Dan Vitale

FB Dan Vitale To Retire

Fullback Dan Vitale is ending his playing career. In a post to his LinkedIn page (via NESN’s Doug Kyed on Twitter), Vitale said, “I feel like my body is just ready to move on. I’m looking for a new role and would appreciate your support.”

Vitale, 27, entered the league as a sixth-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2016. He did not survive final cutdowns following his first career training camp, but he ended up back on Tampa’s taxi squad. The Browns poached him off the p-squad in October 2016, and over the 2016-17 campaigns, Vitale would appear in 24 games (nine starts) for Cleveland.

The Northwestern product caught on with the Packers’ practice squad in October 2018. He spent two seasons in Green Bay, playing in 20 games (five starts) for the Pack. His 2019 season with the club saw him post career highs in offensive snaps (170), catches (seven), and receiving yards (97). He also registered the only carry of his career, a three-yard tote.

Obviously, he was known more for his blocking and special teams acumen, and he signed a one-year deal with the Patriots in March 2020. The Pats knew that longtime stalwart James Develin was about to retire, and given the club’s usage of fullbacks and Develin’s impending departure, it seemed Vitale had found a good landing spot.

But he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and the Patriots cut him last month. Instead of trying to play for another NFL club, he will now turn his attention to other endeavors.

In his LinkedIn post, Vitale noted that he graduated from Northwestern with an economics degree, and that he minored in business institutions and integrated marketing communications.

We at PFR wish Vitale the best in the next stage of his life.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Cut FB Dan Vitale

The Patriots have released fullback Dan Vitale, as Jim McBride of the Boston Globe tweets. To take his place on the roster, the Pats have added tight end Troy Fumagalli

Vitale joined the Patriots last year, but opted out of the 2020 season in the midst of the pandemic. Vitale was one of the first NFL players to take the opt-out, following Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Ravens wideout De’Anthony Thomas, Seahawks guard Chance Warmack and Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady. Before that, Vitale played 170 snaps for the Packers in 2019, catching 12 passes for 97 yards.

Fumagalli came into the league as a 2018 fifth-round pick of the Broncos. After missing his rookie year due to injury, he went on to appear in 19 games for the Broncos between ’19 and ’20. All in all, he’s notched 14 grabs for 118 yards and two scores. He’ll have his work cut out for him as the Patriots’ TE group already includes Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Dalton Keene, Devin Asiasi, and Matt LaCosse.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Notes: Hightower, Chung, Cannon

The Patriots had eight players opt out of the 2020 campaign, the most in the NFL. The organization will naturally welcome back a handful of these players, but Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes that others may have already played their final game in a Patriots uniform.

For keepers, Dont’a Hightower seems like a guarantee to come back. Besides the two-time Pro Bowler’s on-field production, the Patriots would save only $9.95MM by releasing the 30-year-old; the organization wouldn’t be able to sign a player of Hightower’s caliber with that kind of money. It’s a similar sentiment for safety Patrick Chung. The team would only save $1MM by cutting the veteran, and Chung could still have a role on defense alongside the likes of Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips.

As for lesser names, Howe opines that running back/special teams ace Brandon Bolden will likely be back in 2021. The team would save $1.5MM by cutting the 31-year-old, but the organization clearly values his special teams ability. Elsewhere, fullback Danny Vitale ($1.2MM savings) will compete with Jakob Johnson for the starting gig, while tight end Matt LaCosse ($1.3MM) will compete for the third tight end spot. Both of those players’ roster spots are dependent on the camp competition.

One name that could be on his way out of New England is Marcus Cannon. The team could save $7MM by cutting the veteran, who already showed signs of decline in 2018 and 2019. The organization also appears to have their long-term answer at right tackle in Michael Onwenu. On the flip side, Onwenu could also be an option at left guard, which could carve a path to a roster spot for Cannon. Either way, Howe believes the Patriots will ask Cannon to take a pay cut.

Two other names that are probably long shots to stick around: wideout Marqise Lee ($687K savings) and offensive lineman Najee Toran ($780K). Howe says Lee could stick around as a reclamation project, but the reporter is confident Toran probably won’t make the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Saleh, Darnold, Patriots, Bills

Robert Saleh signed his contract with the Jets today, making him the 20th head coach in franchise history. While speaking to the media, the former 49ers defensive coordinator indicated that he’d be looking for specific types of players as he helps general manager Joe Douglas fill out the roster.

“There are no shortcuts to success, and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all,” Saleh said (via the team website).

Douglas, who led the coaching search alongside included team president Hymie Elhai, noted that Saleh believes in many of the same principals that the executive brought with him from Philadelphia when he joined the Jets in 2019.

“We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us,” Douglas said. “His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.”

The 41-year-old Saleh was an early favorite for the job based on the strength of his SF defense. In 2020, the Niners finished fifth in total yards, seventh in rushing yards, and fourth in passing yards allowed. In 2019, Saleh’s D surrendered just 169.2 passing yards per contest — the lowest average since Rex Ryan‘s 2009 Jets D.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC East…

  • Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have spent time evaluating Sam Darnold‘s tape, and the coaches believe the Jets quarterback has “untapped potential,” per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The former third-overall pick had a rough season in 2020, leading some to wonder whether the new staff would prefer to take a quarterback with the second-overall pick.
  • The eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season were asked to return for year-end physicals last week, writes ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Wideout Marqise Lee and running back Brandon Bolden have both said they plan to play in 2021, and Reiss opines that safety Patrick Chung, tight end Matt LaCosse, and fullback Danny Vitale will also return. However, the writer is much less certain that offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be back in New England.
  • While Dave Ziegler was always an underdog in the Broncos GM search, he parlayed that experience into a “multiyear contract and pay bump as Nick Caserio‘s successor” in New England, writes Reiss. The Patriots assistant director of player personnel eventually withdrew his name from the search in Denver, and Reiss writes that this is a “reflection of the decisiveness that has earned him a measure of respect in the Patriots’ offices over the past eight year.”
  • Bills running back Zack Moss underwent minor surgery on his ankle this morning, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 23-year-old is expected to make a full recovery from the “tight rope procedure,” and he should be ready to go for offseason workouts. The third-rounder finished his rookie campaign having compiled 576 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

Patriots FB Danny Vitale To Opt Out

A fourth player has decided to opt out this afternoon. Patriots fullback Danny Vitale informed the team of his intentions to bypass the 2020 season, Jarrett Bell of USA Today reports.

Thus far, Vitale is the fifth overall player to opt out. He follows Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Ravens wideout De’Anthony Thomas, Seahawks guard Chance Warmack and Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady.

Vitale has played four NFL seasons — two with the Browns, two with the Packers — and signed with the Pats this offseason. The Patriots lost longtime fullback James Develin to retirement earlier this offseason.

Vitale played 170 snaps last season with Green Bay, catching 12 passes for 97 yards. His one-year Patriots contract will toll to 2021. Since he is not believed to be at increased risk for COVID-19 complications, Vitale is set to receive a $150K stipend — rather than his $1MM base salary — and see his contract toll to 2021.

Contract Details: Davis, Roberts, Haeg

Let’s take a closer look at the details of a few recently-signed free agent contracts:

AFC

NFC

  • Sean Davis, S (Redskins): One year, $4MM. $2MM guaranteed (Twitter link via John Keim of ESPN.com).
  • Seth Roberts, WR (Panthers): One year, $3.75MM (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of ESPN.com).
  • Zach Kerr, DT (Panthers): Two years, $3MM. Unknown incentives available (Twitter link via Garafolo).
  • B.J. Goodson, LB (Browns): One year, $2.4MM. $2.25MM guaraneed. $1.25MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com).
  • Joe Haeg, T (Buccaneers): One year, $2.3MM. $1.5MM guaranteed. Up to $1MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Cedric Ogbuehi, T (Seahawks): One year, $2.3MM. $500K guaranteed. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com).
  • Will Parks, S (Eagles): One year, $1.5MM. $1.375MM guaranteed. $375K signing bonus. Up to $125K in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Tajae Sharpe, WR (Vikings): One year, $1MM. $675K guaranteed. $175K signing bonus. Max value of $1.5MM (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Sharrod Neasman, S (Falcons): One year, $950K. $40K signing bonus. Veteran salary benefit (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Joe Walker, LB (49ers): One year, $900K. Max of $75K in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Wilson).

Jarrett Stidham To Start For Patriots?

We heard earlier today that the Patriots may be gearing up for a starting quarterback competition between Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, but Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston says that as of now, the job is Stidham’s to lose.

There is plenty of logic to that. The Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the 2019 draft and are said to be high on him, and most believe that New England will spend 2020 cleaning up its salary cap situation and preparing for a return to contention in 2021. That means that the club will not pursue a potentially pricey QB like the recently-released Cam Newton, and it means that Stidham will have a chance to prove that he can be the rightful heir to Tom Brady.

Curran does say that if the COVID-19 pandemic puts a damper on Stidham’s development — which it seems almost certain to do — then Hoyer could get the nod to open the 2020 season. Stidham, though, would probably step in at some point thereafter. The Auburn product threw just four passes in his rookie campaign but put together a strong two years against SEC defenses in 2017-18.

While we’re on the subject of the Patriots, let’s round up a few more notes out of Foxborough:

  • The release of longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski did not create $3.5MM of cap space, as originally reported. Because $2MM of Gostkowski’s 2020 salary was fully-guaranteed, the move actually frees up less than $1MM of space. So as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets, Gostkowski’s release wasn’t financially motivated; the team just wanted a new kicker.
  • Hoyer’s contract calls for a $1.05MM salary with $2MM in playing time incentives, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Because his deal with the Colts contained offsets, Hoyer will earn at least $2MM in 2020.
  • The Patriots agreed to sign veteran defensive back Cody Davis yesterday, and ESPN’s Field Yates reports that Davis will take home a $1.1MM base salary and landed a $100K signing bonus (Twitter link). He will carry a cap charge of $1.5MM.
  • Fullback Dan Vitale‘s new contract is a one-year pact worth $1.3MM, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets. He received a $100K signing bonus and can earn another $200K in playing time incentives.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots To Sign Dan Vitale

The Patriots continue to make smaller under the radar moves as they re-tool their team in the wake of Tom Brady‘s departure. New England is signing fullback Dan Vitale, his agent Chris Cabbott told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The Pats and Bill Belichick like to use fullbacks a lot, so this is a significant move. This also could spell the end of the road for the Patriots’ longtime fullback James Develin. Develin signed with New England back in 2012 and has been their full-time fullback since 2013. He was limited to only two games in 2019 because of a neck injury, and his absence had a big impact on their running game.

We haven’t heard much about him since, and it’s possible that his neck injury is going to prevent him from playing. Either way, it looks like the Pats will be moving forward with Vitale. Vitale spent last year as the Packers’ fullback, catching seven passes for 97 yards while playing about 16 percent of the offensive snaps. In 2018, Develin was used on more than 35 percent of New England’s snaps.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Place Mike Daniels On IR

One of the Packers’ best players won’t have a chance to help the team make a last-ditch playoff charge in the coming weeks. Green Bay placed defensive end Mike Daniels on IR.

Wide receiver Trevor Davis will also be moved to the Packers’ IR list. Green Bay will promote fullback Dan Vitale from its practice squad and activate wide receiver Jake Kumerow from IR.

Afflicted with a foot injury, Daniels carried a questionable designation into Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. The standout defensive lineman has been a key component of the past several Green Bay defenses, serving as a full-time player for the past five years. He’s played in 10 Packers games this season.

Green Bay extended Daniels via four-year, $41MM contract during the 2015 season. One year (at a $10.9MM cap number) remains on Daniels’ deal. He made the Pro Bowl last season and has 29 career sacks.

Kumerow returned to Packers practice last week. The Division III product has not played in an NFL game yet, despite being a fourth-year pro. Initially a Bengals UDFA, Kumerow may soon be in line to make his regular-season debut. He’ll replace Davis in the Packers’ receivers room. Davis is the third Packer wideout to land on IR this year, following Kumerow and Geronimo Allison. Kumerow’s activation ensures Allison won’t return in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 10/22/18

Today’s practice squad updates:

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

Washington Redskins

  • Signed: DB Jeremy Reaves