WFT added players on both sides of the ball today. Washington announced that they’ve signed both defensive tackle Gabe Wright and offensive lineman Najee Toran.
Wright has bounced around the NFL since being selected in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, spending time with six different teams. The last time he saw the field for an NFL game was 2018 when he got into a pair of contests with the Raiders. Since that time, he’s had a cameo in the XFL and a short stint with the Jaguars. After joining Jacksonville’s practice squad in December, he was waived by the team back in March.
In total, the 29-year-old has seen time in 15 games (one start), collecting 12 tackles and two tackles for loss. This could very well be Wright’s last chance at an NFL gig, and there’s a chance he sticks around the roster as defensive line depth.
Toran, 25, went undrafted out of UCLA in 2018. He spent most of his rookie and sophomore seasons on the 49ers and Patriots practice squads (respectively), and after sitting out the 2020 campaign, he was waived by New England in May.
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 Hightowerseems 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.
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.
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.
The 49ers got down to the 53-man roster maximum by releasing 24 players in total on Saturday, including former first-round pick Joshua Garnett.
The Niners used the No. 28 pick to select Garnett in 2016, but they never saw much from him at the pro level. The Stanford product started in eleven of his 15 games as a rookie, but even then, his performance was underwhelming – Garnett racked up penalties and didn’t excel in run blocking or pass blocking. Garnett then missed all of 2017 after undergoing knee surgery and only saw action as a reserve in seven games last year. At a rate of $10.35MM, it made little sense to keep Garnett for 2020, especially since the option would have been guaranteed for injury.
This year, Garnett is said to be healthy, but that ensured little in terms of performance, so he’s out. The Niners will save $1.7MM against $1.2MM in dead money.
Jordan Matthews was said to have had a strong camp, but the 27-year-old wide receiver wasn’t able to stick in SF. He inked a one-year, $1.8MM deal with the Niners in March, but he’ll exit with just his $300K signing bonus in hand.
Aside from Garnett and Matthews, here’s the rest of the Niners’ cuts: