Deshaun Watson

AFC Notes: Bills, Allen, Texans, Watson

The Bills began discussing the idea of taking a quarterback near the top of the 2018 draft all the way back in May 2017 when general manager Brandon Beane was hired, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com.

It’s a quarterback league; you’ve either got one or you don’t,” Beane said. “And we were getting to know Tyrod and Tyrod brought a lot of good things for us, but we decided as the season moved on that we were probably going to go in a different direction, and at the same time we were still thinking, ‘OK, if Tyrod is our guy we’ll draft other things, and if not, we’ll be ready to move forward.’ And that planning really started in August with some of the moves we made, and to add the draft capital that we did.”

When it came time for the draft, the Bills managed to move up for Allen by sending their No. 12 pick and two second-round picks to the Bucs for the No. 7 choice. After that, the Bills doubted that they would be able to land Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who was another one of their top targets. Luckily for them, the Raiders opted to bolster their offensive line with the No. 15 pick, giving them an opportunity to trade up for Baltimore’s pick at No. 16.

We had tried to trade with Oakland … and they were like, ‘No, we’re taking the pick,‘” Beane said. “So I called [Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome] and we agreed to the terms while Oakland was still on the clock and he said, ‘Let me know if your guy is still there.’ So until I heard them say it was Kolton Miller you had to assume that they were taking Tremaine. And if they had we would have stayed pat at 22.”

The Bills are happy with how things turned out in the first round, but it may take a while before we see how this draft class pans out, particularly when it comes to Allen.

Here’s more from the AFC:

Extra Points: Browns, Johnson, Watson, Watt

Duke Johnson Jr. is staying in Cleveland for the foreseeable future. The running back signed a three-year extension with the organization today that will tack an additional $15.6MM ($7.7MM guaranteed) to his contract. While the 24-year-old is set to be with the organization until at least 2021, Johnson was more focused on his team’s potential in 2018.

“I’m excited,” Johnson told ClevelandBrowns.com. “It’s fun to see how this team is shaping out and I want to be a part of it. You can see it with the guys they brought in on offense like Tyrod (Taylor) and (Jarvis) Landry plus the guys we already had. I think bringing in coach (Todd) Haley adds another dimension to our offense and it gives coach (Hue) Jackson the chance to be the head coach. John Dorsey has been bringing in guys that can play, that can ball, and that gives us a chance. Now it’s about going out and doing it now.”

General manager John Dorsey also discussed the running back’s new deal.

“Duke Johnson is a good football player,” Dorsey said. “His hard work and commitment to the Browns organization is appreciated and we are excited to extend his contract and keep him in a Browns uniform for years to come. Duke is an excellent representative our organization. He leads by example and we look forward to him playing an important role with the Cleveland Browns moving forward.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the NFL…

  • The Texans are looking like they’re going to head into the 2018 campaign healthy. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that quarterback Deshaun Watson (ACL) and defensive end J.J. Watt (tibial plateau fracture) aren’t expected to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. The duo combined for only 12 games last season.
  • NFL executive vice president of business operations Eric Grubman will be stepping down from his role (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). The executive, who has been with the NFL for 14 years, played a major part in the Rams’ move to Los Angeles.“He has handled some of the most challenging and important issues to the NFL,” said Roger Goodell. While the commissioner tried to convince Grubman to stick around, the executive will join former COO Tod Leiwicke and former executive vice president of communications Joe Lockhart among those who have left high-ranking roles.
  • We learned earlier today that Broncos edge rusher Shane Ray is set to undergo wrist surgery, which will keep him out of action for three months.

Texans Notes: Clowney, Watson, Mathieu

Jadeveon Clowney did not practice during the first set of Texans OTAs last week because of a surgery he underwent in the offseason, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery after the season but remains sidelined as Houston’s offseason program commences, per Wilson, who adds the fifth-year edge defender recently sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. While the additional medical counsel and the lengthy time off could be deemed a cause for concern, Wilson reports the outlook for Clowney is positive here. An extension for the former No. 1 overall pick has been on the Texans’ agenda for a bit now, and the team is eyeing what promises to be a landmark contract being finalized before the regular season. It doesn’t look as though this knee issue will cloud that. Although, no deal is imminent just yet.

Here’s the latest out of Houston, as its NBA franchise prepares for a rather significant game.

  • As expected, Deshaun Watson participated in part of the Texans’ OTAs. The second-year quarterback took part in individual drills, per Bill O’Brien (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle). However, Watson also participated in some of the seven-on-seven portion of the workout. Pointing out Watson has not experienced any setbacks this offseason, McClain notes the Texans’ starter is expected to be 100 percent by the time training camp begins. “My knee feels well,” Watson said. “I’m comfortable to be able to throw and get the timing down with the receivers. There’s really no timeline on ACLs. It’s just dependent on how that person feels. I feel good.”
  • Tyrann Mathieu isn’t lobbying for the Texans to use him the way the Cardinals did. The Texans are, for now, planning on keeping their newly signed defensive back at the safety position exclusively. And Romeo Crennel‘s plan for Mathieu helped attract the free agent safety to Houston, he said. This comes after Mathieu spent plenty of time in the slot with the Cards. “Yeah, it definitely helps me slow things down,” Mathieu said of the safety-only role, via HoustonTexans.com. “Just focusing on one position, trying to be the best at that, rather than just being good at everything. So, I think it’s important for me to just embrace it like I have been and just trying to continue to grow as a safety.”

Texans Rumors: Watson, Martin, Mathieu

Despite tearing an ACL in November, Deshaun Watson looks like he’ll have some involvement in the Texans‘ offseason program. The one-time offensive rookie of the year favorite is ahead of schedule in his recovery process, just as Bill O’Brien anticipated he would be coming into the offseason program, James Palmer of NFL.com reports (video link). Watson will be throwing some during the offseason. Although Watson is currently working out in a brace on the injured knee, Palmer notes the second-year quarterback may not have to wear a brace once he returns to game action. The former national championship-winning passer will not participate in the team portions of the Texans’ OTAs but will throw during the seven-on-seven and passing portions of the workouts, per Palmer.

Here’s the latest out of Houston.

  • The Texans are considering moving center Nick Martin to guard, Palmer reports. The third-year player started in 14 Texans games at center last season, his first as a healthy NFLer after he missed all of his would-be rookie year due to injury. Having reached an agreement with another former Chiefs offensive lineman in Zach Fulton, it’s possible the Texans could slide Martin to guard and Fulton to center — where he played at times in Kansas City. O’Brien said as many as four new starters could be set to block for Watson this coming season. Senio Kelemete and Seantrel Henderson are now in the fold as well. Houston’s highest-paid lineman remains Jeff Allen, who has not lived up to the $7MM-per-year deal he signed in 2016. Martin’s brother, Zack, of course, is arguably the best guard in the game.
  • Tyrann Mathieu may be gradually pushed into a versatile position with his new team. Palmer notes the Texans plan to initially just play him at safety but do want him working at cornerback and as a blitzer. This hybrid job description helped Mathieu to an All-Pro perch in 2015 and a then-record safety contract before another injury sidetracked him and eventually re-routed him to Houston.
  • Joe Webb will make $915K in base salary and will carry a $720K cap figure this season, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The wide receiver/quarterback received a $90K signing bonus.
  • Defensive lineman Christian Covington has been fully cleared after his torn biceps injury in October ended his 2017 season, per Wilson. Covington started two games last season and played in seven, doing so after making five starts in 2016.
  • The Texans released right tackle Derek Newton earlier on Thursday and did so with a failed physical designation, Wilson tweets. Newton had not played since October 2016, when he sustained two severe knee injuries on one play.

AFC Notes: Gruden, Kaepernick, Texans, Watson

Raiders coach Jon Gruden is surprised to see Colin Kaepernick without a job in the NFL, but he’s not necessarily of the belief that he is starting caliber.

I think there’s a lot of intrigue there. His performance on the field wasn’t very good, on tape,” Gruden said (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). “I think, Robert Griffin III, a rookie of the year, surprised he’s out there. Tim Tebow, takes a team to the playoffs, there’s some surprise that he never came back. You know, Johnny Manziel, he’s out there. Back to Kaepernick, you know he got beat out by (Blaine Gabbert), to start the (2016) season. I think that says something. (But) I am surprised he’s not in camp with somebody. He probably will be soon.”

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • Texans coach Bill O’Brien says quarterback Deshaun Watson is ahead of schedule in ACL rehab and could be on the field throwing for OTAs (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). It’s unlikely that he’ll participate in team periods, but he has a chance at doing some individual workouts.
  • The Browns‘ two-year deal with Drew Stanton is worth $6.5MM, a source tells Rapoport (Twitter link). The deal includes $4.15MM fully guaranteed and carries a maximum value of $11.3MM.
  • With Tyrod Taylor, Stanton, and a quarterback to be drafted later, the Browns are expected to shop Cody Kessler, Rapoport tweets. Kessler started eight games for Cleveland in 2016, but didn’t necessarily shine. Given Kessler’s performance and the fact that the Browns probably do not have him in their plans, I wouldn’t expect much of a trade market for him.
  • The Colts moved down from No. 3 to No. 6, but they do seem inclined to trade down any further unless the expected run on quarterbacks fails to materialize, Stephen Holder of the Indy Star writes. The Colts believe that at least two of this year’s top four quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield) will go in the top five, leaving them to choose some of this year’s very best overall talents. If that’s the case, they’re content to stay put. “If it’s beneficial for us, and we think we have a deal that works long term, we’ll make the deal,” GM Chris Ballard said recently. “But (No. 6) is a good spot for us.”

South Notes: Texans, Watson, Titans, Bucs

Given that he tore his ACL in early November, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to be available for organized team activities, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). While losing a dynamic talent like Watson clearly cratered Houston’s 2017 campaign, the fact that he went down relatively early in the season does have a silver lining, as he’ll now be ready for offseason work. The Texans don’t have a first- or second-round pick in 2018, so they’ll rely on free agency and Watson returning to his excellent form in order to compete next year.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • Although the Titans spoke with Erik Walden‘s agent at the scouting combine, the veteran edge defender is expected to test the open market, tweets Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com. Earlier this offseason, I noted that finding a young pass rusher should be at top priority for Tennessee, so the 32-year-old Walden may not be a fit. Walden managed four sacks as a rotational rusher during his first season with the Titans, but he posted 11 sacks as recently as 2016. Entering the free agent period, PFR ranked Walden as the 15th-best free agent edge defender.
  • The Buccaneers are targeting free agent kicker Chandler Catanzaro, reports Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Tampa Bay has been atrocious at kicker for the better part of two years, as Roberto Aguayo, Nick Folk, and Patrick Murray have all struggled as the club’s primary kicker. Indeed, Football Outsiders ranked the Bucs 30th in the NFL with -13.2 points created on field goals and extra points. Catanzaro, who converted 83.3% of his field goals in 2017, isn’t the only kicker Tampa Bay is looking at, as the Redskins’ Dustin Hopkins is also on the team’s radar.
  • Buccaneers free agent guard Kevin Pamphile is drawing interest from eight-to-ten teams, per Laine. Pamphile, 27, has been a full-time starter over the past two seasons, and last season played 70% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps, third among Bucs offensive linemen. Additionally, while Pamphile is typically a guard, he does offer the ability to play all five positions along the offensive line. That versatility could be attractive to a number of clubs, as Pamphile could fill in at tackle or center if a need arises.

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.