Pat Elflein

Panthers To Sign OL Pat Elflein

Pat Elflein is joining up with the Panthers. The former Vikings and Jets offensive lineman has agreed to a three-year, $13.5MM deal with $6MM fully guaranteed at signing, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets.

Elflein started 15 games at guard for the Vikings 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, shortly after returning to practice, the Vikings released him. That led him to the Jets, who were 0-9 at the time and had the league’s No. 1 waiver priority spot.

The Jaguars, Bears, Dolphins, Ravens, and the Washington Football Team also entered bids for Elflein — it’s not clear if the Panthers were also in that group. Either way, they were keenly interested this time around. Elflein will now be tasked with clearing lanes for Christian McCaffrey and protecting the starting quarterback, who may or may not be Teddy Bridgewater.

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AFC East Rumors: Watson, Mariota, Allen

Add veteran NFL reporter Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com to the list of writers who have heard that Texans QB Deshaun Watson is not budging on his desire to be traded, and that he continues to ignore every call from Houston brass. Of course, Watson has a no-trade clause that he could use to help dictate where he goes — assuming the Texans give in and deal him, which they have insisted they are not going to do — and we recently heard that the 49ers and Broncos are on his destination list.

Dunne’s source indicates that the Dolphins — who have been considered one of the frontrunners for Watson since trade speculation started to swirl — and the Niners are Watson’s top two preferred clubs. In Dunne’s view, a trade to Miami makes too much sense to not happen, and he believes the ‘Fins and Texans could line up on a deal that sends Watson to South Beach in exchange for the No. 3 and No. 18 overall picks in this year’s draft along with Miami’s 2022 first-rounder.

Now for more rumors from the AFC East:

  • Recent reports have indicated that Raiders QB Marcus Mariota is generating legitimate trade interest, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the Patriots could be in the mix. New England obviously needs a quarterback, and Mariota is attached to a reasonable $10.6MM salary for 2021 and would not cost much to acquire in terms of draft capital. Although he could demand a raise if he is being acquired to serve as a starter, his current salary would not preclude the Pats from continuing to explore other options, like Jimmy Garoppolo — if the the 49ers land a different QB and release Garoppolo — or a collegiate passer.
  • Reiss does not expect the Patriots to make a deal with the division-rival Jets for Gang Green QB Sam Darnold, though what the Jets do with Darnold could certainly have a major impact on New England (for instance, if New York trades Darnold to San Francisco, Garoppolo could become available).
  • The Jets have among the most cap space in the league at just shy of $70MM, and they can easily create even more flexibility, thereby giving them a huge advantage in what could be a buyer’s market given the decreased salary cap. Connor Hughes of The Athletic believes New York will release DE Henry Anderson, which jibes with a report from December. That move will save the club $8.2MM in cap space, and Hughes suggests that guards Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis might be goners as well (their releases would save $3.4MM and $5.1MM, respectively).
  • Meanwhile the Jets don’t have too many of their own free agents that must be retained. Hughes expects safety Marcus Maye to be re-signed, and he also says OL Pat Elflein — who played well in 2020 after being claimed off waivers from the Vikings — is a logical candidate to return, especially if the team moves on from Van Roten and/or Lewis.
  • Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News does not foresee the Bills laying out major free agent dollars this offseason. Instead, he expects the club to use the majority of its cash on an extension for QB Josh Allen, which means that the Bills will likely allow LB Matt Milano to test the open market — contrary to GM Brandon Beane‘s assertion that a franchise tag could be in play — and will not be in the running for a top pass rusher like Shaquil Barrett or Bud Dupree.

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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