Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro will miss time with an elbow dislocation, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Vaccaro will miss at least two weeks and potentially up to four.
The injury is obviously not ideal, but it looked a whole lot worse when he went down in the Titans’ 26-23 win over the Eagles. After resting up for a few weeks, Vaccaro will look to continue his strong play from the month of September. Through four games, Vaccaro has already recorded an interception and a sack.
The 3-1 Titans will face the Bills, Ravens, and Chargers in the next three games before their Week 8 bye. Depending on how things go from here, the team may opt to push Vaccaro’s return until Week 9, giving him nearly five weeks to recover.
August 11th, 2018 at 9:49pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Chargers are seemingly never able to stay healthy, and this year hasn’t been any different. They’ve already lost Hunter Henry and Jason Verrett to season ending injuries. Last year’s second round pick, guard Forrest Lamp, has been expected to start for the team in 2018, but has been very slow in recovering from a knee injury that cost him his whole rookie season.
Michael Schofield is filling in for now, and in a recent interview with Dan Woike of the San Diego Union-Tribune, talked about his role. “I’m kind of a plug-and-play guy. I can play guard. I can play tackle. Right now, they need me at guard, so that’s where I’m going to be.” Woike echoes the sentiment many Charger fans have felt about Lamp, writing “even if Lamp is healthy, he still has much to prove, considering he essentially has not practiced since being drafted in the second round a year ago.”
Given Lamp’s history, it’s entirely possible Schofield ends up being a starting guard for the Chargers this year. Here’s more from the AFC:
Kenny Vaccaro only signed with the Titans earlier this week, but is already operating as the team’s starter according to Turron Davenport of ESPN (Twitter link). Davenport writes that Vaccaro has “taken pretty much all of the first-team reps” since signing with the team in the wake of Johnathan Cyprien’s season ending injury.
“Things aren’t looking great” for Juston Burris‘ roster chances, according to Matt Stypulkoski of NJ.com. The Jets’ fourth round pick in 2016, Burris hasn’t shown much through two seasons and appears likely to be cut at this point.
“It wouldn’t be a total shock to see the Jets in the mix” if the Raiders decide to shop Khalil Mack, writes Stypulkoski. Stypulkoski writes that the Jets “are looking to bolster the pass rush” so it sounds like whether it’s Mack or someone else, the Jets may be making a move soon.
We heard the other day that the 27-year-old was set to meet with Tennessee, although it sounded like the front office had other options on their radar. Those reports indicated that the organization was also eyeing safety Eric Reid. However, as Rapoport tweets, multiple flight cancellations prevented Reid from visiting his suitor. With Vaccaro generating interest from other teams, the Titans decided they had to make a move. Vaccaro had already had visits with the Jets, Dolphins, and Colts.
The 2013 first-round pick should immediately contribute to the Titans secondary. While Vaccaro hasn’t been able to put together a healthy season since 2015, he was still plenty productive last year. In 12 starts with the Saints, the safety finished with 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defended, and three interceptions. Due to those numbers, the veteran earned a spot on our list of the best remaining free agents.
With Cyprien out for the season with an ACL injury, the Titans were trying to figure out who to start opposite fellow safety Kevin Byard. Veteran Kendrick Lewis was currently slotted in as the starting strong safety, although the Titans also could have eyed one of Brynden Trawick or Dane Cruikshank for the gig.
Vaccaro also offers years of starting experience, but he has been a victim of the league’s slow-moving free agent safety market this offseason. The Colts, Jets, and Dolphins showed interest in Vaccaro earlier this offseason, but we haven’t heard much about him in recent weeks. In his fifth season as a starter for the Saints last year, Vaccaro totaled 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, and a career-high three interceptions.
Saints free agent safety Kenny Vaccaro is still on the market, but it’s not due to any health issues, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets. And, although the safety market didn’t develop as expected, Underhill anticipates that he’ll land somewhere before training camp starts.
It’s possible that Vaccaro turned down some low-cost deals early on in free agency, as Underhill notes that there was “no need [for him] to hurry and sign a deal when free agency opened.” He may have some regrets about that now, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Vaccaro won’t be able to find a team on a low-cost one-year deal.
The Colts, Jets, and Dolphins showed interest in Vaccaro earlier this offseason, but we haven’t heard much about him in recent weeks. While we wait to see where the former Saints safety will land, here’s more out of the South divisions:
Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu is the best newcomer to the AFC South, Sarah Barshop, Mike Wells, and Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com argue. Mathieu isn’t coming off a great year, but the Texans will mostly play Mathieu at his natural safety position which may allow him to thrive. After the Texans fell to last place in the NFL in points allowed, they’re certainly hoping that Mathieu will have a big impact in 2018.
In the same piece, ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe makes a case for Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler being the AFC South’s best new player. Although Butler’s curious benching in the Super Bowl has some concerned, he boasts 44 total pass breakups in the last three seasons, which is good for second most among all cornerbacks in the league since 2015. If things pan out, Butler could give the Titans the high-end defender they need to bottle up opposing receivers in the division like DeAndre Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton.
There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp:
Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin since he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.
We ranked Barwin as a top-10 free agent pass rusher when the market opened, but he hasn’t garnered much interest this offseason. The Rams reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Barwin in mid-March, but they have since revamped their front seven and there is little room for additions. The rival Cardinals kicked the tires on him in April, but for one reason or another, they did not add him to a unit that ranked 17th in pressure rate and 24th in adjusted sack rate in 2017. Barwin’s veteran leadership could help him find a deal in the coming weeks, but he’s probably not a starting-caliber player at this point in his career.
Last year, Hankins waited patiently before signing a three-year, $27MM free agent deal with the Colts. The Colts bailed on that contract this past March, putting him back in the free agent bin. Hankins, again, is patiently waiting for his market to develop. New defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus did not see Hankins as a fit for his scheme, but he could be a solid addition for plenty of other teams. Hankins played in a 4-3 with the Giants but did well in the Colts’ 3-4 setup last year. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 20 interior defender in the league last year with tremendous marks for his work against the run. The Redskins met with Hankins soon after his release, but first-round pick Da’Ron Payne is now slated to hold down the starting nose tackle position. The Jets met with Hankins in April and that still looks like a logical fit to us.
There’s no longer a place for Bowman in the Raiders’ front seven after the signing of former Chief Derrick Johnson, but some team out there is likely to make a play for the veteran. Bowman lost all of the 2014 season and most of 2016 to injury, but he was healthy and productive in 2017.
The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer:
Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.
Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.
We ranked Barwin as a top-10 free agent pass rusher when the market opened, but he hasn’t drawn a ton of interest over the last 12 weeks. The Rams reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Barwin in mid-March, but they have since revamped their front seven and there is little room for additions. The rival Cardinals kicked the tires on him in April, but for one reason or another, they did not add him to a unit that ranked 17th in pressure rate and 24th in adjusted sack rate in 2017. Barwin played on 71% of L.A’s defensive snaps last year, but the advanced metrics indicated that he was among the worst qualified pass rushers in the NFL. A team less focused on metrics and more focused on veteran leadership would do well to add Barwin as he enters his age-32 season.
Bowman graded as the Raiders’ best linebacker by a wide margin last season, which makes his ongoing unemployment a bit perplexing. Coach Jon Gruden didn’t rule out a reunion with Bowman even after signing former Chief Derrick Johnson, but that seems somewhat unlikely at this juncture.
The slow development of the safety market has been one of the major storylines of the offseason, and while there are a number of reasons as to why some of the top available players at the position remain unsigned, it is still surprising to see players of their ilk without work at this point in the league year. Indeed, three of PFR’s top 10 remaining defensive free agents are safeties, and we would like to know which one you think will be the first to sign with a club.
Our top-rated defensive player still available, Eric Reid, could be having difficulty fining a team because of his history of protesting the national anthem. Indeed, the only team that has brought him in for a visit, the Bengals, asked him about his plans in that regard moving forward. But Reid’s fellow free agent safeties on our Top-10 list, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro, have not made the same public stances — though Boston was fairly outspoken following the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer two years ago — and they haven’t had any better luck, so it could be his status as a safety, more so than his status as a political activist, that is dampening Reid’s market.
Of course, Reid himself feels differently, and he has filed a collusion grievance against the NFL. That will surely not help his cause, but on the field, Reid is a solid and versatile player capable of playing either defensive back or linebacker. His skillset would fit nicely on a team like the Cardinals or Buccaneers.
Boston, meanwhile, has drawn interest from a number of clubs, and he is coming off the best season of his career. He is far from a perfect player, but he does have the ability to play deep safety, and he picked off five passes for the Chargers in 2017. He appeared to be coming into his own after being released by the Panthers last year, and while he is not great in coverage, he has shown that he can at least be serviceable in that regard. He is also a capable pass rusher.
Vaccaro, on the other hand, was terrible in coverage in 2017, but he has shown the ability to line up at safety or at slot corner in his career, and he could theoretically play linebacker in sub-packages as well. He recently met with the Colts, and two weeks ago we heard that he was going to meet with the Jets, though it is unclear whether his summit with Gang Green has actually happened yet. He met with the Dolphins earlier in the offseason, but after the Fins used their first-round pick on Minkah Fitzpatrick, they are probably no longer interested in Vaccaro.
Again, these three players are not without flaws, particularly in coverage, and with the league moving further and further away from traditional in-the-box safeties, maybe we shouldn’t be as shocked that they remain without work. After all, younger players on rookie contracts frequently offer a strong presence in the run game while they work on their coverage skills, so it could be that teams just don’t want to pony up the cash for a veteran to do the work that a less experienced player can do.
Presumably, however, Boston or Vaccaro will eventually find a new team, and Reid may as well, despite his grievance. Let us know which of them you think will sign first, or if you think another safety like Corey Graham will get a chance before they do. We’d also like you to explain your choice in the comments section and let us know what you believe is holding up the safety market.
He adds head coach Dan Quinn will address the situation on Tuesday and did not respond to questions about the reports that Jones wants an update to his contract. Though he is absent, the two sides appear amenable and are likely to work things out in due time.
Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap says that the word “update” could mean the Falcons moving money forward in Jones’ contract to make the team’s key player happy. On a team in win-now mode, the move could be seen as avoiding potential chemistry issues in the locker room. A recent example of this, according to Fitzgerald, is a similar situation with Antonio Brown and the Steelers.
“The Steelers twice moved money forward in Brown’s contract to prevent a player from being unhappy. In 2015 the Steelers moved $2 million from 2016 up to 2015 and in 2016 they moved $4 million from 2017 into 2016. Overall the team fronted him $4 million and then extended him in 2017.”
Regardless of what the course of action Atlanta chooses to pursue, it is unlikely to hinder it from fielding one of the top three receivers in the league in 2018.
Here’s more from around the NFC:
The Panthers sale to David Tepper is expected to go through without “any surprises,” Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told ESPN’s David Newton. Tepper needs 24 votes — 23 with the absence of former Panthers GM Jerry Richardson — on Tuesday when the 31 NFL owners convene. Richardson is unlikely to attend, but nothing has been set in stone.
Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the Rams‘ fifth-round pick, underwent surgery on his foot and is expected to return sometime during training camp, head coach Sean McVay told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry (Twitter link). Okoronkwo starred at Oklahoma in 2017, earning Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big 12 after logging 17.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
The majority of the 2018 NFL Draft class is now signed, but that’s not the case in Los Angeles. The Rams have yet to sign a single pick.
Should fans be concerned? To put it simply, no.
This isn’t new to the team, as Michael David Smith of PFT writes, as it likes to address financial planning with its players before giving them a large signing bonus. Like in years past, the Rams rookies will all generally sign at once sometime in the next few weeks.
“One of the things that we think is important with that is bringing the rookies in as a group, having them live together as a group, and not having any real differentiation between the first-round pick and the undrafted rookie,” Demoff said. “They’re in the hotel together. They’re eating meals together. They’re doing things together. And then [by the time] they all scatter, we’ll sign their contracts. They’ll leave knowing the contract’s done, so they don’t have to worry about that headache when they go on vacation.”
So no need to panic Rams fans. This is par for the course.
Here’s more from around the NFL:
The Eagles signed running back Matt Jones earlier in the week. The Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski has the details at two years for $1.5MM, none of which are guaranteed (Twitter link). He joins a crowded backfield that includes Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles.
And we’ll also make pitstop in the CFL, where Johnny Manziel is not guaranteed to start for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith writes. Smith quotes head coach June Jones, who praised current starter and former Oregon standout Jeremiah Masoli. “Let me tell you something right now, he’s got his work ahead of him to beat out Jeremiah,” Jones said of Manziel. “He’s got a lot to catch up on, but he’ll spend the time to get that done. I know he will because he’s already learned that lesson.” Though Masoli has the leg up, it won’t be long before Manziel is given the reins, given he can stay out of trouble.