Eddy Pineiro

NFC North Notes: Lions, Gronk, Vikes, Bears

The Vikings broke up their years-long receiver tandem of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, shipping the latter to Buffalo for a package of picks. While the Vikings did not collect quite the haul they did for Percy Harvin seven years ago, Rick Spielman called it a business opportunity that benefited both Diggs and the Vikings (Twitter link via the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling). Spielman said he did not intend to trade Diggs when he last spoke at the Combine, but the Bills’ offer of a first-round pick and three Day 3 choices — including a 2021 fourth-rounder — was too enticing to pass up. The Bills also upped their offer from their previous one, which occurred before the 2019 deadline. The Vikings now hold the Nos. 22 and 25 overall picks in a receiver-loaded draft, and they now have a massive need at the position.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Two years ago, the Lions nearly traded for Rob Gronkowski. Now that a team has actually swung a trade for the dominant tight end, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com provided the details (via Twitter) on the disparities between the Buccaneers and Lions’ offers. They are stark. The Lions offered the Pats their 2018 first-rounder (No. 20 overall) and were set to swap picks in the second round (dropping from No. 43 to 51) before the then-29-year-old tight end nixed the deal by threatening to retire. The Lions ended up picking Frank Ragnow in the first round; Gronkowski collected a third Super Bowl ring 10 months later and then retired. The Pats dealt the unretiring Gronk and a seventh-round pick to the Bucs for a fourth-rounder on Tuesday.
  • Everson Griffen remains unsigned and is “probably” gone from the Vikings, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson notes if Minnesota does not land a pass rusher in the draft it is not out of the question the 10-year veteran returns (Twitter link). Griffen issued a statement indicating an 11th Vikings season was not in the cards, but Tomasson indicates (via Twitter) he merely wanted to inform other teams he was available and not a lock to return to Minnesota. Griffen’s mental health episode in 2018 may well be impacting his free agency, with Tomasson tweeting teams would like to meet with him and discuss it. The 32-year-old edge defender will likely have to reassess his options after the draft.
  • Another year, another Bears kicking competition. After a very public kicker battle throughout the 2019 offseason, the Bears will hold another this year. Incumbent Eddy Pineiro will match up against lower-profile challenger Ramiz Ahmed, Ryan Pace confirmed (via the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jason Lieser). The Bears signed Ahmed, who kicked at Nevada for one season and has yet to kick in an NFL game, last week but had their eye on him as a UDFA last year. A late addition last summer, Pineiro made 23 of 28 field goals with the Bears last season.

Bears Not Planning Change At Kicker

In addition to a potential quarterback controversy, the Bears once again find themselves with an untenable situation at kicker. Eddy Pineiro emerged from the team’s open casting call this offseason with the kicking job in hand, and he started off the 2019 campaign on the right foot. Through the first two games of the season, he was perfect on extra points and field goal attempts, including a 53-yard FG as time expired in the team’s 16-14 win over the Broncos in Week 2.

He has only missed one PAT out of 18 attempts, but he is struggling with field goals. He has missed four of his past seven FG tries, including two missed 48-yarders in the first quarter of Sunday night’s loss to the Rams. He didn’t have any FG attempts the prior two games, but in a Week 8 loss to the Chargers, he missed two tries, including a 41-yarder as time expired that would have won it for the Bears.

After the Chargers game, head coach Matt Nagy said he would not look to replace Pineiro, and Pineiro’s struggles on Sunday have not caused Nagy to waver. As Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune writes, Nagy said “no” four times when asked during his post-game presser if he would explore other options at kicker. However, he did express frustration that Pineiro has not helped an already slumping offense put up points when the team does manage to get into scoring position.

Pineiro has converted 12 of 17 field goals on the season, a 71% mark that ranks 31st among NFL kickers. All five of his misses have been under 50 yards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Pineiro, Cousins, Vikings

The Bears‘ kicking woes continued Sunday when Eddy Pineiro missed a 41-yard field goal attempt as time expired in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. Matt Nagy is not publicly wavering from Pineiro, though, according to Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic. Nagy said, “We love Eddy. We’ve got all the faith in the world in him.” Chicago, of course, has struggled to replace kicker Robbie Gould since the team let him go in 2015. Last postseason, the Bears were eliminated after then-kicker Cody Parkey missed a 43-yard field goal in a 16-15 loss to the Eagles. Nagy did not shy away from making the team’s kicker situation a front-and-center issue throughout the offseason. However, the second-year Chicago coach is sticking with Pineiro going forward.

Here’s more from around the NFC North:

  • Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has not been consistent during his time in Minnesota, despite stringing together some strong weeks to help his team to a 6-2 record. Cousins signed a fully guaranteed, three-year, $84MM contract in March 2018. Now that Cousins is exactly halfway through his contract, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune examines what to make of Cousins’ tenure in Minnesota and whether the team will look at extending him.
  • Five misdemeanor charges surfaced for Vikings safety Jayron Kearse, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. Among them: operating a vehicle while intoxicated, carrying a pistol while intoxicated and carrying a gun without a permit. Kearse was arrested Sunday. Considering Kearse has been mostly a backup in his Vikings career and is playing on an expiring contract, this may not bode well for his status with the team going forward.
  • The Packers were interested in Jets wideout Robby Anderson, but the fourth-year player — like most of Tuesday’s trade candidates — will stay put.

Bears Going With Eddy Pineiro At Kicker

The Bears have made a decision on their Week 1 kicker. The team is officially rolling with Eddy Pineiro, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). “He deserves it,” head coach Matt Nagy said.

The Bears traded a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Raiders back in May for Pineiro, and now he’s won their competition. The Bears have cycled through kickers this offseason, leaving no stone unturned in their search to replace Cody Parkey. Parkey, of course, missed a last-second field goal in the Bears’ playoff loss to the Eagles last year that would’ve sent them on to the next round.

Pineiro beat out former AAF kicker Elliott Fry, among others, in the months-long battle. When Fry was waived a couple of weeks ago, it was reported that the Bears were still in the market for another kicker and it looked like they preferred an outside option to Pineiro, but they ultimately opted not to add anybody off the street or on waivers. Pineiro showed well in the preseason, nailing a 58-yarder, which clearly helped his cause. The Florida product signed with Oakland as an undrafted free agent last year, and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. He may have made the roster for now, but he’ll be on a short leash considering the intense scrutiny that any Bears kicker will be under.

Bears Waive K Elliott Fry

The Bears have waived kicker Elliott Fry, the team announced. That leaves Eddy Pineiro as the only kicker on the roster at the moment.

However, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune cautions that the decision to waive Fry, an AAF alumnus whom the the Bears signed in April, does not mean that Pineiro has won the team’s much-discussed kicking competition (Twitter link). Indeed, Biggs suggests that a to-be-released player from another organization is likely to open the season as the Bears’ kicker, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirms (via Twitter) that Chicago remains in the market for kicking help.

The Bears’ kicking game issues in 2018, which ended in heartbreak in the wildcard round of the NFC playoffs, led the team to cast a wide net for answers. Chicago acquired Pineiro in a trade with the Raiders in May, and the club also signed Chris BlewittJohn Baron II, and Redford Jones since their playoff loss to the Eagles. All candidates but Pineiro have been waived.

Fry missed his only FG attempt in the team’s preseason loss to the Giants on Friday. Adam Jahns of The Athletic notes that both Fry and Pineiro have struggled with accuracy and consistency in spring practices and training camp, though Pineiro clearly has the stronger leg (Twitter link).

The Bears were reportedly interested in Kaare Vedvik, but he was traded to the division-rival Vikings last week.

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 Rumors: Switzer, DL, Kickers

While Jon Gruden‘s yet to bestow much praise upon Martavis Bryant, the Raiders’ other wide receiver trade acquisition has impressed the new coach. It’s looking like the former Cowboys draft choice will have a role in the passing game, and Ryan Switzer certainly will contribute on special teams. Switzer returned seven punts for touchdowns while at North Carolina, including five his freshman year. He returned a punt for a score last season as a rookie.

He’s a guy that can change the game, I think, on third down. He’s a tough matchup,” Gruden said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “He’s quick. He has vertical speed. He has special teams ability. … I love Switzer. I think he’s one of the best punt returners of college football, perhaps the history of college football. He’s as good as I saw.”

Seth Roberts has served as the Raiders’ top slot option for the better part of the past three seasons for a team that hasn’t featured much depth at the position. Switzer, if nothing else, may supply that.

Here’s the latest out of Oakland.

  • It’s not finalized the Raiders will play the 2019 season in Oakland, but they will remain in Napa, Calif., for training camp next year. It could be their last one in northern California, however. In 2020, Reno has emerged as the favorite, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes. Reno officials visited Raiders camp this weekend, Gehlken reports, and Las Vegas has been ruled out as a camp site. The Raiders hope to play the 2019 season in Oakland, and while 2020 represents the franchise’s relocation goal, a firm departure date hasn’t been established.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio‘s kicking foot looks to have played a key part in his Raiders downfall. Holder Johnny Townsend had to switch sides when the Silver and Black alternated reps between last year’s kicker (Tavecchio, who is left-footed) and rookie UDFA Eddy Pineiro, and Gruden was tired of that continuing to be required, he said today (via Tafur). Gruden added that Pineiro has kicked well in camp and that he views Mike Nugent as a legitimate option, rather than a mere mentor.
  • The Raiders have not been able to supplement Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin with much in the way of complementary pass rushers the past two seasons, but a growing belief exists among Raiders coaches and scouts their rookie contingent of defensive linemen — P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Maurice Hurst — can be early contributors, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. The team has injury-prone defensive end Mario Edwards entering a contract year and fifth-year nose tackle Justin Ellis back. And the Raiders signed Tank Carradine in March. Eddie Vanderdoes enters his second season after being a primary starter as a rookie, but he’s coming off an ACL tear. The team looks to have a deeper pool of options up front.
  • The Raiders are also making some history on their strength and conditioning staff. Kelsey Martinez is signed on to work as an assistant strength assistant, Gehlken writes. The 26-year-old becomes the franchise’s first woman to work in this department. Martinez worked under new Raiders strength boss Tom Shaw at the Tom Shaw Performance facility in Orlando, Fla., the past four years.

West Notes: Donald, Raiders, Carter

There are a couple of critical dates coming up in the Aaron Donald saga this week, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out. If Donald does not report to the Rams by August 7, he will not earn a year of credit towards free agency, which means that he would be eligible for restricted free agency next offseason, but not unrestricted free agency. However, Florio says that is not a major deterrent for Donald’s camp, as the Rams would either use the franchise tag on Donald — which, of course, they could also do if he became an unrestricted free agent — or apply a first-round restricted free agent tender. If Los Angeles went with the latter option, there would be any number of teams willing to extend a massive offer sheet to Donald and to surrender a first-round pick to the Rams if the Rams elected to not match the offer sheet, so Florio suggests LA would use the franchise tag regardless of whether Donald becomes a UFA or RFA.

The more important date, then, could be August 9, when the Rams play their first preseason game. As we have written previously, Donald could be fined a game check for each preseason game he misses, and between those penalties and the penalties for missing training camp, Donald could be looking at over $3.2MM in fines if he does not show up until the eve of the regular season opener. That reality could make him rethink his holdout, but given a recent report that the standoff could easily drag into September, it appears Donald’s reps are confident that the Rams will waive any penalties when the two sides do finally come to terms (or else that Donald’s contract will be so massive that the lost money won’t really matter).

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Raiders head coach Jon Gruden says his team’s kicking competition is not over, and that either rookie Eddy Pineiro or recent veteran acquisition Mike Nugent could win the job. But Scott Bair of NBCSports.com says Pineiro remains the heavy favorite, and Bair suggests it would be a major surprise if the rookie did not open the season as the team’s kicker.
  • We have not heard anything about a potential suspension for new Raiders receiver Martavis Bryant since June, which is obviously good news for Bryant and the team, but Gruden does not seem impressed with Bryant’s on-field performance thus far. Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets that Bryant needs to step up his game and get more out of his reps, and Gruden said that the former Steeler needs to “master the offense and be more versatile.” Bryant is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2019 — assuming he’s not suspended, of course — and even though he is battling for the team’s No. 3 receiver job, his talent suggests he could excel in Oakland’s offense and earn himself a nice payday next year.
  • Broncos safety Jamal Carter, a 2017 UDFA, has been very impressive in this year’s training camp, as Mike Klis of 9News.com writes. Carter appeared in all 16 of the team’s games last season, primarily as a special teams contributor, but he could get more defensive snaps in 2018, especially in sub-packages.
  • The Chargers‘ starting free safety job remains up for grabs, as Eric Williams of ESPN.com tweets. Jahleel Addae, Desmond King, and Jaylen Watkins have all seen action with the starters at that position.
  • We learned earlier today that veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had to cancel his scheduled workout with the Seahawks due to a family matter. There is not yet any word on whether the visit will be rescheduled.
  • The 49ers are growing increasingly concerned about guard Joshua Garnett‘s right knee injury.

Extra Points: Packers, UDFAs, Panthers, T.O.

After having been fired as the Browns head coach back in 2016, Mike Pettine is back in the NFL as the Packers defensive coordinator. While the 51-year-old acknowledged that he’ll appreciate the brief break prior to training camp, he also admitted that he’ll soon be itching to return to the field.

“That will last about a week, and then I’ll start thinking about football,” Pettine told Jason Wilde of SouthernMinn.com. “I have my own list of things to do, but I’ll be smart with it. I’ll do a little bit at a time. But it’s hard to completely detach from it. [But] that’s what’s great about that time — you can get around friends and families and take you away from it. But it’s always there, and by 10-12 days into July, I’ll be ready to start camp.”

Pettine’s defenses have generally been productive, as the coach has had previous success with the Ravens, Jets, and Bills. The Packers are hoping he can turn around a defense that finished 26th in points allowed last season.

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

  • NFL.com’s Gil Brandt observes (on Twitter) that there were 32 undrafted rookies to make bonuses of $15K or more. The top earners were Eagles running back Josh Adams, Giants cornerback Grant Haley, and Raiders kicker Eddy Pineiro, with the trio each making $25K. Generally, it’s assumed that the highest-paid undrafted free agents have the best shot of making the regular season roster.
  • The Panthers will not renew the contract of senior executive scout Don Gregory, reports Joe Person (via Twitter). Gregory had previously served as the organization’s college scouting director for more than a decade, but he served in more of a consulting role between Marty Hurney‘s two stints with the team.
  • Terrell Owens, who is set to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, believes he can still play football. Well, the 44-year-old could have his chance…in the Canadian Football League. David William Naylor of TSN tweets that the Edmonton Eskimos have added the receiver to their negotiation list. Teams are allowed to claim exclusive rights on players by placing them on the list, but players can easily be removed at anytime. It’s unlikely that Owens will stay on the list for very long, as the wideout hasn’t played professionally since 2012 (and he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2010).
  • Speaking of the CFL, former NFL Ricky Stanzi has been released by the Calgary Stampeders (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). The 30-year-old had a standout performance during the 2017 Spring League, and he ended up earning a contract with the Canadian team. The 2011 fifth-round pick had stints with the Chiefs, Jaguars, Texans, Giants, and Lions during his NFL career, although he never managed to take the field for a regular season game.