Jason Pierre-Paul

Packers Eyeing Veteran Edge Addition?

The Packers have made a number of changes to their edge rush group this offseason, but another addition may be in the cards. The team “might be looking for upgrades” at the position, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky

Green Bay lost Za’Darius Smith in free agency to the Ravens, it appeared at first, but he ultimately signed with the Vikings. With the two-time Pro Bowler gone, it became increasingly important that the Packers had re-signed fellow veteran pass rusher Preston Smith at the onset of free agency.

The latter is set to maintain his starting role in 2022. He will be paired with 2019 first-rounder Rashan Gary, who took a significant step forward last season. While that tandem should be in line to replicate their playing time and production from 2021, depth has been a talking point throughout the offseason.

To little surprise, Green Bay added Kingsley Enagbare in the fifth round of the draft to help address that need. The South Carolina product never had more than six sacks in a single college season, but he is listed in Demovsky’s projected depth chart as the No. 3 edge rusher on the roster. Another name included is that of Randy Ramsey, who played almost exclusively on special teams in 2020 as a rookie, and missed the entire 2021 campaign due to an ankle injury.

With very little experience behind Smith and Gary, a veteran signing would make plenty of sense. Some of the top free agents still available include Jason Pierre-PaulTrey Flowers and, depending on the outcome regarding his UFA tenderJustin Houston. Green Bay currently ranks in the top-10 in the league in cap space, so a short-term, low-cost addition would also be financially feasible. Whether they choose to make one in the coming days or weeks could be one of the most important roster decisions still facing the team.

Jason Pierre-Paul Visits Ravens

Free agent pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul is still available and looking for his next NFL home. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Pierre-Paul took another step toward that goal today, taking a visit to Baltimore. 

Pierre-Paul, 33, spent the first eight years of his career in New York, after the Giants selected him with their first pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. He saw early success with the Giants, being named a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in his second NFL season after finishing second in the league in tackles for loss (23.0) and fourth in the league in sacks (16.5).

In 2018, New York traded Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers in exchange for a third-round pick and a swap of fourth-round picks. He immediately outplayed his trade capital, leading the team in sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (16.0) during his first year in Tampa Bay.

Over the course of a 12-year career, Pierre-Paul has totaled 91.5 sacks and 122.0 tackles for loss. He’s had his share of injuries throughout his career. Some were natural football-injuries that required surgery, but, twice, Pierre-Paul experienced substantial injuries outside of football that nearly cost him his career. His most recent season saw him miss time due to a torn rotator cuff that he called “the worst injury of his career,” according to Luke Easterling of USA Today.

Baltimore is certainly in the market for a veteran pass rusher. The Ravens return Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh at the top of their depth chart, with the former working to come back from a torn Achilles injury suffered in Week 18 of last season. They’ve seen limited results out of three-year pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson and 2021 fifth-round pick Daelin Hayes only saw one game of action last season. The Ravens did draft Michigan’s David Ojabo in the second round of this year’s Draft, but a torn Achilles suffered during his pro day is likely to hold him out for much of his rookie season.

Enter: Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul has an extensive pass rushing resume to bring to Baltimore. While his recent injury may prevent him from being an immediate upgrade over Bowser or Oweh, his presence would give the Ravens some much-needed depth in their pass-rushing rotation.

Ravens Seeking Veteran Edge Rush Addition?

This time of the offseason is rife with teams looking to round out their depth charts with available veterans who can help fill remaining roster holes. In the case of the Ravens, that could lead them to be players on the edge rusher market. 

[RELATED: Ravens Eyeing Veteran WRs?]

Jeff Zrebiec of the Athletic (subscription required) writes that Baltimore will “likely still sign a free agent pass rusher”. The team has already added a number of notable players on defense recently, including veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller. Their front seven could stand to be bolstered further, though.

The Ravens currently have Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh at the top of their depth chart at the outside linebacker position. The former stepped into a larger role after the departures of Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue last offseason, and responded by putting up career highs in sacks (seven) and tackles (59). However, he suffered a torn Achilles in the season finale, putting his Week 1 availability in question.

That would place an even heavier burden on Oweh, who flashed potential with a five-sack rookie campaign, and the team’s other young options at the position, Jaylon FergusonDaelin Hayes and, potentially at some point this season, David Ojabo. As a result, it came as little surprise when general manager Eric DeCosta said in April that the team wasn’t finished making additions in the edge department. However, the team didn’t select a pass rusher in the draft other than the injured Ojabo, leaving the June free agent market as the last realistic avenue to add to the unit.

With respect to veterans, the likeliest move could be a reunion with Justin Houston. The Ravens placed the rarely-used UFA tender on the 33-year-old last month, pointing to another low-cost, one-year deal being possible in the near future. The longtime Chief totalled 4.5 sacks in 15 games, providing an experienced presence to an otherwise young unit. If not Houston, other options for the Ravens to target include Trey Flowers and Jason Pierre-Paul. By training camp, the team could very well have signed one of those three, or another edge rusher, to add depth to a position group facing a number of questions.

NFC Rumors: Cowboys, Falcons, Saints, Trask

Going into the 2022 offseason, the Cowboys knew that they needed to bolster their defensive line. Early reports rumored that Dallas had interest in adding a former rival in Jason Pierre-Paul, who spent eight years as a Giant before going to Tampa Bay.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Cowboys’ interest in Pierre-Paul seems to be waning, as Dallas believes they have “at least six capable edge rushers.” In the offseason, they added Dante Fowler through free agency and drafted Sam Williams out of Ole Miss last month. They’ll find themselves in the pass rushing rotation with the likes of Dorance Armstrong, Tarell Basham, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Chauncey Golston.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC, starting with a few more rumors from Jeremy Fowler’s article:

  • Atlanta selected Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round, over every quarterback in the Draft, besides Kenny Pickett who was the only passer off the board at that point. Fowler reports that Ridder’s biggest competition for the pick was Liberty’s Malik Willis, but the Falcons felt that Willis lacked the signature moments at Liberty, even though he had incredible talent. Ridder, on the other hand, had a more complete body of work, in their opinion. It didn’t hurt that Ridder reportedly came to interviews with a plan on how to unseat a veteran starting quarterback wherever he landed.
  • Another team that was long rumored to be looking at quarterbacks in the Draft, New Orleans instead drafted wide receiver Chris Olave with their first round pick. According to Fowler, the Saints had no plans to draft a quarterback. They had Olave in their sights and, upon seeing Drake London and Garrett Wilson come off the board at Nos. 8 and 10 overall, they knew they needed to make a move to ensure Olave would be available. New Orleans apparently did an outstanding job of keeping their plans a complete mystery to the rest of the NFL.
  • With Tom Brady coming out of retirement to quarterback the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay has been evaluating their backup quarterback position. According to Greg Auman of The Athletic, Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen doesn’t see Kyle Trask competing with Blaine Gabbert for the backup job. This shouldn’t put Trask’s roster spot in jeopardy, though. Gabbert is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, but the plan for Trask was always for a post-Brady team. Tampa Bay is happy with Trask’s progress so far and will likely keep developing the 24-year-old for the future.

Cowboys Interested In Jason Pierre-Paul

After DE Randy Gregory elected to sign with the Broncos and leave the Cowboys at the altar, Dallas suddenly had a major pass-rushing void to fill. The team’s Von Miller pursuit was unsuccessful, so it pivoted to Dante Fowler, agreeing to terms with the former No. 3 overall pick earlier this week.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, the Cowboys may not be done and may be considering multiple additions to their contingent of edge defenders (Twitter link). Specifically, Fowler reports that Dallas is interested in free agent Jason Pierre-Paul.

Now 33, JPP has long been one of the best pass rushers in the game. Selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2010 draft, he earned two Pro Bowl nods and a First Team All-Pro selection during his time with Big Blue, which shipped him to the Buccaneers in a March 2018 trade. Over his first three seasons in Tampa, Pierre-Paul averaged over 10 sacks per year, and he secured a third Pro Bowl berth in 2020, the Bucs’ championship-winning campaign.

The 2021 season, however, represented a step back for Pierre-Paul. Hampered by a broken finger and a torn rotator cuff that required offseason surgery, he managed just 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in 12 contests. That was a disappointing platform year, and it could explain why this is the first time we have heard of interest in his services.

On the other hand, the addition of a player like Pierre-Paul to a group of QB hunters that also includes DeMarcus Lawrence — who recently agreed to a new contract — Fowler, and Micah Parsons would help to soften the blow of Gregory’s defection. However, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News cautions that nothing is imminent with respect to JPP at this time (Twitter link).

After Za’Darius Smith agreed to terms with the Ravens, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reported (via Twitter) that Dallas had discussions with Smith. Now that the two-time Pro Bowler pulled a Gregory and chose not to reunite with Baltimore, the Cowboys could circle back to him, but that is only speculation at this point.

Jason Pierre-Paul Had Offseason Shoulder Surgery

Pending unrestricted free agent Jason Pierre-Paul could very well be headed somewhere other than Tamp Bay. His suitors will be glad to know that the veteran could be in better shape, from a health perspective, than he was in 2021. As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, he had shoulder surgery earlier this week. 

The 33-year-old suggested that he would likely be exploring the open market, raising the possibility of his four-year tenure with the Buccaneers coming to an end. As he did in that instance, he took to Instagram to provide an update on his status, vowing to recover in full for next season.

After being named a Pro Bowler for the third time in his career in 2020, Pierre-Paul took a step back last season. Hampered by not only the shoulder issue, but also a broken finger, he managed just 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 12 contests. He added an additional half-sack and a fumble recovery in the postseason.

Even with missing five games in 2021, durability hasn’t generally been a problem for the 12-year veteran. If he is able to recover in full, he could provide solid production to any number of pass-rush needy teams in free agency, giving him a chance to build back his value, not to mention earn a third Super Bowl ring.

 

Jason Pierre-Paul Leaving In Free Agency?

With Tom Brady retired and a slew of other high-end players set to hit free agency, the Buccaneers’ roster is likely to look very different in 2022. One of the veterans of the team’s dominant defense, Jason Pierre-Paul, could be on his way out of Tampa Bay. 

In an Instagram post, the 33-year-old said in part, “wherever I am next year you gone get the same me” (Twitter link via Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times). That would certainly suggest he is, at a minimum, willing to look at other options on the free agent market.

Pierre-Paul was a Pro Bowler in 2020 for the Super Bowl champion Bucs, but had a much quieter year in 2021. Dealing with a broken finger and torn rotator cuff throughout the campaign, he recorded 24 fewer tackles (31), seven fewer sacks (2.5) and three fewer forced fumbles (one) than the previous year.

If he does depart, a starting spot would be opened up for Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. The 2021 first round pick flashed potential in a rotational role in his rookie season, recording four sacks and five tackles for loss. With fellow starter Shaquil Barrett already under contract, moving on to Tryon-Shoyinka would not only be a nod to his upside, but also a way to save cap space at the position.

At his age, and coming off of an injury-plagued season, Pierre-Paul is unlikely to command a contract like the two-year, $25MM extension he signed in 2020. Still, he would represent an accomplished edge rusher with two Super Bowls to his name for any outside teams interested in his services.

Bucs Designate Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, Giovani Bernard For Return

After sustaining several injury subtractions down the stretch, the Buccaneers are preparing to deploy a healthier squad for their first-round playoff matchup. The defending champs designated Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard for return from IR on Wednesday.

David has been down since suffering a foot injury during the Bucs’ Week 15 loss to the Saints, one of a few key Bucs who did not make it past that night. The veteran linebacker has spent the past three weeks on IR but is eligible to return for Sunday’s Eagles tilt. Also seeing an ankle malady sideline him earlier in the campaign, David missed five games during the regular season due to injury.

Joining David in going down in that Saints shutout loss, Fournette returned to practice and is expected to play Sunday. Fournette enjoyed a bounce-back season, rushing for 812 yards (on 4.5 per carry) in 14 games, before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 15. The playoffs stand to be pivotal for Fournette, who is on the cusp of what should be a better free agent market. The former top-five pick played a vital role for the Bucs during last year’s postseason, totaling 448 yards from scrimmage and scoring four touchdowns.

Bernard has been down a bit longer, missing that Saints tilt and having not played since Week 14. One of the few key newcomers for Tampa Bay this season, Bernard has not played much of a role for his second NFL team. The longtime Bengal has totaled just 181 scrimmage yards in 12 games.

The Bucs activated Shaquil Barrett from IR on Tuesday, and Bruce Arians also expects Jason Pierre-Paul to return after a rotator cuff tear sidelined him for the past four games. While Richard Sherman is done for the season, the Bucs stand to be a much healthier squad when they play their 18th game this season.

Latest On Buccaneers’ Injury Situation

The Buccaneers will be finishing the regular season with a number of key pieces missing. According to an injury update from ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay will be without their top two pass rushers, top two running backs and, in all likelihood, an experienced piece of the secondary. 

Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett tested positive for COVID-19, which added another reason for him to miss Sunday’s game against Carolina. He is still recovering from a sprained MCL and ACL suffered during the team’s Week 16 win over the Panthers. In 15 games, Barrett has 51 tackles and a team-leading 10 sacks. His pass-rushing partner, Jason Pierre-Paul, will also be out due to a torn rotator cuff that’s kept him out since Week 15. Pierre-Paul has registered 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 12 games in 2021. In their absences, look for Anthony Nelson and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to start.

Meanwhile, backup running back Ronald Jones will be out after suffering an ankle injury in Week 17’s comeback win over the Jets. Head Coach Bruce Arians said, “we’ll have to wait and see on [Jones’] ankle because he can run straight but he still can’t cut”. The 24-year old had a walking boot on earlier in the week, but not any longer. Jones has 428 rushing yards and four touchdowns this season. Starter Leonard Fournette, in the meantime, remains on IR, but Arians is optimistic he will be ready for the playoffs. The Bucs would sorely miss his 1,266 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns if doesn’t get activated in time. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is expected to play, and likely start, in Week 18.

Finally, cornerback Richard Sherman is listed as doubtful with an Achilles injury. After suffering a grade 2 calf sprain in November, the 33-year old came back in Week 14. However, he has missed two of three games since, and continued a downward trend in terms of playing time. After being on the field for nearly every down in his first two games as a Buc, Sherman has played a total of 29 snaps since, registering 11 tackles and one interception. Despite the news, Tampa Bay’s secondary is healthy overall.

The Buccaneers head into the final week of the season as the NFC’s third seed, where they will likely end up. They could move up to second, however, with a win over the 5-11 Panthers, along with a 49ers win over the Rams. Regardless of where they finish, though, health will be a huge question mark as they try to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

 

Injury Notes: Steelers, JPP, Jets, Mailata

After suffering a pectoral injury in Week 2, Ben Roethlisberger is not in jeopardy of missing Week 3. The Steelers will have their 18th-year quarterback against the Bengals. Big Ben returned to full practice Friday. He will not have his top receiver available, however. Although Diontae Johnson‘s late-game injury was not believed to be serious, Mike Tomlin pushed back on the prospect the third-year wideout would quickly surmount his knee problem. The Steelers have declared their leading receiver out for Sunday. The third-year pass catcher has run into myriad injury issues as a pro, missing games or parts of games with several maladies last year. The Steelers have contract-year wideout James Washington set to step in as a full-timer.

Here is the latest from the injury front going into the season’s third Sunday:

  • In addition to being unlikely to have Antonio Brown available, the Buccaneers will be down Jason Pierre-Paul against the Rams. The 11th-year pass rusher will miss Week 3 with hand and shoulder injuries; he did not practice this week. Tampa Bay will be set to use first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka more extensively in L.A.
  • Andre Dillard looks likely to return to the Eagles‘ starting lineup for the first time since November 2019. Recently extended left tackle Jordan Mailata is likely to miss Monday night’s game against the Cowboys, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. A knee injury is expected to keep the ex-rugby player out of Philly’s lineup, though Garafolo notes the team does not view the setback as serious. Mailata suffered the injury in practice this week, E.J. Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer adds. Dillard missed extensive camp time due to a knee injury and has not played an offensive snap since 2019.
  • The Jets will have Zach Wilson in uniform against the Broncos, but the rookie quarterback is playing through a groin injury. The No. 2 overall pick sustained the injury during the Jets’ Week 1 loss to the Panthers, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Wilson practiced fully this week, but Howe adds the BYU product went through an MRI recently. Although Wilson might not be in danger of missing time, this is certainly an issue to monitor.
  • The Packers are likely to be severely shorthanded on their O-line in San Francisco. Elgton Jenkins, who has filled in for PUP list-stationed David Bakhtiari at left tackle, is doubtful to face the 49ers because of an ankle issue. Green Bay will likely be forced to use its third left tackle option against the 49ers, who feature Nick Bosa as their primary blindside rusher. The Packers signed Dennis Kelly this offseason, giving them a potential option at right tackle in the event they slide right-side starter Billy Turner to left tackle.
  • Between their practice squad and active roster, the 49ers have seven running backs. That total balloons to nine if Raheem Mostert (IR) and Jeff Wilson (PUP) are included, and San Francisco’s backfield will be missing more pieces Sunday. Due to injuries sustained in Week 2, Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty are respectively doubtful and out for Sunday night’s game. On the bright side, third-round rookie Trey Sermon has cleared concussion protocol. Despite beginning the season as a healthy scratch, Sermon should be expected to start, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets. The 49ers have Trenton Cannon and recent addition Jacques Patrick, an XFL alum the 49ers added off the Bengals’ practice squad, on their active roster and Kerryon Johnson and Josh Hokit on their practice squad.