Josh Johnson (QB)

XFL Commissioner On Manziel, Kaepernick

The XFL is still weeks away from its relaunch, but Vince McMahon’s second try at professional football has already come under fire for its refusal to allow players to leave for the NFL. In an interview with Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times, commissioner Oliver Luck made it clear that the policy won’t change anytime soon. 

If there’s one thing we learned from watching the Alliance it was that quarterback play is critical,” Luck said. “In the game of football today — whether it’s pro, college or even high school arguably — your quarterback play is determinative. So we made an effort to sign guys, some of whom played in the AAF but the vast majority didn’t.”

The league’s policy already prevented Josh Johnson from joining the Lions back in November. Critics felt that the XFL should have allowed the veteran to go to Detroit, but Luck & Co. held him to his commitment with the Los Angeles Wildcats.

We said, ‘No, we’re keeping him. He ours. He signed a contract. He’s committed to us,’” Luck said. “Once a player signs a contract — once he passes his physical and signs a contract — then he’s under contract with us. We won’t release that player to the NFL until after our season. We need certainty. We can’t just have guys peeling off.”

Luck also disclosed that the Steelers inquired on Landry Jones and Phillip Walker after Ben Roethlisberger‘s injury. The XFL, of course, turned down both requests.

While the XFL protects its own signal callers, they won’t go chasing the two biggest names on the open market. Luck sounded less than enthusiastic about the possibility of Johnny Manziel and Colin Kaepernick joining the fledgling league.

“Johnny has his own history, and we have coaches from the CFL who have seen him close up,” Luck said when asked about Johnny Football. “He was in the draft pool. Coaches and scouts looked at him and didn’t think he was going to help their team. I think the guys we have on our teams are the best 560 that aren’t playing in the National Football League.”

As for Kaepernick, Luck characterized his “salary demands” as being “way out of [the XFL’s] ballpark.” As a result, he was “never really a viable option,” for the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

XFL Blocks Lions From Signing Josh Johnson

The XFL blocked the Lions from signing quarterback Josh Johnson, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Johnson, who was assigned to the Los Angeles Wildcats last week, cannot get out of his commitment without the permission of the fledgling league. 

XFL execs, including owner Vince McMahon and CEO Oliver Luck, have spoken about the idea of partnering with the NFL in some capacity to serve as a breeding ground for talent. At the same time, the XFL is understandably protective of its top talents. Johnson, who has been signed by 13 NFL teams over the course of his career, offers the kind of name recognition that can’t be easily replaced.

This isn’t Johnson’s first rodeo in professional football outside of the NFL. He was also a part of the UFL and the short-lived AAF, so he’s encountered similar situations before.

Meanwhile, the Lions will continue to search for quarterback support in the wake of Matthew Stafford‘s injury. Stafford wants to keep playing, but the Lions are reportedly thinking about shutting him down for the year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

QBs Josh Johnson, Taylor Heinicke Join XFL

Earlier this morning, the XFL announced a series of quarterback assignments. The league assigned Josh Johnson to the Los Angeles Wildcats, quarterback Taylor Heinicke to the St. Louis Blackhawks, and Chase Litton to the Seattle Dragons.

The move adds another bullet point to Johnson’s absurdly long transaction history in professional football. Since playing for Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego from 2004-2007, Johnson has been signed by 13 different NFL teams and had stints in two other upstart leagues (the UFL and AAF). While he is unlikely to ever be an NFL starter, his long-run of opportunities suggests he has the talent and mindset to be quite successful in a situation like the XFL.

Heinicke and Litton are both noticeably younger than Johnson, but have NFL resumes of their own. Litton has never appeared in an NFL game, but was signed to a reserve/futures contract by the Chiefs and signed to the Jaguars practice squad before he was released in October. Heinicke has bounced between four NFL organizations. He has appeared in seven games and started in Week 16 last season for the Panthers. Heinicke is a career 36 for 58 on passing attempts for 320 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

NFC Notes: Cowboys, Compton, Fales

When announcing the new extension for linebacker Jaylon Smith at a press conference today, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sent a clear message to a few other high-profile players who are eligible for extensions. Jones said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic, “[t]he team takes precedent at a point over the opinion or the demand of the individual. The team takes precedent. This was a team move we are talking about today. The team takes precedent. And I’ve got the backbone to keep it that way” (Twitter link).

Obviously, that statement suggests that Jones is going to hold firm on the offers that have been extended to Ezekiel ElliottDak Prescott, and Amari Cooper, and as we detailed earlier today, Smith’s extension looks relatively team-friendly. Jones did say that there is “enough pie left” to get deals done with all of them, though he did not have an update on negotiations with the trio.

Let’s check out more from the NFC:

  • Free agent linebacker Will Compton will work out for the Saints, as John Keim of ESPN.com tweets. Compton, who played for the Redskins from 2013-17, was a full-time starter as recently as 2016. However, his 2017 campaign was marred by injury, and he played only 79 defensive snaps for the Titans last year in his first and only season in Tennessee. He would provide experienced LB depth in New Orleans, and he could also contribute on special teams.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press examines the Lions‘ backup QB situation, noting that presumptive QB2 Tom Savage missed his seventh straight practice on Tuesday (Savage is in the concussion protocol). That has meant more reps for David Fales and Josh Johnson, but Birkett says the Lions are unlikely to carry three QBs. So if Savage cannot be medically cleared by next Saturday, he could be cut. Fales looked sharp in the team’s last preseason game while Johnson struggled, so Fales may have a leg up if Savage can’t get healthy.
  • The 49ers fear that rookie wide receiver Shawn Poindexter suffered a torn ACL in Monday’s preseason win, as Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Poindexter, a UDFA from Arizona, appeared to be a prime practice squad candidate, and the club has already signed WR/KR Chris Thompson to take Poindexter’s place on the 90-man roster.

Lions Sign QB Josh Johnson

The Lions worked out a pair of quarterbacks this morning, and they’ll be adding one to the roster. Detroit has signed veteran Josh Johnson, reports NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (via Twitter).

The Lions’ current backup Tom Savage left Thursday’s preseason game after his head hit the turf, necessitating this move. Savage has a history of concussion issues, so there’s a chance he’ll be sidelined for a while. While the Lions are rostering David Fales, the team wanted another healthy quarterback to play behind Matthew Stafford. We learned yesterday that the Lions were auditioning both Johnson and Landry Jones.

The 33-year-old Johnson has spent time with 12 different NFL teams during his career. He made an appearance late last season with the Redskins, appearing in four games with three starts. He completed 52 of his 91 pass attempts for 590 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. He also ran for 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

Johnson recently turned down a contract from the Ravens as he apparently felt he wasn’t going to be anything more than a short-term camp arm. It sounds like the situation is different in Detroit, where Johnson could stick around for the regular season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions To Workout QBs Josh Johnson, Landry Jones

The Lions are looking for quarterback depth behind Matthew Stafford. The team is bringing in veterans Josh Johnson and Landry Jones for workouts, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link).

As Garafolo points out, current backup Tom Savage left yesterday’s preseason game after his head hit the turf, necessitating this move. Savage has a history of concussion issues, so it’s possible he’ll be sidelined for a while. Former Bears and Dolphins third-stringer David Fales is currently the only healthy quarterback on the roster behind Stafford.

Johnson is a legendary journeyman, already having spent time with 12 different NFL teams in his long and winding career. The 33-year-old turned into one of the best stories of the 2018 NFL season when he was signed off the street by the Redskins late in the season and suddenly thrust into the starting role. He played about as well as could’ve been expected, but has remained unsigned this offseason.

Johnson recently turned down a contract from the Ravens as he apparently felt he wasn’t going to be anything more than a short-term camp arm. Jones, a 2013 fourth-round pick of the Steelers, notably spent a few seasons as Ben Roethlisberger‘s backup. He was always somewhat competent when forced into action, but Pittsburgh eventually decided they wanted to upgrade, cutting him on the eve of the 2018 season. He briefly latched on with the Jaguars but spent most of the year out of the league. He spent a couple of months with the Raiders earlier this offseason before getting released.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Josh Johnson Turns Down Ravens

It wasn’t meant to be. Quarterback Josh Johnson has turned down a contract offer from the Ravens, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

Johnson would have been a logical fit for the Ravens given his history with the club and the team’s need for another arm in camp. However, RGIII will likely return when the season begins, so Johnson didn’t feel it was the right opportunity. Instead, he’ll presumably wait for another camp injury and a better opportunity to make someone’s 53-man cut.

Johnson has toured much of the NFL over the course of his career, but went many years without actually taking a snap. At the age of 33, Johnson is probably tired of the add/drop game and is looking for something stable. This season will mark Johnson’s 12th in professional football.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens To Work Out QB Josh Johnson

The Ravens are set to work out quarterback Josh Johnson, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Johnson could provide depth in Baltimore following the injury to RGIII

Griffin will miss four to eight weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his right thumb Saturday night and there’s some fear that he could miss regular season time. Johnson, meanwhile, could backstop the QB room behind starter Lamar Jackson and sixth-round Penn State product Trace McSorely.

Last year, Johnson made three starts for the Redskins and finished out three touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 1-2 record. Prior to that, he hadn’t thrown a regular season pass since 2011.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: RGIII, Duke, Vikings

Ravens backup QB Robert Griffin III will miss four to eight weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his right thumb Saturday night, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Baltimore is optimistic that RGIII will be ready for Week 1, but if he cannot return on the early side of his recovery timeline, he will miss at least some regular season time. The Ravens will surely sign a free agent signal-caller in short order, as the only other QB on the roster behind starter Lamar Jackson is sixth-round rookie Trace McSorley. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic says Josh Johnson, who has been on Baltimore’s preseason roster before, makes the most sense (Twitter link).

Now for more from the league’s north divisions:

  • Browns RB Duke Johnson suffered a hamstring injury Saturday, and ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports that the ailment could force Johnson to miss some time (Twitter link). That will not help the fifth-year back in his quest to get traded out of Cleveland.
  • The way that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin ran his field-goal drill Saturday — having incumbent Chris Boswell and challenger Matthew Wright alternate kicks rather than having Boswell take all of his tries before resetting the drill — is a departure from the way he has done things in the past, which suggests that Pittsburgh really is open to moving on from Boswell. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic still believes it’s more likely than not that Boswell will be kicking for the Steelers in 2019, but the pressure is definitely on.
  • Darren Wolfson of KSTP.com says that the Vikings have some interest in running back Theo Riddick, who was released by the Lions on Saturday (Twitter link). Minnesota does not have a visit set up at this time, though Riddick will meet with at least one other team in addition to his summit with the Saints.
  • Orlando Scandrick visited with the Vikings last week before signing with the Eagles, and Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that Minnesota did not extend a contract offer to Scandrick. The Vikes have worked out several CBs recently, and when asked whether the club would ultimately sign one, head coach Mike Zimmer said that’s ultimately up to GM Rick Spielman. Zimmer said, “we’re always looking for players. We’ll keep pounding the pavement” (Twitter link via Tomasson).

NFC Rumors: Redskins, Childress, 49ers

One of Eric Weddle‘s many suitors came from the NFC East. The Redskins inquired about the safety, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Ben Standig, but Weddle preferred the Rams’ proposal. Washington may be a spot for one of the many starter-caliber safeties on this year’s market, with the team having waived D.J. Swearinger and with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix‘s contract having expired.

Here is the latest from Washington, along with other NFC teams, with the legal tampering period less than 48 hours away.

  • The Redskins’ Case Keenum trade frees them up to make more competitive offers to non-quarterbacks in free agency, instead of seeing Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor proposals complicate the team’s plan. However, Washington is still expected to add at this spot this offseason, and Standig notes it won’t be a Josh Johnson reunion — barring a Colt McCoy departure. Another Johnson pact was previously mentioned as a possibility, but that may no longer be in the cards. Washington profiles as a possible quarterback destination in this year’s draft, but in picking at No. 15 and unlikely to trade up, this may be one of the teams that waits for 2020’s higher-profile group of quarterbacks.
  • The rumors of Markus Golden hitting the market look accurate, with AZCardinals.com’s Mike Jurecki tweeting the veteran edge rusher is set for free agency. The Cardinals and Golden engaged in talks earlier this offseason, but nothing of consequence emerged from those discussions. While Golden stands to benefit from the franchise tags handed out to the top-tier pass rushers who could have hit the market, and Jurecki posits a possible Golden reunion with former Cards DC James Bettcher via Giants signing, the former second-round pick has not been productive since the 2016 season. Golden’s ACL tear in 2017 sidetracked his career, halting the momentum he’d created with a 12.5-sack 2016.
  • Brad Childress may be ready to circle back to the Bears. Affiliated with Matt Nagy‘s first Bears staff briefly, Childress then bolted for the Alliance of American Football. But he did not last until the AAF’s opener. However, Childress looks set to rejoin Nagy in Chicago, with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweeting the former Vikings HC is expected to serve in an offensive consulting role under Nagy. Childress and Nagy worked together with the Chiefs. Childress also retired after the 2017 season, but that turned out to be quite short-lived.
  • The 49ers still want to bring back Jimmie Ward, per NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, but it doesn’t appear their interest goes beyond the one-year offer they were dangling for the 2014 first-round pick. Ward was thought to be on the outs in San Francisco, but the team did not receive much consistency from its secondary last season. San Francisco’s staff graded the versatile defensive back as the team’s best secondary cog, Maiocco adds, prior to his season-ending injury in November, Maiocco adds.
  • The contract the 49ers gave kicker Jonathan Brown is a two-year deal, the team announced. San Francisco used its franchise tag on Robbie Gould. Brown was with the Bengals during the past three training camps but has yet to play in a regular-season game.