Rams Rumors

NFC West Rumors: 49ers, Wilson, Rams

The 49ers were without Trent Williams on Monday, and while they won a fairly one-sided game over the Rams, it came with another tackle injury. Colton McKivitz became the latest 49er to sustain an MCL sprain. Like Elijah Mitchell and Azeez Al-Shaair, Kyle Shanahan expects his swing tackle to miss approximately eight weeks. Rookie Jaylon Moore, who replaced Williams against the Broncos while McKivitz was not at 100%, will be the next man up at left tackle.

That said, the 49ers demoted two-year right guard starter Daniel Brunskill because partly because they viewed him as an ideal swing backup. Shanahan said Brunskill will be considered for blindside fill-in duty, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News notes (via Twitter). Brunskill, who is in his fourth 49ers season, debuted Monday after missing the first three games due to injury. The former UDFA would inject some potentially necessary experience into the mix for a 49ers team still using a mostly unseasoned group of interior O-linemen this season.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Contract issues and a steady relationship deterioration drove the Seahawks to trade Russell Wilson, but the likely Hall of Fame-bound quarterback’s willingness to run also played a role in the team deciding to move on. The Seahawks believed Wilson’s willingness to use his legs would decrease as he aged, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Wilson, 33, averaged 5.5 carries and 30 yards per game as a Seahawk and has been one of the best running QBs in NFL history. Wilson’s 4,740 career rushing yards are fourth all time among QBs — behind only Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Randall Cunningham. Wilson rushed for 849 yards in 2014 and topped 500 four more times — most recently in 2020. But in 2021, Seattle’s starter — albeit during a season in which he missed three games due to a finger injury — only rushed for 183 yards. Although the 11th-year veteran has been effective when scrambling as a Bronco, he has been reluctant to do so. Wilson, who has expressed a desire to extend his career into his 40s, has totaled 13 carries for 51 yards this season.
  • Williams does not expect to miss too much time. Given a four- to six-week timetable, the All-Pro left tackle told CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson he is “80% sure” he will beat that four-week mark (Twitter link). Williams, 34, suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3. Beating the timetable would mean a possible return for the 49ers’ Week 7 game against the Chiefs. San Francisco could certainly use its star blocker in that game, but judging by how the team is playing it with its batch of players rehabbing MCL sprains, it would not surprise if the team exercised caution with its valuable O-line asset.
  • 49ers running backs coach Bobby Turner is back with the team after being away for several months, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. The 73-year-old assistant had been away from the team since undergoing two surgeries early this offseason. Turner has been an integral assistant for both Kyle and Mike Shanahan, being the Broncos’ running backs coach throughout the latter’s 14-year Denver stay. Turner has been with the 49ers since they hired Kyle Shanahan in 2017.
  • The Rams not only lost another interior offensive line starter Monday, when Coleman Shelton suffered a high ankle sprain, but they left San Francisco with starting safety Jordan Fuller out. The young defender is facing a two- to four-week absence to a hamstring strain, Sean McVay said.

QB Blake Bortles Announces Retirement

Blake Bortles is not planning to continue his efforts at returning to a team’s active roster. The former No. 3 overall pick announced his retirement during an appearance on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast.

The longtime Jaguars starter has not played in a regular-season game since the 2019 season, when he appeared in three as Jared Goff‘s backup with the Rams. But he has bounced around the league in the years since, last being with a team in April. The Saints released Bortles at that point, and the former AFC championship game starter said during the podcast he has not touched a football since January.

Since his 2019 Rams signing, Bortles caught on with the Broncos and Packers and also circled back to the Rams. He finished his career as a Saints emergency roster option, amid the team’s COVID-19 surge during the Omicron variant’s height. Mostly from his rookie contract and the three-year, $54MM extension he signed with the Jaguars in 2018, Bortles walks away from the game having made more than $47MM. The Jags bailing on that deal after one season, however, abruptly ended the oft-scrutinized passer’s run as a starter.

The Central Florida product started 73 career games, and while he ended up being benched months after signing that extension, the former Doug Marrone pupil had Jacksonville on the cusp of a Super Bowl LII berth. Bortles threw for 293 yards in a narrow AFC championship game loss in New England, doing so after the Jaguars won a divisional-round shootout in Pittsburgh.

Despite having chosen Blaine Gabbert in the top 10 three years prior, the Jags went back to the Round 1 QB well with Bortles, who came off the 2014 board far earlier than his QB contemporaries — in a class that included Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. Numerous The Good Place references aside, Bortles frequently drew criticism during his rocky Jags tenure. Working with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, Bortles finished the 2015 season with 35 touchdown passes. But the Jags went 5-11 that year; Bortles then struggled in 2016. He threw 51 interceptions from 2014-16, but the team nevertheless stuck with its starter — as Marrone replaced Gus Bradley as HC– leading to a 2017 outlier season that nearly produced one of the most unlikely Super Bowl entrants in the game’s history.

Jacksonville assembled a strong defense in 2017 — one that led the league in DVOA and lived up to its “Sacksonville” nickname — helping the team to a 10-6 record and the AFC title game. The Jags could not sustain that formula in 2018 and began a decline that led to their talented defense splintering and, eventually, the Urban Meyer year. The Jags released Bortles in March 2019, taking on $16.5MM in dead money as they pivoted to one-and-done option Nick Foles. Bortles concludes his career with 103 touchdown passes and 75 interceptions; his 17,646 passing yards are second-most (behind Mark Brunell) in Jags history.

Coleman Shelton To Miss Extensive Time

The injuries continue to mount for the Rams on their interior offensive line. The defending Super Bowl champions lost another starter up front, with Sean McVay indicating Tuesday that Coleman Shelton will be sidelined due to a high ankle sprain.

Shelton, who won the team’s right guard competition out of training camp, had moved to center after Brian Allen‘s Week 1 injury. Allen has not yet returned, but McVay said Shelton will face a four- to six-week return timetable as a result of the injury he sustained against the 49ers. An IR stay seems likely for Shelton.

The Rams played without their starting center (Allen) and left guard (David Edwards) against the Niners, and other options are out of the picture inside as well. The team’s top 2022 draft choice, guard Logan Bruss, suffered ACL and MCL tears in August; right guard replacement Tremayne Anchrum is also out for the year. The Rams finished with third-string options at center (Jeremiah Kolone) and right guard (Alaric Jackson) by game’s end, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic notes (on Twitter).

A UDFA who has been with the Rams for four seasons, Shelton earned his first crack at a starting job this season. He was the team’s only interior-line constant during the first four games, playing guard and center for the injury-battered front. The Rams will need to make another adjustment before facing the Cowboys in Week 5.

The 49ers dropped Matthew Stafford seven times in Week 4, marking the second game this season in which Stafford has taken seven sacks. The Bills began the year with a seven-sack showing, doing so as the Rams lost Allen to injury. Allen underwent a knee procedure shortly after Week 1, but the Rams did not place him on IR. After missing three games, the veteran snapper should be back soon. It might not be this week, however, Rodrigue adds (via Twitter). Edwards was placed in the team’s concussion protocol over the weekend, leaving his status uncertain for the Dallas matchup. The Rams still have their tackles — Joe Noteboom and Rob Havenstein — available, though Noteboom allowed three of San Francisco’s sacks Monday.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/3/22

Here’s today’s minor moves from around the league, including a couple practice squad elevations for tonight’s NFC West matchup:

Atlanta Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers

NFC West Notes: Cards, 49ers, Van, Hawks

Following the Chiefs’ lead, the Cardinals used a position player as their emergency kicker Sunday. Backup running back Eno Benjamin logged a kickoff for the Cardinals against the Panthers on Sunday. That arrangement, similar to the Chiefs’ usage of safety Justin Reid against the Cards in Week 1, will not persist past Week 4. With Matt Prater battling a right hip injury, the Cardinals worked out multiple kickers Monday.

Rodrigo Blankenship, Matt Ammendola — the Chiefs’ first post-Reid solution to fill in for Harrison Butker — Jose Borregales and Jonathan Garibay auditioned for the Cardinals, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Blankenship, whom the Colts turned to in their first full season without Adam Vinatieri, missed much of last year with an injury and was removed from his gig after struggling in Week 1 this year. Blankenship worked out for the Jaguars last week. Ammendola lasted two games as the Chiefs’ Butker fill-in, being cut after struggling in Week 3, while Garibay was part of the Cowboys’ kicking competition. The rookie UDFA did not make it out of training camp.

Ahead of Monday’s Rams-49ers matchup, here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Although the 49ers turned to Jaylon Moore to replace Trent Williams in Week 3, Colton McKivitz will start against the Rams on Monday night. An ankle injury prevented McKivitz from replacing Williams against the Broncos, who pounced after the All-Pro’s exit, but he was the team’s swing tackle throughout the summer. With Williams facing a four- to six-week recovery timetable, McKivitz may have the blindside gig for a bit. The 49ers let 2021 swing tackle Tom Compton sign with the Broncos, but McKivitz — who filled in for Williams in a do-or-die Week 18 tilt in Los Angeles — has been with the team since arriving as a 2020 firth-rounder.
  • The 49ers have made a few changes at the slot cornerback spot over the past several weeks. After Darqueze Dennard entered camp with the job, rookie Samuel Womack supplanted him and led to the 49ers releasing the veteran. Deommodore Lenoir has since replaced Womack, with Kyle Shanahan indicating the 2021 fifth-rounder played ahead of the 2022 fifth-rounder due to superior practice work recently, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Lenoir played 29% of San Francisco’s defensive snaps last season but likely does not have a firm grip on the job over Womack, who impressed during training camp, just yet.
  • Staying on the subject of 49ers corners, Shanahan expressed optimism Jason Verrett would practice this week. Verrett’s practice window opens ahead of Week 5, with the 49ers carrying the injury-prone vet on their reserve/PUP list. Should Verrett prove recovered from his September 2021 ACL tear, Barrows notes a starting job should not be ruled out. Verrett played well as a 49ers starter in 2020, showing form that enticed the team to re-sign him in 2021 and this year. Emmanuel Moseley‘s past in the slot could allow for a transition, forming a Verrett-Mosley-Charvarius Ward trio, if Verrett is healthy.
  • Sean McVay did not seem to expect Van Jefferson to miss a third of the season, but that will happen. The Rams placed Jefferson on IR ahead of their Week 3 game, but McVay is adamant the third-year wideout did not suffer a setback upon returning from arthroscopic knee surgery, Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com tweets. Jefferson’s IR move was more about roster construction, and The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue adds (via Twitter) the Rams expect their WR3 to be back when first eligible in Week 8 (following the team’s Week 7 bye).
  • Seahawks cornerback Tre Brown will not be ready to return when first eligible to come off the team’s PUP list. Pete Carroll confirmed the third-year corner remains a few weeks away, via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson (on Twitter). Brown missed last season’s first five games and was down for their final seven, with a Nov. 21 knee injury leading to the latter hiatus. Seattle’s cornerback room has changed considerably since Brown last played; it will be interesting to see what role the 2021 fourth-rounder will play upon returning.

Rams G David Edwards In Concussion Protocol

The Rams will be without starting left guard David Edwards for Monday’s matchup against the division-rival 49ers. As Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic reports, Edwards told head coach Sean McVay that he was feeling “foggy,” and he entered the concussion protocol on Saturday morning (Twitter link).

Given the situation surrounding Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, which prompted the league and union to amend the concussion protocols, the way in which NFL teams handle brain injuries will be even more scrutinized in the near-term. McVay, though, was clear that the Tagovailoa matter had no impact on Edwards’ treatment.

“[I]t was great for [Edwards] to be able to kind of communicate,” McVay said (via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com). “We took the right steps, especially, with the [Tagovailoa] situation that occurred on Thursday. But really just in general, regardless of whether or not that happened with [Tagovailoa], [it’s] something we take very serious and I appreciate him handling it the right way.”

Edwards, a 2019 fifth-rounder, spent more time at right guard than left in his rookie campaign, but he has settled in as the club’s starting LG over the past several seasons. He received above-average marks from Pro Football Focus in both the 2020 and 2021 campaigns, and a repeat performance in 2022, his platform year, could set him up for a multi-year extension from the Rams or a lucrative free agent contract in 2023.

This continues a disturbing trend along the Rams’ O-line. Starting center Brian Allen, who underwent a knee procedure following Los Angeles’ season-opening loss to the Bills, will also miss the San Francisco game — his third straight absence — while both Tremayne Anchrum and third-round rookie Logan Bruss are out for the season.

Per Rodrgiue, Bobby Evans will fill in at LG in Edwards’ stead (Twitter link). Evans was selected several rounds before Edwards in 2019, and while he started seven games in his first professional season, he has started only one contest since.

Teams Were Iffy On Allen Robinson In FA

  • Allen Robinson flashed often during Rams training camp, and determining this signing will fail after three games is ill-advised. But early indications are Robinson’s 2021 Bears performance was not an outlier. The veteran dropped a touchdown pass against the Cardinals and has just seven catches for 88 yards with Los Angeles. The Rams came in with a monster offer — three years, $46.5MM; $30MM fully guaranteed — to sign the former Jaguars and Bears wideout, using their cap space on the ninth-year player after Von Miller chose the Bills. Other teams were interested in Robinson, albeit at lower price points, but SI.com’s Albert Breer notes teams did not like what Robinson put on tape. That is not exactly surprising, considering how badly Robinson’s final Bears season (38 receptions, 410 yards, one touchdown) went. But the early returns on Robinson’s Rams deal are not promising. Rams-Odell Beckham Jr. connections will likely continue.

2022 NFL Cap Space, By Team

As we exit September, trade rumors will become a steady NFL topic. This year’s deadline falls on Nov. 1. That will return cap-space discussions to the forefront. Here is how every team stacks up financially going into October, via Over The Cap.

  1. Cleveland Browns: $35.94MM
  2. Philadelphia Eagles: $10.89MM
  3. Denver Broncos: $10.67MM
  4. Carolina Panthers: $10.47MM
  5. Las Vegas Raiders: $10.35MM
  6. Dallas Cowboys: $9.25MM
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers: $8.64MM
  8. Green Bay Packers: $8.57MM
  9. Indianapolis Colts: $7.97MM
  10. Atlanta Falcons: $7.92MM
  11. New York Jets: $6.97MM
  12. Chicago Bears: $6.84MM
  13. San Francisco 49ers: $6.75MM
  14. Miami Dolphins: $6.51MM
  15. Arizona Cardinals: $6.25MM
  16. Los Angeles Chargers: $5.83MM
  17. New York Giants: $5.49MM
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars: $5.41MM
  19. Los Angeles Rams: $5.38MM
  20. Baltimore Ravens: $4.51MM
  21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $3.87MM
  22. New England Patriots: $3.5MM
  23. Cincinnati Bengals: $3.16MM
  24. New Orleans Saints: $2.86MM
  25. Detroit Lions: $2.64MM
  26. Washington Commanders: $2.58MM
  27. Buffalo Bills: $2.44MM
  28. Tennessee Titans: $2.41MM
  29. Seattle Seahawks: $2.28MM
  30. Kansas City Chiefs: $2.12MM
  31. Houston Texans: $1.64MM
  32. Minnesota Vikings: $1.47MM

The Eagles’ number is certainly far closer to the Vikings’ last-place figure than what the Browns have stockpiled. Cleveland would stand to have room to augment its 2022 roster, via a patient free agent or a trade. That could depend on where Jacoby Brissett has the team stationed going into the Nov. 1 deadline. But the Browns also appear to be preparing for their Deshaun Watson future. Watson’s unprecedented contract spikes from a $9.4MM cap number (2022) to a record-shattering $54.99MM numbers from 2023-26. As that reality awaits, the Browns rolling over cap space to 2023 would be prudent.

With Sterling Shepard‘s ACL tear moving the veteran wide receiver to IR, the Giants will need to both cover that cost ($6.3MM) and add a contract to fill the roster spot. Every team will go through versions of that issue this season, as injuries pile up. The Giants are prepared to eat a significant chunk of Kenny Golladay‘s 2022 base salary ($13MM) to move him, eyeing an escape from his $4.5MM 2023 guarantee. No takers have emerged, though it will be interesting to see if a market for the former Pro Bowler forms once injuries affect more teams’ receiver situations.

Since their Jimmy Garoppolo restructure, the 49ers agreed to a two-year extension with Dre Greenlaw. The team is not expected to extend Nick Bosa until 2023, however. The Texans, Falcons, Bears and Eagles all sit north of $60MM in dead money, meaning more than a quarter of their respective cap space is tied to players no longer on the roster. Watson, Matt Ryan and Khalil Mack are responsible for massive dead-money hits on the Houston, Atlanta and Chicago payrolls. Philadelphia still has Alshon Jeffery, Malik Jackson and Brandon Brooks dead money on its cap sheet.

Rams WR Van Jefferson Placed On IR

The Rams are placing third-year wide receiver Van Jefferson on injured reserve as he continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery that’s kept him mostly on the sideline. The move has raised questions as outsiders become less-and-less clear on the true status of Jefferson. 

Jefferson had a breakout year during his sophomore season, starting every game while reeling in 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns after only amassing 220 yards in his rookie year. Jefferson was second in receiving yards and touchdowns for the Super Bowl LVI champions.

The receiving corps has looked quite different to begin this year without four of last year’s six receivers. DeSean Jackson was released midseason last year by request, Robert Woods was traded to the Titans for a sixth-round pick, and Odell Beckham Jr. remains a free agent after tearing his ACL in the NFL’s season finale. With those three gone, Cooper Kupp, Jefferson, and Ben Skowronek were the only returning receivers from last year. Luckily for the Rams, Kupp, last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, has been his usual self, averaging 118 receiving yards per game in the first two weeks of the season.

The frustration from those following Jefferson’s injury stems from continuous statements from head coach Sean McVay that Jefferson has been “week-to-week” since the start of the season. This has kept optimism alive that Jefferson could return any week or game. But waiting until Week 3 of the season to place Jefferson on IR ensures that he will miss the next five weeks (four games and a bye week), dousing any lingering threads of weekly optimism. If Los Angeles had any idea that Jefferson would be out long-term, it could’ve placed Jefferson on IR far earlier, allowing him to come back as soon as he’s ready, as opposed to now being without their No. 2 wide receiver until the end of October.

In Jefferson’s absence, Stafford has relied on Kupp, tight end Tyler Higbee, free agent addition Allen Robinson, and Skowronek as his top targets. They haven’t been utilized much, but Brandon Powell, Tutu Atwell, and undrafted rookie Lance McCutcheon have served as backup receivers so far this year.

To fill Jefferson’s spot on the active roster, cornerback Grant Haley has been signed to the active roster from the practice squad. The Rams brought back linebacker Keir Thomas to fill Haley’s spot on the practice squad. Wide receiver Jacob Harris has also been called to action as a standard gameday elevation from the practice squad. Harris missed the back half of his rookie season last year after suffering ACL and MCL injuries and made the shift from tight end to receiver.

Rams Sign RB Malcolm Brown To Practice Squad

The Rams have added a familiar face to their practice squad. The team announced that they’ve signed running back Malcolm Brown to the taxi squad.

A former undrafted free agent out of Texas, Brown spent the first six seasons of his career with the Rams. He mostly served as Todd Gurley‘s backup during much of his time with the organization, but he did see a larger role on offense in 2020, finishing with a career-high 581 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns on 124 touches.

He inked a one-year deal with the Dolphins last offseason, collecting 125 rushing yards in seven games (three starts). He landed on injured reserve in October and didn’t see the field again in 2021. He joined the Saints earlier this offseason but was cut by the team in early August.

The Rams have barely gotten any production out of Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, and the team currently has the second-fewest rushing yards in the NFL with 117. Brown will provide the organization with another veteran option if their current duo continues to struggle, although 2021 seventh-round pick Jake Funk will likely continue to stick around the roster for the time being. The organization also has rookie Ronnie Rivers on the practice squad, and the Rams moved on from running back Trey Ragas earlier today.