Donovan Smith

Chiefs Not Pursuing Post-Draft Free Agent Additions

The period immediately following the draft often entails a number of veterans finding new homes. The Chiefs are positioned to make at least one notable addition with respect to a free agent still on the market, but that should not be expected at this time.

“We accomplished a lot between the free agency period and the draft,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said when speaking to reporters (via Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star). “And now I think we’ll have a chance to really evaluate these young guys, and evaluate these new players we brought in on our 90-man signings right after the season and with the undrafted free agent guys we got. So we’ll have a chance to evaluate this team.”

Entering the draft, receiver and offensive tackle were widely seen as the team’s most pressing roster needs. Moving up the board on both occasions, the Chiefs landed wideout Xavier Worthy on Day 1 then tackle Kingsley Suamataia in the second round of the draft. Both players figure to have at least a depth role on offense as rookies, and that will especially be true if Kansas City decides against bringing in veteran competition.

Veach added that new deals for Donovan Smith (who was a full-time starter on the blindside when healthy in 2023) and Mecole Hardman (who served as a complementary wideout upon returning to Kansas City after being traded by the Jets) are not currently under consideration. Both players are among the more experienced options at their respective positions still on the market, and it will be interesting to see if interest from outside teams picks up in the comings days and weeks.

“If we need to go in a different direction before training camp, we will,” Veach added. “But I think now, we’re excited with where the roster is, and look forward to the final OTA periods… For right now, I think we’re going to let these young guys go out there and see what they can do and how much they can absorb.”

The two-time defending champions currently have just over $16MM in cap space, so even after their draft class is signed the team will have the flexibility to make additions. Kansas City’s roster sits at 81 (out of an offseason maximum of 90), and as such a healthy number of UDFAs will be incoming. Veteran pickups could remain on the table depending on how the summer takes shape, but any notable signings would come as a surprise based on Veach’s comments.

Chiefs Notes: Taylor, Smith, Pacheco, Anudike-Uzomah, Rice

The Chiefs had planned to move career right tackle Jawaan Taylor to the left side. Instead, they are flipping their tackle salary structure. Donovan Smith is now in the fold, and Taylor is now the NFL’s second-highest-paid right tackle.

Andy Reid confirmed (via ESPN’s Adam Teicher) the Chiefs will begin their offseason work with Smith, signed to a one-year deal worth up to $9MM late last week, at left tackle and Taylor on the right side. Considering Smith has only played left tackle as a pro and Taylor spending his entire Jacksonville tenure as a right-sider, it is logical the Chiefs will not rock the boat here.

This is an about-face given the Chiefs’ initial Taylor plan, and while it is interesting the defending champions are abandoning it months before pads come on, Reid did leave the door open last month for Taylor to be kicked back to the right side. A right tackle at Florida and with the Jags, Taylor represents an upgrade for the Chiefs at that post.

Smith will replace Orlando Brown Jr. While the latter earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods with the Chiefs, Smith manned the Buccaneers’ blindside spot for eight seasons. During an offseason in which the team needed to shed almost $60MM in cap space, Tampa Bay made Smith a cap casualty in early March. The soon-to-be 30-year-old blocker resided as one of the few players left unsigned among PFR’s top 50 free agents.

Kansas City making right tackle its top O-line investment deviates from recent years, when the team used low-cost vet Andrew Wylie and third-round pick Lucas Niang as its primary options at the position. But the Chiefs’ initial Patrick Mahomes Super Bowl-winning team did have two tackles — Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz — signed to veteran deals. While the team prioritized Brown in 2021 via the trade with the Ravens, right tackle did not bring similar attention. The Smith signing changes that, as Taylor signed the top O-line deal — AAV-wise, at $20MM — in free agency. Smith’s $9MM deal checks in at $4MM in base value, Albert Breer of notes.

Elsewhere on the Chiefs’ roster, Reid confirmed running back Isiah Pacheco and first-round defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah are recovering from surgeries. Pacheco underwent procedures to repair a broken hand and a torn labrum, James Palmer of tweets. He does not have a return timetable, though the Chiefs do not sound concerned the 2022 seventh-round pick will miss regular-season time. Anudike-Uzomah, this year’s No. 31 overall pick, underwent thumb surgery before the draft and could be ready by the time the Chiefs begin OTAs later this month.

At receiver, the Chiefs had Mahomes work out with a few rookie prospects. Zay Flowers and Quentin Johnston were among those to train with the reigning MVP in Texas. But Chiefs second-round pick Rashee Rice also linked up with Mahomes for a pre-draft training session. The SMU product, whom the Chiefs took in the second round, formed a connection with the superstar quarterback, Jeremy Fowler of notes.

The Chiefs have now taken a second-round receiver in each of the past two drafts, with Rice following Skyy Moore. These two join Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney as the Chiefs’ top receivers. Kansas City has been connected to a DeAndre Hopkins pursuit, but the Cardinals may now be prepared to keep him. The Chiefs, who lost J.J. Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman to the AFC East in free agency, are also preparing to give Toney — his injury past notwithstanding — a bigger role heading into his first full K.C. season.

Chiefs Sign T Donovan Smith

The Chiefs have potentially found their starting left tackle for 2023, signing former Buccaneers tackle Donovan Smith, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Smith will reportedly be agreeing to a one-year contract worth up to $9MM.

The reigning Super Bowl champions watched blindside tackle Orlando Brown walk in free agency after failing to reach a long-term deal, leaving a hole on the left end of the offensive line. While many expected Kansas City’s big offseason free agent addition Jawaan Taylor to fill in the left tackle slot, it makes much more sense to keep him where he played during his time in Jacksonville and allow Smith, who has played his entire career at left tackle, to take over for Brown.

Smith has played in Tampa Bay for his entire eight-year career. The $9MM deal will be the least Smith has averaged annually in a contract since his rookie deal, but it’s still a formidable contract for a tackle about to turn 30 who missed multiple games for the first time in his career last season.

With some changes in the receiving corps and on either end of the offensive line, quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be at the helm of a bit of a different-looking attack then last year. The Chiefs did a good job of replacing Brown and Andrew Wylie with Smith and Taylor and invested some draft capital in second-round wide receiver Rashee Rice to help offset the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Smith provides Mahomes and company with a veteran presence who’s used to playing in big games. If he can avoid double-digit penalties, something he’s struggled with over his career, he should be a serviceable replacement for the four-time Pro Bowler for whom he’s filling in.

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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Buccaneers To Release LT Donovan Smith

Donovan Smith‘s lengthy Buccaneers tenure looks to be wrapping after eight seasons. The Bucs are planning to release the veteran left tackle, Jeremy Fowler of tweets.

Tampa Bay’s left tackle starter since 2015, Smith had one season remaining on his contract. The Bucs entered Tuesday more than $40MM over the cap. The team needs to spring into action to become cap-compliant, and this Smith cut will help on that front. The Bucs will save more than $9MM by releasing Smith. Designating Smith as a post-June 1 release would save the Bucs more money, but the team needs the savings now, which will likely take that move off the table.

This transaction will help the Bucs along the way to moving under the 2023 cap, but it will also create a blindside void for whomever will be playing quarterback in Tampa next season. Smith had started all 124 games he had played with the Bucs, who selected him in the 2015 second round. Going into his age-30 season, the Super Bowl-winning edge protector will have a chance to bounce back elsewhere.

Jones has offered tremendous durability as well, having only missed more than one game in one season. That came in 2022, however, with an elbow injury sidetracking the experienced blocker. Smith missed four games, adding to a nightmare season for Tampa Bay’s offensive front. The Bucs saw Ryan Jensen make a surprising return for their wild-card matchup, after having torn multiple knee ligaments in training camp. But they missed longtime guard starters Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet. With Smith’s release, only two of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl blocking bastions are left: Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs.

Pro Football Focus, long skeptical about Smith’s performance level, slotted the Penn State alum as a top-15 tackle in 2021. But he fell out of the top 60 at the position, per the advanced metrics site, in 2022. Todd Bowles considered benching Smith, who now stands to join Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency. The Chiefs are not franchise-tagging Brown for a second time. That plan and the Bucs’ Smith release will add two experienced left tackles to the market, one that did not look to house much in the way of quality heading into the week.

The Bucs had previously given Smith two extensions — a three-year deal ahead of free agency in 2019 and a two-year re-up in 2021 — with the most recent being worth $15.5MM per year. The Bucs will still be more than $40MM over the cap, even after releasing Smith, Leonard Fournette and Cameron Brate. Created largely by Tom Brady‘s restructures, this bill will test the Bucs in the days leading up to the 2023 league year. More cuts are coming.

NFL Injury Rumors: Week 17 Updates

Updates to injury questions heading into the Sunday slate of games:

  • Cardinals star receiver DeAndre Hopkins will miss this Sunday’s game in Atlanta with a knee injury, according to the team’s final injury report. The injury seemed to appear from nowhere late this week and, with the Cardinals eliminated from playoff contention, it would not be a surprise to see Hopkins sit for the remainder of the season. Quarterbacks David Blough and Trace McSorley will have to rely on Marquise Brown, Greg Dortch, A.J. Green, Robbie Anderson, Pharoh Cooper, and recently promoted Andre Baccellia in the meantime.
  • The Commanders will have to face Cleveland tomorrow without running back Antonio Gibson, according to the team’s official Twitter account. With Gibson out due to an ankle sprain, Washington will likely continue to rely heavily on rookie starter Brian Robinson. Veteran running back Jonathan Williams will likely find himself in an increased role tomorrow, as will elevated practice squad back Jaret Patterson.
  • Despite returning to practice this week, 49ers star receiver Deebo Samuel is unable to play this weekend against the Raiders, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy will have at least one more week depending on the likes of Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, tight end George Kittle, and running back Christian McCaffrey without Samuel. Head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated that there’s “a chance” Samuel will be able to return next week.
  • Buccaneers right tackle Tristan Wirfs reportedly aggravated his ankle injury last week against the Cardinals, but according to Jenna Laine of ESPN, Wirfs intends on playing regardless. Tampa Bay is also hoping to get starting left tackle Donovan Smith back for tomorrow’s game against the Panthers. If Smith does play, it will be the first time the two have appeared in a game together since a Week 12 loss to the Browns.
  • The Texans have confirmed that two starters are no longer in question to play this weekend as right tackle Tytus Howard and rookie left guard Kenyon Green are both expected to play against the Jaguars, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. Howard had to clear concussion protocol in order to play this weekend and successfully did so. Green has missed Houston’s last two contests with an ankle injury but has reportedly improved considerably. Backup interior lineman Jimmy Morrissey was unable to clear concussion protocol and will be unable to play this Sunday.

NFC Injury Rumors: Baker, Lynch, Bucs

Cardinals star safety Budda Baker suffered a fractured shoulder last Sunday in the team’s overtime loss to the Buccaneers, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Despite the fact that Baker didn’t exit the game, he is expected to sit out the final two games of the regular season. Considering the fact that Arizona has already been eliminated from postseason contention, there’s no reason to risk further injury to the heart and soul of the team’s defense.

For the last two games of the season, Arizona will likely start the next man on the depth chart, veteran safety Chris Banjo. Baker was voted to the Pro Bowl this year, meaning a replacement will have to be made for him in that game, as well. 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga should get the start in place of Baker, but the alternate to replace his spot has yet to be named. Vikings safety Harrison Smith and Lions safety Kerby Joseph were both top vote getters in fan voting, though.

Here are a few other injury rumors from around the NFC:

  • Another player set to miss the remainder of the regular season, Vikings defensive lineman James Lynch is dealing with a shoulder injury, according to Rapoport. The young defender has graded out impressively as the league’s 41st-best interior defender, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), despite not holding a starting position. Minnesota is pulling him back from play now in order to rehab him in hopes that he will be able to make a return in the playoffs. Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips will continue to start on the defensive line, but Lynch’s absence should open the door for Khyiris Tonga and Esezi Otomewo to earn more snaps in rotation.
  • The Buccaneers have not had both of their starting tackles active in a game together since Week 12. While Tampa Bay finally got right tackle Tristan Wirfs back from injury last weekend, left tackle Donovan Smith was unable play with a foot injury. Wirfs, who had missed three straight games with an ankle injury, reportedly aggravated the injury when a player fell on him from behind, according to Buccaneers senior writer/editor Scott Smith. Head coach Todd Bowles told media that he hopes Smith can return this week and, while he was unclear on Wirfs availability for next week, Bowles called the situation “not ideal.”

NFC Injury Rumors: Rams, Peat, Buccaneers

Injuries continue to hamper the Rams in the final stretch of the season. News earlier this week confirmed that calf strains to center Brian Allen and wide receiver Ben Skowronek “are severe enough to sideline them for the rest of the season,” according to team staff writer Stu Jackson. That leaves Los Angeles down two more starters as the Super Bowl hangover continues.

Allen has had a disappointing season, health-wise. After missing five weeks while dealing with a knee injury early on in the year, then two more with a thumb issue, the calf strain has finally put an end to Allen’s tumultuous 2022 season. Starting guard Coleman Shelton, who has plenty of past experience at center, moved inside when Allen left last week’s game and will continue to start at center for the remainder of the season. To replace Shelton at right guard, the team will choose between backup linemen Bobby Evans, Oday Aboushi, and Zach Thomas.

Not that there was much damage left to do to the battle-worn Rams, but Skowronek is yet another damaging loss to the team. With starting receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson already on injured reserve, Skowronek was Los Angeles’s leading wideout still on the active roster. With the former Notre Dame tight end joining Kupp and Robinson as out for the remainder of the year, quarterback Baker Mayfield will be passing to Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Brandon Powell, Austin Trammell, and Lance McCutcheon.

Allen and Skowronek add their names to the litany of Rams’ starters who have gone down for the year. Here are a few other injury rumors from around the NFC, focusing on a couple teams in the South:

  • Saints starting guard Andrus Peat left Saturday’s win over the Browns with an ankle injury and did not return. Peat is no stranger to injuries, having struggled with them throughout his NFL career. His absence, though, puts New Orleans in a tough spot as it succeeded in remaining in the NFC South race with Saturday’s victory. Already down starting right guard Cesar Ruiz, who is out for the year with a Lisfranc injury, the Saints are having to put together a patchwork offensive line. Peat’s usual backup, Calvin Throckmorton, started the game in place of Ruiz. With backup guard Lewis Kidd inactive, New Orleans had to turn to Josh Andrews, a practice squad center who had been a gameday elevation. The severity of the injury has yet to be determined, but an extended absence from Peat would make it even more difficult for the Saints to clinch a playoff spot down the stretch.
  • The Buccaneers ruled out three starters for today’s matchup with the Cardinals, according to Greg Auman of FOX Sports. Starting tackle Donovan Smith, defensive tackle Vita Vea, and cornerback Jamel Dean have all been ruled out, as has outside linebacker Carl Nassib. With the bad news comes the good news that Tampa Bay’s other starting tackle Tristan Wirfs is expected to play today. Backup tackle Josh Wells, who was also questionable coming into this week, will likely start in place of Smith. Vea’s role should be filled by Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Dean will likely be replaced by a combination of Sean Murphy-Bunting, Dee Delaney, and Zyon McCollum.

Bucs HC Todd Bowles Considered Benching LT Donovan Smith

The Buccaneers’ O-line, which has seen a great deal of upheaval since February, almost got another shakeup. Per ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay head coach Todd Bowles recently considered benching left tackle Donovan Smith, though for the time being, Smith will retain his starting job (Twitter link).

Smith, who missed two games earlier this season with a hyperextended elbow, has been charged with six penalties in the last three games, and his 11 total penalties this season is the most in the league. That, along with generally underwhelming performance — Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics rank Smith 65th out of 77 qualifying tackles — is what prompted Bowles to consider the demotion.

Longtime left guard Ali Marpet surprisingly announced his retirement in February, and his would-be replacement, Aaron Stinnie, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in a preseason game and was promptly ruled out for the remainder of the year. Center Ryan Jensen has missed the entire season due to a knee injury of his own, and while trade acquisition Shaq Mason has stayed healthy and has performed well at right guard in place of free agent defection Alex Cappa, right tackle Tristan Wirfs is dealing with a high ankle sprain that has kept him out of the last two contests and could sideline him for longer.

Quarterback Tom Brady‘s quick trigger in 2022 and his poor 6.2 yards-per-attempt rate may be a function of his lack of confidence in his line, which is also having a hard time opening holes for the team’s running backs (Tampa Bay’s RBs are averaging 3.3 yards per carry, the worst rate in the league). PFF actually gives Smith a solid 68.8 score in pass protection but an awful 39.4 grade as a run blocker, the worst mark among his OT peers.

Unfortunately for Bowles, he doesn’t have any options that would be obvious upgrades. Brandon Walton and Josh Wells filled in for Smith during the latter’s early-season absence, but Walton is a 2020 UDFA who finally earned his first regular season snaps this year, and Wells is a swingman who is needed at RT while Wirfs is unable to play.

Smith, 29, has been Tampa Bay’s starting left tackle since entering the league as a second-round draft choice in 2015, and while he has never earned a Pro Bowl nod, his durability and average-to-above-average play at a premium position have allowed him to land multiple contracts with the Bucs. His current deal runs through next year, and his 2023 salary of $15.3MM is a fair one for a left tackle with his level of experience and who is young enough to return to the form he displayed over the past several seasons.

On the other hand, the Bucs will be saddled with a ~$35MM dead cap charge next season if Brady departs, which is the expected outcome. A Smith release would create a cap savings of ~$10MM, and that reality, combined with his performance this year, suggest that his roster spot is not secure.

NFC Injury Updates: Bucs, Packers, Smith

Tampa Bay knew it would be without two of its bigger playmakers in wide receiver Chris Godwin and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks this week. That is no surprise, as Godwin missed last week with a hamstring ailment and Hicks is predicted to miss a month with a foot injury. The Buccaneers were hoping to get back offensive tackle Donovan Smith this week, but he is doubtful to appear this Sunday against the Packers, according to Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network.

Smith suffered a hyperextended right elbow in Tampa Bay’s Week 1 victory over the Cowboys. Last week, the Buccaneers slotted Josh Wells in to start for Smith, but, after Wells suffered a calf injury that landed him on injured reserve in the team’s matchup with the Saints, they’ll likely turn to Brandon Walton who replaced Wells last Sunday.

It was also reported, by Buccaneers staff writer Brianna Dix, that wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to be a game-time decision, according to head coach Todd Bowles.

Here are a few other Sunday game statuses we heard about today, starting with two top receivers in Green Bay:

  • The Packers‘ top returning receiver from last year had to miss Week 1 while dealing with an ankle injury. While they got Allen Lazard back last week, he was seen limping at points of the game. Regardless, Lazard “is optimistic about playing” this week versus Tampa Bay, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. The Packers have been cautious with him in practice this week, but it’s likely been precautionary. On the other hand, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be without one of his top targets as Sammy Watkins has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, according to Field Yates of ESPN. Rookie wide receiver Christian Watson is also dealing with hamstring issues but is listed as questionable going into the weekend.
  • Vikings safety Harrison Smith is expected to miss his first game due to injury since 2016, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Smith did sit out two games last year on the COVID-19/reserve list and took a rest day in the 2019 season finale, but a concussion suffered in Monday night’s loss to the Eagles will likely hold him out against the Lions this week.
  • Tyler Kroft has been the man for the 49ers at tight end, starting twice to begin the season in place of the injured star, George Kittle. He has never been a strong receiving threat, but his ability to run block has made him a valuable asset to the San Francisco offense. In the team’s Week 2 win over the Seahawks, though, Kroft suffered a sprained MCL. He’s expected “to miss several weeks” because of the knee injury, but, due to new injured reserve rules, the veteran will not be placed on IR, according to David Lombardi of The Athletic. The new rules this year dictate that only eight players can be designated to return from IR, so, even though Kroft will be eligible to return after several weeks, the 49ers are choosing to save their designated to return IR spots for more valuable players who may end up sustaining injuries later on in the season. The timing of Kroft’s injury is not the worst it could possibly be as Kittle is set to return this week from injury. Kittle is mostly known for his receiving ability but is a decent run blocker in his own right and will help to vacate any deficit resulting from Kroft’s absence.
  • The Lions will be down one of their rotational defensive linemen when they play the Vikings and, according to Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, a recent surgery will hold him out for a while. Defensive lineman John Cominsky is dealing with a wrist injury that required the surgery. Cominsky may not be a household name, but, when he was put on waivers after three years of playing with the Falcons, Cominsky drew the interest of one-fourth of the league, as eight teams were intrigued enough to put in claims on the former Golden Eagle out of Division II Charleston in West Virginia. The Lions were second in the waiver order and were granted the 6-foot-5 lineman, but the Commanders, Colts, Browns, Texans, Cardinals, Vikings, and Bengals all attempted to bring him in. With Cominsky out, Lions head coach Dan Campbell suggested that the starting four defensive linemen will be backed up by the likes of Austin Bryant and undrafted rookie Demetrius Taylor.