The Panthers have picked up D.J. Moore‘s option (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The wide receiver is now under contract for the 2022 season at a guaranteed salary of $11.116MM.
This was the expected move, given Moore’s steady improvement across the last three years. In total, Moore has 208 catches, 3,156 receiving yards, and ten touchdowns across 46 career games. Last year, Moore managed 66 receptions for 1,193 yards (18.1 yards per catch) and four touchdowns in an otherwise turbulent year for Carolina.
Moore, the former No. 26 overall pick, now has fiscal security beyond the ’22 season. The same can’t be said for quarterback Sam Darnold — the No. 3 pick in the 2018 class. At least, not yet. The Panthers have until May 3rd to decide on the ex-Jet’s future, so they’ll likely hold off until after this weekend’s draft. Tonight, a first-round QB is very much in play for them at No. 8 overall.
Ohio State’s Justin Fields could be one option, but they could also target Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle to potentially supplant Robby Anderson in 2022.
Shortly after the Panthers’ trade for quarterback Sam Darnold was completed, it was reported that Carolina would pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option for 2022. After all, it wouldn’t make sense for the team to trade three draft picks for a young passer without giving that passer at least two seasons to show what he can do.
However, the club has not exercised the option just yet. As Joe Person of The Athletic points out, virtually no teams have made official decisions on the fifth-year options for their 2018 first-rounders (the deadline to do so is May 3). So it could simply be that the Panthers’ brass just hasn’t gotten around to it.
Or, it could mean that the club is waiting to see if a collegiate passer it likes falls to its No. 8 overall selection. According to Person, the Panthers are not in love with Trey Lance or Mac Jones, and it’s a foregone conclusion that Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two players off the board. So if Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields — who is said to “intrigue” the Carolina front office — is there for the taking at No. 8, perhaps he could be the pick, which could lead to Darnold having his fifth-year option declined.
A source tells Person that Darnold’s option is still expected to be exercised. And with the Panthers having emerged as a legitimate trade-down candidate, perhaps this is all part of a ploy to drive up the price of the No. 8 pick. A trade down the board would allow Carolina to recoup some much-needed draft capital while still putting the team in range for one of the draft’s top cornerbacks (according to Person, the Panthers are high on several first-round CB prospects). Although Oregon’s Penei Sewell will likely be gone by the time the Panthers are on the clock, another quality LT could be had at No. 8 or a little bit later if the team chooses to move down.
When Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season earlier this week it seemed to spell trouble for him. Smith’s standing was already in question after the Bucs used multiple early picks on cornerbacks during April’s draft, and the suspension didn’t look good. However, it turns out that at least Tampa wasn’t caught off-guard by the news. “They’ve known about it since before the draft and have already done things knowing it was coming. This is news to us, but not to them,” tweeted Greg Auman of The Athletic.
Auman also added “don’t look for the Bucs to do anything in response to today’s news of Ryan Smith’s suspension.” For now it doesn’t look like Smith’s roster spot is in danger. The 2016 fourth-round pick has played a big role the last two years, starting a combined 16 games. Last year he played around 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, while also playing a huge role on special teams. While the Buccaneers knew it was coming and appears to be standing by him for now, he’s not exactly in the clear. The young guys will be getting more run while he’s out, and there might not be much playing time left for him by the time he returns if they seize the opportunity.
Here’s more from the NFC South:
Speaking of the Buccaneers, there were also some interesting nuggets in Auman’s recent roster projection. Notably, Auman projects Alex Cappa to start at guard. A third-round pick last year, Cappa appeared in only six games with no starts as a rookie. Cappa was an upside prospect from D-II Humboldt State, so he was always going to take a while to develop. It’s especially interesting because there have been rumblings that Cappa isn’t progressing like the team was hoping. Jenna Laine of ESPN.com was recently told that Cappa “still isn’t where they’d like him to be yet,” and she floated the potential acquisition of additional interior offensive linemen (Twitter link). Cappa had dominant film in college (look it up, some of it is hilarious), but he was always facing off against weaker competition. It’ll be interesting to see what he looks like when he finally steps on a pro field.
We’ve seen a few notable players switch agents recently, including Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson. Add Panthers receiver D.J. Moore to the growing list. Moore is now with NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Person reports that Moore decided to switch agents after his former agent Damarius Bilbo was suspended for three months back in January. Moore just finished his rookie season so he won’t be eligible for a new contract for a while, but this is still something to keep an eye on. Rosenhaus has a reputation for playing hardball with teams, and this could come back into play in the future. A 2018 first-round pick from Maryland, Moore had a promising rookie season, racking up 788 yards on 55 catches.
“Basically what we did, coming into the draft, we had a group of about five guys that we would be very happy with at 24 and we got our pick and three of those guys were there and it was a hard decision between Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore,” Hurney said. “I think that the difference to us is, and we think they’re both excellent wide receivers, is just D.J. Moore gives us a little different skill set than we had.”
Let’s check out some more draft notes from around the league…
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller touched on a number of topics during his post-draft review. Notably, the reporter noted that the most surprising first-round selection was San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who was taken by the Seahawks with the 27th pick. Miller notes that opposing teams didn’t value Penny as highly, and the reporter said the highest team grade (outside of Seattle) rated the running back as a second-rounder.
Miller reports that several players failed drug tests, causing them to fall in the draft or go undrafted. This grouping included cornerback Holton Hill, offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, and wideout Antonio Callaway.
Let’s take a look at some assorted notes as we get ready for the start of the draft…
There are a number of teams currently picking in the twenties that would be interested in moving up to the teens, reports Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). Interestingly, those teams may have some suitors, as the reporter notes that the Ravens and Seahawks are among the teams interested in trading back.
Saints assistant general manager JeffIreland told Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune that running back Saquon Barkley is the top player on their draft board (Twitter link). “He’s rare,” Ireland gushed. “He’s unique.” Of course, barring some crazy development, the Saints are unlikely to have an opportunity to select Barkley, as they’re only armed with one pick in the first two rounds. Plus, the team is already rostering several talented running backs, including AlvinKamara and MarkIngram.
There could end up being a flurry of trades if the Browns select Baker Mayfield with the first-overall pick, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter video). All of the potential scenarios have seemingly stalled trade talks, although Rapoport notes that the Browns (No. 4), Broncos (No. 5), and Colts (No. 6) are among the teams who’d consider moving down. The Bills could be among the teams looking to trade into the top-six range, and the Broncos could ultimately choose to keep their pick if someone like Josh Allen falls into their lap.
Rapoport also notes (via Twitter) that several prospects are expected to be selected earlier than initially thought: Maryland wideout D.J. Moore, UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport, and Louisville Jaire Alexander. Davenport and Alexander both landed in the top-20 of Daniel Jeremiah’s rankings, while Moore was listed 37th.
Have pre-draft workouts gotten out of control? Many in the football world believe that is the case, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes.
“I worked out a guy who was dead because he got smoked by the team that worked him out two days before,” said one NFC assistant coach. “I had some questions about his toughness coming in, but I had to give him a pass on the whole thing. And it’s on the coaches for doing that.”
After a workout season that saw Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson tear his meniscus while working out for the Lions and N.C. State defensive tackle Kentavius Street tear his ACL while with the Giants, it may be time to bring some reform to the way teams conduct auditions with prospects.
The Cardinals seem unlikely to make a big play to land one of the best four QBs. However, if a QB they like slips into the bottom part of the Top 10, Breer could see them making a move.
More than one team prefers Maryland’s D.J Moore to Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Breer hears. This is consistent with recent buzz we’ve heard about the rise of Moore. Recently, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport categorized Moore as a firm first-round prospect, which is a change from what we were hearing just a couple of weeks ago. Still, Breer thinks Ridley will be the first WR off of the board and pegs the Cowboys as a likely destination since they have a clear need after cutting Dez Bryant.
Overall, this draft has depth that will lead to better-than-usual quality into the fourth round, Breer writes. However, the feeling is that this group isn’t stocked with blue-chippers, which means that teams in the 20s feel that they essentially have high second-round picks. “(Picks) 20 and 55 may wind up being the same,” one exec said. “The guy in the last third of the first round, you might be paying a first-round premium on him and he’s no different than the guy at 35 to 40. And those guys in the last third of first round, top half of the second, they’re the same not only in ability but value of their role in the game.” Breer wonders if this could hamper the Bills in their efforts to trade up using the No. 22 pick.
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.
Contract talks between the Falcons and franchise quarterback Matt Ryan have been enveloped by positive words from both sides, and today Ryan affirmed that while no deal is close, talks are moving towards an end goal. “Everything is good. I think the discussions have been very positive. I think those will work out,” said Ryan, whom Atlanta is reportedly willing to make the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback (story via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). “As far as a time frame of anything like that, it will shake out. It will handle itself. I don’t know if it will be today or tomorrow. Or in a couple of weeks, but I really think we are moving in the right direction.”
The Buccaneers will meet with Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, tweets Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports. While Tampa Bay figures to be set along the interior of its front five after inking center Ryan Jensen last month, the club could still use help at tackle. Former second-round pick Donovan Smith currently mans Jameis Winston‘s blindside, but he’s consistently struggled and last season graded as just the No. 53 tackle among 81 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. McGlinchey, meanwhile, is viewed as one of the best tackles in a weak class that also includes Connor Williams (Texas) and Kolton Miller (UCLA).
The Falcons have announced a few late additions to their coaching staff, as they’ve hired Travis Jones as an assistant defensive line coach and Aden Durde as a defensive quality control assistant. Jones, notably, is fresh off a five-year run with the Seahawks during which he served as the team’s DL coach for four seasons. He’s also worked for the Dolphins, and Saints at the NFL level.
Most of the prospects the Cowboys are planning to make part of their pre-draft visit itinerary will come through Dallas this week, with Albert Breer of SI.com reporting (on Twitter) numerous names have emerged.