Marcus Cannon

Patriots Notes: Hightower, Chung, Cannon

The Patriots had eight players opt out of the 2020 campaign, the most in the NFL. The organization will naturally welcome back a handful of these players, but Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes that others may have already played their final game in a Patriots uniform.

For keepers, Dont’a Hightower seems like a guarantee to come back. Besides the two-time Pro Bowler’s on-field production, the Patriots would save only $9.95MM by releasing the 30-year-old; the organization wouldn’t be able to sign a player of Hightower’s caliber with that kind of money. It’s a similar sentiment for safety Patrick Chung. The team would only save $1MM by cutting the veteran, and Chung could still have a role on defense alongside the likes of Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips.

As for lesser names, Howe opines that running back/special teams ace Brandon Bolden will likely be back in 2021. The team would save $1.5MM by cutting the 31-year-old, but the organization clearly values his special teams ability. Elsewhere, fullback Danny Vitale ($1.2MM savings) will compete with Jakob Johnson for the starting gig, while tight end Matt LaCosse ($1.3MM) will compete for the third tight end spot. Both of those players’ roster spots are dependent on the camp competition.

One name that could be on his way out of New England is Marcus Cannon. The team could save $7MM by cutting the veteran, who already showed signs of decline in 2018 and 2019. The organization also appears to have their long-term answer at right tackle in Michael Onwenu. On the flip side, Onwenu could also be an option at left guard, which could carve a path to a roster spot for Cannon. Either way, Howe believes the Patriots will ask Cannon to take a pay cut.

Two other names that are probably long shots to stick around: wideout Marqise Lee ($687K savings) and offensive lineman Najee Toran ($780K). Howe says Lee could stick around as a reclamation project, but the reporter is confident Toran probably won’t make the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Saleh, Darnold, Patriots, Bills

Robert Saleh signed his contract with the Jets today, making him the 20th head coach in franchise history. While speaking to the media, the former 49ers defensive coordinator indicated that he’d be looking for specific types of players as he helps general manager Joe Douglas fill out the roster.

“There are no shortcuts to success, and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all,” Saleh said (via the team website).

Douglas, who led the coaching search alongside included team president Hymie Elhai, noted that Saleh believes in many of the same principals that the executive brought with him from Philadelphia when he joined the Jets in 2019.

“We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us,” Douglas said. “His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.”

The 41-year-old Saleh was an early favorite for the job based on the strength of his SF defense. In 2020, the Niners finished fifth in total yards, seventh in rushing yards, and fourth in passing yards allowed. In 2019, Saleh’s D surrendered just 169.2 passing yards per contest — the lowest average since Rex Ryan‘s 2009 Jets D.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC East…

  • Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have spent time evaluating Sam Darnold‘s tape, and the coaches believe the Jets quarterback has “untapped potential,” per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The former third-overall pick had a rough season in 2020, leading some to wonder whether the new staff would prefer to take a quarterback with the second-overall pick.
  • The eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season were asked to return for year-end physicals last week, writes ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Wideout Marqise Lee and running back Brandon Bolden have both said they plan to play in 2021, and Reiss opines that safety Patrick Chung, tight end Matt LaCosse, and fullback Danny Vitale will also return. However, the writer is much less certain that offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be back in New England.
  • While Dave Ziegler was always an underdog in the Broncos GM search, he parlayed that experience into a “multiyear contract and pay bump as Nick Caserio‘s successor” in New England, writes Reiss. The Patriots assistant director of player personnel eventually withdrew his name from the search in Denver, and Reiss writes that this is a “reflection of the decisiveness that has earned him a measure of respect in the Patriots’ offices over the past eight year.”
  • Bills running back Zack Moss underwent minor surgery on his ankle this morning, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 23-year-old is expected to make a full recovery from the “tight rope procedure,” and he should be ready to go for offseason workouts. The third-rounder finished his rookie campaign having compiled 576 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

2020 NFL Opt Out Tracker

Per an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, players with COVID-19 health concerns can opt out of the 2020 season. Initially, the deadline was believed to be Tuesday, August 4. Talks between the league and the union have pushed it to August 6.

Chiefs guard and medical school graduate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was the first player to officially opt out. Scores of players followed.

Here’s the rundown, so far:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • T Brad Seaton

Tennessee Titans

  • OL Anthony McKinney

Washington Football Team

Free agents

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower To Opt Out Of 2020 Season

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower will opt out of the 2020 season, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Hightower wrestled with the decision, but ultimately decided to skip the season in order to protect his 2-week-old son. 

Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family,” Hightower explained.

With that, Hightower becomes the fifth Patriots player to opt out. Running back Brandon Bolden, right tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale, and guard Najee Toran have also decided against playing. Hightower is the highest profile player of the Pats bunch, and one of the more notable players league-wide to opt out.

Hightower was slated to make $8MM in base salary before reaching free agency in March. Now, his contract will toll, with that final year being moved to 2021. With Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Elandon Roberts out of the picture, the Patriots were counting on Hightower to hold down the fort at linebacker. There aren’t a ton of impact off-ball linebackers left on the open market, so the Patriots will likely have to work with what they have on hand.

Hightower, 30, has been a staple in the Patriots’ starting lineup since entering the league in 2012. Injuries aside – including a mostly lost 2017 – he’s served as the club’s locker room leader and the point guard of the defense. Last year, Hightower earned his second Pro Bowl trip and even managed 5.5 sacks from the middle.

Hightower’s opt-out falls under the “voluntary” label, meaning that he’s entitled to a $150K salary advance (likely negated by his 2020 earnings to date). Cannon, meanwhile, is “higher risk,” which means he’ll get a $350K stipend (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Cannon had two years to go on his current deal with a total of $9.5MM in base pay. His contract will also toll, with his 2020 season being bumped up to 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Rosen, Patriots

The Dolphins might be receiving some interest in Josh Rosen, but they’re probably not in a rush to trade him, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. Rosen is slated to count for just $2.17MM against the cap and GM Chris Grier would be admitting defeat by trading the former first-round pick for substantially less than he gave up for him. In 2019, the Dolphins shipped a second-round pick plus a fifth-round choice to the Cardinals for Rosen. Right now, there’s no way they’d get anything close to a Round 2 selection in return.

Instead, Salguero expects the Dolphins to wait things out and see if his value improves with time. A QB injury elsewhere coupled with a solid preseason from the former No. 10 overall pick could get the job done. In the meantime, the Dolphins will focus on Tua Tagovailoa – their latest quarterback of the future – and proven veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • In his final season under contract with the DolphinsRaekwon McMillan is expected to be used mostly on run downs, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. That’s not an ideal platform for the linebacker, who has had limited opportunities to show his stuff. As a second-round pick in 2017, McMillan was set to start before a preseason ACL injury robbed him of his first pro season. In 2018, he started in every game and saw 831 snaps, but in 2019 he saw just 515 snaps and missed a chunk of the year. Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy are likely to be the Dolphins’ two leading LBs, ahead of McMillan.
  • The Patriots‘ offensive line seems more or less set, but Jeff Howe of The Athletic wonders if Marcus Cannon‘s recent change in representation is a sign that the club has approached him about reworking his contract. The right tackle took a step back in 2019 and he’s set to count for $9.6MM in 2020. If the Patriots want Cannon to take a pay cut that isn’t suitable for the veteran, a summer shakeup could be on the way.
  • New Jets quarterback Joe Flacco has been cleared to throw, but he won’t be ready for Week 1 against the Bills.

Patriots OT Marcus Cannon Is Not Retiring

In an unexpected turn of events this Sunday afternoon, rumors began swirling on social media that Patriots starting right tackle Marcus Cannon decided to retire. However, it turned out to be just another internet myth. Doug Kyed of NESN reports that the Twitter rumors are indeed false and Cannon is not retiring.

The Patriots selected Cannon in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Since, he has emerged as one of the biggest steals from that draft. He served as the team’s swing tackle until 2015 and then became a permanent starter along the team’s offensive line. Given the uncertainty surrounding the New England organization this offseason as Tom Brady enters free agency, the Pats are surely taking a sigh of relief that they will not need to be looking to fill a hole along the offensive line.

It’s also worth noting that New England’s current starting guard Joe Thuney is set for unrestricted free agency, so they were already trying to fill one spot up front. Brady, the franchise cornerstone, has been clear that if he returns to New England this offseason, he wants to see clear upgrades throughout their roster and losing Cannon, would have made that much more difficult.

While the reports were proven false, the incident reiterated one strange new phenomenon in the league. Cannon is only 31-years old, but that no longer seems too old for a player to call it quits. The NFL has seen a number of players retire at younger and younger ages over the past decade as they react to recent research on the long-term health risks of playing football. At least for now though, Cannon-who is set to make roughly $7MM over the next two seasons, will continue his playing career.

AFC East Notes: Bell, Bills, Cannon, Dolphins

At last, a piece of good news for the Jets. It appears Le’Veon Bell‘s MRI came back clean, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweeting the exam showed no tears or notable damage in Bell’s injured shoulder. Bell played every Jets offensive snap Sunday, and Jets doctors felt the veteran running back would need more than just a couple days’ rest to surmount this shoulder setback. But this MRI looks to be a good sign for his availability Monday night against the Browns. Should Bell play, he will be taking handoffs from Trevor Siemian. Sam Darnold is out with mono.

Let’s look at the latest from the other AFC East teams:

  • Marcus Cannon left Sunday night’s Patriots win because of a shoulder injury and may miss time. New England’s starting right tackle underwent tests this week, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, who adds this injury is not believed to be a long-term setback. Cannon is practicing on a limited basis. Guard Joe Thuney moved to right tackle against the Steelers, but Reiss adds swing tackle Korey Cunningham may draw that assignment against the Dolphins (Twitter links). Cunningham was inactive in Week 1. The Pats just signed Marshall Newhouse as well, pointing to a possible Cannon absence in Miami.
  • Teams have been monitoring the Dolphins‘ situation regarding trades, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes GMs have been calling Chris Grier about potential deals. The Dolphins have traded Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Ryan Tannehill and Robert Quinn this year. However, there is not much left in terms of trade assets on the roster, at least among players the Dolphins would be willing to deal.
  • Bills linebacker Tyrel Dodson drew a six-game suspension Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Dodson, a rookie UDFA who has resided on the commissioner’s exempt list, was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in May.

Patriots OT Marcus Cannon Restructures Contract

Patriots offensive tackle Marcus Cannon has agreed to a restructured contract, as originally reported by Michael Silver of NFL.com.

Cannon, who is signed through 2021, had been scheduled to collect a $5.5MM salary and up to $500K in per-game roster bonuses in 2019. Instead, he’ll now earn a $1MM base salary, a $3.5MM signing bonus, and up to $1.5MM in per-game roster bonuses, tweets Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Per Silver, New England also added incentives to Cannon’s deal that could raise its remaining value to more than $24MM.

Because Cannon’s new $3.5MM signing bonus will be prorated through the rest of his contract, the right tackle’s 2019 cap charge will decrease from $7.456MM to $4.935MM, a savings of roughly $2.5MM. Cannon can still make $6MM for the 2019 campaign, but he’ll need to be active for all 16 regular season games in order to do so (as a result of his new per-game roster bonus figure).

Cannon, 31, became a full-time starter for the Patriots in 2016 and inked a five-year, $32.5MM extension that fall. He’s been a high-quality right tackle ever since, although injuries have forced him to miss 12 games over the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Patriots, Colts, Lions, Redskins

The final injury reports for Week 7 came out earlier today, and there was a lot of news. Lots of key players will be missing their team’s games, while others will be returning after extended absence. One notable rule-out was the Patriots declaring that starting right tackle Marcus Cannon would miss their game against the Bears. It’s a big loss for New England, especially in a week where they have to go up against Khalil Mack. Mack will now be lining up across from a backup tackle, and could end up making life miserable for Tom Brady.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • The Colts have been the most injured team in recent memory the past few weeks, but are finally getting some good news. Star receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, but is ready to make his return this week. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, they’ll still be without tight end Jack Doyle and receiver Ryan Grant as well as several key contributors on defense like safety Clayton Geathers and defensive tackle Denico Autry.
  • The Lions will be without running back Theo Riddick, who went down during the team’s win over the Packers. Riddick has been operating as the Lions’ third down back, and rookie Kerryon Johnson should get more run with him out of the way. On the bright side, the team looks like it could be getting back pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah, who hasn’t played since Detroit’s Week 1 loss. Ansah is listed as questionable but practiced all three days this week.
  • The Redskins will be thin on pass-catchers, as Jamison Crowder has been ruled out for the team’s game against the Cowboys while Paul Richardson is listed as doubtful. Washington promoted Jehu Chesson from the practice squad yesterday, signaling they weren’t expecting Richardson to play. Tight end Jordan Reed should see a ton of looks as the Redskins’ receiving corp is completely depleted.

For a rundown of every team’s injury situation, you can view all 32 injury reports over at ProFootballTalk.com.

AFC East Rumors: Patriots, McMillan, Bills

A calf injury forced Marcus Cannon to miss the Patriots‘ preseason slate and resurfaced in New England’s Week 1 win over Houston. But the Pats’ right tackle starter looks on track to return on Sunday night. Cannon made progress this week, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (subscription required), and the Patriots announced he did make the trip to Detroit on Saturday. LaAdrian Waddle started for Cannon against the Jaguars. Cannon was signed to an extension to be the Patriots’ long-term right tackle, but he played in only seven games last season. It looks like he’ll have a chance to establish some consistency beginning in Week 3.

Here’s more out of New England and other AFC East locales:

  • Although Brandon Beane serves as the Bills‘ GM, it’s Sean McDermott who establishes the franchise’s tone “from top to bottom,” Tim Graham of The Athletic writes in an expansive piece about how the Bills’ rebuild is going thus far. The offseason mistakes Beane made in adding Vontae Davis, Jeremy Kerley, Corey Coleman and Russell Bodine may increase McDermott’s voice within the organization, Graham adds.
  • It will be a stretch for Trey Flowers to play this week. Howe notes Bill Belichick hasn’t deployed a player who’s missed an entire week of practice in at least 10 years. The Patriots’ top pass rusher was sidelined all week because of a concussion. Patrick Chung is in the same boat. Of course, the concussion protocol being in place means it’s not up to Belichick whether or not Chung and Flowers can suit up Sunday. Both are listed as doubtful to face the Lions. A Flowers absence could free up a spot for 2017 third-rounder Derek Rivers, who has yet to play in a regular-season game.
  • The Dolphins‘ intentions for Raekwon McMillan — set to be their starting middle linebacker in 2017 prior to a season-nullifying injury — was not to play him in their nickel package, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. However, McMillan is now being used as a three-down player this year. Pro Football Focus has graded McMillan as one of its worst coverage ‘backers through two games, and Salguero adds Jerome Baker was brought in this year via third-round pick to help in coverage. While McMillan remains a part of Miami’s nickel set, Baker is pushing for a role there, per Salguero, as passing-down backs like James White, Giovani Bernard and Tarik Cohen loom on the Fins’ first-half schedule.
  • On the subject of nickel work, the Patriots‘ bringing back Cyrus Jones for a possible nickel role, Howe adds. Although the former Pats second-round pick was re-signed to serve as the punt returner, he worked as a safety and was given a chance to play in the slot during practice this week. Third-year Patriot Jonathan Jones currently serves as New England’s slot man. He’s graded well through two games, per PFF, which slots him as the NFL’s No. 21 corner thus far. Jonathan Jones, though, was in coverage during Dede Westbrook‘s back-breaking touchdown last week.