Benny Snell

Lions Announce 53-Man Roster

We knew the Lions were going to make a handful of QB transactions leading up to today’s deadline, with Hendon Hooker destined for NFI and Nate Sudfeld tearing his ACL. Of course, the team made many additional moves to get to the 53-man roster limit:




Activated from PUP:

Placed on reserve/NFI:

Placed on reserve/suspended:

Placed on IR:

Released from IR:

Craig Reynolds spent the past two seasons with the Lions, and he made the most of his opportunities while on the field. He was limited to 14 games across the two seasons, but the RB still posted 500 yards from scrimmage on 94 touches. With a new-look depth chart in 2022, Reynolds found himself on the outside looking in.

The same goes for Benny Snell, who joined the organization earlier this offseason. The running back has spent his entire career in Pittsburgh, starting five of his 63 appearances. He didn’t miss a game for Pittsburgh over the past three seasons, although he’s seen a drop in productivity. After compiling 429 yards from scrimmage during the 2020 campaign, Snell has only collected 218 yards in 34 games since.

Lions Sign RB Benny Snell; Justin Jackson Retires

The Lions have made a move affecting their backfield, spurred in part by a surprise retirement decision. The team announced on Thursday that Benny Snell has been signed, and that Justin Jackson has ended his career.

Snell worked out with the Broncos and Colts this offseason, but he will ultimately head to Detroit to fill the vacancy left by Jackson’s retirement. The 25-year-old spent his first four seasons with the Steelers, but he was primarily used on special teams. Especially with Najee Harris in the fold for the past two years, Snell has seen limited touches on offense.

A depth role will again await him in Detroit, with free agent addition David Montgomery and first-round rookie Jahmyr Gibbs set to carry the load out of the backfield. A division of rushing and pass-catching duties is in the team’s plans, and Snell should operate as a fill-in option on offense while maintaining a steady presence on special teams.

Jackson was unable to establish anything more than a complimentary role with the Chargers over the course of his four years with the team. He joined the Lions last offseason, but his playing situation remained the same. Buried behind D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams on the depth chart, he logged only 54 touches. The 27-year-old was a key special teamer, though, and he missed only one game in his debut Lions campaign.

That led to a new deal being worked out less than three weeks ago, making today’s news rather surprising. Jackson battled injuries in 2019 and ’20 in particular, but a healthy season last year made the decision to retain him an easy one from the Lions’ perspective. Now, the team will move forward with an significantly different RB contingent than last season.

Jackson signed for the veteran minimum on his second Lions pact, one which did not include any guaranteed money. The Northwestern alum will hang up his cleats with $3.7MM in career earnings after five seasons played.

Colts Work Out RB Kenyan Drake

Operating without their top two running backs presently, the Colts brought in a few veteran options Wednesday. Kenyan Drake, Benny Snell and Devine Ozigbo auditioned for the team, Field Yates of tweets.

Colts running back matters are obviously magnified, with Jonathan Taylor still not practicing. In addition to the former rushing champion’s escalating drama, the Colts lost backup Zack Moss for approximately six weeks. Moss sustained a broken arm early during training camp.

[RELATED: Teams Showing Interest In Colts’ Taylor]

Teams have called on Drake to work as a backup over the past two seasons, with the former third-round pick moving from Las Vegas to Baltimore in that span. But Drake did see steady run as the Ravens’ starter in 2022, doing so despite arriving just before the regular season began. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards‘ injuries opened the door for the ex-Dolphins draftee, who amassed 482 rushing yards (4.4 per carry) and four touchdowns with the Ravens last season. Drake, 28, finished with at least 60 rushing yards in three of his five starts. He totaled 119 in a Ravens loss to the Giants.

The Ravens have since added Melvin Gordon, lessening the need for Drake to come back. Although Dobbins has been connected to contract dissatisfaction (a topic the Colts are becoming well versed in), he should be healthier compared to his 2022 version. Edwards also remains under contract. Drake is also three years removed from being transition-tagged by the Cardinals. The Alabama product totaled back-to-back seasons with at least 1,000 scrimmage yards from 2019-20, topping out at 1,162 in ’19, when the rebuilding Dolphins dealt him to Arizona.

Snell played out his Steelers rookie contract last season, while Ozigbo saw scant work as a Broncos backup in 2022. Without Taylor and Moss, the Colts are down to Deon Jackson, ex-Rams UDFA Jake Funk and fifth-round rookie Evan Hull in the backfield.

Taylor, who underwent ankle surgery earlier this year, was believed to be healthy — per Jim Irsay, at least — before camp. Rumblings of a back injury — which Taylor has directly denied — sprang up, leading to controversy about the Colts shifting the 2021 rushing champion from the PUP list to the NFI list. That move would put Taylor’s salary at risk and make this uglier than it has already gotten. Irsay has said the Colts are not trading the contract-year back, despite his request. But the team has run into a major issue with a player who had said earlier this offseason he still wished to retire with Indianapolis. With no contract offer having emerged and a trade request issued, we are a long way from that sentiment.

Broncos Work Out K Randy Bullock, RB Benny Snell

After the Broncos signed Elliott Fry, Sean Payton said the team would continue to search for kicker aid. The team is holding an early competition, bringing in Randy Bullock for a minicamp workout.

Former Steelers running back Benny Snell is also at the Broncos’ minicamp, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Ditto running back Ryan Nall. Bullock spent the past two seasons as the Titans’ kicker, but the team released him during a February purge.

Bullock, 33, has Fry lapped many times over for NFL experience. While Fry has kicked in just three regular-season games — for three teams — Bullock is a 10-year veteran. Prior to his two-year Tennessee stay, Bullock spent the previous four seasons in Cincinnati. He struggled to find a steady gig in his early seasons, but the former Texans fifth-round pick has played 138 career games.

Last season, Bullock made 17 of 20 field goal attempts and went 28-for-28 on extra points. Since posting a 90% field goal accuracy rate with the 2017 Bengals, Bullock has hovered between 80% and 88%. He has not been asked to try many 50-plus-yard field goals and has made more than two in a season just once (three, in 2020) in that span.

Denver parted ways with longtime kicker Brandon McManus and used the funds created from the post-June 1 cut to bring in Frank Clark. The team likely is not settled on Fry, who looks to be facing a minicamp challenge for the job. Fry signed a one-year, $750K deal that did not include any guarantees.

Snell played out his rookie contract with the Steelers, finishing his Pittsburgh run as a Najee Harris backup. While James Conner health issues allowed for five Snell starts from 2019-20, he fell behind UDFA Jaylen Warren in Pittsburgh’s pecking order last season. Snell has proven durable, not missing a game since his rookie season, though he did not make a big impression during his rookie deal. Although the former fourth-round pick did not clear four yards per carry over his first three seasons, he managed 4.5 per tote last year. Though, that came on just 20 handoffs.

The Broncos have Javonte Williams making strides in his recovery from ACL and LCL tears; the former second-rounder participated in OTAs on a limited basis. The team also signed ex-Bengal Samaje Perine to a two-year deal this offseason. Those two profile as Denver’s top two backs, but the team appears in the market for a depth piece. Tyler Badie, ex-Saint Tony Jones Jr. and rookie UDFA Jaleel McLaughlin represent the other backs vying for a job this summer.

Steelers Could Add RB; Najee Harris To Remain Workhorse

There aren’t many questions surrounding the Steelers’ approach to the running back position. As a rookie last season, Najee Harris put forth a workload worthy of a Pro Bowl selection and accounted for around 75% of Pittsburgh’s rush attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. While that may not sound overwhelming, the next closest player, Benny Snell Jr., only accounted for about 8% of the team’s rush attempts and 6% of the team’s rushing yards. Despite the seemingly small contribution, Snell is still the favorite to back up Harris next season, according to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly. 

The Steelers’ offensive backfield doesn’t have a ton of experience. The oldest running back on their roster, Trey Edmunds, 27, has never started a game, has 31 career carries, and hasn’t had a carry since November 2019. Every other running back on the roster is 24 years old or younger. After Kalen Ballage announced he was stepping away from the NFL to coach, Pittsburgh’s roster only holds three running backs who had carries for the Steelers in the 2021 season: Harris, Snell, and Anthony McFarland Jr. After them and Edmunds, the only backs on the roster are two undrafted rookies: Mataeo Durant and Jaylen Warren.

McFarland currently has too small a sample size to depend on. During his two years in the league, McFarland has played in 13 games, carrying the ball 36 times for 116 yards. Last year, he only appeared in two games. He had three carries and three yards in those two games. Whether it’s health, size, or ability, Snell is clearly the preferred backup option over McFarland right now.

Snell has had more opportunities to showcase his abilities than McFarland. Snell was around for two years before Harris showed up, backing up James Conner. In those two years, Snell got the opportunity to start five games and contribute in many more. Kaboly compiled the stats of Snell’s starts and any game in which he had at least 12 carries, a total of ten games. Omitting an anomalous start against Washington in 2020, Snell averaged 17 carries for 72 yards per game, averaging 4.2 yards per rush in those nine games. In a full season of those opportunities, Snell would project at 1,150 yards.

Snell’s body of work in previous seasons supports the argument that he can be relied upon as Harris’ relief. But, even if the Steelers did want to add another back to the stable, what options do they have? They have the option of having the backup running backs reflect the Ravens’ starters from last year following season-ending injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, as Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman are available. (Even if Le’Veon Bell were planning to play in 2022, and not focus on a potential boxing career, his Steelers past and recent performance likely makes him a non-starter here.) Past those three, veterans Carlos Hyde, David Johnson, and Devontae Booker are all free agents. Are any of these options an improvement on Snell? Potentially, but it may not be worth the money and playbook study necessary to bring them level with where Snell is at now.

More potential names could surface as team’s trim their rosters down to the final 53. Myles Gaskin in Miami, Chris Carson in Seattle, Tevin Coleman in New York, and D’Onta Foreman in Carolina could all be on the chopping block come late August and find themselves looking for work.

Still, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Pittsburgh doesn’t enter the 2022 season with a 1-2-3 of Harris-Snell-McFarland. As attractive as those other options may sound, Pittsburgh has no interest in reducing Harris’ carries. If healthy, Harris will continue his role as a bell-cow, with Snell and McFarland only appearing in rare moments of exhaustion or for special situations. McFarland has shown he can play in a situational role and Snell has proven he can be effective when given a bulk-carry opportunity (for instance, if Harris gets injured), but the importance of the question of who backs ups Harris is moot as long as Harris stays healthy.

Injury Updates: Brissett, Conner, Thielen

The Colts have been having a surprisingly strong season after Andrew Luck retired, but everyone in Indy was left holding their breath when Jacoby Brissett went down with a knee injury. After the game, head coach Frank Reich said it was a sprain that was “MCL-ish.” Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like Brissett tore anything. Quarterbacks can usually play through MCL sprains, so it doesn’t sound like Brissett will be on the shelf too long. Brian Hoyer filled in and had the Colts in position to win the game late, but Adam Vinatieri missed a 43-yard kick with a minute to go.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Steelers rookie running back Benny Snell had surgery to trim his meniscus recently and will be sidelined for 2-3 weeks, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Snell was a fourth-round pick back in April. Speaking of Pittsburgh’s backfield, starter James Conner didn’t suit up against the Colts today, and Adam Schefter of tweets that he’s in danger of missing next week’s game against the Rams. For now, Jaylen Samuels will continue to gobble up most of the snaps.
  • Standout rookie UDFA Preston Williams suffered a knee injury, casting a damper on the Dolphins’ first win of the season. Despite going undrafted Williams has become a key player for Miami, starting all of their games thus far. The injury is a “sprained knee and the hope is that it’s not more serious,” tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. We should know more about the severity soon. Williams had five catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Jets before going down.
  • Vikings receiver Adam Thielen returned after a one-game absence due to a hamstring injury, and quickly re-aggravated it. He didn’t return to Minnesota’s loss to Kansas City, and while there’s no word yet on the severity, hamstring issues can linger. They’ll likely be more cautious about rushing their star receiver back this time.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/8/19

More draft choices put pen to paper on Wednesday. Here is the latest on the pick-signing front:

  • After signing two sixth-round picks on Tuesday, the Steelers checked a few more items off their offseason checklist by signing three more draftees. Third-round wide receiver Diontae Johnson signed the standard four-year rookie contract. Both fourth-round running back Benny Snell and seventh-round offensive lineman Derwin Gray signed as well. Johnson will be the player likely tasked with making the earliest impact, considering the Steelers lost arguably the greatest wideout in franchise history. Johnson will join Donte Moncrief as the new receivers tasked with helping the team replace Antonio Brown.
  • The Dolphins signed both of their seventh-round picks — fullback Chandler Cox and running back Myles Gaskin — on Wednesday. Gaskin, the No. 234 overall pick, succeeded Saquon Barkley at Penn State. Despite his late draft slot, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets he is the frontrunner to become Miami’s No. 3 back.