Jonathan Stewart (RB)

Giants Notes: Latimer, Receivers, Hill, Stewart

Wide receiver Cody Latimer has had an up and down journey since entering the NFL. He came into the league as a second round pick of the Broncos in 2014, but never really established himself as a receiving threat. He was immediately labeled a bust by fans and media, and was never really able to recover. Latimer was able to stick in Denver by becoming an elite special teams player, excelling on kick coverage units.

This past year, Latimer finally began to catch some passes. After never cracking 100 yards receiving his first three seasons, he racked up 287 last year along with two touchdowns. He averaged an impressive 15.1 yards per catch and parlayed that progress along with his special teams prowess into a one-year $2.5MM contract with the Giants. Now with New York, Latimer has already been making an impression. He’s reportedly done well during offseason workouts, and the Giants’ number three receiving job is now “his to lose” according to Matt Lombardo of NJ.com.

Latimer appears to have turned his career around, and looks likely to have the biggest offensive role in his career this upcoming season. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent again this March, and if he shows well for the Giants, he should be able to cash in.

Here’s more from New York:

  • Behind Latimer, the Giants’ receiving situation is less clear, writes Lombardo. He views Russell ShepardKalif Raymond, and Travis Rudolph as all being on the roster bubble, likely fighting for one spot. Whoever shows they can make the biggest impact on special teams may win the three way battle.
  • Defensive lineman B.J. Hill will be starting as a rookie, according to Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. The third rounder from NC State has reportedly impressed this offseason, and Dunleavy is quite confident he’ll be starting on the outside of the Giants’ 3-4 defense. He calls Hill a “shrewd pick” and adds that while Josh Mauro will “enter the mix” when he returns from suspension, for now it’s Hill’s job.
  • Dunleavy thinks the team wouldn’t have signed veteran running back Jonathan Stewart had they known Saquon Barkley would be available for them to draft at number two. The Giants apparently feared the Browns would take Barkley first overall, and signed Stewart as insurance. Now, instead of carrying the ball, Stewart’s “main role will be as a locker room leader and conduit” for GM Dave Gettleman, writes Dunleavy.
  • In case you missed it, check out another round of Giants notes from yesterday.

Giants Sign RB Jonathan Stewart

Jonathan Stewart has reunited with old friend Dave Gettleman. The Giants will sign the veteran running back, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Stewart’s pact is for two years and has a base value of $6.9MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who adds Stewart gets $2.95MM in guarantees and can max out at $8.4MM.

ESPN’s Jordan Raanan tweets the expectation is that the veteran running back will cost $3.425 MM vs. the salary cap in 2018. His contract includes incentives for rushing yards and touchdowns, and also includes a $500,000 option bonus for next year.

The Giants have several needs to address this offseason, including running back. Last year’s top rusher, Orleans Darkwa, is ticketed for free agency and it’s not clear if he’ll be back in the fold. Even if Darkwa is retained, Stewart can serve as veteran depth. Regardless of how the backfield shakes out, it’s hard to envision that Stewart will be relied on as the team’s RB1.

Stewart averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry last season but he did play in 15 games, his most since the 2011 campaign. He previously visited the Seahawks and Lions, but they’ll have to find running back help elsewhere.

As of this writing, the Giants still have plenty of free agent running back options at their disposal. They could also spend their free agent dollars elsewhere and use the No. 2 overall pick on Penn State star Saquon Barkley, if he is available.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jonathan Stewart To Visit Giants

Jonathan Stewart will make his third offseason visit since the Panthers released him, and a familiar face figures to be a big part of it.

The veteran running back will head east for a Giants meeting, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Dave Gettleman was not part of the regime that drafted Stewart in the 2008 first round, but he did serve as Carolina’s GM for four seasons.

While Gettleman has made the offensive line a bigger priority, the Giants are in need of backfield help. They have not had a particularly strong stable of running backs since Ahmad Bradshaw‘s departure. However, Big Blue could be a candidate to draft Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall. That would mean passing on a quarterback, so it can’t be assumed the Giants are a surefire Barkley destination.

Stewart averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry last season but did play in 15 games — his most since the 2011 season. He visited the Seahawks and Lions already this month.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions To Meet With RB Jonathan Stewart

Former Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is scheduled to visit with the Lions on Monday, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Stewart’s visit is taking place before DeMarco Murray touches down in Detroit later on today.

Stewart was released by the Panthers late last month after ten seasons with Carolina. Late last week, he took his first free agent visit with the Seahawks, but did not sign right away.

Last year, Stewart didn’t put together much of a stat line as he played behind rookie Christian McCaffrey. It’s possible that a change of scenery, a different blocking scheme, or a different complement in the backfield could improve Stewart’s output. He is on the verge of his 31st birthday, but Stewart’s isn’t that far removed from his 2015 season in which he averaged 4.1 yards per carry and qualified for the Pro Bowl.

The Lions had the worst rushing production in the NFL last year, so they are open to all options this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Host Jonathan Stewart On Visit

Former Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is visiting the Seahawks on Thursday, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Garafolo adds that Seattle is looking at “all options” to ignite the running game. 

The Panthers cut Stewart, one of their longest-tenured players, in late February. Stewart found his role downsized in Carolina, but he may get an opportunity for more carries elsewhere. After a backfield combo involving free agent pickup Eddie Lacy flopped in 2017, the Panthers are searching high and low for solutions.

It’s not clear if Stewart has a whole lot left in the tank at this point in his career. In his younger days, Stewart impressed with 1,133 yards and ten touchdowns in the 2009 season. In 2011, he turned in a career-high average of 5.4 yards per carry. He also flirted with 1,000 yards as recently as 2015. However, he didn’t do much last season as had a career-low 3.4 yards per tote behind rookie Christian McCaffrey.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Cut RB Jonathan Stewart

Running back Jonathan Stewart has been cut by the Panthers, according to a source who spoke with Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer (on Twitter). Stewart, 31 in March, has spent all ten of his NFL seasons in Carolina. "<strong

Stewart first entered the league as the No. 13 overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Panthers. He wasn’t necessarily a superstar, but he has had a long and productive career in black and blue. In 2009, Stewart ran for 1,133 yards and ten touchdowns. In 2011, he managed to top that season in terms of efficiency with a career 5.4 yards per carry. After dealing with some injuries, Stewart nearly got his second career 1,000 yard season in 2015. He missed the mark by 11 yards as he missed three regular season games, but he did earn his first career Pro Bowl selection that year.

The Panthers inked Stewart to a one-year extension last offseason. Per the terms of the deal, the Panthers will have $3.72MM by cutting him with $1.5MM in dead money against the cap. Stewart’s release, along with this week’s cuts of safety Kurt Coleman and defensive end Charles Johnson, will create some much needed flexibility for the Panthers this offseason.

Stewart’s role was downsized a bit last year with the addition of rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. Stewart was unable to deliver as a complementary piece, turning in a career low 3.4 yards per carry average. He didn’t factor much into the passing game either with just eight receptions for 52 yards.

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NFC South Notes: Saints, Manziel, Falcons

Saints head coach Sean Payton had breakfast with free agent quarterback Johnny Manziel last week, but New Orleans has no plans to sign Manziel, a team source tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Indeed, Payton says his meeting with Manziel was focused on getting to know the young signal-caller, as Mike Triplett of ESPN.com writes. In early March, there was word that Manziel was drawing “real” NFL interest, and Manziel says he is sober and focusing on his comeback.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • The Falcons hope to come to an extension agreement with cornerback Desmond Trufant “very soon,” Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff tells Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Earlier this month, a report indicated the Falcons and Trufant were nearing a “lucrative” long-term deal, but no announcement has since been made by the club. Atlanta is also planning to get a contract with running back Devonta Freeman “wrapped up,” per Dimitroff. In January, Freeman was said to be seeking “elite” running back money, but he and his agent have since walked those comments back.
  • Veteran guard Chris Chester isn’t in the Falcons‘ plans for 2017, and the team ultimately expects him to retire, according to Marvez. Chester, entering his age-34 season, was the weak link on a solid Atlanta offensive line in 2016. PFR pointed to right guard as an area of need when assessing the Falcons’ offseason strategy, and while the club has only added Hugh Thornton in free agency, they could still address the interior offensive line in the draft.
  • Jonathan Stewart‘s extension with the Panthers is for one year, but the new deal affects both his 2017 and 2018 cap charges, as Field Yates of ESPN.com reports. Stewart accepted a slight paycut in 2017 in exchange for an effective guarantee of $3.6MM, while the base values of his next two seasons are $4.25MM and $3.75MM. The veteran running back can also earn up to $750K annually via rushing yards incentives.
  • Saints general manager Mickey Loomis considers cornerback and defensive “must” additions this offseason, according to Larry Holder of NOLA.com (Twitter link). So far, New Orleans has addressed those area with bit acquisitions, although the team is considering a big swing as they negotiate with Patriots restricted free agent corner Malcolm Butler.

Panthers Extend RB Jonathan Stewart

The Panthers signed running back Jonathan Stewart to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Friday morning. Stewart is now under contract through the 2018 season. "<strong

Stewart, 30, would be the Panthers’ starting running back if the season started today. When all is said and done, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds himself in a timeshare with a rookie tailback. The Panthers have the No. 8 overall pick and they should have the opportunity to land a top running back like LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, or Florida State’s Dalvin Cook.

Last year, Stewart had 824 yards off of 218 carries, giving him a less-than-impressive 3.8 yards per carry average He did, however, find the end zone nine times. He also added eight catches for 60 yards.

The Panthers re-signed running back Fozzy Whittaker earlier this month and they’ll also have Cameron Artis-Payne returning for another season.

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Cam Newton Likely To Start Sunday

After missing his first game since 2014 in Week 5, a 17-14 loss to the Buccaneers, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is on track to start Sunday, reports Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Newton, who succumbed to a concussion late in the Panthers’ Week 4 defeat in Atlanta, was a full participant in practice Thursday. The NFL’s reigning MVP will need medical clearance before returning to game action, but head coach Ron Rivera said he “so far” looks primed to suit up against the Saints.

Cam Newton

The Panthers didn’t necessarily struggle to move the ball without Newton this past Monday, as they combined for 414 total yards, but they had difficulty scoring and backup signal-caller Derek Anderson threw two interceptions. The defending NFC champions shockingly dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in their division in the process.

Next up for the Panthers is a road tilt against another NFC South opponent, 1-3 New Orleans, in a hugely important game for both teams. Carolina seems more likely to rebound from its poor start than the Saints are from theirs, though a fourth straight defeat would make rallying to overtake the 4-1 Falcons in the division or at least grab a wild-card spot all the more difficult for the Panthers.

In addition to Newton, another integral offensive piece – running back Jonathan Stewart – should return against the Saints, according to Person. Stewart hasn’t suited up since the Panthers’ 46-27 win over the 49ers in Week 2, when he departed with a hamstring injury. He and Newton were among the driving forces behind the Panthers’ success last season, but they’ve taken steps back in the early going this year. Having tossed five interceptions, Newton is already halfway to last season’s 16-game total. He has also experienced a drop-off in most other major statistical categories after combining for 45 touchdowns and nearly 4,500 yards as a passer and rusher in 2015. Stewart, meanwhile, has picked up just 73 yards on 20 carries.

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South Rumors: Hasselbeck, Spiller, Panthers

Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck turned 40 last fall, and has been playing in the NFL since 1998, but it sounds like he wants to play at least one more season, as Kevin Bowen of Colts.com details.

“I know I want to play (in 2016),” Hasselbeck said. “I know how much fun I had in the huddle last year. I remember getting in the huddle for one game and it was just so much fun to be in there with my guys, with my teammates, with my friends.”

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano told Hasselbeck earlier this month that the club “would love” to have him back, but the veteran signal-caller doesn’t currently have a contract for 2016, so the two sides would have to agree to a new deal. As March 9th approaches, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on whether the Colts work out a new contract with Hasselbeck, or if the team wants to turn to younger options to back up Andrew Luck. Currently, Josh Freeman and Stephen Morris are under contract in Indianapolis.

Here’s more from around the NFL’s South divisions:

  • Saints running back C.J. Spiller hadn’t been considered a lock to return to the team in 2016, but it sounds like GM Mickey Loomis is planning on having him in the mix. In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Loomis said that he thinks the Saints “will see the real C.J. Spiller” next season, as Evan Woodbery of The Times-Picayune details.
  • Another NFC South running back, Jonathan Stewart, is also a good bet to return to his current team. Team and league sources tell Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer that the Panthers are expected to retain Stewart, despite the cap savings his release would create.
  • The Titans‘ signings during March’s free agent period might not reveal which player the team plans to take with the No. 1 overall pick, but Tennessee’s March moves could strongly suggest which direction the club won’t go with that selection, as Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com explains.
  • The Colts have had a consistent problem drafting offensive linemen, according to Mike Wells of ESPN.com, who examines the team’s various swings and misses at the position over the last few years. The offensive line is an area where the team could use an upgrade or two this offseason, so it’ll be interesting to see if GM Ryan Grigson can start to turn his draft record around at the position.