Deshaun Watson

AFC Notes: Luck, Fournette, Watson

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) says no one is exactly sure what the future holds for Colts QB Andrew Luck, who was recently placed on IR and ruled out for the remainder of the year. Per Rapoport, Luck has met with at least four doctors and has been advised that he should not throw for two to three months, though surgery is not in the cards at this point. Rapoport says all indications are that Luck will be healthy for the start of 2018, but Alex Marvez of Sporting News is not so optimistic. Because of the way the Colts publicly handled the situation, Marvez does not put much stock in reports that Luck will be ready to go by the start of 2018 — especially since he still cannot throw without soreness 10 months after surgery — and he says Indianapolis is facing the possibility of Luck never playing again at a high level and being on the hook for $87 million in salary guaranteed against injury. Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com tweets that Luck will be reevaluated in December, and that the Colts are “not ignoring” the 2018 QB draft class.

On that sobering note, let’s take a look at more rumors from around the AFC:

  • The Colts claim that cornerback Vontae Davis is out for today’s game due to non-injury reasons, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk hears that is actually a cover-up for the fact that the Colts have not disclosed Davis’ lingering groin injury in recent weeks. Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star says there is more to Davis’ absence than the team is letting on, but he believes Davis’ absence is due to personal reasons and is not injury-related.
  • Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette was deactivated for today’s game against the Bengals, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweets that the star rookie missed treatment, a workout, and a team photo this week, which led to his benching. Head coach Doug Marrone is clearly trying to change the culture in Jacksonville, though Jags fans have to hope it doesn’t come at the expense of the team’s playoff push.
  • Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that Texans QB Deshaun Watson is expected to miss eight to nine months as a result of his ACL tear, though the last time he tore his ACL, he missed only five months, so Houston is hopeful for a shorter timeline.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says Broncos QB Paxton Lynch is under consideration to start in the team’s Week 10 matchup against New England, but Mike Klis of 9News.com says (via Twitter) that report is inaccurate. Klis reports that Lynch is not yet physically ready and that Brock Osweiler will keep the job if he plays well.
  • As La Canfora writes in a separate piece, there are some Browns coaches who believe GM Sashi Brown intentionally scuttled the team’s near trade for A.J. McCarron, presumably because he believed the cost (a second- and third-round draft choice) was too high. Even if Brown is right about that, his efforts to intentionally sabotage the trade represent a massive breach of protocol and will only intensify the much-discussed rift between the team’s coaching staff and front office. But even if Brown did not act duplicitously, and even if the botched trade was simply due to human error, the fact that the coaching staff thinks Brown intentionally nixed the deal suggests things have gone beyond the point of no return in Cleveland.

Texans’ Deshaun Watson Tears ACL

Deshaun Watson may have encountered a brutal setback amid a dynamic start to his career. The Texans believe their rookie quarterback suffered a torn ACL during practice Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). He’s already set for season-ending surgery, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter)."<strong

Without Watson, the Texans will turn to Tom Savage as their starter on Sunday against the Colts. Savage, of course, began the year as Houston’s starter before getting the hook in favor of Watson. Given Savage’s iffy start to the year, Houston might want to at least consider some outside options.

The trade deadline has come and gone, but there are still experienced QBs on the free agent market. Of course, Colin Kaepernick is among those without work and many are already calling on the Texans to consider him. There will be increased pressure on Houston to at least audition him in the wake of owner Bob McNair‘s controversial comments.

Already down J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, losing Watson is a damaging blow considering the promise he’s shown and the franchise’s recent history with quarterback struggles. Watson was on the verge of putting together one of the best seasons ever from a rookie passer. He’d thrown 19 touchdown passes this season, with 18 of those coming in a dominant stretch over the past five Houston games. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft went 3-3 as the Texans’ starting QB while completing 61.8% of his passes.

Watson tore his left ACL at Clemson in 2014 but returned to become a Heisman Trophy finalist a year later. He’ll look to make a similar turnaround for Houston in 2018.

Jets Notes: Watson, Wilkerson, Sanchez

Did the Jets make a franchise-altering mistake by not taking quarterback Deshaun Watson? Some within the organization believe that’s the case, particularly those who lobbied hard for him during the draft, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Mehta hears that some Jets officials were willing to trade a 2018 first-round pick plus Muhammad Wilkerson to move back into the first round to select Watson.

One can’t help but wonder whether the inclusion of Wilkerson in a trade offer would have helped the Jets’ chances. Wilkerson was once one of the league’s best values on the defensive line, but that went out of the window when he signed a five-year, $86MM extension before the start of last season and regressed sharply in 2016. Jets fans can dream about a scenario in which a future first-round pick, Wilkerson, and perhaps other draft considerations would have been enough to sway the Browns or Saints, but it’s hard to totally buy into that idea.

Here’s more on Gang Green:

  • After the Bills managed to unload Marcell Dareus, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com wonders aloud if the Jets could move Wilkerson before Tuesday’s trade deadline. He rightly concludes that a trade is highly unlikely. Aside from his onerous contract, Wilkerson’s production has still not returned to 2015 levels and he is dealing with multiple nagging injuries.
  • Recently, former Jets coach Rex Ryan said that he never saw Mark Sanchez as a “franchise quarterback,” but felt that he was good enough to “win with.” Those comments stand in stark contrast with what he wrote in his 2011 book, as Mike Florio of PFT notes. Ryan wrote that Sanchez was going to be “extraordinary in the NFL” and explained the thought process behind trading up to the No. 5 pick in the draft to get him. Ryan, it seems, is looking to rewrite history a little bit. This all may be part of an effort to to work his way back towards becoming an NFL head coach, but that seems unlikely at the moment.

Browns Eyed Trubisky, Mahomes, 2018 QBs Over Watson?

For the second straight year, the current Browns front office is set to observe the team face a rookie quarterback upon whom it passed in that year’s draft. After Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott faced the Browns last season, Deshaun Watson will match up against the team he was often linked to in the pre-draft process.

But the Browns evidently had a multi-layered thought process behind moving past Watson, with Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reporting the team had Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Watson as their top three quarterbacks and likely in that order.

The Browns also bypassed Watson with their No. 12 pick in order to pick up a future 2018 first-rounder — their second high-2018 draft choice acquired from the Texans this spring — because of what’s being viewed as a superior class of quarterbacks likely set to be draft-eligible, Cabot reports. With two first-round picks and three second-rounders next year, the Browns would like to be “well-positioned” to draft a quarterback in the event DeShone Kizer is not their long-term solution. Considering Kizer was just benched for what Cabot notes will likely be for at least three games through the team’s Week 9 bye, that clock is ticking.

Cleveland may well have taken Mahomes, who had a private workout with the Browns before visiting the team in April, had the Chiefs not traded up to No. 10 and selected him, Cabot notes. Kansas City’s brass obviously shared the Mahomes-over-Watson line of thinking. The longtime Browns reporter adds some in the front office did want to draft Trubisky No. 1 overall, leading to “heated debates” before Hue Jackson and Gregg Williams‘ preferred player, Myles Garrett, went to Cleveland at No. 1 overall.

Jackson declined to say this week if he advocated for Watson, who has accounted for 10 touchdowns the past two weeks. The second-year coach also declined to speculate whether coaching Watson in January would have endeared him more to the team.

The Browns not viewing Wentz or Watson as the kind of game-changer they coveted is being scrutinized now that Kizer has been benched for 2016 practice squad signee Kevin Hogan, who has outperformed the second-round pick when summoned this season.

Viewing this demotion as a “temporary timeout,” Jackson anticipates returning to Kizer this season. The Browns are planning to obtain more evidence he’s the future to determine if the Notre Dame product is worthy of bypassing a signal-caller with all five of their 2018 first- or second-round picks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans To Start Deshaun Watson In Week 2

Bill O’Brien brought another Week 1 hook and replaced Tom Savage with Deshaun Watson, and the switch does not appear to be temporary. The Texans are planning to start Watson on Thursday against the Bengals, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports (on Twitter).

Despite Texans brass declaring Savage their starter essentially from the draft until Sunday, La Canfora adds Watson is the Texans’ new starting passer.

A fourth-year player, Savage struggled in Houston’s 29-7 Week 1 loss to Jacksonville, and Watson was more effective upon entering midway through the game. The Clemson product finished 12-for-23 for 102 yards, throwing a touchdown pass and an interception.

O’Brien turned to Savage late last season after benching Brock Osweiler, doing this a year after benching Brian Hoyer in Week 1 for Ryan Mallett before pivoting back to Hoyer. The franchise has struggled at quarterback throughout O’Brien’s tenure, and he hasn’t been shy on changing the status quo. Watson, though, required a significant investment to acquire. So the recent national championship-winning passer might earn a much longer look.

The Texans travel to Cincinnati for a Week 2 tilt, but should they follow through and turn to Watson, he will have a difficult test in Week 3 when the team visits the Patriots. The Texans have never won in New England and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champs twice last season there.

Photo courtesy Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

AFC Notes: A. Smith, Orr, Watson, Landry

It was former Chiefs GM John Dorsey who ultimately pulled the trigger on the team’s draft-day trade that allowed Kansas City to climb all the way up to the No. 10 overall spot and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But now that Dorsey is out and Brett Veach is in, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says it is fair to question what the new hire means for incumbent signal-caller Alex Smith.

But according to Miller, not much will change with respect to the team’s approach to Smith. After all, Veach has been with the Chiefs for the past four years, so it’s not as if he’s coming to Kansas City with a fresh take on the situation. Plus, Miller’s league sources all said effectively the same thing: “nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach.” As such, you can still expect the team to move on from Smith after the 2017 season — and save $17MM in the process — as long as Mahomes appears ready to assume control.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says all is quiet on the Colts/Zach Orr front, and at this point, the team has had plenty of time to sift through Orr’s medicals. Therefore, Bowen does not believe Indianapolis will pursue Orr in an attempt to bolster its linebacker corps.
  • Although Texans GM Rick Smith was not as definitive as head coach Bill O’Brien in declaring Tom Savage the team’s Week 1 starter, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirms that Savage will be under center when the regular season gets underway. Rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is content to remain patient and wait for his opportunity. Watson said, “It’s best for the team. Coach [O’Brien] knows a lot of football. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL history in Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be.”
  • Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant recently said he took issue with the way Ben Roethlisberger spoke about him to the media earlier this summer, when Big Ben said Bryant would need to “win back everybody’s trust.” That might sound pretty rich for a player who managed to get himself suspended for the entire 2016 campaign, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com nonetheless believes that it is important for Bryant and Roethlisberger to have the sit-down that Bryant proposed. Although such meetings are often unbeneficial formalities, Fowler says Bryant, whose position in the league is fairly tenuous at this point, needs to feel like the catalyst he can be and not become a source of criticism.
  • The Dolphins‘ best bet may be to simply let Jarvis Landry play out the 2017 season, his contract year, and put the franchise tag on him in 2018, as Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders opines. After all, Landry is set to make less than $1MM this year, so even the projected $17MM tag in 2018 would allow Miami to keep Landry for at least two more seasons at about $8.5MM per year, which is well below the $14MM per year he would likely get with a new contract. Although that approach could create some discord between player and team, it does make short-term financial sense.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com makes a series of predictions for the Jets, with the most interesting being that he expects Christian Hackenberg to become the team’s starting quarterback no later than Week 12 (New York has a Week 11 bye), and that he expects Todd Bowles to be retained for 2018.

Poll: Highest-Impact Rookie Quarterback?

Of the 15 quarterbacks selected in last year’s draft, seven ended up starting at least one regular-season game in 2016. The Rams’ Jared Goff and the Eagles’ Carson Wentz comprised the top two picks of the draft, but it was Cowboys fourth-round signal-caller Dak Prescott, the 135th overall choice, who ultimately emerged as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the face of a 13-3 team.

When the Cowboys drafted Prescott, there was little expectation he’d garner significant playing time right away, let alone thrive from the get-go, with Tony Romo on the roster. But debilitating summer injuries to Romo and backup Kellen Moore opened the door for Prescott, who’s now firmly entrenched under center in Dallas. Romo, realizing he wasn’t going to start again for the Cowboys, is now working for CBS.

Deshaun Watson Texans (vertical)

While it’s hard to imagine any rookie quarterback from this year’s 10-man class bursting on the scene in Prescott-like fashion, it stands to reason at least some will get opportunities to do so. Like last year, three passers went in the first round of the 2017 draft, though immediate playing time isn’t a guarantee for any. For now, Mitch Trubisky (No. 2 overall, Bears), Patrick Mahomes (No. 10, Chiefs) and Deshaun Watson (No. 12, Texans) are in understudy roles.

Trubisky, a one-year starter at North Carolina for whom Chicago somewhat controversially traded up a spot to select, reportedly won’t see the field as a rookie unless free agent investment Mike Glennon flops. Considering Glennon previously held a starting job in Tampa Bay but didn’t do enough to keep it, he very well could struggle enough for Trubisky to grab the reins in 2017.

Watson might also take the helm sooner than later, as the ex-Clemson national championship winner whom the Texans traded up 13 spots to draft is behind a veteran, Tom Savage, who’s almost completely untested. Given that the Texans have sullied quality rosters with subpar quarterbacks in recent seasons, it could behoove them to plug in Watson if Savage, he of two career starts and zero touchdown passes, looks like another Brock Osweiler this year.

DeShone Kizer

An early path to playing time appears less clear for Mahomes, even though Kansas City paid a high price to go up 17 places to secure him. At the moment, the ex-Texas Tech gunslinger looks like a good bet to red shirt 2017 behind Alex Smith as the Chiefs take at least one more kick at the Super Bowl can with the steady (albeit non-elite) veteran at the helm.

Perhaps more than any other QB in this year’s class, Browns second-rounder DeShone Kizer stands out as someone who looks destined to amass playing time as a rookie. The 52nd pick and former Notre Dame dual threat has impressed in the very early going in Cleveland. Moreover, his main competitors for the Browns’ open starting job, Osweiler and Cody Kessler, aren’t exactly Otto Graham and Bernie Kosar.

As Prescott and 2012 third-rounder Russell Wilson have shown in the past half-decade, a quarterback doesn’t necessarily have to come off the board at the top of the draft to star right away. That’s surely heartening to the Giants’ Davis Webb (third round, No. 87), the 49ers’ C.J. Beathard (third round, No. 104), the Steelers’ Joshua Dobbs (fourth round, No. 135), the Bills’ Nathan Peterman (fifth round, No. 171), the Lions’ Brad Kaaya (sixth round, No. 215) and the Broncos’ Chad Kelly (seventh round, No. 253). Barring injuries, though, Webb, Dobbs and Kaaya have virtually no chance to earn starting roles at any point in 2017, as each is behind an established veteran. On the other hand, there’s no Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or Matthew Stafford on any of the rosters of the 49ers, Bills and Broncos, which could give Beathard, Peterman and Kelly a glimmer of hope. Still, for various reasons, all three look like major long shots to break out as rookies. Then again, the same could’ve been said about Prescott 12 months ago.

Photos via USA Today Sports Images and Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/17

The Texans announced the signing of Deshaun Watson and five other draft picks today. The former Clemson quarterback will make $13.85MM with an $8.25MM signing bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The Lions also signed first-rounder Jarrad Davis, along with seven other draft choices.

Here are the rest of Friday’s draft signings.

  • The Broncos and second-round defensive end Demarcus Walker arrived at an agreement, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports (on Twitter). It’s a four-year worth upwards of $5.1MM for the Florida State defensive end, per Jhabvala, who adds he will receive a $1.8MM signing bonus. Walker is expected to compete with Jared Crick and Zach Kerr for the Broncos’ right defensive end position opposite Derek Wolfe. Walker is the second defensive end Denver’s drafted in the past two years, following Adam Gotsis, who did not play much last season.
  • Both of the Jaguars‘ seventh-round selections are now signed. The Jags inked cornerback Jalen Myrick and fullback Marquez Williams. A Minnesota product, Myrick is a notable seventh-round choice because the ex-Golden Gopher defender blazed to the fastest 40-yard dash (4.28 seconds) a Big Ten player has clocked since the Combine began measuring these times. Williams spent three seasons at Division II Mars Hill (North Carolina) before transferring to Miami for his senior season. The Jags still have five unsigned picks.
  • Four late-round draft picks agreed to terms with the Titans, the team announced. Sixth-round guard/center Corey Levin is signed. So are seventh-rounders Josh Carraway, a linebacker, Brad Seaton, a tackle, and running back Khalfani Muhammad.
  • The 49ers signed third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon, a cornerback out of Colorado, the team announced. Witherspoon was the second Buffaloes corner to come off the board in last month’s draft, following Cowboys second-rounder Chidobe Awuzie. Witherspoon led Division I in pass deflections last season with 22, a number that tied an 18-year-old Colorado school record.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Texans Sign Deshaun Watson

The Texans have signed the bulk of their 2017 draft class. Only third round running back D’Onta Foreman remains unsigned. Here’s the full list of every Houston draft pick who is now under contract: "<strong

The Texans were said to be targeting Watson for several weeks and we learned on draft night that it wasn’t just a smokescreen. Houston traded this year’s No. 25 overall pick and its 2018 first round choice to get the No. 12 selection from the Browns in order to take the Clemson QB. Watson was universally regarded as one of the top QBs in this year’s class and some might argue that the athletic signal caller has more upside than any of his peers. Now, the rookie might have a chance at wrestling the starting job away from Tom Savage.

Cunningham was projected by some as a first round pick and he almost went No. 23 overall when the Giants were on the clock. Luckily for Houston, the Giants wound up taking Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram at No. 23 and passed on him again at No. 55, allowing them to grab the Vanderbilt product all the way down at No. 57.

Photo via Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

Extra Points: Trubisky, Dolphins, 49ers, Bucs

The Bears played it close to the vest before making their Mitch Trubisky trade from No. 3 to No. 2, one that headlined the draft and one that may have the team’s power structure at odds. Chicago’s brass tried to throw teams off the scent early in the process by sending an armada of personnel to Deshaun Watson‘s pro day while orchestrating a secret dinner meeting with Trubisky, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. The Bears also “begged” Trubisky’s camp not to leak news of that summit, and that part of the operation succeeded. Ryan Pace followed Dave Caldwell‘s secretive playbook when he made the Blake Bortles pick few expected.

Here’s more from around the league as rookie minicamp sessions are upon us.

  • Charles Harris experienced a similar type of draft misdirection. The Dolphins cancelled a pre-draft visit with the Missouri product without providing a reason for the change of plans. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s messed up,” Harris said, via James Walker of ESPN.com. Miami was linked to edge defenders coming into the draft despite re-signing Cameron Wake and Andre Branch, and Harris fell to the Fins at No. 22 to validate their pre-draft plot. The Dolphins met with Harris at the Combine but didn’t prompt him for a post-Combine workout before the cancellation tactic. “It’s just there are some players that we purposely try and stay away from once we are comfortable with the player, his character and what type of kid we are getting,” Dolphins GM Chris Grier said, via Walker. “We just do not feel the need to spend any more time with them.”
  • John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were split on one of the 49ers’ eventual draft picks, and the coach won out. Lynch had Utah running back Joe Williams off his draft board, but Shanahan convinced the new GM to give the go-ahead for a fourth-round selection, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Shanahan, who was tied to the 49ers midway through the GM hunt and thus received an opportunity for additional control, helped sway Lynch to trade a fifth-round pick to move up in the fourth round and select Williams. The Utes runner’s questionable off-the-field past had Lynch skeptical, but Shanahan saw some promise in the back who ran the Combine’s second-fastest 40 time at 4.41 seconds. With Carlos Hyde entering a contract year, Williams could be a key component of the 49ers’ future.
  • Both Kendell Beckwith and Buccaneers management expect the linebacker to be ready to return by training camp, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Beckwith tore his ACL late during his senior season at LSU last fall. Stroud expects Beckwith to be a possible early-season starter on the strong side, with the writer believing primary 2016 starter Daryl SmithPFR’s No. 4 UFA off-ball linebacker — is closing in on retirement rather than returning for a 14th NFL season.
  • Bucs running back Jeremy McNichols underwent surgery shortly after the Combine to repair a torn labrum, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Laine reports McNichols’ timeline hovers at around four months, noting the Boise State-developed back hopes to be ready for camp. McNichols arrived via fifth-round pick for a Bucs team that has questions about Doug Martin‘s future. The team still employs Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber on the roster. McNichols caught 103 passes at Boise State in three seasons, but Jason Licht views him as a possible three-down back as opposed to a passing-game specialist.