Marqise Lee

49ers Cut Marqise Lee

Well, that was fast. On Friday, the 49ers released wide receiver Marqise Lee. In a related move, they’ve signed fellow wideout Bennie Fowler to take his place on the roster. 

The one-time Jaguars notable signed with the Niners on May 17. A few short days later, he finds himself looking for work once again. Lee made a decent impression on coaches during the 49ers’ rookie minicamp practices and was hoping to stick. It appeared to be a good landing spot for him, especially since he grew up in California and played his college ball at USC.

Between 2016 and 2017, Lee averaged about 60 receptions and 776 receiving yards. He went on to land a four-year, $38MM extension from Jacksonville, but that deal was cut short. Between knee injuries and the COVID opt-out, he’s seen just six games since the end of ’17.

Fowler, meanwhile, has spent the last two years with the Giants. He wasn’t on the field much in 2020, snagging just two receptions before a season-ending shoulder injury.

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49ers To Sign Marqise Lee

The 49ers are set to sign former Jags and Pats receiver Marqise Lee (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Barring any snags, the deal should become official before the end of the business day. 

Lee joined the 49ers’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis over the weekend and quickly earned a contract. It’s a California homecoming for the Long Beach native who made his national mark at USC. His standout career with the Trojans led to him being selected No. 39 overall by the Jaguars in 2014, but he struggled to live up to his draft stock early on.

The wideout compiled only 660 yards from scrimmage and two scores through his first two seasons in the NFL. Then, he managed to carve out a larger role in the offense in 2016 and 2017. During those two years, Lee averaged 59.5 receptions and 776 receiving yards with only three touchdowns per year. Lee went on to land a four-year, $38MM extension from Jacksonville, but he was cut last year after missing most of 2019 with a knee injury.

Lee, 30 in November, caught with the Patriots, but opted out of the 2020 season. New England gave the receiver his walking papers back in March. Now, he’s got a chance to stick behind Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Mohamed Sanu.

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WR Marqise Lee Joining 49ers On Tryout Basis

Marqise Lee is (at least temporarily) heading back to the west coast. Matt Barrows of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that the veteran receiver is participating in 49ers minicamp on a tryout basis.

Lee grew up in Long Beach, went to high school in Gardena, and then burst onto the national stage as a member of the USC Trojans. His standout collegiate career ultimately led to him being selected by the Jaguars in the second round (No. 39) of the 2014 draft, but he struggled to live up to his draft stock during his time in Jacksonville.

The wideout compiled only 660 yards from scrimmage and two scores through his first two seasons in the NFL, although he did manage to carve out a larger role in the offense in 2016 and 2017. During those two years, Lee averaged 59.5 receptions and 776 receiving yards with only three touchdowns per year.

Lee still managed to secure a four-year, $38MM extension from the Jaguars, but after sitting out most of the 2019 campaign thanks to a knee injury, he was released by the team last offseason. The 29-year-old ended up catching on with the Patriots, but he decided to opt out of the 2020 campaign. New England gave the receiver his walking papers back in March.

The 49ers have dedicated some draft capital to wideouts over the past few years, and recent draft picks like Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel are expected to lead the depth chart. Free agent addition Mohamed Sanu will likely slide in as the third receiver, but Lee could have a chance to compete with the likes of Richie James, Trent Sherfield, and Jalen Hurd for leftover snaps.

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Patriots Cut Marqise Lee, Beau Allen

The Patriots’ spending spree has pushed a handful of veterans out the door. Wide receiver Marqise Lee and defensive tackle Beau Allen have been released, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

[RELATED: Patriots’ Patrick Chung Retires]

Neither Allen nor Lee saw a regular season snap in New England. Lee signed with the Patriots in April on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum. The 29-year-old (30 in November) was expected to support a wide receiver group led by Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry. Between the opt-out and injuries, he’s a long way removed from his best work in 2016-17, when he totaled 1,551 receiving yards for the Jaguars. Instead of bringing him back, the Patriots will release him to save less than $800K.

Allen, 29, was supposed to replace Danny Shelton after he went to Detroit. Unfortunately, an undisclosed injury kept him on the shelf all year.

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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.

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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

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Patriots’ Marqise Lee To Opt Out

Patriots wide receiver Marqise Lee will opt out of the 2020 season, according to Jim McBride of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). Lee is now the seventh Pats player to make this decision, leaving lots of holes to fill in New England. 

[RELATED: 2020 NFL Opt Out Tracker]

We just feel like it wasn’t smart for us to go out and play this year,” said Lee, who became a first-time father earlier this year.

Lee joined the Patriots in April on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum. The 28-year-old (29 in November) was expected to support a wide receiver group led by Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry. It was a low-risk and potentially high-reward pickup for the Patriots. Lee totaled 1,551 receiving yards between 2016-17 as the Jaguars’ top receiver. He parlayed that performance into a four-year, $38MM deal, but he was derailed by a knee injury in 2018, plus ankle and shoulder trouble last year.

The April signing of Lee allowed the Patriots to focus on other positions in the draft. They went defense with their first three picks before snagging two tight ends (Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene) in the third round. They didn’t use any of their choices on wide receiver, and that’s good news for their incumbents. Damiere Byrd, special teams ace Matthew Slater, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, and Quincy Adeboyejo are among those jostling for roster spots and WR snaps.

Here’s the full rundown of the Patriots’ opt out list, via PFR’s tracker:

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Patriots Notes: Stidham, McDaniels, Winovich

Jarrett Stidham will likely be taking over for Tom Brady next season, and his former college coach is optimistic that the 2019 fourth-rounder will be successful.

“It definitely helped him to learn under the best and see what that looks like, but he’s the kind of young man, too, this is what he’s been waiting on,” Auburn’s Gus Malzahn told ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “I’ll tell you, the moment won’t be too big for him. He’ll be up to the challenge, that’s what I expect.

“Even when he got here, before he played his first game, you could just kind of tell he was a mature young man. Like a gym rat, always at the complex trying to learn, study film. When he got drafted by the Patriots [in 2019], I thought it was a perfect spot for him system-wise — spreading the field. He’s so good with protections, changing protections, and scheme-wise everything that goes with it, and just the flexibility the scheme gives him. I think that really applies to his strength.”

Stidham played a pair of seasons at Auburn, including a 2017 campaign where he connected on 66.5-percent of his passes for 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Here are some more notes out of New England:

  • We’ve heard this plenty of times, but Joseph Person of The Athletic reiterates that Cam Newton won’t be landing with the Patriots. In fact, the reporter notes that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wasn’t “necessarily high” on Newton when he interviewed for the Panthers’ head coaching gig.
  • Speaking of McDaniels, SI.com’s Albert Breer writes that a successful 2020 campaign (particularly from Stidham) could go a long way in the OC getting more head coaching interviews next offseason. If McDaniels does leave New England, Breer hints that he may take Patriots pro director Dave Ziegler with him; McDaniels planned to recruit the executive when he was interviewing with Cleveland.
  • Patriots defensive end Chase Winovich is recovering from hernia surgery, reports Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe. The 25-year-old underwent the procedure back in February. The 2019 third-rounder had a solid rookie season for New England, compiling 26 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
  • Marqise Lee‘s new one-year deal with the Patriots is worth the veteran minimum, reports Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). The deal could be worth up to $1.0475MM, and it includes $300K in guaranteed money. If Lee makes the team, he’ll have a cap hold of $887.5K.

Patriots To Sign Marqise Lee

The Patriots are signing wide receiver Marqise Lee, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). He’ll ink a one-year deal as he moves on to a new team in the AFC after spending the first six years of his career with the Jaguars, who released him several days ago.

New England, of course, lacked its usual offensive firepower in 2019, with veteran wideout Julian Edelman representing the team’s only reliable weapon for former QB Tom Brady. The Pats rode to the playoffs on the strength of their defense and special teams, and regardless of who is under center in 2020, they need to surround their signal-callers with more options.

The team will be returning Mohamed Sanu in 2020, but given that they gave up a second-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Sanu, the Pats will be unable to take advantage of an unusually deep crop of collegiate receivers until the third round (assuming they don’t take a WR with the No. 23 overall selection). Sanu suffered a high ankle sprain during a punt return in his third game with New England, and he was not the same after that injury. He recently underwent surgery on the ankle, as it did not heal on its own as hoped.

Lee has battled his own injury woes over the past couple of seasons. A knee injury sidelined him for all of the 2018 season, and he battled ankle and shoulder maladies in 2019. But he totaled 1,551 receiving yards between 2016-17, leading all Jags targets in that span, and if healthy, he represents a quality vertical weapon who would nicely complement Edelman, Sanu, and second-year player N’Keal Harry.

No contract details are available at this time, but it is almost certainly a modest deal for the USC product, who hopes to reignite his career in Foxborough.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

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