Pat Elflein

Jets Beat Dolphins, Ravens, Others For Pat Elflein

The Jets, at least, have achieved something this year. On Monday, the Jets beat out five other NFL teams on the waiver wire when they picked up former Vikings offensive lineman Pat Elflein, a source tells Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Jaguars, Bears, Dolphins, Ravens, and the Washington Football Team all tried to claim the veteran, but the Jets’ 0-9 record gave them the upper hand. 

Elflein started 15 games at guard in 2019, and he started the 2020 season opener before suffering a torn thumb ligament. That injury forced him to the injured reserve list. And, after returning to practice three weeks ago, his IR-DTR window had recently come to an end. Therefore, the Vikings had no other choice than to activate Elflein. One day later, they released the 26-year-old lineman.

The former third-rounder earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team in 2017 after starting 14 games at center for the Vikings. He played the same role in 2018, but he was switched to guard in 2019 after Minnesota drafted Garrett Bradbury in the first round of that year’s draft.

Elflein’s injury has hindered him, but he now says that he’s fully healthy. And, although his rookie contract will expire at the end of the year, the Jets will have the opportunity to evaluate him and potentially lock him up before he can reach the open market in March. The advanced metrics have never been fond of Elflein’s work, but quality linemen are in short supply, and plenty of teams were eager to take the low-cost risk before the Jets won out.

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Jets Claim Pat Elflein Off Waivers

The Jets are using their 0-9 record to their advantage. New York has claimed offensive lineman Pat Elflein off waivers from the Vikings, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets.

It goes without saying, the Jets are at the top of the waiver wire. It’s rare for a player with Elflein’s recent starting experience to hit the waiver wire late in the year, and GM Joe Douglas took advantage. A 2017 third-round pick of the Vikings, Elflein started at least 13 games in each of his first three NFL seasons. He spent his first two years at center before kicking over to left guard for the 2019 campaign.

His rookie contract is set to expire at the end of the year, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in March. Now the Jets can take a look at him internally and potentially lock him up before he hits free agency if they like what they see. Elflein has never graded out well as a starter by most evaluators, but it’s a decent low-risk acquisition as the Jets continue to try to improve their offensive line.

The Ohio State product started Minnesota’s opener against the Packers this year, but was then placed on injured reserve with a thumb injury. He was released nearly immediately upon being activated.

 

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Vikings Release OL Pat Elflein

After being activated from the injured reserve yesterday, Pat Elflein is now a free agent. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Vikings have released the offensive lineman. The 26-year-old is now fully healthy and hopes to get an opportunity for “some real playing time elsewhere.”

The former third-round pick earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team in 2017 after starting 14 games at center for the Vikings. He played the same role in 2018, but he was switched to guard in 2019 after Minnesota drafted Garrett Bradbury in the first round of that year’s draft.

Elflein started 15 games at guard in 2019, and he started the 2020 season opener before tearing a thumb ligament. That injury forced Elflein to land on the IR, and after returning to practice three weeks ago, his IR-DTR window had recently come to an end. Therefore, the Vikings had no other choice than to activate Elflein.

As our own Sam Robinson noted yesterday, the Vikings have used veteran Dakota Dozier as a guard starter all year, and they recently moved second-round rookie Ezra Cleveland into their starting lineup at guard. Considering the recent performance of Dalvin Cook and the Vikings running game, the coaching staff apparently thought it was better to roll forward with their current grouping.

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Vikings Activate OL Pat Elflein From IR

After returning to practice nearly three weeks ago, Pat Elflein may be back in a Vikings game uniform Monday. The Vikings are activating the veteran interior lineman from IR.

As was the case with Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, Elflein may not play in Week 10. The Vikings needed to activate the guard starter because his 21-day IR-DTR window was set to close. Elflein is now back on Minnesota’s 53-man roster, but he did not practice Friday.

Elflein suffered a torn thumb ligament during practice ahead of the Vikings’ Week 2 game and underwent surgery. Minnesota drafted Elflein in the third round in 2017 and slotted him as its starting center as a rookie. The team moved him to guard in 2019, upon drafting Garrett Bradbury, and he started at right guard in Week 1 against the Packers.

The Vikings have used veteran Dakota Dozier as a guard starter all year and recently moved second-round rookie Ezra Cleveland into their starting lineup at guard. Dalvin Cook has reeled off back-to-back dominant performances behind Minnesota’s reconfigured line, so Elflein’s role upon return will be interesting. He has, however, started 43 of his 44 career games. Elflein’s rookie contract expires at season’s end, making the second half of this campaign critical for his hopes at an extension or a big free agency payday.

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Vikings Designate Pat Elflein, Troy Dye To Return

The Vikings are in the midst of an abysmal campaign at 1-5, but they at least have some reinforcements on the way. Minnesota is designating guard Pat Elflein and linebacker Troy Dye to return from injured reserve, they announced Monday.

Each can return to practice, and the team now has a three-week window to activate either player. If they are not activated in that span, they’ll be ineligible to return for the remainder of the year. Those weren’t the only roster moves the Vikings made following their bye week, as they also claimed cornerback Chris Jones off waivers from the Lions and signed cornerback Mark Fields to the active roster from the practice squad. Clearly, the Vikings feel they need help in the secondary, and it’s hard to argue with that given what we’ve seen so far.

Elflein became the Vikings’ starter at center his first two years in the league, then switched to guard last season and started 15 games there. He played every snap in Week 1 but was placed on injured reserve with a knee issue shortly thereafter. Elflein has never been viewed too positively by most evaluators, but it can’t hurt to get a starter back.

Dye is a fourth-round rookie from Oregon who could help with a defense that has been struggling mightily. He started to get defensive snaps in Week 2 after Anthony Barr picked up his season-ending injury, but then promptly went down with a foot injury of his own.

Jones is a 2018 UDFA from Nebraska who appeared in 11 games with three starts for the Cardinals last year. He had 22 tackles and six passes defended. Fields is a 2019 UDFA from Clemson who spent most of last year on Minnesota’s practice squad and has been shuffling back and forth between there and the active roster this season.

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Vikings Place Pat Elflein On IR

The Vikings will be without one of their starting offensive linemen for at least three weeks. They are placing guard Pat Elflein on IR, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The team announced the decision.

Elflein has previously dealt with injuries during his NFL career and just began in a key season; his rookie contract expires at year’s end. The Vikings have not disclosed Elflein’s injury, but NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero notes that the fourth-year blocker suffered a thumb malady during Thursday’s practice (Twitter link).

Minnesota drafted Elflein in the third round in 2017 and slotted him as its starting center as a rookie. The team moved him to guard in 2019, upon drafting Garrett Bradbury in 2019, and he started as the Vikings’ right guard Sunday against the Packers. Shoulder and ankle maladies plagued Elflein in 2018, but he only missed two games that season.

Dru Samia, a fourth-round pick in 2019, competed with Elflein this offseason and may be called upon to replace him for the time being. The Vikings also have worked with second-round rookie Ezra Cleveland at guard. Cleveland profiles as Riley Reiff‘s potential successor at left tackle, but the Boise State product may be needed to fill in inside at some point this season.

 

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North Notes: Griffen, Robinson, Bengals

Everson Griffen is one of the top two pass rushers still on the market, and we heard last month that he would probably not re-sign with the Vikings. However, Minnesota did not do much to add to its pass rushing corps in the draft, with South Carolina DE D.J. Wonnum representing the most notable addition. And while GM Rick Spielman acknowledged that his team’s cap space makes it difficult to bring Griffen back, he did not rule it out.

“It is hard to say right now where everything is at and where we are at, [but] until things become more normalized I will never say never on a player,” Spielman recently said on the #PFTPM podcast (via PFT’s Mike Florio). “[Y]our roster is never set.”

Griffen has expressed an interest in joining the Seahawks, but Seattle is still open to bringing back Jadeveon Clowney. If Clowney returns to the ‘Hawks, perhaps Griffen will settle for a one-year deal on a Minnesota defense that he will not have to learn on the fly.

Now for more from the league’s north divisions:

  • Of the three OTs the Vikings added in this year’s draft, only second-rounder Ezra Cleveland profiles as an immediate threat to incumbent LT Riley Reiff. The team could again entertain the notion of kicking Reiff inside to LG, but that’s only if Cleveland proves himself ready for starting left tackle duties, which would be a tall order given the COVID-19 restrictions. So as Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune suggests, Reiff will likely stay at LT for the time being, and 2019 fourth-rounder Dru Samia will compete with Pat Elflein for the starting LG slot. The team could also target a free agent for that role, including Josh Kline, whom the Vikings released in a cost-cutting move in March.
  • Bears WR Allen Robinson said towards the end of last season that he is interested in an extension with Chicago, but the two sides do not appear to be close to a new deal, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Robinson is ticketed for free agency after the 2020 campaign, and Biggs suggests that the franchise tag could be in play if there is no extension in place by the second month of the season.
  • Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic says both A.J. Green and the Bengals have interest in getting a long-term deal done, but it’s unclear exactly how much interest. He expects that nothing will come together prior to the July 15 deadline, which means Green will have to play out the 2020 season on his franchise tender. While there’s a better chance Cincinnati comes to terms with RB Joe Mixon on a new contract, that will not happen before a decision on Green is made. The Bengals are reportedly bracing themselves for a Mixon holdout.
  • In the same piece linked above, Dehner says the Bengals are unlikely to make any free agent additions to the O-line at this point. In a separate piece, he notes that Cincinnati made a free agent splash on cornerbacks in free agency because it did not like this year’s CB draft class. The team did not take a defensive back with any of its seven selections.

Latest On Vikings’ Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein

The Vikings are right up against the salary cap at the moment, but there are some moves they could make to open up some much-needed breathing room. For example, Minnesota is likely to release CB Xavier Rhodes, and Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune also names offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Pat Elflein as potential cap casualties.

Reiff remained at left tackle in 2019 despite some chatter that he could be moved inside to left guard. The Vikings instead elected to shift former center Elflein to LG after drafting Garrett Bradbury, and while Elflein did not perform poorly, he was not exactly a standout. But because of the league’s proven performance escalator, Elflein’s 2020 salary will increase from $960K to $2.147MM, so cutting the Ohio State product would save the Vikings about $2MM against the cap. Even if Minnesota hangs on to him, he could be relegated to a reserve role.

As for Reiff, the 31-year-old is due to earn a $10.9MM salary in 2020, but the Vikings would save nearly $9MM against the cap by releasing him, a huge amount for a club with Minnesota’s financial outlook. That would then allow the Vikings to select an offensive tackle in a draft that is deep at the position.

In addition to a potential O-line overhaul, the Vikings will also have a lot of work to do at cornerback. Rhodes will probably be cut and free agents Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander may not be re-signed, and head coach Mike Zimmer conceded that his team would need to address the position in the draft. Luckily for him, this year’s crop of collegiate CBs is also quite strong.

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Extra Points: Dolphins, Tua, 49ers, Vikings

There’s been a lot of buzz about former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa going to the Dolphins in the draft. We heard recently that the southpaw’s family wanted Miami to nab him, and there’s been a connection there for a while. Tagovailoa is obviously dealing with a serious hip injury, and it’s clearly a concern for the Dolphins. Miami’s owner Stephen Ross spoke to reporters earlier today and said “he’s a great player. I just worry about his health,” per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That would seem to indicate Tagovailoa to the ‘Phins is far from a done deal. We heard a couple of weeks ago that Miami wanted Joe Burrow, and that they were willing trade up to go get him. Of course, this all could be some gamesmanship from Ross to throw other teams off the scent. Despite the injury, Tagovailoa will reportedly throw for scouts in a private workout at some point before the draft. That workout will go a long way toward determining where he goes in the draft.

Here’s more from the football world as the Super Bowl approaches:

  • We heard earlier today that the 49ers were considering former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to fill the secondary coach role that is about to become vacant when Joe Woods officially becomes Cleveland’s next defensive coordinator. Richard apparently isn’t the only candidate though, and San Francisco is also considering former Miami secondary coach Tony Oden for the position, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Oden has also coached DBs for the Saints, Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Lions in recent years.
  • Vikings guard Pat Elflein is getting a big raise. His base salary for 2020 was set to be $960K, but that will be bumped all the way up to $2.147MM now due to the NFL’s proven performance escalator, per Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). The program is for players drafted in the 3rd-7th round that are headed into the final year of their rookie contracts, who have received a lot of playing time during their first three years. That certainly is the case for Elflein, who has started at least 13 games in each of his first three seasons. A third-round pick from Ohio State, he was Minnesota’s starting center in 2017-18 before kicking over to left guard last year after the team drafted Garrett Bradbury.
  • In case you missed it, Sammy Watkins isn’t ruling out taking a pay-cut.

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).