September 10th, 2021 at 3:12pm CST by Sam Robinson
Taylor Decker will miss Sunday’s Lions opener due to an injury he suffered in practice this week. The Lions ruled out their longtime left tackle for Sunday’s game against the 49ers.
The sixth-year blocker suffered a hand injury during Wednesday’s workout. The Lions have not placed Decker on IR, which would sideline him for the season’s first three games, but their line will be weakened in Week 1. Decker met with doctors Friday, Eric Woodyard of ESPN.com notes.
This setback appears set to slide No. 7 overall pick Penei Sewellto left tackle. The rookie was to transition to a right tackle role with the Lions, despite having lined up on the left side at Oregon, but the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett notes Sewell has primarily worked as the team’s first-string left tackle in practice since Decker’s injury (Twitter link). The team is not planning a long-term switch, with Decker expected to retake his usual job once he returns to full strength.
Decker, 28, has missed just one game over the past three seasons. He has been Detroit’s left tackle starter since arriving as a first-round pick in 2016. It will be interesting to see how Sewell, 20, fares at his former position against the 49ers’ collection of edge rushers, after experiencing some acclimation issues at right tackle during the preseason.
The Lions have their first-round pick in the fold. On Wednesday, offensive tackle Penei Sewell agreed to terms on his rookie contract (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).
Per the terms of his slot, the No. 7 overall pick will receive a four-year, $24.1MM fully guaranteed deal. That guaranteed sum includes a hefty $14.9MM signing bonus. There was little doubt that Sewell would sign — rookie contracts are fairly cookie-cutter, thanks to the slotting system. Still, agents and execs will sometimes haggle over the finer points, such as offset language.
Sewell opted out of Oregon’s 2020 season, but the 6’6″, 330-pound prospect was absolutely stellar in 2019. He surrendered zero sacks in the previous year and gave up just seven quarterback pressures in total. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus were also fond of his work. In 2019, Sewell finished No. 1 in the country with a run-blocking grade of 95.3 while placing third in pass-blocking (91.1).
The Outland Trophy winner was absent from the Lions’ rookie minicamp after testing positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, it sounds like he’s okay and will be able to join the rest of his teammates soon.
In a comprehensive piece, Adam Jahns of The Athletic details how Bears GM Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and the rest of Chicago’s brain trust approached their quarterback situation this offseason. These types of behind-the-scenes stories are always worth a read, especially for fans of the team in question, and particularly notable here is that the club identified the No. 8 through No. 12 overall selections as the “sweet spot” to target a collegiate QB. Pace’s predraft research indicated that trying to acquire the Falcons’ No. 4 overall pick would require too much draft capital, but he didn’t want to start calling teams holding picks eight through 12 too early for fear of tipping his hand.
So he waited until the day of the draft to start making those calls, and while the early run on QBs pushed down quality players at other positions, Pace identified Ohio State QB Justin Fields as his top target. 11 Bears staffers filed reports on Fields, and all of them had very similar grades on him. Pace and Giants GM Dave Gettleman had worked out the parameters of a trade earlier in the day, and when Fields was still on the board after the Eagles leapfrogged the Giants — Pace feared Philadelphia might have been targeting Fields — Chicago and New York were able to swing a trade that brought the former Buckeye to the Windy City. Now, Pace and Nagy will hope that the bold maneuver will help them keep their jobs.
Here’s more from the NFC North:
Even though the Bears just signed Andy Dalton this offseason, they extended him a courtesy that the Packers did not extend to Aaron Rodgerswhen they drafted Jordan Love last year: they told Dalton that they might pick a QB. “I talked to [Dalton] earlier in the day on [the day of the draft], and we were just catching up,” Nagy said (via Albert Breer of SI.com). “And at the same time I said, ‘Hey, listen man, I have no idea which way this thing may go, you never know, but all positions are open and we can do a lot of different things, including at quarterback. So I just want you to understand that and be aware for that.'” Of course, the news couldn’t have come as a surprise to Dalton, who was signed to a one-year contract and who presumably has no delusions that the Bears acquired him as their quarterback of the future, but it’s the type of gesture that might have helped ease the strain on the Packers’ relationship with Rodgers.
The Lions‘ first-round pick, No. 7 overall selection Penei Sewell, has tested positive for COVID-19, as Sewell himself tweeted several days ago. He will therefore miss this weekend’s rookie minicamp, but at this point it sounds like he is either asymptomatic or else has mild symptoms, so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
The Packers selected Georgia CB Eric Stokes with the No. 29 overall pick of the draft, but if Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman had still been around, execs around the league believe he would have been the choice, as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes (subscription required). Of course, taking a first-round receiver this year after selecting Love in the first round in 2020 might not have been enough to placate Rodgers. The Ravens took Bateman off the board with the No. 27 overall selection.
Penei Sewell loomed as the Panthers‘ first-round target, but when the Lions selected the Oregon tackle, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the team moved into a Jaycee Horn-vs.-Justin Fields debate. The Panthers’ need at cornerback — in a division featuring the likes of Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin — helped steer them to Horn. Fields, who went three picks later after the Bears traded up for him, was in the mix. The Panthers did not want to force a quarterback investment, Breer adds. While GM Scott Fitterer indicated the Panthers could take a quarterback even after trading for Sam Darnold, the team expressed considerable interest in Deshaun Watson prior to off-field issues squashing his trade market. A Fields pick would have made revisiting that pursuit more difficult. It cannot be assumed the embattled Texans quarterback will be available anytime soon, but the Panthers did not take themselves out of a potential market Thursday night.
Entering Round 2, here is the draft latest:
The Eagles were correct in assuming the Giants were planning to select DeVonta Smith at No. 11. Big Blue would have taken the Alabama superstar there, Breer notes. Howie Roseman engineered an intra-NFC East trade-up with the Cowboys, moving up two spots for Smith. The Eagles, whose Week 17 quarterback strategy came under fire re: the Giants’ unusual playoff pursuit, saw another move of theirs affect Big Blue. Philly pair Smith with 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor. The Giants still took a wideout at No. 20 (Kadarius Toney).
Prior to the Bears executing a successful trade-up with the Giants, moving from No. 20 to No. 11, they discussed a likely similar deal with the Cowboys, per Breer. The Cowboys did not want to take themselves out of adding a player on whom they placed a first-round grade; sliding down to 20 may well have done that. Dallas ended up with Micah Parsons at 12.
The Giants were busy at No. 11. Ahead of Dave Gettleman‘s first-ever trade-down (in nine drafts as a GM), he heard from the Vikings and Saints, Breer adds. The Saints, who had already seen top targetsJaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II drafted, were linked to quarterbacks as well. New Orleans did offer one future first-round pick but did not include a second future first-rounder in its trade-up proposals. As a result, the Saints did not come particularly close to trading up Thursday. After the Chargers drafted Rashawn Slater, the Vikings ended up trading down.
After the Ravens traded their second-round pick to the Chiefs in the Orlando Brown deal, Eric DeCosta does not expect to move back into the round, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Ravens did not make any trades Thursday night, winding up with Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh.
Some teams are not comfortable with Alabama center Landon Dickerson‘s medcials, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). The Steelers are one of the teams a bit leery on Dickerson, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. Pittsburgh saw 11-year center Maurkice Pouncey retire this offseason. While the team has multiple lower-profile replacement candidates — B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer — Dickerson will enter the NFL as a high-end prospect, albeit one coming off a December ACL tear.
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With the No. 7 overall pick, the Lions selected Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, but the 6’6″, 330-pound prospect was absolutely stellar in 2019.
Sewell did not surrender a single sack in ’19 and gave up just seven quarterback pressures in total. There was little doubt that he’d be taken somewhere in the top ten, but he solidified his status earlier this month by announcing that he’d be willing to play on either side. Some took that as a sign that he’d be Miami bound. But, after the Dolphins went wide receiver at No. 6, the Lions pounced on Sewell instead.
His film impressed scouts and the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus backed it all up. One year ago, Sewell finished first in the nation with a run-blocking grade of 95.3 while placing third in pass-blocking (91.1).
Now, the Outland Trophy winner will head to the Lions, a team that sorely needed a premier tackle. On Friday, they can start addressing the rest of their needs, including help at wide receiver.
Following Tuesday’s trade, the Washington Football Team has Ereck Flowers back in the fold. Meanwhile, $6MM of his $9MM salary has already been paid for by the Dolphins, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter).
Flowers and the ‘Fins agreed to restructure the contract just prior to the trade. Previously, the Dolphins were on the hook for about $20MM over the next two seasons, per the terms of his three-year, $30MM contract. Now, they’ll take about half of that total commitment off of their books, while moving up in the seventh round with a swap of draft picks. The trade will see WFT get Flowers and pick No. 258 while Miami receives No. 244 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).
This year’s draft is almost certain to begin with Trevor Lawrencegoing to the Jaguars and Zach Wilson to the Jets, making the 49ers’ No. 3 overall pick the beginning of what promises to be a drama-filled top 10. Just behind San Francisco, however, a team faces a more complicated decision.
Picking in the top five for the first time in 13 years, the Falcons hold the No. 4 overall selection. They have a few intriguing options; each would represent drastically different paths for the franchise. After previously not being on the same page about the pick, new GM Terry Fontenot and new HC Arthur Smith are believed to be in agreement now. Which way should the franchise go?
Fontenot was believed to be leaning toward acquiring Matt Ryan‘s heir apparent. There are reasons to support this route. Ryan will turn 36 this year, has not made a Pro Bowl — in the easiest era for such an honor — since his MVP 2016 season, and the Falcons have a rare opportunity to draft one of this year’s prized QB prospects. While late-blooming prospects will likely emerge, the 2022 quarterback class is not currently rated highly. DraftingTrey Lance, Mac Jonesor Georgia native Justin Fields — two will be available — would give the Falcons a player around whom the new regime could build. The Falcons proceeding in this direction would make this the first time a draft has started with four quarterbacks being chosen.
When the duo was believed to be split, Smith was viewed as being in favor of selecting a player who could help a still-Ryan-centric team. With Ryan still an above-average quarterback, and the Falcons possessing needs elsewhere, a case certainly exists for the team to stay the course with its veteran passer. The Falcons having restructured Ryan’s contract earlier this year also would limit their benefit from a rookie-QB salary in 2022. The Jaguars and Jets have no veteran quarterback contract of note on their books, and the 49ers can part ways with Jimmy Garoppolo without much of a dead-cap hit. The Falcons have more than $40MM in Ryan signing bonus money prorated beyond 2021.
Option 3 would be moving the pick. The Falcons are interested in moving down, likely eyeing the type of trade package the Dolphins received (three first-rounders and a third) to do so. Multiple teams have contacted the Falcons about moving up. Washington is believed to be high on Lance, while Broncos GM George Paton has been busy trekking to QBs’ pro days. The Bears are eager to acquire a long-term QB as well, though Washington and Chicago’s draft slots — Nos. 19 and 20 overall — would up Atlanta’s asking price.
So, how will the Falcons proceed? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
Oregon’s Penei Sewell is already regarded as the best tackle in this year’s draft. Still, versatility is critical for today’s offensive linemen. To market himself to teams with left tackles already in place, Sewell has also been training at right tackle (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).
Sewell projects as a top ten pick and, in all likelihood, a Week 1 starter. Still, he’s hoping to appeal to teams that may already have an older left tackle in place. That way, a team could draft him and play him at RT in his rookie year before shifting him to LT down the road.
The draft is expected to start with three quarterbacks coming off the board, giving the Falcons a chance to snag Sewell at No. 4 overall. Sewell would be a solid and safe choice, though they could opt for a young quarterback or a dynamic playmaker instead (i.e. Florida’s Kyle Pitts or LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase). If the Falcons pass on him, the Bengals will have Sewell on the table at No. 5 overall. They already have Jonah Williams on the left side, but Sewell is willing to man the right tackle position.
Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, but he is still regarded as one of the top prospects in the ’21 class. The 6’6″, 330-pound prospect did not allow a single sack in 2019 while surrendering just seven quarterback pressures.