Jacoby Brissett

Deshaun Watson Could Be Suspended For Only Four Games; “No Market” For Baker Mayfield

We recently heard that new Browns QB Deshaun Watson would not end up on the Commissioner’s Exempt list since he will not be criminally charged in connection with the sexual assault allegations for which he is still facing 22 civil suits. And, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes, the absence of criminal charges may also help Watson avoid a lengthy suspension.

Per Cabot, league investigators will view the grand jury non-indictments as “mitigating factors” when it comes to doling out punishment to the embattled passer. A suspension may not be put in place until the civil matter is resolved — and Cleveland will not pressure Watson to settle the suits — but when the NFL’s investigation concludes and a decision is made, Cabot hears that Watson could be hit with a six-game ban that gets reduced to four games.

That would obviously count as a huge victory for the Browns, who gave up a bounty of draft capital and a market-altering contract to acquire Watson in a move that many pundits have classified as desperate. Winning, though, has a way of rewriting history, and if Watson escapes all of his legal troubles with only a four-game suspension (at least as far as on-field ramifications are concerned), Cleveland will have a very good chance of winning in 2022 and beyond.

Of course, the Browns are still rostering Baker Mayfield, an awkward reality that would become even more awkward if they are forced to retain him throughout the 2022 season. GM Andrew Berry recently said he would be willing to do so, but that surely is just a bit of posturing. Berry obviously wants to trade the former No. 1 overall pick, and he is content to wait until a starting quarterback on another club suffers an injury and creates a QB need for that club. According to Cabot, Berry may need to do just that, because there is “no market” for Mayfield at this point.

Still, Cabot says Berry does not want to give Mayfield away or include one of his own draft picks in a trade to entice another team to assume Mayfield’s contract. She writes that the plan remains to have newly-signed QB Jacoby Brissett, and not Mayfield, operate as the starting signal-caller in the event of a Watson suspension. The one-year deal that Brissett signed with the Browns last month has a base value of $4.65MM, almost all of which ($4.5MM) is guaranteed, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets. Brissett will have a chance to earn more via incentives, including, perhaps, play-time incentives that could be realized if/when Brissett stands in for Watson.

One more item on Mayfield: his disenchantment with the Browns was intensified in the wake of a report that surfaced prior to the Watson trade indicating that the team was looking for “an adult” at the quarterback position (thus implying that Mayfield is not, in fact, an adult). Per team owner Jimmy Haslam, that comment did not come from the Cleveland front office (Twitter link via Jeff Schudel of the News-Herald).

Browns To Sign QB Jacoby Brissett

Minutes after agreeing to trade Case Keenum to the Bills, the Browns tabbed his replacement. Jacoby Brissett is expected to sign with Cleveland, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The former third-round pick agreed to a one-year deal.

Brissett backed up Tua Tagovailoa last season in Miami, but the Dolphins starter’s early-season injury opened the door for more starting opportunities for the North Carolina State alum. Given new Browns starter Deshaun Watson‘s off-field trouble, Brissett will be one of the league’s most important backups. He will almost certainly have an extended run as a starter in Cleveland, should Watson’s expected suspension hit in 2022.

[RELATED: Browns Acquire Watson From Texans]

Extended QB1 run on short notice will not be new to Brissett; such developments have essentially defined his career. The former Patriots draft pick became the Colts’ starter not long after a late-summer 2017 trade, with Andrew Luck‘s shoulder injury lingering throughout the 2017 season. Brissett started 15 games for Indianapolis that year. After Luck’s surprise late-summer 2019 retirement, Brissett again received the keys in Indy. While Brissett did not make any starts in 2020, Tagovailoa’s September injury led to a five-start season for his backup.

Leading a much better Colts team in 2019, Brissett upped his passer rating to a career-best 88.0 on 6.6 yards per attempt. While Brissett once again proved he is one of the NFL’s best backups, his Miami yards-per-attempt figure settled at just 5.7, as Jaylen Waddle racked up PPR points. Brissett, 29, did complete a career-high 62.7% of his passes with the Dolphins.

Cleveland constructed Watson’s contract around the likelihood of a 2022 suspension. With six games appearing to be the floor for a Watson ban, that will place a spotlight on Brissett, whose only start for a playoff-bound team came with the 2016 Patriots. The Browns’ polarizing trade will force them to count on Brissett for an extended stretch, perhaps to start the 2022 campaign.

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa Won’t Start Tonight

Tua Tagovailoa will likely miss his second-straight game. NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe reports (via Twitter) that backup Jacoby Brissett will be starting for the Dolphins when they take on the Ravens tonight.

Tagovailoa has been dealing with a small fracture in the middle finger of his throwing hand that forced him to miss last Sunday’s game against the Texans. Per Wolfe (on Twitter), the quarterback is still dealing with a grip issue and corresponding discomfort. Fortunately, it sounds like the QB is getting better, and the team is hopeful he’ll play next weekend against the Jets. Just like last week, Tagovailoa will still be active for tonight’s game. If Brissett is forced to exit the game, Tagovailoa will be forced into the lineup, injury and all.

The Alabama product has posted a disappointing 86.7 quarterback rating in his 15 professional games, and his persistent injury problems are preventing him from generating any positive momentum. Before the finger ailment, he previously missed three full games this year (and most of a fourth) due to a rib injury. In the five games he’s started, Tagovailoa has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,040 yards, seven touchdowns, and five interceptions. He’s added another 62 yards and two scores on 15 touches.

Brissett has already started four of his seven games this season. The veteran has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 1,127 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions. Per Wolfe, Brissett got the majority of the starting reps at practice this week, and the team was preparing for tonight’s contest as if the 28-year-old would get the start.

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa Dealing With Broken Finger

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa is dealing with a small fracture in the middle finger of his throwing hand, and he will not start Miami’s game against the Texans today (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Jacoby Brissett will get the nod in Tagovailoa’s place.

Schefter adds in a separate tweet that the injury is not expected to keep Tagovailoa on the sidelines for very long, but because the Dolphins have a quick turnaround with a Thursday night game against the Ravens four days from now, he could end up missing two contests. Of course, he has already missed three full games this year (and most of a fourth) due to a rib injury sustained in Miami’s Week 2 loss to the Bills.

Per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com, Tagovailoa did throw in practice this week, but he had swelling and discomfort in his finger that was still giving him trouble in pregame warmups today (Twitter link). The southpaw passer will dress for the Houston game and is technically active, but that is because the Dolphins have only him and Brissett on the active roster (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). The Eagles claimed former third-stringer Reid Sinnett off waivers at the end of October, and the ‘Fins did not promote practice squad QB Jake Dolegala.

This is yet another setback in Tagovailoa’s young career. The Alabama product has posted a disappointing 86.7 quarterback rating in his 15 professional games, and his persistent injury problems are preventing him from generating any positive momentum. Factors outside of his control — like the success of Chargers QB Justin Herbert, who was selected one pick after Tagovailoa in the 2020 draft, and the constant Deshaun Watson trade rumors — have underscored that general lack of success.

Head coach Brian Flores has publicly endorsed Tagovailoa on several occasions this year, and though the 1-7 Dolphins have taken a major step backward this year after a promising 2020 campaign, a strong second half of the season from their second-year signal-caller would brighten their 2022 outlook. Now, the chances of that happening seem even slimmer.

Dolphins Activate QB Tua Tagovailoa Off IR

Tua Tagovailoa is officially back. The Dolphins have activated the quarterback off injured reserve. While Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com observes that Tagovailoa is listed as questionable, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that the QB will start tomorrow in London.

Tua hasn’t played since suffering a rib injury during Miami’s Week 2 loss to the Bills. He was placed on IR in late September, and he was designated to return from IR earlier this week. While the QB got a week of practice under his belt, it was still uncertain if the organization would fly the former first-round pick across the Atlantic Ocean in order to play the winless Jaguars in London tomorrow. Ultimately, it sounds like Tagovailoa will be under center for his squad at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The former fifth-overall pick started nine of his 10 games last season, completing 64.1-percent of his passes for 1,814 yards, 11 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. He also added another 109 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He threw a touchdown and rushed for another during the Dolphins’ Week 1 victory over the Patriots, and he completed one of his four pass attempts in Week 2 before exiting.

Jacoby Brissett has been filling in as the starting QB in Tua’s absence, throwing four touchdowns in three starts.

The Dolphins made two additional moves this morning, promoting wideouts Isaiah Ford and Kirk Merritt from the practice squad.

NFL Contract Details: Jones, Floyd, Williams, QBs

Some assorted contract details from around the NFL:

  • RB Aaron Jones, Packers: Four years, $48MM, including $20MM over first two years. $7MM roster bonus in 2023. Owed $16MM in 2023 and $12MM in 2024. Via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter.
  • LB Leonard Floyd, Rams: Four years, $64MM, including $32.5MM guaranteed. $14MM signing bonus. Salaries: $2MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $16.5MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $15.5MM (2023), $16MM (2024). Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • DE Leonard Williams, Giants: Three years, $63MM, including $45MM. $22.5MM signing bonus. Salaries: $3.5MM (2021, fully guaranteed), $19MM (2022, fully guaranteed), $18MM (2023). Cap charges: $11MM (2021), $26.5MM (2022), $25.5MM (2023). Via Manish Mehta on Twitter.
  • QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington: One year, $10MM, including $6MM guaranteed. Max value of $12MM. $6MM signing bonus. $3MM base salary, $1MM per-game roster bonuses. Up to $2MM in incentives. Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post on Twitter.
  • QB Jacoby Brissett, Dolphins: One year, $5MM, including $2.5MM guaranteed. $2.5MM signing bonus, up to $2.5MM in incentives. Via Pelissero on Twitter.
  • QB Andy Dalton, Bears: One year, $10MM. $7MM signing bonus, $3MM base salary, up to $3MM in incentives. Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter.
  • LB Carl Lawson, Jets: Three years, $45MM, including $30MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. Salaries: $6.2MM (2021, plus $7.8MM roster bonus), $15MM (2022), $15MM (2023). Cap charges: $14.3MM (2021), $15.3MM (2022), $15.3MM (2023). Up to $800K in sack incentives each year. Via Mehta on Twitter.

Dolphins To Sign Jacoby Brissett

The quarterback market is really starting to heat up now. Just moments after news broke about Andy Dalton signing with the Bears, we’ve got word of Jacoby Brissett‘s next destination.

Brissett will be signing a one-year contract with the Dolphins, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The former Patriots and Colts quarterback will sign for a guaranteed $5MM, according to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin (on Twitter). The deal can max out at $7MM.

Ryan Fitzpatrick left for Washington last night, and Miami wasted no time in finding their new veteran backup for Tua Tagovailoa. After all the controversy last season from the Fitz/Tua flips that Brian Flores initiated, it’s a little eyebrow-raising to see them go with another high profile player behind Tagovailoa.

If Tua falters in his second season, Flores will once again have another player with lots of starting experience waiting in the wings behind him. The Dolphins have sought to establish themselves as committed to Tagovailoa ever since the season ended, amid lots of speculation that they’d try to make a move for Deshaun Watson.

Brissett’s time in Indy came to an end with the Colts trading for Carson Wentz earlier this offseason. After a shoulder injury to Andrew Luck in 2017, the Colts traded with the Patriots for Brissett and he started 15 games for them that year. In 2018 he backed up Luck but after Luck’s sudden retirement, he again started 15 games for them in 2019.

His play in 2019 was subpar, causing the Colts to go out and sign Philip Rivers last offseason, once again relegating Brissett to clipboard-holding duties. In his last season as the starter he had 18 touchdowns and only six interceptions, but averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt as he was often too conservative with the ball and failed to push it down the field.

Latest On Patriots’ QB Outlook

We heard at the beginning of January that the Patriots and quarterback Cam Newton were unlikely to reunite in 2021, but a report from earlier this week suggested that the the door is not closed on a Newton return to Foxborough next season. And multiple sources tell Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that they would not be surprised to see the Pats re-sign the 2015 league MVP.

After all, HC Bill Belichick reportedly loved coaching Newton, and Volin hears that even after the 2020 campaign, Belichick has raved about the effort that Newton put forth last season. He is concerned about Newton’s arm strength — which is understandable given the 31-year-old’s disappointing passing performance during his first season with New England — but he appears open to continuing the relationship just the same. Newton, meanwhile, has been similarly candid about how much he enjoyed playing for the Pats, so if the two sides can agree to another inexpensive contract, a re-up could be in the cards.

Of course, the club has also had conversations about every quarterback in the league that could be available via trade, and the expectation remains that the Pats will select a QB in the early rounds of this year’s draft (perhaps with their No. 15 overall selection). So if Newton comes back, it obviously won’t be as anything more than a bridge option to a younger passer, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com suggests that the team could even re-sign Newton and pair him with another veteran.

If New England goes that route, one obvious option would be to re-sign longtime Patriot Brian Hoyer, as Volin notes. Volin also believes that Mitchell Trubisky could be on the Pats’ radar, and at this point in their respective careers, Trubisky certainly appears to have a higher ceiling than Newton. Some have connected the dots between New England and former Belichick draftee Jacoby Brissett, but Volin sees a Brissett signing as unlikely since he did not “click” with Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels before he was dealt to the Colts in 2017. Assuming the Patriots do end up adding two QBs this offseason, Jarrett Stidham‘s roster status will be very much in doubt.

One collegiate signal-caller that has been routinely mocked to the Patriots is Alabama QB Mac Jones. As Reiss notes in the piece linked above, former New England OC Charlie Weis was effusive in his praise of Jones, and Weis sees him as a perfect fit in the Pats’ offense. Though he is not as athletic as some of the other passers in this year’s class, Jones is more than capable of moving around in the pocket and can make accurate throws to every part of the field.

If the Pats really want Jones, though, they may have to trade up from the No. 15 pick. His stock is rising, and ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay both believe he will be off the board by the time New England is on the clock.

Colts Notes: QBs, Hilton, Pascal, Houston

The Colts are hunting for a quarterback following the retirement of Philip Rivers, but at least one individual believes the replacement is already on the roster. Jacob Eason recently told Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star that it’s “realistic as soon as possible” for him to compete for the Colts starting quarterback gig.

“I got a lot of work ahead of me, a lot of areas to improve and grow, but if the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to put my best foot forward and give you the best shot I can,” Eason said.

Following a standout career at Washington, Eason was a fourth-round pick by the Colts in this past year’s draft. While the rookie didn’t see the field during his first NFL season, he was able to garner the praise of GM Chris Ballard and former quarterbacks coach (and current offensive coordinator) Marcus Brady.

“I didn’t have that many opportunities to go out there and prove myself and show what I can do to these coaches and this team,” Eason said. “But there were moments in training camp where I was given the opportunity to go play and do my thing, and I did that.”

Let’s check out some more notes out of Indy…

  • Speaking of quarterbacks, Ballard kept the door open on retaining backup QB Jacoby Brissett. “We like Jacoby,’’ Ballard said (via Mike Chappell of Fox59.com). “We’ve got to let that work out.’’ The 28-year-old has alternated between being a starting QB and backup QB during his four seasons with Indianapolis. Following a 2019 campaign that saw Brissett complete 60.9-percent of his passes while tossing 18 touchdowns in 15 starts, the quarterback was limited to only 48 offensive snaps in 2020. The former third-round is set to hit free agency this offseason.
  • The Colts have interest in retaining a pair of free agent wideouts. Ballard said he believes veteran T.Y. Hilton can still play a significant role, and he noted the market will dictate whether the receiver returns to Indianapolis (via Kevin Bowen of 1075 The Fan on Twitter). Hilton finished the 2020 season having hauled in 56 receptions for 762 yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, Ballard hinted that the organization will be bringing back restricted free agent receiver Zach Pascal, presumably via a tender (via Bowen). Pascal had a career year for the Colts, surpassing or tying career highs in receptions (44), receiving yards (629), and touchdowns (five).
  • Ballard also attributed Justin Houston‘s future in Indianapolis to the “market,” per Bowen on Twitter. Following an eight-year stint with the Chiefs, Houston joined the Colts on a two-year, $24MM deal prior to the 2019 season. In two seasons with the Colts, the 32-year-old has collected 69 tackles and 19 sacks in 32 starts.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, Gase

Prior to being selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2016 draft, quarterback Jacoby Brissett wanted nothing to do with New England.

“I honestly did not want to be there,” Brissett said on the McCourty twins’ podcast (via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston). “When I took my visit there — my pre-draft visit — I was like, ‘Hell no. If one team drafts me, it better not be them.’

“And I’ll never forget, (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) called me on the phone on draft night and I didn’t have his number saved. That’s how bad it was. I didn’t even have his number saved in my phone. I was like, ‘Damn, man.'”

You can’t necessarily blame Brissett for feeling that way. Besides having to play behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Tom Brady, the rookie QB was also behind former second-rounder Jimmy Garoppolo on the depth chart. Due to suspensions and injuries to his teammates, Brissett ended up seeing time in three games (two starts) during his rookie campaign. The following year, the Patriots shipped Brissett to the Colts in exchange for wideout Phillip Dorsett.

“Honestly, that was my wake-up to the NFL, was being traded and then the next week, you’re out there in a game,” Brissett added. “It was like, ‘We don’t care how long you’ve been here. You’d better know how to play.”

Let’s check out some more notes from the AFC East…

  • Speaking of Patriots quarterbacks, Cam Newton is in New England to complete his physical and finalize his one-year deal, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). The reporter notes that the Patriots are confident in the quarterback’s “condition” and aren’t anticipating any issues with the physical. Injuries limited Newton to only a pair of games in 2019, forcing him to settle for a one-year, $1.75MM deal with New England.
  • If the Dolphins are forced to trim their training camp roster, then Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald points to a handful of undrafted rookies who could get cut, including offensive linemen Jonathan Hubbard, Nick Kaltmayer, and Donell Stanley. Jackson also opines that a handful of veterans could be sent packing, a group that includes offensive linemen Adam Pankey and Keaton Sutherland, quarterback Jake Rudock, fullback Chandler Cox, and receivers Ricardo Louis and Mack Hollins.
  • Connor Hughes of The Athletic did a somewhat similar exercise with the Jets, as he explored which players could be traded if New York gets off to a sluggish start. The writer points to wideout Breshad Perriman, linebacker Avery Williamson, running back Le’Veon Bell, defensive end Henry Anderson, and safety Marcus Maye as potential trade candidates.
  • While Hughes believes that Adam Gase has received some underserved criticism during his tenure in New York, the writer also can’t envision the Jets head coach keeping his job if the team finishes with seven or fewer wins. Of course, there are plenty of scenarios where the Jets struggle and Gase does keep his job, especially if quarterback Sam Darnold misses more time in 2020.