For several months, the Broncos have been linked to adding a quarterback that would at least provide Drew Lock with competition. No such move has transpired, but James Palmer of NFL.com notes GM George Paton is doing extensive research on this year’s crop of QB prospects (video link). Paton attended Trey Lance‘s pro day and mentioned last month that the team will consider a passer at No. 9 overall. However, Palmer expects the Broncos to also be in play for a trade-up — should the team become infatuated with one of the available arms.
While the Broncos are doing homework on all five of the top quarterbacks, they realistically only have a shot at two of them. This draft is, as of now, expected to begin with Trevor Lawrencegoing to the Jaguars and Zach Wilson heading to New York. Now in possession of the No. 3 overall pick, the 49ers have been linked toMac Jonesmore so than Lance or Justin Fields. The Broncos believe Lock will improve next season and do not want to make a quarterback transaction for the sake of making one. Lock was without top receiver Courtland Sutton for most of last season and was transitioning to a new offense without the benefit of onsite offseason work, but he ranked 29th in QBR and led the league in INTs despite missing three games.
Here is the latest from the AFC West:
Prior to the Cardinals using the transition tag on Kenyan Drake, Jon Gruden was interested in signing the running back last year, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). The Raiders showed significantly more interest in Drake than anyone else this offseason, per Drake, whom Gruden plans using in the backfield and at wide receiver. Drake’s two-year, $11MM deal includes just $3MM guaranteed in 2021, per Tafur, but carries $5.5MM in guarantees in 2022. Drake totaled just 127 receiving yards with the Cardinals last season, but the former third-round pick should be expected to play a bigger role in the passing game in Las Vegas.
The Chiefs hired former defensive coordinator Ken Flajole to replace Britt Reid as outside linebackers coach, the team announced. Flajole’s most notable NFL role came when he served as Rams DC during Steve Spagnuolo‘s three-year stay (2009-11). The Rams went just 10-38 during that stretch. Flajole, 66, will come to Kansas City after spending the past five seasons as Philadelphia’s linebackers coach under Doug Pederson. Reid is no longer with the Chiefs and remains under NFL investigation. Following his February car accident that left a 5-year-old in critical condition, the Chiefs let Reid’s contract expire.
The Raiders considered cutting their losses on Carl Nassib‘s three-year, $25MM contract, Tafur adds, but the team instead decided to keep the rotational pass rusher on a restructured deal (subscription required). The team added three void years to Nassib’s contract, spreading out the cap hit through 2025. Nassib is on the Raiders’ cap sheet at just $4.9MM this year; that number rises to $9.2MM in 2022. Releasing Nassib next year would tag the Raiders with a $4.6MM dead-money hit.
Drafted third overall as a defensive end four years ago, Solomon Thomas will primarily work as a three-technique tackle with the Raiders, according to Tafur. Thomas is in line to replace Maliek Collins, who defected to the Texans in free agency. A four-year 49ers contributor, Thomas has not come close to living up to his top-five draft status. The Raiders gave him a one-year deal worth $3.25MM.
March 18th, 2021 at 1:37pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
This one is going to raise some eyebrows. The Raiders are signing running back Kenyan Drake, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
They’re making a significant investment, giving Drake a two-year $11MM pact that can be worth up to $14.5MM. In a follow up tweet, Schefter reports that the $11MM is all guaranteed. Jon Gruden clearly is looking to reinvent his running game this offseason, as most of the offensive line has already been shown the door this month.
The signing, and money they committed, are somewhat surprising given the presence of 2019 first-round pick Josh Jacobs in the backfield. Jacobs had a very promising rookie season but took a step back in 2020 as the O-line struggled in run blocking and he averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. He did still have 12 touchdowns on the ground though.
As for how they’ll complement each other, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that Gruden views “Drake as a jack-of-all-trades” who will “figure prominently in the passing game.” He also notes that Drake is close with Jacobs, which makes sense considering both went to Alabama, so don’t expect any bad blood in this timeshare.
Drake only had 25 catches for 137 yards in Arizona last year, but he was much more involved in the passing attack his last couple of years in Miami. A third-round pick of the Dolphins back in 2016, Drake showed plenty of promise but clashed with the coaching staff over his role and was eventually traded to Arizona around the 2019 trade deadline.
He caught fire in the second half of that season under Kliff Kingsbury, and expectations were sky-high in 2020. He didn’t quite meet those expectations, averaging a shrug-worthy 4.0 yards per carry and losing playing time to Chase Edmonds at times. He did still rush for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns, and the Raiders will have a very solid one-two punch at running back in 2021. Now they just need an offensive line.
The player that received Arizona’s tag last year, Kenyan Drake, joins them in being without a 2021 contract. He would be interested in staying in Arizona but sounds eager to see what his options are. The Cardinals have until March 15, when the legal tampering period opens, to negotiate exclusively with Drake.
“I would love the opportunity to come back to Arizona but also do want to get the most of what I feel I deserve, so we’ll see,” Drake said during an appearance on The Jim Rome Show (via the Arizona Republic).
However, Drake said during an interview on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football there has not been much dialogue between he and the team. After trading for Drake at the 2019 deadline, the Cardinals transition-tagged him last year. Drake, 27, has never been a free agent.
“It hasn’t really been too much dialogue right now. I know the league and the teams are trying to figure out the cap room,” Drake said during the NFL Network appearance. “So like I said, once we cross that bridge, we’ll get there.
“… There are gonna be several different circumstances that I guess I’ll come together with my team to kind of deliberate with exactly who we feel will be the best fit. But right now, I feel like anything is up in the air. I would just appreciate a team coming in and allowing me to continue playing my game, help the team win games, be a versatile playmaker out the backfield.”
Drake totaled 955 rushing yards (4.0 per tote) and 10 touchdowns last season. The Cardinals have Chase Edmonds under contract for 2021, though he is going into a contract year. Edmonds averaged 4.6 yards per carry and operated as Arizona’s primary receiving back. Drake amassed just 137 receiving yards in his first full Cardinals slate.
October 26th, 2020 at 3:29pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Panthers superstar Christian McCaffrey returned to practice Monday, which is certainly a welcome sign considering he hasn’t been out there since Week 2. While it’s a step in the right direction, it doesn’t mean McCaffrey will be suiting up for Carolina on Thursday Night Football this week. In fact, CMAC is a “long-shot” to play in their division game against the Falcons, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).
Mike Davis took over as the Panthers’ running back and got off to a hot start, but he’s since cooled off significantly and only had 12 rushing yards yesterday. As such, McCaffrey’s return can’t come quick enough. The Panthers are now 3-4 and desperately need a win over Atlanta if they want to stay in the NFC playoff picture. McCaffrey went down with a high ankle sprain in their Week 2 game against the Bucs and has been sidelined ever since.
Here’s more health updates from around the league:
The Titans lost their first game of the season on Sunday, and they also lost a key piece of their defense for a while. Rookie cornerback Kristian Fulton will miss a “few weeks” with a knee injury, according to veteran beat writer Paul Kuharsky (Twitter link). Kuharsky writes that it’s unclear if he’ll go on injured reserve, which would require him to miss at least three games. A second-round pick in April’s draft, Fulton has started the Titans’ last two games after missing one on the COVID-19 list. Tennessee’s secondary has already struggled mightily, so this is an unwelcome development for Mike Vrabel’s unit.
The Bengals have already had a tough time blocking for Joe Burrow, and Cincy fans everywhere were holding their breath when starting left tackle Jonah Williams went down with a neck injury yesterday. Fortunately, the “early indications” are that the injury is not “overly serious,” a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapsheet says Williams may miss this week, but there is some optimism he could return after their Week 9 bye. The 11th overall pick of the 2019 draft, Williams missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury but had played every snap this year before going down.
Williams isn’t the only member of the Bengals’ offensive line banged up, as starting right tackle Bobby Hart also got hurt against Cleveland. Hart will miss this weekend’s game against Tennessee, head coach Zac Taylor announced Monday. Hart had also started all seven games this season, and now it looks like Burrow might be without each of his starting tackles this season. Given that he’s already been running for his life in most weeks, this could be a recipe for disaster.
The Seahawks also lost their first game of the season Sunday, and now it looks like they’ll be without starting running back Chris Carson for a while. Carson suffered a mid-foot sprain that will leave him week to week, Rapoport tweets. While Carson will apparently miss some time it doesn’t sound like anything too serious, and he shouldn’t be on the shelf too long. Fellow running back Travis Homer also got hurt on Sunday night, and we’re still waiting on an update on him.
The Cardinals beat Seattle on Sunday night, but unfortunately the recently signed linebacker Isaiah Irving suffered a serious injury and had to be carted off. Irving suffered a back injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season, a source told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Signed off Denver’s practice squad a couple of weeks ago, Irving was in his first game with the Cards and was only playing on special teams, so this won’t have too much impact on Arizona’s defense. Hopefully Irving is able to make a swift and full recovery.
Irving wasn’t the only Cardinal to go down. Starting running back Kenyan Drake hurt his ankle, and he’s going to miss some time. Drake will miss a few weeks with a slight ligament tear in his ankle, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Chase Edmonds, the highly talented change of pace back, will now get a chance to shine in Drake’s absence. Fortunately Arizona has a bye in Week 8, which will reduce the number of games Drake has to miss. Schefter adds that the team is treating the ligament issue essentially like a high ankle sprain.
Chargers tight end Virgil Green came down with a crucial touchdown in Los Angeles’ win over the Jaguars, but unfortunately he hurt himself on the play. Green will miss several weeks with a lateral ankle sprain, Rapoport tweets, and he’s a candidate for injured reserve. The Chargers still have Hunter Henry of course, but this is a significant blow as they like to run multiple tight end sets. Second-year UDFA from Stetson Donald Parham also caught a touchdown from Justin Herbert on Sunday, and should be in line for more playing time moving forward. Green, in his third season with the Chargers, has always been more of a blocker than receiver during his ten-year career.
While the NFL collectively batted .143 in extensions for franchise-tagged players (2-for-14) this year, the one player to receive the transition tag this year has a bit more time.
The Cardinals have until July 22 to extend Kenyan Drake, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes the sides are not believed to be close on terms. This continues the current trend on the extension front (Twitter link). Drake is not too concerned about an extension at the moment, tweeting that one will come in “due time.”
Cards GM Steve Keim said in April he had begun negotiating with Drake, who signed his transition tender days after the Cardinals applied it. Should the 26-year-old back not agree to an extension by next week, he will be tied to his $8.483MM salary this season.
Despite rostering David Johnson at the time, the Cardinals traded for Drake and saw the ex-Dolphins contributor produce immediately. Drake totaled 814 scrimmage yards in just eight Cards games. That number is not too far off Drake’s 2018 Dolphins season, when he amassed 1,012 scrimmage yards in 16 games while splitting work with Frank Gore. Drake averaged 5.2 yards per carry with the Cards last season, after gaining just 3.7 per tote in six Dolphins tilts.
A day away from the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions, the NFL finally saw a player from this year’s group do so. The Chiefs’ Chris Jonesextension represents the outlier move thus far. Discounting Jones’ deal, how many more tagged players will sign by the 3pm CT deadline Wednesday?
The 14 remaining tagged players reside in limbo for various reasons — from uncertainties about their career trajectories to the pandemic clouding the NFL’s financial future. There could be plenty of players going through the 2020 season on guaranteed one-year deals, which would both table key negotiations for several months and add to the 2021 free agent market.
Here is how everything looks with the tagged group as of Tuesday afternoon:
More players were tagged this year than in 2018 and ’19 combined. This represents the largest contingent of tagged performers since 2012, when 19 were tagged. That also came in an era when of salary cap stagnancy. After steady cap growth since 2014, the league’s best hope may be for the 2021 cap to plateau. The coronavirus has threatened to keep fans out of stadiums, with limited capacity being the likely best-case scenario. That will cost the league upwards of $3 billion, and the NFL-NFLPA talks about how to manage this have transpired for several weeks without a resolution.
But deadlines, per the cliche, incite action. Will this year be the exception? Are teams willing to carry big tag salaries on their books? Or will they prefer that to signing off on long-term extensions before the cap reality clears up? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.
With less than nine days remaining until the deadline, let’s take a look at where each of the 15 tagged players stand.
Although DeAndre Hopkins and Kenyan Drake are in different contractual situations, both players are on the Cardinals’ agenda this offseason. More developments on this front emerged Wednesday.
Cards GM Steve Keim said he has engaged in discussions with the agents for both of the team’s recently acquired skill-position players. This follows a report that indicated he had spoken directly with Hopkins about his contract, which runs through 2022.
“Both those guys are guys we’d like to have long-term,” Keim said, via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. “Again, if it makes our organization better and the opportunity arises, we will certainly do that. I’ve had communication with both their agents. We’ll continue to pound away. The draft is the most important part right now, but we will continue to have ongoing talks with both of those players’ agents.”
Drake signed his $8.5MM transition tender last month and now has a firm grip on the Cardinals’ starting running back job after the Hopkins trade included David Johnson. The Cardinals just freed themselves from what became an albatross contract, with Johnson struggling to deliver on the $13MM-per-year deal he signed in 2018.
Bill O’Brien confirmed Hopkins wanted a raise. While Nuk’s deal topped every other receiver’s when he signed it in 2017, the $16.2MM-AAV pact is now barely inside the top 10 among receivers. Teams rarely commit to new contracts for players signed for three more seasons, but the Cardinals trading for Hopkins may make this a special circumstance. With Larry Fitzgerald on a year-to-year track, Hopkins now profiles as Arizona’s No. 1 long-term target. The three-time All-Pro will surely pursue a deal that approaches Julio Jones‘ $22MM-AAV accord.
KenyanDrake is officially heading back to Arizona. The running back has signed his tender offer, per sports agency SportsTrust Advisors on Twitter.
We learned earlier this week that the Cardinals were slapping Drake with the transition tag. That move will ultimately cost the team around $8.5MM next season.
Of course, a whole lot has changed in Arizona since that news came out. The front office traded Drake’s competition, DavidJohnson, to the Texans, acquiring wideout DeAndreHopkins in the deal. As a result, Drake will be a major contributor on one of the NFL’s up-and-coming offenses.
The team’s commitment to Drake isn’t a huge surprise following his 2019 performance. Following three-plus underwhelming seasons in Miami, the running back was dealt to Arizona midseason for a conditional sixth-rounder. The 26-year-old proceeded to have the best eight-game stretch of his career to finish out the campaign. Drake ran for 643 yards on 123 carries (good for a 5.2-yard average), adding eight touchdowns along the way. He also hauled in 28 receptions for 171 yards.