Drew Stanton

Browns Notes: Mayfield, Dez, Gonzalez

This does not come as a great shock, but 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield will open the season as the Browns’ backup signal-caller, as Jeff Schudel of the News-Herald tweets (though head coach Hue Jackson wants to inform his team of his decision before making it official). It was always understood that Tyrod Taylor, whom the Browns acquired in an offseason trade with the Bills, would serve as the team’s starting quarterback at least until Mayfield is deemed ready, and we recently heard that Cleveland is allegedly open to extending Taylor’s contract (he is eligible for free agency at season’s end).

The decision to name Mayfield the No. 2 QB, then, is actually more about the battle between Mayfield and Drew Stanton — Jackson said last week that he was still undecided as to which player would serve as the backup — than the “battle” between Mayfield and Taylor. Stanton, the long-time second-stringer who signed a two-year pact with the Browns in March, will be the team’s No. 3 quarterback, assuming Cleveland elects to keep three QBs.

Now let’s take a look at several more notes out of Cleveland:

  • Josh Gordon will not play in the Browns’ preseason finale due to hamstring discomfort, but Jackson says the embattled wideout — who is expected to be ready for Week 1 — is “getting close,” per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (via Twitter).
  • In her weekly mailbag, Cabot says the Browns have not ruled out signing Dez Bryant, who recently rejected the team’s contract offer. She says Bryant liked the Browns and clearly the team had interest in him, so things could change at any time.
  • Cabot also suggests in her mailbag that Shon Coleman, who was given the first chance to succeed Joe Thomas at left tackle, could well be on the roster bubble.
  • Jackson says he “thinks” Zane Gonzalez is in the lead in the Browns’ kicking battle, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal (via Twitter).

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.”

Browns Sign QB Drew Stanton

The Browns secured the services of another quarterback on Sunday, as veteran Cardinals signal-caller Drew Stanton signed a two-year deal with the club, Mike McCartney, the player’s agent reports (Twitter link). 

The 10-year veteran did not take a formal meeting with the team. Instead, he ran into team brass by chance while the Browns were scouting on the West Coast. The informal run-in was enough to convince the club to go through with the two-year deal.

A backup to Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Carson Palmer in Arizona, Stanton has been in the locker room with some of the game’s top quarterbacks. He will again serve as a backup, this time to Tyrod Taylor, who was traded to Cleveland from Buffalo earlier this month.

The move also provides quite the logjam at the position. Behind Taylor and Stanton, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan are also on the squad. The list is expected to expand to five after the NFL Draft next month, when the team is thought to be taking a quarterback with one of their two first-round picks.

Browns Meet With QB Drew Stanton

The Browns have met with free agent quarterback Drew Stanton, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). While Stanton didn’t actually venture to Cleveland, he did “run into” the Browns’ decision-makers on the West Coast, so the club reported the conversation as a visit, tweets Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Cleveland has already added one quarterback to their roster this offseason, as the club acquired Tyrod Taylor from the Bills in exchange for a third-round pick. Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan comprise the remainder of the Browns’ signal-caller depth chart, and general manager John Dorsey & Co. are fully expected to select a quarterback with one of their two top-five draft picks.

Stanton, 33, hasn’t generated any other known interest on the open market, and that’s perhaps unsurprising given his recent track record. In five starts with the Cardinals in 2017, Stanton completed just 49.7% of his passes for 894 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions. Among the 40 quarterbacks with at least 150 attempts last season, Stanton finished 37th in passer rating and 38th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

While the top tier of free agent quarterbacks came off the board fairly quickly, there are still a number of backup types available. Aside from Stanton, the list of No. 2 passers on the market includes Blaine Gabbert, Derek Anderson, Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, and Geno Smith.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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QB Rumors: Rodgers, Stanton, Bengals

Mike McCarthy appeared to move closer to the prospect the Packers could shut down Aaron Rodgers for the season’s remainder on Monday. The Green Bay HC said Rodgers was sore and the staff is “working through that” after the all-world quarterback’s re-emergence game against the Panthers, and the coach said he would watch the Falcons-Buccaneers game closely Monday night, per Ryan Wood and Michael Cohen of PackersNews.com. The Falcons are currently leading, and that result holding would end the Packers’ eight-season playoff streak tonight. McCarthy being noncommittal about Rodgers’ status after the Week 15 Green Bay loss, coupled with his Monday-night plans, would indicate a possible consideration of giving Rodgers a longer offseason to fully recover and prepare for 2018.

Here’s the latest from the quarterback position as Week 15 winds down.

  • As for Rodgers’ offseason, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports suggests it would be a good time to lock down Rodgers to a “monster” extension. The quarterback has seen inferior passers usurp him on the salary list in the past few years and would be in position to command a deal close to $30MM annually if he so chose. The salary cap is expected to rise between $174MM and $179MM from this year’s $167MM ceiling. Rodgers’ five-year, $110MM extension came in a year (2013) when the cap rested at $123MM. There are two years remaining on Rodgers’ contract following this season. The 34-year-old passer has no guaranteed money left on his deal, which has cap numbers of just $20.9MM and $21.1MM lined up for 2018 and ’19, respectively.
  • La Canfora also writes the Bengals playing A.J. McCarron instead of Andy Dalton during the final two games would be prudent. McCarron could end up a UFA depending on the outcome of his grievance, which is set for February. As of now, the fourth-year passer is set to be a restricted free agent. However, Marvin Lewis said (via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer) he plans to keep Dalton in his starting role despite another sub-.500 season being guaranteed. La Canfora writes Dalton, who is attached to a team-friendly contract that runs through 2020 but contains little guaranteed money going forward, could “easily” be traded. McCarron, of course, was nearly traded to the Browns for a second- and third-round pick. The career backup’s attempted just 133 regular-season passes.
  • The Cardinals will be shaking up their quarterback status quo by turning back to Drew Stanton after going with Blaine Gabbert for five games. Bruce Arians (via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, on Twitter) confirmed his initial Carson Palmer contingency plan will take back the reins. This comes after Arians raved about Gabbert’s abilities and with the Cardinals reportedly discussing an extension with the former first-round pick. Stanton started two games for the Cards earlier this season before going down with an injury. Stanton is signed through 2018.
  • Tom Savage‘s scary injury in Week 14 did not immediately result in his removal from that Texans-49ers game, making it a seminal sequence in the NFL’s ongoing concussion crisis. And Bill O’Brien said Monday (per Mark Berman of Fox 26, on Twitter) the fourth-year quarterback may not play again this season. T.J. Yates started in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Jaguars. Savage stands to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Blaine Gabbert To Remain Cardinals’ QB

Blaine Gabbert‘s two-game performance has earned him a promotion. Bruce Arians confirmed Monday the previous third-string quarterback has leapfrogged Drew Stanton on the depth chart.

Arians said (via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com, on Twitter) Gabbert will be the starter and Stanton the backup going forward. Carson Palmer is not expected to return this season.

Stanton suffered a knee sprain that sidelined him and let Gabbert into the lineup the past two weeks, and the former first-round pick led the Cardinals to an upset win over the AFC South-leading Jaguars on Sunday. Gabbert’s thrown for 498 yards and five touchdown passes, while completing 61 percent of his passes, in the two games he’s started.

With Palmer having not committed to a 2018 return, Arians said considering how Gabbert’s playing right now he would feel “very confident” in starting him next season if that came to pass, per Urban (via Twitter).

Stanton counts $4.15MM against Arizona’s cap this season. Gabbert is making less than $1MM. Both players’ contracts expire after this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Floyd, Redskins, Pryor

Bears coach John Fox says linebacker Leonard Floyd is going to miss some time, but he would not commit to putting Floyd on injured reserve when speaking to reporters on Monday (Twitter link via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune). That’s because the team believes that he does not have a torn ACL, so a return later in the year is still possible. All in all, it’s good news for Floyd after he was carted off the field in Sunday’s loss to the Lions.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor is getting arthroscopic surgery on his ankle, a source tells Mike Jones of the Washington Post (on Twitter). Doctors should have a better idea of his recovery timetable after he goes under the knife. Pryor, a big free agent signing, has yet to really shine in Washington. To date, he has 20 catches for 240 yards with one touchdown in nine games.
  • Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston‘s shoulder was re-evaluated today and he is not ready to return, head coach Dirk Koetter tells reporters (Twitter link via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com). Winston will be out this week against the Falcons, but doctors will check him out next week.
  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says Blaine Gabbert will start again this week (Twitter link via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com). The plan, he says, is to stick with him until Drew Stanton is totally healthy. Gabbert completed 22-of-34 of his passes for 257 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both occurring late in the game. He did a solid job overall, but the Cardinals wound up falling short and falling to 4-6 on the year.
  • Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark suffered a high-ankle sprain on Sunday, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The injury does not appear to be a season-ender, but he may miss multiple games.

NFC Notes: Winston, 49ers, Cards, Pryor

The woman who accused Jameis Winston of groping her in an Uber vehicle in 2016, via Buzzfeed report earlier today, said only she and Winston were in the car at the time. But Winston’s representatives assert there were several people in the car, with the Buccaneers quarterback sitting in the backseat, NFL.com reports. Winston’s statement pointed to there being multiple passengers in the vehicle as well. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links) listened to the voicemail an Uber representative sent Winston, with the phrase “you or someone else in your vehicle engaged in inappropriate behavior” used. This led to Winston being banned from Uber but also has the third-year passer’s representatives saying there were more people in the car than the accuser’s account suggests.

Here’s the latest from the NFC.

  • The knee sprain Drew Stanton suffered will lead to the Cardinals starting a third quarterback this season. Bruce Arians said Blaine Gabbert will start Sunday against the Texans, marking the first time since October 2016 Gabbert will have started a game. Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com notes it will be a game-time decision for who will be Gabbert’s backup. Stanton, who sprained a knee against the Seahawks, being healthy enough to be an in-case-of-emergency option will make him the No. 2. If not, recently signed Matt Barkley will serve as the backup. This marks the second time in four seasons the Cardinals have needed to start three quarterbacks. This happened in 2014, when Carson Palmer, Stanton and Ryan Lindley opened with that playoff-qualifying team’s first unit.
  • John Lynch said the 49ers don’t need to see Jimmy Garoppolo start a certain number of games in order to make a judgment about him for the future. The rookie GM the franchise’s view of the longtime Patriots backup has been enhanced by Garoppolo’s first few weeks in San Francisco despite him not seeing game action yet. “We know what we like about Jimmy Garoppolo. And that’s only been strengthened by the time that’s he’s been here,” Lynch said (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). “We’re just going to let these things play out. People have had all these ideas about why we got Jimmy. We got Jimmy because we think he has big-time ability at the quarterback position. And we believe so much – to get where we need to get – you have to have a franchise quarterback. We think he’s got that ability. Whether that happens, when that happens, we’ll see. But we certainly like his future with the 49ers.”
  • Both Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Reed will miss the Redskins‘ Week 11 against the Saints, and Pryor’s ankle injury looks like one that could shelve him for multiple weeks. Pryor will see Dr. James Andrews about his ankle, Master Tefatsion of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). Signed to a one-year contract, Pryor has been demoted from Washington’s first unit and now hopes he can return this season — one that’s doubled as a grim contract year. Center Spencer Long will also miss Washington’s game in New Orleans.
  • On the subject of less-than-ideal contract years, Ziggy Ansah will miss a second straight game with a back injury, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports. Injuries have limited the Lions defensive end for the past two seasons and figure to be a key part of the discussion once his contract expires after 2017. He has four sacks — all coming in two games — this season.
  • Mike Remmers experienced a concussion protocol setback this week and will miss the Vikings‘ Week 11 game against the Rams, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Andrew Sendejo will also miss Sunday’s game, the safety being out due to groin and hamstring pain. Rashod Hill and Anthony Harris will respectively replace the ailing duo in Minnesota’s starting lineup.

QB Rumors: Luck, Browns, Cardinals

Now on IR, Andrew Luck ventured outside the United States for possible medical solutions for his troublesome throwing shoulder. The Colts quarterback trekked to Europe to consider treatment options, Mike Wells and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com report. Peyton Manning was among the athletes who have traveled to Europe for non-traditional procedures, with Kobe Bryant doing so as well. Wells and Mortensen didn’t yet report any procedure has been done on Luck overseas, but this is an indication the passer may not be satisfied with his options in this country. Luck has consulted with several doctors this season and was given a cortisone shot last month prior to the Colts placing him on IR. The 28-year-old franchise cornerstone has dealt with shoulder pain since September 2015.

The Colts are working under the impression Luck will be ready for the 2018 season, but he’s not a lock to show for OTAs and Mortensen reported recently the team isn’t ignoring the 2018 rookie class of signal-callers. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently reported the four doctors with whom Luck has spoken have told him to not throw for two-to-three months. Luck is signed through 2021, but at 10 months removed from shoulder surgery, the former No. 1 pick is off track and without a timetable.

Here’s the latest on various quarterback situations from around the league.

  • Speaking of the 2018 quarterback crop, Terry Pluto of cleveland.com reports the Browns “absolutely” intend to draft a passer in the first round next year. Cleveland could well possess two top-10 picks, but Pluto notes the caveat here is this plan is contingent on this front office being retained after what’s looking like another miserable season. A quarterback selection would be an interesting development since the Browns passed on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson the past two years. But the team was higher on Jared Goff in 2016, and executive VP Sashi Brown admitted to some degree the team missed on Wentz — whom the franchise’s new regime infamously said was not viewed internally as a potential top-20 quarterback. A recent report indicated the Browns are high on the 2018 quarterback class and didn’t want a player like Watson to impede them in this pursuit.
  • Carson Palmer is not ruling out the possibility of returning for the Cardinals‘ last two regular-season games, but like Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback would need his team to have a reason to bring him off IR. “I could potentially be available the last two weeks of the season,” Palmer said Saturday, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “Who knows? I don’t know where I’ll be (with rehab) at that point. I don’t know where we will be as a team at that point. I just try to be as ready as I can as quick as I can.” Palmer did not give any indication as to which way he’s leaning regarding retirement, only to say he’s focused on returning from this broken arm. He’s under contract through next season.
  • On the subject of Cardinals quarterbacks, they might have to start a third this season. Drew Stanton suffered a sprained knee in Thursday’s loss to the Seahawks, Mortensen tweets. The Cards would start Blaine Gabbert in the event Stanton can’t go in Week 11 against the Texans. Mortensen adds Matt Barkley will be re-signed in this scenario. Barkley’s worked out for several teams this season since the 49ers cut him. The USC product played for the Cardinals in 2015.