Ben Niemann

AFC West Notes: Raiders, Staley, Broncos

Josh McDaniels‘ leadership style became a lightning rod in Denver, helping lead to the successful New England OC’s second-season firing. Although’s Dan Graziano notes McDaniels’ Raiders situation did not feature a personality conflict on that level, a number of issues arose near the end of his 25-game Las Vegas tenure. While McDaniels’ style this time around was viewed as a bit more empathetic, Graziano colleague Jeremy Fowler notes the same traits that keyed the early wrap in Denver — people skills and a flawed culture — resurfaced in Nevada. This Patriot Way model led to quickly eroded trust, with the quarterback situation being the main part of McDaniels’ plan not resonating with players.

The team’s move from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo produced warning signs, but the McDaniels- and Dave Ziegler-handpicked veteran’s immobility and erratic play (NFL-high nine interceptions, despite two missed starts) led to some in the Raiders’ building believing Aidan O’Connell should have replaced the veteran starter earlier than he did, Fowler adds. Had the Raiders turned one of their several visits with early-round draft prospects into a selection, perhaps McDaniels would have been given more time to groom that player. With the team waiting until the final pick of the fourth round to take its quarterback, it is quite possible the team’s passer of the future is not on the roster. This being the case certainly interfered with McDaniels displaying his vision to the team.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • In what should not be especially surprising, Fowler adds some around the league believe Brandon Staley will need a winning effort to stave off a post-season three firing. Some viewed Staley as a candidate to be dropped after the Chargers‘ 27-point collapse in last year’s wild-card round, which came after Mike Williams suffered an injury in a meaningless Week 18 game. But GM Tom Telesco backed his HC for a third season. Again without Williams, the Bolts are 4-4. After Sean Payton was repeatedly connected to this job in 2022, the Bolts would obviously need to look elsewhere to replace Staley — if they choose to take that route — next year.
  • Last week’s USC-Washington game naturally attracted NFL personnel, but’s Pete Thamel notes both Broncos GM George Paton and Giants GM Joe Schoen were on-hand in a game that featured likely 2024 quarterback draftees Caleb Williams and Michael Penix. Both the Broncos and Giants would have complex paths to adding another QB. Denver could draft one with or without Russell Wilson on the roster, with a rookie salary perhaps complementing the starter’s hefty contract or hitting the Broncos’ cap sheet after they absorb a record-shattering $85MM in dead money (over two years, in the event of a post-June 1 cut). Regardless of how the Broncos fare in the season’s second half, Wilson’s status will be their top storyline.
  • The Broncos recently promoted Ben Niemann to their 53-man roster, and 9News’ Mike Klis notes the team did so to prevent another club from poaching him off the practice squad. Niemann, who could have conceivably loomed as a Chiefs roster replacement for the injured Nick Bolton, has 80 games under his belt. He added to that total earlier this year, against the Bears. The former Chiefs and Cardinals starter caught on with the Broncos after the Titans cut him in August.
  • Raiders free agency addition Robert Spillane recently underwent hand surgery, per interim HC Antonio Pierce (via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur), but it did not keep him off the field. After breaking his hand against the Lions in Week 8, the fifth-year linebacker underwent a procedure a day later but played every snap against the Giants. Largely a part-timer in Pittsburgh, Spillane — attached to a two-year, $7MM deal — has logged 98% of Las Vegas’ defensive snaps this season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/30/23

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • Signed to active roster: RB Devine Ozigbo
  • Promoted: OL Michael Niese

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

Tennessee Titans

After getting cut by the Steelers earlier this month, Gunner Olszewski quickly caught on with New York’s practice squad. They Giants signed the receiver/returner to the active roster ahead of yesterday’s game against the Jets, and their decision to release him today was merely procedural. As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero points out, all vested vets who are released following tomorrow’s trade deadline are subject to waivers. The Giants are apparently getting ahead of that deadline with this roster machination. Per Pelissero, Olszewski is expected to re-sign with the Giants and will play in Week 9.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/30/23

Saturday’s gameday elevations and other minor moves ahead of tomorrow’s slate of Week 4 games:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Walker’s elevation comes amidst a degree of uncertainty regarding Deshaun Watson‘s Sunday availability. The latter is dealing with a shoulder injury, but he has expressed confidence he will be able to suit up. In the event he is unable to play, though, Walker will provide insurance under center. NFL Network’s James Palmer reports Watson will be a game-time decision.

Chosen, formerly Robbie Anderson, made his Dolphins debut in Week 3, scoring a 68-yard touchdown on his only catch. His performance – along with other depth wideouts currently being sidelined for Miami – will give the 30-year-old a longer look with his new team.

Gore’s elevation will give him the chance to see regular season game action for the first time since 2021. The former UDFA recorded 361 scrimmage yards with the Chiefs that season, but a subsequent IR stint marked the end of his time in Kansas City. Gore has since spent time on the Saints’, and now Commanders’, taxi squads. Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post notes that fellow depth back Chris Rodriguez has bee ruled out with an illness, opening the door to Gore seeing limited snaps.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/1/23

Teams continue to tinker with their taxi squads in the aftermath of roster cutdowns. Here are Friday’s updates:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots

  • Signed: WR T.J. Luther
  • Released: WR Thyrick Pitts

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Titans Trim Roster To 53; RB Hassan Haskins Placed On Commissioner’s Exempt List

The Titans have made a number of moves which have allowed them to set their initial 53-man roster. Here is the full breakdown:




Placed on Reserve/PUP list:

Placed on Commissioner’s Exempt List:

Haskins had been placed on IR yesterday, meaning he will be sidelined for the season. The 2022 fourth-rounder’s future with the team is now murkier, however, given today’s placement on the Exempt List. Haskins – who was arrested on an aggravated assault charge in June – will need to apply for reinstatement to be eligible to return when healthy.

McMath has logged 14 appearances in Tennessee across his two seasons with the team. The former sixth-rounder will lose out on a roster spot in the Titans revamped receiving corps, which will of course be led by free agent signing DeAndre Hopkins. McMath would represent a prime practice squad candidate if he goes unclaimed, something which, given his lack of offensive playing time and production, can be expected.

Letting go of Coley, Johnson and Peko (at least for now) will leave the Titans thin along the defensive interior. That trio has combined to play 147 games in the NFL, representing plenty of experience the team will be without to start the season. Plenty of Tennessee’s success will be determined by the play of Jeffery Simmons and his fellow D-line starters, but they will be leaned on heavily in the absence of veteran backups.

Titans Sign LB Ben Niemann

Ben Niemann‘s June Cardinals signing last year led to considerable playing time. After a season in Arizona, the former Kansas City UDFA will end up in Tennessee.

The Titans and Niemann agreed to terms Monday. This is likely a low-cost accord, but Niemann will have a chance to compete for a job on Mike Vrabel‘s team soon. The Titans began their offseason workouts today.

Despite being a mid-June Cardinals addition, Niemann ended up starting nine games for the struggling team. The nine starts marked a career-high total for Niemann, who spent four seasons with the Chiefs but did not generate much interest in free agency last year. Niemann, 27, will join a Titans team in transition at linebacker.

Tennessee moved on from both David Long and Zach Cunningham this offseason, releasing Cunningham and letting Long sign with the Dolphins on just a two-year, $11MM deal. New Titans GM Ran Carthon added ex-49ers starter Azeez Al-Shaair on a one-year, $5MM pact. The former Fred WarnerDre Greenlaw sidekick should be expected to anchor Tennessee’s linebacking corps, which did not have Long or Cunningham available too often last season.

The team should also be viewed as a candidate to draft a linebacker fairly early this year, but Niemann will have an opportunity to join Al-Shaair and 2021 third-round pick Monty Rice as a regular. Cunningham remains unsigned.

An Iowa product, Niemann tallied a career-high 70 tackles last season; Pro Football Focus viewed his part-time work as effective. The advanced metrics site graded Niemann just inside the top 30 among off-ball linebackers last season, grading his 2022 as far better than his Chiefs seasons. Niemann, who has six career fumble recoveries, started 12 games with the Chiefs from 2018-21.

Prior to signing Niemann, the Titans worked out he and two other linebackers. Nick Kwiatkoski and ex-Niemann Cardinals teammate Tanner Vallejo auditioned for the Titans, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Vallejo, 28, started five Cardinals games last season. After his Raiders release, Kwiatkoski, 29, spent the season with the Falcons; he played in 12 games with no starts in 2022.

NFC West Rumors: 49ers, Cardinals, Metcalf

Not long ago, we wrote about the 49ers’ cornerback depth chart, claiming Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley were the starting outside corners this spring with Darqueze Dennard and rookie fifth-round pick Samuel Womack competing for the the starting nickel cornerback job, while second-year defender Ambry Thomas slots in as the No. 3 corner on the outside.

A slight alternative to the starting scenarios was proposed earlier this week by Cam Inman of The San Jose Mercury News. He agrees that Dennard and Womack seem to be going head-to-head for the nickel-back role, but posits that, should neither cornerback seize the starting opportunity, San Francisco could formulate a rotation that would see Moseley shift inside and Thomas come in to cover the outside.

If Dennard and Womack can’t convince the coaches that they’re more valuable to have on the field than Thomas, the above situation could unfold. It makes sense that the 49ers would want the best three defenders on the field and could utilize other cornerback combinations to take advantage of specific matchups.

Here are a couple of other rumors from out of the NFC West, starting with a note out of Glendale:

  • A little over two weeks ago, the Cardinals signed two former Chiefs’ defenders in cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Ben Niemann. The two have had diametrically contradicting career paths with the former second-round pick, Jackson, slowly falling into obscurity while the former undrafted free agent, Niemann has earned more and more responsibility each year he’s been in the league. Both of their contracts, though, will be worth the league minimum, according to Sports Illustrated’s Howard Balzer. While that’s a hard pill to swallow for Jackson after the high expectations that came with his draft position, Niemann is likely grateful to be heading into his fifth year of NFL football for the second team to give him an opportunity after initially going undrafted.
  • Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf has been pushing the organization for a new contract lately. The 24-year-old is set to head into the last year of his rookie contract and, while he does want to get paid, he’s also providing the Seahawks a head start on the rest of the league on what would be his eventual free agency. While Metcalf is looking at recent deals like that of his former college teammate, A.J. Brown, the absolute floor of Metcalf’s hypothetical extension was set this week when the Commanders extended star receiver Terry McLaurin, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus writes. Kyed justifies the opinion, saying that, while PFF grades Metcalf slightly lower than McLaurin, Metcalf is over two years younger and has produced at a slightly higher level than McLaurin over their first three years in the league. Whether or not Metcalf undoubtedly deserves more than McLaurin, McLaurin’s new deal sets an intriguing bar as extension talks continue in Seattle.

Cardinals Sign Josh Jackson, Ben Niemann

After working out with the Cardinals during their minicamp this week, cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Ben Niemann landed spots on the team’s 90-man offseason roster. The team announced the signings Thursday afternoon.

Kliff Kingsbury indicated earlier this month the Cardinals would pursue veteran corners. That comment came not long after the news offseason addition Jeff Gladney died in a car accident May 30.

The Cardinals will be Jackson’s fourth team. The former second-round Packers draftee spent last year with the Giants, who acquired him from the Packers via trade, and the Chiefs, who gave Jackson a practice squad spot after the Giants waived him midseason. The Chiefs used Jackson in two regular-season games as well. The Iowa product’s NFL stock has dropped considerably, but he will have an opportunity to catch on with a Cards team light at corner.

Jackson, 26, started 10 games with Green Bay as a rookie in 2018 but has lined up as a first-stringer in only five contests since. He allowed a whopping 86% of the passes thrown his way to be completed in 2019, with that figure only dropping to 74% in 2020. The Packers, who drafted Eric Stokes in the 2021 first round, moved on via the trade — a straight-up swap for corner Isaac Yiadom. Jackson did not see any regular-season time with the Giants.

Niemann joined Jackson on the 2021 Chiefs and played for Kansas City throughout his rookie contract. The Chiefs used Niemann as a five-game starter in each of the past two seasons. While he did not start any of Kansas City’s playoff contests during his four-year Missouri run, the former UDFA played in each postseason game. Niemann, 27 in July, and Jackson were Hawkeyes teammates.

Arizona, which waived safety Javon Hagan on Thursday as well, has questions at corner beyond top cover man Byron Murphy. It would not surprise if the Cards signed a starter-caliber corner ahead of training camp. The team has first-rounders Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins stationed at linebacker, with the latter ticketed to start after the team’s Jordan Hicks release. The Cards did not draft an off-ball linebacker this year but have Tanner Vallejo, Joe Walker and seventh-year vet Nick Vigil rostered.

Chiefs Sign 14 UDFAs

The Chiefs announced the signing of 14 undrafted free agents:

Williams ended up receiving one of the bigger deals among undrafted free agents, signing for $30K, including a $15K bonus and $15K base (via’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter). The running back had a breakout campaign at LSU in 2017, compiling 820 yards and nine touchdowns on 145 carries.

Among the prospects who attended smaller schools, Wade was considered one of the top cornerback prospects. Following a season where he collected six interceptions, the defensive back will be in the running for a roster spot. The same could be said of the 6-foot-3, 337-pound Liner, who adds some much-needed size to Kansas City’s defensive line.