D.J. Foster

Cardinals RB D.J. Foster Suffers Torn ACL

Cardinals running back D.J. Foster is done for the year. On Monday morning, doctors diagnosed Foster with a torn ACL, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

Foster came to the Cardinals last September after he was signed off of the Patriots’ practice squad. He didn’t play a whole lot in Arizona, but he was quietly impressing this offseason with his versatility.

The Cardinals were facing some tough choices at running back, but the injury clarifies their depth chart somewhat ahead of Saturday’s deadline. Fourth-round pick Chase EdmondsT.J. Logan, and Elijhaa Penny are still fighting for jobs behind David Johnson, but it’s possible that the Cardinals will keep all three on the initial 53-man roster. Although the Cardinals have other running backs on hand, Foster’s special teams skills will be missed.

Foster had 59 receptions for 584 yards as a senior at ASU and the Cardinals were hoping to see some of that pass-catching acumen in 2018. Last year, Foster had 17 catches for 133 yards in seven games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals To Sign RB D.J. Foster

The Cardinals need a running back and an ASU alum is on his way to help. Arizona has signed D.J. Foster off of the Patriots’ practice squad, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweetsD.J. Foster (vertical)

On Monday morning, the Cardinals learned that star David Johnson has suffered a dislocated wrist. Right now, the Cards are operating under the assumption that he’ll be out of action for approximately 12 weeks, meaning that he won’t be back on the field until December in a best-case scenario.

Foster missed the Patriots’ initial 53-man cut this year which wasn’t a huge surprise given their depth at the position. He signed on with the practice squad that same weekend, but it didn’t take long for another club to pry him loose.

Foster appeared in three games for New England last year. He totaled 24 yards off of seven attempts and also added one reception for two yards. His pass-catching ability may be his best quality – he had 59 receptions for 584 yards as a senior at ASU.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sunday NFL Transactions: AFC East

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC East teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the BillsDolphinsPatriots, and Jets are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day:

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Patriots Reach 53-Man Max

The Patriots made a massive amount of cuts on Saturday to reach the 53-man limit. Most of the cuts were expected, but there were a few surprises in the bunch.

Released:

Waived:

Karras was widely projected to be the team’s top backup on the interior line, so his release comes as a surprise. The 24-year-old was drafted by the Pats in the sixth round of the 2016 draft and played in all 16 regular season games last year. He also appeared in all three playoff games as a reserve.

O’Shaughnessy, acquired via trade in April, was competing for the third tight end spot. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has played in 23 NFL games with six starts.

Patriots Place Rob Gronkowski On IR

No miraculous late-January or Super Bowl LI return for Rob Gronkowski will be in the cards this season. The Patriots placed their superstar tight end on IR, ending his seventh NFL season, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

New England moved running back D.J. Foster back to the active roster, per Yates (Twitter link). The team already used its IR-return slot on third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

This doesn’t come as a shock after the joint statement released by the Patriots and the tight end’s family pointed to the 27-year-old perennial All-Pro being shelved for the season after back surgery. Gronkowski aggravated his perpetual back issue against the Jets last weekend, and the consequences give the Patriots a higher degree of difficulty in their hopes at a second Super Bowl title in three years.

It’s been another injury-marred season for Gronkowski, who has missed time due to hamstring, chest and now back maladies. Gronk played in eight games this season but only saw extensive action in six of those contests. He’ll wind up missing eight games in 2016, upping his career total of game-day absences to 24. The three-time All-Pro had missed just two games combined over the past two seasons.

Gronkowski will finish with the highest yards-per-reception figure of his career to date, having posted a 21.6 number here — a small sample size, obviously, but one that’s 5.3 higher than his previous career-best mark of 16.3 during 2015. This will also be just the second season the league’s consensus top tight end will finish with fewer than 10 touchdowns. He scored three times this season.

The Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XLVI with an ailing Gronkowski, who sprained his ankle in that year’s AFC championship game, but fell short the following two years after a broken forearm and tears of his ACL and MCL either limited or removed Gronk in the following two seasons’ AFC playoff brackets. His health the past two seasons helped New England to its fourth Super Bowl title, in 2014, or brought the team to the precipice of a title defense. Gronkowski’s dominant finish in the most recent AFC championship game nearly forced overtime in a narrow loss to the Broncos.

Tom Brady‘s numbers decline sharply without Gronkowski available. With Gronkowski since his 2010 arrival, Brady’s completed 65 percent of his passes and boasts a 103.5 quarterback rating. In the 17 games in that span Brady’s played without his potential Hall of Fame tight end his completion percentage drops to 57 percent, with his rating plummeting to 84.4. So, this could shake up the AFC playoff picture. Of course, New England employs a better backup tight end than it did previously, which should soften the blow.

Martellus Bennett will now have a prime chance to score a big free agency payday in ascending to the Patriots’ No. 1 tight end role. New England did not have a similar answer in previous years when Gronk went down.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Notes: Gronk, Cannon, Foster, FAs

Rob Gronkowski opting against a holdout during the summer continued to limit the historically great tight end’s earning potential, and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe views that decision as costly for the again-injured All-Pro. Gronkowski was coming off two dominant seasons this summer but continued to play on a team-friendly deal signed in 2012, one that will pay him $4.25MM in base salary in 2017.

The 27-year-old dynamo has now seen another significant injury sideline him, shooting down his leverage with the Patriots on a deal that still contains three years — the final two featuring $19MM in nonguaranteed money. Gronk making $14MM in 2016-17 is not only incredibly pedestrian for his fellow tight ends, Volin argues his salary should have been closer to top-end receivers’ than those at a position at which he’s been viewed as the No. 1 talent for the past five years.

Now, 2017 looms as a pivotal year in Gronkowski’s New England timeline, with another comeback perhaps necessary to induce the Pats to keep him in 2018-19 during the nonguaranteed years. Volin also gathers from the joint statement released by the Patriots and Gronkowski’s family the team believed he could return this season but the Gronkowskis want to preserve the seventh-year player’s long-term value.

Here’s more from the perpetual AFC East champions.

  • Marcus Cannon will almost certainly be the Patriots’ right tackle in 2017 and 2018, but the full guarantees on the breakout player’s recent extension stop in 2019. The Patriots will have until the third day of the ’19 league year, per Volin, to determine whether or not they want to pay Cannon any more money. Through the end of the ’18 season, Cannon’s deal will pay out a minimum of $16.03MM and a maximum of $17.4MM. Set to turn 29 before next season, Cannon will carry cap numbers of $3.4MM and $6.05MM in 2017-18, with 2019’s figure ballooning to $7.55MM, which should still be a reasonable value as the salary cap continues to rise.
  • The Patriots’ roster didn’t seem to need another running back now that Dion Lewis is a game-day regular again, but moving D.J. Foster back to the practice squad did not result the usual financial ramifications for the backup. The UDFA will still make $26,470 this week as opposed to the practice squad minimum of $6,900 per week, Volin notes (on Twitter). New England re-signed Foster to its taxi squad earlier this week after claiming Darius Kilgo on waivers from Denver last weekend.
  • Dont’a Hightower should be considered a candidate for the franchise tag, even if the middle linebacker hasn’t shown himself to be tremendously durable, missing eight games in 2014-15, Michael Giardi of CSNNE.com writes. The linebacker franchise tag crept over $14MM this offseason, with pass-rushing OLBs being categorized the same as traditional-type ‘backers, but Giardi notes the Pats tagging Hightower would likely be a stopgap measure while the sides work something out. After all, the team essentially prioritized him after trading potential UFAs Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins.
  • There’s a rare win for the players. Alan Branch prevailed in his appeal of a four-game substance-abuse suspension.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 11/29/16

Today’s practice squad moves:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Signed: OL Kevin Graf

Arizona Cardinals

  • Signed: WR Chris Hubert

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

  • Signed: T Jake Rodgers, T Tyrus Thompson

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Signed: CB Tony McRae

New England Patriots

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

  • Signed: LB Wynton McManis

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/28/16

Here are today’s minor moves.

  • Defensive tackle Darius Kilgo fell out of the Broncos’ rotation this season but will have a chance to crack the Patriots‘ after the AFC East-leading team claimed the second-year player off waivers, Doug Kyed of NESN.com reports. To make room for Kilgo, the Patriots waived running back D.J. Foster, whom Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link) notes could be bound for the practice squad if he clears waivers. Kilgo did not make it far into waivers, going to a contending team shorthanded due to Alan Branch‘s suspension. The 24-year-old interior lineman played in nine games for the Broncos this season, while Foster represented a superfluous fifth active running back for the Pats once Dion Lewis returned. Kilgo’s arrival in New England will give the Patriots the Broncos’ 2015 sixth-round pick after trading their own 2015 fifth-rounder to Denver in A.J. Derby.
  • The Bengals signed defensive tackle DeShawn Williams two days after waiving him, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. In turn, the team placed cornerback Chykie Brown on IR, per Owczarski (on Twitter). The 30-year-old Brown played in five games for Cincinnati this season, doing so after playing four years with the Ravens and Giants.
  • Joe Callahan could venture to another city after the Browns became the third team to waive the rookie quarterback this season, doing so to clear a path for a Robert Griffin III return, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Both the Packers and Saints waived the UDFA earlier this season. Each expressed interest in moving Callahan to their practice squad for further development, so the Division III product could have a landing spot with one of his former organizations.
  • The Cardinals announced that they have waived safety Christian Bryant, whom they promoted from their practice squad earlier this month. A 2014 UDFA, Bryant vacillated between the Rams’ active roster and practice squad in 2015 before catching on with the Cardinals this year.

Impact Rookies: New England Patriots

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.

Today, we continue PFR’s Impact Rookie series with his insight on the New England Patriots’ draft class:

In a tradition started by Jimmy Johnson during his days with Dallas, lots of NFL teams use what is called a draft “value board” in their war rooms. Based on the selections made by the coaching genius of Bill Belichick, analysts might be scratching their heads over the Patriots’ decisions during this past draft.

Deflategate left the team with no choice in the opening round, but in what has been Belichick’s pattern over the years, he put on his “Trader Jack” hat before and during the draft proceedings in attempts to improve his roster. In mid-March, the team made a surprising move, trading away one of the defense’s cornerstones in Chandler Jones for oft-injured offensive guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick.

The Patriots flipped that No. 61 overall pick to the Saints, netting the Saints’ third (No. 78) and fourth-round (No. 112) selections. Even with Cooper in the fold and starters Shaquille Mason (left side) and Tre’ Jackson (right) stationed as the starters, New England added to their guard cache in the third round by taking North Carolina State’s Joe Thuney. Thuney is likely to caddy for Shaquille Mason on the left side and while he could prove to be a reliable backup, he’s not likely to make waves in 2016. However, we do see these two Pats rookies leaving a mark in their first NFL season:

Continue reading about the Patriots’ rookie class..

Read more

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Fitzpatrick, Smith, Misi

About a year ago, ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss focused on Tom Brady‘s praise for unheralded Patriots running back Dion Lewis. The career journeyman’s pass-catching skills were clear, but the running back was also commended for his ability to take “a teaching point that was covered in morning meetings…and [execute it] on the field.”

We all know how that experiment ended up working. Lewis compiled 622 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in seven games.

Today, Reiss decided to highlight some “under-the-radar” OTA participants who could play a significant role on this year’s squad. Among the candidates were cornerback V’Angelo Bentley (who adds versatility via the return game), receiver DeAndre Carter (played on last season’s practice squad), running back D.J. Foster (undrafted free agent received personal phone called from Bill Belichick to join team), and cornerback Jonathan Jones (most guaranteed money among undrafted players).

While the Patriots determine whether they’ve landed on any hidden gems, let’s see what else is happening around the AFC East…

  • We have conflicting reports as to whether Brandon Marshall‘s absence from Jets OTAs is related to the team’s contract talks (or lack thereof) with Ryan Fitzpatrick. One source tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) that there is “no story” with regards to Marshall not being in practice with his teammates. Eric Decker, however, is reportedly staying home to make a statement about his feelings on the Fitzpatrick situation.
  • Jets quarterback Geno Smith says that he is OK with his teammates voicing their support for Fitzpatrick, as Brian Costello of the New York Post writes. “When I’m out there on the field no matter who I’m with my job is to score points,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence in my abilities and myself. When the time comes when I’m out there, I’ll go out there and perform. As of right now, it’s about what we’re doing here and taking care of business.”
  • Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi was detained (but not arrested) by police following a fight outside a Fort Lauderdale nightclub on Sunday morning, according to a police report obtained by the Miami Sun-Sentinel. The report also indicated that the 29-year-old attempted to “flee a police officer” following the altercation. Misi could be in line for a team suspension, and it’s notable that the organization disciplined former defensive end Derrick Shelby following a fight outside the same club.

Zach Links contributed to this post.