Jihad Ward

Extra Points: Giants, Eli, Chiefs, Cowboys

To the dismay of many analysts, the Giants didn’t use the second overall pick on a franchise quarterback, instead opting to select running back Saquon Barkley, who figures to make a more immediate impact. Incumbent signal-caller Eli Manning, however, was — perhaps obviously — pleased with New York’s decision not to draft his successor. “It was kind of a vote of confidence in that they trusted in me that I can play at a high level, can win games, take us deep in playoffs and win championships and win championships still,” Manning said, per SiriusXM NFL Radio. “And you know what? I want to prove them right and I want to make them look smart and make them to have made the right decision in doing that.” The Giants are going all-in with Manning under center, and are hoping new head coach Pat Shurmur can do for Manning what he did for journeyman Case Keenum in Minnesota in 2017. Last year, the 37-year-old Manning finished just 23rd in both adjusted net yards per attempt and passer rating.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Chiefs second-round defensive end Breeland Speaks had been on Kansas City’s radar for awhile, as general manager Brett Veach explained (link via Josh Norris of Rotoworld). After initially grading Speaks as a third-round pick, the Chiefs quickly realized that not only would Speaks likely be off the board by the time their third-rounder came up, but he might not even be available when Kansas City selected at No. 54 in the second round. Therefore, the Chiefs sent a third-round pick to the Bengals for the right to move up to No. 46, and took Speaks — an Ole Miss product — there instead. Speaks, whom Veach characterized as a “high-motor, intense player,” will vie for rotational snaps in Kansas City’s 3-4 scheme behind starters Chris Jones and Allen Bailey.
  • Defensive tackle Maliek Collins isn’t a lock to return for the Cowboys‘ Week 1 contest after breaking his foot in May, and if the third-year interior defender doesn’t recover quickly, he could lose his starting job to trade acquisition Jihad Ward, according to Jori Epstein of the Dallas Morning News. Collins underwent a similar foot operation in January and underwent a foot procedure in the 2016 offseason as well, so he’s no stranger to lower extremity issues. Collins, who was selected in the third round of the 2016 draft, is even more critical given that fellow defensive tackle David Irving is suspended for the first four games of the season. Ward, meanwhile, managed to play in only five games a season ago before being shipped to Dallas in exchange for wideout Ryan Switzer.
  • The Alliance of American Football will offer players non-guaranteed three-year, $225K contracts, which puts them in line with the XFL’s pay scale, writes Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Additionally, AAF players will be allowed to leave their contracts in order to join the NFL, indicating a policy which differs from that of the Canadian Football League. The AAF will allocate players to rosters based on where they attended college, which should help draw fans. “If the Birmingham teams has [former Alabama running back] Trent Richardson, we think that will be something that would be a significant gate attraction,” league co-founder Bill Polian said.

AFC Notes: Bengals, Raiders, Broncos

You’re not likely to see the Bengals drop Brandon LaFell from the roster, Katherine Terrelle of ESPN.com tweets. While there is lots of young talent at wide receiver, cutting LaFell would require a $3MM+ dead money hit just after re-signing him this year. He also has a strong mentor/mentee relationship with A.J. Green that coaches do not want to bust up. The Bengals have Green, speedy rookie John Ross, Tyler Boyd, LaFell, and fourth-round pick Josh Malone as their top five receivers. Youngsters Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Jake Kumerow, and Chris Brown are left to fight for a spot that may or may not be available.

More from the AFC:

  • Raiders starting defensive lineman Jihad Ward recently underwent left foot surgery, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The procedure was minor and should keep Ward out until mid-August, adds Rapoport. The second-year man suffered the injury during practice on June 6, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. As a rookie last season, Ward tallied 13 starts in 16 appearances, though Pro Football Focus gave his performance the worst grade among the NFL’s 127 qualified interior defensive linemen.
  • Receiver looks to be the most competitive position on the Broncos’ depth chart, observes Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. Given that the Broncos are nine deep at wideout, head coach Vance Joseph has described the position as “crowded.” That could spell doom for Cody Latimer, who has totaled just 16 receptions since Denver chose him in the second round of the 2014 draft. While Latimer has emerged as a reliable special teamer for the Broncos, his roster spot is in jeopardy suggests Legwold.
  • Earlier Thursday, we rounded up the latest from the AFC East.

Draft Signings: Dolphins, Raiders, Saints

We’ll keep track of today’s draft signings here:

  • A second-round pick who is expected to play a key role for a Dolphins cornerback corps that lost most of its starters from 2015, Xavien Howard has signed his rookie deal, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports. He’s the fifth player in Miami’s eight-man draft class to sign. For Baylor last season, Howard snared five interceptions and broke up 15 passes en route to All-Big 12 acclaim. He’ll vie to join Byron Maxwell as the Fins’ starting corners.
  • The Saints have now wrapped up their draft class’ contracts after signing fourth-round defensive lineman David Onyemata, according to the team’s website. The first University of Manitoba player to be drafted, the Nigeria native finished with 9.5 sacks in 37 games with the Bison. A 300-pound lineman who was selected No. 120 overall, Onyemata won the J.P. Metras Trophy, which is given to the best down lineman in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football.
  • The Raiders announced the signing of second-round defensive lineman Jihad Ward. Ward, selected with the No. 44 overall pick, played for Illinois over the last two seasons. In his time for the Fighting Illini, Ward started all 25 games, totaling 104 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. The 6’6″, 295-pound athlete climbed up draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft, leading to his mid-second-round selection.

South Notes: Saints, Falcons, Colts, Ward

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis spoke to reporters today about his team’s draft plans, and took the opportunity to take a shot at one reporter who wasn’t involved in the presser. After Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggested earlier this week that the Saints had a discussion about trading up to No. 1 before the Rams acquired the pick, Loomis said today that his club had “absolutely no conversations” with any teams at the top of the draft (Twitter link via Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune). “Another miss by that reporter,” Loomis added.

It’s not the first time Loomis has been dismissive of a Rapoport report — last January, he asserted that Rapoport “has about a 30% accuracy rate if you pay attention to things he puts out there.” As I wrote when Rapoport first tweeted about the Saints’ talks for the No. 1 pick, it’s not clear whether he was suggesting the team actually spoke to the Titans about a deal, or simply had an internal discussion about the idea of moving up. Either way though, Loomis’ comments today confirm that New Orleans never seriously considered the possibility at all.

Let’s round up a few more items from across the NFL’s South divisions…

  • Loomis did confirm today that the Saints were in the mix for Josh Norman before the standout cornerback ended up in Washington. “We made a strong offer,” the Saints GM said (Twitter link via Woodbery).
  • The Saints are considered likely to select a quarterback at some point in this draft, and Loomis didn’t dispute that notion, telling reporters that his team looks into QB prospects every year. “I don’t see [this year] as being dramatically different,” Loomis said (Twitter link via Woodbery).
  • While it remains to be seen which player the Falcons will draft in the first round, the team appears prepared to stand pat at No. 17, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who says the Falcons have no plans to trade down.
  • Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano had dinner with Illinois defensive lineman Jihad Ward last night, a source tells Ian Rapoport (Twitter link).

NFC Draft Updates: Eagles, Hackenberg, Ifedi

A report last Thursday indicated that Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a workout lined up with the Eagles this week, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that it will happen tomorrow.

As Rapoport notes, Philadelphia is taking a look at all of the top QB prospects in this year’s draft class, so the club will be an interesting one to keep an eye on in three weeks. While some observers are convinced that new head coach Doug Pederson and the Eagles will take a signal-caller early, others believe it’s just a smoke-screen.

As we wait to see exactly what Pederson, Howie Roseman, and Co. have up their sleeves, let’s check in on some other draft updates from around the NFC….

  • We heard on Wednesday that Texas A&M tackle Germain Ifedi has a busy schedule of pre-draft visits and workouts. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle adds a couple more teams to the list of potential suitors for Ifedi, tweeting that the Vikings are hosting him for a visit and Seahawks assistant Tom Cable is working him out.
  • Ohio State safety Vonn Bell has a visit with the Rams on tap for early next week, per Rand Getlin of the NFL Network (Twitter link).
  • Jihad Ward of Illinois has 12 pre-draft visits lined up with teams, and is meeting with the Cardinals, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweets. Ward transitioned from receiver/safety to the defensive line during his time as a JUCO player. In his first year with Illinois (his junior season), he recorded 51 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and four fumble recoveries.
  • Wisconsin safety Michael Caputo visited Washington today, Aaron Wilson tweets.
  • The Seahawks are slated to work out BYU flex tight end Terenn Houk, tweets Aaron Wilson.

Zach Links contributed to this post.