Eli Apple

Bengals To Add CB Eli Apple

After an injury-plagued season that ended midway through, Eli Apple will receive another chance. The Bengals are signing the veteran cornerback to a one-year contract, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

The Panthers released Apple last October, doing so after he experienced consistent hamstring trouble. Despite now being on team No. 4, the former top-10 pick is still just 25. And he is returning to Ohio, where he once starred as a college prospect.

Apple’s Ohio State work prompted the Giants to use their No. 9 overall pick on him in 2016. However, Apple has not been able to justify the pre-draft hype as a pro. Having since bounced to the Saints and Panthers, Apple will join Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie as offseason Bengals cornerback acquisitions.

Last year, Apple reached a one-year, $6MM agreement to join the Raiders. That deal fell through amid the NFL’s first COVID-19-affected offseason. Apple ended up signing with the Panthers for half that amount, but he only played 28 defensive snaps with Carolina. A hamstring injury sent Apple to IR, and after he aggravated the injury upon return, the Panthers cut bait. Apple sat out the final two months of last season.

While Apple is coming off essentially a medical redshirt campaign, the ex-Buckeye star has made 48 NFL starts — including 25 for a Saints team that won the NFC South in each of his two seasons in New Orleans. The Saints traded fourth- and seventh-round picks for Apple in 2018 and used him as a full-time player.

Apple will now join a Bengals team that has struggled extensively on defense over the past two seasons. Cincinnati lost William Jackson in free agency but has now acquired three veteran corners this offseason. They will join Trae Waynes, who missed all of last season due to injury, in an effort to upgrade the rebuilding team’s secondary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Release CB Eli Apple

Eli Apple‘s hamstring trouble only allowed him to play in two games with the Panthers. They released the former top-10 pick Tuesday.

Apple began the season on IR and aggravated the hamstring malady upon debuting in Week 4. After making his second return in Week 7 against the Saints, the ex-New Orleans corner left Carolina’s Tuesday practice because of a hamstring strain, David Newton of ESPN.com tweets.

While Apple would be entitled to an injury settlement, the Panthers are cutting the cord and turning their outside coverage effort over to younger talent. Carolina has third-year corner Donte Jackson, fourth-year man Corn Elder and former Eagle Rasul Douglas at this position. All three have graded as top-25 corners, in the view of Pro Football Focus, through seven games. The Panthers also drafted Troy Pride in Round 4 and Stantley Thomas-Oliver III in Round 7 this year. Douglas, however, resides on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list.

Apple played just 28 defensive snaps with the Panthers — all against the Saints on Sunday — and just 34 overall. This marks another setback for the 2016 No. 10 overall pick. Apple has bounced from the Giants to the Saints to the Raiders to the Panthers and back to free agency. In May, the Panthers signed him to a one-year deal after his previous Raiders pact — a one-year, $6MM contract agreed to on the first day of free agency — fell through.

The Ohio State alum is still just 25, however, and started 15 games for the Saints last season. He will almost certainly receive another opportunity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Texans, Titans, Bucs, Terrell

Bill O’Brien‘s final weeks with the Texans were trying, with the team going 0-4 and the former head coach-GM’s near-universally panned DeAndre Hopkins trade benefitting the Cardinals early. But the since-fired HC also was involved in some internal turmoil, with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reporting O’Brien engaged in heated disputes with J.J. Watt and first-year defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver at a recent practice (Twitter link). O’Brien also verbally sparred with other staffers in his final weeks, per Wilson. That can be expected given the Texans’ start, but the Watt argument may have been a tipping point. The dispute with Watt — arguably the defining player in Texans history — resulted in O’Brien losing the team, in the view of one source (via ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini). The O’Brien-Watt argument took place days before the Texans’ loss to the Steelers.

Here is the latest from the South divisions, moving first to more Titans news:

  • At least three separate Titans offsite workouts took place last week over a multiday period, veteran NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky notes. A group that included Ryan Tannehill was spotted working out Sept. 30 at Montgomery Bell Academy, an area high school, while Kuharsky reports a different group — comprised of defensive backs — worked out at a park near Belmont University that day. Multiple workouts took place at the park near Belmont, per Kuharsky, who adds that Mike Vrabel said during an Oct. 1 Zoom call he told players not to conduct offsite workouts. The NFL is now investigating the Titans for this, and punishment for the coronavirus-stricken team could be severe. Tight end MyCole Pruitt, one of the Titans’ positive testers, was not at the offsite workouts, per Titaninsider.com’s Terry McCormick (on Twitter).
  • Prior to the Titans being barred from their headquarters, the NFL showed images of players and staffers walking around the team’s facility without masks, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Aside from players during workouts, team personnel are required to wear masks inside team facilities. Twenty-three Titans players and staffers have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Good news for the Falcons on the virus front. First-round cornerback A.J. Terrell returned to practice this week, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets. Terrell missed Atlanta’s past two games after being placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list just before the Falcons’ Week 3 game.
  • For the sect of non-Chris Godwin fantasy managers who might have missed this (and the narrower swath of LeSean McCoy deep-league GMs), both Buccaneers will miss Thursday night’s game against the Bears. The Bucs declared Godwin and Shady out. This marks Godwin’s third missed game this season; he is battling a hamstring injury. Mike Evans, however, will play, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). Evans was a game-time decision because of an ankle injury.
  • Eli Apple is set to miss more time. After successfully rehabbing one hamstring injury, the Panthers cornerback has encountered another. Matt Rhule said the recent acquisition pulled his other hamstring, per Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). Apple missed Carolina’s first three games because of his initial hamstring injury. He has played just six snaps (all on special teams) this season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/3/20

Here is Saturday’s bevy of minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

Panthers Designate Eli Apple For Return

The Panthers have designated cornerback Eli Apple and wide receiver Keith Kirkwood to return from injured reserve, according to Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). The club now has a three-week window to activate either player. If they are not activated in that span, they’ll be ineligible to return for the remainder of the year. 

[RELATED: Panthers Promote RB Reggie Bonnafon]

A former Giants first-round pick, Apple inked a one-year deal with the Panthers in May. At the time, he was thought to be on track for a starting role, especially since the Panthers waited until the fourth round before addressing their need at corner.

Without James Bradberry to lead the way, the Panthers weren’t left with much. Pro Football Focus graded none of Carolina’s incumbent corners higher than 89th at the position last season. Apple, meanwhile, was only 20 when he was drafted and he only just turned 25 over the summer, so there’s reason to believe that he can be a quality contributor when healthy.

 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/8/20

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

Contract Details: 5/29/20

Here are the details on a few recently-signed contracts:

  • Eli Apple, CB (Panthers): One year. $3MM, including $750K signing bonus. Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • Anthony Chickillo, LB (Saints): One year. Veteran salary benefit. $1.047MM base salary ($68,750 guaranteed). Twitter link via Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football.
  • Carlos Hyde, RB (Seahawks): One year, max value of $4MM. $1.5MM base salary, $750K signing bonus, $500K in per game roster bonuses. Up to $1.25MM in incentives. Twitter link via Rapoport.

Panthers Sign CB Eli Apple

Several weeks after his Raiders deal fell through, Eli Apple secured another free agency agreement. The Panthers announced Thursday they signed the veteran cornerback.

Apple and the Panthers agreed to a one-year deal, according to Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). This will help fill the void James Bradberry created when he defected to the Giants in March. A former Giants first-round pick, Apple will have a clear track to a starting job with the Panthers.

During one of the most defense-heavy drafts in NFL history, Carolina did select two corners. But the team did not address this position until the fourth round. Prior to Apple, the Panthers had not made a notable free agent investment at corner this offseason, either. Pro Football Focus graded none of Carolina’s incumbent corners higher than 89th at the position last season. Donte Jackson, a 2018 second-rounder, resides as the Panthers’ top cornerback holdover. Bradberry had served as Carolina’s No. 1 corner throughout his career.

Apple, 24, agreed to a one-year, $6MM Raiders pact in March. But on April 2, the former Ohio State standout returned to free agency. This takes one of free agency’s top corners off the market, though the likes of Logan Ryan and Darqueze Dennard remain unsigned.

The Giants traded Apple to the Saints during the 2018 season, and he delivered more stable work in New Orleans after a rocky tenure in New York. Apple started 25 games for the Saints. He will follow Teddy Bridgewater east to be part of Matt Rhule‘s rebuild effort.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raiders’ Deal With Eli Apple Falls Through

The Raiders agreed to a one-year, $6MM deal with cornerback Eli Apple during the first wave of the free agent period, but that agreement has since fallen through, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

While Schefter doesn’t indicate exactly why Apple’s deal with Las Vegas is being nixed, Apple does have a recent injury history that theoretically could have played a role. An ankle injury forced the 24-year-old to miss the Saints’ final regular season game and Divisional Round contest against the Vikings. Given the COVID-19 crisis, players aren’t able to conduct normal physicals with team medical staffs, so it’s possible Apple’s ankle issue was a factor in the undoing of his pact.

Apple, a first-round pick in the 2016 draft, spent the first two years and change of his career with the Giants before being dealt to New Orleans ahead of the 2018 trade deadline. He went on to start 20 total games with the Saints, and his performance was something close to average, as Pro Football Focus graded him as the league’s No. 61 corner among 112 qualifiers in 2019.

Apple immediately becomes one of the best cornerbacks available on the open market, while the Raiders are now once again hunting for a new defensive back to play alongside fellow corners Trayvon Mullen and Nevin Lawson. Aside from Apple, other free agent options include Darqueze Dennard (who, like Apple, had an agreed-to deal canceled), Dre KirkpatrickAqib Talib, Johnathan Joseph, and Ross Cockrell.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Brees, Mariota, Apple

Let’s take a closer look at the details of a few recently-signed free agent contracts:

AFC

  • Marcus Mariota, QB (Raiders): Two years, $17.6MM $7.5MM guaranteed. $2.4MM in incentives available in 2020 (60% snaps). $1.5MM in playtime and win incentives. $10MM in similar incentives available in 2021. $2MM in playoff/Super Bowl wins each year. $12MM 2021 salary escalator (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com).
  • Eli Apple, QB (Raiders): One year, $6MM. Fully guaranteed. $500K available via incentives (Twitter link via Garafolo.
  • Pierre Desir, CB (Jets): One year, ~$3.75MM. Max value of $5.5MM via incentives (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News).
  • Chad Henne, QB (Chiefs): Two years, $3.25MM. $2MM guaranteed. Max value of $7.25MM (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com).
  • Nelson Agholor, WR (Raiders): One year, veteran salary benefit. $887K guaranteed. $137K signing bonus (Twitter link via Pelissero).

NFC

  • Drew Brees, QB (Saints): Four years, $100MM. $25MM guaranteed. Void years used in 2022-23. Brees receives no-trade clause and no franchise/transition tag can be used after 2021 (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Jalen Mills, DB (Eagles): One, $4MM. Up to $1MM available via incentives (Twitter link via Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio).
  • Thomas Davis, LB (Redskins): One year, $3.5MM. $250K available via incentives (Twitter link via Pelissero).
  • Shon Coleman, T (49ers): One year, $2.2MM. $1.37MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Miles Killebrew, S (Lions): One year, $2MM. $1.137MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Jayron Kearse, S (Lions): One year, $2MM. Up to $1.25MM available via incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Pharoh Cooper, WR (Panthers): One year, $1.21MM. $300K signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).