David Johnson (RB)

Extra Points: Bell, Elway, Bears, Lions

Le’Veon Bell would stand to make $12.1MM guaranteed if he and the Steelers weren’t able to come to terms by Monday afternoon. While Bell’s camp is surely asking for a deal north of the $10MM-per-year range due to this tag number, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks could see LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM-per-year agreement could remain the standard for backs. The damage players incur at this position limiting their shelf lives, along with the marginalization that’s impacted this job, makes Brooks wonder if any back is worth that much money under the current cap. An AFC executive, though, mentioned Bell, David Johnson and possibly Ezekiel Elliott as backs worth a major second contract.

In today’s game, the running back has to be able to contribute as a runner, receiver and blocker to be a viewed as a marquee player,” the exec said, via Brooks. “Johnson, Bell and maybe (Ezekiel) Elliott are the ideal guys to man the RB1 spot because they are big backs with the size and speed to run between the tackles or on the edges, but they are also capable of being a big part of the game from anywhere in the formation (backfield, slot or out wide).”

Johnson is coming off a meniscus injury, while Bell tore his MCL in 2015 to further illustrate how tenuous these players’ windows for dominance can be. Johnson is also two months older than Bell but two NFL seasons behind him, so Bell might have a better chance of cashing in since Johnson will turn 27 at the end of his rookie deal. But Bruce Arians recently said his breakout running back doesn’t have a ceiling, indicating the Cardinals might opt to keep him long-term once he’s extension-eligible after this season.

Here’s the latest from around the league.

  • The Broncos and GM John Elway‘s negotiations heated up this week, and Mark Kizsla of the Denver Post notes the team wants to richly reward the exec for his contributions during what’s been one of the franchise’s best stretches in its 57-season history. But the longtime columnist writes the unfortunate battle with Alzheimer’s Pat Bowlen’s encountered makes the Broncos harder to assess from a longer-term perspective, attempting to explain the slowed process for an Elway re-up.
  • A decision-making presence the Broncos once extended (before firing him), John Fox is on a hot seat at his most recent job, Michael Rothstein and Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com write. Fox having gone 9-23 in two Bears seasons puts the veteran sideline bastion in danger of being fired for a third time, provided the Bears don’t push for the playoffs, per Dickerson. The writer notes chairman George McCaskey’s lack of patience might lead to another change. Dickerson adds third-year GM Ryan Pace should join Fox on the hot seat, but he’s likely to be safer than the coach is.
  • Cornelius Washington ventured from the Bears to the Lions in part because of Detroit’s attacking 4-3 scheme as opposed to the 3-4 currently being deployed in Chicago, Tim Twentyman of Lions.com notes. Washington will be a part of the Lions’ rotation up front, with Twentyman predicting the former Bears backup will have a good chance to rush from the tackle spot on passing downs.

No Surgery For Cardinals RB David Johnson

Cardinals running back David Johnson only suffered an MCL sprain in the regular season finale, coach Bruce Arians says (Twitter link via Cardinals PR man Mark Dalton). That means no surgery for the Cardinals star, only rehab and rest. David Johnson (vertical)

[RELATED: Cardinals Willing To Franchise Tag Chandler Jones]

The Cardinals are thrilled to learn that Johnson will not have to go under the knife after suffering a gruesome-looking injury in Week 17. An MCL sprain is no walk in the park, but a more serious knee injury such as an ACL tear could have sidelined Johnson for a good chunk of next season.

Johnson, 25, ran for more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage while scoring 20 total touchdowns. While this was a down year for the 7-8-1 Cardinals, Johnson had a tremendous individual season and asserted himself as one of the very best running backs in the NFL.

In other Cardinals news, three teams in search of a head coach have asked to speak with offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. Also, the draft order is set for the top 20 and Arizona holds the No. 13 overall pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

David Johnson Has Meniscus Damage

Early tests show that Cardinals running back David Johnson suffered meniscus damage during today’s game against the Rams, but did not tear his ACL, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Johnson will undergo an MRI on Monday in order to further ascertain the exact nature of the injury.David Johnson (Vertical)

[RELATED: Chandler Jones Hopes To Stay With Cardinals]

Clearly, without more specific information about Johnson’s injury, it’s difficult to predict how the ailment might affect his offseason. Avoiding an ACL tear is extremely positive news, but meniscus damage can also limit a player for years. Johnson, 25, has been a revelation during his second season in the NFL, managing more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage while posting 20 total touchdowns. On an Arizona offense that ranks only 22nd in DVOA, Johnson was the weekly focal point as quarterback Carson Palmer and the rest of the passing game struggled.

Johnson is signed through the 2018 campaign, but fellow running backs Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington, and Stepfan Taylor are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end. If Johnson is expected to be sidelined for a good portion of the summer, Arizona could be forced to add bodies to its backfield.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Signings: Steelers, Cardinals, Bills

The latest draft signings from rounds 3-7..

  • The Steelers announced (on Twitter) that they have signed their third-round draft pick, wide receiver Sammie Coates. With the Auburn product in the fold, Pittsburgh has now signed seven of eight draft picks.
  • The Cardinals signed third-round running back David Johnson and seventh-round tight end Gerald Christian, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com tweets. Only first-round tackle D.J. Humphries remains unsigned.
  • The Bills signed sixth-round linebacker Tony Steward, Wilson tweets. Now, top pick Ronald Darby stands as the last one unsigned.
  • The Browns announced that they have signed fourth-round wide receiver Vince Mayle and seventh-round linebacker Hayes Pullard, as Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald writes. Running back Duke Johnson, picked in the third round, and safety Ibraheim Campbell, taken in the fourth round, are the only Browns picks unsigned.
  • The Jaguars announced that they have signed fifth-round pick Rashad Greene. The FSU product was widely projected as a second-to-third round pick and the Jags are hoping that they got themselves a steal.

Draft Visits: Jets, Jags, Steelers, Lions

Draft day is only a week and a half away, but teams are still bringing in prospects for visits and working them out, as they try to compile as much information as possible on this year’s draft class. Here are a few Monday updates on the latest visits and workouts:

  • Leonard Williams, DL (USC); Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB (Florida): Making their previously-reported visits to the Jets this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • Denzel Perryman, LB (Miami): Visiting the Jaguars today, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post.
  • Darryl Roberts, CB (Marshall); Bryce Callahan, CB (Rice); Steven Nelson, CB (Oregon State): All visiting the Steelers today, according to Wilson (Twitter link).
  • Jamison Crowder, WR (Duke): Has had private workouts with Panthers, Buccaneers, and Texans, per Wilson.
  • Carl Davis, DT (Iowa): Visiting the Lions today, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).
  • David Johnson, RB (Northern Iowa): Visiting the Falcons today, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • Marcus Hardison, DL (Arizona State): Visiting the Bengals today and generating a lot of interest around the league, per Gil Brandt of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • Bud Sasser, WR (Missouri): Visiting the Broncos today, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Draft, Lions, Levy

Following a failed drug test at the combine, it’s not clear where exactly Nebraska outside linebacker Randy Gregory will land in this month’s draft. Previously viewed as a near lock to be a top-10 pick, Gregory is now receiving consideration from plenty of teams outside the top 10, and he’ll visit the Vikings (No. 11) this week, tweets Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports.

Here’s more from around the NFC North:

  • Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney and TCU linebacker Paul Dawson are among the prospects visiting the Vikings today, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. In a second tweet, Rapoport passes along another update on McKinney, noting that the linebacker had to reschedule his visit with the Cowboys due to illness, and also has the Ravens and Browns on his slate. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun adds (via Twitter) that McKinney will visit the Bears.
  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities passes along a couple more names of prospects making pre-draft visits to Minnesota today, reporting (via Twitter) that the Vikings are hosting Norfolk State defensive end Lynden Trail and Northern Iowa running back David Johnson.
  • Linebacker DeAndre Levy may be the Lions‘ best defensive player now that Ndamukong Suh is a Dolphin, writes Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. However, as Meinke details, team president Tom Lewand says it’s premature to say whether or not the Lions will get a new deal done with Levy soon. “In the case of DeAndre, we haven’t even begun conversations with him, so I wouldn’t know where those would take us, and we’ll see where it goes, but every circumstance is a little bit different,” Lewand said. “We’ll see where those conversations, once they start, take us.”
  • The Lions hosted Auburn defensive tackle Angelo Blackson for a pre-draft visit today, writes Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com.