Josh Whyle

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/30/23

Here are today’s minor transactions and callups for the remainder of the Week 17 matchups:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Alualu is set to make his Lions debut after signing earlier this month. Given the injury issues Detroit has faced up front, the 36-year-old has the chance to see playing time through the close of the regular season and into the playoffs. Alualu expressed a desire to continue playing with the Steelers this offseason, but he remained a free agent deep into the year. His tenure in the Motor City could help boost his free agent stock if he wishes to remain in the league in 2024, though.

AFC Injury Roundup: Steelers, Stevenson, Titans

This has been a typical rally year for the Steelers. Anytime things look less than ideal in a season for Pittsburgh, the team tends to pick things up and lead head coach Mike Tomlin to yet another winning season. They have done so this year as a bend-but-don’t-break defense has buoyed a struggling offense to a 7-5 record. That task will likely be getting a bit more difficult with the injury news concerning starting quarterback Kenny Pickett.

According to Brooke Pryor of ESPN, Pickett sustained a right ankle injury while trying to push for the endzone today and was forced to sit out the remainder of the game. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the injury is “not good” and that Pickett “will be out for an extended period.”

Pickett was replaced in today’s loss by backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky was able to score a touchdown in relief of Pickett but was unable to lead the team to victory after inheriting a tie game on the one-yard line. Tomlin made it clear that if Pickett is unable to go, which if Dulac is correct sounds like it will be the case, Trubisky will serve as the team’s starter.

With the Steelers facing a short week before hosting the Patriots, Pickett likely won’t have time to make a quick comeback, especially if the injury is “not good.” Expect Trubisky to lead the Pittsburgh offense this Thursday night.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the AFC, starting with another note from the Steel City:

  • Steelers starting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who returned to the field today for the first time since October, was forced to leave the game for a period with a broken left hand, per Pryor. The break reportedly kept him from being able to grab the football, but he was able to cast and wrap the hand during the game’s two weather delays and finish the game with the injury. If the team feels it’s safe, Fitzpatrick may not need to miss any additional time as he can simply play with the cast, as he did today.
  • Speaking of the Thursday night turnaround, the Patriots are in danger of having to face the Steelers without starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson reportedly sprained his ankle today, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and will undergo an MRI in order to determine how long he may be sidelined. Even if it’s a fairly minor sprain, the short week looms large for his availability. Backup rusher Ezekiel Elliott could find himself in a bigger role or even starting in Pittsburgh this coming week.
  • The Titans saw two players suffer scary knee injuries in today’s loss to the Colts. The two players who went down were star defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and backup tight end Josh Whyle. While the injuries were enough to sideline each player for a bit, beat writer Paul Kuharsky confirms that neither injury is season-ending.

AFC South Rumors: Titans, Rader, Perryman

The tight ends room in Tennessee is going to look very different from recent years, according to Titans senior writer/editor Jim Wyatt. In addition to a new instructor, as former running backs coach Tony Dews takes over the position coaching duties, some main contributors from the past few years are no longer present.

With Austin Hooper and Geoff Swaim both hitting the free agent market this past spring, second-year tight end Chig Okonkwo has inherited a massive leading role. Okonkwo already put himself on the map as a rookie, outgaining Hooper with 450 receiving yards, good for second on the team. His three receiving touchdowns led all tight ends in Tennessee last year and were also good for second on the team. Already expected to take a step forward in 2023, he’ll receive a lot more targets with Hooper now in Las Vegas. Swaim, the team’s former primary blocking tight end, was also not re-signed, so the Titans will be looking for Okonkwo to step up as a blocker, as well.

Behind Okonkwo, the team signed Trevon Wesco, who has served as a backup tight end and special teamer for the Jets and Bears, previously. They also drafted Josh Whyle out of Cincinnati in the fifth round this year. Both should provide a bit of depth behind Okonkwo, and while Whyle was a strong redzone target for the Bearcats in college, neither tight end threatens to take many snaps away from Okonkwo.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of the AFC South:

  • The Titans have been known to respect the tight end position and are certainly a candidate to keep four on the roster. With Okonkwo, Wesco, and Whyle likely safely on the 53-man roster, who might end up snagging that last roster spot? The likeliest pick would be Kevin Rader who started two games in 14 appearances for the Titans last year. He didn’t record any offensive stats in 2022, but he was a strong special teams contributor and a solid extra blocker on the line. His competition for the potential roster spot will be former XFL player Alize Mack, Justin Rigg, whom they signed to a reserve/futures contract at the end of last season, and Thomas Odukoya, the team’s International Pathway program addition from the Netherlands.
  • After two strong years with the Raiders, veteran linebacker Denzel Perryman landed with the Texans. Only a year removed from a Pro Bowl season, it was a bit of a surprise to see his newest contract only amount to a $2.6MM base salary. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, Perryman expected a much bigger free agent market for himself before settling for his deal in Houston. The Raiders ended up replacing him with Robert Spillane, a former backup in Pittsburgh, paying Spillane with a two-year contract that has a $3.5MM average. So, why the disappointing return for Perryman? Perryman is an all-around better linebacker than Spillane, but he’s older and has missed at least five games in three of the last six years. Perryman’s new contract includes a $900K incentive based on playing time that would end up paying out $3.5MM if he can stay healthy.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/11/23

With many rookie minicamps set to start tomorrow, teams were busy today inking draft picks to contracts. We’ve compiled those signings below:

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

  • DT Cameron Young (fourth round, Mississippi State)
  • C Olusegun Oluwatimi (fifth round, Michigan)
  • S Jerrick Reed II (sixth round, New Mexico)

Tennessee Titans

  • TE Josh Whyle (fifth round, Cincinnati)
  • OT Jaelyn Duncan (sixth round, Maryland)
  • WR Colton Dowell (seventh round, Tennessee-Martin)