Austin Johnson (DL)

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/17/23

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Signed: OT Trevor Reid

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Indianapolis Colts

  • Signed: WR Tyler Adams

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Released from IR: WR D.J. Turner

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Players placed on injured reserve during training camp or the preseason can’t be activated during the 2023 campaign. However, if they’re released from IR (often via an injury settlement), they’re free to sign and play elsewhere. For instance, Anthony Averett will surely be a player who can catch on with a new squad. The cornerback has seen time in 51 games (27 starts), collecting 114 tackles, three interceptions, and 23 passes defended. He had a career season in 2021 with the Ravens, starting all 14 of his appearances while chipping in 54 tackles, 11 passes defended, and three picks. He spent the 2022 season with the Raiders, starting six of his seven appearances while dealing with a pair of IR stints. He caught on with the 49ers earlier this month.

Among today’s signings, Davion Taylor is an intriguing addition to the Bears linebackers room. The former third-round pick spent the first two seasons of his career with the Eagles, including a 2021 campaign where he started six of his nine appearances while compiling 41 tackles and a pair of forced fumbles. A knee injury ended that breakout campaign early, and he spent most of the 2022 season on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/26/23

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Green Bay Packers

  • Signed: WR Cody Chrest
  • Placed on NFI: OT Caleb Jones
  • Waived/injured: WR Jeff Cotton

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Among the additions on today’s list, defensive back A.J. Moore is the most notable. The defensive back spent four years with the Texans to begin his career, compiling 69 tackles in 55 games while primarily playing on special teams. The 27-year-old spent a chunk of last season on the Titans practice squad, and he ultimately got into one game with the big-league club.

Chargers DL Austin Johnson Out For Season

One of the Chargers’ key pieces in an effort to bolster their run defense this offseason, Austin Johnson will be sidelined for the rest of the year. Brandon Staley said a knee fracture will keep the veteran defensive lineman out.

Johnson also sustained MCL damage during the Bolts’ Week 9 win in Atlanta, Daniel Popper of The Athletic tweets. The seventh-year veteran is signed through 2023, having agreed to a two-year, $14MM pact early in free agency.

Thirtieth against the run last season, the Chargers reassembled their interior defensive line this year. They added Johnson, ex-Ram Sebastian Joseph-Day and fifth-round pick Otito Ogbonnia to the equation. Los Angeles still rosters Jerry Tillery, but the former first-round pick suffered a back injury weightlifting last week. Tillery missed Sunday’s game against the Falcons. Despite the upgrade efforts, the Bolts rank 29th against the run after eight games. Johnson’s injury certainly will not help matters.

Johnson, 28, elevated his value during a two-year stay with the Giants. The former Titans spot starter worked as a backup in 2020 but started all 17 Giants games last season, leading to a nice free agency payday. Johnson’s Chargers deal included $10.63MM guaranteed. While that does not ensure he will be back with the team in 2023, when an extensive rehab effort will now be required, the seventh-year vet did well to collect some guaranteed cash beyond the first year of his contract.

The Chargers also lost right tackle Trey Pipkins during their Falcons matchup. Pipkins aggravated an MCL sprain, Staley said. Pipkins still has a chance to play in Week 10, per Staley. Illustrating how no two injuries are alike, 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell has lost half the season to an MCL sprain.

A former third-round pick, Pipkins has bounced in and out of L.A.’s lineup. This year, however, he won a training camp competition against Storm Norton to commandeer the right tackle gig. Pipkins has started every Chargers game this season. Norton, last year’s primary right-side starter, replaced him Sunday. The Chargers are already playing shorthanded up front, with Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater likely out for the season due to a biceps tear.

Former Second-Round Pick Titans DL Austin Johnson On Roster Bubble

Former second-round pick Austin Johnson isn’t in great standing with the Titans. The 43rd overall pick of the 2016 draft has struggled to make an impact and might not be long for the team.

The defensive lineman is going to be fighting for a roster spot in training camp, according to Jim Wyatt of the team’s official site. Wyatt does note that defensive coordinator Dean Pees had some praise for him earlier this offseason, but he won’t be guaranteed a spot because of his draft pedigree. Last season, Johnson played around 38 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in a rotational role.

In 16 games and nine starts, he finished with 22 tackles, one sack, and two passes defended. It was by far the most playing time he’s received in his young career. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Johnson is scheduled to make $1.8MM in 2019. Wyatt does note that his salary won’t be held against him, and Tennessee will only cut him if he gets beat out by someone better.

The Penn State product has been a disappointment in the pros, and Wyatt writes that he needs to get more “disruptive.” The Titans drafted Jeffery Simmons in the first round back in April, but fortunately for Johnson he’s expected to miss his entire rookie season. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s safe, and it sounds like there’s a good chance Johnson is looking for a new home this fall.

Impact Rookies: Tennessee Titans

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Today, we continue PFR’s Impact Rookie series with Dave-Te Thomas’ insight on the Tennessee Titans’ draft class:

First Round – Jack Conklin, OT (Michigan State, No. 8 overall)

It was apparent after last season that the Titans needed to address their lack of depth on defense, but they also had to add speed on offense. Ultimately, Tennessee started the draft by placing a higher priority in protecting their franchise quarterback and opted to build a formidable front line that already featured two first rounders and four starters selected by the team since the 2013 draft phase. Jack Conklin (vertical)

The Titans watched Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil slide down the board, but he wasn’t the tackle that they wanted when they traded up from No. 15 to No. 8. When they owned the first overall pick in the draft, many draft experts expected that Tunsil was a shoe-in, but all along the Titans were eyeing either Conklin or Notre Dame standout Ronnie Stanley.

Being a Top Ten choice does not always spell instant success, at least where offensive tackles are concerned. Among the 179 offensive tackles to ever be drafted in the first round, four never even played in any NFL games and seven others never started any contests during their pro careers. Since the 1970 draft, five other first round offensive tackle selections never reached double-digit starting figures.

Still, Conklin’s future looks bright and his presence is doubly appreciated following Byron Bell‘s season-ending ankle injury. His injury leaves the door open for Conklin to immediately step in as the new starter at right tackle, joining 2013 first round right guard Chance Warmack, 2014 first round left tackle Taylor Lewan, 2015 third round left guard Jeremiah Poutasi, and 2013 fourth round center Brian Schwenke up front.

Second Round – Austin Johnson, DT (Penn State, No. 43 overall)

Dick LeBeau is placing more emphasis on the 3-4 game this season and second round pick Kevin Dodd is currently sidelined with a foot injury, which means that the team could experiment with Jurrell Casey playing on the edge and DaQuan Jones on the opposite side. That would leave Johnson to battle Al Woods for time in the middle of the front wall.

The former journalism major graduated from school early and was eligible to compete at the 2016 Senior Bowl, where he put on quite a performance throughout the week-long practices. Johnson ranked second among interior defensive linemen in the major college ranks and finished third overall on his team with 70 tackles. That was the most tackles for a Penn State defensive lineman since Jimmy Kennedy (87) in 2002. He also recorded 6.5 sacks among his fifteen stops behind the line of scrimmage in 2015.

With his thick-cut frame, Johnson can play either the zero-gap or line up as a traditional under-tackle when the team utilizes the 4-3 scheme. He’s proven last season that he can be very stout at the point of attack and you have to be impressed with his balance and coordination when attacking the rush lanes, along with his great leg drive and core strength to anchor vs. double teams.

Second Round – Derrick Henry, RB (Alabama, No. 45 overall)

DeMarco Murray is a ball-hungry veteran intent on proving that last season’s debacle in Philadelphia was a one-time thing. If Murray looks strong off the bat, it remains to be seen how playing time in the backfield will be divvied up. Murray only had 193 carries (3.6 avg) last season, but he had his best year when he carried the rock for 392 times for Dallas in 2014.

Henry is a one-time starter who needs room to operate and build his acceleration. He will have the benefit of seeing fellow Tide backfield mate, Jalston Fowler, serving as the team’s lead blocker out of the backfield, but he will still have to vie for “scraps” that Murray leaves on the table. Further complicating the touches available for Tennessee players is the fact that Bishop Sankey, David Cobb, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, and David Fluellen will all be fighting for the two available slots behind Murray on the depth chart, though Sankey could be traded. Only time will tell if Henry can be a successful runner in the NFL and the same goes for his opportunity level in 2016.

Third Round – Kevin Byard, FS (Middle Tennessee State, No. 64 overall)

Kevin Byard (vertical)Ever since LeBeau became a coordinator, he has surrounded himself with smart, instinctive safeties. Last year, the Titans made a great move by securing the services of former Bills strong safety Da’Norris Searcy. Now, in Byard, they believe they have a ball-hawk free safety to pair with to Searcy’s hard-hitting style. Byard has nineteen interceptions to show for those ball-hawking skills at MTSU, but despite his pedigree and fine performances in practice at the 2016 Senior Bowl, he was not invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. The Titans realized what he can offer, as he not only set the school all-time theft mark, but also returned those interceptions for 377 yards and four touchdowns.

Byard’s arrival does not mean he will be the instant starter at free safety, which is where Arizona castoff Rashad Johnson resides. His versatility (he played every secondary position in college) will see him be called upon to play the slot corner spot in passing situations and he could also be utilized as a Cover-2 linebacker vs. the run. All that stands in his way for playing time is a challenge from veteran Marqueston Huff, along with Daimion Stafford and Lamarcus Brutus for the two safety spots on the second unit.

Fifth Round – Tajae Sharpe, WR (UMass, No. 140 overall)

To hear Marcus Mariota and the offensive coaches during mini-camp, you’d think that they’d hit the lottery with this fifth round find. Nagging injuries limited the UMass receiver to eleven games last year, but he still pulled in 111 balls, breaking the school season-record. He also holds the career marks with 271 receptions for 3,348 yards. His addition gives Mariota another big, physical possession-type receiver, one with very reliable hands and excellent route-running ability.

Sharpe’s arrival could take playing time away from 2015 second rounder Dorial Green-Beckham, who will now compete with aging veteran Harry Douglas for outside receiver chores. Kendall Wright should line up outside on the right side, and Sharpe expected to challenge Miami castoff Rishard Matthews for the slot receiver role. The team plans on keeping five receivers, putting Douglas and 2013 second round pick Justin Hunter on the bubble. Ben Roberts, Tre McBride, Reece Horn and Andrew Turzilli all appear to be “warm bodies” for training camp at this position.

Fifth Round – Sebastian Tretola, OG (Arkansas, No. 193 overall)

Bell’s loss also gives Tretotala a great opportunity for playing time. Bell was also projected to serve as the top reserve guard, but that role will likely fall to the former Razorback. What Tretola lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with his high level of aggression, especially in the running game. He should easily steal away playing time from fellow Titans reserve blockers, Josue Matias, Andy Gallik, Quinton Spain, and Nick Ritcher. That quartet holds one distinction: none of them were ever drafted. The Titans also signed Ben Jones away from the Texans, but he was mainly brought in to challenge Schwenke for the center spot.

Dave-Te Thomas owns and operates The NFL Draft Report, a service which has provided insight to league scouting departments for over 40 years. All year round, can read Thomas’ in-depth reviews of both blue chip prospects and diamonds in the rough by visiting the NFL Draft Report blog. 


Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Cut Damaris Johnson, Add 11 UDFAs

The Titans, one of the last teams in the NFL to formally announce their undrafted free agent class, have done so today, confirming in a press release that they’ve agreed to terms with 11 rookies who weren’t selected in the 2016 draft. The team announced that it has reached deals with six members of its ’16 draft class as well.

In addition to bringing in 11 undrafted free agents and locking up six draftees, the team also announced that it has waived two veteran players — wide receiver Damaris Johnson and cornerback Steven Clarke. A former Vanderbilt CB, Clarke spent last summer with the Dolphins but has never appeared in an NFL regular season game. Johnson, on the other hand, has played in 44 career contests, most notably catching 31 balls for 331 yards and a touchdown during the 2014 season for the Texans.

Here’s the complete list of the Titans’ 11 incoming UDFAs:

And here’s the list of Titans draft picks who have agreed to terms with the team so far:

First-round tackle Jack Conklin and second-round edge defender Kevin Dodd are among the draftees who have yet to finalize contracts with the club.


Christian Hackenberg To Enter 2016 NFL Draft

We learned earlier this week that college quarterbacks Jared Goff (California), Paxton Lynch (Memphis) and Cardale Jones (Ohio State) will enter the 2016 NFL Draft. Joining them will be fellow signal caller Christian Hackenberg, who announced Saturday that he’ll forgo his final season at Penn State in favor of the pros (Twitter link via Onward State). Hackenberg is currently rated as the fifth-best QB in this year’s class, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay (link via ESPN’s Jared Shanker).

Hackenberg, who will turn 21 in February, was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school and ultimately garnered extensive experience at Penn State. The 6-foot-4, 228-pounder started 38 games and attempted nearly 1,300 passes in three seasons as a Nittany Lion, with whom he tossed 48 touchdowns against 30 interceptions. Hackenberg’s accuracy was an issue throughout his time at Penn State, where he never finished a season with better than a 58.9 percent completion rate and concluded 2015 at a personal-worst 53.3. One contributing factor was an offensive line whose struggles aided in opposing defenses sacking Hackenberg 82 times (most in the nation) over the past two years.

Hackenberg’s Penn State career ended in less-than-ideal fashion Saturday in the team’s 24-17 loss to Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl. He left the game early with a sprained right shoulder after completing 8 of 14 passes for 139 yards and an interception, but Penn State head coach James Franklin said afterward that the injury isn’t serious (link via Dan Parr of

In addition to Hackenberg, Penn State will also lose defensive tackle Austin Johnson. The potential first- or second-rounder declared Saturday that he’ll forgo his senior year to turn pro, according to Jordan Rodrigue of the Centre Daily Times.