Jason Pierre-Paul

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.

Bucs Notes: Brady, JPP, Brown

There are several high-profile Buccaneers that have undergone offseason surgery already. According to head coach Bruce Arians, five-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady has gone under the knife to clean up the knee issue we heard about several weeks ago (Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe). Though Brady will not be ready to participate in team drills until June, the fact that Tampa is willing to discuss an extension with him suggests the club is not particularly worried about his prognosis.

Meanwhile, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul underwent a knee surgery of his own today, as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com passes along. JPP had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee in July, and he landed on the injury report throughout the 2020 season as a result of the injury. Still, he didn’t miss a game and led the Bucs with 9.5 regular season sacks, so he will head into a contract year with plenty of momentum and, hopefully, a clean bill of health.

On a related note, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that RB Ronald Jones recently had a pin removed from his broken left pinky finger, which required surgery in December. Jones played through the injury and finished off a successful third pro season. After a disappointing rookie year, Jones is living up to his status as a former second-rounder and, like JPP, has a good chance to set himself up for a big payday if he can replicate his 2020 performance in 2021.

Here are a few more notes on the defending champs:

  • As you know by now, the Bucs have a number of big-name free agents, which could make this offseason a difficult one for GM Jason Licht to navigate. The team has made it clear that it wants to bring back players like WR Chris Godwin and LB Lavonte David, and it sounds like Godwin might be willing to offer Tampa a hometown discount. Fellow wideout Mike Evans has also expressed a willingness to take a paycut, but Arians isn’t sure that outside FAs will be willing to take less than market value just for the opportunity to play with Brady and the Bucs. “Dollars still talk,” the 68-year-old HC said (Twitter link via Greg Auman of The Athletic). Because of how many in-house priorities Tampa has, Arians suggested his club might not be especially active in the free agent market anyway.
  • In addition to Evans’ willingness to make a personal sacrifice to keep the band together, there are a number of other players who are open to restructuring their own deals, per Arians (Twitter link via Stroud). Such restructures would not result in less money for those players, but it would open up more cap space for the Bucs to retain most, if not all, of their top FAs.
  • Another free agent the Bucs want to keep, Antonio Brown, obviously has off-field matters to tend to. Britney Taylor’s lawsuit against Brown is set for trial in December, and as Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic writes, Taylor wants to subpoena copies of all documentation the Bucs have related to Brown (she is subpoenaing Brown’s three former teams as well). Taylor is not seeking to depose any team executives, and she needs court approval to send the subpoenas.

Jason Pierre-Paul Undergoes Surgery

Jason Pierre-Paul will be on the mend for a bit. The Buccaneers edge defender underwent knee surgery recently, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.

This was an arthroscopic procedure, and while it may sideline JPP for the start of Bucs training camp — should camps begin later this month as scheduled — he should be expected to recover in around a month.

The 31-year-old edge rusher has dealt with extensive injury trouble but has persisted to play 10 NFL seasons. He managed to rebound from the 2015 fireworks accident, which left permanent damage to his right hand, to record 15.5 sacks between the 2016-17 seasons. Despite playing just 10 games last season due to a fractured neck sustained in May 2019, JPP returned to post 8.5 sacks. He has 21 in two Tampa Bay slates.

The Bucs re-signed Pierre-Paul in March, giving him a two-year, $25MM deal to return alongside the franchise-tagged Shaquil Barrett. Tampa Bay is scheduled to begin camp July 28.

Contract Details: JPP, Boston, Waynes

A new batch of contract details to pass along, all via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter):

  • LB Jason Pierre-Paul, Buccaneers: two year extension. $25MM, including $20MM guaranteed. Salaries: $6.5MM, guaranteed (2020), $12.5MM, with $7.5MM guaranteed for injury (2021).
  • Tre Boston, Panthers: three years, $18MM. $8MM signing bonus. Salaries: $1.16MM (2020), $2.25MM (2021), $3.69MM (2022). $1MM third day 2020 roster bonus, $1MM third day 2022 roster bonus.
  • CB Trae Waynes, Bengals: three years, $42MM. $15MM signing bonus. Salaries: $5MM (2020), $8.4MM (2021), $10.4MM (2022).
  • DT Linval Joseph, Chargers: two years, $17MM. $8MM signing bonus. Salaries: $1.5MM (2020), $5.5MM (2021). $1MM annual playtime, sacks, Pro Bowl incentive.
  • OL Wes Schweitzer, Redskins: three years, $13.5MM. $4MM guaranteed, $3MM signing bonus. Salaries: $1MM guaranteed (2020), $3.49MM (2021), $4.49MM (2022).
  • LB A.J. Klein, Bills: three years, $18MM. $9.7MM guaranteed, $1.2MM signing bonus. Salaries: $2.2MM guaranteed (2020), $4.1MM, with $3.2MM guaranteed (2021), $4.2MM (2022).
  • OL Tyler Shatley, Jaguars: signed. One-year, $1.511MM deal with $600K guaranteed. $1.375MM salary for 2020.