The Rams are placing third-year wide receiverVan Jefferson on injured reserve as he continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery that’s kept him mostly on the sideline. The move has raised questions as outsiders become less-and-less clear on the true status of Jefferson.
Jefferson had a breakout year during his sophomore season, starting every game while reeling in 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns after only amassing 220 yards in his rookie year. Jefferson was second in receiving yards and touchdowns for the Super Bowl LVI champions.
The receiving corps has looked quite different to begin this year without four of last year’s six receivers. DeSean Jackson was released midseason last year by request, Robert Woods was traded to the Titans for a sixth-round pick, and Odell Beckham Jr. remains a free agent after tearing his ACL in the NFL’s season finale. With those three gone, Cooper Kupp, Jefferson, and Ben Skowronek were the only returning receivers from last year. Luckily for the Rams, Kupp, last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, has been his usual self, averaging 118 receiving yards per game in the first two weeks of the season.
The frustration from those following Jefferson’s injury stems from continuous statements from head coach Sean McVay that Jefferson has been “week-to-week” since the start of the season. This has kept optimism alive that Jefferson could return any week or game. But waiting until Week 3 of the season to place Jefferson on IR ensures that he will miss the next five weeks (four games and a bye week), dousing any lingering threads of weekly optimism. If Los Angeles had any idea that Jefferson would be out long-term, it could’ve placed Jefferson on IR far earlier, allowing him to come back as soon as he’s ready, as opposed to now being without their No. 2 wide receiver until the end of October.
In Jefferson’s absence, Stafford has relied on Kupp, tight end Tyler Higbee, free agent addition Allen Robinson, and Skowronek as his top targets. They haven’t been utilized much, but Brandon Powell, Tutu Atwell, and undrafted rookie Lance McCutcheon have served as backup receivers so far this year.
To fill Jefferson’s spot on the active roster, cornerback Grant Haley has been signed to the active roster from the practice squad. The Rams brought back linebacker Keir Thomas to fill Haley’s spot on the practice squad. Wide receiver Jacob Harris has also been called to action as a standard gameday elevation from the practice squad. Harris missed the back half of his rookie season last year after suffering ACL and MCL injuries and made the shift from tight end to receiver.
Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These 49ers, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks moves are noted below.
Here are Wednesday’s NFC West transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.
Jacob Harris getting cut came as a bit of a surprise after the 2021 fourth-round pick got into nine games as a rookie. However, he rarely got a look on offense in 2021, and despite the Rams only rostering two tight ends at the end of the day (Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins), Harris was let go. Chris Garrett was also a 2021 draft pick, being selected by the Rams in the seventh round. He only got into one game as a rook.
AJ Arcuri was a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, but the rookie didn’t show enough to crack the 53-man roster. There’s a good chance the Michigan State product lands back on the Rams practice squad.
“We’ll look at those guys and then we’ll continue to see if we can figure out when Odell will come back at some point as well,” Sean McVay said.
Jefferson’s surgery went well, Rodrigue tweets, adding a Week 1 return should be realistic. Although the Rams signed Beckham when Robert Woods was still healthy, Jefferson’s role was not threatened after the latter’s injury. He finished his sophomore NFL slate with 50 receptions, 802 yards (nearly quadrupling rookie-year total) and six touchdowns. Although Beckham coming back and joining Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson would threaten Jefferson’s playing time, the third-year receiver should have a firm grip on the WR3 job for a bit.
Here is the latest from the NFC West:
Activated off the non-football injury list Tuesday, Marquise Brown found himself in off-field trouble several hours later. The recently acquired Cardinals wide receiver was arrested on a criminal speeding charge and booked in the Maricopa County Jail. The arrest occurred at 7:05am Wednesday in north Phoenix, according to Jose Romero of the Arizona Republic. Brown was traveling from his home to the Cards’ facility, per Kliff Kingsbury. Brown, acquired in a draft-weekend deal that saw the Cardinals’ first-round pick change hands, faces a potential suspension under the personal conduct policy purview.
D.J. Humphries‘ Cardinals extension is for three years and $51.8MM, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger tweets. This deal comes with a $17MM signing bonus, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter). Humphries’ 2022 cap number will also drop from $19.9MM to $12.6MM, creating some additional space for the Cards. Humphries’ extension is worth a bit more than his previous contract (three years, $44.3MM), but it comes in eighth among left tackles for AAV.
The 49ers may go with two unseasoned guards this year. They have been using fourth-round rookie Spencer Burfordexclusively as their first-string right guard, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. If the Texas-San Antonio product can stick at this position, it could relocate two-year San Francisco right guard starter Daniel Brunskill to center, where he is battling veteran backup Jake Brendel to take over for Alex Mack. Buford is vying to join Aaron Banks as a guard starter. The 2021 second-round pick logged five offensive snaps as a rookie but looks to have a firm grip on the 49ers’ left guard gig in camp.
The Seahawks‘ Reuben Fosterworkout does not look to signal an immediate signing, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. This appears to be a case of the Seahawks kicking the tires on the former first-round pick. Foster has not played in a game since the 2018 season. Although Washington claimed the once-high-profile linebacker during the 2018 season, he never played a down for the team. An ACL tear during Washington’s 2019 offseason program led the Alabama product out of the league. However, the Seahawks are the fifth team to work out Foster since his Washington contract expired following the 2020 season. The Jets, Jaguars, Browns and Dolphins have also brought him in.
Former Jets quarterback James Morganalso worked out for the Seahawks, auditioning Thursday. The team, which is holding a long-scrutinized Geno Smith–Drew Lock competition, is not planning an immediate Morgan signing, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. A Green Bay native, Morgan, 25, also worked out for the Packers recently.
During the NFC Championship game tonight, the Rams saw starting tight end Tyler Higbee go down with a knee injury in the first quarter. They’ll be eager to determine the severity of Higbee’s injury this week, as they prepare to host Super Bowl LVI.
The sixth-year tight end was second on the team this year in receptions and third on the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. Coming into tonight’s game, Higbee had 7 catches for 97 yards in the Rams’ first two playoff games. He had reeled in 2 receptions for 18 yards before leaving tonight.
The Rams will likely look into Higbee’s injury early this week and determine their course of action from there. Whether they can return him to practice immediately, need to hold him out to rest, or need to prepare to play a Super Bowl with Blanton in the starting lineup, the Rams have two weeks to come up with a plan.
Sanu suffered a knee sprain during the third quarter of yesterday’s loss to the Cardinals, and Shanhan said the wideout will be out for a while. The veteran receiver had established himself as the third receiver this season, hauling in 15 catches for 177 yards through eight games. The likes of Jauan Jennings and Trent Sherfield could see increased reps while Sanu is out of the lineup.
Wilson suffered a foot injury that will likely require an IR trip. The veteran safety was already starting in place Jimmie Ward, so the team will have to rely on their depth while the two defensive backs are sidelined. Wilson has seen time in eight games this season, although Week 9 was the first time he got significant playing time on defense.
Some more injury notes from around the NFL:
The 49ers provided some additional context on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw‘s recent knee operation (via ESPN’s Nick Wagoner on Twitter). Team doctors noted “that the ACL has chronic changes that would be best treated with ACL reconstruction.” The organization believes this alternative route will provide Kinlaw with the best chance to play during the 2022 season.
Both Zach Wilson and Mike White will both return to Jets practice this week, reports Brian Costello of the New York Post (via Twitter). It remains to be seen who will be the starting quarterback against the Bills this weekend. It sounds like the team is likely to play it safe with Wilson, meaning White could get another chance to start.
Rams wideout Jacob Harris will miss the rest of the season following ACL and MCL injuries, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic (via Twitter). The fourth-round pick was a wideout in college but has been playing tight end since joining the NFL. He’s only played 15 offensive snaps this season, but he got into nine games as a special teamer.