Kyle Juszczyk

49ers Exercise Options On Juszczyk, Watson

The 49ers decided to get a good deal of their housekeeping done on Thursday. Per a team announcement, the club has made the following transactions:

Tendered:

Exercised 2019 Options:

Declined 2019 option

For the most part, these were no-brainer calls for SF. Mostert, Lee, and Mabin will all return on cheap one-year deals that require little in the way of actual commitments. Juszczyk, signed to a four-year, $21MM deal in 2017, is regarded as one of the very best fullbacks in the NFL and graded out as the second-best in the league last year, per Pro Football Focus. who rejoiced when he was cut by the Pats and claimed by the Niners in 2017, tallied a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2018.

NFC West Notes: Bucannon, 49ers, Seahawks

Deone Bucannon spent his 2017 offseason rehabbing from an injury, and the Cardinals became concerned the fifth-year linebacker suffered a serious setback at practice Thursday. But a day later, the team is relieved after an MRI revealed Bucannon did not damage any knee ligaments, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Bucannon did suffer a hyperextended knee and bruised a kneecap, per Rapoport, and the Cards aren’t going to rush him back as a result. Ankle injuries limited Bucannon to 12 games last season, and 2018 will be critical for him. He will play this season on a fifth-year option and is due for 2019 free agency. The Cards’ shift to a 4-3 look will result in their 2014 first-round pick lining up at outside linebacker. Initially a safety, Bucannon moved to an inside ‘backer slot and played there full-time over the past two seasons.

The 49ers saw a former first-round pick go down during camp as well. Here’s the latest from the NFC West:

  • Arik Armstead missed much of the past two seasons because of an injury, and the 49ers‘ 2015 first-rounder’s now dealing with another one. A hamstring malady is expected to sideline Armstead for multiple weeks, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Armstead went on IR with a shoulder injury in 2016, and a broken hand ended his 2017 campaign. He also underwent foot surgery this offseason. The 49ers picked up Armstead’s $9MM 2019 option in May. He’s expected to remain a defensive end starter this season.
  • The Seahawks drafted Alex McGough in the seventh round, but ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson notes he hasn’t provided Austin Davis with much competition. It appears certain Davis will reprise his role as Russell Wilson‘s top backup this season. “Austin has been really solid,” Pete Carroll said. “I think it’s been really hard for Alex to get going. He’s been struggling. It’s been hard for him. We are a very high-tech offense, there’s a lot going on and he hasn’t been able to get back to even where he was in the offseason.”
  • Kyle Shanahan admitted he’s had doubts he made the right decision to convince John Lynch to trade up to select Joe Williams in the 2017 fourth round, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. A Utah product who stepped away from football in college due to off-field issues, Williams did not impress the 49ers’ staff during 2017 training camp and has yet to play in a game. While Shanahan’s seen a stronger commitment from the second-year back this summer, Williams isn’t a roster lock. He’s competing with Raheem Mostert for the 49ers’ third-string running back job, behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, Branch adds.
  • Before the 49ers made an offer to McKinnon, Kyle Juszczyk helped recruit him. The NFL’s highest-paid fullback began texting with the former Vikings backup running back during the winter, and once informed the 49ers were going after him, the team told Juszczyk to keep pushing with his recruitment, Juszczyk said (via Maiocco). McKinnon surprised many by fetching a four-year, $30MM contract, including his new fullback. “I don’t know if I knew he was going to be the top-paid running back in the market that year,” Juszczyk said. “But I figured he’d be a guy that we’d be interested in.”

NFC Notes: Miller, Bridgewater, Juszczyk, Seahawks

One of the scarier stories of this season was the situation regarding Bears tight end Zach Miller‘s serious leg injury. Just a week ago, doctors were performing surgery to save his leg after he dislocated his knee while playing. However, after a successful procedure, the 33 year-old is set to be released from the hospital on Monday, reports Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com. According to Mortensen, the surgery was described as “heroic” by one doctor, who relayed that the surgeons needed to repair a torn popliteal artery. The road to recovery is still ongoing as the tight end will likely need multiple surgeries before starting his way to rehab, but the outlook is much better than it was because of the many great doctors and Miller himself as Mortensen outlines in his piece.

  • Speaking of amazing recoveries, Teddy Bridgewater is on track to return to the gridiron after many months of rehab and uncertainty regarding his serious knee injury. The Vikings former first round pick is expected to be activated and in uniform for the team’s Week 10 contest versus Washington, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Bridgewater was placed on the PUP list at the start of the regular season after he had been recovering from an injury he suffered back in training camp two years ago. It’s been a long road for the soon-to-be 25 year-old, but it looks like the quarterback’s resiliency will soon pay off. Although, it remains to be seen what role Bridgewater will have when he returns, especially with the recent solid play of third string QB Case Keenum. Bridgewater last played in the team’s heartbreaking playoff defeat at the hands of the Seahawks back in 2015.
  • 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk will undergo an MRI on Monday after suffering a concussion in today’s defeat at the hands of the Cardinals, tweets Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. The news comes right after it was learned that safety Jaquiski Tartt would be placed on the IR with a fractured arm that he suffered in today’s game as well. Juszczyk, 26, hasn’t been as big of a factor in the 49ers offense as people may have thought after signing by far the richest contract of any fullback this past offseason. The former Raven has totaled just 23 rushing yards and 8 catches for 80 yards this year.
  • The Seahawks cut tackle Isaiah Battle a few days ago after the team added the highly regarded Duane Brown prior to the trade deadline. However, it seems like Seattle would like to retain the offensive lineman as general manager John Schneider said on a pre-game show that he hopes to re-sign the 24 year-old to the team’s practice squad this week, reports Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter link).

 

AFC Notes: Patriots, Ravens, Colts

The latest from the AFC:

  • Eric Rowe isn’t necessarily a lock to serve as the Patriots’ No. 3 cornerback in 2017, suggests Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. Rather, it could be Jonathan Jones who emerges behind stars Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler, as Reiss notes that the second-year man got first-team reps as the Patriots’ nickel corner during OTAs last week. With that in mind, Rowe’s playing time during the upcoming season might depend on matchups. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, the Patriots could feature Rowe as their nickel corner against teams with multiple big receivers or clubs with tight ends who function as large wideouts, relays Reiss. That was the case in Super Bowl LI when the Pats put Rowe on the Falcons’ best receiver, the 6-3, 220-pound Julio Jones.
  • Now-49er Kyle Juszczyk was more of a Swiss Army knife than a fullback for the Ravens, meaning it may take multiple players to replace him, writes Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Running backs Lorenzo Taliaferro and Danny Woodhead, fullback Ricky Ortiz and tight end Nick Boyle could try to make up for Juszczyk’s departure as a group. The versatile Juszczyk parlayed his time in Baltimore as a lead blocker/pass catcher/special teamer into a record contract for a fullback (four years, $21MM, including $10.5MM guaranteed). Although the Ravens wanted to keep Juszczyk, their offer wasn’t competitive with the 49ers’, reports Zrebiec.
  • Le’Raven Clark started in just three of eight appearances as a third-round rookie in 2016, but he ended the year as the Colts’ No. 1 right tackle and looks likely to win the job this season, per Kevin Bowen of the team’s website. Joe Reitz and Joe Haeg picked up the bulk of the work at right tackle while Clark was on the bench, but the former has since retired and the latter is primarily a guard. As for Clark, he’s “got enough talent” to be a full-timer, according to Chuck Pagano, though the head coach noted that the 24-year-old must improve as a pass blocker. Pro Football Focus agrees, having assigned Clark an awful pass-blocking grade during his inaugural campaign.

John Lynch Defends Offseason Strategy

John Lynch‘s first offseason as the 49ers general manager may be remembered for the hefty contracts he handed out to a fullback and a former Super Bowl MVP.

John LynchThe organization committed more than $23MM in guaranteed money to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and linebacker Malcolm Smith, leading some pundits to wonder whether agents were looking to take advantage of the new, inexperienced executive. Of course, that sentiment may not be entirely fair, as Lynch has added a number of free agents on favorable deals, including quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, wide receivers/offensive weapons Pierre GarconAldrick Robinson and Marquise Goodwin, tight end Logan Paulsen, linebacker Dekoda Watson, special teamer Don Jones, and kicker Robbie Gould.

Like any GM, Lynch will be forced to answer more questions regarding the “egregious” signings than the shrewd additions. The executive already started addressing his offseason strategy while appearing on San Francisco’s KNBR 680 yesterday. Thanks to CSNBayArea.com, we’re able to pass along some of those quotes below…

On the signings of Juszczyk and Smith:

“We’re proud of those signings. We really are … if you’re sitting there reading everything that people are saying about you and taking it personally, you aren’t gonna be very successful … I think the reason they both got nice contracts is because they were wanted. And we weren’t the only ones that wanted them. In a lot of our situations, we weren’t the highest bidder.”

On whether the two players were enticed by money or the organization:

“Guys came because there’s an exciting vibe here; guys want to be here. None of this means anything until they go play and we go play. But those are two guys we’re very excited to have as part of the 49ers.”

On the team’s negotiations with Juszczyk:

“In that period where the negotiating period started, we were doing some traveling and we got a call and they said, ‘Here’s where it’s at now,’ and we said, ‘Wow,’ because we set in with ‘Hey, to get this guy, we’re gonna have to likely make him the highest paid fullback ever.’ And we were willing to do that…

“But then it kind of got to even another step and we had to all stop and kind of look at each other and go, ‘OK. This is getting real.’ And that’s when we kind of came up the philosophy he’s not just a fullback; he’s an offensive weapon … I’m gonna trust my instincts on what the guy brings, not necessarily what the rest of the market sees him as.

“You can’t go crazy with that, but like I said, we weren’t the only ones interested in this guy … he’s still worth it to us.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Rumors: Lang, Ware, 49ers, Rams

T.J. Lang saw the Lions change his mind at the last minute and possibly changing the fortunes of the team that beat Detroit in the wild-card round. The ninth-year guard was “99 percent” sure he was going to sign with the Seahawks after the sides’ Saturday summit. But the Lions improved their offer and ended up signing the Michigan native to a three-year, $28.5MM deal.

I didn’t know Detroit was coming back with a counter-offer,” Lang said in an interview with 97.1-FM (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “When I left Seattle I was about 99 percent sure I was flying back there to sign a contract and Detroit stepped up and things changed pretty quick.”

Lang’s former team did not offer him as much as the Lions did. The Packers proposed a three-year deal worth $21.5MM. While the Lions pact includes $19MM in guarantees, the Packers’ offer housed just $6.5MM guaranteed. Opining on the Packers’ usual free agency-phobic tendencies, Lang said Green Bay’s offer made this decision easier.

I think just throughout the years they were able to get some guys back in town because they used the whole, we’re good, we’re competitive, we compete for championships every year. Do you want to play with the best quarterback in the NFL-type thing, you’re going to have to take a little less money, and I think it just kind of wore some guys out the last couple years and watching guys leave,” Lang said during the radio interview.

Here’s more from the NFC West.

  • DeMarcus Ware‘s Rams visit did include discussions with Wade Phillips and new HC Sean McVay, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com reports. But he adds the sides did not get into serious talks about the now-retired pass-rusher joining the Rams.
  • UFA tackle Byron Bell visited the 49ers this weekend, ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets. He did not play during the 2016 after dislocating his ankle on the first day of Titans OTAs last summer. Bell proved versatile for the 2015 Titans, however, starting 16 games but at three different spots — eight at right tackle, seven at left guard and one at left tackle. The 28-year-old Bell has been a career-long starter, serving as the Panthers’ primary left tackle from 2011-14.
  • Kyle Juszczyk received an even better offer than the fullback-record deal (four years, $21MM) he signed with the 49ers, Peter King of TheMMQB.com reports. The fifth-year fullback’s agent told King one team would have paid Juszczyk more than what the 49ers offered. The Bills, Browns, Eagles and Jets were also in on this competition.
  • The SeahawksJared Cook visit will create questions regarding Jimmy Graham‘s long-term spot with the team, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Graham is already 30, having turned 25 during his rookie year. However, Cook is less than six months younger. Graham will be a UFA in 2018, and the Seahawks have potential third contracts for Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor to consider. Both have observed other safeties surpass their second Seattle contracts in terms of value in recent years. Pete Carroll said at the Combine there is no reason to doubt Graham’s status on the 2017 Seahawks. He will count $10MM against Seattle’s cap this year.
  • Jarvis JonesRams visit will occur Tuesday, per Gonzalez. The Rams signed their most recent visitor, cornerback Kayvon Webster, on Monday night.

49ers Expected To Sign Kyle Juszczyk

The 49ers are expected to sign fullback Kyle Juszczyk, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It’s a four-year contract worth $21MM ($10.5MM guaranteed), according to ESPN’s Treavor Scales (via Twitter). Juszczyk was my No. 1 rated free agent fullback this year and was pretty much universally regarded as the best FB out there.

Kyle JuszczykPro Football Focus graded Juszczyk as its No. 1 fullback in the NFL in 2016. The fullback has shown to be particularly elite in the passing game, with PFF appreciating his receiving and pass blocking skills. Of course, Juszczyk still ranks in the top-10 for rushing and run blocking.

The 25-year-old (26 in April) has 97 career receptions for 769 yards and five touchdowns. The former fourth-rounder has spent his entire four year career in Baltimore. He’s gotten more involved in the passing game over the past two years, including a standout 2015 campaign where the Harvard product caught 41 passes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agency Rumors: Vikings, Okung, Bills

Rounding up the latest free agency news:

  • The Vikings are expected to express interest in offensive tackle Russell Okung when free agency starts, Josina Anderson of ESPN.com tweets. This doesn’t come as a big surprise since Okung has been previously linked to Minnesota.
  • The Bills were in play for Brian Hoyer, but he will not be signing with Buffalo after the team retained Tyrod Taylor, sources tell ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak (Twitter link). The Jets and 49ers have strong interest in the veteran QB.
  • The 49ers are now among the teams in the mix for fullback Kyle Juszczyk, Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets. The Ravens would like to keep him, but they are expecting to get outbid for the former fourth-round pick. The Bills are said to be in the lead for him and the Browns are also in pursuit.
  • The Raiders working hard today on bringing back right tackle Menelik Watson, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. If he reaches the open market, however, the Broncos are among the teams that will pursue him, Mike Klis of 9NEWS tweets.
  • The Raiders are trying to get a new deal done with inside linebacker Perry Riley, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets.

Bills Now Favorite To Land Kyle Juszczyk

Kyle Juszczyk has generated considerable interest venturing onto the free agent market for the first time, and a new suitor looks to have surged ahead for the fullback’s services. The Bills are now looking like the frontrunners to land the Ravens’ longtime blocking back, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Juszczyk has drawn interest from the Browns as well, and the Ravens are attempting to work out a deal to retain him. He’s seeking a team that will allow him to play in some sort of hybrid role, with some tight end responsibilities tacked on to his fullback workload. Pro Football Focus graded Juszczyk as its No. 1 fullback in 2016, and he rates as PFR’s top available blocking back. It looks fairly secure Anthony Sherman‘s $2.1MM-AAV contract that tops all fullbacks will fall en route to Juszczyk becoming that position’s highest-paid performer.

He has 97 career receptions for 769 yards and five touchdowns. The former fourth-round pick started three seasons for the Ravens and earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2016. The Bills led the league in rushing in 2016 at 164.4 yards per game but overhauled their coaching staff this offseason, potentially paving a path to the team altering its backfield equation. Jerome Felton is a UFA after leading the way for LeSean McCoy the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Pursuing FB Kyle Juszczyk

The Browns are very interested in Ravens free agent fullback Kyle Juszczyk, sources tell Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Meanwhile, the expectation is that Juszczyk will wind leaving Baltimore as the Ravens are not prepared to match what he’ll get elsewhere, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan (Twitter links). Meanwhile, Juszczyk will look to sign with a team that will allow him to do more than play fullback.

Pro Football Focus’ No. 1-rated fullback in 2016, Juszczyk is reportedly looking to sign with a team that will deploy him in a hybrid fullback/tight end role. He has 97 career receptions for 769 yards and five touchdowns. The former fourth-round pick started three seasons for the Ravens and earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2016.

The Ravens were attempting to retain him as recently as Monday, and the league’s highest-paid fullback — the Chiefs’ Anthony Sherman — makes just $2.1MM per season. But if the fifth-year blocker is seeking a tight end role as well, the fullback AAV bar could soon be raised.

The Browns, of course, lead the league in cap room, entering Monday with a league-record $102MM in space. Cleveland boasts needs across the board but has a proven tight end locked up long-term in Gary Barnidge. Baltimore holds $12.5MM in cap space, the fourth-fewest mark in the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.