Mason Rudolph

AFC Rumors: Hooker, Steelers, Pats, Fins

In April, Malik Hooker‘s recovery timeline was not certain to allow for training camp participation. Now, the Colts might have to enter the season without their second-year safety. Hooker is not a lock to be ready to start the season, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writes. The Ohio State alum is recovering from suffering a torn ACL and MCL, a sequence that ended his rookie campaign in late October. The Colts drafted Hooker in the 2017 first round despite injury concerns unrelated to the more severe maladies he sustained last season, and provided he can stay healthy, he’s certainly viewed as a long-term secondary cog in Indianapolis. The Colts are in slightly better shape at safety, though, than they were going into last season. Former UDFA Matthias Farley enjoyed a quality season after ascending to the starting lineup. T.J. Green and Clayton Geathers represent the top depth pieces. Green played 382 snaps last season, seeing more time after Hooker’s injury.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • While Mason Rudolph is the player viewed as a possible Ben Roethlisberger successor at some point down the line, Landry Jones is the player the Steelers prefer as the short-term backup, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes. Jones has started five games for the Steelers the past three seasons, going 3-2 (with two of those wins coming against the Browns), but he’s entering the final year of his contract. Rutter adds that Rudolph showed promise in offseason workouts, despite having scant experience in non-shotgun sets, perhaps indicating he can push Jones. However, Joshua Dobbs‘ only avenue to stay with the Steelers seems to be an injury to one of the aforementioned passers or a practice squad slot. With quarterback depth not exactly booming across the league, Dobbs making it through waivers and onto the taxi squad may be a long shot. So, the Tennessee product may be preparing for his second and final Steelers camp.
  • The Patriots opting not to pick up Malcom Brown‘s fifth-year option may mean the defensive tackle is readying for his final Pats camp. Now that Danny Shelton‘s in the picture, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran envisions and either/or scenario with one of the contract-year players being on the 2019 team. Curran doesn’t see Brown enticing the Patriots to pay him what he’ll command if he doesn’t show more consistency, but the 37-game starter who has two Super Bowl starts would subsequently be an intriguing name on the 2019 market.
  • With Ryan Tannehill entering a crucial year regarding his future in Miami, the Dolphins may need to be doing some advanced scouting. The 2019 quarterback class is not viewed as spectacular by any means, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Drew Lock and Justin Herbert figure to be on the Dolphins’ radar if Tannehill falters or fails to stay healthy this season. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay has the Missouri and Oregon signal-callers as his Nos. 1-2 QBs for next year’s draft but places neither in his top-15 prospects, which is consistent with what we’ve heard thus far about the prospective ’19 crop.

Steelers Sign Rookie QB Mason Rudolph

Mason Rudolph is officially a member of the Steelers. On Wednesday, the Steelers agreed to terms with the third-round quarterback on his rookie deal. 

Rookie contracts are mostly a formality these days, but contracts for third-round picks tend to be a bit trickier thanks to flexibility regarding offset language. Regardless, the Steelers hammered out their deal with the Oklahoma State well in advance of mandatory training camp sessions.

The Steelers are hopeful that Rudolph can develop into their quarterback of the future after Ben Roethlisberger retires. For his part, Roethlisberger isn’t necessarily enthused about the team selecting a QB high in the draft this year.

I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” Roethlisberger said. “Nothing against Mason; I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid. I just don’t know how backing up or being a third [string] — well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart — helps us win now.”

For now, Rudolph projects as the team’s No. 3 QB, behind Big Ben and Landry Jones. Last year’s fourth round pick Joshua Dobbs is also fighting for a spot on the roster.

The deal with Rudolph leaves first-round pick Terrell Edmunds as the last remaining unsigned Steelers draft selection.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Rookie QB WIll Log The Most Playing Time In 2018?

Six quarterbacks were taken in the first three rounds of the 2018 draft, including the Browns taking Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick.

Though teams spent high-value picks on quarterbacks in 2018, not every quarterback will be in a position to take over a starting role in 2018, though each seemingly has a decent possibility at finding the field in their rookie year. Along with the Browns selecting Mayfield, the Jets selected Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick, the Bills took Josh Allen with the No. 7 overall pick, the Cardinals took Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall pick and the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 overall pick. The Steelers also selected Mason Rudolph in the third round of the draft.

Each quarterback has a roadblock to finding playing time in 2018. The Browns acquired quarterback Tyrod Taylor via trade, the Jets re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford and the Bills traded for A.J. McCarron. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger entrenched in the starting role, though he’s missed eight games over the last three seasons.

So, which quarterback do you think will receive the most playing time in 2018? Will injuries to Ben Roethlisberger or Joe Flacco force Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph into action? Or can Mayfield, Darnold, Rosen or Allen win battles in crowded quarterback rooms?

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Ben Roethlisberger On Steelers’ QB Situation, Future Plans

Having seen probably the best Steelers team since at least the Super Bowl XLV-qualifying version fail to win a playoff game, Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t seem to be too thrilled about the franchise using a key resource to draft his possible replacement and not a player who stands to help the team this season.

I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” Roethlisberger said during an interview with 93.7 The Fan (via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com). “Nothing against Mason (Rudolph); I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid. I just don’t know how backing up or being a third [string] — well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart — helps us win now.”

The Steelers used their first-round pick on safety Terrell Edmunds and chose another wide receiver in former Rudolph Oklahoma State target James Washington. But they made their biggest quarterback draft investment since Roethlisberger with their third 2018 draft choice.

The 36-year-old quarterback is going into his 15th season. Roethlisberger said quickly after the Steelers’ loss to the Jaguars that he would return for the 2018 season, and he’s said he now wants to play beyond his current contract. That deal runs through 2019. However, this abrupt declaration came in stark contrast to how Roethlisberger proceeded after the 2016 season, when he went weeks without committing to return in 2017.

Fowler notes the reaction around Steelers headquarters was positive, but now he wonders if the team believes he’s going to be playing into his late 30s.

I wanted them to know so they wouldn’t have to worry about drafting a quarterback,” Roethlisberger said. “I wanted to make sure there were no questions. Once they drafted a quarterback in the third, I wasn’t sure if they believed me or not. But I’m committed to it.”

Making his sixth Pro Bowl, Roethlisberger also made it through a season without missing games due to injury for the first time since 2014. The Steelers may be ready to extend Roethlisberger beyond his current contract, which features $23.2MM cap numbers in 2018 and ’19, this offseason. But he appears to be more concerned about whether Le’Veon Bell will be extended and would be fine with Pittsburgh brass tending to his own deal next year.

To me, there are more important pieces that need to be taken care of besides myself,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve got two years left, this one and one more. I want to go out and do the best I can. To me, it’s about addressing it next year. But if they feel they want to talk and address something this year, we will obviously talk and listen.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Ravens, Steelers

The Browns have long committed to deploying trade acquisition Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback in 2018, but head coach Hue Jackson didn’t exactly dismiss the idea that No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield could usurp Taylor under center, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes.

“I respect (the speculation),” Jackson said. “Anytime you draft a quarterback at No. 1 overall, everyone wants to see him play, but I’ve made a true commitment to our football team. Tyrod Taylor’s going to be the starter. Baker’s going to compete and however that unfolds it unfolds, but right now Tyrod is the starter.

“If Baker can understand the National Football League and all the rigors and the grinding that you have to go through, I’m not going to ever stop a player from being the best he can be. But we have a plan and I want to work that plan as much as we can,” he said. “Now, can a player supersede that? You never know. I haven’t had that happen, but right now this team is going to be led by Tyrod Taylor.”

Here’s more from the AFC North, where every team selected a quarterback during the weekend’s draft:

  • Although the Ravens ultimately selected Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the final pick of the first round, there was a “movement” within the club’s draft room to take Jackson with their original No. 16 selection, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Instead, Baltimore ended up trading back twice — once to No. 22, and again to No. 25 — before drafting South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst. To move back up, the Ravens sacrificed two second-round picks (one in 2019), but getting back into the first round will give the team a fifth-year option on Jackson. Baltimore has a plan as to how it will develop and utilize Jackson behind starter Joe Flacco, per Jim Trotter of NFL.com.
  • The Steelers moved up from pick No. 79 to No. 76 in order to draft quarterback Mason Rudolph, and Pittsburgh actually had a first-round grade on the ex-Oklahoma State signal-caller, general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters, including Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). Rudolph could conceivably serve as Ben Roethlisberger‘s backup during the former’s rookie campaign, and his presence on the Steelers’ roster will force the club to make a decision on its depth chart. Pittsburgh only figures to keep three quarterbacks on its squad, meaning one of Landry Jones or 2017 third-rounder Josh Dobbs will almost certainly be cut.
  • The Bengals may have had their eye on Rudolph, as head coach Marvin Lewis said Cincinnati was considering selecting a quarterback in Round 3 before the Steelers jumped ahead of them, according to Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer (all Twitter links). Additionally, the Bengals thought about packaging their three late seventh-round picks to move up in the round for Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside, but he ended up slipping to Cincinnati at No. 249.

Steelers Trade Up To Seahawks’ No. 76 Spot

It’s possible the Steelers have located their quarterback of the future. At least, they’re making a reasonable investment in one.

The Steelers have traded up to the No. 76 draft slot and selected Mason Rudolph. The Seahawks are trading down to allow for this to occur. Seattle will acquire Pittsburgh’s No. 79 choice and a seventh-rounder, No. 220, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Viewed by many as the sixth-best quarterback prospect in this year’s prospect pool, Rudolph is the sixth QB selected. He’s also the first passer the Steelers have chosen in the first three rounds since Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. Pittsburgh used a 2017 fifth-rounder on Joshua Dobbs and still has Landry Jones on the roster.

The 6-foot-5 Rudolph put up monster numbers last season with Oklahoma State — 4,904 air yards, 37 touchdown passes and a 65 percent completion rate — and represents a move by the AFC North champions to install a possible Roethlisberger successor. Rudolph started for three seasons in Stillwater, Okla., operating in a passer-friendly system. He figures to have plenty of time to learn the pro game.

Unlike last offseason, Pittsburgh’s 15th-year starter did not publicly consider retirement. He’s now indicated he wants to play multiple additional seasons. Rudolph figures to be a longer-lens investment and could usurp Jones and Dobbs in Pittsburgh’s passing pecking order in the months to come.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Rumors: Sutton, Chargers, Landry

The Cowboys exited Round 1 without taking a wide receiver, but the team is aiming for one in the second round. Dallas is hoping SMU’s Courtland Sutton is available, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. La Canfora notes the Saints are also interested in Sutton, whom some mocks had going in Round 1. New Orleans’ interest is noteworthy due to the deep arsenal of wide receivers on its roster, with Cameron Meredith now in the fold and Brandon Coleman having re-signed. But Ted Ginn is now 33. The Cowboys, conversely, need a wideout now after cutting Dez Bryant. Coupled with the news of Jason Witten‘s rumored departure and it’s logical to assume the Cowboys will exit Day 2 with a pass-catcher. Dallas’ next pick is at No. 50, and rumors of a possible Earl Thomas swap have emerged. Should the Cowboys unload their second-round selection for the All-Pro safety, they will almost certainly miss out on Sutton being there. And they may even have to trade up to land him regardless.

Here’s the latest from the draft world as Day 2 looms:

  • The Chargers have not drafted a quarterback since 2013, but La Canfora tweets a lot of buzz has surfaced about the Bolts’ interest in Mason Rudolph. Viewed as this draft’s sixth-best quarterback prospect, Rudolph may require the Chargers to trade up. The Bolts did their homework on this draft’s quarterback prospects, and that included a workout with the Oklahoma State passer.
  • And the Bolts are indeed considering a trade-up from their No. 48 position, per La Canfora, who adds the Chiefs are inquiring about a move north as well (Twitter link). Kansas City considered moving into the back end of the first round but decided against, and Brett Veach said those talks weren’t too close to producing a deal. However, the Chiefs don’t pick until No. 54 and have several needs across their defense.
  • Boston College standout pass rusher Harold Landry is still be on the board entering Round 2, and injury concerns may be at the root of it. Some teams have flagged Landry for medical reasons, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter), adding knee and back issues have impeded a possible pick. Landry played in only eight games for Boston College last season, missing time with an ankle malady. However, he registered 16.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss as a junior in 2016. It may be up to a team that doesn’t view Landry’s issues as enough of an investment deterrent to take him off the board Friday night.
  • The Browns are high on Georgia running back Nick Chubb, La Canfora notes (via Twitter). Cleveland was linked to Saquon Barkley but didn’t have a chance to get him at No. 4. John Dorsey acquired the reigning NFL rushing champion, Kareem Hunt, in the third round last year. The Browns recently signed Carlos Hyde and have Duke Johnson entering a contract year.
  • Former Wichita State basketball player Shaq Morris has an interesting decision on his hands, it appears. Morris is determining if he will try to make an NBA push or, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter), try his hand at an NFL career. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound athlete averaged a career-high 14.0 points per game last season for the Shockers and finished as the now-American Athletic Conference program’s all-time dunks leader. Garafolo reports Morris has hired NFL agent David Canter and will entertain interest from teams. Morris played high school football and may be attempting to follow in the footsteps of Antonio GatesJulius Thomas and others whose college careers mostly commenced on basketball courts.

NFL Draft Rumors: Jackson, Patriots, Rudolph

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson may have erred by opting to go through the NFL draft process without an agent, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com writes. Jackson will avoid paying a portion of his rookie deal to a representative, but in an effort to save some cash, he could be hurting his draft position, which would negate the savings on the standard 1.5% fee.

Reportedly, Jackson struggled in breaking down X’s and O’s on the white board in meetings with teams and his Wonderlic score was poor. Some say the Wonderlic is meaningless, but some execs still use it as part of their evaluation process and an agent would have had him prepped for the test and other aspects of team interviews. An agent would also help to push the narrative that Jackson should be considered above some of this year’s top quarterbacks, including USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.

Ultimately, Jackson’s decision will look like a smart one if he winds up going in the top half of the first round, Corry argues. But, based on what we’ve heard so far, that doesn’t seem likely. It’s notable that the Texans, who are already armed with a star QB in Deshaun Watson and don’t pick until the third round, recently had a private workout with Jackson.

Here’s more NFL draft news:

  • South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst will visit the Panthers on Friday Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Carolina owns the No. 24 overall pick and they could use that selection to give themselves a potent tight end with receiving ability. Greg Olsen will start for the Panthers this season, but he is 33 and entering a contract year. In the past, Olsen has fought for a revamped deal, so it’s conceivable that he will look to push the market next March. Even if Olsen is retained beyond 2018, the Panthers need to consider the future of the tight end position.
  • The Patriots, who now own two first-round picks, recently had a private workout with Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, Rapoport tweets. Rudolph hasn’t garnered as much attention as this year’s top four QBs, but he is a potential first-rounder. Rapoport hears that he has been extremely busy with meetings and workouts, a possible sign that his stock is climbing.
  • Rudolph will also have a top 30 visit with the Bills this weekend, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). The Bills own picks at 12 and 22, so he could be in the mix for one of those spots. Rudolph has also met with or had workouts for the Chargers, Saints, Giants, Steelers, and Bengals.

Extra Points: Seahawks, Broncos, Free Agents

Some assorted notes from around the NFL…

  • Michael Lombardi reports (via Twitter) that the Seahawks are eyeing Jim Zorn as their quarterbacks coach. The 64-year-old held that role for much of his career, including stints with the Lions, Ravens, Chiefs, and Seahawks. He also served as the head coach of the Redskins between 2008 and 2009. Zorn hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2012.
  • Mike Klis of 9News.com took a look at several quarterback candidates for the Broncos next season. The reporter believes Kirk Cousins would be the team’s top choice right now, and he also suggests Alex Smith and Case Keenum as “elite” targets. If the team can’t secure one of those three signal-callers, they could turn their focus to other veterans (Klis suggests Eli Manning, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, or Blake Bortles) or the draft (Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Mason Rudolph, Lamar Jackson are among the realistic options at number-five).
  • Speaking of Rudolph, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the Oklahoma State quarterback is dealing with a “frustrating” foot injury. The prospect was hoping to get cleared so he could play in the Senior Bowl, but he was told to it would take another two weeks to get on the field. Rapoport cautions that the foot sprain is minor.
  • Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com took a look at the top free agent running backs. While Le’Veon Bells spot atop the list wasn’t surprising, Fitzgerald’s decision to rank Isaiah Crowell above Carlos Hyde could ruffle some feathers. Dion Lewis and Jerick McKinnon rounded out his top-5.