Kalen Ballage

Packers Notes: Rodgers, Bakhtiari, Jenkins

The Packers are hoping a pair of rookie wideouts will help replace the production of former receiver Davante Adams. Second-round pick Christian Watson and fourth-round pick Romeo Doubs will be expected to contribute during the 2022 campaign, and while the duo obviously doesn’t have the expertise of a veteran wideout, quarterback Aaron Rodgers understands GM Brian Gutekunst‘s decision to pivot toward youth.

“We’re still a draft-and-develop team,” Rodgers told SI.com’s Albert Breer. “I know we say that a lot; that’s most of the league, they’d like to be like that. There are less teams like the old Washington [teams] when they were trying to buy a team in free agency in many years. You’d like to draft guys and develop them and give them second contracts in-house. But there are needs and there are opportunities. I’ve always felt like adding one or two veteran guys at or around the minimum can really pay huge dividends in important spots.

“We’ve relied on young guys for much of my career. There are pros and cons to both those things. But I like Brian and his staff, and I think everybody in the building, myself included, has tried to focus on growing a little bit more and communicating a little bit more.”

Rodgers mentions a team’s need for cheap veterans, and Breer notes that the Packers are still open to adding another receiver. Once Watson returns to the practice field, Green Bay’s young duo will join Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Randall Cobb atop the depth chart.

More notes out of Green Bay:

  • With Tom Brady turning 45 last week, Rodgers was asked if he could envision himself playing in the NFL until that age. “No, I don’t,” Rodgers answered definitively (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). Rodgers is set to turn 39 in December.
  • During a recent podcast appearance, Rodgers admitted to using a psychedelic called ayahuasca. According to Peter King of Football Morning in America, the NFL won’t be retroactively punishing Rodgers for use of the plant, especially since he didn’t test positive for a banned substance. Both the league and the NFLPA confirmed to PFT’s Mike Florio that ayahuasca is “neither a prohibited compound under the substance-abuse policy nor a PED.” As Florio notes, there is some precedent for the NFL going after a player who admits to using “a given substance,” with the league previously attempting to put Randy Moss in a drug-test program after he admitted to smoking marijuana “every blue moon.”
  • Some good news on the injury front for the Packers. Gutekunst told reporters that he’s hopeful offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins will both return from their respective injuries early on during the 2022 campaign. “They are both doing really, really well. I think they both have a shot to play early in the season,” Gutekunst said (h/t to Zach Kruse of PackersWire). “They are progressing very well.” Bakhtiari tore his ACL in December of 2020, and he was active for only one January contest during the 2021 campaign. Jenkins tore his ACL during Week 11 of the 2021 season. Both offensive linemen were placed on PUP to begin training camp, and there’s probably little chance we see them during the preseason.
  • The Packers had in a handful of RBs for a workout earlier this week. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter), Dexter Williams, Kalen Ballage, Jaylen Samuels, Stevie Scott, and Calvin Turner auditioned for the team. Green Bay ended up signing Williams earlier today.

Steelers Sign RB Kalen Ballage

The Steelers announced that they have signed running back Kalen Ballage to a one-year deal. Ballage, entering his fourth pro season, split the 2020 campaign between the Jets and Chargers.

After being drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, Ballage has appeared in 35 games across multiple stops. All in all, he has 629 yards off of 201 carries with seven touchdowns. He’s also tacked on 52 grabs for 285 yards. His best year came as a rookie — in an admittedly small sample size of 36 carries, the Arizona State product averaged 5.3 yards per tote.

The Steelers finished last in rushing yards per attempt last year, so they’re expected to prioritize RBs in the draft next month. Ballage won’t be the main ball-carrier in Pittsburgh, but he can offer support for the lagging group.

We’ve got to be a lot better in running,” team president Art Rooney II said recently. “Certainly we don’t want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers being last in the league in rushing again ever. I think it’s something our coaches are focused on and we’ll be looking for ways to improve in the draft. It’s something we’ve got to fix, and we are working on it.”

Chargers Place Justin Jackson On IR

Justin Jackson will join Austin Ekeler on the Chargers’ injured reserve list. The Bolts placed Jackson on IR Saturday and promoted Kalen Ballage from their practice squad.

A knee injury will sideline Jackson and continue to change the Chargers’ backfield plans. Ballage played extensively last week after Jackson went down early. He, Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope will be Los Angeles’ running backs in Miami.

Ekeler remains on the Bolts’ IR because of a severe hamstring injury. No rumors have surfaced indicating his return is near. A 2018 seventh-round pick out of Northwestern, Jackson stepped in to replace Ekeler alongside Kelley and has averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his third NFL season.

Ballage gained 69 yards on 15 carries last week, doing so after Jackson went down and while Pope was out due to a concussion. Pope practiced fully throughout this week. The Bolts signed Ballage after the Jets waived him earlier this year. This will mark a return trip to Miami for Ballage, a Dolphins fourth-round pick in 2018. Ballage largely struggled with Miami, and the team ended up cutting him after an attempt to trade him failed this summer.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/7/20

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Jets Release RB Kalen Ballage

Kalen Ballage‘s stint with the Jets didn’t end up lasting too long. New York is releasing the running back, the team announced Monday afternoon.

The Jets originally agreed to a trade with the Dolphins to land Ballage at the end of August, then canceled the deal after he failed his physical. Then they signed him as a free agent a few weeks ago, and he appeared in each of their last three games. He played a sizable role on passing downs, and had five catches for 44 yards in Week 3 against the Colts. Ballage was familiar with head coach Adam Gase from their time in Miami together.

His release is a good sign that the Jets expect Le’Veon Bell to be ready to return from his hamstring injury this week when they take on the Cardinals. A fourth-round pick out of Arizona State in 2018, Ballage seemed decent enough as a rookie before putting up dreadful numbers last year.

In 12 games and six starts in 2019, he mustered only 135 yards on 74 carries, good for a pitiful 1.8 yards per attempt. Still only 24, he should get another shot from someone else soon.

Jets Place WR Denzel Mims On IR

Denzel Mims‘ Jets debut will not happen until at least October. The Jets placed their second-round pick on IR Tuesday.

The Baylor product suffered a hamstring injury during training camp and missed Week 1. He will not be eligible to return until Week 5. The Jets placed Le’Veon Bell on IR as well and are signing running back Kalen Ballage.

Mims came to New York as one of the many highly coveted wideouts in this year’s historically deep receiver draft. But he has missed extensive time due to injury after the pandemic-altered offseason. Tuesday’s move will further delay Mims’ progress in his initial Jets campaign.

Ballage will rejoin Adam Gase, doing so after a rare Dolphins-Jets trade was nixed in late August. Ballage failed his physical due to a hamstring malady, leading to the Dolphins waiving the 2018 draftee. Ballage will join a Jets backfield that is down Bell and fourth-round rookie La’Mical Perine.

The Jets also placed linebacker Blake Cashman on IR. Cashman left Sunday’s game with an injury and will also be out until at least October.

Jets Cancel Trade For Dolphins’ Kalen Ballage

Kalen Ballage isn’t going to the Jets after all. Ballage failed his physical with a hamstring injury, prompting the Jets to nix their trade with the Dolphins (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). 

[RELATED: Bell, Gase Still At Odds?]

The Jets are still intrigued by Ballage’s skillset and Rapoport hears that he could circle back to Gang Green once he’s healthy. But, for now, he’ll revert to the Dolphins, who are expected to cut him. The Jets, meanwhile, may have a little extra urgency in their running back search after rookie RB La’Mical Perine injured his ankle during practice on Sunday. If it’s more than a mild sprain, the Jets will need some additional support behind top rushers Le’Veon Bell and Frank Gore.

In other Jets news, the drama between Bell and Adam Gase does not appear to be over. Bell took issue with the head coach pulling him from a scrimmage and the veteran running back has not impressed thus far in training camp.

Dolphins Trade Kalen Ballage To Jets

Earlier today, the Dolphins toldd Kalen Ballage that he was getting cut. Instead, they’re trading the running back to the rival Jets, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. In exchange, Miami will receive a conditional late-round draft choice.

It’s a situation that plays out often in the NFL. Before formally releasing a player, teams will often leak word of their impending release to reporters. That sometimes prompts teams further down the waiver wire to make a call. In this case, it worked out for the Dolphins, who will be receiving something, rather than nothing, for their former fourth-round pick.

In an admittedly small sample size of 36 carries, Ballage averaged 5.3 yards per attempt as a rookie. He was far less impressive last season, but the Jets could find a role for him behind starter Le’Veon Bell and RB2 Frank Gore.

Dolphins Cut Kalen Ballage

The Dolphins are set to release running back Kalen Ballage, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Ballage had lots of hype as a rookie in 2018, but the former fourth-round pick managed just 135 yards off of 74 carries last year. 

[RELATED: Dolphins’ Vince Biegel Tears Achilles]

Ballage, a taller-than-average RB at 6’3″, averaged 4.4 yards per carry while at Arizona State. As a rookie, he showed promise as a supporting cast member behind Kenyan Drake and veteran Frank Gore. In an admittedly small sample size of 36 carries, Ballage averaged 5.3 yards per attempt. Unfortunately, he regressed in 2019 and failed to make significant strides as a receiver.

Now, the league’s 31 other teams will have an opportunity to claim Ballage off of the waiver wire. If he is not picked up in the next 24 hours, the 24-year-old will be free to sign with any club of his choosing.