The Browns placed two players on IR today. Tight end Jesse James and defensive end Chase Winovich landed on injured reserve, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). This will knock the duo out for at least the next four games.
It sounds like both players suffered injuries during Cleveland’s loss to the Jets on Sunday. According to Kevin Stefanski, Winovich suffered a hamstring injury and James suffered a biceps injury.
Winovich was acquired from the Patriots this offseason for linebacker Mack Brown. The former third-round pick barely made the roster out of the preseason, and he didn’t see the field for any defensive snaps during Week 1. He got more run this past weekend, appearing in 37 percent of his team’s defensive snaps. He finished that game with a tackle and two QB hits.
James made a name for himself in Pittsburgh, hauling in 120 receptions in 56 games. He had a two-year stint in Detroit before spending the 2021 campaign with the Bears. He started nine of his 14 games last season, hauling in seven receptions. The Browns signed the veteran before the start of the regular season, and he saw a handful of snaps through the first two weeks while serving as the third tight end behind David Njoku and Harrison Bryant. One of Miller Forristall or Zaire Mitchell-Paden could be promoted from the practice squad to replace James.
The Patriots have agreed to send outside linebacker Chase Winovich (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). In exchange, the Browns will send linebacker Mack Wilson to the Patriots. The trade will be processed tomorrow at 4pm ET/3pm CT, when the new league year officially begins.
“I am so grateful for my experience in New England,” Winovich tweeted. “The love, spirit, and support have been absolutely unreal. This entire region will always hold the most special of places in my heart. The time is now for the next chapter of my journey. ”
Winovich, 27 in April, notched 5.5 sacks in each of his first two pro seasons. Last year, he saw a little less action as he appeared in 13 games with zero starts and notched just eleven tackles in total. For his career, Winovich has 45 regular season appearances (nine starts) with 85 tackles, eleven sacks, one interception, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble.
It’s a similar story for Wilson, who has slipped down the Browns’ depth chart in each pro season. Last year, he saw a near even split between special teams and defense, notching 42 tackles across his 14 games. Across the last three years, he’s got 163 tackles, one sack, nine passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one interception to his credit.
One of the Patriots’ rotational pass rushers will be out for at least three weeks. The Pats are moving Josh Uche to IR ahead of their Thursday game against the Falcons.
A second-year player out of Michigan, Uche has played on roughly a third of New England’s defensive snaps. He has worked as an off-the-bench contributor, joining a deeper stable of linebackers than the Patriots featured last season.
Uche has registered three sacks in nine games, though none have come since Week 2. That figure remains second on the team. Matt Judon leads the Pats with 9.5 sacks, but only he and Uche have more than two this season among Patriots. Last year’s 60th overall pick has totaled four quarterback hits as well.
New England will have some additional help, with fellow edge rusher Chase Winovich coming off IR Wednesday. Uche’s ex-Wolverines teammate has missed four games this season but has shown steady flashes as a sack artist in the past. The 2019 third-round pick posted 5.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons.
Chase Winovich is out for at least the new few weeks. The Patriots placed the pass rusher on injured reserve today, reports ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). New England signed defensive back Myles Bryant to take the open roster spot.
The 2019 third-round pick collected 11 sacks through his first two NFL seasons, but he’s seemingly remained in Bill Belichick‘s dog house. That’s been especially evident in 2021. After starting nine games for the Patriots last season, Winovich hasn’t started a single game through the first chunk of the season.
Further, Winovich only got into 71 defensive snaps through the first four games of the season, and that number was reduced to seven in Week 5 and zero in Week 6. So far this season, the 26-year-old has collected only seven tackles and one QB hit.
Bryant, a former undrafted rookie out of Washington, spent much of his rookie season with the Patriots organization. He ended up getting into nine games last season, collecting 12 tackles and one interception. He was waived at the end of the 2021 preseason and landed on the Patriots practice squad, although he’s already made a pair of appearances this season.
BillBelichick and the Patriots front office still have some tasks to complete before the start of training camp. As ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes, the team still hasn’t signed first-round quarterback Mac Jones, and both second-round defensive tackle Christian Barmore and third-round defensive end Ronnie Perkins also remain unsigned. According to Reiss, the players’ agents are waiting “to see more contracts finalized before moving forward,” so it’s only a matter of time before these rooks are under contract.
The team also needs to resolve their standoff with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who’s set to play the 2021 season on a below-market $7MM salary. Reiss said the situation “hardly seems contentious,” but both sides will eventually be looking for a resolution.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com recently suggested that a new deal could be in place by the end of the summer (Twitter link), and since New England clearly has designs on returning to the playoffs this season, keeping Gilmore in the fold would seem imperative. However, there are complications. Gilmore will turn 31 in September, and though he made the Pro Bowl last season, that bid seemed to be based more on name recognition than anything else. He played in only 11 games due to injury and COVID-19, and Pro Football Focus ranked him just 61st among qualified corners. On the flip side, he’s only a year removed from a Defensive Player of the Year Award.
There’s another reason why Winovich could see a lesser role in 2021: teammate Josh Uche was one of the standouts during minicamp. Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets that the team could use Uche similarly to Van Noy; while the 2020 second-round pick will have a surefire role on the edge, he could also see some time at inside linebacker depending on his development in coverage.
It’s not often that a team would be looking to move on from a soon-to-be third-year player who’s collected 5.5 sacks in each of their first two NFL seasons. However, that’s the position the Patriots may end up finding themselves in come preseason.
“I’m interested to see what kind of role Chase Winovich can find this offseason,” Kyed wrote. “Linebacker is a crowded position, and Belichick made Winovich expendable a few times last season.”
Winovich would seemingly fit the bill of an ideal BillBelichick depth piece. The 26-year-old has shown plenty of potential, he’s displayed versatility, he can play special teams, and (perhaps most important to Bill) he’s inexpensive at around only $1.7MM combined for the next two years. In fact, the Patriots head coach was willing to provide some rare praise for the youngster.
“He’s still a young player that’s developing and can continue to grow, both in his understanding of our system and the techniques and some of the assignments that come with it,” Belichick said recently (via WEEI). “His versatility leads to probably, I would say, a wider range of assignments than maybe some other players, including in the kicking game, but he does a good job of trying to manage all that and work on all of the things that will help the team.”
So, with all that said, why would the Patriots consider moving on from Winovich? For starters, the team’s depth at linebacker has seen a massive upgrade. Winovich generally spent the 2020 season serving as New England’s second outside linebacker behind John Simon. In the span of an offseason, the team added both Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy (who’s back after one season in Miami), and Dont’a Hightower is set to return after sitting out the 2020 campaign. Plus, reports out of Patriots camp indicate that 2020 second-rounder Josh Uche is impressing. While Winovich has the versatility to play defensive end, he’ll be hard pressed to earn playing time at linebacker.
Further, while Winovich has put up some solid counting stats, the advanced metrics paint a different picture. The defender proved to be above-average when it comes to pass-rushing and pass-coverage, but he’s struggled mightily when it comes to stopping the run. If that trend continues, Winovich will have a tough time becoming a full-time player. Those run-stopping deficiencies could explain why he’s often found himself in Belichick’s doghouse throughout his two-year career. Winovich was often in and out of the lineup over the past two years, with the player alternating between frequently used starter to little-used backup.
Because of all those aforementioned positives (versatility, upside, affordability), the Patriots would probably be able to find a taker for Winovich if they decide to ultimately move on. Belichick would probably be more than satisfied with recouping part of the team’s initial investment into the player (third-round pick, No. 77 overall). Perhaps a fourth-round pick could get it done, although that’s just speculation on my side.
There’s a chance that Winovich eventually transforms into yet another all-time Patriots great. However, based on the team’s current roster crunch at linebacker, the young player could instead find himself on the way out of New England.
After once declaring that he wouldn’t coach beyond 70, BillBelichick has since walked back his claims. Former head coach MarcLevy is one of the few people who can understand Belichick’s wavering, and he understands why the Patriots head coach continues to move the proverbial goal posts in regards to his retirement.
“Age is only an approximate thing. You’re involved and you’re going at it hard, and you love it, that’s it,” Levy told ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “You just coach as long as you love it. I finally retired because the great core of our team had gotten old, and they were all retiring. And I had it finally. I felt I needed some time away.”
Reiss opines that Belichick may be aiming for the wins record (regular season and postseason) among coaches; the 68-year-old currently ranks third all-time with 311 victories. If the Patriots rediscover their winning ways and earn around nine or 10 victories per season, Reiss guesses that Belichick could pass all-time leader DonShula in about four seasons.
Some more notes from around the NFL…
Patriots linebacker Chase Winovich is focused on adding some weight this offseason. The second-year pro was listed at 250 pounds last year, but he’s looking to make a jump to around 260 pounds. Winovich’s desire for more weight and strength was inspired by former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who suggested that the former third-rounder bulks up. “I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘I’m going to get my weight right,'” Winovich said (via Reiss). “That dude’s words get me fired up.”
While the Buccaneers are rostering both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, they still went out and added veteran Giovani Bernard this week. While it might seem like a luxury to add the former Bengals running back, Greg Auman of The Athletic writes that it was more of a necessity. By the writer’s estimation, Buccaneers running backs led the NFL last season in drops, and the pass-catching Bernard will certainly be a welcome addition to the Tom Brady-led offense.
Former NFL player Robert Steeples has joined the Vikings as an assistant special teams coach, tweets Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter). Steeples actually played 12 special teams snaps for Minnesota back in 2013, with his two appearances marking his only NFL experience.
JarrettStidham will likely be taking over for TomBrady next season, and his former college coach is optimistic that the 2019 fourth-rounder will be successful.
“It definitely helped him to learn under the best and see what that looks like, but he’s the kind of young man, too, this is what he’s been waiting on,” Auburn’s Gus Malzahn told ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “I’ll tell you, the moment won’t be too big for him. He’ll be up to the challenge, that’s what I expect.
“Even when he got here, before he played his first game, you could just kind of tell he was a mature young man. Like a gym rat, always at the complex trying to learn, study film. When he got drafted by the Patriots [in 2019], I thought it was a perfect spot for him system-wise — spreading the field. He’s so good with protections, changing protections, and scheme-wise everything that goes with it, and just the flexibility the scheme gives him. I think that really applies to his strength.”
Stidham played a pair of seasons at Auburn, including a 2017 campaign where he connected on 66.5-percent of his passes for 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Here are some more notes out of New England:
We’ve heard this plenty of times, but Joseph Person of The Athletic reiterates that CamNewton won’t be landing with the Patriots. In fact, the reporter notes that Patriots offensive coordinator JoshMcDaniels wasn’t “necessarily high” on Newton when he interviewed for the Panthers’ head coaching gig.
Speaking of McDaniels, SI.com’s Albert Breer writes that a successful 2020 campaign (particularly from Stidham) could go a long way in the OC getting more head coaching interviews next offseason. If McDaniels does leave New England, Breer hints that he may take Patriots pro director DaveZiegler with him; McDaniels planned to recruit the executive when he was interviewing with Cleveland.
Patriots defensive end ChaseWinovich is recovering from hernia surgery, reports Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe. The 25-year-old underwent the procedure back in February. The 2019 third-rounder had a solid rookie season for New England, compiling 26 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Marqise Lee‘s new one-year deal with the Patriots is worth the veteran minimum, reports Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). The deal could be worth up to $1.0475MM, and it includes $300K in guaranteed money. If Lee makes the team, he’ll have a cap hold of $887.5K.
The Patriots’ draft class is nearly sewn up. On Monday, the Pats signed third-round defensive end Chase Winovich, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). It’s a four-year deal worth $3.83MM with a signing bonus of roughly $997K.
With Winovich inked, third-round running back Damien Harris stands as the Patriots’ only unsigned draft pick, as shown by PFR’s tracker:
Winovich began his career at Michigan as a tight end, but shifted to the other side of the ball for his junior season. He immediately found success, racking up five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2016. He only improved from there, notching 8.5 sacks and 19 TFL in ’17. His stat sheet wasn’t as gaudy last season, but he still managed five sacks on the year and while flashing strong technique.