Connor Williams

Latest On Connor Williams, Dolphins Offensive Line

Connor Williams‘ availability for the 2024 campaign is in doubt after he suffered a torn ACL in December. Whenever he’s ready to take the field, it sounds like a return to the Dolphins will be in play.

[RELATED: Drew Rosenhaus On Dolphins C Connor Williams’ Free Agency Timeline]

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Williams’ potential return to Miami has “not been ruled out as a possibility.” The two sides will “remain in occasional communication” while the center rehabs.

Williams joined the Dolphins on a two-year contract in 2022 and proceeded to start all 17 games for Miami. With the lineman set to earn a $6.5MM base salary on an expiring contract in 2023, Williams was absent from minicamp. The two sides didn’t resolve his contract situation, and Williams was ultimately in the lineup for Week 1.

A nagging groin injury forced him to miss four games during the first half of the 2023 season, but he started each of his five games following his return. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in Week 14 that ended his season and put his 2024 campaign in doubt. Williams was setting himself up nicely for free agency prior to the injury, earning a stellar 86.5 grade from Pro Football Focus that positioned him behind only the Lions’ Frank Ragnow among qualified centers.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus previously said that Williams will be “methodical” and take his time as he considers his next landing spot, but it sounds like Miami will remain a possibility. The team brought in Aaron Brewer as a replacement at center, and the organization could also look towards the draft for more depth at the position.

Elsewhere on the OL, the team’s uncertainty at the two guard positions has led the front office to explore options via free agency. As Jackson writes, the Dolphins “have had at least some level of communication” with two “veteran free agent starting” offensive guards, and they’ve also talked with a player who profiles as a part-timer. However, the Dolphins are prepared to see how things unfold in the draft before they make an addition at the position.

As Jackson writes, Isaiah Wynn is in the driver’s seat to start at left guard. On the other side, the team could be eyeing some competition for the likes of Liam Eichenberg, Robert Jones, Lester Cotton, and Jack Driscoll.

Free Agency Notes: Giants, Vikings, Jets, Hawks, Huff, Commanders, Ekeler, Raiders, Dolphins, Jacobs, Rams

The Bryce Huff market did not reach the level of Jonathan Greenard‘s, and Danielle Hunter also scored a better guarantee compared to the Jets‘ contract-year breakout pass rusher. But the Eagles needed to give Huff a three-year, $51.1MM deal with $34MM guaranteed. That came about because, per Huff, the Commanders, Giants, Seahawks and Vikings joined the Jets in pursuing him. The Jets had expressed interest in keeping the former UDFA, who led the team in sacks last season, but their 2023 Will McDonald draft choice appeared to point Huff elsewhere.

Minnesota came in early with its Greenard signing (four years, $76MM, $38MM fully guaranteed), while Washington turned to one of Dan Quinn‘s ex-Cowboys charges — Dorance Armstrongsoon after. The Giants made a bigger splash hours later by trading for Brian Burns, in a deal that involved a second-rounder going to the Panthers and fifth-rounders being swapped, while the Seahawks devoted their funding to fortifying their interior D-line (via the Leonard Williams deal). Huff, 26, led the NFL in pressure rate last season but was not used as a full-time D-end. It should be expected the Eagles, who have Haason Reddick in trade rumors, will up Huff’s usage.

Here is the latest free agency fallout:

  • As Lloyd Cushenberry and Andre James scored nice contracts, the center market has not seen Connor Williams come off the board. It should be a while on that front. Rehabbing an ACL tear, Williams is not expected to sign anywhere anytime soon, agent Drew Rosenahus said during a WSVP interview (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson). Williams going down in Week 14 certainly has impacted his market. Pro Football Focus graded the two-year Dolphins blocker as a top-five center in each of his two Miami seasons. Ahead of his age-27 season, the ex-Cowboys draftee will probably need to show teams he is healthy or on track to full strength before a deal commences.
  • The Raiders lost their starting running back in free agency, seeing Josh Jacobs join the Packers. Zamir White is tentatively in place as Las Vegas’ starter, but the now-Tom Telesco-run club did show interest in Austin Ekeler, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets. Telesco was with the Chargers when they signed Ekeler as a UDFA and when they extended him, but the GM did not greenlight a second extension last year. That led to trade rumors and a small incentive package. Ekeler signed a two-year, $8.43MM Commanders deal, indicating (via the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala) the NFC East team showed the most interest. Despite leading the NFL in TDs in 2021 and 2022, Ekeler received only $4.2MM fully guaranteed — ninth among FA backs this year.
  • As for Jacobs, his guarantee fell well short of Saquon Barkley‘s and shy of the Bears’ commitment to D’Andre Swift. The Packers signed Jacobs to a four-year, $48MM deal, but Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio notes only the $12.5MM signing bonus is guaranteed (plus a $1.2MM 2024 salary). Beyond 2024, this is a pay-as-you-go deal. Jacobs is due a $5.93MM roster bonus on Day 5 of the 2025 league year, creating a pivotal date for Green Bay’s backfield. The Packers are known for shying away from guarantees beyond Year 1, in most instances, but it is interesting to see the gap between guarantees Barkley could secure ($26MM) and Jacobs’ locked-in money.
  • The gap between Xavier McKinney‘s Packers deal and the Ramstwo-year Kamren Curl pact ended up wider than the aforementioned RBs. Curl agreed to a $9MM accord, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. Curl, 25, has two seasons to show he can command a more lucrative contract. But McKinney (four years, $68MM) showed how valuable an age-25 offseason can be for earning power, making the Curl contract look quite Rams-friendly.
  • Jonnu Smith‘s two-year Dolphins deal came in at $8.4MM, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Miami will guarantee the former Tennessee, New England and Atlanta tight end $3.96MM. No guarantees are present beyond 2024, SI.com’s Albert Breer tweets. Miami’s three-year Jordyn Brooks accord lands slightly lower than initially reported, with Wilson adding the ex-Seattle linebacker signed for $26.25MM. Brooks’ contract features $16MM guaranteed; just $9.5MM of that sum is guaranteed at signing.

Drew Rosenhaus On Dolphins C Connor Williams’ Free Agency Timeline

As perhaps the best center eligible for unrestricted free agency — aside from the Eagles’ Jason Kelce, who will either retire or return to Philadelphia — the Dolphins’ Connor Williams would ordinarily be one of the first players to put pen to paper on a lucrative contract when the 2024 league year opens on March 13. As agent Drew Rosenhaus notes, however, the ACL tear that Williams suffered in December may have altered that timeline.

“I do think that we’re going to be very methodical and take our time relative to the contract,” Rosenhaus said in a recent appearance on AM 560 Sports WQAM (as relayed by Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald). “A lot of it may be predicated on how Connor is feeling physically. He may not be a player that signs at the very start of free agency. He may take more time based on how he’s feeling physically.”

Williams, who is entering his age-27 season, just finished the two-year, $14MM contract he signed with the Dolphins in March 2022 after spending the first four years of his career as a guard for the Cowboys. Miami shifted him to the pivot, and he immediately took to the change, performing like one of the league’s best centers in his first year in South Beach. He stayed away from minicamp last summer in an effort to leverage his 2022 success into a reworked deal, but the ‘Fins did not oblige.

In the eyes of Pro Football Focus, Williams played even better in 2023 than he did in 2022, earning a stellar 86.5 overall grade that positioned him behind only the Lions’ Frank Ragnow among qualified centers. It sounds as if he is prepared to slow play his second trip to the open market in order to prove to interested clubs that he is on the mend and will be able to return to the level of performance he has established with Miami.

Spotrac estimates that Williams is worth a five-year contract featuring an average annual value of $13.5MM, which would place him alongside Ragnow at the top of the NFL’s center hierarchy. Assuming that his recovery progresses as hoped, it would not be surprising to see teams in need of a high-end starter in the middle of their O-line make that type of offer. While neither Rosenhaus nor Oyefusi explicitly say that the Dolphins will pursue a reunion, they surely would be interested in continuing their relationship with Williams given how he has thrived in head coach Mike McDaniels‘ offense.

But again, it will apparently be some time before more clarity emerges on Williams’ status and market.

“Connor’s situation has a degree of uncertainty that’s going to be tied to how he’s feeling,” Rosenhaus said. “And really, we’ll just take it one day at a time once we get into the offseason. But I’m not sure that that is one that’ll be resolved as quickly as some of the other players that we represent.”

For what it’s worth, PFF is more bearish than Spotrac on Williams’ potential market and predicts that he will ultimately land a three-year, $22.5MM contract (subscription required).

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/13/23

Today’s minor moves from around the NFL:

Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Agnew has missed the four games required to return from injured reserve, and though he’s not been activated yet, the Jaguars took the first step towards that outcome today in returning him to practice. It was shoulder and rib injuries that led to the return specialist’s placement on IR. During his absence the team had turned to rookie sixth-round receiver Parker Washington to return punts and veteran backup running back D’Ernest Johnson to return kickoffs. Jacksonville still has a few days to determine whether or not they’ll activate him right away for this weekend. If not, the team will have 21 days to activate him before his practice window closes and Agnew is reverted to season-ending IR.

Dolphins C Connor Williams Out For Season

The Dolphins continue to absorb blows along their offensive line. They will lose a second starter to a significant malady. Connor Williams is set to miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, Mike McDaniel said Tuesday.

Williams will join left guard Isaiah Wynn as Miami blockers set to rehab long-term injuries. It is not known if Wynn is done for the season, but early indications have signaled that is the case. Williams, who is in a contract year, left Monday night’s game early.

This is a brutal setback for Williams, who was playing out a two-year, $14MM contract. The former Cowboys draftee had angled for a raise this offseason, but the Dolphins did not buckle. Williams missed offseason time but ultimately returned on the deal he signed in 2022. Going down with a severe knee injury this late in the season will undoubtedly affect the former second-round pick’s 2024 market, as the Texas alum’s rehab effort will run up to, and potentially beyond, Week 1 of next season.

McDaniel said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the Dolphins will consider signing a center. Liam Eichenberg, who has bounced across the Dolphins’ offensive front during his three-year career, is set to move into the role on a fill-in basis. Eichenberg, whom Wynn beat out for the left guard job in training camp, has worked as a utility player this season — for a Miami O-line unable to keep its starting five healthy — before becoming a full-time starter once again.

Williams, 26, had missed four games earlier this season but had started the past five. Converted from Texas tackle to Cowboys guard to Dolphins center, Williams had become an important part of Miami’s top-flight offense. The Dolphins finished their Week 14 game without four of their original O-line starters, with Robert Hunt out after aggravating a hamstring injury and Terron Armstead nursing his latest ailment. Armstead, who suffered a quad injury during the Dolphins’ Black Friday game, returned for the team’s Week 13 matchup against the Commanders; the Dolphins held him out Monday due to knee and ankle injuries. Armstead, whom the team already activated from IR, has missed eight games this season. Miami’s second-stringer-laden front allowed five sacks in a 28-27 loss.

The recently extended Austin Jackson, who has settled in at right tackle, has been the only Dolphin O-lineman to start every game this season. Jackson entered the season after missing 15 games last year. Kendall Lamm started in place of Armstead, while Lester Cotton was in for Hunt. Cotton has a direct path to the starting lineup at guard, while McDaniel said he is the team’s backup center presently. Eichenberg has made one career start at center — in Week 4 of this season — but has played every position up front for the Dolphins since being drafted in the 2021 second round.

Centers who either just retired (Chase Roullier, Justin Britt) or have been connected to doing so (Rodney Hudson, Ben Jones) represent the biggest names available in free agency. The Cardinals and Titans, respectively, released Hudson and Jones this offseason. Jones, 34, had signed four contracts with the Titans and had missed just one game in his 11-year career before a two-concussion 2022 stalled his career. Hudson, 34, made three Pro Bowls as a Raider but was linked to retiring before the 2022 season; he missed 13 games last year. The injury-prone Roullier, 30, retired this summer but had worked out for the Cardinals shortly before making that decision. The Texans released Britt, 32, after he spent almost all of last season on the reserve/NFI list.

Dolphins Activate Terron Armstead From IR

After being designated to return from injured reserve and returning to practice three days ago, Dolphins offensive tackle Terron Armstead has been activated off of IR for Week 9, according to a post from the team’s X account. Armstead should now be able to start against the Chiefs in Frankfurt tomorrow morning.

Following a nine-year stint in New Orleans to begin his career, Armstead earned a five-year, $75MM deal (up to $87.5MM) from the Dolphins in 2022. He missed a chunk of games last year while dealing with a pectoral strain but still earned a Pro Bowl nod, the fourth of his career. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ 15th-best offensive tackle among 81 qualifying players. Armstead has missed the last four games while recovering from a knee injury that required an IR stint.

Armstead’s return couldn’t have come at a better time for Miami. At one point in last week’s win over the Patriots, the Dolphins were down four starters on the offensive line. Right guard Robert Hunt has been declared out for tomorrow’s game after being classified as day-to-day. Center Connor Williams is still coming along slowly and joins Armstead with a questionable tag heading into the matchup of the two AFC division leaders.

In order to make room for Armstead on the roster, the Dolphins waived defensive tackle Brandon Pili. The undrafted rookie out of USC found playing time in the team’s first four games of the year but hasn’t appeared in the four games since.

Dolphins OL Terron Armstead Returns To Practice

The Dolphins should soon be getting a significant boost to their offensive line. Coach Mike McDaniel told reporters that offensive tackle Terron Armstead has returned to practice (via Pro Football Network’s Adam Beasley).

Armstead has missed the last four games while recovering from a knee injury that required an IR stint. He’s eligible to be activated from injured reserve at any time, and the Dolphins will now have 21 days to make the move.

“We’ll see how he responds to the effort and we’ll assess that the next day and do the same the following day,” McDaniel said (via Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald).

Following a nine-year stint in New Orleans to begin his career, Armstead earned a five-year, $75MM deal (up to $87.5MM) from the Dolphins in 2022. He missed a chunk of games last year while dealing with a pectoral strain but still earned a Pro Bowl nod, the fourth of his career. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ 15th-best offensive tackle among 81 qualifying players.

As Oyefusi notes, the Dolphins were down four offensive line starters at one point during last weekend’s game against the Patriots. The Dolphins continue to bring center Connor Williams along slowly, while right guard Robert Hunt is day to day after suffering a hamstring injury vs. New England. While it might not happen this weekend in Germany, Miami should soon have most of their starting OL back in the lineup.

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa On Contract Situation

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is extension-eligible, but he is also under club control through 2024 since Miami exercised the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. Although GM Chris Grier suggested earlier this offseason — and before he picked up his QB’s fifth-year option — that an extension was on the table, Tagovailoa himself told reporters on Wednesday that there have been no long-term contract talks, at least not recently.

“I haven’t talked about any contract since what I’ve understood with my fifth-year [option],” Tagovailoa said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Fellow 2020 draftee Justin Herbert recently landed a massive new deal from the Chargers, and Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick of that class, will likely score an even more lucrative pact in short order. Players like Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson have also put pen to paper on eye-popping extensions this offseason.

Tagoailoa, though, is content with his current status. “I don’t think that’s a worry of mine,” he said. “When things come, they’ll come because you either deserved it or it’s supposed to happen that way.”

The Fins’ apparent desire to let the 2023 season play out before committing to Tagovailoa on a long-term basis is certainly understandable. The Alabama product made great strides under rookie head coach Mike McDaniel in 2022, but his season was also marked by serious concussion issues. He displayed concussion-like symptoms in Week 3 against the Bills, and while he returned to action shortly after that sequence, an NFLPA investigation into the Dolphins’ handling of the situation led to an overhaul of the NFL’s concussion protocol. Tagovailoa entered the protocol four days later, after being stretchered off the field in Cincinnati, and he was placed in the revised protocol a day after sustaining an unspotted concussion against Green Bay on Christmas Day. He missed four full games last year, and the head injuries — to say nothing of the time he missed due to other maladies over the 2020-21 campaigns — have obviously created cause for concern. He even admitted earlier this year that he considered retirement.

Fortunately, doctors have told Tagovailoa that CTE is not a concern for him, and that no medical evidence proves that concussions are more likely eight to 12 months after suffering one (or two, or three). As such, he is back on the field and looking to build upon an otherwise promising campaign in which he led the league in quarterback rating (105.5), TD% (6.3%), and yards per attempt (8.9). If he can do that while remaining healthy, he will be a legitimate extension candidate next offseason.

“I think regardless of what it is, if [the Dolphins] wanted to do it now, if they wanted to wait, whatever,” Tagovailoa said. “I think for myself, I’m always a person that wants to prove to myself that I deserve whatever I get. So for me, I feel like this is something that I need to work for. It’s as plain and simple as that.”

In related news, two contract-year members of Miami’s roster — center Connor Williams and DT Zach Sieler — timely reported to training camp. As Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets, both players are nonetheless continuing their push for new deals. Williams skipped mandatory mincamp and OTAs, and Sieler attended minicamp after missing at least some OTAs.

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.