Andre James

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Ekeler, Raiders

Jarrett Stidham will replace Brett Rypien as Russell Wilson‘s Broncos backup, agreeing to a two-year, $10MM deal. While Stidham has fewer career starts than Rypien, his late-season Raiders cameo — particularly a 365-yard, three-touchdown performance against the 49ers’ No. 1-ranked defense — generated a market for the former Patriots fourth-round pick. Stidham chose the Broncos over the Raiders because of Las Vegas’ Jimmy Garoppolo signing and potential to also add a quarterback in the first round, per NBC Sports’ Peter King. From the Broncos’ perspective, Sean Payton views Stidham as an upward-trending option behind Wilson.

There were a handful of No. 2s that either I have worked with, or we felt comfortable with,” Payton said, via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson. “In this case, I think he’s a No. 2 whose arrow is moving in a direction where we feel like he can become an NFL starter in our league. The evaluation was pretty crystal clear for all of us. I think he’s someone that’s going to be great in the room. He’s smart. Quietly, that was an important signing for us.”

Payton’s words do not point to a quarterback competition, but this addition does provide an option in case Wilson’s 2022 stumble was more indicative of a steep decline than being trapped in a dysfunctional offense. Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Wilson ran into a few injury problems during his shockingly mediocre first season in Denver. Knee trouble can be added to the Broncos quarterback’s list of ailments. Wilson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery shortly after last season ended, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The 12th-year passer is expected to be ready for Payton’s first round of Broncos OTAs. This issue nagged Wilson for a few seasons, per Rapoport. Last year, the knee trouble accompanied hamstring, shoulder and lat issues, along with a late-season concussion. Wilson, who did not miss an NFL start until his 11th season, missed two games last year.
  • Dre’Mont Jones signed for slightly more per year than Zach Allen, committing to the Seahawks on a three-year, $51MM deal just after the ex-Cardinal agreed to a three-year, $45.75MM Broncos pact. But Jones ended up receiving less guaranteed money ($23MM) than Allen ($32.5MM). The Broncos viewed Jones’ initial asking price as too high, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com notes, pointing to Jones — a player the team had long wanted to retain — preferring a change of scenery or reducing his demand as the market shifted. The Browns also pursued Jones but landed Dalvin Tomlinson shortly after the ex-Bronco’s Seattle pledge.
  • Austin Ekeler explained his trade request recently, correctly indicating his contract is out of step with the value he provides the Chargers. But GMs do not see a market forming for the former UDFA, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes. Ekeler has outperformed most of his peers on their respective second contracts, but several teams took advantage of this year’s buyer’s market at the position. Many lesser backs filled roster holes. While Ekeler is still just 27 and could provide versatility for another team, the Bolts may not land too much for him. His four-year, $24.5MM contract runs through season’s end.
  • Robert Spillane signed a two-year, $7MM Raiders contract, coming over from the Steelers. That ended up being more than Denzel Perryman received to leave Las Vegas for Houston, and Spillane said (via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur) Raiders coaches want him to wear the green communication dot. This would point to the Raiders eyeing a big role for Spillane, a run-stuffer who logged a career-high 59% defensive snap rate in 2022.
  • The Raiders were planning to move Dylan Parham from guard to center, Tafur adds, but the team’s decision to retain starting snapper Andre James will lead to Parham staying at left guard (Twitter link). A 2022 third-round pick, Parham started all 17 Raiders games as a rookie. McDaniels said the Memphis alum will still work at center, pointing to this being the team’s backup plan in case James goes down.
  • Jerry Tillery‘s Raiders deal is a two-year, $6.8MM accord that includes $5.5MM in total guarantees, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. The ex-Chargers first-round D-tackle is due a guaranteed $1.5MM roster bonus in 2024, though his 2024 base salary ($1.7MM) does not become fully guaranteed until next March.

Raiders Rumors: Offensive Line, WRs, Jacobs

We recently wrote about the unlikelihood that any rookies will be starting for the Raiders to start the 2022 NFL season. The player we gave the best odds of earning a starting role is maybe even better set up for taking the job than we thought, according to Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed at The Athletic. The two reported that, besides left tackle Kolton Miller and right guard Denzelle Good, the other three offensive line jobs are up for grabs.

We had given Andre James the assumption of starting at center after a successful season at the position last year. We also didn’t grant Good an automatic spot as he is recovering from a torn ACL that held him out for all but 18 snaps of last season. But Tafur and Reed assert that rookie third-round pick Dylan Parham “could push John Simpson at left guard and (James) at center.”

They also believe that Alex Leatherwood doesn’t quite have the right tackle job in the bag. He’s being pushed by Brandon Parker, who started 13 games at the position last year, while Leatherwood occupied a guard spot.

Here are a few more rumors from Sin City:

  • The addition of star wide receiver Davante Adams provides an obvious No. 1 weapon for quarterback Derek Carr. Carr will have Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller to target in the slot and at tight end, respectively, but who will be out wide opposite Adams? That role will be a battle between free agent additions Mack Hollins, Keelan Cole, and Demarcus Robinson. According to Tafur and Reed, the former Dolphins wide receiver, Hollins, should be considered the favorite. Though he hasn’t quite shown the necessary production (his best season came last year with 14 catches for 223 yards and 4 touchdowns), Hollins has a large, 6’4″ frame and speed that can make him an effective weapon while defenses focus on Adams, Waller, and Renfrow. Cole has shown more consistent production during tenures in Jacksonville and New York, as has Robinson in Kansas City, but neither quite has the physical tools that Hollins displays. If Hollins can take the next step and make the most of his abilities, Cole and Robinson can be strong assets off the bench behind a starting three of Adams, Renfrow, and Hollins.
  • Las Vegas didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on running back Josh Jacobs rookie contract this offseason as a result of some of the injury trouble he’s experienced in the NFL. In total, Jacobs has only missed six games throughout his three years of play, but his struggle to stay healthy has limited him in many other games. Due to health, Tafur and Reed see this as Jacobs’ last year on the team. Their opinion is also backed by the draft addition of Georgia running back Zamir White, once considered the top recruit at his position in high school. While the team won’t put too much on White as a rookie, The Athletic guesses that the Raiders will utilize a running back by committee approach. Vegas will lean on Jacobs to lead, as the most talented, while attempting to bring White along and up to NFL-speed. Career third-down back Brandon Bolden and backup Kenyan Drake will continue their usual roles as the Raiders allegedly groom White to start.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Chiefs, Dupree, Weddle

First-round draft pick Alex Leatherwood had an up-and-down rookie season in Las Vegas. After struggling a bit at right tackle, Leatherwood was moved to guard to fill in after injuries to starters Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the Raiders’ former staff intended to move Leatherwood back to his drafted position next season.

The decision is now out of their hands and in the hands of new offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo. With Kolton Miller set at left tackle and Andre James filling in admirably this season with the loss of center Rodney Hudson in a trade to the Cardinals last year, the Raiders have three offensive line spots with which to play around. Bricillo’s placement of Leatherwood will likely depend on how they choose to address those open positions.

Here are a few more notes from around the AFC, starting with another note from the West:

OL Rumors: Raiders, 49ers, Giants, Solder, Eagles

The Raiders are tracking to have two starters from their 2020 Week 1 offensive line setup back, with Kolton Miller signed long-term and Richie Incognito back on a lower-cost deal. But spillover from another training camp battle may affect Incognito’s standing. Denzelle Good and John Simpson will vie for the starting right guard spot, but Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed of The Athletic note Raiders coaches have informed the team’s guards the loser of this competition may still wind up replacing Incognito at left guard (subscription required). Incognito, 38, played well in 2019 but missed 14 games due to an Achilles injury last season. The Raiders cut him in March but re-signed him weeks later on a one-year, $2.12MM deal. Good replaced Incognito last year, and the Raiders are hoping Simpson — a 2020 fourth-round pick out of Clemson — can win the right guard competition.

Here is more on the Raiders’ O-line and the latest from some other offensive fronts around the league:

  • Elsewhere on Las Vegas’ O-line, the center spot may not be much of a competition. Despite offseason addition Nick Martin having started four full seasons with the Texans, the former second-round pick appears to be clearly behind former UDFA Andre James, according to The Athletic. After trading Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals, the Raiders gave James an extension. James has played 116 offensive snaps as a pro; all came in 2019.
  • Nate Solder has moved to the Giants‘ roster bubble, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. The 6-foot-8 veteran worked as New York’s starting left tackle in 2018 and ’19, after signing a then-record tackle contract in free agency, but opted out in 2020. The Giants can spread out Solder’s cap hit over multiple years, but they would face a $13.5MM cumulative dead-money charge by cutting Solder. Andrew Thomas has taken over as New York’s left tackle, with Raanan adding that Solder will compete with second-year blocker Matt Peart for the right tackle job. Solder has not been a full-time right tackle since his rookie season in 2011.
  • Although former UDFA Daniel Brunskill provided some stability amid 49ers injury chaos last season, starting 16 games, the team plans to return him to a utility role. The 49ers are eyeing second-round pick Aaron Banks as their starting right guard, Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic note. Brunskill worked as a swing backup as a rookie in 2019, primarily filling in for left tackle Joe Staley. The 49ers selected Banks 48th overall; the 325-pound rookie started in part of his sophomore season and throughout his junior and senior years at Notre Dame.
  • Rather than stockpile depth at tackle, the Eagles may look to trade the loser of the Andre DillardJordan Mailata left tackle competition, Eliot Shorr-Parks writes. While keeping both would provide insurance, Shorr-Parks notes moving Mailata in a contract year would make sense and Dillard may lose more value if he goes through this season as a backup. A 2019 first-round pick, Dillard missed all of last season due to injury and has logged just four career starts. A rugby convert chosen as a project in the 2018 seventh round, Mailata spent two full seasons in development but broke into Philadelphia’s starting lineup for 10 games last season.

Raiders Re-Sign Andre James

The Raiders have re-signed offensive lineman Andre James with a new three-year contract worth $12.5MM (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The deal includes roughly $6MM guaranteed and keeps him beyond his would-be final year before restricted free agency. James, billed as the team’s center of the future, is now locked in through 2023. 

[RELATED: Raiders Trade Hudson To Cardinals]

Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, right tackle Trent Brown, and longtime right guard Gabe Jackson are out of the picture, leaving James with an opportunity to take the next step forward. It’s not clear on how the team will use James and newly-acquired center Nick Martin, however, but both players figure to factor into the front five.

The Raiders were set to release Hudson outright before they struck a deal with the Cardinals last week. After paving the way for three 1,000-yard rushing seasons, he leaves some big shoes to fill. Just last year, Pro Football Focus graded the veteran as its No. 8 overall center in the NFL.

Raiders To Sign C Nick Martin

After trading their center of the past six years, the Raiders appear to have settled on a replacement. They are signing former Texans snapper Nick Martin, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Martin’s work will not remind most of Rodney Hudson‘s, with the since-traded center being a three-time Pro Bowler. Still, the Raiders figure to save substantially by replacing Hudson with Martin.

Transitioning to their Nick Caserio regime, the Texans cut Martin after he spent the past four seasons as their starting center. While he did not fare as well as Hudson did in this span, Martin did receive an $11MM-per-year extension from the previous Texans regime. Martin will attempt to rebound in Las Vegas.

The Raiders have made some interesting decisions this week. Their three highest-paid O-linemen — Hudson, right tackle Trent Brown and longtime right guard Gabe Jackson — are gone. The team has since re-signed Richie Incognito after cutting him, and brought back the player who replaced Incognito post-injury last season, Denzelle Good. Las Vegas appears to still have a hole at right tackle, but the other four spots along its offensive line may be set.

However, third-year blocker Andre James may factor into the equation at center. This should be considered James’ job to lose, Vic Tafur of The Athletic tweets. While Martin has a massive experience edge (62 starts to one), he might not be a lock to start in Vegas.

AFC West Notes: Mahomes, Lock, Harris, Raiders

Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes is questionable for Kansas City’s upcoming game against the Vikings, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Mahomes, of course, was injured on Thursday Night Football of Week 7 against the Broncos during a quarterback sneak. In a freak incident, Mahomes dislocated his right kneecap.

He returned to practice just six days after the injury, but was quickly ruled out for last Sunday’s game against the Packers. While his status is still up in the air, Rapoport reiterates “At the least, he is considered to have a shot to play.” At 5-3, Kansas City has some breathing room in the AFC West divisional race. However, the chances of a high seed and a first-round bye would be greatly diminished the longer they have to stick with backup Matt Moore.

Here’s more from around the AFC West:

  • While quarterback Brandon Allen is currently next in line for the Broncos after Joe Flacco‘s injury landed him on injured reserve, the team plans to play rookie second-round pick Drew Lock in Denver’s final two games against the Lions and Raiders, according Mike Klis of 9News. Flacco was diagnosed with a disk injury in his neck that requires at least six weeks to recover. Given the Broncos 2-6 record, the team decided to shut down the veteran for the season. Allen is in his fourth NFL season, but has yet to appear in a regular season game.
  • After weeks of trade rumors, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris could be staying in the mile-high city beyond this season, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. With three young daughters and a fourth coming soon, Harris told Jhabvala he was “Definitely relieved and happy to be able to finish the year here.” The news comes as somewhat of a surprise given Harris’ tumultuous relationship with the organization over the past few seasons. However, according to Jhabvala, the team’s new coaching staff has meshed well with the upcoming free-agent.
  • Both Raiders centers Rodney Hudson and Andre James are listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup against the Lions. They both are dealing with ankle injuries and managed to practice, but according to head coach Jon Gruden, both were “sore.”

Raiders C Rodney Hudson To Miss Time

Raiders center Rodney Hudson is expected to miss time while dealing with an ankle injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Hudson isn’t the only Oakland center sidelined by an ankle issue — backup Andre James is also battling a sprain, and he too could miss the Raiders’ Week 9 game against the Raiders. If neither Hudson nor James can play on Sunday, veteran left guard Richie Incognito will likely slide to center and play the pivot for the first time since 2010, tweets Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. Fellow center Erik Magnuson, signed earlier today, may also be in contention to start in the middle of Oakland’s front five.

Hudson isn’t going on injured reserve, an indication the Raiders don’t believe his injury to be a long-term issue. But there’s no question the veteran center’s presence will be missed for however long he remains sidelined. Oakland, which has a 21% chance of earning a postseason berth per FiveThirtyEight.com, already had its bye in Week 6, so there’s no free week for Hudson to get healthy late in the season.

Midway through his ninth NFL campaign (and fifth in Oakland), Hudson is still playing like one of the NFL’s best centers. Through seven starts, Hudson grades as the league’s third-best pivot, per Pro Football Focus, which ranks Hudson as the NFL’s No. 2 pass-blocking center behind only Cleveland’s J.C. Tretter. As a unit, the Raiders’ offensive line ranks top-four in both pass-blocking and run-blocking, according to Football Outsiders‘ adjusted yards metrics.

Raiders Sign 10 UDFAs

Teams continue to announce their undrafted free agent hauls. Here is the Raiders’ 10-man contingent:

Going heavy on offensive linemen after a nine-player draft did not bring any blockers, the Raiders added some big-school talent with extensive starting experience. Cotton started 28 games for the Crimson Tide, at both left and right guard, helping Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and Raiders first-rounder Josh Jacobs to big per-carry numbers. McNeil has both guard and tackle experience and was a key presence (46 starts in a four-year career) in helping Lamar Jackson to two dominant seasons with the Cardinals.

The duo, along with James and Roemer, will battle to join 2018 second-round pick Brandon Parker among the Raiders’ backup linemen. With Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict signed to one-year deals, the Raiders’ Las Vegas tenure may need some new blood at linebacker. The Raiders did not draft one, so Coney (two 100-plus-tackle seasons with the Fighting Irish) and Farmer (28 starts with the Nittany Lions) figure to be candidates to stick around via the 53-man roster or, more likely, the practice squad.

Doss said he received better offers than what the Raiders proposed, but UC Davis’ all-time receiving leader opted to play for his hometown team (before it relocates to Vegas next year). Jon Gruden mentioned pre-draft that he wanted to add at least one more cornerback to the roster, but the Raiders drafted both Trayvon Mullen (in Round 2) and Isaiah Johnson (in Round 4). That will make Mabin and Nixon’s paths to the active roster difficult.