E.J. Manuel

Manuel, Allen Join 49ers’ QB Auditions

The 49ers are doing their homework in their search for a backup quarterback. More names continue to surface as Kyle Shanahan‘s coaching staff examines how they’ll go about organizing their post-Jimmy Garoppolo passer depth chart.

E.J. Manuel and Kyle Allen worked out for the 49ers on Tuesday, NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweets. This brings the total of San Francisco signal-caller auditions to seven. Tom Savage, T.J. Yates, Matt Simms, Landry Jones, Kellen Clemens, Manuel and Allen comprise the list so far.

San Francisco already promoted quarterback Nick Mullens from its practice squad, and Shanahan said C.J. Beathard will be his starter following Garoppolo’s season-ending ACL tear. But the team appears focused on adding a veteran passer. Shanahan also said Colin Kaepernick will not be considered, due to the longtime 49ers starter not being a good fit for his offense.

Manuel could not make the Raiders’ 53-man roster and has not come close to justifying his former No. 16 overall draft status. However, he was on an NFL roster from 2013-17 and has made 18 career starts. He’s only 58 percent career passer (with just 5.8 yards per attempt) and has a 20-to-16 career TD pass-to-INT ratio.

Allen worked out for the Patriots, Raiders and Redskins this month. The Houston product was a Panthers practice squad cog before the team released him from its 10-man unit earlier in September.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Announce Roster Cuts

Trading Khalil Mack wasn’t the Raiders’ only order of business Saturday. They’ve also moved their roster to 53 players by making the following transactions:

Waived:

Released:

Waived/injured:

Placed on injured reserve:

Placed on PUP list:

Could Raiders Acquire Veteran QB?

Even though he regressed a bit in 2017 after a stellar 2016 campaign, Derek Carr is entrenched as the Raiders’ starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, and Oakland is perfectly okay with that. However, the Raiders and new/old head coach Jon Gruden are not as pleased with their backup situation.

As Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, the battle to be Carr’s backup has no apparent winner, and Gruden did not dismiss the possibility that the team could bring in outside help. Connor Cook had a strong preseason debut this year, completing 11 of 19 attempts for 141 yards and a touchdown against the Lions, but his next two outings were not nearly as promising. EJ Manuel, meanwhile, lost his third fumble in three preseason games on Friday night, and he recovered another fumble after a bad snap.

When asked on Friday if the Raiders’ backup quarterback is currently on their roster, Gruden said, “I don’t know. We’re going to continue to work, continue to see who’s available. I thought there were some good moments tonight and there were some moments tonight that weren’t good. It’s been too inconsistent. But I’m not going to say much more tonight until I see the tape. We’re going to continue to evaluate it.”

At this point in the year, the list of free agent quarterbacks does not offer any clear upgrades over Cook or Manuel, with players like Matt Moore, Derek Anderson, and Mark Sanchez representing the best options (excluding Colin Kaepernick, of course). Teddy Bridgewater‘s name has come up in trade rumors, and while it’s not clear if the Jets are willing to part with him, other signal-callers — like Baltimore’s Robert Griffin III, who has enjoyed a strong preseason — could become available via trade.

Carr has suffered injuries in each of the past two seasons, so the No. 2 QB job is an important one to an Oakland team that has playoff aspirations. Manuel was adequate while filling in for Carr in 2017, though Kawahara writes that Cook received a large share of second-team reps in training camp this summer. The Raiders did trade for Christian Hackenberg back in May, but the Penn State product lasted less than a month on the team’s roster, and he is with the Eagles for the time being.

In other Raiders news, Scott Bair of NBCSports.com writes that, after a disastrous start to his NFL career — which saw him go unclaimed on waivers just one year after being selected in the third round of the draft — Shilique Calhoun is firmly in the mix to make Oakland’s roster. Bair also notes that rookie kicker Eddy Pineiro remains sidelined with a groin injury, and Gruden has not put a timetable on his return. The longer Pineiro remains shelved, the better veteran Mike Nugent‘s chances are to make the team.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders Re-Sign QB E.J. Manuel

The Raiders have re-signed backup quarterback EJ Manuel, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Terms of the deal are not yet known, but his spot on Jon Gruden‘s 53-man roster may not be a lock. 

The Raiders still have 2016 fourth-round pick Connor Cook under contract and they added free agent Josh Johnson earlier this month. Only two of those three QBs can stick around to play behind Derek Carr and there’s still the possibility that Oakland will draft a signal caller in April.

Last year, Manuel appeared in two games for the Raiders in Carr’s absence. He completed just 24 of 43 throws with one touchdown against one interception. The Raiders lost both of those games and Carr returned to action in Week 6.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Albert Breer On Cousins, Garoppolo, Raiders

This year’s free agent quarterback market is shaping up to be one of the strongest in recent memory, Albert Breer of The MMQB writes. Teams are always eager to draft their next franchise QB, but this year it might make more sense for teams to sign a veteran instead. Kirk Cousins (vertical)

Fans and media want their guy—the start-from-the-bottom, untainted rookie,” one AFC exec told Breer. “And the Moneyball guys will say it’s cheaper through the draft, which is true. Bu if the point is to have a functional starting quarterback, any football guy will tell you that while everyone wants a Brady or Rodgers, the reality is those are fewer and father between. So a Kirk Cousins or a Jimmy Garoppolo? I think football guys are drooling over that. If a guy like that gets out in free agency? You see what K.C. can do with Alex Smith. Put Cousins on a good squad with a good coach, I don’t know many football guys that’ll say that won’t work. And all those guys you named, they all can play at a starting caliber level … You can solve your problem before you get to the draft.”

The crop of potentially available signal callers goes far beyond just Cousins and Garoppolo. Drew Brees, who turns 39 in January, has looked great through the first month of the season. At least one of the Vikings’ signal callers – Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater – should be there for the taking in March and the aforementioned Smith might not have a place in Kansas City thanks to the presence of Patrick Mahomes. Meanwhile, A.J. McCarron is still viewed as a hot property even though he’s on the Bengals’ bench.

Here’s more from Breer’s column:

  • Did the Patriots make a mistake by signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore this offseason? Gilmore made costly mental and communication errors against Carolina on Sunday and that’s nothing new, based on what three sources who were in Buffalo last season tell Breer. Gilmore did quite a bit of finger-pointing last year, they say, and also made business decisions on run plays as he nursed a shoulder injury. Gilmore is in Year One of a five-year, $65MM deal which included an $18MM signing bonus. The pact calls for $31MM fully guaranteed through 2018.
  • The Raiders didn’t give much consideration at all to signing a stopgap quarterback in the wake of Derek Carr’s injury, Breer hears. That could have been a deliberate move to keep the team’s confidence high, but he hears that the Raiders legitimately like what they have in EJ Manuel and Connor Cook. Eyebrows were raised when it was reported that the Raiders did not consider signing Colin Kaepernick, but it sounds like they didn’t give real though to signing any quarterback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Veach, Mahomes, Raiders, 49ers

Andy Reid credited recently hired GM Brett Veach of alerting him to the likes of DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Fletcher Cox during the duo’s time together with the Eagles. The new Chiefs GM’s latest pet project was a player who figures to have a big say in whether the franchise can challenge for a Super Bowl title in the years to come. Reid said Veach was “all in on” Patrick Mahomes during the franchise’s draft preparation and brought the Texas Tech prospect onto he and then-GM John Dorsey‘s radar.

If he brings you (a player) and he’s that sold on him, you better take a look at him,” Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “He’s brought to me (guys) like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Fletcher Cox — all these guys, and it was early, before anybody really had a beat on it. And (back then) … I’m going, ‘Wow, he’s got kind of a knack for this thing.”

The Chiefs have brought in several cornerstone players during Dorsey and Veach’s time as top execs, with Travis Kelce, Marcus Peters and Tyreek Hill becoming first-team All-Pros in 2016. Mahomes recently commandeered Kansas City’s backup quarterback job.

Here’s the latest out of the Western divisions.

  • Viewed as the AFC West favorite despite the Chiefs’ sweep in this rivalry last season, the Raiders have seen their backup quarterback picture clear up to some degree in recent days. Jack Del Rio said (via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle) said E.J. Manuel has outperformed Connor Cook so far and is in the No. 2 spot behind Derek Carr. A former Bills first-rounder, Manuel signed a modest one-year deal with the Raiders early in free agency.
  • The Raiders’ current depth chart has two recent Day 3 draft picks as starters at the non-rush linebacker spots, with second-year sixth-rounder Cory James stationed as Oakland’s first-team weakside ‘backer and fifth-round rookie Marquel Lee in the middle. Lee’s spot may be less certain, per Tafur, who adds the Raiders will likely look to the waiver wire to add another inside linebacker if the Wake Forest product falters. The Raiders signed Perry Riley midway through last season, and the former Redskins starter became a quality performer for the Silver and Black. Still a free agent, the 29-year-old Riley would seemingly be an option. Reggie McKenzie said the 2016 starter was a consideration, but that was back in May. The Dolphins passed on Riley as a Raekwon McMillan replacement, choosing to sign Rey Maualuga instead.
  • The 49ers entered camp uncertain if they had one starting-caliber guard on their roster, let alone two, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com notes. Brandon Fusco will play right guard, but the 49ers are on the lookout for outside help opposite the longtime Vikings cog, Maiocco reports. Zane Beadles is penciled in on the other side, with Joshua Garnett sidelined due to knee surgery.
  • Jimmie Ward will return to safety this season after a lengthy cornerback experiment, but the 49ers have yet to see him work at that spot during camp. Maiocco reports the 49ers expect the fourth-year defensive back to be cleared this week. He suffered a hamstring injury during San Francisco’s conditioning tests.
  • Maiocco adds recently signed corner K’Waun Williams is in position to function as the 49ers’ top nickel back. He’s in the lead over 2016 third-rounder Will Redmond for that job. Neither Williams nor Redmond played last season. A torn ACL during his final college season led to Redmond missing 2016, and a controversial injury ended Williams’ time with the Browns. Cleveland’s two-year slot corner was not on a team last season but participated in a lengthy visit tour before deciding on a one-year, $765K deal with the 49ers.
  • The Seahawks will have a decision to make on Luke Joeckel‘s position after starting left tackle George Fant tore his ACL Friday night.

Contract Details: Claiborne, Geno Smith

Let’s take a look at the details of some recently-signed contracts:

  • Morris Claiborne, CB (Jets): One year, $5MM. $2.5MM base salary. $2MM signing bonus. $31K per game bonus if on 46-man roster. (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the Daily News).
  • Lorenzo Alexander, LB (Bills): Two years, $5.95MM. Cap numbers of $2.55MM (2017) and $3.4MM (2018). $1.1MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $2MM (2017, fully guaranteed) and $2.45MM (2018; $300K fully guaranteed; $1MM guaranteed for injury only). $300K roster bonus due on third day of the 2018 league year and additional per-game roster bonuses of $6K+ in 2018. Incentives up to $850K (2017) and $1.25MM (2018) in playing time and Pro Bowl incentives. (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • Geno Smith, QB (Giants): One year, $775K base. $25K workout bonus. $800K in play time incentives. $12.5K per-game roster bonuses. Max value of $2MM. (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com).
  • EJ Manuel, QB (Raiders): One year, $800K. No guaranteed money. (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).
  • Kellen Moore, QB (Cowboys): One year, $755K. $100K fully guaranteed (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
  • Tyson Alualu, DL (Steelers): Two years, $6MM. $1.75MM fully guaranteed. (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).
  • Kevin Minter, LB (Bengals): One year, $4MM. $2.1MM guaranteed. (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com).
  • Frostee Rucker, DE (Cardinals): One year, $1.08MM. $80K fully guaranteed. $500K+ available through incentives. (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of ESPN.com).

Raiders Sign QB EJ Manuel

The Raiders have signed free agent quarterback EJ Manuel, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). With Derek Carr entrenched as the Raiders’ starting signal-caller, Manuel will presumably compete with Connor Cook for the No. 2 role.

EJ Manuel

The 26-year-old Manuel now represents the only first-round passer on the Raiders’ roster, having gone 16th overall to the Bills in the 2013 draft. Manuel was never able to grab a strong hold of the starting job in Buffalo, though, as both Kyle Orton and Tyrod Taylor bumped him from the job during his four-year tenure there.

A large portion of Manuel’s action with the Bills came in his rookie season, during which he started in all 10 of his appearances in an injury-shortened campaign and completed 58.8 percent of passes, threw 11 touchdowns against nine interceptions and averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. He has since picked up 17 appearances and seven starts, and has continued to post backup-caliber numbers.

Manuel now reunites with Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing, who was the Bills’ quarterbacks coach in 2014.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 2.0: Offense

NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.

Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.

Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Updated 3-7-2017, 2:55pm CT

Quarterback:

  1. Mike Glennon
  2. Nick Foles
  3. Brian Hoyer (story)
  4. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  5. Colin Kaepernick
  6. Josh McCown
  7. Case Keenum
  8. Matt McGloin
  9. Mark Sanchez
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Christian Ponder
  12. Blaine Gabbert
  13. Geno Smith
  14. Matt Schaub (story)
  15. EJ Manuel

Honorable mention: Ryan Nassib, Landry JonesShaun Hill Mike Glennon (vertical)

Colin Kaepernick’s agents have (wisely) let everyone know that their client will stand for the National Anthem in 2017. That may seem like a minor point, but teams say they would have automatically removed him from consideration if he continued his attention-grabbing protest. He grabbed headlines for his actions on the sidelines last year, but he actually turned in an OK season. From a football standpoint, Kaepernick would make sense for a lot of teams as a QB2 with upside.

Interestingly, this list includes three quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it as the Jets’ starter and three rejects from the 49ers. They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all six of those players (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert) come with varying degrees of potential and proven effectiveness. Smith, somehow, could reportedly be retained by the Jets and installed as the starter in 2017.

Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.

Running back:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Jamaal Charles
  6. Darren McFadden
  7. Jacquizz Rodgers
  8. Rex Burkhead
  9. Rashad Jennings
  10. Danny Woodhead
  11. Tim Hightower
  12. DeAngelo Williams
  13. Andre Ellington
  14. Chris Johnson
  15. Christine Michael

Honorable mention: Robert Turbin, Travaris Cadet, Benny Cunningham, Lance Dunbar, Bobby Rainey, Brandon BoldenDenard Robinson, James Starks

Adrian Peterson (vertical)As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.

The Patriots believe they won’t be able to match the offers that come in LeGarrette Blount‘s direction. Latavius Murray could circle back to the Raiders, but he won’t be agreeing to a deal with them before free agency opens on Thursday.

Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.

Read more

Bills To Bench Tyrod Taylor In Final Game

Rex Ryan is out and the quarterback that he championed could also be a goner in Buffalo. The Bills are planning to bench Tyrod Taylor against the Jets on Sunday in favor of E.J. Manuel, league sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Facebook link). This is a business decision so the Bills are not at risk for the $30.75MM left on his contract that would become guaranteed if Taylor suffered a significant injury, Schefter adds. Tyrod Taylor (vertical)

The Bills are on high alert after watching Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr suffer major injuries in Week 16. The Bills are not going to take any chances with Taylor, a player who may not be in their plans for 2017. It’s not certain that Taylor is out of the picture, but it would be understandable if the Bills do not want to retain him at his current salary. This will also give Buffalo a chance to get one last look at Manuel, a pending free agent.

Initially, the Bills planned to give Taylor the final month of the season to audition himself.

He’s got four more games to write this chapter. Then after this season, like everybody on the team, we’re going to do an evaluation and then we’ll go from there,” Whaley said on Dec. 9 in an interview where he declined to commit to Taylor for 2017.

It is somewhat surprising that rookie Cardale Jones will not be given the opportunity in Week 17. The Ohio State product may be No. 2 on the depth chart, however, if the team is truly intent on protecting Taylor from injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.