Signs are pointing toward Case Keenum piloting the Redskins’ offense when the season begins. With Dwayne Haskins still in developmental mode, Colt McCoy‘s injury setback will point Keenum toward taking a fourth team’s snaps in four years.
Listed as the Redskins’ starter on their first depth chart this year, McCoy missed the team’s second preseason game and now is without a firm return timetable. Jay Gruden acknowledged (via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter) Sunday his longtime backup may miss multiple games this season. At the very least, it appears McCoy is a ways away from coming back.
The broken leg he suffered took most of the offseason to surmount, and McCoy has yet to completely clear the final hurdles of this journey. McCoy visited foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson recently about his right leg, with John Keim of ESPN.com tweeting the issue continues to be McCoy’s inability to push off of that foot without pain. Gruden said he will not put the veteran passer back out there until he is absolutely ready.
Keenum took the Week 1 snaps for the 2016 Rams and 2018 Broncos and played most of the way for the 2017 Vikings in what was easily his most successful season. McCoy has been with the Redskins since Robert Griffin III was ahead of Kirk Cousins on the depth chart. The former Texas standout received one start last season, following Alex Smith‘s injury, but broke his leg during that game. One season, at $3MM, remains on McCoy’s contract.
As other teams continue to finalize pivotal extensions, work remains for the Cowboys on this front. Contract talks are ongoing for Dallas’ standout trio — Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper — entering the team’s first preseason game, and ESPN.com’s Todd Archer notes none of these contracts is particularly close to being done. Nevertheless, Jerry Jones remains confident.
“You just know like so many things it’ll happen. It’ll happen,” Jones said of the extensions. “There literally is no concern on my part at all about any timeframe. That’ll happen. The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys. Think about it a minute. The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys. That always happens when it’s good for both (sides).”
Going from the Cowboys’ off-field matters to some of their rivals’ on-field setups, here is the NFC East’s latest:
Although Colt McCoy spent the offseason rehabbing a broken leg, he emerged as the Redskins‘ starting quarterback on their first depth chart. It is not certain he will take the snaps in Week 1, but J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington indicates camp work thus far has revealed this competition has become a two-man battle between McCoy and Case Keenum. It should be expected Dwayne Haskins takes over at some point this season, but Finlay notes the first-round pick has not looked ready yet. Haskins sits as Washington’s QB3 on the first depth chart.
Despite Dexter Lawrence tipping the scales north of 340 pounds, the Giants are playing him as a five-technique defensive end, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com notes. This will accommodate the 318-pound Dalvin Tomlinson, who moved from end to tackle after Damon Harrison was traded midseason. Tomlinson is indeed operating as Big Blue’s first-string nose. Lawrence played the nose spot at Clemson but has impressed the Giants with his pass-rushing ability this offseason. The mammoth defensive lineman registered 1.5 sacks last season but collected 6.5 as a freshman in 2016. Either way, New York will boast a physically imposing defensive front.
Darius Slayton‘s encouraging offseason has not yet translated to camp, with the rookie wide receiver joining some higher-profile Giants wideouts in being unavailable. Slayton has missed 10 consecutive practices because of a hamstring injury, Dunleavy notes. For the non-Giants-following sect, Sterling Shepard broke his thumb, Corey Coleman tore his ACL and Golden Tate received a four-game suspension since camp began.
While this offseason did not bring quite the same level of quarterback movement 2018’s did, a handful of teams will deploy new starters. Draft choices, trade acquisitions and free agent signings will be given the keys to offenses that struggled last season.
The Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Redskins made moves to fortify their quarterback jobs. Which team’s investment will work out best?
Denver will use a different starting quarterback for the third straight year. Joe Flacco is set to be the Broncos’ fourth starter since Peyton Manning‘s retirement. While his QBR figure (58.7) was better than any the former Ravens starter had posted since a quality 2014 season, Flacco still ranked 20th in that metric last season. Having never made a Pro Bowl and fresh off back-to-back years featuring injury trouble, with a back problem limiting him during the 2017 offseason and a hip injury beginning the Lamar Jackson era, the 34-year-old starter will try to revive his career in Denver. Flacco, though, is the most accomplished quarterback the Broncos have employed since Manning.
The other surefire veteran starter acquired this year, Foles will have his first chance to be a team’s unquestioned first-stringer since 2015. The 30-year-old flourished in his second Philadelphia stint, submitting an all-time postseason run in 2017 and helping the Eagles back to the playoffs last season. A 2013 Pro Bowler, Foles will take over a Jaguars team that does not possess the kind of aerial weaponry recent Eagles rosters did. Jacksonville is in line to have Marqise Lee back from a torn ACL, but the team’s wideouts and tight ends will place additional emphasis on Foles living up to his contract. With the Rams in 2015, Foles threw seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions before being benched.
Kyler Murray represents the other locked-in starter added this offseason. The electric one-year Oklahoma starter accomplished about as much as a college passer can in a single season, turning in Division I-FBS’ second-ever 4,000-1,000 season en route to Heisman Trophy honors. Working with Kliff Kingsbury, Larry Fitzgerald and a host of young wide receivers, Murray is the centerpiece of one of the most daring experiments an NFL team has attempted.
The Cardinals turned the keys over to a sub-.500 college coach and a 5-foot-10 signal-caller — the first sub-6-foot passer to be chosen in Round 1. Arizona trotted out the league’s worst scoring and total offense last season, however, and sported a skeleton-crew offensive line by year’s end. The Cards added new starters Marcus Gilbert and J.R. Sweezy up front. Due to the lack of precedent behind this move, it is hard to tell how Murray will fare. But the unique talent has opened as Las Vegas’ offensive rookie of the year favorite.
Washington and Miami have not committed to a starting quarterback yet, but it is fairly safe to project Dwayne Haskins and Josh Rosen will see extensive time. While Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick could log starts, with the latter possibly even on track to do so, the Redskins have liked what their first-round pick has done so far and the Dolphins will need to see Rosen in games to help determine if they will consider a first-round QB in 2020. On the heels of a 50-touchdown pass season, the Ohio State product sits second in offensive rookie of the year odds. Although only eight passers have won this award since 1957, seven such instances have occurred since 2004.
Both Daniel Jones and Drew Lock could factor into their respective teams’ mixes later in the season. Of the 13 first-round QBs taken over the past four years, only Patrick Mahomes and Paxton Lynch were not promoted to the starting role as rookies. (Though, Eli Manning is not your typical stopgap.) Lock was projected by most as a first-rounder, and Flacco ceded his role to the No. 32 overall pick last year. So the 12th-year veteran’s grip on Denver’s job should be considered tenuous.
Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
Jay Gruden studied this year’s quarterback class extensively, watching every throw each of the high- and mid-tier prospects made. The sixth-year Redskins coach said he did more work on this year’s QB class than he had in any draft since 2011, when the Bengals, Gruden’s employer at the time, selected Andy Dalton. In addition to Dwayne Haskins‘ arm strength, Gruden said the one-year Ohio State starter’s presence reminded him of Cam Newton.
“They’re all pretty confident kids, bright-eyed. I was impressed with the entire class,” Gruden said, via Albert Breer of SI.com. “But (Haskins) has a demeanor and aura about him, kind of similar to Cam Newton coming out, just an aura of confidence. There’s something about him. When you’re around him, you feel like he’s got it, everything’s going to be OK — that he’s going to be successful, because he believes it.”
Haskins and Case Keenum will split the Redskins’ first-team reps, with Colt McCoy still out because of his fractured fibula injury. However, McCoy is expected to participate partially in Washington’s minicamp and be ready for training camp, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). While Gruden said Haskins is no lock to play this year, nearly every recent first-round passer chosen becoming a first-season starter points to the newcomer taking the reins early.
Here is the latest from the NFC East, shifting to news out of Dallas:
The Cowboys will not have Taco Charlton in action for a bit. The former first-round pick underwent ankle surgery recently, Calvin Watkins of The Athletic tweets. While Watkins describes this as a minor procedure, Charlton will likely miss Dallas’ offseason activities. He is expected to be ready for camp. This marks the second operation Charlton has undergone this offseason. Shortly after the Cowboys’ 2018 season concluded, the 24-year-old defensive end had shoulder surgery.
One of Charlton’s defensive line mates may have to face the prospect of missing regular-season time. Tyrone Crawford was popped with a misdemeanor charge of unlawful assembly related to the March incident at a Florida bar, Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com writes. An affidavit indicates Crawford, after being removed from the bar, threw punches at multiple security officers and hit at least one of them. This seems likely to produce a suspension for the veteran defensive lineman.
Cowboys seventh-round running back Mike Weber injured his knee over the weekend, but it appears he avoided a serious setback. Weber went through an MRI but was back on the practice field Sunday, per Breer. Weber is expected to compete for time behind Ezekiel Elliott and fourth-round pick Tony Pollard, with Weber profiling as more of a traditional back compared to the versatile Pollard. The Cowboys lost previous Elliott backup Rod Smith to the Giants in free agency.
Mike Remmers will not have a free pass to the Giants’ starting lineup. Offensive line coach Hal Hunter named incumbent Chad Wheeler the first-string right tackle last week, but that was before Remmers was signed. “It is up to (Wheeler) to hold that position,” Hunter said, via Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. “It is up to everyone else to beat him out.” Remmers’ contract (one year, $2.5MM), history (64 starts) and connections to Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur would point to him having the upper hand. Wheeler took over for Ereck Flowers early last season and graded as Pro Football Focus’ third-worst full-time tackle. The Giants were connected to multiple free agent right tackles this offseason.
The Redskins’ starting quarterback race is wide open at the moment, but as John Keim of ESPN.com writes, 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins is already making his case for the job.
Haskins has impressed after two days of rookie minicamp, and head coach Jay Gruden said of the Ohio State product, “[i]t’s been a treat. He’s made some throws that turn your head without a doubt.”
Of course, Haskins still has a long way to go, and two days of rookie minicamp will not make or break his future with Washington. But as the No. 15 overall pick, he will certainly be given ample opportunity to start right away, and his performance thus far has been promising.
The Redskins’ OTAs and mandatory minicamp will be critical in clarifying the team’s quarterback situation, because Gruden does not like to have a three-man competition in training camp. He believes, understandably, that it is too difficult to divide meaningful repetitions between three players, so the pressure is on Haskins and veterans CaseKeenum and Colt McCoy over the coming weeks.
Given that Haskins has a lot of basics to master — like his footwork and dropping back from under center, which he did not do in college — Keenum and McCoy may have a leg up for the time being, especially since Gruden’s job security is tenuous at best and he needs to win games in 2019 to keep his post. But Haskins obviously has the highest upside of any of the three competitors, and the Redskins expect him to develop quickly.
Gruden said, “The most important thing in the next couple weeks is, let’s see how far we can push [Haskins]. Let’s see if there is a chance he can win the job. If we feel like he’s coming along slower, then we have to maybe push Case or push Colt. But if we feel like [Haskins] is coming along and he’s firing and he’s comfortable, then we’ll play it out and see what happens.”
Gruden sounds like a man who wants his rookie signal-caller to seize the opportunity and run with it, and Haskins is up for the challenge. He said, “I’ll be ready for whatever the coaches want from me, whether that’s starting right away or next year or through the season. I’ll prepare like I’m the starter.”
March 24th, 2019 at 10:39pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Count Giants owner John Mara among those who never thought the team would trade Odell Beckham Jr. Speaking today from the owner’s meetings, Mara said “he never thought they’d trade Odell right up until the final day,” according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY (Twitter link). Mara also said he finally gave his “reluctant approval” for the deal, Vacchiano wrote in a separate tweet.
In additional comments made to reporters, Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch emphasized over and over how difficult of a decision it was to ship Beckham to the Browns. Mara also said whether or not the trade proves to be a success will be determined by the front office making “the right decisions” with the draft picks the Giants got from Cleveland.
Here’s more from around the league:
The Redskins traded for Case Keenum, but so far they’ve insisted that Keenum will have to compete for Washington’s quarterback job with Colt McCoy, and potentially with a rookie. Alex Smith is all but certain to miss the entire 2019 season. McCoy is, like Smith, recovering from a leg injury. McCoy recently underwent a second surgery on his leg, but is expected to be ready for the Redskins’ offseason program, according to Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic (Twitter link). It remains to be seen if McCoy will actually seriously push Keenum for the job, but he’ll at least be healthy enough to put up a fight.
The Broncos let center Matt Paradis walk in free agency, and they apparently attempted to make a big splash to replace him. Denver tried to sign center Mitch Morse before he signed with Buffalo, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9News. The Bills made Morse the highest-paid center in the league, which priced him out of the Broncos’ range, Klis writes. The Broncos now have major questions on the interior of their offensive line, and Klis expects them to make a move to address them soon.
There’s been a lot of talk about a potential work stoppage the next time the CBA expires, with players expected to make major demands that the owners might not be willing to meet. In the run up to those negotiations, there are apparently major tensions between the NFLPA and NFL agents, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. A group of players and agents had a meeting last week, and multiple sources told Florio “it did not go well.” In a separate post, Florio posted the full memo he obtained about what happened in the meeting. Florio writes that the discord between the two camps “will be music to the ears” of the owners, who would like to see their opponents as divided as possible.
The Antonio Brown era with the Bills didn’t last long. Shortly after it was reported that Brown was headed to Buffalo, the report turned out not to be true. It was acknowledged by all parties that there were talks between the Steelers and Bills but we didn’t know many details of what exactly happened, until now. Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News came out with a story that delved into what happened, and talks apparently broke down because of Brown’s contract. Bills brass was going back and forth with Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus, and “discussed a potential renegotiation of the receiver’s contract,” according to Carucci.
Carucci noted that the more new money the Bills gave Brown, the less compensation they were willing to give the Steelers in a trade and vice versa. Carucci shot down reports that Brown was mortally opposed to playing in Buffalo, writing that the Bills were confident that “if they met his financial demand and were able to make the trade, Brown would have happily joined them.” In the end, renegotiating Brown’s contract proved too difficult and is what ultimately led to the breakdown in talks.
Here’s more from around the league:
Speaking of Brown, the Bills weren’t the only team to withdraw over Brown’s contract. Another team pursuing Brown walked away because “it was communicated to them” that Brown wanted a new contract that would make him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL with any new team, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. It was previously thought that the Steelers’ demands for a first round pick might’ve been delaying this process, but it sounds like Brown’s contract is the biggest hurdle at the moment.
While Brown still hasn’t been traded, Case Keenum has. Keenum was dealt to the Redskins yesterday in a surprising trade, and fans weren’t the only ones caught off guard by the move. Keenum apparently didn’t know it was coming either, and neither he nor his camp were involved in finding Washington as a landing spot, according to Ryan O’Halloran of The Denver Post (Twitter link). Alex Smith is very likely to miss at least the entire 2019 season, and as of right now Keenum is likely to be the team’s starting quarterback next season.
49ers punter Bradley Pinion “has been telling those around him that he does not expect to be back” next year, Matt Barrows of The Athletic hears. Barrows points out that Pinion ranked 24th in net average and had 22 punts inside of the 20-yard line, putting him somewhere in the middle of the pack. He also handled kickoffs, so the Niners will have to find someone new to cover both roles assuming they move on. Pinion was a fifth round pick of San Francisco back in 2015, and is about to enter unrestricted free agency.
Broncos offensive tackle Billy Turner had been discussing an extension with the team, but those talks have “broken off”, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport writes that Turner will now hit the open market, and that the Broncos will now be a “prime” candidate to sign a right tackle in free agency. Turner started 11 games for the Broncos last season, earning average marks from Pro Football Focus.
Case Keenum is be D.C.-bound. On Thursday, the Redskins and Broncos hammered out a trade to send the quarterback to Washington, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
The trade will send Keenum and a Broncos 2020 seventh-round pick to D.C. in exchange for a 2020 sixth-round pick, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Keenum has agreed to rework his contract in order to facilitate the deal.
Keenum had the opportunity to earn $21MM in ’19 under the terms of his old contract, but the revised pact will give him $7.5MM in total. The Broncos will pay Keenum a $500K restructure bonus and contribute $3.5MM towards Keenum’s $7MM salary. Meanwhile, Washington will pay their $3.5MM half of the tab. Ultimately, the Broncos saved themselves a few million and the Redskins found an inexpensive veteran to compete with Colt McCoy for the starting gig.
With the Redskins, Keenum may have an opportunity to take over for Alex Smith, who is fighting his way back from a gruesome leg injury. He’s not long removed from leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game during a 2017 season in which he ranked second in Total QBR, seventh in adjusted net yards per attempt (the passing metric most correlated with winning), fifth in interception percentage, and seventh in sack percentage.
On the flipside, Keenum’s 2018 marks tell a different story. Among 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Keenum finished 30th in Total QBR, 28th in ANY/A, 21st in interception percentage, and 11th in sack percentage. A year after ranking first in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA (meaning he was extremely effective on a per-play basis), Keenum fell all the way to 29th in 2018.
With the No. 15 pick in the draft, the Redskins are unlikely to land either Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins, so a short-term solution such as Keenum might make the most sense for them. There’s also the free agent market to consider, but Smith’s $20.4MM cap hit could be prohibitive in the pursuit of someone like Nick Foles.
Although the Broncos agreed to acquire Joe Flacco, they will still be linked to this year’s top rookie quarterbacks — as they were last year. If Kyler Murray is available at No. 10, they may serve as a spot for teams looking to trade up. John Elway does not appear to believe the shorter passer would be a fit for an offense that will use plenty of under-center looks under new OC Rich Scangarello, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). The Broncos passed on Josh Allen and Josh Rosen last year and have been connected to Drew Lock. If Denver sticks at No. 10 and chooses a non-quarterback, the team will have had back-to-back top-10 picks without addressing its long-term QB need with one of them. The 2020 draft is expected to have high-profile passers, but it’s obviously no lock the Broncos will be in position to draft or trade up for one.
Here is the latest from Denver (via Indianapolis):
Despite the Flacco deal, Elway’s preference is to keep Case Keenum. It would take a restructured deal, though, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. Keenum is attached an untenable $21MM cap number. With Flacco set to bring an $18.5MM figure to Denver, it is hard to see Keenum staying due to the pay cut it would require. The 30-year-old incumbent has not requested a trade, Elway said (per the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, on Twitter), adding the Broncos would allow him to seek one.
Matt Paradis probably looms as the Broncos’ top free agent priority. Elway has spoken with the Broncos’ center of the past four years and informed him they would like him back, Jhabvala tweets. But Paradis’ injury and price point will be a factor. The 29-year-old snapper has been expected to reach free agency, where a new market-setting deal may well await him — considering teams’ need for higher-end linemen. However, multiple executives predicted (via O’Halloran, Twitter link) Paradis will end up back in Denver on a one-year deal because of the broken fibula that ended his season last November.
The Broncos’ need for a cornerback is as great as it has been in five years, and Elway acknowledged (via Klis, on Twitter) the team needs to find a No. 2 corner to team with All-Pro Chris Harris. This would seem to point to Bradley Roby departing, which has been the expectation. Vic Fangio said (via Jhabvala) the Broncos will let Roby test free agency, a good sign he will not be back in 2019.
As for Harris, Elway said the team has not considered an extension yet and whether or not the Broncos do go in this direction will depend on their free agency period, per Troy Renck of Denver7 (on Twitter). However, Renck added earlier (Twitter link) the expectation is the Broncos will meet with Harris’ agent at the Combine. The 29-year-old corner has been one of Denver’s cornerstone players this decade, and with Roby likely to leave and Aqib Talib having been traded, Harris represents the Broncos’ only surefire option at corner. Denver is also set to let Tramaine Brock walk.
On its offensive line, Denver will bring back Ronald Leary, Elway confirmed (via Jhabvala, on Twitter). Leary has more than $5MM in injury guarantees due if he cannot pass a physical by March 17. It’s been previously reported the veteran guard will be unable to pass said physical by then. Leary has seen both of his Denver seasons end early because of injury. Also on the Broncos’ O-line: Elway said (per Renck, on Twitter) the team would like to re-sign right tackle starter Jared Veldheer and utility blocker Billy Turner. If Veldheer departs, the Broncos would have a sixth Week 1 right tackle starter in six years.
The Broncos will likely struggle to find a rival team willing to trade for Keenum, not only because of his lackluster 2018 campaign, but because of his contract. Keenum is due an $18MM base salary in 2019, and $7MM of that total is fully guaranteed. It seems incredibly unlikely that another club would be willing to lock itself into those figures, so unless Denver first restructures Keenum’s contact (potentially by converting some of his base salary guarantees into a bonus that the Broncos would pay), he’s likely to hit the free agent market.
If he does end up leaving the Broncos, would Keenum offer appeal as a starter? He’s only one season removed from leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game during a 2017 season in which he ranked second in Total QBR, seventh in adjusted net yards per attempt (the passing metric most correlated with winning), fifth in interception percentage, and seventh in sack percentage.
But Keenum’s 2018 ranks in those same statistics tell a different story. Among 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Keenum finished 30th in Total QBR, 28th in ANY/A, 21st in interception percentage, and 11th in sack percentage. A year after ranking first in Football Outsiders‘ DVOA (meaning he was extremely effective on a per-play basis), Keenum fell all the way to 29th in 2018.
So, do you think Keenum will open the season as a starter next season? Vote below (link for app users), and then keep reading — and voting — as we examine a few potential destinations for the 30-year-old signal-caller:
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Keenum will be a starting quarterback in 2019 — nearly every club would be interested in signing Keeum as a backup passer, so let’s only look at landing spots where Keenum could become a starter. Where are his most likely havens?
Jacksonville Jaguars: Although the Jaguars have Blake Bortles under contract for the next two seasons and will incur a massive dead money hit if they release him, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine Jacksonville entering the 2019 campaign with Bortles still on its roster (let alone as the team’s starting quarterback). Nick Foles could be the Jags’ preferred choice under center, especially now that they’ve hired former Eagles QBs coachJohn DeFilippo as offensive coordinator, but Keenum would present a cheaper option.
Miami Dolphins: Miami isn’t expected to retain Ryan Tannehill, and — like Denver with Keenum — will explore a trade of Tannehill before cutting him. Under new head coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins aren’t expecting to be competitive any time soon, and are loosely embracing a “tanking” strategy, at least in 2019. Still, Miami needs to put someone under center, and Keenum could offer the club competency at a reasonable rate.
Washington Redskins: If, as recent reports have indicated, Alex Smith is going to miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from a gruesome leg injury, Washington will need a new quarterback. The only problem? Smith will count for $20.4MM on the Redskins’ salary cap next year, and there’s no way for the club to reduce that figure save for a restructure that would only tie Smith to Washington’s roster for a longer period. Therefore, Keenum might be enticing given that he is only likely to command a modest salary on a short-term contract.
What do you think? Does one of these destinations make sense? Or could an unlisted team have interest in Keenum? Vote below (link for app users), and your thoughts in the comment section: