Joe Williams

NFC Notes: Lions, Bucs, Falcons, 49ers

By the time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s career ends, he could supplant Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time earnings king, observes Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Manning made nearly $250MM during his career, and, as Corry writes, Stafford has a few factors on his side that might help him eventually surpass the former Colt and Bronco. Stafford entered the league at a young age (21), for one, and as the No. 1 pick two years before the league introduced the rookie wage scale. That enabled him to land a mammoth deal (six years, $72MM) prior to ever playing a professional down. Further, Stafford has already signed a lucrative extension, having inked a three-year, $53MM pact in 2013. By agreeing to that short-term deal, Stafford is now in position to cash in once again by 2018. To this point, the 29-year-old has made more money through the age of 28 ($110.5MM) than anyone else in league history, per Corry, who adds that Stafford will have a chance to go past $200MM by 2021 and might even hit $300MM before his playing days are over.

Now for the latest on a few NFC backfields:

  • Suspended running back Doug Martin doesn’t seem like a sure bet to play a down for the Buccaneers in 2017, as head coach Dirk Koetter told ESPN’s Wendi Nix on Thursday (via JoeBucsFan.com) that it’s “yet to be determined” what will happen at the end of his three-game ban. That jibes with a February report from FanRag’s Roy Cummings, who relayed that the Bucs will “play the Martin situation out.” Tampa Bay can afford to take its time with Martin, whose $7MM salary for next season is no longer guaranteed on account of his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. It could help his cause, though, that the Buccaneers didn’t use a high draft pick on a runner, waiting until the fifth round to grab Jeremy McNichols, and haven’t added any notable veterans to their backfield this offseason.
  • While Falcons running back Devonta Freeman won’t hold out in hopes of landing a new contract, he continues to seek top-tier money relative to his position. “I want to be elite paid. Whatever that is, that’s where I want to be — straight up,” Freeman told Josina Anderson of ESPN. Freeman is in lockstep with his agent, Kristin Campbell, who declared prior to Super Bowl LI that the 25-year-old should be in line for “elite” money. As of now, Freeman’s not on track to approach the NFL’s highest-paid backs in 2017, the final year of his contract, as he’s slated to make $1.8MM. There’s still plenty of time for an extension to come together, of course, and both Freeman and the Falcons have made it clear that they want to work something out.
  • Rookie fourth-rounder Joe Williams will have a legitimate shot to overtake Carlos Hyde as the 49ers’ No. 1 running back in 2017, opines Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. The John Lynch– and Kyle Shanahan-led Niners traded up in the draft for Williams and are quite bullish on the ex-Utah star, notes Maiocco, who also points out that Hyde is entering a contract year. San Francisco, then, isn’t tied to Hyde for the long haul, and its new regime has no built-in loyalty to the three-year veteran. It’s worth noting that Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reported last month that the 49ers’ bigwigs aren’t enamored of Hyde.

Extra Points: Trubisky, Dolphins, 49ers, Bucs

The Bears played it close to the vest before making their Mitch Trubisky trade from No. 3 to No. 2, one that headlined the draft and one that may have the team’s power structure at odds. Chicago’s brass tried to throw teams off the scent early in the process by sending an armada of personnel to Deshaun Watson‘s pro day while orchestrating a secret dinner meeting with Trubisky, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. The Bears also “begged” Trubisky’s camp not to leak news of that summit, and that part of the operation succeeded. Ryan Pace followed Dave Caldwell‘s secretive playbook when he made the Blake Bortles pick few expected.

Here’s more from around the league as rookie minicamp sessions are upon us.

  • Charles Harris experienced a similar type of draft misdirection. The Dolphins cancelled a pre-draft visit with the Missouri product without providing a reason for the change of plans. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s messed up,” Harris said, via James Walker of ESPN.com. Miami was linked to edge defenders coming into the draft despite re-signing Cameron Wake and Andre Branch, and Harris fell to the Fins at No. 22 to validate their pre-draft plot. The Dolphins met with Harris at the Combine but didn’t prompt him for a post-Combine workout before the cancellation tactic. “It’s just there are some players that we purposely try and stay away from once we are comfortable with the player, his character and what type of kid we are getting,” Dolphins GM Chris Grier said, via Walker. “We just do not feel the need to spend any more time with them.”
  • John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were split on one of the 49ers’ eventual draft picks, and the coach won out. Lynch had Utah running back Joe Williams off his draft board, but Shanahan convinced the new GM to give the go-ahead for a fourth-round selection, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Shanahan, who was tied to the 49ers midway through the GM hunt and thus received an opportunity for additional control, helped sway Lynch to trade a fifth-round pick to move up in the fourth round and select Williams. The Utes runner’s questionable off-the-field past had Lynch skeptical, but Shanahan saw some promise in the back who ran the Combine’s second-fastest 40 time at 4.41 seconds. With Carlos Hyde entering a contract year, Williams could be a key component of the 49ers’ future.
  • Both Kendell Beckwith and Buccaneers management expect the linebacker to be ready to return by training camp, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Beckwith tore his ACL late during his senior season at LSU last fall. Stroud expects Beckwith to be a possible early-season starter on the strong side, with the writer believing primary 2016 starter Daryl SmithPFR’s No. 4 UFA off-ball linebacker — is closing in on retirement rather than returning for a 14th NFL season.
  • Bucs running back Jeremy McNichols underwent surgery shortly after the Combine to repair a torn labrum, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Laine reports McNichols’ timeline hovers at around four months, noting the Boise State-developed back hopes to be ready for camp. McNichols arrived via fifth-round pick for a Bucs team that has questions about Doug Martin‘s future. The team still employs Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber on the roster. McNichols caught 103 passes at Boise State in three seasons, but Jason Licht views him as a possible three-down back as opposed to a passing-game specialist.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/3/17

Today’s minor moves:

  • The 49ers are the first team to sign a 2017 draft pick, as they’ve agreed to terms with fourth-round running back Joe Williams, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link). Williams, a Utah product, will compete for playing time behind Carlos Hyde during his rookie season. He should be in line for a four-year deal worth roughly $3.029MM and a signing bonus of about $329K.
  • The Jets have claimed offensive lineman Alex Balducci off waivers from San Francisco, per the league’s transaction wire. Balducci, 23, played defensive line at Oregon, but shifted to offense under his collegiate head coach Chip Kelly with the 49ers. In 2016, Balducci appeared in two games, but played on only six total snaps (three on offense, three on special teams).
  • Defensive lineman Zach Moore was the third former 49er (joining Balducci and Mike Purcell, who landed with the Rams) to land with a new club today, as the Panthers claimed the 26-year-old off waivers today. Moore is a former sixth-round pick of the Patriots who’s bounced around during three seasons in the NFL, as he’s also spent time with the Vikings and Cowboys. He’ll add depth in Carolina, but seems unlikely to make a roster that is relatively deep at defensive end.
  • The Chiefs have signed free agent cornerback De’Vante Bausby, the club announced today. Bausby, 23, was waived by Chicago on Monday. The former undrafted free agent bounced on and off the Bears’ active roster in 2016, ultimately starting four games for Chicago and posting 11 tackles while playing on roughly 10% of the team’s defensive snaps. Kansas City currently has seven cornerbacks on its roster, but didn’t select one in last week’s draft, so Bausby may have a shot to make the squad. He’ll likely need to pick up special teams duty, something he didn’t do last season.
  • The Colts announced today that they’ve waived guard Isiah Cage. Cage, 23, signed with Indianapolis last spring after going undrafted out of Division III Wisconsin Eau-Claire. Less than a month after inking a deal with the Colts, Cage suffered was waived/injured and reverted to the club’s injured reserve list, where he spent the entirety of his rookie campaign. This time around, Cage will become a free agent if he passes through waivers unclaimed.
  • The Seahawks have re-signed fullback/tight end Brandon Cottom, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Cottom, 24, originally signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He’s spent time on the Seahawks’ active roster and practice squad, but landed on injured reserve in 2016 after tearing his Achilles.
  • The Rams announced that they’ve waived defensive back Jerome Couplin, long snapper Andrew East, running back Brandon Wegher, and tight end Bryce Williams. Couplin and Wegher both have NFL experience, but neither has appeared in a game since 2015.
  • The Vikings have waived safety Cedric Thompson, tweets Courtney Fallon NFL.com. Thompson, a fifth-round pick in 2015, has bounced between Miami, New England, and Minnesota, but has yet to appear in an NFL game.

49ers Acquire Pick 121 From Colts

The 49ers have traded up in the fourth round. Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee tweets that the team has acquired the 121st pick from the Colts. NFL Network is reporting that Indy will be receiving a fourth-rounder (#143) and a fifth-rounder (#161) in the trade (via Twitter of IndySportsCentral.com’s Mike Chappell).

The 49ers ultimately used the pick to select Utah running back Joe Williams. 2016 was a breakout season for the senior, as he ran for 1,407 yards and ten touchdowns. He also added another nine receptions for 107 yards. Williams had one of his best outings during the Foster Farms Bowl, running for 222 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries.