Byron Murphy

West Rumors: Seahawks, Broncos, Brock

As he did during minicamp, Bobby Wagner attended Seahawks practice but merely as an observer. Pete Carroll confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson) the Seahawks and their four-time All-Pro linebacker are discussing an extension but did not elaborate on where the sides are in the process. Longtime Wagner linebacker sidekick K.J. Wright believes a deal is imminent, however. Any extension would probably have to make Wagner the highest-paid off-ball linebacker, and while Deion Jones‘ recent Falcons re-up bridged the gap between C.J. Mosley‘s $17MM-AAV pact and the field, the Jets linebacker still makes over $2.5MM per year more than any other traditional ‘backer. Wagner has confirmed he wants to exceed Mosley’s deal, and this may lead to the eighth-year standout continuing his hold-in strategy.

Shifting first to a former Seahawk who took a different contract-seeking approach last year, here is the latest from out west:

  • Earl Thomas skipped all Seahawks activities before making a pre-Week 1 return last year. Now with the Ravens, Thomas said (via ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson, video link) Carroll communicated to him the week of his season-ending injury indicating an interest in working out a long-term deal. The reason Thomas then flipped off Carroll as he was being carted away? The three-time All-Pro did not believe Carroll was being honest with him. He and Carroll have not spoken since. The Seahawks were not linked to a potential Thomas reunion this offseason.
  • John Elway praised Joe Flacco throughout the Broncos‘ offseason program. One of the reasons why Elway targeted him was a belief the Ravens did not surround him with enough talent or a good system, after Gary Kubiak left his OC post to become Broncos HC in 2015, during his latter years in Baltimore. New Denver OC Rich Scangarello‘s system is derived from Kubiak’s. “To me, he hasn’t had a great system and he hasn’t had great people around him,” Elway said, via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala (subscription required). “So he can have success when you have people around him and he’s in the right system, which I think he is because this is the system he’s had success in.” The Broncos, who relied heavily on Emmanuel Sanders and Phillip Lindsay last season before their year-ending injuries, are banking on second-year wideouts Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton making strides in Year 2.
  • While Mike Munchak lost out to Vic Fangio in the pursuit of Denver’s HC job, the Broncos’ offensive line coach has seen his role quickly expand. Munchak now has influence over the Broncos’ passing game and rushing attack, Jhabvala notes. Munchak worked as the Steelers’ O-line coach the past five seasons — each ending with a Pittsburgh top-10 offensive ranking.
  • The Cardinals are focusing Tramaine Brock on a role as a slot cornerback, Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com notes. Brock mostly played outside under Vance Joseph last season, prior to Chris Harris‘ season-ending injury. On the outside, second-round pick Byron Murphy and second-year corner Chris Jones are the top candidates vying to play opposite Robert Alford. This arrangement looks like the plan until Patrick Peterson returns from his six-game suspension.

Cardinals Sign Kyler Murray, Five Other Draft Picks

The Cardinals have signed first overall selection Kyler Murray, the club announced today. Arizona also signed following draft choices:

Like all first-round picks, Murray has signed a four-year deal with a fifth-year option for the 2023 season. Per Over the Cap, Murray’s contract should be worth $33.159MM in total. He’ll receive a signing bonus of roughly $23.59MM, and carry a cap charge of $6.392MM during his rookie campaign. Murray’s contract contains language that will void the deal if he leaves the NFL to pursue his baseball career, tweets Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. 

Murray, of course, spurned MLB’s Oakland Athletics in order to enter the NFL Draft. The Cardinals have since traded 2018 first-round quarterback Josh Rosen to the Dolphins, and intend to install an Air Raid system under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Along with new weapons like rookie wideouts Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler (neither of whom was signed today), the Cardinals will look to improve an offense that ranked among the league’s worst last year.

While Murray is the headliner, Murphy is a name-brand prospect in his own right. Projected by many observers to become the first cornerback off the board, Murphy ultimately lasted until the first pick of the second round. An excellent zone coverage corner, Murphy will fit in well with new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph‘s zone-heavy scheme.

Cardinals Eyeing Byron Murphy

Washington cornerback Byron Murphy is the heavy favorite to be the first pick of the second round on Friday night, provided that Arizona holds on to the pick, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Of course, the top choice in the second round is extremely valuable, so it’s entirely possible that another team will be on the clock at No. 33 overall. 

The Cardinals probably aren’t the only team eyeing Murphy and other top cornerbacks left on the board. Only one cornerback was drafted in the first round on Thursday night, leaving LSU’s Greedy Williams, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, Michigan State’s Justin Layne, Notre Dame’s Julian Love, Central Michigan’s Sean Bunting, and several others up for grabs.

There were plenty of CB holes to be filled heading into the first round, but general uncertainty about this year’s crop may have stalled things, Browns GM John Dorsey says (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter):

If you talk to a lot of people around the league, if you talked about the cornerbacks and how they had the cornerbacks rated, I bet you would have 20 different stackings at the cornerback position this year.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Taylor, Ford, Sweat

Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor met with the Bengals on Tuesday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Taylor, who stands 6’5″ and 328 pounds, certainly has the size requirements favored by new Cincinnati offensive line coach Jim Turner, but it’s unclear if the ex-Gator will be available when the Bengals make their first-round selection at No. 11. Along with Jonah Williams (Alabama), Andre Dillard (Washington State), and Cody Ford (Oklahoma), Taylor is considered one of the best tackle prospects available in the 2019 draft. If selected by the Bengals, Taylor could immediately take over at right tackle, displacing the recently re-signed Bobby Hart, and would be a long-term option to replace Cordy Glenn on the blindside.

Here’s more on the 2019 NFL draft:

  • Speaking of Ford, the Oklahoma offensive lineman has been extremely busy during the pre-draft season. Per Aaron Wilson the Houston Chronicle, Ford has met with and/or worked out for the Patriots, Eagles, Buccaneers, Vikings, Texans, Cardinals, and Falcons. That’s in addition to his previously-reported stops with the Bengals and Panthers. Ford was a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2018 and helped Oklahoma win the Joe Moore Award, given to the country’s best offensive line. A left guard in both 2016 and 2017, Ford shifted to right tackle for the 2018 campaign.
  • The Texans are meeting with Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat on Wednesday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Sweat is considered of the best defensive ends in the draft (especially after blowing up the combine), so Houston would likely need to trade up from No. 23 overall in order to land him. After starting his collegiate career at Michigan State, Sweat spent two years with the Bulldogs, racking up 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss during that time.
  • Washington cornerback Byron Murphy has met with the Panthers, Chiefs, and Cardinals in addition to his visit with the Steelers, tweets Wilson. In 2018, Murphy earned a spot on the first-team All-Pac-12 list after putting up 37 tackles, four interceptions, and 13 interceptions. Regarded as a first-round pick by most observers, Murphy is the No. 6 overall player on Pro Football Focus’ draft board after allowing only a 47.7% completion percentage against and forcing 17 incompletions.
  • The Rams hosted Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram on Tuesday, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Abram, who has also met with the Cowboys and Cardinals, is part of a closely-clustered safety class that could start coming off the board at the end of the first round. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, notably, ranks Abram as the No. 1 safety prospect of 2019. Arbam posted two interceptions, three sacks, and nine tackles for loss last year.

Draft Notes: Steelers, Raiders, Eagles

The Steelers could be eyeing a cornerback with one of their top-two picks. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports (via Twitter) that the team will be hosting a pair defensive back prospects this week: Georgia’s Deandre Baker and Washington’s Byron Murphy.

Along with Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin and LSU’s Greedy Williams, both Baker and Murphy are expected to be taken at some point during the first two rounds. Baker won the Jim Thorpe Award for best collegiate cornerback in 2018 after he compiled 31 tackles, two sacks, nine passes defended, and a pair of interceptions in 12 games. Murphy earned a spot on the first-team All-Pac-12 list after putting up 37 tackles, four picks, and 13 interceptions.

As Fowler points out, this isn’t necessarily an ideal scenario for the Steelers. After all, the organization selected five cornerbacks between the 2015 and 2017 draft. Furthermore, their projected starters (Joe Haden and Steven Nelson) were both acquired via free agency.

Let’s check out some more draft notes from around the NFL…

  • Michigan linebacker Devin Bush is set to visit with the Raiders, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com (via Twitter). The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is a surefire first-rounder after putting up 85 tackles, 10 sacks, and 18.5 tackles for loss over the past two years. It’s unlikely Bush will be selected with the Raiders’ fourth-overall selection, but they could target him with either the 24th or 27th pick.
  • Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary visited with the Bengals today and will visit the Giants later this week, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). Gary is a consensus top-10 pick, and he could fall right into the Giants lap at No. 6. The Bengals currently have the 11th-overall pick, although we heard that the team could be interested in moving up. The lineman earned first-team All-Big 10 honors the past two seasons, and he finished his junior campaign with 3.5 sacks.
  • The Eagles hosted a pair of prospects today, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter). Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Ohio State wideout Parris Campbell both visited Denver. Oliver is generally expected to be selected in the first half of the first round, so it’s unlikely he’ll be around for the Eagles’ 25th-overall pick. On the flip side, Campbell should be readily available, although Philly should also have a chance on him with either of their second-rounders.