Dez Bryant

NFC Notes: Dez, Seahawks, McCarthy

Saints WR Dez Bryant suffered a brutal blow when he tore his Achilles just two days after signing with the club, thereby shelving him for about eight months. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) noted that Bryant’s recovery timeline could make his 2019 foray into free agency just as complicated as his 2018 one, though RapSheet does report in a separate piece that the Saints are open to bringing Bryant back next season (which Jay Glazer of FOX Sports [video link] also hears). Rapoport also says that Saints head coach Sean Payton fully expects Bryant to continue his playing career, and that Saints players quickly got to know Bryant and were stung by the injury (Twitter link). Given that, and given that Bryant made a concerted effort to improve his route running this offseason, perhaps he will still end up playing for New Orleans.

Let’s round up a few more items from the NFC:

  • Adam Schefter of ESPN.com details (via Twitter) the $500K in incentives (all tied to receptions) that were built in to Bryant’s contract with the Saints, which is obviously a moot point now. Earlier today, Schefter reported that the Saints are expected to pursue Brandon Marshall now that Bryant is on IR.
  • Rapoport writes that, when the Seahawks are sold to a new owner, the beneficiary of the transaction will be the Paul G. Allen Foundation, which consolidated the causes of recently-deceased owner Paul Allen. That means that the proceeds of the sale — which could exceed $2.5 billion — will be going to charity. As of now, Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, has taken more of a visible role in team operations, but the club is still expected to be sold (though it will remain in Seattle). Potential buyers are already preparing for the Seahawks to hit the market.
  • Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com confirms what we have been hearing for some time: that something is off in the relationship between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy, which could lead to McCarthy’s ouster at the end of the season. McCarthy is widely perceived to be on the hot seat, though Dougherty points out that team president/CEO Mark Murphy thinks highly of McCarthy and has final say over all football matters. However, Murphy will give a great deal of credence to the opinion of new GM Brian Gutekunst when it comes to the head coach’s future with the club.
  • We learned that top decision-makers for the Giants were in attendance at the Oregon-Utah game yesterday to scout Oregon QB Justin Herbert, even though Herbert is unlikely to enter the 2019 draft. Greg Joyce of the New York Post confirms that GM Dave Gettleman was one of the attendees, along with assistant GM Kevin Abrams and West Coast scout Jeremy Breit. If Herbert changes his mind and declares for the draft, New York will certainly be in play for him.
  • We learned earlier today that the Cowboys nearly fired OC Scott Linehan during last month’s bye.

Saints Place Dez Bryant On IR

The bad news coming out of New Orleans on Friday turned out to be true. Dez Bryant did tear an Achilles’ tendon, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Bryant’s rehab timeline is tentatively set at eight months, per Schefter.

The Saints are placing their recently acquired wide receiver on IR, per Nick Underhill of The Advocate (on Twitter). They will end up promoting a wideout from their practice squad, with Underhill tweeting Keith Kirkwood will make the move up to the 53-man roster. This move was expected prior to Bryant’s injury, per Underhill (on Twitter).

New Orleans previously housed only three healthy wideouts — Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith and Austin Carr. Bryant, who was a member of this healthy contingent for less than two days, joins Ted Ginn, Tommylee Lewis and Cameron Meredith on the Saints’ IR list. Although, Lewis has resumed practicing and could be activated soon.

This development, interestingly, shouldn’t affect the Saints too much, which is rare for a sequence featuring a high-profile player going down. They’ve won seven straight games and were betting Bryant could provide a boost of some sort. But the Saints have a top-10 offense that will take the field in Cincinnati featuring the same cast that spearheaded a 45-35 win over the Rams last week.

Bryant’s trajectory, obviously, has been significantly altered after going down on the final play of his second Saints practice.

Instead of going into free agency on the heels of being a cog in a Drew Brees-led passing attack, he’ll have a months-long rehab effort to complete before being ready to contribute again. He won’t be ready by the time the new league year begins and may have to wait deep into the 2019 offseason to sign.

Bryant’s most recent work sample, a 16-game season with the 2017 Cowboys, featured his fewest yards per game (52.4) since his rookie season. This injury certainly won’t have teams aggressively pursuing him. It’s a brutal blow for a player who spent months as an outspoken free agent and one who hoped to have a better shot at cashing in next year.

Kirkwood has yet to play an NFL down. He played at Hawaii and Temple from 2013-17, finishing his career with back-to-back 600-yard receiving seasons, totaling 11 aerial touchdowns in those years.

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South Rumors: Dez, Buccaneers, Conklin

Friday’s top news thus far affected Dez Bryant. The veteran wide receiver and Saints employee for barely a day is feared to have torn one of his Achilles’ tendons. This would put him out for the season and impact his free agency. This reality appears to be in motion. The Saints are “pretty sure he tore it,” Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. While Michael Crabtree did buck the trend of Achilles injuries taking up to a year and more to recover from when he came back in six months to join the 2013 49ers late that season, Bryant is now 30 and was already dealing with damaged stock based on his recent work. Bryant doesn’t appear to be considering retirement and sounds ready to go through a rehab process (Twitter link). It’s possible Bryant could have to accept another one-year deal in the event he recovers from this injury, and that contract may not arrive until he recovers. He may well be back in a similar situation he was this year, when the Cowboys irked him by releasing him well after potential free agency suitors had spent on wideouts.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • Jack Conklin won’t be available for the Titans on Sunday. The third-year right tackle has not cleared concussion protocol and has been downgraded to out for Tennessee’s game against the Patriots. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly will start on the right side, Turron Davenport of ESPN.com notes.
  • The Buccaneers won’t have Vinny Curry in uniform against the Redskins. The first-year Bucs defensive end is out because of an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing all week. Carl Nassib started opposite Jason Pierre-Paul when Curry was previously out, in Weeks 7-8, and figures to do so again. Nassib’s three sacks are second on the Bucs, though well behind JPP’s eight.
  • Speaking of the Bucs, they could create an immense amount of cap space this offseason while not incurring much dead money to do so. Tampa Bay could create more than $100MM in cap space and incur barely $12MM in dead-money charges, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap, by cutting several veterans. Mentioning Jameis Winston (guaranteed-for-injury fifth-year option of $20.9MM), Curry ($8MM savings, no dead money), DeSean Jackson ($10MM savings, no dead money) and Gerald McCoy ($13MM, no dead money), Fitzgerald sees a path for Tampa Bay to move into better spending position. Of course, some of these players — almost certainly McCoy — will still be around to help the Bucs, the organization’s lack of signing bonuses increases its flexibility. As of now, the Bucs are projected to hold just $10MM in cap room next year.

Saints Fear Achilles Tear For Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant was helped off the Saints’ practice field Friday. The team fears the ninth-year wide receiver suffered a torn Achilles, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com report on Twitter.

Bryant is getting an MRI now, and Rapoport and Pelissero report he will seek a second opinion after that scan is complete. This would be a brutal turn of events for a player who spent months in free agency and one who hoped to land an impact deal next year.

This injury occurred when Bryant was running a routine route, Jane Slater of NFL.com tweets. It is believed to have taken place on the final play of New Orleans’ practice, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter). It was indeed a non-contact play, veteran reporter Ed Werder tweets.

While the Saints’ injury report lists Bryant as questionable with an ankle malady, that designation could soon change.

The recently acquired wideout was not supposed to be ready to play in the Saints’ Week 10 game against the Bengals, Pelissero notes (via Twitter). The longtime Cowboy was in the process of acclimating to a new system and presumably would’ve been ready to play in Week 11. While the Saints’ machine figures to hum along as it has for years, this may be a late-career-defining setback — if, in fact, Bryant has actually torn one of his Achilles’ tendons — for the receiver.

The Saints ended Bryant’s free agency stay by choosing him over fellow Tuesday-workout participants Brandon Marshall and Kamar Aiken. The former impressed the Saints, per Schefter (on Twitter), and could well be an option if Dez ultimately has severely damaged an Achilles. New Orleans placed Cameron Meredith on IR this week, and if its new acquisition can’t go, only has three healthy receivers on its roster. Meredith followed Saints wideouts Tommylee Lewis and Ted Ginn to IR, though Lewis has since resumed practicing and could be activated soon.

Dez turned down offers from the Ravens — a three-year, $21MM pact — and Browns (worth less than $5MM). He landed a $1.25MM deal with the Saints that contained incentives. Achilles tears represent one of the toughest injuries to overcome, and given the timing of this, Bryant’s rehab would take him into the free agency period. It would undoubtedly affect his market, particularly after the former All-Pro showed signs of decline during his final years in Dallas.

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Details On Dez Bryant’s Deal With Saints

Dez Bryant’s one-year contract with the Saints is technically worth $1.25MM and will pay him $600K in base salary for rest of season, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). However, the wide receiver has the ability to add another $500K in incentives, meaning that he could theoretically earn $1.1MM for the remainder of the season.

It’s a big step down from what Bryant could have earned had he signed in the offseason. The Ravens offered him a three-year deal worth roughly $21MM, but Bryant held out in hopes of finding a lucrative one-year deal that would allow him to reach the open market in the spring. Bryant will be able to test free agency in 2019 under the terms of his Saints deal, but he lost out on more than $6MM for 2018.

On the plus side, Bryant is joining up with one of the league’s most dynamic offenses and has a real chance to showcase his skills. With Cameron Meredith headed to IR, Bryant ranks as one of the team’s top three wide receivers alongside star Michael Thomas and rookie Tre’Quan Smith.

Bryant’s production trailed off in 2017, but he’s not far removed from a 2016 season in which he averaged a career-high 15.9 yards per catch. Soon, we’ll find out whether Bryant can still stretch the field.

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South Rumors: Irvin, Dez, Fitz, Titans

Bruce Irvin clearing waivers and landing with the Falcons gives him a chance to earn nearly $10MM this season. His one-year (or, eight-game) Falcons deal is worth $1.5MM, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Irvin was playing on an $8MM salary with the Raiders this season, and Florio notes he can recoup the balance of that salary ($3.76MM) by filing a termination pay claim. Vested veterans (at least four seasons’ experience) can do this one in their careers, and this may be the most money Irvin, 31, can claim through this measure. Total, the seventh-year veteran can collect $9.75MM this season. Considering he entered the year with no more guarantees remaining in his deal, that’s not a bad haul.

Here’s more from the Irvin front, along with the latest from the South divisions:

  • With Irvin rejoining a Dan Quinn defense, this one housing recent first-round defensive ends Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley, he won’t be the unquestioned top edge rusher like he was in Oakland. However, Quinn — who coached Irvin with the Seahawks — is planning a NASCAR package with the three ends and Grady Jarrett, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Quinn said the team will use the trio on the field together in practice this week in preparation to deploy the speed set a game at some point. The Falcons’ 17 sacks rank 27th in the league. Beasley has just one and is Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded full-time edge defender this season.
  • A six-plus-month stay in free agency ended for Dez Bryant earlier Wednesday, but the new Saints wide receiver is still looking to return to the market in 2019. Bryant wants to prove himself on a contending team and become a free agent again, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes. This has been Bryant’s plan all along, and he’ll likely join Tre’Quan Smith as a key complementary receiver for Drew Brees.
  • The Buccaneers won’t be pivoting back to Jameis Winston this week. Dirk Koetter confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine) Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter in Week 10. Although Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions in a 42-28 loss to the Panthers, he led the Bucs back from 35-7 and made it a one-score game. Tampa Bay ranks first in pass offense (356.6 yards per game) by more than 30 yards.
  • The TitansMalcolm Butler signing hasn’t worked out the way the team had hoped yet. Signed to a five-year, $61.25MM deal, Butler has struggled in coverage and rates as PFF’s No. 98 cornerback through eight games. Mike Vrabel, though, does not plan to bench Butler. The first-year coach attributes some of the defender’s woes to reading the wrong keys, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
  • Tennessee may have to temporarily demote Jack Conklin, though. The right tackle starter is in concussion protocol after the Titans’ win over the Cowboys. Conklin already missed this season’s first four games because of the ACL tear he suffered in last year’s playoffs. Conklin has started five games this year and was on the field for all 32 Tennessee regular-season contests during his first two NFL seasons.

Saints To Sign Dez Bryant

The Saints have agreed to sign Dez Bryant, according to Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune (on Twitter). It’s a one-year pact that Bryant will formally ink on Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport and Jane Slater of NFL.com (Twitter link). The two sides started negotiating shortly after Bryant’s workout on Tuesday afternoon and reached agreement on Wednesday morning. 

The deal brings Bryant’s lengthy unemployment to an end. The Cowboys released Bryant in April, after most of the league’s free agent dollars were already spent. Weeks later, the veteran rejected a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, a decision that has been panned by many. Bryant ultimately got what he wanted, a short-term deal that will allow him to test free agency again in 2019. However, he missed out on the first half of the season and significant cash.

Bryant averaged 91 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns between 2012 and 2014, but his averages plummeted to 50 catches for 678 yards and six TDs over the last three years. He also missed ten games due to injury between 2015 and 2016, and some say he wasn’t giving 100% towards the end of his run in Dallas. Some say that Bryant isn’t the player that he once was, but the veteran is motivated to prove the doubters wrong.

All in all, the Saints believe he’ll offer more than Brandon Marshall or Kamar Aiken, two receivers who also worked out for New Orleans on Tuesday. Jeremy Kerley was also scheduled to audition, but weather interfered with his flight.

The Saints haven’t lost since their season opener against the Buccaneers and lead the NFC South with a 7-1 record. After losing supporting receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Tommylee Lewis to injury earlier this year, Bryant is expected to provide a boost behind talented starters Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Tre’Quan Smith.

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Dez Bryant Working On Deal With Saints

Free agent receiver Dez Bryant is negotiating a deal with the Saints, who worked him out on Monday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Bryant didn’t immediately leave New Orleans with a contract following his audition, but the club was pleased with his performance, per Pelissero. The Saints have been searching for a veteran receiver to replace Ted Ginn Jr., who was placed on injured reserve weeks ago. Drew Brees certainly has other pass-catching options outside of the receiver position, including running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Ben Watson, but Bryant would give the future Hall of Fame quarterback another viable choice behind No. 1 Michael Thomas.

As Pelissero notes, Bryant has come close to agreements with other clubs earlier this year, so his pact with the Saints shouldn’t be considered final until he signs on the dotted line. Bryant reportedly rejected a one-year accord from the Ravens after being cut by the Cowboys, and also had a dalliance with the Browns. If Bryant, who turned 30 years old on Sunday, does reach a deal with New Orleans, it almost certainly will only run through the end of the 2018 campaign.

Bryant certainly comes with risk, as he hasn’t topped 1,000 yards receiving since 2014, while his 12.1 yards per reception in 2017 was the lowest average of his career. But the Saints believe he’ll offer a better performance than any of Brandon Marshall or Kamar Aiken, both of whom also worked out for New Orleans on Monday. Jeremy Kerley was also scheduled to audition, but weather interfered with his flight.

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Dez Bryant To Work Out For Saints

The Saints will bring in three wide receivers for Tuesday workouts. One of them, according to NFL.com’s Jane Slater (Twitter link), is Dez Bryant.

Bryant’s been out of the league all season and has turned down offers from the Ravens and Browns. He’s connected himself to other teams and has been linked to wanting to play for a contender. The Saints have won seven straight.

It’s not known who the other wideouts are, but they almost certainly won’t have Bryant’s pedigree. The Saints have one of the NFL’s best offenses but have been without Ted Ginn for weeks. Bryant and Ginn do not have the same type of skill set, with the latter being a deep threat, but New Orleans has not seen a No. 2 wide receiver step up as a consistent option alongside Michael Thomas.

Alvin Kamara and Ben Watson sit second and third in Saints 2018 receiving yardage. New Orleans has used third-round rookie Tre’Quan Smith (214 yards) as its WR2. He scored a touchdown on Sunday and is averaging 17.8 yards per catch, but has not caught more than three passes in a game. He’s topped out at 44 receiving yards over the past three games.

Bryant wanted a one-year deal from Baltimore in order to re-enter free agency at a better juncture than he did when the Cowboys cut him in April. But the Ravens offered a multiyear deal, and Bryant turned it down. He spurned a Browns offer worth less than $5MM. The Saints have $368K in cap space and would have to make minor rearrangements to accommodate Bryant, but at this point, the 30-year-old wideout wouldn’t be in a position to demand too much money.

The 2010 first-round pick caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns last season. While he’s undoubtedly lost a step, a role in a strong Saints passing game could be a boon for his 2019 value. Of course, the Saints may also choose to not rock the boat with a volatile wideout when they’re in this strong of a spot. But they made multiple big trades in order to chase a championship now, unloading a 2019 first-round pick to move up and select Marcus Davenport and sending the Giants two draft picks for Eli Apple.

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Texans Not Expected To Pursue WR Dez Bryant

Following Will Fuller‘s season-ending ACL injury, the Texans are apparently in the market for a wide receiver. However, it sounds like we can cross one major name off their list of potential targets. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes that the organization is not expected to pursue free agent wideout Dez Bryant.

Fuller tore his ACL during Thursday’s win over the Dolphins, and the Texans have already auditioned Brice Butler for some reinforcement at the position. Some pundits immediately thought that Bryant would be a logical fit for the organization. For starters, Bryant grew up in Texas, and he spent his entire professional career in Dallas. Furthermore, he attended the same high school as Texans receiver Keke Coutee, and he’s been serving as a mentor to the rookie.

Despite the connections, it doesn’t sound like the 29-year-old will be making his way to Houston. When asked about potentially signing the former Pro Bowler, Bill O’Brien gave a rather generic answer.

“I would say my answer to that is we explore everything,” O’Brien said. “I think that’s kind of the job, one of the main jobs of, obviously, [general manager] Brian (Gaine) and then he brings things to me and then we talk and we communicate.

“I would say we explore everything, including our own team. How can we use this guy in maybe another position? Or do this, can we do that? We look at our own team first in addition to looking at what’s going outside. That would be my general answer to that.”

With Fuller out for the season, Coutee coming back from a hamstring injury, and Bruce Ellington currently sitting on the injured reserve, the Texans are rostering only three healthy wideouts: DeAndre Hopkins, Sammie Coates, and Vyncint Smith.

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