Kevin White

North Notes: Hundley, K. White, Hurst

Although many have assumed that the Packers will keep DeShone Kizer on their final roster — after all, Kizer is just one year removed from being a second-round draft pick, and Green Bay liked him enough to trade for him this offseason — Eric Baranczyk and Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com believe the Packers should keep Brett Hundley and cut Kizer if it comes to that. Baranczyk and Dougherty say the game has slowed more for Hundley than it has for Kizer, and the fact that Green Bay recently traded for Kizer should not be a factor in the team’s decision (after all, the Packers were likely to cut Damarious Randall anyway if Cleveland hadn’t been willing to deal Kizer for him). Ideally, the Packers would be able to swing a trade for one of Hundley or Kizer, but failing that, the Packers News scribes think GM Brian Gutekunst should stick with Hundley, who did not play very well in relief of the injured Aaron Rodgers last year.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the league’s North divisions:

  • Wide receivers Kevin White and Javon Wims both improved their chances of making the Bears‘ 53-man roster during Chicago’s preseason victory over Kansas City last night, as Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. White, of course, was the No. 7 overall pick of the 2015 draft — and GM Ryan Pace‘s first-ever draft choice — but injuries have almost completely wiped out the first three years of his NFL career. Wims was a seventh-round selection in this year’s draft, and Jahns believes the Bears should keep both players and six receivers overall, including Josh Bellamy.
  • Although Mackensie Alexander is battling an ankle injury, he is expected to start as the Vikings‘ slot corner — and “quarterback of the defense” in head coach Mike Zimmer‘s scheme — if he is healthy, as Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune reports. However, first-round rookie Mike Hughes — who is also battling an undisclosed injury — has been pushing for first-team reps, which is fairly remarkable when considering that he did not play in the slot in college. Hughes could overtake Alexander down the line, but in any case, Minnesota appears to be well-set at the position in the long-term. Alexander, a 2016 second-rounder, has made tremendous strides in his third summer with the club.
  • Though they had been enjoying an injury- and drama-free offseason, the Ravens have been hit hard with unwelcome news over the past few days. They lost rookie TE Hayden Hurst for three-to-four weeks, they saw star CB Jimmy Smith suspended for four games — though they at least knew that was coming — and now Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic has more bad news to report. Zrebiec tweets that emerging third-year defensive tackle Willie Henry will miss several weeks with a hernia, while promising rookie safety DeShon Elliott may be out for the season with a forearm injury. Zrebiec adds that the recent spate of bad luck will impact Baltimore’s initial roster construction, because while the team will likely carry Hurst and Henry on the 53-man roster until they are ready to return, the Ravens may need to keep an extra tight end and defensive lineman until that happens (Twitter link). Elliott, meanwhile, is an IR candidate. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com reports that Henry had surgery for his hernia and Hurst has had surgery for the stress fracture in his foot (Twitter links).
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson wants to keep six wide receivers on the team’s regular-season roster, as Steve Doerschuk of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, and Rashard Higgins make up four of those six wideouts, while sixth-round rookie Damion Ratley also stands a good chance. That means veteran Jeff Janis and relative unknowns Derrick WilliesDa’Mari Scott, and C.J. Board could be fighting it out for the last spot.

Bears Notes: Nagy, Howard, Long

The Bears and Ravens will square off in the Hall of Fame Game on August 2, so they are the only two teams whose training camps are already underway. Bears camp officially opened on Friday, so let’s take a look at a few notes out of Chicago:

  • Bears fans are excited about the innovations that new head coach Matt Nagy will bring to the offensive side of the football, and Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times believes that excitement is well-founded. Nagy has a great deal of young talent at his disposal, and while much of that talent is unproven, the club certainly has the chance to turn some heads this year. Nagy’s offense is expected to blend Andy Reid‘s West Coast offense with the run-pass options that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich learned under Chip Kelly at Oregon, and it will certainly include creative formations and shifts. Nagy is also open to innovating and experimenting throughout the course of the season as he adjusts to life as an NFL head coach.
  • One key component of the offense, running back Jordan Howard, is making a concerted effort to improve his hands so that he can become a reliable contributor in the passing game, as Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune details. Indeed, Nagy’s offense frequently utilizes running backs as pass catchers, so Howard, who has not offered much as a receiver in his first two years in the league, needs to refine his abilities. For what it’s worth, Nagy believes that Howard can be a true three-down back. Nagy said, “There’s this notion that [Howard] is just a first-and second-down back, and I don’t believe that. Jordan can play all three downs. We’re going to do that. We’re going to use him, and we’re going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to.”
  • In a separate piece, Campbell describes the importance of offensive lineman Kyle Long — who suddenly finds himself as the offense’s second-oldest player — to the Bears’ rebuild. There are a lot of intriguing new and relatively new offensive pieces at the skill positions, but those pieces cannot come together to reach their collective potential without a strong offensive line in place. Long, whose career started out with three consecutive Pro Bowl nods, has finished each of the last two seasons on injured reserve. However, Campbell reports that Long is as close to full health as he has been in two years, and that is critical not just for the Bears’ chances in 2018, but for both player and team from a contractual standpoint. After this season, Chicago could cut Long and save $5.5MM against the cap, so the next few months will go a long way towards determining Long’s future in the Windy City.
  • Kevin White, who entered the league as a 2015 top-10 pick with a ton of promise, has seen the first three years of his professional career ravaged by injury. The Bears declined his fifth-year option earlier this offseason, so he will enter the last year of his rookie contract with a lot to prove. As Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, White has a good chance of making the team’s roster out of training camp, but given the talent that Chicago has added over the past several seasons, he will need to perform very well in camp and in the preseason to earn significant playing time. Finley reports that White looks as good as ever from a physical standpoint, and the fact that he can line up anywhere on the field in Nagy’s offense will only help his cause.

NFC Notes: Bears, OBJ, Rodgers, Kaepernick

Bears wide receiver and 2015 first-round pick Kevin Whitecan’t be a lock to make the 53-man roster coming out of preseason,” according to the Chicago Tribune’s Bradd Biggs.

Briggs continues by saying, “White is guaranteed a little more than $2.69MM this season. While there is offset language in his contract, there’s no way another team would pay him that kind of money, so the Bears would be on the hook for at least a portion if they were to release him. It’s not enough money to say he’s locked into a spot.”

The sentiment is not a shocker. After the Bears overhauled their receiving corps with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and rookie pass catcher Anthony Miller, the injury-prone wideout will have to make an impact on the field to assure his roster spot.

The second receiver taken in 2015, behind Amari Cooper, White boasted an impressive combination of size, speed and strength that projected the West Virginia product to be Chicago’s future No. 1 receiver. Instead, he has been ravaged by injuries that have limited him to just five games in three seasons. He flashed signs of progress in 2016 with back-to-back six-catch games, but he immediately suffered a high ankle sprain that resulted in a fracture and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Briggs notes that he has made progress and all signs are pointing positive early at OTAs. “The coaches are saying the right things about him. They like the way he looks. They like his work ethic and approach.”

If White is able to produce at even a fraction of his potential in 2017, Mitch Trubisky will have plenty of weapons to operate with in his sophomore campaign.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Giants and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. could be nearing a contract showdown, writes Ralph Vacchiano of SportsNet New York. Once the Pro Bowl pass catcher is cleared to fully practice he could opt for a holdout since he has yet to publicly dismiss an earlier report that he “will not set foot on a field without a contract extension.” Though that option is not a certainty, Vacchiano notes Beckham’s leverage is rather strong, in that the Giants are in win-now mode with an aging quarterback who has struggled without his go-to receiver. Holdouts rarely go the way of the player, but we’ll see if Beckham tries to buck the trend.
  • When the Packers sit down at the negotiating table with Aaron Rodgers on an extension, one thing the quarterback will be looking for is a possible out on his deal, reports NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (Twitter link). “Another aspect that I’m told is extremely important to [Rodgers] is player control — How much control can he have on his future,” Garafolo said. The All-Pro quarterback will almost assuredly become the highest-paid player in the league when he signs a deal, which seems like a slam dunk at this point, but his ability to have an out in the deal is one thing to keep an eye on. 
  • The attorney for former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid, Mark Geragos, told reporters, “I would stay tuned because this case is about to take a dramatic turn.” Asked about the claim, Geragos added, “somebody has decided they were to dime out the NFL for what they were doing.” This implies there being a witness who can contradict the NFL’s stance that each team decided neither player can help their roster. There is sure to be more to develop in this case in the coming days.

Bears Won’t Exercise Kevin White’s Option

The Bears won’t pick up wide receiver Kevin White‘s option for 2019, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). This was the expected move since White has been plagued by injuries so far in his young career. 

As a wide receiver taken in the top ten of the 2015 draft, the extra year for White would have cost a whopping $13.9MM. He is now officially entering his contract year, which could give him an opportunity to line up a nice payday in Chicago or another city. Last year, the Bears declined cornerback Kyle Fuller‘s option due to his up-and-down performance and he responded with a strong showing in 2018 that resulted in a new four-year deal worth $56MM with $18MM in guaranteed money.

Before White can dream of a substantial multi-year deal, however, he’ll have to focus on his health. The talented West Virginia product missed his entire rookie season due to injury and has appeared in a combined five games over the last two years.

Wednesday marks the deadline for teams to exercise the fifth-year option for eligible players. To keep track of all 32 decisions, check out PFR’s 2019 Fifth-Year Option Tracker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Teddy, Bears

There has been a lot of talk about whether Teddy Bridgwater will start for the Vikings upon his return, but GM Rick Speilman says the team is only focused on his health (link via Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com).

All we’re concerned about is where he is this week,” Spielman said. “I know we’re evaluating him in practice every day. And then we’ll have to make a decision coming up next week — not if he’s going to start or not start, but if he’s going to come up to the 53. That’s the next step. And then, from there, the coaches will determine the rest of the way.”

The 6-2 Vikings have a Week 9 bye. After that, the team will assess where Bridgewater is in his recovery.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • The Vikings didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline but GM Rick Spielman indicated that several teams reached out about some of the team’s younger players (Twitter link via Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com). Leading up to Halloween, Spielman said that the Vikings had some concerns about their depth at running back beyond Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. However, they feel pretty set after claiming Mack Brown off of waivers from Washington.
  • The Bears have not seriously discussed bringing wide receiver Kevin White back from injured reserve this season, coach John Fox told reporters (Twitter link via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune). White, unfortunately, was never viewed as an IR-DTR candidate, so Fox’s announcement doesn’t come as a big surprise.
  • The Packers‘ interest in Brian Hoyer was “cursory, at best,” according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). After Hoyer signed with the Pats, it was reported that Green Bay had interest in signing the QB. Either way, the Packers will forge ahead with Brett Hundley as their No. 1 quarterback while Aaron Rodgers nurses a broken collarbone.

Bears To Place Kevin White On IR

Bears coach John Fox confirmed to reporters on Monday morning that Kevin White has suffered a fractured scapula. White will be placed on injured reserve, though it’s currently unclear whether he’ll be a candidate to return later in the year. Kevin White (vertical)

Fox says that surgery is a possibility for White. An operation, presumably, would knock him out for the year. If White can avoid surgery, then he may be able to take advantage of the league’s newly modified IR-DTR rules. Teams can bring two players off of IR during the season each year, though players must spend a minimum of eight weeks on the sidelines.

This is yet another frustrating setback for White, who has played in just five games in three seasons thus far. White, a West Virginia product, was selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Although he is immensely talented, it’s not clear if he’ll ever be able to stay healthy.

With White sidelined, the Bears are hoping that Markus Wheaton will be ready to go in Week 2. The former Steeler was not able to go in the season opener as he recovers from finger surgery. Another free agent addition, Kendall Wright, could be in line for additional targets while White is out.

Bears’ Kevin White To Have Surgery?

The Bears fear wide receiver Kevin White has a broken bone in his shoulder and will require season-ending surgery, reports Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. Kevin White (vertical)

If confirmed, White’s latest injury will be simply another health-related setback for the former No. 7 overall pick. White, who missed the entirety of his rookie campaign, has appeared in only five games through two-plus NFL seasons. In 2016, White started four games and managed 19 receptions for 187 yards.

White, 25, is signed through 2018, and will fully guaranteed salaries of $1.9MM and $2.7MM over the next two years. The Bears hold a 2019 fifth-year option on White, but it will almost assuredly be declined. Not only has White not been available to post the kind of production that would make the option worthwhile, but his injury history could easily result in the option becoming fully guaranteed, an untenable outcome from the team’s perspective.

Chicago had already lost one wideout earlier this year, as Cameron Meredith went down with a torn ACL during the preseason. Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, and Tre McBride now comprise the remaining Bears’ receivers. Tanner Gentry, currently on Chicago’s practice squad, is conceivably a candidate to be promoted to the active roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears’ Kyle Fuller To Return From IR

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is primed to come back from injured reserve, perhaps early next week, head coach John Fox said Friday.

Kyle Fuller (Vertical)

“I’d be pretty surprised depending on how it goes after [Friday] because he had a pretty brisk workout [Friday], if he’s not practicing Monday,” Fox told Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Fuller underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in August and has been on IR since Sept. 27. Once the Bears designate him to return, they’ll have a three-week window to activate the 24-year-old. At 2-8, Chicago’s hopes for 2016 are dashed, but it would be beneficial for the team to continue evaluating Fuller in advance of the offseason. The Bears have to decide on Fuller’s fifth-year option for 2018 by the spring, though they’re unlikely to exercise it, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote in September. A 2014 first-round pick, Fuller has started in 30 of 32 games – including all 16 last year – and intercepted six passes.

When Fuller comes back, the season will officially end for another of the Bears’ recent first-rounders, receiver Kevin White. The second-year man landed on IR on Oct. 5 with a fractured fibula. Injuries have limited White to just four games since the Bears chose him seventh overall in 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Bring CB Kyle Fuller Back?

The Bears may be looking to designated cornerback Kyle Fuller for return from injured reserve, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). Fuller will take his first step towards game action when he practices on Wednesday. If everything checks out, he may get to play again this season.Kyle Fuller (Vertical)

Teams are only permitted to bring one player back from IR during the season, but it sounds like Kevin White‘s season is through either way. From what Biggs hears (Twitter link), it sounds like it will be either Fuller returning or no one returning. The team was hoping that White could return from leg surgery, but he was not able to recover in time for this season. To date, White has only 191 NFL snaps to his credit.

It will be interesting to see how the increased uncertainty around White affects the Bears’ offseason plans. The Bears cannot reasonably give Alshon Jeffery a franchise tag for the second year in a row and a long-term deal may be ill-advised after his recent positive test for PEDs. However, White was supposed to be the heir apparent at wide receiver. If they cannot trust White to stay upright for a full season, they may have to bite the bullet and work out a new deal with Jeffery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears To Place Kevin White On IR

The Bears announced that they are placing Kevin White on IR. White suffered a severe high-ankle sprain over the weekend that resulted in a fractured fibula. Kevin White (vertical)

The second-year wide receiver – who is effectively in his first year after missing his whole rookie season – will weigh his options over the next couple of months. If he can avoid surgery, then White may be a candidate to return for the final month or so of the season. If he goes under the knife, then he’s likely done for the year. The team also will have to weigh the prospect of bringing White back against bringing another player off of IR. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, another first round talent, is also considered to be a candidate to return.

White asserted himself as a part of the offense with Jay Cutler early on in the season. When Cutler suffered a thumb injury, he showed that he had a good rapport with Brian Hoyer as well. White drew a whole bunch of targets in the last two weeks of action, but it will be a while before we see him on the field again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.