Marqise Lee

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Release Marqise Lee

The Jaguars are releasing Marqise Lee, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. With that, the accomplished wide receiver will hit the open market just before the 2020 NFL Draft. The Jaguars will save $4.8MM by cutting Lee.

Lee signed a four-year, $38MM deal with the Jaguars in 2018 but did not do well to justify the team’s investment. A knee injury sidelined him for all of the ’18 season, and Lee battled ankle and shoulder injuries last season. The Jags placed him on IR. This cut was expected, but the team did Lee no favors by releasing him over a month after free agency’s outset.

The former Jags second-round pick caught just three passes last season. However, Lee was a reliable contributor in Jacksonville before his 2018 absence. He totaled 1,551 receiving yards between 2016-17, leading all Jags targets in that span. Despite the team still employing its GM and head coach from that span, it has parted ways with most of the talent responsible for the run to 2017’s AFC championship game.

While the Jags still feature D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley, they could be in the market for a wide receiver in the first round. Thanks to the Jalen Ramsey trade, the team holds two first-rounders. With the first of those picks coming at No. 9 overall, Jacksonville could be a landing spot for one of this draft’s top wide receivers. Barring another team trading in front of the Jags, they could be a threat to have their pick of the wideouts in this receiver-stacked draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Place Marqise Lee On IR

The Jaguars are placing wide receiver Marqise Lee on injured reserve, as Mark Long of The Associated Press tweets. The Jaguars were gearing up for Lee’s return, but his shoulder injury will sideline him for at least the next eight weeks. 

It has been a frustrating couple of years for Lee, who missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL. Before all of that, in 2016 and 2017, he totaled 119 receptions for 1,553 receiving yards. Until his ankle – and ultimately his shoulder – did him in this year, Lee managed just three catches for 18 yards across six games.

It’s a real bummer for the Jaguars, who advanced to 4-4 with their recent win over the Bengals. The AFC South is up for grabs, but they’ll have to fight for it without Lee grabbing at passes from Gardner Minshew (or Nick Foles).

This could very well end Lee’s Jacksonville tenure. Since signing a four-year, $34MM deal, he has not been the same player. The Jags have added wideouts D.J. Chark and Chris Conley to their mix in that span. Both have become more reliable contributors. It would cost the Jags $3.5MM in dead money next year to release Lee while saving the franchise more than $5MM in cap space.

In a related move, the Jags have promoted undrafted rookie cornerback Tae Hayes from the practice squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC South Notes: Hooker, Funchess, Lee

Colts safety Malik Hooker will be back in the lineup for the first time since Week 3, according to Mike Chappell of Fox 59. Hooker was close to returning last week against the Texans, but instead was held out to allow for a completely recovery. Now, per the report, Hooker is “a full go.”

Hooker had damaged his meniscus in Week 3 against the Falcons and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks, right in line with a return this week. Coming off an impressive victory over Houston, the Colts are in the driver’s seat in the AFC South at 4-2 and will be happy to get a starter back in their secondary.

Here is some more news from around the AFC South:

  • Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters that wide receiver Devin Funchess should return to practice next week, according to Mike Wells of ESPN.com. Funchess was placed on injured reserve after suffering a clavicle injury in the team’s season opener. The Colts signed Funchess to a one-year, $10MM contract this offseason, but have yet to reap much on-field production for their signing. Prior to the injury, Funchess had three receptions for 32 yards.
  • The Jaguars expect a wide receiver of their own, Marqise Lee, to be back next week according to head coach Doug Marrone, via John Oesher of Jaguars.com. Lee missed all of 2018 with a torn-ACL, but had a strong track-record of success from 2017-2018, where he accumulated 119 receptions for 1,553 receiving yards. In his return this season, Lee was beginning to work his way into the rotation when he came down with an ankle injury that has had him out since Week 6.

Sprained Ankle For Jaguars’ Marqise Lee

Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee has a sprained ankle, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The sprain is viewed as a minor/moderate one, so he’s considered week-to-week, but still likely to miss some time.

Lee, who turns 28 late in November, missed the Jaguars’ disappointing 2018 season with a knee injury. The Jags’ 2016 receiving leader and a key cog in 2017, Lee has not factored in prominently in this Jags receiving corps. In five games this year, he’s caught just two passes for 10 yards.

Lee, 27, was not expected to return until at least late in training camp, so the former second-round pick being a Week 1 question mark is not especially surprising. It is a bit of a blow to a Jags pass-catching corps that already faces questions, however.

The Jags drafted Jawaan Taylor in Round 2, but their optimal lineup would place the Florida alum at right tackle opposite Robinson. The team signed former Bengals first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi and ex-Bucs UDFA Leonard Wester this offseason.

Between 2016 and 2017, Lee racked up 119 receptions for 1,553 yards and six touchdowns. In 2018, the Jaguars rewarded Lee with a four-year deal worth up to $38MM. They’re still waiting for that deal to pay off as they look to get their season back on track. Heading into Sunday’s game against the Bengals, the Jaguars are sporting a 2-4 mark.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Jaguars, Patriots, Randall

The Jaguars will be without several players on Sunday against the Texans, Michael DiRocco of ESPN recaps on Twitter. S Ronnie Harrison is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. CB A.J. Bouye, WR Marqise Lee, DE Yannick Ngakoue and LT Cam Robinson have all already been ruled out of the contest.

Last week, Jacksonville lost starting QB Nick Foles, who suffered a broken left clavicle in Week 1 and has been placed on injured reserve. The franchise’s collective health has put a damper on what should have been a bounceback year for the Jags. As the team carries on in Houston, let’s take a look around the AFC:

  • The Patriots worked out several players ahead of their game against the Dolphins, a source tells Nick Underhill of The Athletic (Twitter link). OT Caleb Benenoch, NT Carl Davis, DT Willie Henry, DB Josh Jones and DB Adarius Pickett worked out for New England.
  • Browns S Damarious Randall has been ruled out of Monday’s game, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Randall showed up to Cleveland’s facility with a concussion and was placed in the concussion protocol.
  • A.J. Green, who injured his ankle during the Bengals‘ training camp, is out of his walking boot and feels like is he ahead of schedule in his recovery, as Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer relays. “I’m only six weeks out and I’m already walking,” Green said. “You never know what the next two weeks or three weeks are going to bring to where I can start back putting on shoes and actually running and doing some on the field stuff. You never know.”

AFC South Rumors: Texans, Colts, Lee, Titans

Drafted to be the Texans‘ hopeful left tackle of the future, Tytus Howard has since been relocated to left guard (with Matt Kalil winning the left-edge job) and has now broken a finger. The rookie blocker suffered the break in Houston’s preseason game against Detroit on Saturday night, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Coming from a Division I-FCS program, and tasked with learning one of the most difficult positions at which to acclimate in the NFL, Howard needs all the reps he can get early on in his career. But this malady is not expected to keep him out of the Texans’ Week 1 game against the Saints, Wilson adds. Howard is in line to be the team’s starting left guard. This injury, in theory, could force the team to adjust those plans.

Here is the latest from the AFC South, shifting to perhaps the division’s most important player:

  • Frank Reich does not want to wait much longer on Andrew Luck‘s recovery. The second-year Colts coach wants to name his Week 1 starter shortly after the team’s third preseason game, and while Luck doing pregame drills before Indianapolis’ second August contest was a positive development, this saga may not wrap up in a week. It’s been the side-to-side movements that have bothered Luck’s ankle and calf injuries most, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. But Luck not only did some lateral-movement work before Saturday’s game, Wells adds the 29-year-old passer has done workouts like that in private in recent days. The Colts, who will re-evaluate Luck midweek, are cautiously optimistic he will be available for Week 1.
  • Another AFC South talent is uncertain for Week 1, but Marqise Lee returned to Jaguars practice this week. This obviously increases the sixth-year wideout’s chances for being available come September. Doug Marrone expressed doubt about this recently, but Lee — sidelined throughout 2018 due to ACL damage — returned to work Saturday.
  • The Colts‘ injury situation at receiver has helped one of their incumbents. Once thought to be a bubble player, Chester Rogers is headed back to Indy’s 53-man roster. The former Ryan Grigson-era draft choice is the Colts’ top return man, Reich said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson, on Twitter). Parris Campbell remains sidelined because of a hamstring injury, Erickson tweets.
  • Indianapolis’ revamped receiving corps will not include Reece Fountain. Reich confirmed the 2018 fifth-rounder underwent ankle surgery Friday and will miss the season (Twitter links via CBS4’s Mike Chappell).
  • The Titans are still deciding on their right guard. While veteran utility man Kevin Pamphile would seemingly have the inside track to start opposite Rodger Saffold next month, the team drafted Nate Davis in Round 3 and has 2017 sixth-rounder Corey Levin. Although Pamphile started opposite Saffold on Saturday, each of these players are in the mix. Former Dolphins draftee Jamil Douglas may be in the running as well. Mike Vrabel does not plan to name a starter until after the Titans’ dress-rehearsal preseason game next weekend, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com notes. Douglas has not played in a game since 2016; Levin suited up for all 16 Titan games last season. An injury limited Pamphile to three 2018 contests (two starts).

Robinson, Lee Not Certain For Week 1

Marqise Lee missed all of the Jaguars’ disappointing 2018 season, during which Cam Robinson played just three games. The two key Jaguars are not guaranteed to be ready by the time the team debuts in 2019.

Doug Marrone said Saturday (via Hays Carlyon of 1010 XL AM, on Twitter) the veteran wide receiver and third-year tackle might not be ready by Week 1. After offseasons spent rehabbing their respective ACL tears, each remains on Jacksonville’s active/PUP list. Were Robinson and Lee to land on the team’s reserve/PUP list, each would be sidelined at least six regular-season weeks. It is not certain either is bound for that designation, however.

Robinson went down in September 2018, halting his progress after ascending quickly into Jacksonville’s starting lineup as a rookie. Lee posted two 700-yard receiving slates with the Jags and re-signed for four years and $38MM ($18MM guaranteed) during the offseason that saw the Jaguar tenures of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns conclude.

Lee, 27, was not expected to return until at least late in training camp, so the former second-round pick being a Week 1 question mark is not especially surprising. It is a bit of a blow to a Jags pass-catching corps that already faces questions, however.

The Jags drafted Jawaan Taylor in Round 2, but their optimal lineup would place the Florida alum at right tackle opposite Robinson. The team signed former Bengals first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi and ex-Bucs UDFA Leonard Wester this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Revisiting The 2018 Free Agent WR Class

The 2018 free agent class of wide receivers reshaped the market in a number of ways and set the table for lucrative extensions for players like Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs. But even allowing for the premium that teams often have to pay in the first wave of free agency, the size of the contracts that the 2018 FA wideouts landed raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the league. As we look ahead to Year 2 of some of those contracts, let’s examine the early returns.

Sammy Watkins‘ three-year, $48MM deal with the Chiefs topped the class in terms of total value, average annual value, and guaranteed money at signing ($30MM). And while his talent certainly merited that type of payday, his injury history was a concern, as he had missed 10 games over the prior three seasons. He ended up missing six games during his first year in Kansas City due to a foot injury, though he did manage to suit up for both of the club’s postseason contests. His raw numbers obviously don’t look too impressive as a result of the missed time, but he did rank fifth among all qualified wideouts in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, meaning he was very valuable on a per-play basis. He also tallied 10 catches for 176 yards during the Chiefs’ two playoff games, and while injury problems may always plague him, he continues to be a factor whenever he’s on the field. KC is likely not regretting Watkins’ deal at this point.

The Bears doubled up at wide receiver by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel last March, which allowed them to part ways with Cameron Meredith. Chicago brought in Robinson on a three-year, $42MM pact, even though he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2017 season and had only posted one elite season in his career (which came back in 2015). And after his first year with the Bears, Robinson is still looking for his second 1,000-yard campaign.

There is some reason to hope that he can get there, especially with a fully-healthy offseason and a year of building chemistry with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky under his belt. A-Rob played in just 13 regular season games last season but was targeted 94 times, and he was brilliant in the Bears’ lone playoff game, posting 10 catches for 143 yards and a score. Football Outsiders’ metrics didn’t love him, but Pro Football Focus assigned him an above-average grade that made him the 28th-best WR in the league. He may not have quite lived up to expectations, but there is still time for him to get there.

Chicago signed Gabriel to a four-year, $26MM deal in the hopes that he could become a big-play threat for Trubisky. But while Gabriel played in all 16 games for the club and saw 93 targets, he managed a fairly modest 10.3 yards-per-reception and two touchdowns. Advanced metrics weren’t overly fond of his work either, and he will be hoping for a bounce-back year in 2019.

It’s still too early to evaluate some of the other significant contracts given to 2018 wide receivers, because the signees saw their seasons derailed by injury. Marqise Lee, who re-upped with the Jaguars on a four-year, $34MM deal, missed the entire 2018 season due to a preseason knee injury, and he is not expected to be back until the end of this year’s training camp. The Dolphins were thinking highly of their three-year, $24MM accord with Albert Wilson, who was performing well for Miami until he landed on IR in October with a serious hip injury. He is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 regular season, but he may not see the field until then.

Likewise, Paul Richardson showed flashes in the first year of the five-year, $40MM contract he signed with the Redskins last March, but he landed on IR in November with a shoulder injury.

But at least the aforementioned players are still on their respective teams. Michael Crabtree signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Ravens after being cut by the Raiders, but he disappeared from Baltimore’s offense when Lamar Jackson became the starter, and Baltimore sent him packing in February (as of this writing, there has been no reported interest in his services). And Donte Moncrief signed a one-year contract for a surprising $9.6MM with the Jaguars, but his mostly disappointing performance in Jacksonville had him searching for a new team this offseason. He ultimately caught on with the Steelers.

All in all, then, the 2018 class of free agent wideouts was a mixed bag. None of the contracts those players signed look like a home run at this point, and while that could change in 2019, those who were surprised by the amount of money thrown at WRs last March were right to be a little skeptical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.