The Chiefs have ruled out running back Jerick McKinnon for tomorrow’s game against the Packers, necessitating some extra depth at the position. The team will turn to Prince, an undrafted free agent who has spent the entire season on Kansas City’s practice squad. Prince had a breakout season at Tulsa in 2022, finishing with 813 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns.
Winfrey, a 2022 fourth-round pick, was cut by the Browns last July after being investigated for pulling a gun on a woman. He joined the Jets practice squad in early November and will finally earn his first promotion of the season. Winfrey got into 13 games for Cleveland last year, collecting 22 tackles and 0.5 sacks.
At age 36, Irvin will be making his debut for a sixth NFL team. The veteran pass rusher signed with Detroit midway through November and will finally have a chance to extend his streak of regular season appearances to 12 straight years. The only absence on the Lions’ front-seven will be linebacker Alex Anzalone, so Detroit may be looking to stand Irvin up to help the team’s depth at linebacker.
Hamler reportedly had joined the Colts’ practice squad at full health after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a partially torn pectoral muscle and taking time away from football to deal with pericarditis, a heart condition that didn’t require surgery but did necessitate medication. Despite being seemingly healthy at the time of his signing, Hamler has yet to be elevated for an in-game appearance in 2023 and is now headed to the practice squad’s injured reserve. It’s unclear if this newest transaction has anything to do with the 24-year-old’s previous health issues.
With Week 13 underway, the picture at the top of the NFL draft board continues to become clearer. Plenty is yet to be determined with respect to the top of the order, however.
The Panthers’ ongoing struggles led to Frank Reich‘s firing, but the Bears own Carolina’s top pick this year due to the 2023 swap which landed Bryce Youngvia the No. 1 selection. Chicago being able to have the top pick once again – coupled with their own selection landing in the top-10 – would make the Bears a team to watch closely come April. The race for the top two or three slots (and, as such, the ability to draft QBs Caleb Williamsand Drake Maye, along with wideout Marvin Harrison Jr.) will also be a key late-season storyline for the Cardinals and Patriots.
The Commanders have lost three straight games, overshadowing a promising season from first-year starter Sam Howell. After deciding to move on from defensive ends Chase Youngand Montez Sweatat the trade deadline, the team’s defense has continued to struggle. DC Jack Del Rio is out as a result, and head coach Ron Rivera‘s position is not believed to be on strong footing. A top-five pick could make the job in Washington more attractive presuming a opening arises this offseason.
For non-playoff teams, the draft order will be determined by the inverted 2024 standings — plus a series of tiebreakers, starting with strength of schedule — with playoff squads being slotted by their postseason outcome and regular-season record. Here is an updated look at the current draft order:
November 29th, 2023 at 10:50am CST by Sam Robinson
NOVEMBER 29: The Colts are not looking to save a roster spot here. They will go week to week with Taylor, per Shane Steichen, who said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson) the team is not considering an IR stint. Steichen pointed to Irsay’s timeline of a Week 15 or Week 16 Taylor return being a realistic target.
NOVEMBER 28, 3:01pm: Taylor will indeed miss time. The standout back is set to undergo thumb surgery, according to Jim Irsay (via The Athletic’s James Boyd). This is not a season-ending procedure, but Boyd notes a multiweek absence is expected. The Colts hope Taylor will be able to return in two or three weeks, though Rapoport adds an IR move — one that would sideline Taylor for four games — may be under consideration before this week’s game.
1:13pm: Just as he has reestablished himself as a full-time player, Jonathan Taylor may need some additional time off. The Colts running back — who has overtaken Zack Moss after his re-acclimation period upon returning from the reserve/PUP list — is uncertain for Week 13 due to a thumb injury, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets.
Taylor sustained the injury during his 91-yard, two-touchdown game against the Buccaneers, a Colts win that helped the team to 6-5 and into the No. 7 spot in the AFC’s playoff race. All options are on the table here, per Rapoport, though ESPN.com’s Stephen Holder notes the team remains in evaluation mode. No IR decision has been made.
Coming into last season, Taylor had not missed any time due to injury during his NFL or college careers. He attempted to play through an ankle issue last season but missed six games and eventually required surgery. That problem may or may not have dragged into the summer, with Taylor’s contractual impasse and subsequent trade request having plenty to do with his absence from training camp as well. But Taylor still missed the season’s first four games. After signing a three-year, $42MM extension, the fourth-year running back was in uniform for Week 5.
The Colts had steadily increased their standout starter’s workload in the weeks since his return. His snap share went from 15% to 42% to 50% to 61% to 74% to 88% from Weeks 5-10. In Week 12, Taylor played 58% of Indianapolis’ offensive snaps; he was, however, on the field to convert a game-clinching first down in the final minutes. The Wisconsin alum has two 90-yard rushing games over his past four.
Having made an unexpected voyage into surefire playoff contention, the Colts have a clear Taylor backup plan. Moss remains 10th in the NFL with 672 rushing yards. While not as talented as Indy’s starter, Moss holds a 4.8-yard average per carry (compared to Taylor’s 4.1 number) and has played well in a contract year. If Taylor needs to miss time, the 2022 trade acquisition will likely step in as a full-time player once again. After sustaining a broken hand during camp and missing Week 1, Moss retook the reins and kept them until the Colts deemed Taylor ready to go. He played at least 76% of Indy’s offensive snaps in four games this season.
November 22nd, 2023 at 10:39pm CST by Sam Robinson
Both the Eagles and Cowboys looked into linebackers before the trade deadline. While Shaquille Leonard was not mentioned in trade rumors, the former Colts standout is now available. After clearing waivers Wednesday afternoon, Leonard can seek out a free agency fit.
The two NFC East powers, per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, are expected to circle back to their linebacker need. Now that a player of Leonard’s caliber is unattached, that certainly makes sense. Each is believed to have some interest here. Both teams have endured injuries at the position and obviously profile as contenders.
Dallas and Philadelphia use 4-3 looks. Leonard enjoyed one of the most prolific runs by a 4-3 linebacker in modern NFL history, dominating in Matt Eberflus‘ scheme from 2018-21 and being named to four All-Pro teams. The Colts did not view Leonard as the same caliber of player this season, keeping his snaps well down from his peak usage. Leonard is coming off a year in which he underwent two back surgeries, the second of which requiring rehab into this offseason. But he rehabbed in time to be ready for Week 1 and has played nine games this year.
Leonard, 28, is not expected to sign immediately, with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport indicating this process might take a few days. This is how the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes played out in 2021, and given Leonard’s medical issues, it would not surprise to see this market dragging for a bit. But the former second-round pick should be on track to land elsewhere and contribute this season.
Although the Cowboys drafted Micah Parsons as a linebacker, the 2021 first-rounder quickly graduated to pass-rushing duty. The Cowboys have refused to label Parsons as a pure defensive end, but he sees much of his reps at that marquee spot. At linebacker, Dallas has lost both Leighton Vander Esch and third-round rookie DeMarvion Overshown for the season. Overshown suffered an ACL tear during training camp, while Vander Esch’s neck trouble has resurfaced to the point his career may be in jeopardy. The Cowboys re-signed Vander Esch to a two-year, $8MM deal this offseason. The Cowboys have used second-year players Damone Clark and Markquese Bell, a converted safety, as their primary linebackers as of late.
Jerry Jones made it known his team was not planning to be aggressive at the deadline, displaying confidence in the team already in place. But the Cowboys did go after some linebacking help. With the Vander Esch update coming after the trade deadline, it makes sense Dallas poked around. The Eagles joined their rivals in eyeing second-level help, and they have seen their LB centerpiece — Nakobe Dean — land on IR twice this season.
Philly let starters T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White walk this offseason, devoting funds to other areas. A 2022 third-rounder, Dean became the defending NFC champs’ centerpiece player here heading into the season. The Eagles added Nicholas Morrow on a veteran-minimum deal to supplement Dean, but the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year was viewed as the anchor. Two foot injuries have stalled Dean, however, making Morrow and late-summer addition Zach Cunningham as the team’s lead LBs. Nick Sirianni was in place as Colts OC during Leonard’s first three seasons.
After voicing frustration at the Colts keeping his snaps at the 70% level, the four-time All-Pro should have his chance to craft a bounce-back arc. Pro Football Focus ranks Leonard’s 2023 work outside the top 60 among linebackers, though he did not prove a fit in Gus Bradley‘s defense. In his previous healthy season, Leonard combined to force 12 turnovers — eight forced fumbles, four INTs — despite dealing with a back problem that required surgery. Because no team claimed Leonard, the Colts are now on the hook for the remaining $6.11MM of his 2023 base salary.
The Seahawks already face a tall task tomorrow night as they host the 49ers in the last of the three Thanksgiving Day matchups. That challenge is only made more difficult by the fact that Seattle is dealing with multiple injuries to key players as quarterback Geno Smith and running back Kenneth Walker both head into tomorrow with injury designations.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported earlier today that Smith hadn’t been able to test his bruised elbow much at all yet in the short week. Smith spent today’s practice determining just how much he could throw in order to set expectations on his availability for tomorrow. Later on in the afternoon, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo relayed that “all indications have (Smith) tracking to play” against the rival 49ers Thursday night.
In the case of Walker, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters that Walker suffered an “oblique strain that was legit,” per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It sounds, based on Carroll’s press talks, that Walker is in danger of missing some time, but Schefter went on to report that the team doesn’t consider him to be an injured reserve candidate. Walker likely would’ve missed a week on regular rest, but with a short week, it would be extremely unlikely for Walker to make an appearance tomorrow, hence his doubtful game status.
In addition to Smith and Walker, the Seahawks will also be without rookie safety and special teams standout Jerrick Reed II, who reportedly tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season, according to Schefter. The sixth-round New Mexico product hasn’t been asked to do much on defense this year but is currently third on the team in special teams tackles.
Here are a few more injury rumors from around the league:
The Colts placed second-year tight end Jelani Woodson IR with a hamstring injury just prior to the start of the season in order to open up a roster spot for wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. It became a given, at that point, that Woods would miss at least the team’s first four games, but to date, he has yet to make his 2023 debut. He’s eligible for activation from IR, but according to Joel A. Erickson of FOX59/CBS4, Woods experienced a setback in his rehabilitation with his opposite hamstring that will keep him from returning for now. Head coach Shane Steichen stated that he “does not know” if it will be a season-ending setback.
The Browns may sport one of the league’s best defenses this year, but their secondary is limping into Week 12 as all four starters hold questionable game statuses as of Wednesday. Safeties Grant Delpit and Juan Thornhill and cornerback Greg Newsome II all hold a decent chance of playing on Sunday, but cornerback Denzel Ward is dealing with a shoulder injury that may not only hold him out of this weekend’s game but perhaps beyond that, as well, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. The team isn’t quite ready to rule Ward out yet, but they are bracing themselves for the idea that they will be without him for multiple games.
We have seen high ankle sprains claim the playing time of multiple players this season. Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brownsought out a second opinion on his ankle injury yesterday, per Mike Reiss of ESPN, and was diagnosed with both high- and low-ankle sprains, as well as an MCL sprain. Players have missed time with less, but Brown reportedly plans to play through the ankle and knee injuries.
Although the Rams look to be expecting Kyren Williamsto be activated for Week 12, they will keep Henderson around as insurance. The Rams turned to their former third-round pick immediately after injuries moved Williams and Ronnie Rivers off the roster. Despite waiving Henderson in November 2022, the Rams plugged him back in. While Royce Freeman‘s per-carry numbers (4.3) outshine Henderson’s (2.4), the latter scored two touchdowns during his latest run in Sean McVay‘s system. While the Rams waived Henderson again Tuesday, Freeman remains on Los Angeles’ active roster.
Harmon will join team No. 3 this season. The former Patriots Super Bowl winner, a Raider in 2022, began the season with the Ravens. The Bears signed Harmon off Baltimore’s practice squad last month. Harmon, 32, would represent a veteran safety presence for a Browns team that just lost Rodney McLeodfor the season.
NOVEMBER 22: As expected, Leonard cleared waivers today, per The Athletic’s Dianna Russini. Detached from his lucrative Colts contract, the standout linebacker is now a free agent.
NOVEMBER 21: After steady complaints about his diminished role, Shaquille Leonard will be changing teams. The perennial All-Pro linebacker will shockingly become available; Leonard announced Tuesday the Colts are cutting him. Indianapolis has announced the separation.
This comes barely two years after the Colts authorized a record-setting extension for the former second-round success story, but Leonard has not been a fit in Gus Bradley‘s defensive system. After an injury-plagued 2022, Leonard has not returned to a full-time workload this season. Although Leonard bristled about his usage, Fox59’s Mike Chappell notes he did not ask the Colts to cut him.
A force in Matt Eberflus‘ defense, Leonard signed a five-year, $98.5MM extension before the 2021 season. The Colts owe Leonard $6.11MM in remaining base salary this season — should no team claim him — and the AFC South club is on the hook for an additional $8MM in dead money due to prorated signing bonus. This cut’s full cost to the Colts will not be determined until waivers process.
Certain teams do have the cap space to pick up the remainder of Leonard’s 2023 base salary, a move that would help the Colts on the financial front. But ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes Leonard is expected to clear waivers. No fully guaranteed money is attached to this contract beyond 2023. This will set up one of the more interesting in-season free agency derbies in recent years.
“Shaq is the ultimate competitor and has been a fan favorite since he arrived as a rookie in 2018,” Colts GM Chris Ballard said. “We are incredibly grateful for his contributions to the team and the city of Indianapolis over the last six seasons. … He will always be a valued member of the Horseshoe.”
Leonard, 28, earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2018, 2020 and ’21 and was a second-team choice in 2019. The Division I-FCS product became a turnover-forcing machine during Eberflus’ four-year run as Indy’s DC. In 2021 alone, Leonard caused an astounding 12 turnovers — four INTs, an NFL-most eight forced fumbles — to help the Colts to the playoff precipice. Over the course of his career, Leonard has forced 17 fumbles and intercepted 12 passes.
The 49ers, Browns, Cardinals and Bengals each hold more than $10MM in cap space, while a handful of other teams carry more than $7MM. It would be interesting to see if a team submits a claim in an effort to secure Leonard’s rights beyond 2023; his current contract runs through 2025. The Bears come to mind as a team that could be interested, as they have made buyer’s trades despite holding one of the league’s worst records in back-to-back years. Eberflus also coached Leonard throughout his Indianapolis tenure, though Chicago did spend top-five ILB money on Tremaine Edmunds this offseason. T.J. Edwards signed a midlevel Bears deal as well, potentially cutting Chicago off early here. The Cowboys and Eagles pursued linebackers at the deadline as well — Nick Sirianni was on Frank Reich‘s Colts staff for three years — while the Steelers have lost two regulars for the season.
Leonard is also coming off a year in which he underwent two back surgeries. After a summer 2022 procedure did not clear up the issue, Leonard was eventually shut down in November of last year. He ended up playing three games in the Reich-Jeff Saturday season, also suffering a concussion and a broken nose, but was ready to go for Week 1 of this year. Bradley, however, refused to use Leonard as his play-calling predecessor did. Leonard (454 defensive snaps) logged a 70% snap rate this season. His snap shares from 2018-21: 98%, 98%, 93%, 98%.
In addition to Leonard being unhappy with his role under Bradley, Pro Football Focus ranks the once-dominant defender outside the top 60 among off-ball linebackers this season. Leonard has made 65 tackles in nine games, but just two of those were for losses; the sixth-year ‘backer also does not have a fumble forced, fumble recovered or an INT this season.
The Colts have used Zaire Franklin on more defensive plays (634), and the recently re-signed E.J. Speed has logged 357 defensive snaps. This duo will represent a lower-cost pair compared to Leonard, whom the Colts did not believe was living up to his lucrative contract. The Colts could have hung on and saved some money by cutting Leonard in 2024; that move would have created $12MM in cap savings for the retooled team. But the now-Shane Steichen-led squad will attempt to make a playoff push without one of the most productive defenders in franchise history.
It will obviously be interesting to see where Leonard lands and if he can prove Bradley and Co. wrong. Claims for Leonard must be submitted by 3pm CT Wednesday. Beyond that, Leonard figures to have a few suitors in free agency.
Shaquille Leonard remains on the waiver wire, though the decorated off-ball linebacker is likely to hit free agency after this afternoon’s deadline. In the unusual position of being cut during his age-28 season, the sixth-year defender is now an interesting piece for contenders to pursue.
The Colts did not believe they were receiving value from the four-time All-Pro and decided to cut bait now as opposed to doing so after the season. This will stand to benefit Leonard, as ESPN.com’s Stephen Holder notes Indianapolis DC Gus Bradley had informed the veteran he would be a healthy scratch in Week 12. It is also likely the Colts would have continued to deactivate Leonard for the rest of the season, Holder adds.
Leonard said he asked for a November meeting to assess his progress from a two-surgery 2022, per the Indianapolis Star’s Nate Atkins. Granting the meeting Monday, Bradley confirmed the healthy-scratch plan for Week 12. On the players’ off day Tuesday, Chris Ballard indicated Leonard would be cut — a decision the former Colts centerpiece called “shocking.” Coaches had informed Leonard his playing time — down noticeably from his 2018-21 usage — would be reevaluated as the season progressed, and the turnover-forcing dynamo had voiced frustration about the new role in Bradley’s defense.
“I always say that they say [complaints] are OK until you step on toes. I said that two weeks ago and I still stand by it,” Leonard said, via Holder, of his comments regarding playing time. “I don’t know if that played a part. Do I think it plays somewhat of a part in it? Yes, because they could see it as a distraction. But I tried to be respectful with my answer.”
Zaire Franklin leads Colts linebackers in snaps, with 634. Leonard logged 454 in nine games. The improved play of E.J. Speed contributed to Leonard’s reduced time as well, according to ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano, who doubles down on the notion Leonard will clear waivers today. The Colts re-signed Franklin (three years, $10MM) in 2022 and reupped Speed (two years, $8MM) this offseason. Leonard was attached to the NFL’s second-most lucrative LB accord (five years, $98.5MM). While no guaranteed money remains on the deal post-2023, a team would be responsible for $6.11MM in ’23 base salary were a claim submitted.
Speed will now move forward as Indy’s starting weakside linebacker. Pro Football Focus rates Speed, a 2019 fifth-round pick who has primarily been a backup, as the Colts’ top linebacker this season. When Franklin missed the team’s Week 9 game against the Panthers, Leonard’s playing time did not return to his pre-2022 level. Instead, the Colts used second-year UDFA Segun Olubi more frequently. This effectively displayed writing on the wall for Leonard in Indianapolis, despite the former second-round pick having produced one of the best four-year runs for any player in franchise history.
While Leonard certainly could prove the Colts wrong for their effective demotion in Bradley’s system, the team will save more than $16MM in cap space for 2024. With both Franklin and Speed under contract beyond this year, Indy will take a look at how this more cost-effective tandem performs during this season’s stretch run. Still, Leonard offered one of the more impactful periods by an off-ball linebacker this century. He is the only active player with at least 15 sacks and 10 interceptions over the past six years. It will be interesting to see what role his new team will have him playing to close out the season.