Charles Cross

NFC West Rumors: Seahawks OL, Jackson, Greenlaw, Humphries

With Brandon Shell departing in free agency and Duane Brown and Ethan Pocic now rostered with the Jets and Browns, respectively, the Seahawks have had a bit of work this offseason piecing their offensive line back together. Seattle may even be in the extremely rare position of bookending their offensive line with two rookie tackles, according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

While Charles Cross has long been expected to start for the Seahawks on the blindside as the No. 9 overall pick in the draft, it appears that third-round pick Abraham Lucas is currently favored to man the tackle spot opposite Cross. The most recent instance of this in the NFL that I could find is back in 2012 when the Cardinals were forced to start seventh-round pick Nate Potter across from fourth-round pick Bobby Massie late in the season. That was a result of some injuries, though. The last time a team started the season with two rookie offensive tackles, I believe, was in 2009 when Jacksonville trotted out in Week 1 with first-round pick Eugene Monroe at left tackle and second-round pick Eben Britton at right tackle.

Additionally, while the Seahawks return Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis as the starting guards from last year, backup guard Phil Haynes has reportedly been pushing both for playing time this offseason. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Brady Henderson, head coach Pete Carroll had plenty of good things to say about Haynes.

“Phil could start. He plays like a starter,” Carroll extolled. He looks like a starter out there and he’s pushing Gabe, he really is. He’s our guy that’s swinging right and left side right now. If he had to start for either guy right now, I would feel absolutely comfortable…I feel like we’ve got three starting guards right now that we could play and be fine with.”

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West, starting with a couple rumors from the Bay Area:

  • The 49ers used a second-round pick this year to select Drake Jackson, a big-bodied defensive end out of USC. But they are determined not to limit Jackson to the outside of the line, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic. San Francisco has been lining Jackson up all over the defensive line this offseason, placing him not only on both ends but at defensive tackle, as well.
  • When the 49ers rush an extra defensive back on the field in passing situations, one of their three starting linebackers is going to have to come off the field. When asked which starting linebacker would stay on the field with Fred Warner in those situations, Barrows posited that it had to be Dre Greenlaw. Barrows went on to say that the only way Azeez Al-Shaair would take hold over the No. 2 linebacker spot in San Francisco is if Greenlaw is injured.
  • Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries recently signed a three-year, $51.76MM extension. According to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network, the deal has a guaranteed amount of $32.82MM consisting of a $17MM signing bonus, the 2022 salary of $3.82MM, $4MM of the 2023 salary, and the 2023 roster bonus of $8.24MM. Additionally, the 28-year-old tackle can earn a per game active bonus of $14,117 for a potential season total of $240,000.

Seahawks Sign First-Round T Charles Cross

The Seahawks’ highest draft pick in 12 years, Charles Cross is now under contract. The Seahawks and the No. 9 overall pick agreed to terms on the customary four-year rookie contract Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Cross was the last unsigned top-10 pick from this year’s class. Only five first-rounders remain unsigned. The Mississippi State-produced tackle can be kept on his rookie deal through 2026, via the fifth-year option. The slot deal is worth $21.4MM; that amount is fully guaranteed. This transaction is rather unusual, with Rapoport adding Cross is the highest-drafted player to enter the league without an agent.

The Seahawks are hoping for a long-term partnership with Cross, their first top-10 draftee since Russell Okung in 2010. Okung, who became his own agent as his career progressed, stayed with the Seahawks for six seasons. In 2017, the Seahawks traded for Duane Brown, who stayed on as their left tackle through last season. Brown remains a free agent, while the Seahawks reinvested in this prime position.

The two-year Mississippi State starter was the third tackle off the board this year, following Ikem Ekwonu (No. 6, Panthers) and Evan Neal (No. 7, Giants). Despite being closely linked to the Giants throughout the pre-draft process, Cross fell to the Seahawks, who used first- and third-round picks on tackles this year. They selected Abraham Lucas in Round 3.

A 6-foot-4 blocker, Cross will make an interesting transition in going from Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense to one of the NFL’s most run-oriented attacks. Post-Russell Wilson, Seattle’s offense — which added a second-round running back (Kenneth Walker) to the equation in April — could shift further in this direction. Discounting three games played during his redshirt year in 2019, Cross only played for the Rebels under Leach, who moved from Washington State to the SEC program in 2020. The former five-star recruit declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, when he earned first-team All-SEC acclaim.

NFC West Rumors: Samuel, Lynch, Cross, Mack, Rams

49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel helped push the narrative that his relationship with San Francisco was deteriorating in early April when he unfollowed the 49ers and removed all references to the team from his social media. Well, according to Michael David Smith of NBC Sports, Samuel has signaled that things may be trending in a better direction lately.

Smith points out that Samuel refollowed the 49ers on Instagram and liked a post that showed general manager John Lynch saying that the issues between the two parties can be worked out.

Samuel is headed into the final year of his rookie contract and is looking for a nice, new payday. Smith makes a good point that new deals to Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs are going to make a new deal for Samuel fairly costly for the 49ers.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC West, starting with another note from the Bay Area:

  • Jake Hutchinson, the 49ers beat writer for KNBR, released some quotes from an interview with Lynch. Lynch commented on the progress of the team’s efforts to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, saying, “I felt we were close in some discussions, and then the decision was made to have surgery and it brought things to a screeching halt.” Lynch continued, “We either want to have Jimmy playing for us, which we’re alright with, or we want him to get the value.”
  • During a press conference with Seahawks general manager and executive vice president John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll after the Draft, ESPN’s Brady Henderson released a video containing some of their thoughts on the No. 9 overall pick, Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross. In it, the two specify that they see Cross on the blindside, playing left tackle. They don’t have concerns about him transitioning from Mike Leach‘s spread offense at Mississippi State due to Cross’s athleticism. They also felt very fortunate to have had Cross fall to them at 9, noting that there were opportunities to move up or down.
  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic wrote an article going over the results of the 49ers’ 2022 Draft. He notes that the two Day 3-additions of UTSA tackle Spencer Burford and Fordham tackle Nick Zakelj both played tackle in college, but project as NFL guards, similar to past draft picks Colton McKivitz and Jaylon Moore. While slightly problematic that none of these linemen specialize at guard or tackle, it’s extremely problematic that none of them have experience at center. With current center Alex Mack sitting at 36 and contemplating retirement, it’s important that San Francisco begins to look at options beyond Mack to play center.
  • In a rundown of the Rams’ 2022 Draft, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic unveiled an interesting rumor about how highly Los Angeles valued their third-round draft pick, Wisconsin guard Logan Bruss. With plenty of time before their selection arrived, the Rams knew Bruss was the player they wanted to target at No. 104 overall. Upon the suggestion of now-retired left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was in the Rams’ draft room, Los Angeles made a few efforts to move up to select Bruss earlier. Unfortunately for them, the teams they called declined. Fortunately for them, though, Bruss found his way to Southern California despite their inability to move up.

Draft Notes: Remaining QBs, Jets, Vikings, Burks, Johnson

One of the main storylines from last night’s first round was the fact that only one quarterback came off the board. The Steelers have their preferred choice in Kenny Pickett, but the other top options likely won’t have to wait long to hear their names called.

Jeff Howe of the Athletic reports (via Twitter) that “several teams” are trying to move up in the second round. As a result, there is “anticipation that a QB run could be on the way”. A number of teams could be interested in adding the likes of Malik Willis, Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder and Matt Corral as intriguing developmental options.

On that point, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer names the Titans, Falcons, Seahawks and Commanders as teams to watch for. He reports that “Ridder’s name has been consistently connected to Tennessee”, who now holds the 35th overall pick. The other teams have done significant work on signal-callers as well. Perhaps eyeing a passer, the Seahawks have made “exploratory calls” about moving up tonight, per CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson (Twitter link).

Here are some other notes looking back on last night:

  • The Jets, as it has been reported, were willing to part with the No. 10 pick for Deebo Samuel. They almost made a different deal with that selection, though, as detailed by ESPN’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter). New York wanted to swap with Seattle for No. 9 to avoid a team leapfrogging them to select Garrett Wilson. Both teams were able to successfully stand pat, ultimately getting Charles Cross and Wilson, respectively.
  • Not long after the top-10 was complete, the Vikings ceded the 12th overall pick to the Lions. With their second first-rounder, Detroit selected Jameson Williams, who may have been the pick at that spot had Minnesota kept it. Breer reports that the Alabama receiver “was very much in play ” for the Vikings, who added Lewis Cine and two Day 2 picks as a result of the deal.
  • Another of the top receivers to be taken last night was Treylon Burks, whom the Titans selected as a replacement for A.J. BrownWhen speaking to Pat McAfee, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said the Arkansas alum “was the guy Aaron Rodgers wanted” (video link). With him off the board, the Packers extended their streak of not using a Round 1 pick on a wideout, but he reports that they are a candidate to trade up for one tonight (video link).
  • One of the most surprising fallers on Thursday night was pass rusher Jermaine Johnson II. Part of the reason he was still on the board for the Jets at No. 25, Breer notes, was poor interviews with teams in the pre-draft process. Thought by some as a top-10 pick, he ended up with the Jets anyway, and figures to serve as a notable boost to their pass rush.

Seahawks Pick Charles Cross At No. 9 Overall

The third offensive lineman off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft, Charles Cross has finally heard his name called for the Seahawks at No. 9 overall. 

Cross wasn’t necessarily considered to be on the same level as Alabama tackle Evan Neal or NC State blocker Ikem Ekwonu in terms of overall talent, but the Mississippi State product makes up for his lack of athleticism with consistency and savviness. His length and footwork will allow him to be a long-term answer on the offensive line, and his underrated strength should continue to develop as he ages.

The lineman broke on the scene in 2020, and he followed that up with a standout 2021 campaign. Cross finished the season with 12 starts at left tackle, and he earned first-team all-conference honors.

Cross visited several teams during the pre-draft process with most teams in the late area of the Draft’s top-10 picks counting on him being there if Neal and Ekwonu were taken. The Seahawks get that last top-10 talent available at offensive line in the draft to block for Drew Lock or Geno Smith.

Giants Eyeing Sauce Gardner, Ikem Ekwonu?

While the Giants are still open to trading out of one of their top-10 draft slots, plans on how the team will proceed if they stay at those spots might be emerging.

Connected to tackles at No. 5 throughout the pre-draft process, the Giants are believed to have cornerback Ahmad Gardner as their most universally approved prospect, the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy tweets. The Giants were connected to “Sauce” back in March and hosted the Cincinnati cover man on a visit.

As for their tackle preference, Charles Cross was the blocker most closely connected to the team in the days leading up to the draft. But Dunleavy adds Ikem Ekwonu is believed to be the team’s highest-ranked tackle — ahead of Cross and Evan Neal, respectively. The NFL smokescreen window obviously remains open, but both Gardner and Ekwonu would make sense for the Giants.

Ekwonu, who has played guard as well, has been connected to the Jaguars with the No. 1 pick. But Jacksonville is still viewed as likelier to take a defensive lineman to start the draft. The Jags and Lions going D-line would open the door to the Jets (No. 4) and Giants having corners and top-tier tackles on the board. The Giants had sizable presences at Ekwonu, Cross and Neal’s pro days.

The Texans have been the top five’s least discussed team, possessing a bevy of needs. Houston has, however, been connected to corners in the days leading up to the draft. Derek Stingley Jr. should be considered the favorite to go third, Dunleavy adds (on Twitter). This is not the first Texans-Stingley connection to surface. Since Lovie Smith‘s comments about his team’s need at corner, the Texans have been tied to the LSU and Cincinnati standouts. Stingley going third would likely leave the Jets with their pick of Gardner, the draft’s top tackles and this class’ third- and fourth-best D-linemen — generally believed to be Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson.

The Giants have a need at right tackle — where Ekwonu, Cross or Neal would presumably step in as a Day 1 starter — but also are preparing to move James Bradberry‘s $21MM cap number off their books. Big Blue’s top corner for the past two seasons, Bradberry has no ties to the current regime and is going into an expensive contract year. Gardner would be an immediate replacement on a much cheaper deal. The Jets, who have also been linked to Garnder, could spoil any Giants plans here. But the NFC’s New York franchise might be OK with multiple prospects at 5.

Saints Willing To Move Up Or Down In First Round

The middle and later stages of tonight’s first round are expected to house most of the trade action which could take place. That makes the Saints one of the most important teams to watch. It comes as little surprise, then, that New Orleans has been calling other teams regarding moves up and down the board (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler). 

After their deal with the Eagles, the Saints own the 16th and 19th overall picks. That likely puts them in range of some – if not all – of the top quarterbacks in the class. If the team does elect to add a signal-caller, it appears their preference would be either Kenny Pickett or Matt Corral. With that said, the team has already re-signed Jameis Winston and added veteran backup Andy Dalton, leading some to believe other positions could be of greater concern to them.

The two positions most referenced along those lines are offensive tackle and wide receiver. In need of a Terron Armstead replacement, Trevor Penning will likely be the top blocker still available at 16, so a move up to select a top-tier option like Charles Cross wouldn’t come as a surprise. Likewise, the team would, in all likelihood, need to move into the top 10 (or thereabouts) to be in range of wideouts such as Drake London, Jameson Williams and Garrett Wilson as they look to boost last year’s passing game.

If the top options at those positions are off the board by the middle of the round, though, a trade down would become a possibility. The strength of this class is said to be truly seen on Day 2; especially if the team chooses not to add a quarterback, then, and a run on the position occurs in the 20s, moving down could become mutually beneficial for the Saints and a QB-hungry team.

Like all Day 1 trades, the ultimate decisions teams make will become known in a matter of hours. Depending on how the top of the board shakes out, New Orleans could become one of the most active teams, and therefore one worth keeping an eye on.

Draft Rumors: Jets, Neal, Giants, Seahawks, Texans, Cowboys

Although the Jets were reported to have gone through a productive visit with Kayvon Thibodeaux, it is looking like they will not draft the Oregon-developed pass rusher if he is on the board at No. 4. Questions about Thibodeaux’s fit with the rebuilding team’s culture has led most to expect GM Joe Douglas to pass, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes. Thibodeaux may be this draft’s most frequently discussed player, given his talent coupled with the attitude and effort concerns that dinged him during the draft lead-up. The Jets have recently been linked to Florida State edge rusher Jermaine Johnson, a player they are believed to prefer to Thibodeaux despite the latter being graded higher by most experts. Johnson has generated buzz about becoming a top-10 pick, which would put the Jets to a decision at No. 4. The Georgia transfer might not be available when the Jets pick again (assuming they do not trade for a wide receiver) at No. 10.

On draft eve, here is the latest heading into the 2022 event:

  • Another player on the top-five radar, Evan Neal is not believed to have been given a clean bill of health by every team. Hip and knee issues have given some teams pause, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. This could see the Alabama product, depending on where teams in the top 10 stand here, fall behind fellow high-end tackle prospects like Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross. Neal’s camp has pushed back on this, and Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio adds the top-tier prospect was not asked to return to Indianapolis for the Combine’s medical recheck. Neal did not miss a game last season.
  • Jerry Jones said recently he is willing to trade up from No. 24. How far up? The Cowboys might be prepared to part with notable draft capital, with NFL.com’s Jane Slater indicating Cross, Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning and USC wide receiver Drake London are names to watch regarding a Dallas move up. Cross and London have been mentioned often as top-10 picks, while Penning has his share of fans as well. Based on the targets listed here, the Cowboys would likely need to make a strong offer. It would be quite costly for the Cowboys to move into or near the top 10, but they have been eyeing O-linemen. Dallas holds one pick in each of the second and third rounds.
  • On the subject of moves, which are mentioned often in the days ahead of a draft, teams have contacted the Giants about the No. 7 overall pick, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The Seahawks are one of them, having shown interest in moving from 9 to 7. Seattle has often traded down in Round 1 under John Schneider, though the team has not enjoyed top-10 real estate since Schneider and Pete Carroll‘s first draft together (2010). Possessing needs at several spots, the Giants have been connected to using their No. 5 pick and trading down from 7.
  • Texans GM Nick Caserio said Wednesday a 99% chance exists his team will stay at No. 3 and make a pick, but the team is more open to a move at 13 — the pick obtained via the Deshaun Watson trade. The second-year GM has spoken with at least six teams about the No. 13 choice, per NFL.com’s Jim Trotter (Twitter link). Many teams view first-round trades as likelier to occur after the top 10, Fowler adds.

NFC Draft Notes: Giants, Lions, Falcons, Vikings, Eagles

We took a look at draft notes out of the AFC earlier this evening. In anticipation of Thursday’s draft, let’s pivot to the NFC:

  • The Giants are currently sitting with picks No. 5 and No. 7, but there’s a chance they move back in the first round. If they end up finding a trade partner, Dan Duggan of The Athletic believes the organization could be targeting Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum later in the first round. Staying in New York, Peter King of Football Morning in America writes that the Giants could select Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 7. Some recent reports indicated the Giants front office was down on the prospect, but King says the team has “done a ton of work on him since his Pro Day.” The Giants are also “extremely interested” in Florida State pass rusher Jermaine Johnson II and Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross, per Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com.
  • Speaking of Thibodeaux, there’s a chance the edge jumps all the way to No. 2. While King has the Lions selecting Michigan edge Aidan Hutchinson with the second-overall pick, the reporter cautions that Detroit is “smitten” with the Oregon defender and could shake up the draft board by selecting him earlier than expected. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Todd McShay doesn’t see Thibodeaux falling pass the Falcons at No. 8.
  • Wrapping up King’s notes, the reporter writes that the Falcons like Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. King has Atlanta trading up to select the signal-caller at No. 32, but there’s a chance Corral ends up falling to them anyway at their current selection at No. 43. Meanwhile, there hasn’t been much buzz connecting the Falcons to a quarterback at No. 8, according to NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe.
  • The Vikings are eyeing cornerbacks at No. 12, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. The reporter hints that a team outside of the top-12 could look to jump the Vikings in pursuit of one of the draft’s top cornerbacks.
  • McShay had a handful of notable tidbits about some NFC squads. The Seahawks are taking a “hard look” at Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis at No. 9, and the front office is also intrigued by LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.. Meanwhile, the Eagles “preference” at No. 15 could be Alabama wideout Jameson Williams, and there’s little chance the receiver falls past the Saints at No. 16. Albert Breer of SI.com shares a similar sentiment about the Eagles, with sources telling him that the Eagles are seeking a pass rusher.
  • Continuing in Philly, the Eagles may not end up even selecting at No. 15. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggests (on Twitter) that the Eagles could be a candidate to move up in the first round. The reporter suggests that the front office could be targeting a cornerback or edge rusher.

Seahawks Open To Duane Brown Return, Interested In Trevor Penning

We heard in March that the Panthers were pursuing free agent LT Duane Brown, though nothing has materialized on that front just yet. Brown, who spent the last 4+ seasons as Russell Wilson‘s blindside blocker in Seattle, could still return to the Seahawks, according to head coach Pete Carroll (via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times on Twitter).

While Carroll has said the door to a reunion remains open, Condotta expects the team to wait until after the draft (which is now just four days away) to make a decision with respect to Brown or other veteran OTs. Indeed, the Seahawks hold the No. 9 overall pick in the draft as a result of the trade that sent Wilson to the Broncos, and they may want to use that pick on a collegiate left tackle from a class that offers a great deal of high-upside talent at the position.

Alabama’s Evan Neal and NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu are widely expected to be off the board by the time Seattle is on the clock with its No. 9 selection, and none of the sources that Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network has spoken to believe that Mississippi State’s Charles Cross will fall past the Panthers’ No. 6 choice. Assuming the ‘Hawks do not have a chance to draft any of those players, Pauline hears that the team is prepared to pull the trigger on Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning.

The small school product did not necessarily profile as a top-10 prospect at the start of draft season, but his stock has risen considerably since the Senior Bowl, and his 6-7, 321-pound frame certainly projects well to the professional ranks. And, although his FCS competition level should certainly be taken into account when evaluating his NFL future, Pro Football Focus’ analysis of Penning includes a 99.9 run-blocking grade, the highest mark that PFF has ever given out.

The Seahawks and Panthers are the only teams to be connected to Brown thus far this year, and if both clubs fill their LT vacancies with high-end rookies, one would assume that they would no longer be interested in the five-time Pro Bowler. Still, there will be teams with a left tackle need once the draft is over, and Brown should be able to find a starting role on a short-term contract despite the fact that he will turn 37 in August.