Pat Elflein

NFC North Notes: LaFleur, Vikings, Burton

Matt LaFleur‘s hands-on approach in his first year as Packers HC will have to be tabled for a while. The torn Achilles LaFleur suffered this week will require immediate surgery, with Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reporting he will go under the knife Sunday. The 39-year-old coach was active in his first weeks leading the Packers, taking on an “enormous” load. But with the recovery from this surgery necessitating a potential six-month timetable, LaFleur’s methods will have to change. The coach was overseeing practice from a golf cart this week. This will certainly mark an interesting period for the Packers, LaFleur managing Achilles rehab while going through his first year as a head coach.

A couple weeks ago I kind of tweaked my calf on the other side,” LaFleur said, via Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But this one, I knew immediately. It was way more forceful. I thought somebody hit me in the leg. I looked around and nobody’s by me. It’s just one of those deals. We’ll rebound. We’ll be back.”

Shifting to some of the players in the NFC North, here is the latest out of the division:

  • Kirk Cousins does not have any early retirement plans. In discussing the arrival of rookie center Garrett Bradbury, the second-year Vikings quarterback said he would like to play well into the 2020s. “I told him, ‘I’d like to work together for about the next decade,’ ” Cousins said, via Dane Mizutani of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I just tried to set that vision for him and say, ‘You be the guy here for the next decade and let’s not have to worry about having anybody else snap for the quarterback.” While it is uncertain if Cousins will be in Minnesota beyond 2020, the final year of his fully guaranteed deal, the soon-to-be 31-year-old passer would prefer he stay in the Twin Cities on what would be multiple additional contracts.
  • With Bradbury sliding in at center, Minnesota’s incumbent snapper will slide to guard. Pat Elflein has started 28 games at center since beginning his NFL career, but he said (via Mizutani) he is now working at left guard. Elflein last played guard at Ohio State. Elflein lining up on the left side would put free agent addition Josh Kline in line to start at right guard. Both will be adjusting to the Gary KubiakRick Dennison zone-blocking scheme.
  • Trey Burton will not participate in the Bears‘ final OTA sessions next week or their mid-June minicamp. Chicago’s top tight end underwent sports hernia surgery, Matt Nagy said (via NBC 5’s Mike Berman, on Twitter). The Bears hope he will be ready by training camp. Burton played all 16 games for the Bears last season, reaching career-high marks in receptions, yards and touchdowns (54/569/6).

Extra Points: Wilson, Vikings, McLeod, AAF

More details of Russell Wilson‘s landmark extension are emerging. Wilson’s 2020 and ’21 base salaries — $19MM apiece — will become fully guaranteed if he is on the Seahawks roster five days after Super Bowls LIV and LV, respectively. With that a near-certainty, Wilson’s $107MM in total guarantees are practically full guarantees. Wilson will earn a $19MM base salary in 2022 and ’23, according to OverTheCap. This deal leaves Wilson with cap numbers of $26.29MM (2019), $31MM (2020), $32MM (’21), $37MM (’22) and $39MM (’23). The eighth-year quarterback’s base salary was slated to be $17MM this year; the new deal converted much of that money into a signing bonus, with Wilson now attached to a $5MM base in 2019. The new contract raised Wilson’s 2019 cap number by just $1MM. Additionally, the contract includes a $6MM escalator clause — which would bring the total dollar figure up to $146MM — for Wilson’s 2023 salary, per CBS Sports’ Joel Corry (on Twitter). Unspecified performance-based incentives from 2020-22 can bump the Pro Bowler’s $21MM salary in 2023 to $27MM.

Here is the latest from around the American football landscape:

  • The Vikings are considering moving left tackle Riley Reiff to left guard, but it appears that is contingent on how the draft goes. Reiff will likely only move inside if Minnesota selects a first-round tackle, per Dave Campbell of the Associated Press. Reiff has only played tackle in the NFL. The Vikings “wouldn’t hesitate” to move center Pat Elflein to guard, Campbell adds, but that will also be contingent on the draft. Minnesota failing to add a center worth relocating Elflein would presumably nix that move. Either way, the Vikings’ embattled line will likely look a bit different post-draft.
  • Rodney McLeod will not participate in the Eagles‘ offseason program. The veteran safety, who tore his ACL in Week 3 of last season, is aiming for a training camp return, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Les Bowen notes. McLeod took a major pay cut this offseason, slashing his 2019 salary from $7.5MM to $1.5MM. That can become $4MM, should McLeod play in all 16 Eagles games, Bowen adds. He played in 16 games in each season from 2012-16 and had missed just two in his career prior to the 2018 injury. McLeod signed a five-year deal in 2016, but the contract is now a four-year pact. The restructure voided the 2020 season.
  • No last-ditch effort will save the Alliance of American Football. The league filed for bankruptcy this week. “Pursuant to the bankruptcy laws, a trustee will be empowered to resolve all matters related to the AAF’s remaining assets and liabilities, including ongoing matters related to player contracts,” the league said in a statement. The AAF abruptly halted operations earlier this month, leaving a messy trail of financial turmoil after an eight-game season.

Injury Notes: Elflein, DeCastro, Mosley

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said today that starting center Pat Elflein will be returning to the field “pretty soon.” However, the coach wasn’t able to give a definite return date, which probably indicates that the offensive lineman won’t be ready for this weekend’s matchup against the Packers.

“It’s way too early,” Zimmer said (via Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com). “I’m not going to make any determinations like that yet.”

The offensive lineman missed the preseason and the first week of the season as he recovered from shoulder and ankle ailments, but he’s still found ways to contribute to the team. As Tomasson writes, the second-year pro has been tutoring replacement Brett Jones, who was acquired from the Giants in late August.

“Pat’s been a lot of help so far, and it’s been good,” Jones said. “We’re trying to get on the same page with me being new, and he’s made the transition easier. He’s played lots of these defenses, just being in the (NFC North), so he can help me out with what to expect.”

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Steelers All-Pro guard David DeCastro fractured his hand during last weekend’s game, and he acknowledged that the injury was worse than he initially thought. The offensive lineman has sat out the past few days of practice, and he’s set to be fitted for a brace. While he may have to wait another few days for swelling to go down, DeCastro indicated that it wouldn’t be missed practice time that forces him to miss a game. “I’m old enough now,” he told Joe Rutter of TribLive.com. “We’ll see how the swelling goes.” The 28-year-old has only missed a single regular season game over the past three seasons, and he’s earned three Pro Bowl nods during that span.
  • C.J. Mosley was carted off the field during the Ravens‘ game against the Bengals tonight, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the linebacker is being evaluated for a knee injury (Mosley has since been diagnosed with a bone bruise). His absence was felt right away; after forcing a three-and-out on Cincy’s first drive, the Ravens defense allowed touchdowns on the next three series. Much of this could be attributed to Baltimore’s lack of depth and experience at middle linebacker, as the team is only rostering Patrick Onwuasor, Chris Board, and Bam Bradley (currently on the PUP) behind Mosley.
  • Leonard Fournette is feeling better, but the Jaguars running back said it will be a “game time decision” on whether he’ll play this weekend against the Patriots.

Vikings Trim Roster To 53

The Vikings have announced all of their cuts, getting their roster down to 53. Here are the moves:

Waived:

Placed on Reserve/Retired:

Placed on Reserve/Suspended:

Activated from Physically Unable to Perform:

Vikings’ Pat Elflein To Miss Week 1

Shelved on the Vikings’ PUP list throughout training camp and during the preseason slate, Pat Elflein will make his way back to practice on Sunday, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

However, Minnesota will not have its starting center back in Week 1. He’s spent the offseason recovering from shoulder and ankle injuries and will not be ready by the time the Vikings play the 49ers next week, Tomasson adds.

Although the Vikings traded for former Giants starter Brett Jones, Tomasson points to Cornelius Edison being Minnesota’s Week 1 center. The Vikes are already without guard starter Nick Easton, who is out for the season.

It’s unknown if Elflein will be back for Week 2, but his return to practice suggests that will be in play.

Injury Notes: Ravens, Vernon, Elflein, Jets

The Ravens were expecting big things from defensive tackle Willie Henry this season, but they may have to wait a few weeks to see him contribute. Head coach John Harbaugh said on Saturday that the 24-year-old recently underwent surgery to repair an umbilical hernia.

“It’s not football related, but maybe had been there and just kind of opened up on him a little bit. He had surgery for that, so he’ll be a few weeks,” Harbaugh said (via Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com).

After sitting out his entire rookie campaign, the 2016 fourth-round pick showed some promise in 2017 after sitting out his entire rookie campaign. In 14 games (three starts), Henry compiled 33 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and five passes defended. With Henry out of the starting lineup, the Ravens will likely turn to Chris Wormley or rookie Zach Sieler.

Henry won’t be the only Ravens player forced out of the lineup. Harbaugh also said tight end Hayden Hurst recently had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot, and recovery could take three to four weeks.

Let’s check out some more injury updates from around the NFL…

  • Olivier Vernon was carted off the Giants practice field today after suffering a left ankle injury. However, it sounds like the talented outside linebacker will be alright, as ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter) that Vernon’s x-rays came back negative. If the 27-year-old is forced to miss any time, it’d be a big loss for the Giants. The linebacker has compiled 15 sacks in two seasons with the team, including a 2017 campaign when he collected 37 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 12 games.
  • Vikings center Pat Elflein is currently dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries, but head coach Mike Zimmer recently said that the lineman wouldn’t begin the season on the PUP list. However, that might not end up being the case. Chris Tomasson of St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that the organization is set to get a medical update on Elflein tomorrow. According to the reporter, the team now isn’t expecting the lineman to be ready for the start of the regular season. The center started all 14 games as a rookie last season. The Vikings recently traded for Brett Jones for some reinforcement at the position.
  • Jets running back Elijah McGuire won’t be ready for the start of the regular season, tweets Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Head coach Todd Bowles acknowledged that the team is considering placing the 24-year-old on the short-term injured reserve to start the year. McGuire looked solid during his rookie season, compiling 315 rushing yards and one touchdown on 88 carries (he also hauled in 17 catches for 177 yards and one score). The running back’s injury may allow the team to hold onto another player at the position behind Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, and Thomas Rawls.

Vikings Acquire C Brett Jones From Giants

The Giants have traded center Brett Jones to the Vikings in exchange for a 2019 draft pick, New York announced. New York will acquire a 2019 seventh-round choice, tweets Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

Minnesota is in desperate need of help on the interior of its offensive line, as projected starting guard Nick Easton is already done for the season after undergoing neck surgery, while center Pat Elflein has been on the physically unable to perform list for the duration of training camp. Elflein is dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer says Elflein won’t begin the regular season on the PUP list, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

A former undrafted free agent, Jones started 13 games in place of the injured Weston Richburg a season ago. Jones, who joined the Giants in 2015 after spending time in the Canadian Football League, graded as the NFL’s No. 18 center among 37 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. However, the 26-year-old was expected to lose New York’s starting center job to Jon Halapio, making him expendable in the Giants’ view.

The Giants re-signed Jones this offseason on a one-year, $2.941MM second-round restricted free agent tender, and the Vikings will now assume the entirety of that contract. At last check, New York possessed only ~$1.5MM in cap space, so moving Jones and his salary off its books will give the club a little financial breathing room.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Elflein, Bradham, Rams, Bears

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers may be far apart when it comes to an extension, but the franchise quarterback doesn’t sound like he’s all that bothered by the lack of progress. Talking to Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press, Rodgers said he never planned on holding out as he pursued a new deal.

“I don’t really operate like that. I have two years left on my deal,” Rodgers said. “They’re obviously more than willing to talk about an extension. There wasn’t any animosity on either side.”

The 34-year-old is set to earn an average annual salary of $19.9MM in the final two years of his deal. Once the contract expires, the Packers would seemingly be in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations. As our own Zach Links explained, the organization could franchise him in 2021 and 2022, bumping that average annual salary to $25MM per season.

Let’s take a look at more notes from around the NFC…

  • Vikings center Pat Elflein was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list yesterday, and Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune says that was due to a pair of offseason shoulders. It was previously announced that the 24-year-old would undergo surgery to repair his fractured left ankle, but the Elflein also underwent a procedure to fix a lingering shoulder injury. Goessling tweets that while the offensive lineman wouldn’t commit to a return date, his health isn’t expected to be a major concern. ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin adds (via Twitter) that former third-rounder is simply “waiting for medical clearance” before he returns to the field.
  • Last month, Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was slapped with a one-game suspension stemming from his 2016 involvement in an alleged assault incident. While the 28-year-old is set to miss the team’s season-opener, it sounds like he could have been out a whole lot longer. Bradham told John McMullen of 97.3 ESPN that he was originally facing a six-game suspension (via Les Bowen of Philly.com). His side ultimately appealed and got the suspension reduced to a single game.
  • Rams offensive guard Jamon Brown was suspended for the first two games of next season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The former third-rounder told Rich Hammond of Orange County Register that the suspension was related to a speeding violation and marijuana possession (Twitter link). As Hammond points out, the 25-year-old was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence.
  • The Bears worked out former Assumption wideout Ashton Grant today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The six-foot-two receiver set a number of school records during his four years with the program, including receiving yards (3,204) and receiving touchdowns (36). Chicago is currently rostering 10 receivers, including rookies Anthony Miller and Javon Wims.
  • Speaking of Bears rookies, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wonders why Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith remains unsigned more than a week after the team’s training camp started. Florio cites PFT’s previous report that “then-unsigned players at the bottom of the top 10 were being delayed both by roster bonuses structure and by language that would void the guarantees in the fully-guaranteed four-year contracts.” What does this mean? If the linebacker is suspended for violating the league’s helmet-related tackling rules, the contract’s guaranteed money would “go away.” This would make it considerably easier for the Bears to move on from Smith down the road. Of course, neither side is hoping it’d ever get to that point, as the organization clearly has high hopes for the eighth-overall pick. However, as Florio explains, it’d make sense for the rookie’s camp to stand firm in removing this language from the rookie contract.

North Rumors: Suggs, Price, Vikings, Lions

Terrell Suggs appears set to go after Ray Lewis‘ mark for most years in a Ravens uniform. Should the outside linebacker make it through all 16 games this season, he’ll surpass the Hall of Fame-bound Lewis’ games-played mark of 228. Suggs sits on 213, but this being his 16th season, he’ll need to play through the 2019 slate with the franchise to match Lewis’ 17 years of Ravens service. He doesn’t see that being a problem. Suggs said in May he envisions multiple additional seasons, despite entering his age-35 campaign, and ensured he wasn’t planning to make this one his last. At least, he won’t be making any announcements about 2018 being his final season beforehand. Per Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link), Suggs is on a year-to-year setup at this point. But the Ravens’ all-time sack leader said “I really couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.” Suggs rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 17 edge defender last season.

I’ll never do that. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that: Going in, this will be my [last],” Suggs said, via Zreibec. “Nah. It’ll probably be one day, I’ll just wake up. But I don’t think I’ll ever not love it. I didn’t choose this. I was born, and this is what I am.”

Here’s the latest from the North divisions, moving to some center situations.

  • Billy Price‘s rehab during his first NFL offseason is going well. The Bengals rookie is approximately a month ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from a torn pectoral muscle, Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com reports. Price will remain in Cincinnati during the midsummer hiatus. He bench-pressed 315 pounds this week, although he currently needs to be supervised upon doing so at this juncture of the process. The Ohio State standout injured himself in February performing bench reps. Prior to the draft, Price was expected to be ready for training camp. So, that seems fairly easy to assume now given the timeline update.
  • Shifting to the Vikings‘ center spot, Pat Elflein did not participate in minicamp but is expected to be ready to return by Minnesota’s training camp, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes. Price’s former Buckeyes teammate underwent ankle surgery in January.
  • Lions training camp could feature an ascent at cornerback. Teez Tabor appears ready to mount a strong challenge for Detroit’s No. 2 cornerback spot, with Kyle Meinke of MLive.com predicting the 2017 second-round pick will be the favorite to win that job despite Nevin Lawson having started 31 games the past two seasons. Tabor played 190 snaps as a backup last season. The Lions also signed DeShawn Shead and have versatile Quandre Diggs entering a contract year. But Diggs, despite playing mostly corner during his three-year career, may be set to shift to safety full-time now.

Extra Points: Jets, Giants, Eagles, Broncos, Chiefs, Vikings

With the selection of Sam Darnold at No. 3 in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Jets brought their quarterback room to five. The USC product joined Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Newsday’s Calvin Watkins, however, notes that number is expected to shrink by the time the team heads to training camp in July.

The two obvious candidates to be moved or released are Petty and Hackenberg. The former has failed to impress in seven starts, and the latter, despite having a cannon for an arm, has yet to make an appearance in his first two seasons.

Even if one of the two make it to training camp, another move is likely to come as keeping four quarterbacks would handicap the team at other positions. In addition to Darnold, it would be hard to see the veteran McCown not making the squad. The journeyman is viewed as invaluable in the locker room and is the perfect candidate to help the young Darnold learn the ropes of the NFL.

Bridgewater, however, is no lock to make the roster. As Watkins notes, the former Vikings signal-caller receives a $5MM base salary if he makes the team. If not, the Jets are only out the $500,000 signing bonus. If he proves he is back to his pre-injury form, New York will have a steal. If not, the team can cut bait with minimal salary implications.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Broncos did not endure a turnover in the scouting department following this weekend’s draft, 9 News’ Mike Klis tweets. In the wake of the annual draft, it is not uncommon for teams to part ways with scouts and personnel department. Team president John Elway, however, decided to bring everyone back.
  • The Chiefs hired Eagles assistant director of college scouting Michael Bradway to an undisclosed position, Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia tweets. Mosher notes Bradway, who was with the Eagles for seven seasons, joins back up with Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, who also spent time in Philadelphia.
  • The Giants attempted to trade into the back end of the second round to select Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter, the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz writes. Though a deal did not form, New York was still able to pluck the speedy edge rusher when he fell to their third-round pick (No. 66). “What you have to appreciate is his unseen production. If he is flying off the edge, he is creating pressure. Sometimes you are looking at guys that create plays for others.,” general manager Dave Gettleman said.
  • The Eagles drafted their fewest players since 1989 when it emerged from the draft with only five selections. That is not a spot the team wants to be in again, general manager Howie Roseman told The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Les Bowen. “I think it’s a hard first couple of days for people who put a lot of time and effort into the process, and you see that,” Roseman said. “The last two days, it’s hard. A lot of guys get off the board, so we don’t want to do that again. I think that’s the first takeaway.”
  • Vikings center Pat Elflein is doing “part work” in spring drills but is not going to be ready for OTAs, the player told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Elflein suffered a fractured left ankle in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 21 and underwent surgery the following week. “We’re just not rushing it. I’m just trying to get myself back in shape and get strong and be ready to go.,” Elflein said.