Elijah Wilkinson

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/4/21

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

  • Signed: CB Saivion Smith
  • Waived/injured: OT Cody Conway; Conway suffered a torn ACL

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Waived/injured: S Brandon White

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Placed on IR: DB DeMarkus Acy; Acy suffered a torn ACL
  • Waived/injured: OT Anthony Coyle

Bears To Sign OL Elijah Wilkinson

The Broncos’ primary right tackle over the past two seasons, Elijah Wilkinson will relocate. The free agent offensive lineman revealed on Instagram he will join the Bears.

Wilkinson wrapped up his Bears visit earlier Tuesday, and 9News’ Mike Klis noted (via Twitter) the sides were close on a deal. It appears Wilkinson will be set to be part of Chicago’s next O-line group. It’s a one-year deal, per the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs (on Twitter).

This move comes after the Bears passed on Bobby Massie‘s 2021 option. Massie had served as Chicago’s right tackle starter for the past five seasons. Since 2018, Wilkinson has logged 26 starts — at both tackle and guard — and became essential for a Broncos team that saw its high-priced right tackle essentially miss two full seasons. Ja’Wuan James missed almost all of Denver’s 2019 season, thrusting Wilkinson into a full-time role on the right side, and then opted out of the 2020 campaign.

Given a second-round RFA tender by the Broncos last year, Wilkinson suffered a leg injury that limited him to nine games in 2020. The former UDFA did not perform like an upper-echelon right tackle, grading among the lower half at his position in the view of Pro Football Focus, but has extensive experience now as a starter there.

Wilkinson worked as a guard in 2018, helping Phillip Lindsay to the first of his two 1,000-yard seasons, and has competed with Garett Bolles for Denver’s left tackle spot as well. But James’ issues made Wilkinson a full-time right tackle over the past two seasons.

The Bears have also re-signed O-lineman Germain Ifedi this month. While Ifedi played right tackle in Seattle, he started 16 games with the Bears at guard last season. While the team could continue to bolster its O-line, Wilkinson appears set to at worst step into their swing tackle role next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/21/20

Here is Saturday’s usual flood of minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Football Team

AFC West Notes: Williams, Raiders, Broncos

As cut day approaches, let’s take a look at the latest news coming out of the AFC West:

  • As Hard Knocks viewers observed, Mike Williams suffered a shoulder injury while diving for a pass in practice. While Williams was said to be out “for a while,” Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen noted recently the fourth-year wideout may well return for Week 1. “Mike’s gotta be ready to play,” Steichen said, via the Orange County Register’s Gilbert Manzano (on Twitter). “I think Mike has got that mindset to be ready to play. We look forward to having him on September 13.” A thin Bolts receiver depth chart — beyond WR1 Keenan Allen — increases the importance of Williams returning.
  • Rookie Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette suffered a setback recently. The first-round pick sustained a thumb fracture, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This will require Arnette to wear a soft cast on his injured hand, which he did at one point with the Buckeyes. The Raiders are counting on Arnette to play a key role in their secondary this season.
  • One of Mike Williams‘ ex-Chargers receiver teammates will not play this season. The Raiders placed Tyrell Williams on IR this week, ending his second season with the team. Tyrell Williams suffered a torn shoulder labrum for the second time as a pro, and Jon Gruden said an attempt to play through this malady would have required Williams to wear a movement-restricting harness (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur). With a Williams cut saving the Raiders $11MM-plus next year, he looms as a likely 2021 release.
  • Although Demar Dotson operated as the Buccaneers’ starting right tackle for the past eight seasons, his Broncos signing does not mean he will stay a first-stringer. The current Denver plan is for Elijah Wilkinson to again fill Ja’Wuan James‘ position, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post notes. Dotson would then play a swing role behind Wilkinson and embattled left tackle Garett Bolles. Whether Wilkinson starts in Week 1 or not, the Broncos will enter a seventh straight year with a different right tackle to open a season.

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Wilkinson, Raiders

The COVID-19 pandemic will make rookies’ transitions more difficult, and quarterbacks will face a tough learning curve. As a result, Tyrod Taylor is expected to open the season as the Chargers‘ starting quarterback, Daniel Popper of The Athletic writes (subscription required). That arrangement may continue for a while. No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert will likely sit at least eight games, Popper predicts, noting that the Bolts are preaching patience with their first Round 1 quarterback pick in 16 years. Anthony Lynn said in early April that Taylor was the Bolts’ starter “for now.” Taylor is undoubtedly a bridge quarterback again, but this bridge may be longer than the one the Browns used to get to Baker Mayfield two years ago.

Let’s look at the latest from the Chiefs’ three challengers in the AFC West:

  • Defensive lineman Damion Square and the Chargers have expressed mutual interest about another contract, Popper notes. The Bolts originally picked up Square in 2014 and re-signed him in 2017 and ’19. The former UDFA would provide a veteran presence on a defensive line housing Pro Bowlers Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Linval Joseph up front but little experience behind them. Square, now 31, has seen time at defensive tackle and D-end with the Bolts. He started 11 games for the 2018 Chargers, registering three sacks that season.
  • The Broncos did not add a left tackle in the draft or free agency, planning instead to hold a Garett Bolles-vs.-Elijah Wilkinson competition for the job. The latter will be coming off surgery. Wilkinson underwent an ankle procedure in May, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes. Wilkinson, who filled in for Ja’Wuan James as Denver’s starting right tackle for almost all of last season, suffered a high ankle sprain in December. The ailment did not heal properly, postponing the fourth-year player’s recovery. Wilkinson, who signed his second-round RFA tender in April, still hopes to be ready for training camp.
  • Despite the coronavirus altering the construction of the Raiders‘ Allegiant Stadium, the team is eyeing July 31 as a completion date for the Las Vegas-based domed stadium’s “substantial construction,” Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes. At least 16 workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and Akers adds the near-$2 billion project moved from two shifts to three to allow for social distancing.

Broncos Notes: Draft, Lindsay, O-Line

At pick No. 83, the Broncos drafted center Lloyd Cushenberry. The starting snapper for national champion LSU is the early favorite to be Denver’s Week 1 center. However, he may well have been the Broncos’ second choice for this role. The Broncos had a deal in place to move up to No. 79, where they would have taken Temple center Matt Hennessy, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports. The Jets were set to drop from No. 79 to No. 83 and add a Day 3 pick from the Broncos to do so, Mehta notes. The Falcons, however, scuttled these plans by drafting Hennessy at No. 78. Instead of moving up for Cushenberry, the Broncos stood pat. Interestingly, the Jets’ signing of two-year Broncos starter Connor McGovern created a Denver need at center. With the Falcons interrupting a Jets trade-down maneuver, Gang Green took defensive end Jabari Zuniga at No. 79.

Here is the latest out of Denver:

  • Melvin Gordon‘s two-year, $16MM Denver deal surprised many, with the Broncos already featuring two-time 1,000-yard rusher Phillip Lindsay. Count Lindsay as one of those surprised by the move. “It caught me off-guard,” Lindsay said during an interview with NFL.com’s Terrell Davis (video link via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala). “It was like, ‘OK, I’ve put in work.’ It makes it seem like they don’t respect you enough to know the work you’re putting in. I was really upset at the beginning. I’m not gonna lie.” Lindsay said soon after he has since come around to the prospect of splitting time with Gordon, viewing the ex-Charger as another weapon in a retooled offense. As a 2018 UDFA, Lindsay is extension-eligible. He is set to make just $750K but has not indicated plans for a holdout.
  • Although the Broncos passed on Garett Bolles‘ $11MM fifth-year option, they did not draft a tackle. The team passed on both Ezra Cleveland and Josh Jones in Round 2, doing so to take Penn State speedster K.J. Hamler at No. 46. The Broncos passed on the blockers because they did not view either as having the chance to beat out Bolles or Elijah Wilkinson at left tackle, per Troy Renck of Denver7. Wilkinson, who played right tackle most of last season because of Ja’Wuan James‘ injury, is set to compete with Bolles for Denver’s starting left tackle gig.
  • Despite Bolles’ penchant for holding penalties and failure to thus far live up to his first-round billing, the Broncos are not in the market for a free agent tackle, Jhabvala notes (subscription required). Jason Peters, Donald Penn, Kelvin Beachum and Cordy Glenn are the most notable names available.

Broncos’ Mike Purcell, Elijah Wilkinson Sign RFA Tenders

Broncos defensive tackle Mike Purcell and guard Elijah Wilkinson have both signed their second-round restricted free agent tenders, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). They’ll each earn $3.259MM for the 2020 campaign.

While Purcell isn’t much of a pass-rusher, he’s excellent as stopping the run. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked 6’3″, 330-pounder as the league’s best run-defending interior player in 2019. Purcell, who turns 29 years old later this week, played in 13 games (seven starts) for the Broncos last season while posting 48 tackles (eight for loss).

Purcell, an undrafted free agent in 2013, bounced around the league before finding a landing spot in Denver. The Wyoming product spent time with six other NFL teams and the Salt Lake Stallions of the AAF before signing with the Broncos last April.

An undrafted free agent like Purcell, Wilkinson joined the Broncos out of UMass in 2017. Promoted to the starting lineup last season, the 25-year-old played on nearly 90% of Denver’s offensive snaps.

The Broncos have since added free agent Graham Glasgow on a multi-year deal, so it’s unclear if Wilkinson will still have a starting job in 2019. Glasgow can play center as well as guard, leaving Denver with multiple possible combinations up front.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Tender OL Elijah Wilkinson

MARCH 16: Wilkinson indeed received a second-round tender from the Broncos, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.

MARCH 2: The Broncos are “likely” to cuff offensive lineman Elijah Wilkinson with the second-round tender, according to Mike Klis of 9News. The tender would cost roughly $3.2MM, or give the Broncos a second-round pick if someone were to sign him to an offer sheet that goes unmatched.

Wilkinson, 25, has started games on the inside and the outside for the Broncos. The plan is to have him work at both left tackle and right guard next year, allowing them to take full advantage of his versatility.

The Broncos’ offensive line figures to look different in 2020 – for starters, Ronald Leary won’t be brought back on his option. Meanwhile, left tackle Garrett Bolles may or may not be part of the plan for 2021 and beyond. The club will mull all of its options between now and May before deciding on his fifth-year add-on.

In 2018, Wilkinson saw seven starts at right guard. Last year, he started 12 times while Ja’Wuan James was injured. The advanced metrics showed that he wasn’t quite spectacular, though he was solid – he finished out with a 59.6 overall score from Pro Football Focus, slotting him as the 59th ranked qualified tackle in the NFL. That type of showing would make a one-year, $3.2MM salary well worth it for Denver.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos are reportedly eyeing Texans free agent nose tackle D.J. Reader. Meanwhile, they’ll allow defensive lineman Adam Gotsis to reach the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Harrises, Wolfe, OL, RBs

The Broncos both traded for A.J. Bouye (and a $13MM salary) and used their franchise tag on Justin Simmons, signaling Chris Harris‘ time in Denver was almost certainly up. The four-time Pro Bowler said during an NFL Network appearance the door is “pretty much” closed on a 10th Broncos season (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala). The decorated cornerback is expected to have at least 10 teams pursuing him, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. The Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Jets, Lions, Raiders, Seahawks and Texans are expected to have “strong” interest in signing the 30-year-old defender, Renck adds. This list interestingly omits the Eagles, who have been linked to Harris at multiple junctures over the past five months.

Although Harris is arguably the best slot cornerback in NFL history, his consistent usage as a boundary player as well will likely push his market near the current corner standard of $15MM per year. He turned down the Broncos’ three-year, $36MM proposal before the trade deadline.

Here is the latest out of Denver:

  • Denver’s Week 1 starting defensive line consisted of Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris and Adam Gotsis. All three are poised to hit the market, with Gotsis doing so after being benched early in the season. Shelby Harris would prefer to stay in Denver but has acknowledged, at 28, this is his lone chance at a big payday. The Colts are among the teams interested in the late-blooming D-lineman, Renck notes.
  • On the Wolfe subject, the eight-year veteran has been the most vocal about returning to Denver. His agent’s Combine meeting with the Broncos led him to believe he will hit the market. “[The Broncos] talked to my agent at the Combine. … It looks like they’re going to let me hit free agency, see what the market is,” Wolfe said during an interview with KOA Radio (via DNVR Sports’ Andrew Mason, on Twitter). “… It’s a nice way of saying, ‘We like you; we love you, but not for that kind of money.” The Broncos may bring back Wolfe or Shelby Harris, but not both. The team drafted Dre’Mont Jones in Round 3 last year, so it may be covered at one of its defensive end spots. Wolfe, 29, said during an interview with Sirius XM Radio (audio link) he is eyeing two to four more seasons.
  • The Broncos’ interest in a running back stems not necessarily from their current regime’s desire to replace Phillip Lindsay but to complement him, per Renck, who adds the team is expected to add a bigger back in either free agency or the draft. Royce Freeman has underwhelmed in that role over the past two seasons.
  • The Broncos plan to pursue a guard on the market, Renck notes (on Twitter). They declined Ronald Leary‘s 2020 option, so a replacement will be needed. They also may try to add a swing tackle and are likely to draft a tackle, which makes sense given left tackle Garett Bolles‘ struggles.
  • Elijah Wilkinson was supposed to work as a Broncos swing man in 2019, but Ja’Wuan James‘ near-season-long absence thrust Wilkinson into Denver’s right tackle spot. He spent time as a first-string guard in 2018 and stands to factor into the Broncos’ 2020 plans at one of those two positions. The team is expected to use a priority tender on Wilkinson, per Renck. This will likely mean a second-round tender. That will cost more than $3MM.

AFC West Notes: McCoy, Bolles, Joseph

The Chiefs listed running back LeSean McCoy as a healthy scratch for their 35-32 loss to the Titans as part of a predetermined schedule to rest him, according to James Palmer of NFL.com. Without McCoy, Damien Williams received a larger portion of snaps and had a costly fumble in the team’s upset loss.

Given the outcome Kansas City may have second thoughts about their decision, but the organization wants to have McCoy as fresh as possible for the last season and playoff push. At 6-4, the Chiefs remain atop the AFC West and will hope McCoy can make up for their loss in future contributions.

Here’s some more from around the AFC West:

  • Left tackle Garett Bolles has struggled mightily for the Broncos this season. In his weekly mailbag, Ryan O’Hallaran of The Denver Post explained that the early-season injury to right tackle Ja’Wuan James might have saved his job. James’ injury forced swing tackle Elijah Wilkinson into full-time duty and left Denver without a solid Plan B behind Bolles. If James finds his way back onto the field, Wilkinson may be able to push for snaps on the opposite side of the line.
  • Safety Karl Joseph had begun establishing himself as a difference-maker in the Raiders secondary this season before he suffered a season-ending injury. With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, the Raiders might have been inclined to negotiate an extension. However, given the uncertainty surrounding his health, Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News expects the team to let him hit free-agency this season and try to re-sign him at market value.