Christian Hackenberg

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Ealy, Eagles

The Cowboys are pondering a position change for free agent addition Kony Ealy, Clarence Hill Jr. of the Star-Telegram tweets. Ealy has not impressed at defensive end this summer, so he’ll get a longer look at defensive tackle.

Starting defensive tackle David Irving will serve a four-game ban to start the season and Maliek Collins‘ status is up in the air thanks to a foot injury, so Ealy could carve out a role for himself in the middle. The veteran was initially expected to fill Benson Mayowa‘s role as the team’s third defensive end, but Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper, fourth-round pick Dorance Armstrong, and the returning Randy Gregory may be ahead of him on the depth chart at this point.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

Eagles To Sign QB Christian Hackenberg

The Eagles have agreed to sign free agent quarterback Christian Hackenberg, a source tells Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Philadelphia has since announced the move as a one-year deal and added that it’s waived/injured center Ian Park.

Philadelphia, of course, is moving starting quarterback Carson Wentz along slowly as he recovers from a torn ACL, while backup and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is dealing with a minor neck injury that kept him out of practice for several days. But the Eagles are reportedly high on third-stringer Nate Sudfeld, and also have Joe Callahan on their roster, so practice reps might be limited for Hackenberg.

The signing of Hackenberg does not reflect on either Wentz or Foles’ injuries, per Pelissero, who adds the Eagles simply are taking a chance to develop a still youthful quarterback, one who comes with second-round pedigree. With Wentz likely to sit out the entirety of the preseason, Hackenberg could conceivably see snaps as the exhibition season draws to a close.

The Jets selected Hackenberg with the 51st overall pick in the 2016 draft, but he never saw the field during two regular season campaigns. New York traded the now-23-year-old to the Raiders in May (adding a 2019 seventh-round pick that contained conditions that were not met), but Hackenberg lasted less than month on Oakland’s roster. He subsequently met with the Patriots, but hadn’t yet landed a new contract with any club.

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AFC East Notes: Patriots, Gronk, Bills, Jets

Given what Rob Gronkowski brings to the field, he could make a legitimate case that he has transcended the tight end position and should be compared to game’s best pass catchers, CBSSports.com’s Joel Corry writes. A deal like that is out of the question given that Antonio Brown paces wide receivers with a $17MM/year deal, but it’s still food for thought as Gronk pushes for a revised contract.

Right now, Jimmy Graham is the league’s only $10MM/year tight end and Gronkowski can certainly make a case to earn more than him. And, if Gronk wants to weigh himself against wide receivers, his camp can point to the top of the second tier of the WR market which is in the $13MM/range with roughly $25-$30MM in guarantees.

Of course, the Pats still hold the cards as remains under contract through 2019 with base salaries of $8MM and $9MM in each of the next two seasons. Unless Gronk wants to start up the retirement talk again, or try to force his way out via trade, it seems unlikely that his next contract will be in line with the T.Y. Hiltons of the world.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson has gotten the sense that he could be traded this year if he does not step his game up. “Shoot, I’ve been on the trading block I feel like,” Lawson said (via Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic). “I’ve just been seeing it. Yeah, it’s been a wake-up call. I’ve been hearing trade rumors and then I kind of realized, ‘I’m a first-round pick, third-year now. It’s time to wake up.’ I know I’m a good player. I just have to put it all together and be not just a talented player but a talented player who works hard and works on his craft and skill all together.” Lawson probably has good reason to worry about his security in Buffalo. This offseason, the Bills signed Trent Murphy, who will likely squeeze him out of the starting lineup when he and Jerry Hughes are healthy. Meanwhile, the Bills have already shipped out a number of players from the Doug Whaley era, including Marcell DareusSammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, Reggie Ragland, and Cardale Jones.
  • The CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos have added former Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg to their negotiating list, according to Justin Dunk of 3DownNation.com. It’s unclear whether the former second-round pick is willing to play in Canada, but it’s also unclear as to whether he’ll get another NFL opportunity this year. The Raiders released Hackenberg shortly after acquiring him from the Jets and a recent visit with the Patriots did not result in a deal.

Extra Points: Hackenberg, Cardinals, Colts

Some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • Raiders coach Jon Gruden has never been a fan of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and he attribute quarterback Christian Hackenberg‘s recent release to the CBA’s limitations. “Everybody is an expert out there on Hackenberg and thinks he can’t play,” Gruden said (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “It’s unfortunate, this whole collective [bargaining agreement]. How do you develop a quarterback? I don’t know how you do it. … It is hard enough to get Connor Cook enough reps, let alone a fourth guy. It really depresses me how we can’t spend more time with these young quarterbacks, and it is really going to be an impactful situation on the NFL in the future.” The former second-round pick was released by the Raiders after having been acquired from the Jets several weeks ago.
  • First-round quarterback Josh Rosen is undoubtedly impressing in Cardinals‘ camp, but Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com believes Sam Bradford will still be the team’s starter heading into the season. The veteran has the upper hand when it comes to accuracy and throwing power, and while the team is planning on bringing him along slowly (Bradford suffered another knee injury last season), he’s expected to be atop the depth chart at the start of the season.
  • The Colts are curiously attempting to switch linebacker John Simon to defensive end. As Zak Keefer of IndyStar.com writes, this is an especially questionable move considering the team’s lack of depth at linebacker. So far, no one on the Colts sounds overly optimistic about the switch. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus didn’t give a glowing review of the 27-year-old, acknowledging that Simon lacks the size of a typical defensive end. “What you have to do is use your attributes, your strengths, use your get-off, all those things,” he explained. “He’ll figure it out as we go.”
  • Former Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage has been named the general manager of the Alliance of American Football league’s Phoenix franchise (via SBJ’s Liz Mullen on Twitter). The 53-year-old was also the Browns general manager between 2005 and 2008.

Patriots Meet With Christian Hackenberg

Christian Hackenberg could return to the AFC East. The former Jets quarterback visited with the Patriots on Thursday at Gillette Stadium, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). 

The Patriots have some level of interest in the former second-round pick, but that doesn’t mean they’ll sign him right away. Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter) doesn’t expect Hackenberg to officially join the Pats on Thursday, but he may be an option for New England going forward.

The Jets used the No. 51 overall pick on Hackenberg in 2016, but he did not see a regular season snap with the team in his first two seasons. This year, he was effectively squeezed out of the picture thanks to the re-signing of Josh McCown and the additions of Teddy Bridgewater and No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold. The Jets shipped Hackenberg to the Raiders for a conditional seventh-round pick, but he was released after three weeks in Oakland.

The Patriots do not have a clear need for a quarterback with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and rookie Danny Etling in the fold. However, it may be useful to have a fourth arm in camp this summer and someone like Hackenberg could conceivably push Etling – a seventh-round pick – for the final QB spot on the 53-man roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Release Christian Hackenberg

That was fast. The Raiders have released quarterback Christian Hackenberg just three weeks after acquiring him, according to a team announcement. Linebacker Brady Sheldon has also been cut. With those two out of the picture, the Raiders have formalized the signing of defensive linemen Ahtyba Rubin and Frostee Rucker.

Hackenberg was considered to be an extreme longshot to make the Jets’ final cut following the re-signing of Josh McCown, the free agent addition of Teddy Bridgewater, and the drafting of Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick. The waiving of Bryce Petty gave the former Penn State signal caller some reason for hope, but the Jets saw little need to keep Hackenberg around after Bridgewater took the practice field on Tuesday with no ill effects from his surgically-repaired knee.

In May, the former second-round pick was sent to the Raiders for a conditional seventh-round choice. The Jets will not receive any compensation for the QB now that he has been released.

Despite Jon Gruden‘s affinity for Hackenberg, which dates back to his college days, his odds of making the Raiders’ final cut weren’t much better than they were in New York. The Raiders already have E.J. Manuel and Connor Cook battling for time behind starter Derek Carr. With Hackenberg’s release, it seems likely that those three will be the QBs on the opening day roster, barring another addition.

Per league rules, Hackenberg will be subject to waivers. If no club claims him and his contract within the next 24 hours, he’ll be free to sign with any team of his choosing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bridgewater, Pats, Dareus

Teddy Bridgewater has looked very good in OTAs, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, and if his strong performance continues, the Jets could be faced with a difficult decision. They could trade Bridgewater — which was the plan when they signed him — or they could name him their starting QB for at least the beginning of 2018 while they continue to groom Sam Darnold. Starting Bridgewater would likely mean keeping three quarterbacks on the roster, as the nearly 39-year-old Josh McCown doesn’t really have any trade value. But head coach Todd Bowles, who is coaching for his job this year, will want to start the best quarterback he has, and he is a big believer in Bridgewater.

Let’s take a look at a few more rumors and notes from the AFC:

  • Cimini also details Christian Hackenberg‘s last few months with the Jets before he was shipped to the Raiders. We already knew that Bowles was not aware Hackenberg changed his throwing motion until after the fact, but Hackenberg first approached Jets QB coach Jeremy Bates about making the change, and Bates was skeptical. That caused some friction between the two men, and it forced Hackneberg to go outside the organization to seek help with his mechanics.
  • Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out how Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady continue to (needlessly) fan the flames of controversy that owner Robert Kraft keeps trying to extinguish, and that the apparent tension between Belichick and Brady may be one of the reasons why Brady has not attended spring practices. However, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Brady’s absence has not created as big of a leadership void as one might expect, as younger players are taking a more active role in that regard and veteran players like Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower are back after their 2017 season was marred by injury.
  • The Broncos released C.J. Anderson last month, leaving Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson as the top candidates to become the team’s next No. 1 RB. However, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post says Royce Freeman, whom the team selected in the third round of last month’s draft, has the durability and history of production to suggest he can be an every-down back at the next level, and he will get a chance to make a major impact right away. His heavy collegiate workload could have contributed to his falling to the third round.
  • Marcell Dareus more than wore out his welcome in Buffalo, leading the Bills to ship him to the Jaguars before last year’s trade deadline. Dareus, though, found new life in Jacksonville, and per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Mike Kaye of First Coast News), Dareus continues to be a good soldier for the Jags. Head coach Doug Marrone said, “I’m very happy with the way he’s worked, the way he has come into camp. I think those are things he has done a much better job of than what maybe he had done in the past. I can appreciate that and see that in him.” That is not an insignificant statement, as Dareus’ effort in Buffalo seemed to evaporate after he signed his big-money extension, so perhaps he has matured and will continue to be a solid contributor to Jacksonville’s talented defensive front. Marrone, of course, was also Dareus’ coach in Buffalo during Dareus’ best two seasons to date (2013-14), so he has a pretty good reference point.

East Rumors: Kendricks, Jets, Patriots

The long-rumored Mychal Kendricks/Eagles divorce will officially be classified as a post-June 1 cut, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The defending Super Bowl champions will see a $6MM cap spike on June 2 instead of seeing $4.4MM in savings by eschewing the post-June 1 cut category. That will help a franchise that, as of Tuesday night, holds barely $300K in cap space. As for why Kendricks was finally axed after years of being the subject of trade rumors, the defender’s standing as the No. 3 linebacker on a team that spends most of its time in sub-packages was not a status he preferred, per Zach Berman of Philly.com (on Twitter). Former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, indicating he spoke with Kendricks on Tuesday, confirmed as much (via Twitter).

During Chip Kelly‘s year running football operations, the Eagles signed Kendricks to a four-year, $29MM extension that ran through the 2019 season. But Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the latter being recently re-signed for $40MM over five years, reside as Philly’s top-two linebackers under optimal circumstances. Kendricks played a key role in the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title, stepping in alongside Bradham after Hicks went down, but the previous status quo is now back in place. And Kendricks should be a coveted commodity on the market.

Here’s the latest on Tuesday’s other big transaction, as well as more from some eastern-based franchises.

  • The Jets tried to trade Christian Hackenberg during the draft, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reports. This began after Sam Darnold went to the Jets at No. 3, per Cimini, but judging by the terms of Tuesday’s trade, no strong interest came New York’s way for its 2016 second-round pick. “We had one too many (quarterbacks) to get all of them reps,” Todd Bowles said Tuesday. “We just want to go with the three quarterbacks we have and let these guys battle it out. … I like the talent (Hackenberg) had. Obviously, it didn’t cultivate here. Sometimes it takes a team or two or three to find your spot.” After cutting Bryce Petty and trading Hackenberg, Gang Green’s quarterback setup is clear now. Darnold, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater will likely be the team’s three passers heading into training camp. However, as Calvin Watkins of Newsday notes (on Twitter), Bowles aid the Jets are open to adding another quarterback. This could be contingent on Bridgewater’s health.
  • Despite these circumstances centering around one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Bill Belichick still opted for a time-honored cliche. Asked if he’s spoken to Tom Brady, the 19th-year Patriots coach said via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter), “I’m not going to talk about the people that aren’t hereThe guys who are here are improving, they’re working hard. Those are the guys we’re going to focus on.” Brady remains absent from OTAs, and the 19th-year quarterback is rumored to want a revised contract. With Josh McDaniels spurning the Colts and remaining in place as OC, New England’s system likely will not change much, lessening the impact of Brady missing these voluntary workouts.
  • Recent Hall of Fame inductee Brian Dawkins will step down from his role in the Eagles front office, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. The former Eagles safety will stay on as a part-time consultant.

Latest On Christian Hackenberg Trade

Christian Hackenberg‘s final days as a Jet were rather interesting. After the team added Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater, essentially admitting a second-round misfire, it was revealed Hackenberg worked with an independent passing coach and changed his throwing motion. And he did so unbeknownst to Todd Bowles.

Earlier on Tuesday, when he was still a Jet, the third-year quarterback pointed to a lack of consistent instruction from the team’s coaching staff as a sign of frustration.

I don’t know,” Hackenberg said (via Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News) when asked why he overhauled his passing motion this offseason. “I think there were some times where I threw it really good throughout my first two years here, so that was the frustrating part for me, is the ups and downs and not knowing why, if that makes sense, and not really getting any information from anybody on how to fix that and how do address it.”

Hours after those comments, the Jets made the deal with the Raiders. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) this move did not come as a result of those comments. The Jets held Hackenberg out of Tuesday’s seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills because they’d worked out a deal with the Raiders earlier today, Darryl Slater of NJ.com reports.

We did everything we could to try to help him as best we could,” the fourth-year HC said, via Slater. “He’s allowed to be critical. We suggested things, and we try to fix every player possible that we have. It just didn’t work out here.”

While the timing is interesting, this move also comes after Bridgewater participated fully in an OTA workout for the first time since 2016. That shouldn’t be viewed as a sign the former first-round pick has put his severe knee injury completely behind him, but it’s a positive development. And if Bridgewater is healthy during training camp, there wouldn’t be room for Hackenberg on Gang Green’s roster.

Rapoport adds the Raiders will not immediately release one of their quarterbacks to accommodate Hackenberg, who still has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game. Oakland still has Connor Cook and EJ Manuel behind Derek Carr. Manuel played ahead of Cook last season and was summoned into duty when Carr went down early in the season. Cook, however, played as a rookie when both the players ahead of him suffered injuries. There won’t be room for all three of these backups on Oakland’s 53-man roster, though. And Jon Gruden did not make the decisions to acquire Cook or Manuel, perhaps giving Hackenberg a good chance of usurping one of them this summer.

Additionally, the trade involves a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019, per Rapoport, and the compensation is tied to Hackenberg’s playing time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Trade Christian Hackenberg To Raiders

Christian Hackenberg is headed to the opposite coast. The Jets have traded the quarterback to the Raiders for a conditional seventh-round pick, coach Todd Bowles announced. 

Hackenberg was considered to be an extreme longshot to make the Jets’ final cut following the re-signing of Josh McCown, the free agent addition of Teddy Bridgewater, and the drafting of Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick. The waiving of Bryce Petty gave the former Penn State signal caller some reason for hope, but the Jets probably saw little need to keep Hackenberg around after Bridgewater took the practice field on Tuesday with no ill effects from his surgically-repaired knee.

Hackenberg, the No. 51 overall pick in the 2016 draft, has yet to throw an NFL pass. In an effort to get his career on track, Hackenberg recently revamped his throwing motion – without first consulting Jets coaches.

“[Hackenberg] hasn’t talked to me about it,” Bowles said earlier this month. “He’s just worked on it and I learned about it after the fact.” 

Hackenberg’s odds of making the Raiders’ final cut are stronger than they were in New York, but it’s far from a guarantee that he’ll be in Oakland come September. The Raiders already have EJ Manuel and Connor Cook battling for time behind starter Derek Carr.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.