Lions Rumors

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/19/23

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

Tennessee Titans

Michael Dogbe, a former seventh-round pick, got into 40 games for the Cardinals through the first four seasons of his career. This included 2021 and 2022 campaigns where he appeared in 29 games, collecting 55 tackles and one sack. He caught on with the Texans last week and proceeded to appear in about 25 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this past weekend.

Kyle Peko will bring 31 games of experience to the Titans defensive line. The veteran has already been promoted by the Titans twice this season and started both of his appearances, collecting four tackles. He’ll be taking the spot of Jayden Peevy, who got into two games across two seasons with the organization.

Lions Place S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, DE James Houston On IR

The injuries C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Houston sustained in Week 2 will lead to two key defenders moving off the Lions’ roster. The team placed the veteran safety and young defensive end on IR on Tuesday.

Initially reported as an ankle ailment, Houston is actually dealing with a fibula injury, Dan Campbell said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett). Additionally, Halapoulivaati Vaitai may be facing a multiweek absence. Campbell said the team’s right guard starter could be out for a bit, though he added (via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers) it does not look like an IR move will be necessary.

Gardner-Johnson may be on track to miss the rest of the season. The fifth-year DB is feared to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle. With Houston suffering a fracture, he may also miss the rest of the year.

Despite the Eagles expressing interest in re-signing Gardner-Johnson this offseason, he ended up with the Lions on a surprising deal. Gardner-Johnson, who denied a report of the Eagles submitting a multiyear offer, signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal. While players have landed big-ticket contracts despite season-ending injuries in the recent past — Allen Robinson, Bud Dupree and Dak Prescott are three of note — Gardner-Johnson was aiming to use this season as a trampoline toward a more lucrative pact. A surgery taking place would wound those aspirations. The Lions have exclusive negotiating rights with CJGJ until March of next year.

Houston’s injury will blunt some surprising early-career momentum. Houston went from sixth-round pick to Detroit’s practice squad, debuting on Thanksgiving Day. The Jackson State product managed to rack up eight sacks after that late start. He started one game for the Lions this season.

While it is not known if Gardner-Johnson and Houston are both done for the season, it obviously represents good news Vaitai avoided a serious injury. A back issue sidelined Vaitai throughout last season, leading to a pay cut. The former Eagles draftee also considered retirement this offseason. The Lions have Graham Glasgow back in place as insurance, and although Vaitai beat out the returning blocker for the RG post, Glasgow has been a starter for most of his career. While the Broncos released Glasgow to pick up cap space in March, he started 33 games for the team — at guard and center — from 2020-22. Glasgow, 30, has started 91 career contests.

Lions Fear C.J. Gardner-Johnson Sustained Torn Pectoral Muscle

The Lions could soon be without a key piece in their secondary. They fear C.J. Gardner-Johnson suffered a torn pectoral muscle, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of report.

This would be a tough blow to Gardner-Johnson’s hopes of using this season as a platform to command a better contract in free agency. Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year, $6.5MM deal with the Lions in March, doing so after the Eagles had expressed interest in keeping him. Though, Gardner-Johnson said no firm offer came his way from the defending NFC champions.

Losing Gardner-Johnson would deliver a substantial blow to the Lions’ defense as well. The team struggled for most of last season defensively and loaded up on DB investments this year. Gardner-Johnson followed Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley to Detroit, and the team soon drafted Brian Branch in the second round. Branch and Gardner-Johnson offer similar skillsets, as safeties with extensive slot experience. The Lions began the season with Branch at nickel and CJGJ at safety.

A full tear would point to Gardner-Johnson missing the rest of the season. A strain or a partial tear keeps the door open for a return. Though, these reports generally do not bring good news for injured players, and the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers notes this “is not looking good” for Gardner-Johnson.

The fifth-year defender played 97% of Detroit’s defensive snaps in the overtime loss to Seattle. The team would have the option of moving Branch to safety. The Alabama product came off the draft board as this year’s top safety, though he played extensively at nickel in Nick Saban’s program. Branch also impressed at nickel this offseason, moving the Lions to scrap a rumored plan of returning Gardner-Johnson to nickel — his primary Saints spot — after he had moved to safety for the Eagles.

Detroit does have Tracy Walker, whom it re-signed in free agency last year, and Will Harris as experienced reserves. The Lions previously moved Harris from safety to corner, but Sutton and Jerry Jacobs operate as the team’s perimeter starters. Moseley, who is finishing up a recovery from an October 2022 ACL tear, has yet to debut for the Lions. Gardner-Johnson had joined Kerby Joseph as the team’s starting safeties, though Joseph missed Week 2.

Walker has made 37 career starts and re-signed with the Lions — on a three-year, $25MM deal in 2022. Walker, however, suffered a torn Achilles in Week 3 of last season. Losing his starting job upon returning, the sixth-year vet has played just nine defensive snaps this season.

Lions’ James Houston Suffers Fractured Ankle

Expectations were high for James Houston entering the 2023 season, but his campaign will be put on hold for an extended stretch. The Lions edge rusher suffered a fractured ankle in Week 2, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Further testing will be done today to determine if surgery is necessary, Rapoport adds. Regardless of if a procedure is needed, though, Houston is facing an absence of at least six to eight weeks. The news marks a disappointing turn for the 24-year-old who was looking to build off his surprising production in his rookie season.

Houston announced his presence with a pair of Thanksgiving Day sacks in his NFL debut, and he remained productive after earning a spot on the active roster following that performance. The fifth-rounder totaled eight sacks and 13 pressures on the season, despite seeing the field for only 32% of defensive snaps. A repeat of his 2022 play was thought to be in store, something which would have presumably earned him an uptick in playing time.

Instead, Houston is now likely headed to IR given the severity of the injury. Through two games in 2023, the Jackson State product has totaled just one tackle while remaining in a rotational role. His absence will nevertheless be missed on a Lions team which has registered only one sack so far this season. Improvement in that department was expected in part due to Houston’s success as a rookie as well as the promise shown by 2022 No. 2 selection Aidan Hutchinson.

The latter will remain the anchor of Detroit’s pass-rush contingent, with Charles Harris and brothers Julian Okwara and Romeo Okwara in place. Josh Paschal is on IR, so the Houston injury leaves the Lions even thinner on the edge. In the linebacking corps, the team will continue to lean on Derrick Barnes on the outside, and special teamer Anthony Pittman could be in line for at least a rotational defensive role moving forward.

David Montgomery Expected To Miss Time

The Lions could be without their leading rusher which would force them to turn the reins over to their rookie for a period if running back David Montgomery‘s comments today are accurate. After Montgomery was carted off the sideline to the locker room in today’s overtime loss to the Seahawks, he told the media that it may take him “a couple weeks” to heal, as reported by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Montgomery hobbled off the field with the help of the team’s training staff after sustaining a thigh bruise in the second half of today’s game. He eventually had to be taken to the locker room on a cart for further inspection.

Thigh bruises can be tricky for running backs but typically will only cost a rusher a week or so. Last year saw Cowboys running back Tony Pollard miss a game late in the season on a short week due to a thigh bruise. There’s a chance that Montgomery’s comments could mean that he can still play but that he will still be hampered by the injury for a couple more weeks. Based on the level of discomfort displayed by Montgomery today, though, he may be hampered quite a bit for a week or more.

If Montgomery isn’t able to play through the injury, Detroit will obviously turn to the first-round rookie out of Alabama, Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs has so far been outgained by Montgomery 141 rushing yards to 59 on 14 carries to the veteran’s 37. Gibbs has had a much larger role in the passing game, though, with nine catches for 57 yards on 11 targets versus Montgomery, who has caught his only target for a seven-yard catch.

Montgomery has been heavily favored in terms of use early in the year, and many in Detroit have been excited and eager to see what Gibbs can offer in a larger role. This may be the door that cracks open, allowing Gibbs to take the reins of the offense and not let go. Montgomery has been a lead back throughout his NFL career in Chicago, never recording fewer than 200 carries in a season, but if Gibbs can shine in relief of Montgomery, we could see the veteran take a backseat for the first time in his career.

Any absence by Montgomery will also mean a few more opportunities for third-stringer Craig Reynolds, who received his first three carries of the season today after Montgomery’s departure. Even if Montgomery’s return sees him coming back in a backup role, the Lions will be hoping to see him back soon to help keep the legs of their rookie rusher fresh.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/16/23

Today’s callups and adjustments heading into Week 2:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

2023 Offseason In Review Series

Quarterback acquisitions generated top headlines this offseason, while the slew of developments affecting the running back market moved that position’s value to a precarious point. On that note, our latest Offseason In Review series is in the books. Here are the PFR staff’s looks at how teams assembled their 2023 rosters:

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

DeAndre Hopkins Discusses Free Agency, Contract Demands, Signing With Titans

When DeAndre Hopkins was cut by the Cardinals, a number of suitors were expected to emerge. Instead, the veteran wideout only drew serious interest from the Titans and Patriots, with Hopkins ultimately signing a two-year, $26MM with Tennessee.

[RELATED: Titans Sign DeAndre Hopkins]

In a conversation with Clay Skipper of GQ, Hopkins acknowledged that his free agent market didn’t shake out as expected, with the receiver admitting that “there were some teams that I had on my list that I gave them calls and they didn’t give a call back.” What specific teams spurned the veteran?

“Detroit Lions, they didn’t want me,” Hopkins said. “Dallas Cowboys didn’t want me. Giants didn’t want me. S***. Who else ain’t want me? San Fran ain’t want me.”

Besides the Titans and Patriots, the only teams that were definitively connected to Hopkins were the Bills and Chiefs, although it sounds like interest dropped from those potential suitors once they learned of the receiver’s asking price. Still, Hopkins told Skipper that both Buffalo and Kansas City did call when he hit free agency.

The Lions, Cowboys, Giants, and 49ers also may have been wary of the player’s financial demands, but Hopkins hinted that those organization may have passed him over because of his age. Still, the receiver did acknowledge that money partly played a role in him landing in Tennessee.

“You have to know your value and have some level of respect for who you are as a human being,” he says. “Is the possibility of you going somewhere who is a Super Bowl-caliber team, on paper, is that worth you being paid minimum? It doesn’t add up.”

The Cowboys and 49ers have deep receiver crews, so it’s not a huge surprise that those squads didn’t give a long look at Hopkins. The Lions could use a wideout behind Amon-Ra St. Brown, while the Giants don’t have a clear WR1 atop their depth chart.

Ultimately, Hopkins landed in Tennessee, where he’ll join a depth chart highlighted by 2022 first-round pick Treylon Burks. Hopkins gave several reasons why he landed with the Titans, including head coach Mike Vrabel. However, the wideout revealed that one of his main reasons for signing with the organization had to do with the culture.

“I wouldn’t say it’s because of Arizona, the reason I came here, to have that 360 switch, but I would say it was definitely part of my decision to be somewhere that did have a winning culture, or a fighting culture,” Hopkins said.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Lions, Hockenson

Rashan Gary is all set to debut in Week 1, completing his recovery from the ACL tear that ended his 2022 season in November. But the Packers will begin their top pass rusher on a pitch count to start the season, Matt LaFleur confirmed (via Packers Wire’s Zach Kruse). This could open the door for early-season Lukas Van Ness development. The Packers still roster Preston Smith, who is going into his fifth season with the team, and Van Ness contributed as an inside and outside rusher at Iowa. The team has versatile linebacker Justin Hollins and 2022 fifth-rounder Kingsley Enagbare, who became a primary starter after Gary went down last season, as options while Gary ramps up to a full workload.

Additionally on the Green Bay injury front, David Bakhtiari, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are viewed as game-time decisions for Sunday’s opener against the Bears. Bakhtiari, who has seen knee trouble sidetrack his career to a degree over the past two-plus years, is listed on the injury report with more knee trouble. He expects to play, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein tweets. Both starting receivers are battling hamstring maladies and have not practiced this week. Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • As for tonight’s game, the Lions ruled out cornerback Emmanuel Moseley. Although Detroit activated Moseley off its active/PUP list before roster-cutdown day, the free agency addition underwent a second knee procedure this summer and was viewed as a long shot to start the year on time. Moseley is finishing up a recovery from an October 2022 ACL tear.
  • Isaiah Buggs started 13 games at nose tackle for last season’s Lions edition, but the veteran was informed in advance he would be a healthy scratch tonight, the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers notes. The Lions gave Buggs a two-year, $4.5MM deal in March but gave more snaps to rookie Brodric Martin and Benito Jones during camp. Buggs believes his lack of offseason attendance affected the team’s decision, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. The former Steelers contributor said his wife giving birth led to him staying away during OTAs. Jones and Alim McNeill are expected to start in Kansas City, Birkett adds.
  • Going into free agency, the Bears did extensive work on Dre’Mont Jones, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes. Although the Bears carried plenty of cap space into free agency, they chose to stand down on Jones and spend for the likes of Tremaine Edmunds, Nate Davis, T.J. Edwards and DeMarcus Walker. The team later addressed its D-tackle needs in the draft, choosing three — Zacch Pickens (Round 2), Gervon Dexter (Round 3) and Travis Bell (Round 7) — on Day 2. This duo should be expected to play bigger roles down the line, but in Week 1, Justin Jones and Andrew Billings are slated to start. A four-year Broncos regular, Jones ended up with the Seahawks on a three-year, $51MM deal.
  • T.J. Hockenson‘s four-year, $66MM Vikings extension comes with $29.29MM fully guaranteed, according to OverTheCap. That number checks in fourth among tight ends — behind Kyle Pitts‘ rookie deal and the extensions for Mark Andrews and George Kittle. Hockenson’s 2024 base salary is fully guaranteed. His $10.9MM 2025 base salary is guaranteed for injury at signing, per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who notes that number shifts to a full guarantee a year early (March 2024). The Vikings did not use the year-out guarantee structure for Hockenson’s 2026 setup, giving them more flexibility. Hockenson has $2.3MM of his 2026 base ($15.4MM) guaranteed for injury; it does not shift to a full guarantee until March 2026, giving the Vikings additional flexibility. Hockenson’s cap number will climb from $5MM this year to $14.1MM in 2024, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson Addresses Eagles Exit; Buccaneers, Ravens Showed Interest

Despite multiple seasons as an upper-echelon slot cornerback and tying for the NFL lead with six interceptions in his first year as a full-time safety, C.J. Gardner-Johnson only scored a one-year deal worth $6.5MM this offseason. The Lions have the ex-Aaron Glenn Saints pupil as a rental of sorts.

This season will be about re-establishing value for Gardner-Johnson, and while the fifth-year DB expressed interest in staying in Detroit on a longer-term deal (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett), he offered more information on his Philadelphia exit.

When Gardner-Johnson signed with the Lions, a report indicated the Eagles had made him a multiyear offer. Gardner-Johnson, 25, was said to have been angling for more money from the Eagles, who were rumored to be interested in retaining him. During an offseason in which the Eagles rebooted at both safety and linebacker, Gardner-Johnson said he was informed the team was going in a different direction. Rather than accept a Lions offer over an Eagles proposal, CJGJ insisted no firm Philly proposal came his way, Birkett adds.

Gardner-Johnson instead said someone in the Eagles’ front office told him the team was moving on. The timing here could be notable. The Eagles had discussed trading Darius Slay, and other teams showed interest in James Bradberry. Days into free agency, however, the Eagles regrouped with Slay — en route to an extension on March 16 — and had agreed to re-sign Bradberry two days earlier. While prioritizing their older corners, the defending NFC champions eventually let Gardner-Johnson walk. Gardner-Johnson’s Lions deal came to pass on March 19.

[My] DB coach even know why I was pissed off that whole week,” Gardner-Johnson said of his free agency stay. “I got the front office telling me they’re not going to pay me. And I’m not trying to think about money, I’m just trying to think about ball, but when you just throw a subliminal out of nowhere … ‘Play your hardest; we’re not going to pay you.’ … Well, all right, what does that come from?

Carrying understandable animosity toward the Eagles, Gardner-Johnson also said a Saints staffer told him he would not be in their plans at safety just before the team sent him home ahead of the August 2022 trade to the Eagles. Known as much for his instigation tactics as his play, the brash cover man also drew some level of interest from the Buccaneers and Ravens, Birkett adds. The Ravens hired ex-Eagles DBs coach Dennard Wilson, whom Sean Desai beat out for Philly’s DC gig.

Gardner-Johnson is set to begin his Lions season as a safety alongside Kerby Joseph. While rumors of the former fourth-round pick moving back to the slot under Glenn circulated in May, Brian Branch commandeered that job during training camp. The Lions infused their secondary with talent this offseason, one that also included additions of Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley.

Gardner-Johnson would be open to another Detroit deal but noted the team has other priorities ahead of him. Jared Goff is signed through 2024, but the team has engaged its quarterback in extension talks. Amon-Ra St. Brown‘s contract year also looms in 2024, while guard Jonah Jackson is going into a platform campaign this season. Jackson joins Goff in having talked to the Lions about a deal. Penei Sewell also stands to be in the Lions’ extension plans, though the right tackle can be controlled through 2025 via the fifth-year option, with Birkett adding cornerback Jerry Jacobs may be on the extension radar as well.

This year’s safety market did not take off for anyone except Jessie Bates, who signed a four-year, $64MM Falcons deal. No other safety scored even an $8MM-AAV pact, putting Gardner-Johnson in an interesting place with regards to a 2024 free agency bid. But he will attempt to use this season to command a nice guarantee on his third NFL contract.