Minkah Fitzpatrick

Extra Points: Vikings, Dolphins, Bills, Jags

The Vikings have added former NFL kicker Nate Kaeding as a kicking consultant, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). The hire is expected to be formally announced in the near future. Earlier this offseason, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer spoke about adding another special teams coach to his staff, and Kaeding has been working with Minnesota’s kickers a few times per week. Now 37 years old, Kaeding was a third-round draft choice of the Chargers in 2004, and went on to spend nine years with the club. Kaeding, who also spent late-career time with the Dolphins and Buccaneers, posted a career field goal conversion rate of 86.2%.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Bobby McCain has played cornerback in each of his four seasons with the Dolphins, but Miami’s new staff has him working at free safety, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Nominally, the Dolphins already have two starting safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, but Jones hasn’t been participating in organized team activities. Reports have varied as to whether Jones is on the trade/cut block, but if McCain is on the field as a safety, there wouldn’t seem to be room for Jones. 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick can also play safety in addition to nickel corner, and he’s also being worked in as a linebacker, per Salguero.
  • New Bills guard Quinton Spain recently underwent surgery on his thumb, as Joe Buscaglia of WKBW writes. It doesn’t sound like the issue is all too serious, so Spain should be back to practice in short order. Before his injury, Spain was working as Buffalo’s starting right guard. The Bills made offensive line improvement a point of emphasis this offseason by signing Spain, Ty Nsekhe, Mitch Morse, Spencer Long, LaAdrian Waddle and Jon Feliciano before adding Oklahoma’s Cody Ford in the second round of the draft. Spain, Long, Feliciano, Ford, and Wyatt Teller are all competing for time at guard.
  • Former Jaguars linebacker Blair Brown was arrested this week on charges of domestic battery, reports Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. Brown was a fifth-round pick in 2016, and made 28 appearances for Jacksonville over the past two seasons. The Ohio product was cut earlier this month, and his arrest could potentially end his NFL career.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Mayo, Kraft, Bills, Fins

Longtime Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo will return to the club as linebackers coach, according to Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. Mayo, 33, retired at the conclusion of the 2015 campaign, and expressed no interest in coaching at the time. Viewed as a cerebral player with a strong work ethic, Mayo appeared in 93 games for New England after being selected 10th overall in the 2008 draft. He’ll be replacing Brian Flores, who was not only the Patriots’ LBs coach but de facto defensive coordinator before taking the Dolphins’ head coaching position this offseason.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Bills general manager Brandon Beane denied that Buffalo was ever close to acquiring wide receiver Antonio Brown from the Steelers, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk writes. “We had productive talks with [GM] Kevin Colbert, with Pittsburgh, but one of the things I made clear with Kevin early on is we would have to be comfortable with where the compensation is going to have to be with AB’s representatives, and that was never something that we were even close on,” Beane said. Brown, of course, was subsequently traded to the Raiders for third- and fifth-round picks, and received a new contract with additional guarantees.
  • The NFL’s personal conduct policy will apply to Patriots owner Robert Kraft just as it applies to players, commissioner Roger Goodell told Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Goodell stopped short of declaring Kraft will be suspended, indicating a need for all the facts of Kraft’s solicitation case to come out. Kraft has rejected a plea deal from Florida prosecutors, and earlier this week pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanors.
  • Although the Dolphins haven’t publicly declared how they’ll use former first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, sources tell Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that the Dolphins prefer to deploy Fitzpatrick as a safety. Fitzpatrick, the 11th overall selection in last year’s draft, can play both cornerback and safety, but Miami already has two safeties — Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald in place. If Fitzpatrick is deployed more in the back end, McDonald could conceivably see action as a sub-package linebacker.

AFC Notes: Texans, Broncos, Jets, Bell

The Texans are expected to release cornerback Kevin Johnson, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. As previously reported, the Texans have discussed trading Johnson, but it’s much more likely that he’ll be cut given his contract (due $9.1MM in 2019) and recent concussion issues (played only one game in 2018). Still, releasing Johnson will leave the Texans extra thin at cornerback, so the position figures to be a priority for them in March and April.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The Broncos are expected to have interest in linebacker C.J. Mosley, according to Troy Renck of Denver7 (on Twitter). This week, we learned that the Ravens will not use the franchise tag on Mosley and the expectation is that he will be an unrestricted free agent later this month. Mosley, 27 in June, is a perennial Pro Bowler and anchored Baltimore’s linebacking corps for several years.
  • The Jets are expected to target second-tier running backs during free agency, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, which signals that Le’Veon Bell is not the team’s focus. The Jets could theoretically sign Bell, Pauline hears, but only if they do not come away with a big-time pass rusher. Speaking of the pass rush, the Jets have been connected to Dante Fowler, but people at the combine told Pauline that contract length may be a sticking point for Gang Green. Fowler probably wants something in the four-year range while the Jets are hesitant about such a commitment.
  • The Dolphins haven’t told Minkah Fitzpatrick whether they want him to play safety or cornerback in 2019, but they want him to be a safety in the long run, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears. He could get a head start on the safety plan this year, but that will depend on what happens with incumbents T.J. McDonald and Reshad Jones. Right now, it seems unlikely that the Dolphins would move on from either safety. Cutting McDonald would save only $1.4MM versus $4.6MM in dead money. Meanwhile, Jones is already guaranteed $11MM for 2019.

Dolphins Rumors: Fales, Osweiler, DBs, LBs

David Fales completed just 1 of 6 passes in the Dolphins’ second preseason game, and although Brock Osweiler is the bigger name, the team’s internal preference is believed to be for the incumbent to back up Ryan Tannehill, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. As for Bryce Petty, he’s still behind both aforementioned backups, Jackson adds. Osweiler signed for the league minimum, making the Dolphins’ 2018 quarterback depth chart much cheaper than last year’s setup of Tannehill, Jay Cutler and Matt Moore — which represented more than $30MM against the 2017 team’s cap. A former sixth-round Bears pick in 2014, Fales has 48 career pass attempts — 43 of those coming last season with Miami.

Here’s the latest out of south Florida.

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick is primarily working as a slot defender for the Dolphins, Roy Cummings of FloridaFootballInsiders.com passes along. The first-round pick out of Alabama was billed as a versatile performer entering the draft, with safety or cornerback potential. It looks like, for now, the Dolphins are taking advantage of that. Previous slot bastion Bobby McCain has moved to the outside, and that looks to have been done to give Fitzpatrick a role. Prior to the move, the Dolphins didn’t have a place for Fitzpatrick, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes. Fitzpatrick, though, also played sparingly as a pure safety in Miami’s initial two preseason games.
  • Mike Hull may begin the season on IR, Jackson notes. The Dolphins would carry their fourth-year veteran linebacker onto the 53-man roster before placing him on IR, which would allow him to return during the season once he recovers from the sprained MCL he sustained earlier this month. Hull started three games last season. Raekwon McMillan is Miami’s middle linebacker starter.
  • Second-year UDFA Chase Allen looks to have a job as a Dolphins backup linebacker, but former Saints first-round pick Stephone Anthony may not. Jackson writes the 2015 first-rounder’s put together a poor preseason that has him on the bubble. Anthony played in eight Dolphins games upon being traded to Miami last year. He played 130 defensive snaps but did not stand out. However, with Hull out, the Dolphins need bodies to fill out their linebacking corps. UFA addition Terence Garvin isn’t a lock to survive cutdown weekend, either, Jackson adds.

Dolphins Sign Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Dolphins have signed first rounder Minkah Fitzpatrick, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. In accordance with his slot, the defensive back will receive a four-year, $16.4MM deal with a $10MM signing bonus. 

Heading into Friday, the Dolphins were one of two teams who had yet to sign any of their draft picks. However, things changed when the calendar flipped to June. Miami had just $312K in cap room on Thursday, but gained an additional $17MM in cap space on Friday when Ndamukong Suh’s post-June 1 release became official. With that room, they carved out the necessary space to get to work on their draft class.

Fitzpatrick, the No. 11 overall pick, projects to start at free safety with Reshad Jones alongside him at strong safety. T.J. McDonald, who started every game in his suspension-shortened season, will head to the bench as the first backup behind both players.

In addition to Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins have also inked sixth-round cornerback Cornell Armstrong, seventh-round linebacker Quentin Poling, and seventh-round punter Jason Sanders, the club announced.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins Notes: Gase, McDonald, Fitzpatrick

On Thursday, Dolphins coach Adam Gase did a Q&A with local reporters. Here’s a look at the highlights, via Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel:

  • Don’t expect the Dolphins to make a major splash in the late stages of free agency. “It feels right for us right now,” Gase said of the roster. “I feel like we’re in a good place. It feels like we’ve got the type of people all working in the same direction and working toward the same goal.
  • The Dolphins stood pat at No. 11 in the draft and did not select a quarterback in the first round, even though some expected them to consider a signal caller. Gase says that has to do with the team’s confidence in Ryan Tannehill‘s knee as well as the potential of backups Brock Osweiler and David Fales. “We felt like those guys were going to go before 11,” Gase said of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who were all selected within the top 10. “And we knew that was probably going to be the case, and we felt good about what we had as far as Ryan starting and Brock and Fales competing for No. 2.”
  • The Dolphins, of course, used that No. 11 selection on Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The addition of Fitzpatrick will not result in T.J. McDonald moving to linebacker, Gase says. McDonald will instead serve as the first safety off of the bench, behind Fitzpatrick and strong safety Reshad Jones.

Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Wanted To Trade Back In First Round

There was chatter before the draft that the Dolphins could move up in the first round to select a quarterback who could take over for Ryan Tannehill in the near future. However, when Miami was on the clock with its No. 11 overall selection, team owner Stephen Ross stepped in and implored his team to trade back, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

Volin reports that Ross wanted the Dolphins to acquire additional draft capital and to save money on the first-round selection (and, as the top four QB prospects were off the board by that time, perhaps he felt it made more sense to trade down). Ultimately, however, Ross’ football people talked him out of it, and the team turned in the card to select Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Time will tell whether the pick was a good one, or whether the Dolphins should have made more of an effort to land a signal-caller, but it cannot be argued that Fitzpatrick’s upside and versatility make him a logical fit for the Fins. Indeed, Miami needed help all over its defense, and the Crimson Tide standout — who can play safety or cornerback — was one of the best defenders in his class. He is also a playmaker, having recorded 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, and one interception in his last collegiate season to go along with two pick sixes in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Even if they had traded back just one spot, Fitzpatrick may not have been on the board for Miami. The Buccaneers, who were sitting at No. 12 after trading its original No. 7 overall selection to the Bills, were in the market for a high-end DB, and many mock drafts had Fitzpatrick going to Tampa Bay at No. 7.

It is also unclear if the Dolphins actually had an offer for their No. 11 overall pick, or if Ross wanted them to work the phones more to seek out a deal.

NFL Draft Rumors: Fitzpatrick, Jackson

Is the stock of Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick slipping? That’s the sense Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (on Twitter) gets. Mortensen, personally, feels that Fitzpatrick is one of the three or four best overall talents in this year’s draft and one “proven evaluator not picking in the top 10” tells Mort that Fitzpatrick, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, and Saquon Barkley made up this year’s top four.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

  • Several NFL sources tell Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that they really like Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Raanan expects there to be five QBs off the board in the top 20. Jackson is one of the more fascinating players in this year’s draft as some evaluators have written him off as an NFL QB, despite his tremendous athleticism.
  • On Friday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reported that LSU stars Arden Key and Derrius Guice could slip in the draft due to off-field concerns. Within the same piece, Pelissero touches on UCF cornerback Mike Hughes and Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Hughes left the UNC football program two years ago when he was accused of sexual assault, but he maintains his innocence and teams believe his version of events, Pelissero hears. Callaway, meanwhile, has a host of red flags that figure to tank his stock. Callaway was cleared of a sexual assault allegation, but he argued in his Title IX hearing that he was too “stoned” to have intercourse, which is troubling considering a past citation for marijuana. He was also charged with two third-degree felonies for his role in a credit card scam. Callaway might be one of the the most talented WRs in this year’s class, but he could fall late in the draft due to all of his issues. It also doesn’t help that Callaway didn’t impress at his pro day.

Draft Rumors: Guice, Key, Ridley, Panthers

LSU running back Derrius Guice has changed representation, going from the firm that represents rap star Kendrick Lamar to one headed up by Lil Wayne, as Darren Heitner of Forbes Magazine writes. Guice is the latest draft prospect to join Young Money APAA Sports, which also represents Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson. Thanks to a buyout of another firm late last year, the agency also has NFL players Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Lane Johnson, Jason McCourty and Seth Roberts in its stable.

Here’s more NFL Draft news:

  • Speaking of LSU, pass rusher Arden Key will visit with the Titans on Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. At No. 25 overall, the Titans could be in range for the athletic prospect.
  • Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley will visit with the Panthers on Wednesday after the team completes it’s trip to Washington D.C., according to Rapoport. Ridley recently met with the Cowboys and is widely projected to be a first round pick.
  • Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson has Top 30 visits with the Bills, Titans, and Buccaneers this week, Rapoport tweets.
  • Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is visiting the 49ers this week, per Rapoport.
  • Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller met with the Panthers on Monday, according to Rapoport.
  • Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, projected as a first-round pick, will have a dozen official visits to team facilities along with six individual workouts on campus, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The Buccaneers hosted him on a visit last week, so he could stay in the Sunshine State. Bryan is the 24th best prospect in the draft, according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah.
  • The Lions have more pressing needs at running back, pass rusher, and on the interior offensive line, but they could consider safeties early in the draft. The Lions hosted Stanford’s Justin Reid on a top-30 visit last week, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press hears.

NFL Draft Rumors: Bucs, Packers, James

Florida State safety Derwin James spent Wednesday meeting with the Buccaneers and will sit down with the Packers on Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). James, the No. 9 ranked safety in the draft per NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, offers versatility with experience at both safety spots, nickel cornerback, and even outside linebacker. He arguably performs better when playing closer to the line, so the team that drafts him will likely look to continue using him in multiple roles.

Here’s more NFL Draft news:

  • NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb met with the Buccaneers on Wednesday and is visiting the Giants on Thursday, Rapoport tweets. Chubb has another top 5 team visit next week, Rapoport notes, but he did not specify the club.
  • Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy was with the Vikings on Wednesday, Rapoport tweets. Cichy suffered an ACL tear in the summer that prevented him from seeing the field in 2017. Before the injury, he was considered a first-round prospect and he could still come off the board in Day 2 if he demonstrates that he is healthy.
  • Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward is visiting the 49ers on Thursday, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). The Niners pick No. 9 overall and he could be a possibility for San Francisco there. SF will also meet with Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter.
  • The Bears met with a pair of top defensive backs in Ward and Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Rapoport tweets. Fitzpatrick previously visited the Buccaneers. The Bears own the No. 8 pick in the draft, so they could be in range for both players.
  • The Vikings met with University of Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams and Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, Rapoport tweets. Jeremiah has Williams ranked as the No. 21 prospect in this year’s draft while McGlinchey is at No. 35.
  • Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans visited the Dolphins (No. 11) this week, Rapoport tweets. Evans, who played all over in Bama’s front seven, offers strong coverage against both tight ends and running backs.
  • Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne is meeting with the Falcons, according to Rapoport.
  • The Buccaneers, who own the No. 7 pick in the first round, had former Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson in for a visit on Wednesday, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.