Austin Jackson

Dolphins Place OL Liam Eichenberg On IR, Activate Austin Jackson

The Dolphins have made a pair of moves affecting their offensive line. The team announced on Tuesday that they have placed guard Liam Eichenberg on IR, while activating tackle Austin Jackson.

Eichenberg was carted off the field during Sunday’s win over the Vikings on Sunday, and is believed to have suffered an MCL injury. Today’s news confirms that an extended absence will be forthcoming, as he will now be sidelined for at least the next four weeks.

A second-round pick in 2021, Eichenberg was seen as one of the top tackles in last year’s class. After a successful career at Notre Dame, he primarily saw time as the left tackle in his rookie season with the Dolphins, filling in as well on the right side. His PFF grade of 50.8 was a reflection of the team’s overall struggles up front, which led to a number of significant investments to bolster the unit this offseason.

That included the five-year, $75MM deal given to Terron Armstead, a move which has so far solidified the LT position as intended. That allowed Eichenberg to shift inside, though an improvement in his play has yet to take place. The 24-year-old currently ranks 71st out of 81 qualifying guards with a PFF grade of 44.9. Miami has a number of options to turn to as his replacement, including swing tackle Greg Little.

The latter could indeed see playing time on the inside once Jackson returns to game action. The USC product suffered an injury during the team’s season opener, which quickly landed him on IR. Miami turned to Little as his replacement protecting Tua Tagovailoa‘s blindside, but with limited success, based on Little’s league-worst tackle PFF rating. Jackson had been designated to return just under three weeks ago, so the Dolphins had to activate him ahead of Sunday’s game for him to be eligible to play again in 2022.

This move will leave the Dolphins with six activations for the remainder of the campaign. In addition to Eichenberg, the team has cornerback Byron Jones available to be activated at some point. In the short-term, at least, they will move forward with one staring o-lineman back in the fold while needing to replace another.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/12/22

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

  • Waived: CB Thomas Graham Jr.

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Dolphins To Place T Austin Jackson On IR

After suffering an injury during the Dolphins’ season opener, Austin Jackson will be shut down for a stretch. Mike McDaniel said the third-year offensive lineman is headed to IR.

The Dolphins stationed Jackson at right tackle to start this season, having signed Terron Armstead to man the left side. Jackson suffered a sprained ankle in Miami’s Week 1 win. Greg Little, who replaced Jackson against the Patriots, is expected to start on the right side in Week 2.

Jackson played 14 offensive snaps against the Pats, beginning a full-time foray at right tackle. Drafted to be the Dolphins’ long-term Laremy Tunsil replacement at left tackle, Jackson did not stick at that position and spent much of his 2021 season at guard. The Dolphins, who have been keen on moving O-linemen around the formation in recent years, shuttled Jackson to right tackle after giving Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in March.

A former Panthers second-round pick, Little arrived in Miami via August 2021 trade (for a seventh-round pick). Little has not started a game since the 2020 season. Little’s Panthers tenure did not take off; the Ole Miss product made just six starts with Carolina. The contract-year O-lineman will have another chance to make an impression Sunday.

Should Little falter, the Dolphins added some insurance this week. Brandon Shell signed with Miami’s practice squad. Shell, 30, has been a full-time right tackle starter since 2017. The former Jets and Seahawks blocker would make sense as Jackson relief, having made 61 starts in his six-year career.

Armstead, whose Saints career included a number of injuries, is battling a toe issue. McDaniel expects the 10th-year left tackle to play through it, however. With fourth-year interior lineman Michael Deiter and 2021 UDFA Robert Jones residing the team’s only O-line backups on the active roster, more help will be added once Jackson’s IR move processes. Jackson cannot return to action until Week 6.

Dolphins To Sign T Brandon Shell

Shortly after veteran starter Oday Aboushi found a practice squad gig, Brandon Shell has landed one as well. The Dolphins are adding the veteran right tackle to their 16-man P-squad, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports.

Shell, 30, spent the past two years with the Seahawks. While the two-year Seattle right tackle starter visited Denver about a Russell Wilson reunion earlier this year, nothing materialized. The Dolphins will bring him aboard as insurance.

Several teams expressed interest in Shell, according to Jackson. He comes to the Dolphins with 61 career starts on his resume, one that began in the AFC East. The Jets drafted Shell in the 2016 fifth round and used him as their primary right tackle from 2017-19.

Shell signed a two-year, $9MM Seahawks deal in 2020 but could not generate similar interest during his second crack at free agency. Pro Football Focus graded Shell fairly well during each of his two Seahawks seasons, viewing his 2020 work slightly better than his 2021 performance.

Neither of the Dolphins’ starting tackles — Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson — are locks to play in Week 2. Jackson is dealing with an ankle injury, one Jackson classifies as a sprain. Armstead is battling an unspecified (for now) malady. Armstead clarity will soon emerge via the Dolphins’ injury report. Neither practiced Wednesday. Armstead signed a big-ticket free agency deal with the Dolphins and played 97% of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 1. But the former Saints Pro Bowler has an extensive injury past. He missed nine games last season and missed a combined 21 contests from 2016-18.

While Shell would profile as veteran insurance, Jackson adds the Dolphins are planning a ramp-up period — similar to the Cowboys’ plan with Jason Peters — for the experienced blocker. Greg Little replaced Jackson against the Patriots; the right-side starter left during the second quarter. The Dolphins also have the option of kicking one of their guards out to tackle. Both Robert Hunt and Liam Eichenberg have experience at tackle, though it is unknown if such emergency switches will be needed.

AFC East Notes: Patricia, Dolphins, Armstead, Jets

If you’re keeping track at home, Matt Patricia now appears to be the favorite to be New England’s offensive play-caller. As Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com writes, Patricia was the only coach calling plays from the Patriots sideline during last night’s preseason contest. This is a change from the preseason opener, when Patricia alternated play-calling duties with Joe Judge.

Bill Belichick has continued to play coy on the entire situation, and he even hinted after the game that Patricia was merely communicating with Mac Jones vs. calling plays. Regardless of who ends up calling plays on offense, it’s clear that the organization is going with a committee approach to replace departed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

“It’s still a process,” Belichick told reporters after the game (via NESN.com). “He (Matt Patricia)… communication with the quarterback? Yeah. But as far as calling the plays, there’s a whole other process on that.

However, if you ask some NFL sources, then it may be neither Patricia nor Judge calling offensive plays for the Patriots in 2022. As Albert Breer of SI.com writes, there are a “lot of smart NFL people who know the Patriots well” and believe it will ultimately be Belichick who ends up calling plays for Jones and the Patriots offense. Breer cautions that the head coach will end up calling plays “at some point this season,” perhaps a hint that the organization may role into the season with one of Patricia/Judge but will be prepared to pull the plug on the experiment.

More notes out of the AFC East…

  • A Patriots‘ seventh-round rookie may end up missing the entire season. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, offensive tackle Andrew Stueber doesn’t have a timetable for his return from the NFI list. Stueber suffered an injury while training after the draft, and Reiss hints that the injury could end up delaying the Michigan product’s NFL debut until the 2023 season.
  • Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has told league executives that he intends to leave the Dolphins organization to his family, according to Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal (on Twitter). While this isn’t a huge surprise, it seems pretty clear that Ross won’t be leaving the franchise to limited partner Bruce Beal. Both Ross and Beal were slapped with suspensions following Miami’s tampering investigation.
  • The Dolphins inked left tackle Terron Armstead to a massive deal this offseason. However, the offensive lineman has never been able to make it through an entire season healthy, and that includes a 2021 campaign when he was limited to only eight snaps. If Armstead is forced to miss any time, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald suggests (on Twitter) that the coaching staff could end up moving right tackle Austin Jackson or guard Liam Eichenberg to LT, although the reporter notes that coach Mike McDaniel prefers to keep players at their starting position instead of shifting them around.
  • Duane Brown‘s two-year, $22MM deal with the Jets includes a $7.88MM signing bonus and three void years, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). As a result, the offensive tackle’s cap hit for the 2022 season is only $3.69MM. The veteran will earn a base salary of $1.12MM in 2022, but he’ll see that number jump to $9MM.

Dolphins Likely To Use Connor Williams At C

A left tackle in college, Connor Williams lined up at guard throughout his four-year Cowboys tenure. The Dolphins have something new in mind for the free agent offensive line acquisition.

Williams said Thursday it is “really likely” he plays center in Miami, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. This has loomed as a possibility for months, and Williams has been working at the position since April. While it is interesting the team has this path mapped out before any padded practices commence, Williams sliding to center would fill a need and open the door to multiple lineup combinations on this O-line.

The Dolphins signed Williams and Terron Armstead to lucrative deals, particularly in Armstead’s case, locking them into starting roles. Robert Hunt fared decently at right guard last season, even beyond his memorable end zone dash that did not count, grading as the top Dolphins O-lineman in Pro Football Focus’ view. PFF rated last year’s Miami front as the NFL’s worst. Should the Dolphins stay the Williams-at-center course, he will replace Michael Deiter. Still, it appears three starters from last season are in line to return under Mike McDaniel.

Williams sliding to center will lead to a left guard competition between Liam Eichenberg and Solomon Kindley, Jackson adds. Eichenberg served as Miami’s primary left tackle last season, with the 2021 second-rounder moving 2020 first-rounder Austin Jackson off that spot. Jackson is ticketed to give right tackle a try, according to the Herald. With the Tyreek Hill trade pushing the start of their draft participation into Round 3, the Dolphins did not draft a lineman this year.

The USC product was Miami’s primary left tackle as a rookie and made starts at left tackle and left guard last season. PFF graded Jackson as a below-average guard and viewed Eichenberg as a bottom-tier tackle. This right tackle opportunity looks to represent a high-stakes situation for the once-coveted prospect, who has not lived up to his draft slot yet as a pro. Longtime right tackle option Jesse Davis signed with the Vikings this offseason. A 2020 fourth-rounder, Kindley made 13 guard starts as a rookie but worked as a first-stringer just twice last season.

AFC Rumors: Jaguars, Williams, Van Roten, Leonard, Browns, Griffin III

After the Jaguars fired former head coach Urban Meyer, it became public that Jacksonville had no intentions of paying Meyer the remaining money on his contract, as he was being fired for cause. There was speculation at the time that the parties may follow existing precedents and negotiate a settlement in order to avoid a legal situation.

According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation informed the columnist that, to date, the two sides have been unable to strike a settlement agreement.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting with a rumor out of South Beach:

  • The Dolphins should have plenty of options for their offensive line configuration, but it most likely hinges on what they do with interior offensive lineman Connor Williams. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Miami isn’t quite sure what to do with Williams, working him at center and left guard over the past three weeks. The good news, is that it gives them plenty of options. With Terron Armstead solidified at left tackle and Robert Hunt solidly at right guard, Williams could fit at either position. If you put Williams at left guard, the team would likely have Michael Deiter start at center and leave Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson to compete for the starting right tackle job. If you start Williams at center, Eichenberg can slide in to the left guard job and Jackson can man the right tackle position.
  • The Jets recently released guard Greg Van Roten. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, head coach Robert Saleh claimed that they released Van Roten because they believe he has the potential to start for other teams in the league. His release is meant to allow him to find those teams that would provide him a starting opportunity. Saleh was quoted saying they’d “love to have him back,” if he fails to find such opportunities.
  • Colts linebacker Darius Leonard had ankle surgery in June last year before the season. The surgery helped him to get healthy for the season, where he played every game but one and was named a first-team All-Pro for the third time in his career. While the ankle is still ailing him, Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star reported that Leonard says the ankle is better now than it was at this point last year. This is an encouraging sign for Leonard and a scary message for the other teams in the AFC South. Leonard has been named to an All-Pro team every year of his career while being nagged by his ankle ailment. A healthy Leonard is a dangerous weapon for opposing teams to have to game-plan against.
  • With the return of free agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry seeming less and less likely, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com believes the Browns will be able to push a bit harder now for free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney to return. Cabot points out that drafting UAB pass rusher Alex Wright makes the need to sign Clowney a little less urgent, but also mentions that fellow pass rusher Myles Garrett wants Clowney back, which could help his case. Cabot claims that, if the two parties can’t agree to a new deal, Cleveland will consider former Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes instead.
  • We’ve all seen Rich Eisen of NFL Network run the 40-yard dash for charity. Well, this year, former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, currently an analyst for ESPN, participated and reportedly was clocked at 4.48 seconds. Mike Florio of NBC Sports reports that on Eisen’s show, Griffin made the claim that some teams took notice of his impressive run and reached out to him. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any teams have offered to bring him back to the NFL, but Griffin has publicly stated his desire to return to football in the past, even claiming that his contract with ESPN would allow him to sign with an NFL team if the opportunity presents itself. Griffin last spent time in the league as Lamar Jackson‘s back up on the Ravens. He filled in multiple times leading many to wonder if he still had the ability to lead an NFL offense based on his brief appearances.

OL Notes: Fins, Steele, Colts, Jets, Seahawks

After the Dolphins drafted him to be Laremy Tunsil‘s left tackle successor, Austin Jackson finished his second NFL season at guard. Pro Football Focus graded Jackson as the Dolphins’ worst regular starter last season and tabbed Miami’s unit as the league’s worst. The team has since made changes, signing Terron Armstead to a big-ticket deal and adding guard Connor Williams. With Robert Hunt at right guard, the Dolphins are looking to try Jackson at a third position soon. They are planning to see how the USC product fares at right tackle, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Dolphins also figure to try 2021 second-rounder Liam Eichenberg on the right side, with Armstead having replaced him at left tackle. Hunt, whom PFF graded as the team’s top O-line regular last season, began his career at right tackle. But the Dolphins would prefer he stay at right guard, Jackson adds. This figures to pit Jackson and Eichenberg in a position battle. Eichenberg, who replaced Jackson on the left side last year, made 16 starts as a rookie.

Here is the latest from the O-line ranks:

  • The Cowboys made La’el Collins a cap casualty, but the team is confident in the player poised to replace him. Dallas views Terence Steele as a potential “decade-long” option at right tackle, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes. A UDFA out of Texas Tech, Steele has made 27 starts over his first two seasons, subbing for both Collins and Tyron Smith. The Cowboys turned to Steele during Collins’ five-game PED suspension last year and used him as their primary right tackle starter in 2020, when Collins missed the entire season. This has given Dallas a notable evaluation period on the oft-used backup. Steele is not eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2024, giving Dallas more time to determine his future.
  • Matt Ryan will join a Colts team that houses some of the league’s best O-linemen, and Quenton Nelson is on track to join center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Braden Smith in being extended. But the team has a hole at left tackle again. With Eric Fisher unlikely to return, the Colts may not be ready to spend on a replacement. Swingman Matt Pryor stands to be given the first look at replacing Fisher, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. Pryor made guard starts for the Eagles in 2020 and started at three positions for the Colts last season, a five-start year in which he replaced Fisher, Smith and Nelson at various points. The ex-sixth-round pick is signed through the 2022 season.
  • The Jets reunited Mike LaFleur and Laken Tomlinson, giving the ex-49ers guard a three-year, $40MM deal during the legal tampering period. Tomlinson will receive $13.9MM fully guaranteed, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets, adding that Tomlinson’s 2022 cap charge comes in at just $5.4MM. Tomlinson’s 2023 base salary ($12.7MM) shifts from an injury-only guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2023 league year. Tomlinson’s cap number spikes to $17.4MM in 2023.
  • The one-year, $4MM deal the Seahawks gave Austin Blythe comes with a $2.5MM signing bonus and a $1.5MM base salary, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Blythe can earn up to $500K in playing-time incentives. With Ethan Pocic unsigned, Blythe has a clear path to becoming a starting center again. The ex-Rams guard and center starter backed up Creed Humphrey throughout last season with the Chiefs.
  • Will Richardson‘s one-year Jaguars deal is worth $2MM, Wilson adds (on Twitter). Jacksonville is guaranteeing the veteran backup $975K.

AFC Rumors: Bates, Sutton, Dolphins, Texans

The Bengals and Jessie Bates did not agree on an extension ahead of his contract year, and the veteran defender expressed frustration a deal did not commence. Bates previously hoped he would land a contract that kept him in Cincinnati long-term. With his future up in the air, the former second-round pick admitted he let his contract talks cloud his on-field performance to start the season.

So caught on to proving the wrong people right and the main thing I should be focusing on is proving the right people right as far as my coaches, my teammates, my family and not worry about all of the other stuff,” Bates said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I know that’s going to work out; I know what type of player I am; that stuff’s going to work out regardless.”

Pro Football Focus ranked Bates as its No. 1 safety in 2020; through nine games this season, the Wake Forest product slots in at No. 75 at the position. He has allowed a 79% completion rate when targeted — well north of the 54% mark of last season. While Bates should still be expected to generate considerable interest in free agency, should no extension agreement or franchise tag come to pass before that point, this season’s second half suddenly becomes pivotal for his long-term prospects.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Courtland Sutton joined Bates as a 2018 second-rounder, and the ex-SMU standout also joins him in being uncertain about his long-term status with his NFL team. Sutton has played in all 10 Broncos games this season, after tearing an ACL last September. The 6-foot-4 target is on pace for his second 1,000-yard season, but his production has been somewhat inconsistent — particularly in games when Jerry Jeudy has been active. The Broncos also have Tim Patrick going through a quality contract year, creating a decision. The franchise tag may be in play for Sutton in March, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post writes. This year’s tag figure came in at nearly $16MM for wideouts, during the pandemic-affected offseason. New GM George Paton called Sutton one of the team’s core players this offseason. The Broncos have used the tag frequently and have a long track record in extending those players — though, Justin Simmons played on the tag in 2020 before his re-up earlier this year.
  • After trying Lonnie Johnson at safety over the past two seasons, the Texans are changing the young defender’s position again. They are moving Johnson back to cornerback, David Culley said (via Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson). Houston drafted Johnson in the 2019 second round as a corner but tried him at safety over the past two seasons. The pivot resulted in Johnson being benched at that spot. The Texans also shopped Johnson ahead of the deadline. The team has vets Desmond King and Terrance Mitchell stationed as its outside starters, but in a rebuilding year, Johnson — who entered the draft with a 4.36-second 40-yard dash time despite a 213-pound frame — figures to see an opportunity to rebound at the position.
  • The Dolphins have shuffled their offensive line on a few occasions this year, tinkering with just about every starter’s role. The highest-profile move came recently, when the team moved 2020 first-round pick Austin Jackson from left tackle to left guard. While that could be a temporary fix, Brian Flores said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the team likes the USC product at guard. Second-round rookie Liam Eichenberg is currently Miami’s left tackle.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/11/21

With Week 1 games on tap for 28 teams Sunday, here is Saturday’s extensive batch of minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team