Evans had been called up from the practice squad three times by the Cowboys, meaning he needed to be added to the 53-man roster this week to continue suiting up. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports “several teams” attempted to poach the veteran off the taxi squad, but his decision to remain with Dallas has culminated in today’s move. Evans has logged 74 combined defensive and special teams snaps with the Cowboys so far, recording three tackles.
James was out of the lineup for one game after being designated for return, but he will be eligible to suit up for the upcoming Super Bowl rematch against the Eagles. Mentioned as a trade candidate earlier this year, he will be able to add depth to a WR corps which has underperformed to date, and add to his single catch recorded in his two Kansas City games at the start of the campaign.
The Cowboys are Davis’ third team this year. Going to camp with the Patriots, Davis did not make the team. The veteran nose tackle had seen action with New England over the past three seasons. The Seahawks added Davis, 31, to their practice squad in September but released him five weeks later. The former Ravens starter and Colts, Browns and Jaguars contributor has 19 career starts. Davis played 216 defensive snaps last season.
NOVEMBER 16: Stafford returned to practice in full on Wednesday, and he said (via Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic) he expects to do the same during the rest of the week. The veteran added he originally thought his thumb injury was worse than it was, but a strong next few days will pave the way for his return. That will be a welcomed development for a Rams team looking to improve on its 3-6 start.
NOVEMBER 13: Matthew Stafford is expected to be back under center for the Rams in Week 11. Coach Sean McVay told reporters that his starting QB should be good to go for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks (via ESPN’s Sarah Barshop).
“He’s making great progress, and so we’re operating with the anticipation and expectation that he is going to be good to go,” McVay said. “He’ll be pushing through, but we expect him to be able to start and play and do his thing and lead the way this week.”
Stafford injured the UCL in his thumb back in Week 8. The Rams went with Brett Rypien in Week 9, and the organization ended up moving on from the backup following that loss to the Packers. Barring an unexpected setback, newly-signed Carson Wentz will be the Rams QB2 moving forward. McVay spoke on the Rams’ QB switch, noting that the front office viewed the move as a clear upgrade.
“[We] feel good about Matthew returning, and obviously when he’s out there, you feel great about the leadership and everything that he provides, but god forbid if something were to happen where he weren’t available, felt like this would offer an opportunity for somebody that’s played a lot of high level football to get him in here [and] get him kind of familiar with some of the things that we’re doing,” McVay said.
Thanks to the Rams’ Week 10 bye, Stafford has had two weeks to recover from his thumb injury. While the veteran’s completion percentage and TD percentage are among the lowest of his career, the Rams offense will surely welcome back their starter.
Following a spree of illegal hits, Kareem Jackson was hit with a four-game ban back in October. That suspension ended up getting knocked down to two games, and following that absence, the defensive back has returned to the active roster. While Justin Simmons has long resided as the Broncos’ top safety, Pro Football Focus has graded Jackson as a top-20 player at the position this season.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai suffered a back injury that will require a stint on injured reserve, although there’s a chance the veteran lineman ends up having to miss the rest of the season. After starting all 25 of his appearances for the Lions between 2020 and 2021, Vaitai has started three of his six games in 2022.
Hunter Long was a third-round pick by the Dolphins in 2021 but only lasted two seasons in Miami, hauling in a single eight-yard catch. He was part of the Rams’ offseason trade return for Jalen Ramsey but hasn’t appeared in a game this season. The tight end landed on IR in early September with a thigh injury.
Brown suffered a knee injury in early October that ultimately required a stint on IR. The defensive lineman was expected to be sidelined for five to seven weeks, so Brown is currently in the middle of that recovery timeline.
The Rams will now have 21 days to activate Brown to the active roster. There’s no guarantee that the player will be in the lineup for Week 11, but Sean McVay didn’t completely dismiss the DL’s availability for Sunday.
“He looked good,” the coach said (via the team’s website). “It was good to get him back. He was another guy who we’ve missed.”
After starting only one of his 19 appearances through his first two seasons in the NFL, the former fourth-round pick had a more significant role to start the 2023 campaign. Brown started each of his five appearances this season, compiling 13 tackles while getting into about 40 percent of his team’s defensive snaps.
Kobie Turner will continue to soak up a lot of the snaps at nose tackle next to DT Aaron Donald. Brown will be able to fill in for both of those starters, a role that practice-squad defensive lineman Cory Durden has held since Week 6.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is 35 years old, has a Super Bowl ring, and has earned over $320MM from his playing career. He is also in the midst of his second consecutive subpar season and is currently dealing with a UCL sprain after having suffered through elbow troubles and a spinal contusion in 2022. Add it all up, and it stands to reason that there would be some retirement speculation surrounding the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, just as there was around this time last year.
Stafford, however, is having none of it. On a recent episode of The Pat McAfee Show, the Georgia product made it clear that he is still not contemplating retirement (video link).
“I love playing this game, I love competing,” Stafford said (h/t Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk). “I love being in the locker room. I’ll never get that again, so I get as many opportunities to do that as I can. I love this team, I love the city, it’s been a blast. Obviously had a lot of success in our first year and trying to duplicate that this year, next year, whenever it is. I enjoy playing too much to hang it up.”
Stafford did concede, when asked if he plans to keep playing “until the wheels fall off,” that his wheels are “wobbling a little bit right now as we speak,” and that he will likely not play “until the wheels completely fall off.” Nonetheless, it seems certain that he will return in 2024.
From a purely financial perspective, there is no reason for Stafford not to suit up next season. On the third day of the 2023 league year in March, the Rams picked up the veteran passer’s 2023 option bonus and his 2024 salary, and he is therefore due a fully-guaranteed $31MM next season. Los Angeles may or may not have attempted to trade Stafford prior to incurring those costs, but after a mediocre and injury-marred 2022, it was never likely that another team would subject itself to the same financial burden by acquiring Stafford. And unless Stafford dramatically improves on his 2023 performance to date — in eight games this season, he has completed less than 60% of his passes for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions — GM Les Snead should not expect to receive any trade inquiries when the 2024 league year begins.
As such, the Rams and Stafford appear to be heading for at least one more year together (he is under club control through 2026). But since Stafford’s 2024 cap hit checks in at a whopping $49.5MM, Snead may at least approach his signal-caller about some sort of restructure, or even a pay cut.
In related news, the Rams did reach out to newly-acquired QB2 Carson Wentz earlier this season, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes in a subscribers-only piece. However, Los Angeles did not circle back to Wentz until after the since-waivedBrett Rypien disappointed in the club’s Week 9 loss to the Packers on Sunday, and Fowler reports that the Rams’ contract offer represented the first “tangible opportunity” Wentz received since he was released by Washington in February. Wentz may therefore be in for another lengthy stay on the free agent market in 2024, though it is conceivable that he impresses the Rams’ staff enough to return as Stafford’s backup next season.
After a 2022 rule change, teams can activate up to eight players from injured reserve. That has reintroduced some strategy into how franchises proceed with their activations, and teams will again need to be cognizant of their activation counts in 2023.
The NFL had reintroduced IR-return options in the 2010s, after a period in which an IR move meant a player’s season was over. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the league to loosen restrictions on IR from 2020-21. Teams were permitted to use unlimited activations to start the decade, but roster math is again a consideration.
Players who land on IR after cutdown day must miss at least four games. Once a team designates a player for return, the activation clock starts. Clubs have 21 days from a player’s return-to-practice date to activate that player. If no activation commences in that window, the player reverts to season-ending IR.
Here is how the NFL’s IR situations look for Week 14:
Yesterday’s Panthers-Bears game carried signficant draft implications, as many noted in the build-up to the primetime matchup. With Carolina having dealt its 2024 first-round pick to Chicago as part of the deal involving last year’s No. 1 selection, the Bears were able to boost their chances of picking first in April with a win.
Owning the top selection in a draft touted for having multiple high-end options at the quarterback spot would of course add further to the speculation surrounding Justin Fields. The Bears gave the 24-year-old a vote of confidence last spring by trading out of the No. 1 slot, but he has yet to develop as hoped this season. Chicago could opt for a fresh start under center (particularly if they declined Fields’ fifth-year option) this spring while also having the opportunity to add help elsewhere on the roster with their own first-rounder, which seems destined to fall within the top 10 or perhaps even top five selections.
Of course, teams like the Giants, Cardinals and Patriots have experienced signficant troubles of their own this year. A continuation of their first half performances could leave them in pole position for the Caleb Williams–Drake Mayesweepstakes. All three teams face potential uncertainty with respect to their current passers’ futures, despite each having term remaining on their respective contracts.
For non-playoff teams, the draft order will be determined by the inverted 2024 standings — plus a series of tiebreakers, starting with strength of schedule — with playoff squads being slotted by their postseason outcome and regular-season record. With plenty still to be sorted out over the coming months, here is an early look at the current draft order:
NOVEMBER 9: Wentz will receive a $150K signing bonus as part of the deal, along with a prorated portion of the veteran’s minimum, per ESPN’s Field Yates. The veteran will therefore earn $733K over the course of the next few months in his new home. QB2 duties await Wentz when Stafford is healthy, but any playing opportunities afforded to him will give the former a chance to earn a free agent deal much sooner in 2024 than this 2023 contract.
NOVEMBER 7: After struggling without Matthew Stafford in Week 9, the Rams will make a big move at quarterback. They have agreed to terms with Carson Wentz, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson reports, ending a lengthy free agency stay for the former No. 2 overall pick by placing him on their practice squad.
While Wentz has not been closely connected to a team since his Commanders release, the longtime Eagles starter was mentioned as an option for a few after injuries struck. With Stafford loosely on track to return after a thumb injury sidelined him in Week 9, it will be the Rams who make the move. The Rams will release QB Dresser Winn from their practice squad in a corresponding move.
The Rams attempted to reacquire John Wolford last week, but the Buccaneers promoted him to their 53-man roster to nix that effort. Brett Rypien, who signed with the team after the draft, started in place of Stafford and struggled in Green Bay. It is uncertain if Wentz will be viewed as ready to replace Stafford if needed in Week 11, but he would have a longer onramp compared to Baker Mayfield. The Rams have experience in readying a QB to make an immediate cameo, turning to Mayfield two days after claiming him. Los Angeles’ bye also arrives in Week 10, giving Wentz some time to begin learning Sean McVay‘s offense.
McVay said he expects Stafford to be ready following the Rams’ bye week, but the team has higher-profile insurance in Wentz. Stafford, 35, has seen his run of durability halt in L.A. After a nagging elbow injury affected his 2022 offseason, the Super Bowl-winning QB missed a chunk of last season due to a spinal contusion. Stafford made the first eight starts for the Rams this season; the thumb issue intervened to provide another pause for the 15th-year passer.
Wentz and the Rams had been working on a deal Monday night, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue. This will be Wentz’s fourth team (and fourth in four seasons). After the one-time MVP frontrunner’s 2021 Eagles split, the Colts dumped him in March 2022. Requiring higher-end trade compensation to move to both Indianapolis and Washington, Wentz was simply released this year. The 30-year-old passer trained for months with an eye on a 2023 re-emergence and reached out to the Jets about an opportunity following Aaron Rodgers‘ Week 1 Achilles tear. Gang Green stuck with Zach Wilson, and Wentz ended up waiting until midseason to reenter the league.
It is safe to say Wentz’s stock has tanked since it once required a first-round pick to acquire him in 2021. Jim Irsay insisted the Colts trade Wentz following the 2021 season — a 27-touchdown, seven-interception slate that ended ignominiously, with the unvaccinated QB missing practice time due to a COVID-19 contraction and the Colts losing their final two games to squander a playoff opportunity — and the Commanders benched a player they surrendered two third-rounders for midway through last season. Wentz suffered a fractured finger in October 2022, but after Taylor Heinicke helped the Commanders resurface in the wild-card race, Ron Riverakept Wentz on the bench. Washington gave Wentz a start in Week 17; he threw three interceptions to dash any Commanders hopes of a last-ditch playoff rally.
The Rams did not make a notable attempt to keep Mayfield, letting him sign with the Bucs on a one-year, $4MM deal. They moved to Rypien, whose backup role became solidified after fifth-round pick Stetson Bennett landed on the reserve/NFI list in September. The two-time national champion remains on L.A.’s NFI list. While Rypien remains on the team’s 53-man roster — after the Jets showed interest in poaching him earlier this season — Wentz will move into position to become Stafford’s backup.
While Wentz has his share of critics, he obviously has enjoyed periods of NFL success. He was all but certain to claim MVP honors in 2017, but a December ACL tear scuttled that path. Nick Foles both replaced Wentz and piloted the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title, from the No. 1 seed Wentz led the Eagles to clinch, and then ignited Philadelphia’s 2018 squad after the starter sustained another season-ending injury. Wentz did lead a receiver-thin Eagles team to the playoffs in 2019, but he struggled in 2020, leading he and Doug Pederson out the door. Last season, Wentz threw 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt. He went 2-5 as a Commanders starter.
The Rams had the opportunity to draft Wentz seven years ago, but their trade-up maneuver — which occurred before the Eagles’ climb — was for Jared Goff. Wentz’s 2019 Eagles extension also framed the Rams’ ensuing Goff re-up. The Rams have Stafford tied to a four-year, $160MM extension that runs through 2026. The team is believed to have dangled the veteran starter in trades, though scant interest emerged after an injury-plagued 2022. Wentz will at least represent better depth for the Rams, who enter their bye week at 3-6.
Price finds his way to injured reserve with an undisclosed injury in order to make room for quarterback Kyler Murray, who was activated from IR this afternoon. Price spent time on IR last year with a knee injury before missing the first five games of this season, as well.