Connor Williams

C Connor Williams Absent From Minicamp

The Dolphins began their mandatory minicamp today, but there is one noticeable absence. Center Connor Williams is not in attendance, head coach Mike McDaniel said on Tuesday.

McDaniel said that Williams’ absence is not excused, but added that the pair have been in communication with each other. Williams has one year remaining on his contract, but his decision to skip minicamp demonstrates his desire for a new deal this offseason. He has now opened himself up to fines from the team, if they choose to penalize him for not attending.

The 26-year-old found himself on the open market for the first time last year after his rookie deal with the Cowboys expired. He logged 51 starts in Dallas and emerged as one of the better interior O-linemen in the 2022 free agent class. He inked a two-year deal in Miami worth $14MM. He is due a base salary of $6.5MM in 2023 with $2MM in guranteed money.

Williams is eyeing a raise after a successful first campaign in South Beach. After exclusively playing at guard with the Cowboys, the Dolphins used him at center for the full 2023 season. He logged over 1,000 snaps while handling full-time starting duties, and set a new career-high in terms of PFF evaluation. The former second-rounder earned an overall grade of 78.4, excelling in run blocking in particular. After penalties were an issue the previous year, Williams’ flag count also fell back in line with his totals from the beginning of his career.

That performance now has him angling for an extension. Miami has just under $14MM in cap space at the moment, which places them middle of the pack in the league. Getting Williams on the books beyond 2023 could be a priority for the team considering his age and level of play last year, though there are other contracts to take care of as well. One of those is defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who is eligible for what will be a sizeable raise on his second deal and has been in conversation about signing one. Regardless of what happens on that front, attention will no doubt turn to contract talks with Williams amidst his absence.

Dolphins Notes: Running Backs, Offensive Line, Tagovailoa

The Dolphins were busy reworking their running backs depth chart during the offseason. After signing the likes of Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, and Raheem Mostert, the team didn’t have much room for another veteran. Speaking to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, running back Duke Johnson said Miami never offered him a contract in free agency.

The veteran had a productive five-game stint with the Dolphins in 2021. After making a name for himself in the passing game, Johnson averaged 66 rushing yards per game…a leap from his 23.6-yard career mark. The 28-year-old RB ultimately finished the campaign with 371 yards from scrimmage and three scores on 75 touches. The organization initially expressed interest in re-signing Johnson following the season, but Mike McDaniel’s hiring ultimately changed the team’s plans.

“They just wanted to go in a different direction,” Johnson said. “I figured McDaniel wanted his guys; Raheem Mostert is one of his guys. I know the nature of the business. No hard feelings.”

Johnson ended up landing a one-year deal with the Bills in March.

More notes out of Miami…

  • When the Dolphins signed Connor Williams this offseason, it was expected that the lineman would slide in at left guard. However, ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques writes that Williams is now the front runner to start at center. The 25-year-old trained at the position throughout the offseason to help improve his versatility, and it seems like it worked. Incumbent starter Michael Deiter is still in the picture, but Louis-Jacques opines that the starting center gig is Williams’ to lose.
  • ESPN’s Todd McShay recently opined that 2022 is a prove-it year for Tua Tagovailoa, and if the QB fails, the Dolphins are in a good position to pursue one of next year’s top QB prospects. Jackson quickly dismisses that notion, however. In the hypothetical where Tagovailoa does fail and the Dolphins decide to pivot next offseason, their various assets may not be enough to pull off a trade. While the Dolphins have an extra first-round pick thanks to a trade with San Francisco, Jackson writes that few teams would be interested in bailing on a franchise quarterback for a platter of middling firsts…especially when the majority of the teams that could be in contention for a top pick would all have their own QB issues.
  • When asked which AFC team had the best offseason, PFR readers ranked the Dolphins third. Besides their blockbuster acquisition of wideout Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins also brought in offensive tackle Terron Armstead, extended cornerback Xavien Howard, and re-signed defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. The Broncos finished first in the poll, with the Raiders finishing second.

Dolphins Likely To Use Connor Williams At C

A left tackle in college, Connor Williams lined up at guard throughout his four-year Cowboys tenure. The Dolphins have something new in mind for the free agent offensive line acquisition.

Williams said Thursday it is “really likely” he plays center in Miami, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. This has loomed as a possibility for months, and Williams has been working at the position since April. While it is interesting the team has this path mapped out before any padded practices commence, Williams sliding to center would fill a need and open the door to multiple lineup combinations on this O-line.

The Dolphins signed Williams and Terron Armstead to lucrative deals, particularly in Armstead’s case, locking them into starting roles. Robert Hunt fared decently at right guard last season, even beyond his memorable end zone dash that did not count, grading as the top Dolphins O-lineman in Pro Football Focus’ view. PFF rated last year’s Miami front as the NFL’s worst. Should the Dolphins stay the Williams-at-center course, he will replace Michael Deiter. Still, it appears three starters from last season are in line to return under Mike McDaniel.

Williams sliding to center will lead to a left guard competition between Liam Eichenberg and Solomon Kindley, Jackson adds. Eichenberg served as Miami’s primary left tackle last season, with the 2021 second-rounder moving 2020 first-rounder Austin Jackson off that spot. Jackson is ticketed to give right tackle a try, according to the Herald. With the Tyreek Hill trade pushing the start of their draft participation into Round 3, the Dolphins did not draft a lineman this year.

The USC product was Miami’s primary left tackle as a rookie and made starts at left tackle and left guard last season. PFF graded Jackson as a below-average guard and viewed Eichenberg as a bottom-tier tackle. This right tackle opportunity looks to represent a high-stakes situation for the once-coveted prospect, who has not lived up to his draft slot yet as a pro. Longtime right tackle option Jesse Davis signed with the Vikings this offseason. A 2020 fourth-rounder, Kindley made 13 guard starts as a rookie but worked as a first-stringer just twice last season.

AFC Rumors: Jaguars, Williams, Van Roten, Leonard, Browns, Griffin III

After the Jaguars fired former head coach Urban Meyer, it became public that Jacksonville had no intentions of paying Meyer the remaining money on his contract, as he was being fired for cause. There was speculation at the time that the parties may follow existing precedents and negotiate a settlement in order to avoid a legal situation.

According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation informed the columnist that, to date, the two sides have been unable to strike a settlement agreement.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting with a rumor out of South Beach:

  • The Dolphins should have plenty of options for their offensive line configuration, but it most likely hinges on what they do with interior offensive lineman Connor Williams. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Miami isn’t quite sure what to do with Williams, working him at center and left guard over the past three weeks. The good news, is that it gives them plenty of options. With Terron Armstead solidified at left tackle and Robert Hunt solidly at right guard, Williams could fit at either position. If you put Williams at left guard, the team would likely have Michael Deiter start at center and leave Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson to compete for the starting right tackle job. If you start Williams at center, Eichenberg can slide in to the left guard job and Jackson can man the right tackle position.
  • The Jets recently released guard Greg Van Roten. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, head coach Robert Saleh claimed that they released Van Roten because they believe he has the potential to start for other teams in the league. His release is meant to allow him to find those teams that would provide him a starting opportunity. Saleh was quoted saying they’d “love to have him back,” if he fails to find such opportunities.
  • Colts linebacker Darius Leonard had ankle surgery in June last year before the season. The surgery helped him to get healthy for the season, where he played every game but one and was named a first-team All-Pro for the third time in his career. While the ankle is still ailing him, Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star reported that Leonard says the ankle is better now than it was at this point last year. This is an encouraging sign for Leonard and a scary message for the other teams in the AFC South. Leonard has been named to an All-Pro team every year of his career while being nagged by his ankle ailment. A healthy Leonard is a dangerous weapon for opposing teams to have to game-plan against.
  • With the return of free agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry seeming less and less likely, Mary Kay Cabot of believes the Browns will be able to push a bit harder now for free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney to return. Cabot points out that drafting UAB pass rusher Alex Wright makes the need to sign Clowney a little less urgent, but also mentions that fellow pass rusher Myles Garrett wants Clowney back, which could help his case. Cabot claims that, if the two parties can’t agree to a new deal, Cleveland will consider former Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes instead.
  • We’ve all seen Rich Eisen of NFL Network run the 40-yard dash for charity. Well, this year, former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, currently an analyst for ESPN, participated and reportedly was clocked at 4.48 seconds. Mike Florio of NBC Sports reports that on Eisen’s show, Griffin made the claim that some teams took notice of his impressive run and reached out to him. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any teams have offered to bring him back to the NFL, but Griffin has publicly stated his desire to return to football in the past, even claiming that his contract with ESPN would allow him to sign with an NFL team if the opportunity presents itself. Griffin last spent time in the league as Lamar Jackson‘s back up on the Ravens. He filled in multiple times leading many to wonder if he still had the ability to lead an NFL offense based on his brief appearances.

Dolphins To Sign Connor Williams

The Dolphins have agreed to sign Connor Williams (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of The former Cowboys offensive lineman will take his talents to South Beach on a two-year, $14MM deal with $7.5MM fully guaranteed. 

[RELATED: Dolphins To Re-Sign P. Williams]

This year’s guard market was headlined by the likes of Brandon Scherff, Laken Tomlinson, Alex Cappa, and Mark Glowinski. Scherff (Jaguars, $16.5MM/year) and Tomlinson (Jets, $13.3MM/year) found huge paydays earlier this week, clearing the way for the next tier of interior lineman like Williams.

Williams emerged as a key piece of the Cowboys’ front five as a rookie in 2018. All together, he’s started in 51 of his 57 games, improving steadily from 2018 through 2020. Last year, however, he got a little bit sloppy as he drew 15 flags on the year. The Cowboys shuffled him in and out of the lineup at times, an indication that they’d look to upgrade at guard.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have welcomed back one of their own Williams-es on Tuesday. Wide receiver Preston Williams, who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, agreed to a one-year deal that could pay ~$2MM.

Cowboys Re-Sign WR Michael Gallup

The Cowboys will avoid letting wide receiver Michael Gallup hit the free agent market after to a five-year, $57.5MM deal, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (on Twitter). After trading away Amari Cooper earlier this week, this moves cements that Dallas’s other three top pass catchers will be returning for the 2022 NFL season.

Gallup, 26, will collect $23MM in guarantees, with Pelissero noting this contract will max out at $62.5MM. A nice payday for Cooper’s former sidekick, whom the Cowboys have chosen over their four-year WR1.

A third-round pick out of Colorado State in 2018, Gallup broke out for 1,107 yards in 2019 alongside Cooper. The arrival of CeeDee Lamb in 2020 limited his production to a still impressive 843 yards as a number three receiver. Even in an injury-plagued 2021 season, Gallup enjoyed glimpses of success.

This news has been in the works for a while now with estimates that the Cowboys were aiming for a five-year pact with an annual average value around $10MM, but that Gallup’s camp may possibly having been pushing for a shorter commitment. Either the rumors about Gallup’s camp have been proven untrue or an annual average value of nearly $12MM was too enticing to turn down.

Regardless, the long-term, decently priced deal is a strong commitment to Gallup after he only played in nine games of his contract year due to a Week 1 calf injury and a season-ending ACL tear in Week 16. The contract seems to indicate that the Cowboys are confident in the medical information they are receiving on Gallup’s recovery.

With decisions made on Cooper and Gallup, and the franchise tag placed on Dalton Schultz, Dallas can focus its attention on the litany of other impact players set to hit the free agent market this week like Randy Gregory, Connor Williams, Leighton Vander Esch and Cedrick Wilson.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/25/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Arizona Cardinals 

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

  • Released from IR via injury settlement: LB Nate Hall

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Signed: LB Nate Evans
  • Waived: DL Frederick Smith Jr.

Los Angeles Rams

  • Waived: LS Steven Wirtel

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

  • Released from IR via injury settlement: WR Marvin Hall

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

Cowboys Not Targeting Centers?

Don’t expect the Cowboys to find their replacement for Travis Frederick in the draft. Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that he’s optimistic about his current options at center, including Joe LooneyConnor McGovern, and Connor Williams.

“I think Travis is a player that’s had a great career,” McCarthy said (via Michael Gehlken of “Obviously, he’s to be commended on that. But when we look at our current depth with the offensive line, you start off with Joe Looney and the two Connors. I think we’ve got great competition, great depth. We’ve got Marcus Henry there, also Adam Redmond.

“We have some really good flexibility, some really good numbers. So the fact that we’re able to get started and just start going through the language and how we’re going to call things, I think the fact that we have that much experience with the veteran group that we have here, I feel very good about moving forward.”

That probably takes the Cowboys out of the running for Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, although the team could shift their focus to LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz and Temple’s Matt Hennessy. After the 17th-overall selection, the Cowboys won’t be picking again until No. 51.

After seven years with the organization, Frederick announced his retirement last month.

Connor Williams Suffers ACL Tear

DEC. 1: The Cowboys will place Williams on IR and will sign free agent OL Caleb Benenoch, as Todd Archer of writes.

NOV. 29: The Cowboys will need a new left guard for the rest of this season. The injury Connor Williams suffered during Dallas’ Thanksgiving game is a torn ACL, according to’s Todd Archer. Jason Garrett subsequently confirmed the injury.

A 2018 second-round pick, Williams serves as the lone rookie-contract blocker on Dallas’ veteran-laden offensive line. He has started 11 games opposite right guard Zack Martin this season, grading as Pro Football Focus’ No. 37 overall guard.

Dallas subbed in Xavier Su’a-Filo after Williams’ injury. Although the veteran had his hands full with Bills first-rounder Ed Oliver on Thursday, Su’a-Filo has 50 games’ worth of starting experience. The former Texans second-round pick signed with the Cowboys in 2018 and started eight games last season and one this year. Su’a-Filo becomes the likely rest-of-season starter. Rookie Connor McGovern is not expected to play this season after being placed on IR in early September, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

The Cowboys refused to deal their 2018 second-round pick to the Seahawks for Earl Thomas, who likely wanted that pick and then some. The No. 50 overall selection became Williams. He is certainly the lowest-profile Cowboys O-line starter, given that the unit houses three of this decade’s top blockers, but has started 21 games in his career.

Cowboys LG Connor Williams To Undergo Surgery

Cowboys starting left guard, Connor Williams, will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. The injury is not expected to result in his placement on injured reserve and he could be back in as soon as a few weeks. Xavier Su’a-Filo is expected to play left guard in his absence.

Dallas’ recent run of success has been guided by a strong investment in the team’s offensive line. The organization continued the trend last year, selecting Williams in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Texas. Williams almost immediately slotted into the Cowboys starting lineup and fit in along one of the strongest units in the league.

Su’a-Filo was a second round pick of his own back in 2014 by the Texans, but has not developed into the player many thought he would. While he received ample playing time in Houston, his struggles in pass protection ultimately led them to move on from him at the end of the 2017 season. He has since served as a primary backup in Dallas.

The Cowboys are currently tied atop the NFC East with the Eagles, making the coming weeks games very important for their playoff hopes.