Connor Williams

Cowboys LG Connor Williams To Undergo Surgery

Cowboys starting left guard, Connor Williams, will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. The injury is not expected to result in his placement on injured reserve and he could be back in as soon as a few weeks. Xavier Su’a-Filo is expected to play left guard in his absence.

Dallas’ recent run of success has been guided by a strong investment in the team’s offensive line. The organization continued the trend last year, selecting Williams in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Texas. Williams almost immediately slotted into the Cowboys starting lineup and fit in along one of the strongest units in the league.

Su’a-Filo was a second round pick of his own back in 2014 by the Texans, but has not developed into the player many thought he would. While he received ample playing time in Houston, his struggles in pass protection ultimately led them to move on from him at the end of the 2017 season. He has since served as a primary backup in Dallas.

The Cowboys are currently tied atop the NFC East with the Eagles, making the coming weeks games very important for their playoff hopes.

Extra Points: Collins, Peppers, Raiders

Dealing with several young talents’ contract situations, the Cowboys certainly may have to let a couple of their contract-year starters walk. One of those the team may be ready to stomach departing: La’el Collins. Dallas’ starting right tackle is already on his second NFL contract, and it expires after the season. The Cowboys are expected to let Collins depart after 2019, Calvin Watkins of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Joining Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Jaylon Smith and Byron Jones as key Cowboys in walk years, Collins would stand to be a key presence on the 2020 free agent market. While Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones mentioned him as a player the team would like to retain, Watkins adds the team does not want to shell out a big contract to keep him — which obviously means not going near the prices Trent Brown and Ja’Wuan James received in March. This would make sense, with the Cowboys already having three well-paid offensive linemen — Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick — on their roster.

The Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern in the third round and have 2018 second-rounder Connor Williams set to compete with him and Xavier Su’a-Filo for the left guard position this season. Williams may be in the mix to take over at right tackle next season, should McGovern or Su’a-Filo win this year’s left guard job, per Watkins.

Here is the latest from around the NFL:

  • Julius Peppers wrapped up one of the most successful careers in edge rusher history but will not be leaving the Panthers. The recently retired defensive end will take a job with the Panthers, his title being “special assistant, business operations,” the team announced. It does not sound like the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer will be contributing to the front office’s efforts, but perhaps that type of role could be in his future.
  • Speaking of former players landing on staffs, former Redskins safety Kyshoen Jarrett will break into full-time coaching. Jarrett is now a Redskins defensive quality control coach, per NBC Sports Washington. Suffering a career-ending injury as a rookie, Jarrett worked as a Washington coaching intern last season.
  • In addition to hiring former Cowboys scout Jim Abrams as their new college scouting director, the Raiders added Dwayne Joseph as their pro scouting director, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Joseph spent the past four years in the same role with the Eagles and was a Bears staffer prior to that. With Mike Mayock retooling Oakland’s scouting department, more hires are on the way.
  • The Broncos will no longer have a Kubiak on their staff. After Gary and Klint Kubiak left for the Vikings, one of Gary’s other sons — Klein Kubiak — will not be part of the Broncos’ staff going forward. Klein Kubiak worked as the team’s southeast area scout, but his contract was not renewed, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (on Twitter). Frantzy Jourdain will fill the position. Jordan spent the past three years with Houston, serving as first an area scout and then a national scout, and the previous 13 in New England. The Texans parted ways with Jourdain last month.

Extra Points: Packers, Martin, Draft, Raiders

Bashaud Breeland‘s workout parade concluded in Green Bay, but his Packers contract is nearly its expiration. The veteran cornerback would re-enter the market in a better position, doing so a year after a golf cart-related injury harpooned his value. But Breeland, who said many teams would not medically clear him after his foot injury, would be interested if the Packers approached him about staying before he hit the market. Although, he said the Packers have not discussed an extension with him yet.

If I have the opportunity, I would,” Breeland said, via Ryan Wood of Packersnews.com, of a possible extension or offseason Packers re-signing. “At this point in time, the Green Bay Packers have first dibs because I’m here. They can make it happen at any moment.”

The Packers are not known as extravagant spenders but are keen on locking up their own talent. Breeland has only played in four Packers games, but on Sunday, the former Redskins starter recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a score. Both Tramon Williams and Davon House‘s contacts expire at season’s end as well, but the Packers still have recent high draft picks Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson and Kevin King locked up long-term. Next year’s cornerback market may include the likes of Darqueze Dennard, Ronald Darby, Bradley Roby and Bryce Callahan while also housing veterans Morris Claiborne, Kareem Jackson and Brent Grimes.

Here is the latest from around the league as Week 14 winds down.

  • Zack Martin re-aggravated his MCL sprain during the fourth quarter of the Cowboys‘ overtime win over the Eagles on Sunday, and Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes the All-Pro guard will likely be limited in practice this week. Martin has never missed a start in his five-year career, but MCL sprains are often multi-week injuries. The possibility Martin misses multiple games in order to right himself for an expected playoff game is on the table, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. If Martin does sit against the Colts, Connor Williams would start at right guard, per Archer.
  • So far, the prevailing word surrounding possible top-five pick Justin Herbert is another year in Eugene, Ore. But longtime evaluator Gil Brandt, now with NFL.com, tweets he would make substantial bet that the Oregon quarterback declares for the 2019 draft and becomes a top-five selection. Teams like the Giants, Jaguars and Buccaneers would likely be interested if Herbert left early.
  • Texas Tech wide receiver Antoine Wesley will depart school early. Responsible for 1,410 yards this season — third-most in Red Raiders history behind Michael Crabtree and Keke Coutee — Wesley announced Monday (on Twitter) he will leave Lubbock and head to the NFL.
  • Scot McCloughan could be a name to watch in the Raiders‘ GM or de facto GM search, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes (subscription required). The former Redskins and 49ers GM interviewed with the Raiders for a position under Reggie McKenzie after the 2014 season, but Tafur notes McCloughan wanted personnel control. He then took Washington’s GM job before an ugly divorce. Jon Gruden and McCloughan’s tenures in Green Bay briefly overlapped in the mid-1990s, and Tafur notes McCloughan got along well with Jay Gruden in Washington.
  • The Broncos worked out 15 players on Monday. Defensive linemen Winston Craig, Jon Cunningham, Marcus Hardison and Christian Lacouture took part in the group audition, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Defensive backs Jude Adjei-Barimah, Sojourn Shelton and Henre’ Toliver joined linebacker Greer Martini in working out in Denver, per Klis.

Injury Notes: Gronk, Mack, Pack, Eagles

A third Rob Gronkowski injury absence appears to be in the cards. The Patriots will not deploy their All-Pro tight end to play Sunday against the Titans, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Gronkowski is traveling with the team to Nashville, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss (on Twitter), he’s expected to be held out. Gronk missed games against the Bears and Packers but played in Buffalo on the Monday night in between those tilts. He’s been dealing with back and ankle trouble. While the Patriots have been able to win without their top pass-catcher, these repeated absences are obviously a concern for the future Hall of Famer’s availability for New England’s stretch run and potentially his post-2018 NFL future. It’s likely the Pats are attempting to rest Gronk now to hopefully see him healthy for key late-season games and the playoffs, but that can’t be considered a lock given his extensive injury history. Gronkowski hitting his incentive targets may now be unrealistic as well.

Here’s the latest from the Week 10 injury front.

  • Better news for the Bears. They’re in line to have both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson back on Sunday when they face the Lions, per the Associated Press. Mack is no longer on the injury report after missing the past two Chicago games because of an ankle malady. His defensive player of the year chances took a hit because of this hiatus and Aaron Donald continuing another all-world season but Mack figures to still be in the running and can help a team attempting reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
  • The Lions‘ Robinson coverage options will be limited. Darius Slay is out for Week 10, joining guard T.J. Lang in that regard. Slay’s played in each of Detroit’s previous eight games and hasn’t missed time since 2016 but is battling a knee injury. A neck ailment will sideline Lang, who also missed time because of a concussion this season.
  • A tough injury night against the Patriots will have after-effects for the Packers. Kevin King will not play Sunday against the Dolphins because of a hamstring injury. Bashaud Breeland, whom ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky notes appeared to impress the Packers in his Green Bay debut, figures to see more time.
  • Both Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills are going to miss Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game, but Corey Graham will return after missing four games, per Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan (on Twitter). After claiming Cre’Von LeBlanc off waivers earlier this week, surely due to injuries affecting the aforementioned duo, the Eagles have seven corners on their roster.
  • Taco Charlton and Connor Williams aren’t playing for the Cowboys on Sunday. Xavier Su’a-Filo appears to be the choice to replace Williams at left guard for Dallas, per executive VP Stephen Jones (Twitter link). A full-time Texans starter the past two seasons, Su’a-Filo has not played this season. Williams is down with a knee injury.

East Rumors: Cowboys, Patriots, Michel, Jets

Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee aggravated his hamstring injury in Monday night’s game against the Titans and will be sidelined for “a little bit,” head coach Jason Garrett told reporters, including Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Lee, of course, has had problems staying healthy throughout his lengthy career, as he’s never played a full 16-game slate and just recently missed Weeks 4-6. While Dallas’ defense has historically posted vastly inferior production without Lee on the field, those splits have become less stark thanks to the excellent play of fellow Cowboys linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Lee isn’t the only member of the Cowboys expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks, as left guard Connor Williams is likely to require knee surgery that will knock him out of action for a few games, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. Williams’ injury isn’t season-ending, but he’s going to have to sit out for several weeks as he recovers. The 50th overall selection in the 2018 draft, Williams has been a middling option at guard this season, ranking 42nd among 75 positional qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Per George, it’s unclear how the Cowboys will replace Williams, but La’el Collins — a former guard — won’t be moved off right tackle.
  • In the AFC, we have news on two injured Patriots running backs, including rookie Sony Michel. Michel suffered a knee injury against the Bears in Week 7 and hasn’t played since, but he’s on track to return against the Titans on Sunday, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. New England hasn’t had any trouble in its backfield even without Michel thanks to the efforts of James White and Cordarrelle Patterson, but Michel — who managed at least 18 carries and touchdown in Weeks 4-6 — will give the Patriots a more balanced attack.
  • Fellow Patriots running back Jeremy Hill announced on Twitter that he underwent surgery for his torn ACL on Monday. Hill suffered his knee injury in Week 1, but players will often wait on surgery for a variety of reasons. Hill, who is in his first season with New England, may have waited for swelling to subside, or, as Kevin Duffy of the Boston Herald tweets, Hill could have hoped to restore range of motion prior to an operation. After inking a one-year, $1.5MM deal this offseason, Hill will hit free agency next spring entering his age-27 campaign.
  • Is offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates the right play-caller to lead Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold‘s development? That’s the question Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News attempts to answer in his most recent column, noting that Darnold has displayed signs of progress despite his high interception totals.

Cowboys Sign 8 Draft Choices

The Cowboys now have all but one of their nine 2018 draft choices signed. Headlined by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas reached agreements with everyone but third-round wide receiver Michael Gallup on Friday, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports. Here’s the full list of signees:

The structure of the Boise State product’s contract slightly held up the team’s proceedings with its top draft investment, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill (Twitter link), but he’s now signed up. Vander Esch will earn approximately $11.847MM and collect a $6.696MM signing bonus.

Vander Esch met with numerous teams that held picks in the middle of the first round, and despite needs at both pass-catching positions, the Cowboys selected the Mountain West Conference standout. Connor Williams also didn’t play a position of dire need, given Dallas’ three All-Pro linemen, but he’s now in the mix for the team’s left guard spot.

Despite being unsigned, Gallup is working out at the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp on Friday. Many third-round picks around the league have yet to sign. This is an annual tradition due to the CBA’s gray area regarding third-rounders’ compensation.

Extra Points: Gates, Ray, Giants, Cowboys

Last week, news broke that the Chargers and Antonio Gates would not reunite for a 16th season. The Bolts confirmed this on Monday.

Antonio is not only one of the best Chargers of all-time, but he’s one of the best football players in the history of our game,” Tom Telesco said, via Ricky Henne of Chargers.com. “He has meant so much to this organization — both on the field, off the field, in San Diego, in Los Angeles — and we can’t say enough about the type of person he is, and player.

“These decisions are really, really difficult. … There aren’t many guys like him that come along, and I’ve been doing this for 20 years and have had a chance to be around some special players — some special Hall of Fame players — but nobody greater than what he did at his position.”

The Chargers signed former Broncos starter Virgil Green this offseason, and the blocking tight end will pair with Hunter Henry. Gates wants to catch on elsewhere and play what would be his age-38 season. His 114 touchdown receptions are the most by a tight end in NFL history and sixth all-time for any pass-catcher.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Another AFC West team has a decision regarding a player’s future due soon, and the Bradley Chubb pick may be clouding the Broncos‘ fifth-year option choice on Shane Ray. It’s far from a certainty the Broncos pick up Ray’s 2019 option, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. Prior to the draft, Ray expected the Broncos to pick up his option — worth $9.232MM. John Elway did not reveal which way he was leaning, and that was before Chubb’s arrival. A 2015 first-round pick, Ray has enjoyed intermittent success, registering eight sacks in 2016, but has missed time due to injuries in 2015 and ’17. Denver also has contract-year outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett on its roster. The Broncos won’t be able to retain both after this season, and keeping either may prove difficult now that Chubb’s in the mix. Denver is projected to possess $28MM-plus in 2019 cap space but has UFAs-to-be like Barrett, Matt Paradis and Bradley Roby potentially on the docket to comprise some of those available dollars.
  • Dave Gettleman didn’t seem too interested in the interest that came his way for the No. 2 pick, but the Giants‘ first-year GM did tell WFAN (via Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com, on Twitter) one team made a respectable offer. It’s uncertain which team supplied such a proposal, but before the draft, a report emerged indicating the Broncos had interest in moving up to No. 2. Elway held Sam Darnold atop his quarterback-prospect hierarchy but elected to stay put and take Chubb.
  • For now, Connor Williams will try to win the Cowboys‘ starting left guard job, Dallas VP of player personnel Will McClay confirmed during a Sirius XM Radio interview (Twitter link). But the Texas tackle will also be viewed as depth behind Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, the latter of whom has multiple years of experience as the Cowboys’ left guard starter. The Cowboys struggled to replace Ronald Leary at left guard last season, and Jonathan Cooper ventured to the 49ers in free agency.

NFL Draft Rumors: Cowboys, Key, Bills

Wednesday marks the final day for NFL draft visits, and we have some notable ones to pass along. Here’s the latest NFL Draft news:

  • LSU linebacker/defensive end Arden Key worked out with the Cowboys on Tuesday and met with the Saints on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans is visiting the Bills and Texas tackle Connor Williams is visiting the Packers, Rapoport tweets.
  • The Patriots are hosting Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley on a pre-draft visit, a source tells Rapoport (on Twitter). The Patriots aren’t known for taking receivers in the first round, but Ridley could be an exception as they look to rebuild that group. Ridley also visited the Bears on Tuesday.
  • Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore seems to be a firm first round prospect, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). For a while, Moore appeared to be a fringe first/second round type, so his stock is improving as the draft draws near. Moore met with the Bills, who pick No. 12 and 22, on Wednesday.
  • Ohio State center Billy Price will meet with the Seahawks, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM tweets. Price is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered during the bench press at the combine. The good news is that Price is expected to be ready in time for training camp.

NFL Draft Rumors: Patriots, Key, 49ers

After losing Nate Solder in free agency, the Patriots are on the lookout for offensive tackle help. With that in mind, the Patriots hosted Texas tackle Connor Williams on a visit on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Thanks to the Brandin Cooks trade earlier this offseason, the Pats are armed with two picks late in the first round. Williams could be available when the Pats are called to the podium at No. 23, though the league-wide need for tackles could result in the 6’6″ lineman going higher.

Here’s the latest batch of NFL draft news:

  • LSU outside linebacker/defensive end Arden Key worked out for the 49ers on Wednesday and will move on to the Raiders on Thursday, Rapoport tweets.
  • South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert, who could be the first tight end to come off of the board, visited the Dolphins on Wednesday, Rapoport tweets. Miami is reportedly high on him, but he has also met with the Seahawks, Chargers, and Lions, according to Rapoport. As previously reported, the Vikings met with Goedert last week.
  • Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has had workouts/visits with the Eagles, Falcons, Bears, Texans, 49ers, Cardinals, Panthers, Patriots, Saints, Broncos, and Cowboys, sources tell Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Miller personally believes that he would be a great fit for Arizona. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has Oliver ranked as the 36th best prospect in this year’s draft and it would be no surprise to see him go in the first round.
  • Georgia running back Nick Chubb will visit with the Buccaneers on Wednesday, according to Josh Norris of NBC Sports (on Twitter). Chubb has been lauded for his power and ability to run on the inside and figures to be a second round pick.
  • The Lions hosted Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson for a visit on Tuesday, Rapoport tweets. Johnson was recently bumped from Jeremiah’s top 50 but should still garner consideration in the second round.

Draft Notes: Nelson, Evans, Patriots

The 2018 draft class is considered to be one of the deepest in recent memory with respect to quarterback talent, and the quarterbacks are understandably dominating draft-related stories. But there are plenty of other collegiate players with the potential to dominate at the next level, so let’s round up a few non-QB draft notes:

  • Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com believes there is a “decent” chance that the Giants trade down from their No. 2 overall selection, and if they do, he believes Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson would be the target. Nelson is widely-regarded as the safest bet in the draft.
  • Because there is so much QB talent in the draft, as many as six signal-callers could be taken before New England’s No. 23 overall pick rolls around. As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes, that could allow the Patriots to land the type of player it rarely gets the chance to select, as they are typically picking at the end of the first round. Reiss suggests that Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans could be the team’s target, as he would provide much-needed speed at the LB position.
  • Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne, an excellent run-stuffer who has the skills to become a quality pass-rusher as well, will meet with the Bengals tomorrow, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter).
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union thinks the Jaguars need another TE who can threaten the middle of the field to take attention off their outside receivers, and he believes Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews would be a good fit for Jacksonville’s No. 29 overall selection.
  • Florida DT Taven Bryan has been generating a lot of buzz lately, per Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, who tweets that the Gator could be a top-25 pick. Miller suggests the Falcons, who are working out another DT in N.C. State’s B.J. Hill, could be a fit.
  • Miller tweets that three offensive tackles are considered locks for Round 1: Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, and UCLA’s Kolton Miller.
  • UCF’s Mike Hughes has a great deal of upside and is the No. 15 overall prospect in Daniel Jermiah’s most recent Top 50 rankings. However, Miller believes that, because of Hughes’ off-field concerns, he could be the fourth or fifth CB off the board (Twitter link).
  • There are four linebackers expected to be taken in the first round, per Miller (via Twitter): Evans, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch, and Georgia’s Roquan Smith. Miller says Edmunds’ stock is rising rapidly and that he should be a top-10 selection.