The Broncos will take a flier on a former third-round pick. Perkins arrived as a 2021 Patriots third-rounder, coming out of Oklahoma. Injuries intervened for the St. Louis native, who has yet to play in a regular-season game. After not playing for three-plus months to start his rookie season, Perkins landed on IR. The Pats then placed him on season-ending IR in August 2022. Perkins did not make New England’s 53-man roster this year but stuck around via a practice squad invite. Because the Broncos are poaching Perkins off a P-squad, they must keep him on their active roster for at least three weeks.
Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like this is a long-term issue, and there’s been no indication that Clark will land on injured reserve. Per Rapoport, the veteran is considered week-to-week.
The former Pro Bowler was cut by the Broncos back in March before eventually landing in Denver. As Troy Renck of Denver7 notes, Clark has struggled to establish a role in Denver, with the 30-year-old serving as a situational pass rusher during the season opener. Clark finished that contest with a pair of tackles while appearing in 25 defensive snaps.
This comes with Baron Browning sitting on PUP, so Clark’s role could be made even more uncertain when his teammate returns. A few weeks off the field probably won’t help his case for a significant role in Denver.
2022 ended Clark’s three-year stretch of earning Pro Bowl nods, but he was still productive with the Chiefs. In 15 games, the pass rusher compiled 39 tackles and five sacks. He showed up during Kansas City’s run to a Super Bowl championship, collecting another seven tackles and 2.5 sacks in three games.
More injury notes from around the NFL…
Greg Dulcich is once again dealing with a hamstring injury. After missing seven games for the Broncos during the 2022 season, the tight end will once again miss multiple weeks while dealing with a hamstring injury in the same leg, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The organization intends to take it slow with Dulcich, meaning it could be a bit before he returns to the field. The 2022 third-round pick finished his rookie campaign with 33 catches for 411 yards and two touchdowns.
A trio of Eagles players were ruled out early for Thursday Night Football. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported yesterday that running back Kenneth Gainwell (ribs), cornerback James Bradberry (concussion), and safety Reed Blankenship (ribs) would all be sidelined for Philly’s Week 2 matchup against the Vikings. The Eagles did get some good news, however, with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox being declared active for tonight’s game after being listed as questionable with a rib injury.
Rams wideout Puka Nacua didn’t practice today thanks to an oblique injury, according to Schefter. The rookie fifth-round pick was a standout during his NFL debut, garnering 15 targets from Matthew Stafford. Nacua ultimately finished the contest with 10 catches for 119 yards. With Cooper Kupp sidelined, the Rams may need to dig into their wide receiver depth against the 49ers.
September 14th, 2023 at 4:56pm CST by Sam Robinson
Garrett Bradbury suffered a back injury last season, and the Vikings center saw his absence extended after he aggravated the malady in a car accident. Bradbury missed the Vikings’ final five regular-season games but returned for the team’s wild-card loss. The Vikings circled back to the former first-round pick in March, re-signing him to a three-year, $15.75MM deal. That contract becomes a pay-as-you go accord after 2023, and Bradbury has run into familiar trouble. The Vikings ruled out the fifth-year center for their Thursday-night game in Philadelphia due to a back injury.
“We felt positive about him, and he’s done everything and had no issues whatsoever through a pretty physical training camp for us to feel really good about it,” Kevin O’Connell said (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) of Bradbury’s back issue. “It’s just how this game goes sometimes, and he’s a tough guy, big part of the interior of our offensive line and we’ll hope to get him back as soon as we can.”
Austin Schlottmann, who returned last week after a broken leg ended his 2022 season, is set to start at center against the Eagles. Here is the latest from the O-line landscape:
The Bengals completed an unexpected transaction this week, releasing La’el Collinsfrom the reserve/PUP list. The team had given Collins a three-year, $21MM deal to step in at right tackle, which he did for 15 games. But ACL and MCL tears ended his 2022 season in Week 16 and prevented him from starting this season on time. The Bengals have Jonah Williams at right tackle opposite big-ticket UFA addition Orlando Brown Jr., but Jackson Carman — who replaced Williams at LT in the playoffs last season — is not the top backup any longer. D’Ante Smith, a 2021 fourth-round pick, is positioned as Cincinnati’s swing tackle now, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carman has started two playoff games but lost three position battles in his three training camps. Viewed as a project coming out of East Carolina, Smith has played 56 career offensive snaps.
Reliability questions surrounded the Patriots‘ offensive line, and the team responded accordingly when setting its 53-man roster. Before Riley Reiffended up on IR, the Patriots submitted an initial 53 with 11 O-linemen. No other team’s first 53 included that many, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes. Only seven teams kept 10 blockers, though that is where New England’s contingent stands after the Reiff move. The Pats needed to use this depth early. Calvin Anderson, who came off the Pats’ reserve/non-football illness list late in the preseason, started at right tackle in Week 1. Guards Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu were out, moving fourth- and fifth-round rookies — Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi — into the lineup. Onwenu and Strange have each logged two limited practices this week, though both Sow and left tackle Trent Brown suffered concussions in the opener, leaving their Week 2 statuses in doubt.
The Commanders, Packers and Vikings each restructured an O-line deal recently. Washington created $6MM in cap space by moving $7.5MM of Charles Leno‘s base salary into a signing bonus and adding three void years, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. Green Bay topped that by adding four void years to Yosh Nijman‘s deal, creating $2.54MM in cap space, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. This proves interesting due to Nijman being on a second-round RFA tender; he is due to be a 2024 free agent. Minnesota added $9.99MM in space by restructuring Brian O’Neill‘s contract, per Yates.
September 14th, 2023 at 1:21pm CST by Sam Robinson
The 2019 draft produced several long-running partnerships between defensive tackles and the teams that chose them in the first round. Four of the six DTs selected in Round 1 that year signed extensions this offseason. Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Dexter Lawrence and Jeffery Simmons have new deals in hand. Jerry Tillery did not work out for the Chargers, but he was the only first-round DT from the ’19 class not to negotiate an extension this offseason. Christian Wilkins spent months discussing a deal with the Dolphins, but the sides have tabled matters to 2024, when the former No. 13 overall pick will be on the cusp of free agency.
Guarantees represented a sticking point for Wilkins, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald offers that the Dolphins appeared to be skittish about authorizing a Williams-level deal for a player without much in the way of sack production. Wilkins’ camp undoubtedly pushed for terms in the Williams-Lawrence-Simmons-Daron Payne neighborhood ($22.5-$24MM per year), as the Clemson alum led all DTs with 98 tackles last season. Wilkins, who produced 89 tackles in 2021, has never topped 4.5 sacks in a season. He has also eclipsed seven QB hits in just one of his four NFL slates (13 in 2021). Wilkins has not requested a trade, per Jackson, and the Dolphins — despite trade interest emerging — are not interested in moving him.
The Dolphins will have the option of franchise-tagging Wilkins next year. The Commanders used the tag as a bridge to a Payne deal, but the D-tackle tag number will likely come in north of $20MM in 2024. The Dolphins are currently projected to be $27MM over the cap next year (29th in the league), though much will obviously change between now and then. Here is the latest from the AFC East:
Carl Lawson is expected to make his 2023 debut in Week 2, Robert Saleh said (via the New York Post’s Brian Costello). The veteran defensive end missed most of training camp due to back tightness, and the Jets held him out of their Week 1 Bills matchup. Lawson, who took a pay cut this offseason, totaled seven sacks and 24 QB hits (both totals second among Jets) last season.
Tyquan Thornton is starting a second straight season on IR, but the Boston Herald’s Doug Kyed notes the Patriots do not expect the 2022 second-rounder to miss much time. A shoulder injury sent Thornton to IR. That said, Thornton was not pushing to be a starter during his second training camp. The Baylor product, who suffered a broken collarbone during his first NFL camp, was likely “significantly” behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker before his latest injury, Kyed adds.
September 13th, 2023 at 8:30pm CST by Sam Robinson
SEPTEMBER 13: Collins’ health will no doubt influence his free agent prospects to a great extent. On that point, Sportskeeda’s Tony Pauline reports he should be available to suit up in either late October or November. The timing of when Collins does find a home could lead to an injury grievance being filed against the Bengals, he adds.
Notably, Pauline names the Patriots as a team which has inquired about Collins, though New England will surely have competition to add the veteran as at least a depth option up front. All five starting members of the Patriots’ O-line are included on the Week 2 injury report, and tackle was a position facing question marks at the start of the season. As Collins moves closer to full health over time, it will be interesting to see how much of a market he develops for himself.
SEPTEMBER 12: The Bengals will cut bait on La’el Collins, who had remained on their PUP list to start the season. Collins is back in free agency, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.
Cincinnati’s Orlando Brown Jr.signing rearranged its tackle corps, sliding three-year starter Jonah Williams to the right side. After a trade request, Williams remained in the fold and opened the season at right tackle. Jackson Carman, who lost the RT position battle with Williams early in training camp, is in place as the team’s swing tackle. This left Collins without a clear role. While teams frequently prioritize O-linemen, a veteran starter is now available. Though, there is the matter of Collins returning from his knee injuries.
Given a three-year, $21MM deal following a Cowboys release, Collins started 15 games for the Bengals last season. A steady run of O-line injuries affected the Bengals significantly in a narrow AFC championship game loss to the Chiefs, which featured three starters — Collins, Williams, guard Alex Cappa — out of commission. Williams and Cappa returned this offseason, but Williams’ injuries were more severe. This will undoubtedly affect his earning potential as a second-time free agent.
Collins, 30, has 86 starts on his resume. While several of those came at guard to start his career, the former LSU standout ended up at right tackle early in his NFL run. The Cowboys gave Collins two extensions, the second a five-year deal worth $50MM, but released him in 2022.
This Bengals transaction should generate some interest from tackle-needy teams, but it remains to be seen how healthy Collins is. Had Collins entered the offseason healthy, he would have resided as a trade candidate for the Bengals, who were not pleased with his work last season. They were not interested in trying Collins at guard following the Brown addition, either. But they moved on early, incurring only a $1.7MM dead-money hit to do so. The Bengals also roster D’Ante Smith, a 2021 fourth-round pick, as a backup tackle option.
SEPTEMBER 10: Howe reports that Corral was absent from the Patriots’ facility on Friday and Saturday, meaning he missed out on practice, walkthrough and team meetings in advance of today’s contest. He adds New England is still determining Corral’s future with the organization. Given the left squad designation, the team will have time to sort out its next move. Kyed adds, meanwhile, that the Patriots never seemed to be contemplating waiving Corral, despite the report from earlier on Saturday that they were doing so. This situation will remain worth watching until further clarity emerges.
SEPTEMBER 9: Patriots second-year cornerback Jack Jonessuffered a hamstring injury on Wednesday at practice that immediately put his game status in doubt for tomorrow’s season opener, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic. After confirming that Jones wouldn’t be available in Week 1, Howe speculated that a multi-week absence could be in the cards for the young defender. Well, Mike Reiss of ESPN was able to confirm today that Jones has been placed on injured reserve, guaranteeing he will miss at least the first four games of the 2023 season.
The loss of Jones certainly hurts the quality of the team’s cornerback depth, but overall, the Patriots still look strong at the position. With rookie first-round pick Christian Gonzalez joining veteran Jonathan Jones in the starting lineup, New England should be set up well for Week 1. The team also has Marcus Jones and Jalen Mills providing depth behind the starters.
The Patriots’ transaction announcement also disclosed that they are placing quarterback Matt Corral on the exempt/left squad list. According to Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald, Corral reportedly left the team without notice. This makes Corral’s “not injury related” appearance on the practice injury report this week make a bit more sense. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network explained that going this route immediately clears a roster spot for New England without the need to place Corral on waivers.
The Patriots filled one of the open two roster spots by signing practice squad quarterback Bailey Zappe to the active roster. Last year’s fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky will now be the primary backup behind starting quarterback Mac Jones despite being released during final roster cuts back in August.
To fill the other roster spot, the team signed practice squad running back Ty Montgomery to the active roster, as well. Montgomery will provide depth and variety off the bench behind Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott. While both Stevenson and Elliott have shown an ability to receive out of the backfield at some point in their careers, Montgomery clearly has an edge at that ability after converting from wide receiver after his rookie year.
Finally, the team will reportedly only be using one of their two allowed practice squad promotions for tomorrow. Veteran linebacker/special teamer Calvin Munson will get the call up for the season opener against the Eagles.
September 9th, 2023 at 10:59pm CST by Sam Robinson
Quarterback acquisitions generated top headlines this offseason, while the slew of developments affecting the running back market moved that position’s value to a precarious point. On that note, our latest Offseason In Review series is in the books. Here are the PFR staff’s looks at how teams assembled their 2023 rosters:
The Patriots made one of the more surprising moves on roster deadline day when they cut 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe. The QB eventually landed on New England’s practice squad, and it sounds like he’s now back where he started.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Patriots have signed Zappe to their active roster. This is not a standard practice squad elevation, which was the route the organization was expected to take with the backup quarterback. Instead, the Patriots are giving Zappe his spot back on the 53-man roster.
In a corresponding move, the team has waived quarterback Matt Corral, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). The 2022 third-round pick took Zappe’s spot on the roster following roster deadline day.
After moving on from Zappe and undrafted free agent Malik Cunningham, the Patriots were left with Mac Jones as the only quarterback on the active roster. The Patriots later revealed some of their logic when they claimed Corral, a former Panthers draftee, off waivers.
The Corral acquisition was certainly an indictment on Zappe, but it seemed like the incumbent still had a firm hold on the QB2 role despite sitting on the practice squad. After all, Zappe has a year of familiarity with the organization, even if the team did hire Bill O’Brien as their new offensive coordinator this offseason.
Corral would have only had a week-plus to learn New England’s system, making it unlikely that the 2022 third-round pick would be counted on to immediately serve as Jones’ backup. Further, the Ole Miss product missed his entire rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury, so the QB was also expected to be brought along slowly during the 2023 campaign.
Indeed, the quarterback didn’t have enough time to catch up, leading to him sacrificing his roster spot today. Per ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the first indication of a QB2 change came at practice yesterday when Corral was absent. The Patriots could be counting on Corral passing through waivers and landing back on their practice squad, although that’s just speculation on my part. Joe Person of The Athletic notes that Panthers GM Scott Fitterer previously expressed interest in bringing Corral back to the practice squad.
Zappe added some intrigue to the Patriots’ quarterbacks room last season. With Jones and New England’s offense struggling, Zappe didn’t look completely lost during his two starts. He won both of those appearances, and in four games, he finished with 781 passing yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions while completing 70.7 percent of his passes.
However, the Patriots’ hiring of O’Brien seemed to be a vote of confidence for Jones heading into the 2023 campaign. We learned recently that the coordinator’s offense specifically caters to Jones’ strengths, and that system doesn’t necessarily fit Zappe’s playing style. There was also some speculation that former offensive coordinators MattPatricia and JoeJudge let Zappe run a similar-style offense to what he ran in college, perhaps explaining some of his rookie success.