Dillon Radunz

AFC Rumors: Gilmore, Pryor, Petit-Frere, Wilson, Jaguars

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is playing with his fourth team after a short stint in Carolina. He started in Buffalo before signing with the Patriots. New England traded the two-time All-Pro midseason for only a sixth-round draft pick in return. Gilmore was injured at the time, but the compensation the Patriots received never made a ton of sense. Recently, though, Gilmore elaborated on the situation that deteriorated in New England, according to Stephen Holder of ESPN.

At the peak of his career, Gilmore suffered a torn quadriceps in the 2020 season. The injury kept him on the Patriots’ reserve/physically unable to perform list to start the 2021 season and, during that time, the relationship between Gilmore and New England “reached a point of no return.”

“I just didn’t like how they handled my situation, my injury,” Gilmore told reporters. “The situation just, I don’t know, wasn’t right for both sides.”

Here are a few more rumors from around the AFC, starting with a couple position battle victories in the AFC South:

  • In a bit of a surprise decision, it appears that veteran offensive tackle Matt Pryor has won the left tackle job in Indianapolis over rookie third-round pick Bernhard Raimann, according to Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. Pryor has only ever started one game at left tackle in the NFL and many expected the rookie out of Central Michigan to give him a strong run for the job. Erickson goes on to say that, should Pryor not perform up to expectations, there’s a strong chance that the starting job could slip out of his grasp.
  • A third-round rookie who did win the starting job is just across the division in Tennessee. Titans general manager Jon Robinson made it known last weekend that Ohio State rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere will start at right tackle to open the season, according to Kayla Anderson of WKRN News 2. Last year’s rookie offensive lineman Dillon Radunz failed to earn much of a role last season but, reportedly, did everything right this offseason. Still, Petit-Frere has effectively won the starting job and Radunz will continue to come off the bench in Year 2.
  • New Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson received an impressive contract extension this week reported as a five-year, $245MM deal. The new money on the contract extension was originally reported to be $49MM per year. Those original reports failed to take the league’s new 17th-week into account when calculating the new money, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports. Wilson was entitled to two more years under his previous contract and the original new money reports included the Week 17 paychecks that really should’ve been included with the original contract. So, while still an extremely impressive payday for Wilson, his average new money is more like $48.52MM per year than $49MM.
  • The Jaguars are losing a member of their front office, according to Seth Walder of ESPN. Director of strategic research & development Momin Ghaffar is leaving the team for a job outside of football. In fact, the job is “outside of sports.” This isn’t a terrible surprise as the position was one of Jacksonville’s many roles that fuse business analytics with football analytics.

Latest On Titans’ RT, LG Competitions

Second-year pro Dillon Radunz has the chance to win the Titans’ starting right tackle job, per Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website. That jibes with an ESPN report from last month, and it makes plenty of sense given that Radunz was selected in the second round of the 2021 draft with the expectation that he would be a long-term bookend on Tennessee’s O-line.

The possibility of Radunz competing for the team’s other OL vacancy, left guard, was floated earlier this year. HC Mike Vrabel subsequently indicated that the team would be focusing on Radunz as an RT candidate, although he will have to fend off 2022 third-rounder Nicholas Petit-Frere, who presently appears to be the most significant threat to his playing time. In his rookie campaign, Radunz started just one game while learning and developing behind former right tackle David Quessenberry, who signed with the Bills this offseason. According to Wyatt, Radunz has looked more comfortable during OTAs and minicamp, but obviously training camp will be a better gauge of where he stands.

While Radunz and Petit-Frere are battling it out for the right tackle slot, Wyatt confirms that Aaron Brewer and Jamarco Jones are the top candidates for the LG gig, as we heard several weeks ago (and throughout the offseason). Brewer, a 2020 UDFA, has started six games for Tennessee in his first two professional seasons, five of which came last year. Jones, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $5.75MM contract with the Titans in March, and one of his primary selling points was his versatility. Despite dealing with injury problems throughout his brief career, the 2018 fifth-round pick of the Seahawks has seen action all over the O-line.

Both Brewer and Jones received sub-par marks from Pro Football Focus for their 2021 work. This offseason, Jones has managed to stay healthy and has, in Wyatt’s estimation, demonstrated improvement, while Brewer missed time due to injury. Brewer’s familiarity with the offense will help, and Wyatt believes the Texas State product will ultimately win the LG job, but that battle will be one of the most hotly-contested for the Titans this summer. Whichever player emerges as the starter will have big shoes to fill, as Rodger Saffold had become a reliable fixture on the interior and earned his first Pro Bowl bid in 2021. He became a cap casualty in March and signed with Buffalo a week before Quessenberry.

The Titans finished the 2021 regular season with the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. While Vrabel’s outfit fell to the Bengals in the divisional round of the playoffs, the club still has its eyes set on another deep postseason run. As such, Wyatt confirms that Tennessee will look at the free agent and trade markets if the RT and/or LG competitions are not going well.

Of course, the players who are on the free agent market at this point in the calendar year are generally available for a reason. The top RTs include Bryan Bulaga, Daryl Williams, and Marcus Cannon, all of whom were released by their previous clubs in March and who have not generated any reported interest since. Similarly, the Commanders released LG Ereck Flowers in March, and while our own Ely Allen noted that the former top-10 pick could make plenty of sense for Tennessee, we have not heard of any interest in his services.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif may be an appealing option for the Titans if Brewer and Jones fail to impress, but LDT may not want to continue his NFL career. Nonetheless, potentially intriguing players could be cut as we get closer to the regular season, and GM Jon Robinson may be able to swing a trade if the FA market does not bear fruit.

AFC South Rumors: Jordan, Titans, Shenault, Radunz

After allowing tight end Jordan Akins to walk in free agency, the Texans are expected to turn to second-year tight end Brevin Jordan to lead the position-group in 2022, according to ESPN’s Sarah Barshop.

Pharaoh Brown started the most games of any tight end on the roster last year but mostly serves as the team’s primary run-blocking tight end. Jordan, though, has seemingly passed Brown on the depth chart in the passing game as he looks to make a big leap during his second year in Houston.

Last season, Jordan caught 20 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns, comparable with Brown’s 23 receptions for 171 yards. Jordan will look to improve those numbers in his sophomore season. The former Miami Hurricane is set up nicely to do so as the newly re-signed Antony Auclair and newly drafted Oregon State rookie Teagan Quitoriano are, like Brown, both well-known for their blocking abilities.

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

  • In a report on the future of Titans linebacker David Long Jr., Terry McCormick of Titan Insider made an interesting claim that, after claiming linebacker Zach Cunningham off of waivers from the Texans in December, Tennessee didn’t feel pressed at all to re-sign former first-round pick Rashaan Evans. This may be mainly due to how Tennessee values the inside linebacker position. Evans, now with the Falcons, had started 39 games, only missing one week of football in his first three seasons, when the Titans declined his fifth-year option. Evans’ best season came in 2019 with his stats falling slightly in 2020. An injury-affected 2021 season sealed his fate in Tennessee as they let him walk in free agency.
  • After bringing in wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones on big money deals, ESPN’s Michael DiRocco reports that Jacksonville still has wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. in their plans. Shenault has stayed consistent over his first two years in the league catching 58 balls for 600 yards as a rookie and 63 passes for 619 yards in his second season. The big difference was in his touchdown totals as he went from five touchdown catches in 2020 to zero in 2021. The Jaguars also like to use Shenault sparingly in the running game, which might be where Shenault’s role lies in the future: as a dual-threat offensive weapon alongside running back Travis Etienne. If not, he’ll be competing for snaps with Kirk, Jones, and Marvin Jones Jr. in the receiving game.
  • According to Turron Davenport of ESPN, rookie offensive lineman out of North Dakota State Dillon Radunz is expected to earn the starting right tackle job in Tennessee. While the position group still has some question marks, the second-round rookie is set to bookend the line opposite veteran Taylor Lewan. This leaves Jamarco Jones, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, Aaron Brewer, and others to compete over the three inside positions over training camp and the preseason as the Titans look to cement their offensive line.