David Johnson (RB)

NFC Notes: Rosen, Kittle, Newton

Amidst a deluge of trade speculation concerning second-year QB Josh Rosen, the Cardinals opted against making Rosen available to the media last week. But Rosen himself spoke to SI.TV (video link) about his uncertain status with the club, and while he did not disparage Arizona, he certainly sounded frustrated. He said, “I definitely understand the situation. I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions. . . . Whatever decisions are made, it’s my duty to prove them right if they keep me, and prove them wrong if they ship me off” (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Now for more from around the NFC:

  • Regardless of who the Cardinals‘ QB is in 2019, RB David Johnson will be getting a ton of touches, both in terms of carries and as a receiver. Johnson said (via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic), “[m]y role this upcoming season, from talking to the coaches, is that I’m going to hopefully get the ball a little bit more.” New head coach Kliff Kingsbury recently said he will build his offense around Johnson, who will be asked to earn every penny of the big-money extension he inked last September. Assuming he can remain healthy, Johnson should be able to tally at least 1,800 all-purpose yards.
  • 49ers tight end George Kittle posted a whopping 1,377 receiving yards last year, and as Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required) writes, Kittle recorded 797 of those yards while injured. Barrows reports that Kittle suffered fractured cartilage in his rib cage early in the team’s Week 9 win over the Raiders, and that he wore two large rib protectors for the rest of the season. It sounds as if Kittle is (or will be) fully-recovered, and he is prepared to build on his monster 2018 campaign.
  • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said QB Cam Newton has gotten a lot of his range of motion back, and while Newton hasn’t resumed throwing yet, that time is coming (via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer). However, Rivera stopped shy of giving a timetable for Newton’s return.
  • As Rodrigue writes, the Panthers have been taking a look at this year’s collegiate passers, which has sparked some concern about Newton’s status. But Rivera and GM Marty Hurney downplayed the meaning of their QB scouting, and Rivera said, “I don’t think we’ve spent any more time on quarterbacks (this year) than we have in the past.” Rodrigue says the club remains optimistic about Newton’s progress, and while the Panthers could select a quarterback if the right player falls to them, they are not going to reach for one, and they are going to keep their focus on reviving the pass rush and bolstering the O-line.
  • Yesterday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed that the club will be exercising Ezekiel Elliott‘s fifth-year option, and as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Jones also said that he will “obviously” be looking for a strong backup for Elliott. Rod Smith was the team’s No. 2 RB last year, but he is still a free agent, and it sounds as though Dallas wants an upgrade. The Cowboys are unlikely to invest a high-level draft choice on an RB given that Elliott will get the lion’s share of the touches, but a quality Day 3 prospect could be in the mix.

POLL: Should the Cardinals Explore A David Johnson Trade?

As the Cardinals have started the season 1-4 and are in the midst of a rebuild, there’s been a lot of trade rumors surrounding the team. Arizona is reportedly shopping former first-rounders Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick, and now a more surprising name has emerged as a potential trade candidate. 

Over the course of the week, David Johnson‘s name has been a frequent subject of internet discussion, with many speculating the team could look to deal him as they aren’t in win-now mode. The Eagles, who have also been linked to Le’Veon Bell after Jay Ajayi‘s ACL tear, have been suggested as a possible destination for Johnson.

Johnson has been having a down-year by his standards, and Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has taken a lot of flack for not getting Johnson involved more. Johnson thrived in now-retired coach Bruce Arians’ system, where he was often utilized as a receiver. McCoy’s scheme has turned him into more of a between-the-tackles runner, and it hasn’t been a great fit.

Despite the scheme issues, it would still be shocking if Johnson was dealt. Just last month, the team signed him to a huge three-year extension worth $39MM. As former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry points out, it wouldn’t make much sense for the team to pay Johnson a massive $12MM signing bonus then deal him months later (Twitter link).

It also wouldn’t seem to make much sense for the Cardinals to trade away the offense’s best weapon as they seek to develop Josh Rosen. Trading away Johnson would take away Rosen’s safety blanket and make life much tougher for the promising rookie.

But as long as the Cardinals continue to lose and until McCoy succeeds in getting Johnson more involved, rumors will likely continue to swirl. It’s likely the Cardinals would seek high draft picks if they did decide to flip him, and it’s unclear if any team would even be willing to play the necessary price.

What do you think? With the team not winning anything this year, should the Cardinals at least listen to offers on Johnson? Vote in the poll below and weigh in down in the comments!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Johnson, Rodgers, Panthers

More details on David Johnson‘s Cardinals contract are emerging. In addition to the fourth-year running back seeing $24MM in full guarantees as part of his three-year, $39MM extension, Johnson will receive a $12MM signing bonus, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). His $5.7MM base salary in 2019 is fully guaranteed. The All-Pro’s 2020 base ($10.2MM) will have $5.1MM guaranteed fully at signing, per Graziano (on Twitter), but the other half of it is guaranteed for injury only. However, Johnson’s full 2020 salary becomes guaranteed if he’s on the Cardinals’ roster by March of 2019.

Each of Johnson’s next three seasons include $750K in per-game roster bonuses. As far as cap numbers go, Johnson now has a $5MM hit this season. The former third-round pick will count $9.45MM against Arizona’s 2019 cap, $13.95MM in 2020 and $11.7MM in 2021, Graziano reports (Twitter link).

Here’s the latest out of the NFC, shifting toward its most important player.

  • Aaron Rodgers missed Packers practice again on Thursday, but this wasn’t unexpected. However, Mike McCarthy said it’s no layup that his two-time MVP quarterback will play Sunday against the Vikings, per Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Rodgers and McCarthy said Wednesday he does not need to practice in order to start Sunday.
  • It keeps getting worse for the Panthers. After serious injuries hit Greg Olsen and Daryl Williams in Week 1, Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner is in concussion protocol, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. Both of Carolina’s starting tackles — Williams and Matt Kalil — are already on IR. Both can return after eight weeks, but at this point, it can’t be assumed both will be back. Carolina could lose a more important player to its cause. Only two players can be recalled from IR. Amini Silatolu filled in for Turner last season, but he may have to play right tackle Sunday. However, the Panthers added Chris Clark to potentially do that. In addition to Silatolu, Newton writes Tyler Larsen and rookie UDFA Brendan Mahon will have a chance to start in place of Turner — in the event he can’t go Sunday.
  • Demario Davis rated as a top-10 Pro Football Focus linebacker last year, doing so for his work as an inside linebacker. It was expected the high-priced free agent would man the middle for the Saints, but they’ve moved him to the weak side, NOLA.com’s Josh Katzenstein notes. Second-year man Alex Anzalone is now stationed as New Orleans’ middle ‘backer, but the team rotated he, Manti Te’o and A.J. Klein as Davis sidekicks in Week 1. Sean Payton said the team’s still determining how it will structure its linebacker usage. Davis played all 66 snaps in the Saints’ loss to the Buccaneers, while Anzalone led the others with 34. Klein functioned in Davis’ role in 2017, playing all of the Saints’ Week 1 snaps in his first game with the team.

West Rumors: Prosise, Cards, Rams, Raiders

After a promising flash as a rookie, C.J. Prosise has not contributed much to the Seahawks‘ cause. He’s picked up 17 touches since December 2016 and is behind Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis on the Seattle running back depth chart. However, the team is discussing a position change for the third-year back. Pete Carroll said (via Pro Football Talk) his coaching staff is examining a possible Prosise switch to wide receiver, citing his background at the position in college. Prosise was a wideout at Notre Dame before being switched to the backfield. He caught 29 passes for 516 yards in 2014. The Seahawks are down Doug Baldwin for perhaps multiple weeks, and they have just four healthy wide receivers.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions, shifting to a running back who is also quite adept at the receiver role.

  • David Johnson is now the NFL’s second-highest-paid running back, holding a substantial lead over the No. 3 player in this hierarchy, and ranks close to the top in terms of fully guaranteed money, too. Johnson’s three-year, $39MM Cardinals extension will come with $24.682MM fully guaranteed at signing, Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets. Adding in the amount guaranteed for injury increases the deal’s guarantees to $31MM, per Corry, who adds offset language is included in this contract. Johnson’s $24MM-plus full guarantee leads all running backs on veteran contracts, surpassing Todd Gurley‘s $21.9MM in guarantees.
  • Martavis Bryant is indeed back with the Raiders, as Jon Gruden suggested he could be. An illness and general inconsistency during camp led to Bryant being a preseason cut, Gruden said (via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic, on Twitter). Gruden said the perpetual suspension risk, who may or may not be facing another ban, is more focused and may suit up for the team on Sunday in Denver.
  • In addition to the Raiders’ interest in signing top free agent Johnathan Hankins, Gruden said they’re also interested in adding Clinton McDonald, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Hankins is visiting the Raiders on Wednesday. The Broncos released McDonald after the preseason slate. If signed, McDonald would add yet another 30-something to Gruden’s free agency haul. He’s 31.
  • The Raiders are in need of help at defensive tackle because of a Justin Ellis injury. The fifth-year veteran defensive tackle strained ligaments in his foot, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He’s week-to-week, prompting Oakland to pursue outside help.
  • Adam Jones signed with the Broncos late in the preseason, appearing to represent an upgrade at punt returner and No. 4 cornerback. However, the 35-year-old defender appears to have usurped Tramaine Brock for the nickel job, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com notes. Brock didn’t fare poorly in the preseason and graded as an upper-echelon corner during his last season of full-time work, with the 2016 49ers, but Jones has more experience in Vance Joseph‘s defense from their time together in Cincinnati. If he’s been demoted, it would mark a second straight season the 30-year-old defender’s resided out of a nickel picture. The Vikings carried Brock as a depth piece in 2017.
  • The Rams are going to need a new return man. Pharoh Cooper suffered an ankle injury and will be out for “some time,” Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com notes. Backup return man Michael Thomas is out for a few weeks, Sean McVay said, to prompt Los Angeles to seek alternative options. Cooper served as the Rams’ kick- and punt-return man last season, soaring to All-Pro honors.

NFC Notes: D. Johnson, D. Williams, Thielen

Although it was not expected that the two sides would be able to come to terms before the start of the season, the Cardinals and David Johnson agreed to a three-year extension yesterday that will keep Johnson in the desert through 2021. Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the key to getting the deal done was the team’s agreement to give Johnson a short-term extension that gives him a chance to hit free agency again at a time when a new CBA will be in place and when owners’ income streams will be at an all-time high thanks to renewed TV deals and gambling revenue.

As Week 1 gets underway in earnest, let’s take a look at more news from around the NFC:

  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry is less optimistic about Johnson’s chances to cash in a second time. Although he thinks the Cardinals‘ tailback did well for himself with his new deal, he points out (via Twitter) that Johnson will be 30 by the time he is eligible for unrestricted free agency again, so he will need to defy conventional wisdom concerning RBs to get another big contract.
  • Just last month, it appeared as though the Panthers would have to place starting right tackle Daryl Williams on IR, but Carolina finally got some good news with respect to its O-line. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Williams has a good chance to start the team’s opener against the Cowboys this afternoon, and that the structural damage to his injured knee is minimal. That is good news for Williams as well, as he is eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the year.
  • Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has a number of incentives that could boost his $4.85MM 2018 salary, but even if he hits all of those incentives, Thielen will still be significantly underpaid relative to the WR market. Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune details the incentives and suggests that, if Thielen performs in 2018 has he did in 2017, his reps could approach Minnesota about redoing his current contract, which runs through 2020.
  • Eagles QB Carson Wentz could return to action in Week 3.
  • Cowboys DE Randy Gregory could be suspended yet again after suffering a relapse.

Cardinals Unlikely To Extend David Johnson Before Week 1

The Cardinals aren’t likely to work out a long-term contract with running back David Johnson before the season gets underway on Sunday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported last week that the two sides were not close to a new deal.

However, Johnson could still hammer out a pact in-season, as Rapoport indicates talks won’t come to a close just because the season is starting. Johnson recently said he’s been “encouraged” by negotiations with Arizona, and general manager Steve Keim said today Johnson’s health question marks — he missed most of the 2017 campaign with a dislocated wrist — won’t play into discussions, per Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

Johnson, of course, was arguably the NFL’s best offensive player during the 2016 season. In addition to being named first-team All-Pro, Johnson managed 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns plus 80 receptions, 879 yards, and four more scores in the passing game.

Rams running back Todd Gurley reset the running back market last month by agreeing to a new deal which contains a $14.375MM annual value and $21.95MM in guarantees, but it’s difficult to see Johnson approaching that figure. Not only is Johnson coming off a lost season, but he’s nearly three years older than Gurley. Still, a contract which tops double-digits annually should be expected for Johnson, who will earn just $1.907MM in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

David Johnson, Cardinals Not Close To Deal

While there may be some optimism regarding David Johnson‘s long-term future in Arizona, it doesn’t sound like the running back will be signing an extension any time soon. Jason La Canfora tweets that the two sides have a “long ways to go to complete a deal.” A deal isn’t expected to be signed prior to the regular season.

While this news isn’t all that surprising, Johnson had said earlier this month that he was “encouraged” by the extension talks. The running back previously sat out Cardinals minicamp in a bit of a mini hold-out, although it didn’t take him all that long to report to camp. Johnson is scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.8MM in the final year of his deal, and after losing the 2017 season due to injury, he’s understandably concerned about his financial security. The Pro Bowler may be subject to the whim of the organization and under their control through 2020 thanks to the franchise tag.

Rams running back Todd Gurley reset the running back market last month by agreeing to a new deal which contains a $14.375MM annual value and $21.95MM in guarantees, although Johnson probably won’t eclipse that contract. Not only is Johnson coming off a lost season, but he’s nearly three years older than Gurley. Still, a contract which tops double-digits annually should be expected for Johnson.

The 26-year-old had a breakout campaign in 2016, rushing for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also added another 80 receptions for 879 yards and four scores, earning him a place on the first-team All-Pro list. Johnson dislocated his wrist during the Cardinals’ 2017 season-opener, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cardinals RB David Johnson “Encouraged” By Extension Talks

Cardinals running back David Johnson said earlier this week that he’s been “encouraged” by his ongoing extension negotiations, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

“I think that’s what it is — I didn’t play,” Johnson said. “I didn’t play last year. I was hoping my production from my second year and what I did my first year would help out, but the NFL is what have you done for me lately, so hopefully I can prove it once the season starts.”

Johnson, of course, was arguably the NFL’s best offensive player during the 2016 season. In addition to being name first-team All-Pro, Johnson managed 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns plus 80 receptions, 879 yards, and four more scores in the passing game. However, a dislocated wrist forced Johnson to miss most of the 2017 campaign, and that absence will surely affect his upcoming contract.

Johnson skipped Cardinals minicamp earlier this year in something of a mini-holdout, but subsequently reported to training camp. Arizona has reportedly been working towards a contract with Johnson’s camp, and that progress shouldn’t be delayed by general manager Steve Keim‘s team-imposed suspension.

Rams running back Todd Gurley reset the running back market last month by agreeing to a new deal which contains a $14.375MM annual value and $21.95MM in guarantees, but it’s difficult to see Johnson approaching that figure. Not only is Johnson coming off a lost season, but he’s nearly three years older than Gurley. Still, a contract which tops double-digits annually should be expected for Johnson, who will earn just $1.907MM in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cardinals, Johnson, Gurley, Running Backs, Jets, Darnold, McDowell, Seahawks

David Johnson made waves when it was announced he was staying away from the team’s mandatory minicamp in June in search of a new contract. He put an end to any speculation he might hold out for an extended period of time by showing up to training camp on time. Johnson was one of the best players in the entire league in 2016, but missed almost all of last season with a wrist injury. Despite making his desire for a new deal clear, Johnson is now saying he’s not concerned with his contract.

“There are people that need to concern themselves with Johnson’s potential contract – Johnson just doesn’t want to be one of them” writes Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. Johnson reportedly said ““I’ve heard of former players, not just Cardinals but in the league, having the stress of the contract on them and it ends up affecting their play” adding that’s what he’s seeking to avoid. “I don’t have time to think about” a contract, Johnson said. Johnson, who will be 27 this December, is a little old for a player still on his rookie deal. With the short shelf-life running backs in the league tend to have, this could be his one and only opportunity to cash in with a big contract. It makes sense why Johnson would want to wait for the best deal possible, and both sides remain optimistic something will get done. Johnson did talk a little bit about Todd Gurley‘s recent mega-extension, saying it’s “good to see running backs get deals.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of Gurley and running back deals, Gurley did backs like Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Alvin Kamara a “huge solid” by getting his deal writes Albert Breer of SI.com. “I’m just happy to even be in a position to take the next step for us running backs” Gurley told Breer. Gurley definitely paved the way for running backs to get huge guarantees, and it will be fascinating to see how the market reacts across the league.
  •  Although many Jets fans have been worried by the team’s inability to sign Sam Darnold to his rookie contract, coach Todd Bowles isn’t concerned. “It’s part of the business” Bowles declared after practice today while explaining why Darnold’s absence from training camp isn’t a big deal. It might not be significant yet, but if Darnold misses too much more of camp it could turn into a real problem as he battles for the starting job.
  • Defensive tackle Malik McDowell has cleared waivers and has reverted to the Seahawks’ injured reserve list, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link). McDowell was released yesterday after he was unable to ever return to health following an ATV accident last summer. McDowell, the 35th overall pick of the 2017 draft, has never played a down in the NFL and it’s unclear if there’s a chance he ever returns.

Cardinals’ David Johnson Reports To Camp

Cardinals running back David Johnson has reported to training camp, the team announced on Monday morning. It’s a big development for Arizona after Johnson opted to skip the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.

[RELATED – Extension Candidate: David Johnson]

Johnson scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.8MM in the final year of his deal. After losing the 2017 season to injury, Johnson is understandably concerned about his financial security. If Johnson were to suffer another serious injury this year, he would be left without a safety net and a fairly low floor in free agency, despite all of his past accomplishments.

By skipping minicamp, Johnson was fined more than $84K. Missing training camp would have resulted in even more substantial fines, and that’s not something Johnson wanted to mess with. Over the first three years of his career, Johnson has earned $2.3MM in salary. That’s not chump change, but the fines would have hurt him more than other players who are pushing for new deals.

Johnson was arguably the league’s best offensive player in 2016 as he racked up more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns. He remains one of the NFL’s premier talents at running back, despite missing the majority of the 2017 campaign with a dislocated wrist.

The Cardinals would like to lock Johnson up, but his lost 2017 season likely complicates negotiations. The Cardinals can also afford to exercise patience thanks to the franchise tag, which would pay Johnson $11.9MM in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.