Garett Bolles

AFC Notes: Texans, Rivers, Tua, Bolles, Jets

Following the trade deadline, Deshaun Watson revealed how much of an issue a Will Fuller trade would have caused for him. Now, the Texans quarterback does not want Week 12 to have been his final game throwing to the deep threat. Despite Fuller’s six-game PED suspension set to drag into next year, Watson wants the Texans to bring back the impending free agent.

That’s very important,” Watson said of the Texans re-signing Fuller, via ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop. “That’s definitely one guy that I’m going to be working on this last month and offseason, for sure. Will’s my brother. The whole organization knows that tooAnd you know, make sure that we get him back for next year, especially in this organization.”

A 2016 first-round pick, Fuller has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. He did in his contract year and was on pace to venture well into four-digit yardage territory. The 26-year-old receiver finished his shortened season with 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns — all career-high numbers — and will be one of the top free agents in 2021. The Texans will have exclusive negotiating rights with Fuller until the legal tampering period begins in mid-March.

Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to Houston’s Week 13 opponent:

  • Philip Rivers has not missed a game due to injury as a pro, having made 235 straight starts since the Chargers let Drew Brees defect to the Saints in 2006. But Rivers appeared on the Colts‘ injury report this week, being reduced to a limited practice Thursday because of a toe malady. Praising Rivers’ toughness, Quenton Nelson revealed (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson and Jim Ayello) the 17th-year quarterback is playing through a “really bad” foot problem presently. Rivers said he has no concerns about being able to play in Week 13.
  • Also expecting to play Sunday: Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa. After Brian Flores said Tagovailoa was “very close” to being able to play against the Jets, the first-round passer expects to start this weekend against the Bengals, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald notes. Although Tua struggled in Denver and was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Flores said the job is the rookie’s when he is medically cleared. Tagovailoa has been limited in both Miami practices this week.
  • Garett Bolles‘ belated breakout resulted in a big payday from the Broncos, who went from not picking up the once-embattled left tackle’s fifth-year option to signing him to a four-year, $68MM deal. That contract contains $38MM guaranteed and $21MM fully guaranteed over the first two years, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Although the $17MM-per-year figure places Bolles as the NFL’s sixth-highest-paid tackle, the full guarantee is more in line with his uneven performance through three-plus seasons. That number ranks 20th among tackles and comes in $43MM south of what the Ravens recently gave Ronnie Stanley in full guarantees.
  • More weirdness out of New York. Jets guard starter Alex Lewis did not play against the Dolphins last week, and Adam Gase said the absence was not injury-related. This may stem from a dustup between Lewis and Gase. The second-year Jets HC indicated the two had a “conversation” but stopped short of calling it a verbal altercation, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano notes (Twitter links). Gase did not confirm if Lewis will return in Week 13. A 2019 trade acquisition, Lewis signed a three-year deal to return to the Jets in March.

Broncos, Garett Bolles Agree On Extension

Garett Bolles‘ contract-year emergence will transform him from a scrutinized player to the Broncos’ long-term left tackle. The Broncos announced Saturday they agreed to terms on a new deal for their breakout blocker.

It’s a four-year, $68MM deal for Bolles, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. This news comes days after Bolles indicated he wanted to stay in Denver beyond his rookie contract, though no known negotiations had transpired.

Bolles is not the NFL’s highest-paid tackle, at $17MM per year, but he now becomes its sixth-best-compensated tackle. This represents one of the most stunning contract-year developments in recent NFL history.

The 2017 first-round pick led the NFL in holding penalties by a wide margin from 2017-19 and entered this year’s training camp in a battle to keep his job. The Broncos did not pick up Bolles’ fifth-year option in May, but after 10 strong games as one of the best left tackles in the game this season, the franchise has changed its line of thinking.

Going into Week 12, Bolles grades as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall tackle. He has not allowed a sack this season, despite the Broncos having used three starting quarterbacks. The 28-year-old blocker has become Denver’s first long-term tackle starter since Ryan Clady and followed the former All-Pro in signing a Broncos extension. Denver has used a different right tackle starter in Week 1 of every season since 2013, but Bolles — his struggles from 2017-19 notwithstanding — has started every game since he arrived out of Utah three years ago. The Broncos already have right tackle Ja’Wuan James — a 2020 opt-out after missing most of last season — signed to a big-ticket deal.

This deal doubles as the Broncos’ first major extension for a draftee selected since Super Bowl 50. Denver kept 2016 third-rounder Justin Simmons around via franchise tag but had not previously come to a notable extension agreement with a player chosen since its February 2016 victory parade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Have Not Discussed Garett Bolles Extension

A few months ago, any talk of the Broncos giving an extension to LT Garett Bolles would have seemed ridiculous. After all, Denver declined Bolles’ fifth-year option back in May, and the former first-round pick had not even come close to living up to his draft status.

But Bolles has been outstanding in 2020, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ top-rated tackle and receiving excellent marks for both his run-blocking and pass-blocking acumen. Plus, he has been called for just three holding penalties thus far, only one of which has been accepted. In his first two years as a pro, he was tied for the league lead in most accepted holding penalties, and in 2019, he was tied for sixth.

As Mike Klis of 9News.com writes, Bolles credits increased attention to his technique as one of the primary reasons for his stark improvement, along with new OC Pat Shurmur‘s pulling scheme. “I think in the past I just used my athletic ability to get the technical side of things,” Bolles said. “To the little things where taking sets barefoot in your kitchen, to watching film, watching guys, looking on the outside shoulder, hand movement and hand fights, and things like that.”

Better fundamentals have allowed the 28-year-old’s natural athleticism — which is what attracted the attention of GM John Elway to begin with — to shine through. And as he is earning just under $2MM this year, he looks like one of the best bargains in the league.

So one would think that Denver would be acting quickly to lock him up on a long-term basis, especially since the left tackle market is red-hot at the moment. But according to Klis, the club has yet to open extension talks, though that’s almost certainly due to the financial uncertainty created by COVID-19 and the fact that the salary cap is likely to decrease in 2021.

There is no indication that the Broncos are opposed to a new deal, and Bolles would certainly be receptive to one. “I mean, (a contract extension) would be nice, but it’s not up to me,” he said (via Troy Renck of Denver 7 ABC). “That’s why I hired an agent, he talks to Mr. Elway. When they want to do it, they’ll do it. That’s just how I look at it. I just want to be consistent. I have to go out there and play at a high level every single week.”

Given his past track record and the likelihood of a depressed free agent market, it would be surprising to see Bolles match or top David Bakhtiari‘s new $23MM/year deal with the Packers, and he may not hit the $20MM AAV threshold. But a surefire Pro Bowl (and perhaps First Team All-Pro) left tackle coming off a dominant season will be a highly-desirable commodity, so whether it comes from the Broncos or someone else, Bolles will be in line for a pretty sizable raise in short order.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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 To Decline Garett Bolles’ Option

The Broncos will decline Garett Bolles‘ fifth-year option, according to Mike Klis of 9News (on Twitter). Instead of getting a guaranteed-for-injury 2021 salary of $11.064MM, Bolles will be ticketed for free agency after the 2020 season. 

[RELATED: 2021 Fifth-Year Option Tracker]

With that, Bolles will play out his original four-year rookie pact at a modest rate of $1.97MM. If he has a strong year, he’ll have an opportunity to cash in at a premium position, similar to D.J. Humphries. It’s not a terrible outcome for Bolles, even though he’s lost out on a bit of health insurance.

Bolles has had perfect attendance over the course of his three year career, appearing and starting in every possible game. At the same time, penalties have been a major problem for him.

Well, it’s got to stop. Period. There are no more excuses for it,” GM John Elway said when asked about the flags back in September (via ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold). “He’s had 26 holding penalties in the last two years and two games, so it’s got to stop. The bottom line is if he thinks he’s getting singled out, he is. He’s got to understand that. He’s got to understand what he’s doing. And that was my question (to him last Sunday), ‘Does he know what holding is?’ Does he know what he can and can’t do?

The Broncos will continue to work with him on his technique while putting him up against Elijah Wilkinson for the starting job. Last year, Bolles received 13 flags for holding.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Shula, Bolles, Harris

Mike Shula met with Broncos head coach Vic Fangio about the team’s QB coach vacancy, reports Troy Renck of Denver7 (via Twitter). While the two sides didn’t agree to deal, the meeting went well and Shula is considered the favorite for the gig.

Shula was the Giants’ OC for the last two years under Pat Shurmur, and he interviewed to keep his gig on Joe Judge’s new staff. Shula helped in the development of quarterback Daniel Jones, who showed promise at times in 2019. On the other hand, the Giants offense struggled as a whole during Shula’s tenure, as the club went 9-23 over the last two seasons.

Former Broncos QBs coach Rich Scangarello was fired on January 10. The Broncos are looking to reinvent their offense under new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

Let’s check out some more news out of Denver…

  • Nose tackle Shelby Harris has hired Drew Rosenhaus for representation, the agent announced on Twitter. Following a career year, the 28-year-old is set to hit free agency this offseason. Harris set career-highs across the board this season, finishing with 49 tackles and six sacks in 16 games (16 starts). The former seventh-rounder was slapped with a second-round restricted free agent tender last offseason.
  • The Broncos are going to be busy this offseason, but it sounds like the organization will be patient when it comes to left tackle Garett Bolles. General manager John Elway said the team will take its time as they determine whether they should pick up the former first-rounder’s fifth-year option. “We’ll wait,” Elway said (via the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran on Twitter). “There’s no sense doing it early. We’re not going to do it until May. We’ll see when we get there where we are.” As Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com points out, Bolles has been flagged 32 times for holding throughout his career, but the organization has also been fond of his durability.
  • We learned yesterday that the Broncos had moved on from “salary cap guru/contract negotiator” Mike Sullivan.

Tackle Notes: Saints, Bulaga, Bolles, Eagles

The Saints have encountered more offensive line injury trouble, and it comes at a bad time. Left tackle Terron Armstead is believed to have suffered a high ankle sprain, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The standout blocker will miss Thursday’s game against the Falcons, and while New Orleans’ subsequent mini-bye would give the seventh-year blocker a chance to return against the 49ers, these are usually multi-week injuries. With left guard Andrus Peat sidelined with a broken arm, the Saints may be missing the left side of their high-end offensive line when they face the 49ers’ dominant pass rush in Week 14. Journeyman Patrick Omameh, whom the Giants cut after his short run as one of their guard starters, replaced Armstead on Sunday.

A lot of news affecting tackles around the league has emerged. Here is the latest:

  • Bryan Bulaga‘s knee injury appears to be a minor issue. The Packers‘ longtime right tackle left Sunday night’s game in San Francisco, but Rapoport notes (via Twitter) he is believed to be battling an MCL sprain instead of ACL trouble. Bulaga will likely miss some time but looks to be able to return this season.
  • As an Eagles season with Super Bowl aspirations veers closer to one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent NFL history, Philadelphia at least will likely have its Pro Bowl right tackle back this week. Lane Johnson expects to be cleared from concussion protocol on Tuesday, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Johnson missed Sunday’s loss against the Seahawks.
  • Vic Fangio appears ready to either bench underwhelming left tackle Garett Bolles or minimize his playing time. The Broncos’ first-year coach said Monday he’s going to shake up left tackle, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. This will be contingent on right tackle Ja’Wuan James‘ availability. Fangio said the seldom-seen free agent signing has been cleared from his latest injury, but it doesn’t look like James is a lock to return to action. He would likely play right tackle, with current right tackle Elijah Wilkinson shifting to the left side. If James returns, Bolles may be set for the first benching of his three-year career. The former first-round pick has not come especially close to living up to expectations, and the Broncos are unlikely to pick up his fifth-year option.
  • The Bears will be without their right tackle for a bit. Bobby Massie suffered a high ankle sprain against the Giants and will miss a few weeks, Rapoport tweets. This is Massie’s fourth season as Chicago’s starting right tackle; he re-signed this offseason on a four-year extension. Massie has only missed two games in his Bears tenure.
  • After their third straight 34-point game, the Jets are likely to have to again reconfigure their offensive line. Rookie right tackle Chuma Edoga suffered an MCL sprain, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). Adam Gase confirmed the 2019 draftee is dealing with an MCL issue and is week-to-week. The Jets have made numerous changes on their offensive front this season. Benched right tackle Brandon Shell, who came in for Kelvin Beachum after he suffered an ankle malady Sunday, may be called upon to re-enter the lineup. Beachum suffered a sprained ankle but may not miss any time.

West Notes: Broncos, Chiefs, Johnson

The Bryce Callahan situation is moving closer toward the Broncos not seeing him on the field this season. After a report surfaced indicating the offseason signing now may miss the season, Vic Fangio said (via the Denver Post’s Ryan O’Halloran, on Twitter) seeing Callahan on the field this year has become a 50-50 proposition. Fangio said earlier this week he was hopeful his former Bears pupil would suit up in 2019. The Broncos signed both Callahan and Kareem Jackson to patch up their secondary, but the former continues to struggle to shake off the foot trouble that ended his 2018 season early. With contract-year standout Chris Harris still a trade candidate, though a player that may end up staying, the Broncos’ long-term cornerback situation is in as bleak of a place since before the franchise’s 2004 Champ Bailey acquisition.

Here is the latest from the West divisions, shifting first to another key Broncos signing:

  • Denver’s Ja’Wuan James investment has gone almost as poorly as its Callahan addition. James suffered an injury in the first quarter of the Broncos’ Week 1 game and has missed every snap since. However, the well-paid right tackle is expected to start this week, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. James is believed to be set to play in a part-time capacity, with a three-tackle rotation between he, Garett Bolles and Elijah Wilkinson in the cards. Wilkinson has started the past six Broncos games at right tackle.
  • In addition to Patrick Mahomes‘ Week 8 absence, the Chiefs will be without Frank Clark. The team declared its top defensive end out with a neck injury. Chris Jones, Kendall Fuller and Eric Fisher will miss another game as well. Clark broke out for a dominant performance against Bolles in Kansas City’s Week 7 win, but the offseason acquisition will have to wait until at least Week 9 to build on that performance.
  • However, the Chiefs will have Sammy Watkins back. The oft-injured wide receiver suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5, but ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher notes he will play against the Packers. In Year 2 of a $16MM-AAV deal, Watkins has not caught a pass since Week 4.
  • David Johnson enters this week’s Cardinals game in the same place he did the past two games: as a game-time decision. Kliff Kingsbury said (via AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban, on Twitter) the former All-Pro back does not need practice to suit up for a game, but with Chase Edmonds playing well in relief, this shapes up as a true game-time call. Johnson suited up for Week 7 but spent most of his afternoon on the sideline. Both Christian Kirk and Jordan Hicks are game-day calls as well.

West Notes: Bolles, Bucannon, Chiefs, Hawks

Despite the Broncos fearing multiple severe injuries for left tackle Garett Bolles, the rookie suited up for practice on Thursday and has a chance to play against the Bills. Vance Joseph (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post) said the team thought Bolles’ injury, determined to be a bruise on his lower left leg, was more serious than it ended up being. Joseph said the first-round pick is “getting better fast” but is obviously hesitant about proclaiming him ready to return to the starting lineup. Bolles has fared well in his first two games, prior to being carted off in the third quarter of the Broncos’ Week 2 win.

Bolles said he also “thought it was serious” and will not rush back. Denver’s bye comes in Week 5, so holding Bolles out for two games would make sense. But his return to practice, on a limited basis, so soon bodes well for a possible return against the Bills or Raiders before the week off.

Donald Stephenson initially received the call to replace Bolles at left tackle Sunday, but utility man Allen Barbre ended up seeing more time there. Barbre and Max Garcia were alternating at left guard, but the veteran played tackle with the Eagles at times in recent years and provides versatility if the Broncos aren’t keen on throwing Stephenson — whom they replaced at right tackle in free agency with Menelik Watson — back out there. Bolles represents the fourth left tackle starter in four seasons for the Broncos, who have also seen numerous players line up with the first-stringers on the right edge in that time.

Here’s more from the Western divisions prior to tonight’s NFC West matchup.

  • Deone Bucannon‘s lengthy recovery from an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated just before Week 1, could produce the Cardinals inside linebacker returning to action in Week 3, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes (on Twitter). Bruce Arians said (via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com) Bucannon’s “getting real close” to returning but would be on a snap count if he did so against the Cowboys. The Cards have used Karlos Dansby and first-rounder Haason Reddick as starters while Bucannon’s been out. Bucannon underwent surgery in May.
  • Speaking of injury returns, it sounds like the Chiefs are planning to make cornerback Steven Nelson one of their IR-boomerang players. The third-year corner is eligible to come off IR in Week 9, and Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star notes that return is likely. For the time being, the Chiefs have gotten by with 2016 practice squad promotion Terrance Mitchell operating as Marcus Peters‘ top complement. However, Pro Football Focus rates Mitchell and Phillip Gaines — the former third-round pick whom Mitchell usurped late last season — as its Nos. 96 and 100 full-time cornerbacks through two games. A core muscle injury sidelined Nelson, K.C.’s primary slot defender last season.
  • Do the Seahawks miss Jermaine Kearse? Seattle’s offense has largely sputtered in its first two games, and Doug Baldwin does see a hole where Kearse — traded to the Jets for Sheldon Richardson — departed. “Specifically on the football field, just the intricacies that he did in our offense, guys aren’t used to doing it, they didn’t have to do them, because Jermaine was so willing and able to do it, now guys are being called to do those things and that is another challenge for us,” Baldwin said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Paul Richardson and third-round rookie Amara Darboh are seeing more time, Richardson especially, after Kearse’s exit. Baldwin leads Seattle’s wideout contingent with 107 air yards; no other Hawks pass-catcher has 80.

West Notes: Hawks, 49ers, Chiefs, Broncos

Jimmy Graham isn’t a lock to be ready when the Seahawks face the Titans on Sunday after going down with an ankle injury, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters, including Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link). Seattle has scored only 21 points through two games, and Graham has contributed to that offensive ineptitude by posting just four catches for nine total yards. If Graham is out next week, the Seahawks will turn to Luke Willson and Nick Vannett at tight end.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions, with a focus on injury news:

  • The 49ers will be without safety Eric Reid on Thursday night as he recovers from a PCL injury, and the 25-year-old defensive back will likely miss additional games, head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters, including Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee (Twitter links). Luckily, Reid won’t require surgery on his injury knee, limiting the period of his absence. Reid, who’s playing in his contract season, missed six games in 2016 following a biceps tear.
  • Center Mitch Morse suffered a foot sprain during Sunday’s Chiefs game, but an MRI revealed that he won’t require surgery, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Nevertheless, Morse will be sidelined for a “few weeks” as he recovers, per Rapoport. Morse, 25, has started 33 contests in two-plus years with Kansas City, but the club will now be forced to turn to other options. Zach Fulton took over at the pivot yesterday, while recent trade acquisition Cameron Erving could also be a candidate for snaps. The Chiefs face the Chargers, Redskins, Texans, and Steelers over the next month.
  • The Broncos are breathing a sigh of relief — after initially fearing rookie left tackle Garett Bolles broke his foot on Sunday, Denver learned that Bolles has only a bone bruise, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Bolles is now considered week-to-week, which almost assuredly means he’ll be sidelined for the Broncos’ Week 3 contest against the Bills. Both Donald Stephenson and Allen Barbre played left tackle in Bolles’ absence yesterday, and both will likely be options for Denver going forward.