’ve got to have [another] one in the [quarterback meeting] room—whether it’s your third on the active roster or a practice squad guy—that you can develop,” Gruden said last week. Of course, Kirk Cousins will be the team’s starter with Colt McCoy as his primary understudy. However, Gruden would like to add a young QB who can be groomed without an immediate timeline.
The Buccaneers worked out UTSA tight end David Morgan on Tuesday, according to Jenna Laine of Sports Talk 1040 (on Twitter). Morgan also worked out for Philadelphia recently.