Darqueze Dennard has run into another injury issue, and it will cut his time with the Cardinals short. Arizona is placing the veteran cornerback on IR, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.
Although teams can bring back players from IR after three weeks, that only applies to players carried through to teams’ 53-man rosters after cutdown day. Since the Cards are sending Dennard to IR now, he cannot play for them this season.
The former Bengals corner has run into some tough injury luck in recent years. A knee issue delayed the start of his 2019 season, when he re-signed with Cincinnati, and the former first-round pick also spent time on the Falcons’ IR list last year with a hamstring malady. Dennard, 29, only landed in Atlanta after a deal with Jacksonville fell through last year. He ended up playing just eight games (six starts) with the 2020 Falcons.
The Cardinals signed Dennard in June, bringing him aboard after not re-signing fellow ex-Bengals first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick. The Cards also lost Patrick Peterson in free agency. Dennard, Daryl Worley and Malcolm Butler represented the team’s notable veteran additions at the position.
The Cardinals have signed cornerback Darqueze Dennard, per a club announcement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears that it’s a one-year contract.
Dennard spent the early part of his career with the Bengals. The former first-round pick initially agreed to join the Jaguars in late March on a three-year, $13.5MM deal. However, that fell through due to complications with his knee injury. He then hooked on with the Falcons, where he appeared in eight games with six starts.
The Cardinals have been on the lookout for cornerback help. Currently, they count Malcolm Butler, Robert Alford, and Byron Murphy among their CB vets, plus newly drafted rookies Marco Wilson and Tay Gowan.
Injuries have slowed Dennard over the years but, when he’s healthy, he’s shown to be a solid slot option. In his last year with the Bengals (2019), Pro Football Focus graded Dennard as its No. 21 overall corner, during which he played 495 snaps. All in all, he’s played in 85 games throughout his career, including 30 starts.
September 29th, 2020 at 1:54pm CST by Sam Robinson
Already down first-round cornerback A.J. Terrell, the Falcons will be without another key cover man Monday night against the Packers. They placed Darqueze Dennard on IR on Tuesday.
Dennard is battling a hamstring injury. The Falcons signed the former Bengals first-round pick late in the offseason and used him as a full-time player over the first three weeks. Dennard, a six-year Bengals contributor, has played 86% of Atlanta’s defensive snaps.
The Falcons still have Terrell on the reserve/COVID-19 list, from which he can be activated ahead of the Packers game. But for now, a Falcons defense that continues to struggle against the pass is down two key performers. The team has yet to see 2019 fourth-round pick Kendall Sheffield play this season because of a foot injury, but Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets the second-year corner is out of a walking boot.
The Falcons followed up their Cowboys collapse by allowing the Bears to erase a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit, adding obvious importance to their game in Green Bay.
Having battled three different types of cancer and being set to turn 68 in October, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians falls into the higher-risk category for potential coronavirus complications. But Arians will coach this season, and he is not planning to do so from the press box. The second-year Bucs HC will coach from the sideline while wearing a mask and a face shield, he said recently.
“As far as on the field, I’ll maintain a mask and probably a shield just for personal use and coach like I’ve always coached,” Arians said. “I’m very confident. Like I said, the protocols that are in place are extremely safe.”
Arians has had cancerous tumors to be removed from his prostate, skin and kidney. He enters the season as NFL’s third-oldest head coach, behind Pete Carroll, who are both 68. Two head coaches — Sean Payton and Doug Pederson — have tested positive for COVID-19 thus far. The Eagles HC tested positive earlier this week. Players and coaches are currently being tested daily. This arrangement will continue for two weeks before the league reassesses.
Here is the latest from the NFC South:
Russell Okung dealt with a health scare last year but did not opt out of the 2020 season. However, the Panthers‘ recently acquired left tackle is considering retirement. But Okung will wait on a decision for now. The 11th-year veteran will keep his options open as he goes further into camp, advisor J.I. Halsell told NFL reporter Josina Anderson (Twitter link). It’s possible the 31-year-old blocker wants to learn more about what this season’s COVID-19-defined environment will bring. Okung has a $13MM salary awaiting him this season but has already made a considerable amount of money in his career.
Emmanuel Sanders made the initial contact between he and the Saints in free agency, the 11th-year wide receiver said, per The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell (on Twitter). The former Steelers, Broncos and 49ers wideout wanted to play with Drew Brees in New Orleans, and that helped lead to the two-year, $16MM deal he signed in March. Sanders also assisted the Saints with another free agent receiver, with a Brees-Sanders-Bennie Fowler workout in Denver leading to the latter’s signing this week (Twitter link via Terrell).
Given Brees’ year-to-year status, the Saints are obviously not eyeing a contract-year trade of Alvin Kamara. But no known extension talks have taken place between the Saints and their standout back. However, a deal that pays the three-down back just less than what Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott make ($16MM and $15MM AAV, respectively) is a solution The Athletic’s Larry Holder envisions (subscription required). Kamara, one of several running back starters in contract years, has said he wants to stay in New Orleans.
4:01pm: The Falcons are moving quickly. They will sign the former Bengals corner, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This will be Dennard’s second free agency agreement this year, following his nixed Jaguars pact.
3:48pm: With the coronavirus testing portion of training camps underway, the ice surrounding the remaining high-profile free agents is beginning to thaw. The Falcons conducted a visit with cornerback Darqueze Dennard recently, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.
Dennard has been a free agent since his three-year, $13.5MM Jaguars deal fell through in late March. The Jags and Dennard agreed to terms during the legal tampering period, but the pact did not end up being finalized.
The Falcons have seen some turnover at cornerback this offseason. They cut longtime No. 1 corner Desmond Trufant and used their first-round pick on Clemson’s A.J. Terrell. The team could still use some help here, however. A six-year Bengal contributor, Dennard resides as one of the better free agent defenders available.
The Bengals re-signed Dennard on a one-year deal in 2019. He did not debut last season until late October, with a knee injury taking longer than expected to heal. But the former first-round pick started five Bengals games last year, moving his career total to 24. He has worked largely as a slot defender as a pro. Pro Football Focus graded Dennard as its No. 21 overall corner last season, during which he played 495 snaps.
The Falcons lost slot defender Brian Poole in free agency last year and did not see a strong performance from their secondary in 2019. Second-round pick Isaiah Oliver has yet to justify the team’s investment; Atlanta graded 25th in pass defense DVOA last season. Dennard, a Georgia native, provides more experience than any current Falcons corner. Ahead of the COVID-19-altered season, that figures to be critical.
While most of the top free agents in this year’s cycle have long since signed with new clubs, there are plenty of potential difference-makers still available. Those players remain on the market for various reasons — price tag, injury concerns, etc. — but they all could be a key factor in the fortunes of whatever team they ultimately join. Let’s take a look at the best of who’s still out there:
Jadeveon Clowney: If you think you’ve been reading a lot about Clowney over the past couple of months, you’re right. That’s what happens when a former No. 1 overall pick and a young dynamic talent is still up for grabs this late in the offseason. Clowney’s high asking price, originally said to be $20MM per year, certainly scared some teams off, as did his recent core muscle surgery. Some will also point to his relatively low sack totals as evidence that he is not the dynamic pass rushing force that he believes himself to be. But he undeniably has the chops to be a game-changer against the run and pass, and he is content to wait for the right situation to come along. Once teams have the opportunity to evaluate him themselves, his market should heat up rapidly.
Cam Newton: Here’s another former No. 1 overall pick that we have written a great deal about recently. Like Clowney, the 2015 MVP may be signed by now if interested teams could have their own doctors examine him, and Newton is willing to be patient and wait for that to happen if waiting will allow him to secure a starting gig somewhere. But at this point, it looks like only an injury or major underpeformance will open the door for a QB1 role in 2020, so he may have to settle for a top backup job for now and hit the free agent market again in 2021. He is reportedly warming to that idea.
Everson Griffen: Like Clowney, Griffen is a talented pass rusher, but unlike Clowney, Griffen has multiple double-digit sack campaigns under his belt. The 32-year-old posted eight QB takedowns in 2019, and it is a little surprising to see him unsigned this late in the process. A reunion with the Vikings may be in the cards, and the Seahawks are the only other club to be connected to Griffen at this point.
Jason Peters: The only reason Peters isn’t signed yet is because of his age (38). He turned in a typically terrific season in 2019, and he has been connected to a number of clubs over the past couple of months. The problem is, many of those teams have filled their needs at the offensive tackle spots, so even though Peters has said that he is willing to play on the left or the right side, his options are now more limited. The Chargers could still be in play, and another year with the Eagles may also be a reality.
LoganRyan: Unlike several of the players ahead of him on this list, Ryan doesn’t have any notable health concerns, but his asking price — he’s seeking around $10MM per year — could be depressing his market. He turned in a productive 2019 season with the Titans and has the versatility to move around the defensive backfield, which has apparently led to multi-year offers. Given the need for quality corners in today’s game, Ryan will likely land a lucrative deal soon, it just may not be as lucrative as he wants. The Jets and Dolphins are involved in the bidding.
Markus Golden: Golden enjoyed what appeared to be a breakout season with the Cardinals in 2016, posting 12.5 sacks in just his second year in the league. But injuries limited the edge rusher over the 2017-18 seasons, and he had to settle for a one-year prove-it deal with the Giants in 2019. He perhaps thought that he proved it, recording 10 sacks for Big Blue, but those 10 sacks came from just 26 total pressures, which is probably an unsustainable conversion rate. So far, only the Giants — who put the rarely-used UFA tender on Golden — have been publicly connected to him.
Devonta Freeman: We haven’t heard a peep about the two-time Pro Bowl running back since the Falcons released him in March. The fact that Atlanta replaced him with Todd Gurley and his frightening injury concerns isn’t a good sign, and Freeman’s 3.6 YPC average in 2019 certainly isn’t helping matters either. Freeman’s own injury problems limited him to two games in 2018, so he is now two years removed from his last effective season. It’s nonetheless a bit of a surprise that there have been no rumors of interest in his services.
Delanie Walker: The best tight end left on the market, Walker has battled injuries over the past two seasons and will turn 36 in August, so it makes sense that we haven’t heard too much about him lately. But while he may not be a TE1 anymore, he could still be a useful weapon in the passing game, and he also has a history of being a strong blocker. The Colts, Packers, and Redskins were said to be interested in him in March, and those teams continue to look like good fits even after the draft. The Ravens, who rely heavily on TEs and who traded Hayden Hurst to the Falcons this offseason, also make some sense.
Eric Reid: The 28-year-old safety turned in what appeared to be a strong year in 2019, starting all 16 games for the Panthers and posting a career-best 130 tackles. The problem is, he may have had so many tackle opportunities because he allowed over 77% of throws in his vicinity to be completed. Still, he is an experienced and generally solid back-end defender, and the Texans — who employ his brother, Justin Reid— seem like a logical fit.
Darqueze Dennard: Dennard, a former first-round pick of the Bengals, thought he had a deal with the Jaguars in March. But Jacksonville backed out of the deal, and while there was no word on why that happened, it could be that health concerns made the Jags skittish. Dennard missed the first few weeks of the 2019 season due to a knee procedure, but he did play every game from Week 10 forward and graded out well in terms of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. He has been Cincinnati’s primary slot corner over the past several seasons, but there has been no reported interest in him since the failed Jaguars pact.
Jacksonville traded away each member of its top-tier cornerback duo over the past six months, and Dennard was viewed as one of the pieces that would help the team transition from the Jalen Ramsey–A.J. Bouye era. However, Dennard is primarily a slot cornerback. With slot defender D.J. Hayden residing as the Jaguars’ top incumbent corner, this was set to be an interesting fit. Hayden and Melvin are now the Jags’ two most proven corners. The draft figures to be a key avenue for the team upgrading at this position.
While the Jaguars have work to do at cornerback after trading Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, they added a role player at the position on Tuesday.
Former first-round Bengals pick Darqueze Dennard agreed to terms with the Jaguars, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Dennard signed a one-year Bengals pact last year but will move on after six seasons in Cincinnati.
Going into his age-29 season, Dennard served as the Bengals’ primary slot cornerback over the past several seasons. A knee injury limited him last year, however, with an offeseason procedure delaying his start to the season. He played in nine games for the 2-14 Bengals in 2019. In those nine contests, however, Dennard graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 21 overall corner.
Dennard joins fellow ex-first-rounder D.J. Hayden and third-year UDFA Tre Herndon as Jacksonville’s primary corners. Hayden played well in the slot for the Jags last season, however, so the team may need to sort out its cornerback configuration for the 2020 season. The Jaguars are almost certainly not done adding to this position group and should be expected to be players for early-round corners.