Lester Cotton

Dolphins C Connor Williams Out For Season

The Dolphins continue to absorb blows along their offensive line. They will lose a second starter to a significant malady. Connor Williams is set to miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, Mike McDaniel said Tuesday.

Williams will join left guard Isaiah Wynn as Miami blockers set to rehab long-term injuries. It is not known if Wynn is done for the season, but early indications have signaled that is the case. Williams, who is in a contract year, left Monday night’s game early.

This is a brutal setback for Williams, who was playing out a two-year, $14MM contract. The former Cowboys draftee had angled for a raise this offseason, but the Dolphins did not buckle. Williams missed offseason time but ultimately returned on the deal he signed in 2022. Going down with a severe knee injury this late in the season will undoubtedly affect the former second-round pick’s 2024 market, as the Texas alum’s rehab effort will run up to, and potentially beyond, Week 1 of next season.

McDaniel said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the Dolphins will consider signing a center. Liam Eichenberg, who has bounced across the Dolphins’ offensive front during his three-year career, is set to move into the role on a fill-in basis. Eichenberg, whom Wynn beat out for the left guard job in training camp, has worked as a utility player this season — for a Miami O-line unable to keep its starting five healthy — before becoming a full-time starter once again.

Williams, 26, had missed four games earlier this season but had started the past five. Converted from Texas tackle to Cowboys guard to Dolphins center, Williams had become an important part of Miami’s top-flight offense. The Dolphins finished their Week 14 game without four of their original O-line starters, with Robert Hunt out after aggravating a hamstring injury and Terron Armstead nursing his latest ailment. Armstead, who suffered a quad injury during the Dolphins’ Black Friday game, returned for the team’s Week 13 matchup against the Commanders; the Dolphins held him out Monday due to knee and ankle injuries. Armstead, whom the team already activated from IR, has missed eight games this season. Miami’s second-stringer-laden front allowed five sacks in a 28-27 loss.

The recently extended Austin Jackson, who has settled in at right tackle, has been the only Dolphin O-lineman to start every game this season. Jackson entered the season after missing 15 games last year. Kendall Lamm started in place of Armstead, while Lester Cotton was in for Hunt. Cotton has a direct path to the starting lineup at guard, while McDaniel said he is the team’s backup center presently. Eichenberg has made one career start at center — in Week 4 of this season — but has played every position up front for the Dolphins since being drafted in the 2021 second round.

Centers who either just retired (Chase Roullier, Justin Britt) or have been connected to doing so (Rodney Hudson, Ben Jones) represent the biggest names available in free agency. The Cardinals and Titans, respectively, released Hudson and Jones this offseason. Jones, 34, had signed four contracts with the Titans and had missed just one game in his 11-year career before a two-concussion 2022 stalled his career. Hudson, 34, made three Pro Bowls as a Raider but was linked to retiring before the 2022 season; he missed 13 games last year. The injury-prone Roullier, 30, retired this summer but had worked out for the Cardinals shortly before making that decision. The Texans released Britt, 32, after he spent almost all of last season on the reserve/NFI list.

AFC East Notes: Bills, Patriots, Eichenberg

Buffalo-Kansas City has been one of the 2020s’ defining NFL rivalries. The AFC squads have played five times this decade, twice in the playoffs, with the Chiefs’ two postseason wins playing a role in the Bills‘ roster construction. The AFC powers’ plans intersected during the 2022 first round as well. When the Chiefs moved up from No. 29 to No. 21 in the ’22 first round, they took the player the Bills eyed. The Bills sought Trent McDuffie with their top pick last year, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, but the Chiefs were able to make a deal with the Patriots to move in front of Buffalo.

The fallout from this miss became costly for the Bills, whose subsequent trade-up — from No. 25 to No. 23 — produced Kaiir Elam, who has been unable to earn steady playing time. As Elam has vacillated between backup or emergency starter and healthy scratch, McDuffie has progressed in Kansas City. Pro Football Focus rates McDuffie eighth overall among corners; the Washington product has been a central part of the Chiefs’ defensive improvement this season.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Patriots opted not to sell at the trade deadline, keeping the door open for longer-term futures with some of their contract-year players. New England held onto Josh Uche, Michael Onwenu and Kyle Dugger despite interest coming in before the deadline. Dugger has become a player teams are monitoring ahead of free agency, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler noting some teams view the Division II alum as the 2024 UFA class’ second-best safety — behind the Buccaneers’ Antoine Winfield Jr. This year’s safety market producing only one contract north of $8MM per year (Jessie Bates‘ outlier $16MM-AAV accord) could impact Dugger, but it is clear the former second-round pick will be costly for the Pats to retain.
  • Benched in Week 9 and left in the States ahead of the Patriots’ Week 10 Germany trip, J.C. Jackson was initially believed to have arrived late at the team hotel the night before the Pats-Commanders game. But the recently reacquired corner did not show up at all that night, ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss notes. Jack Jones missed curfew as well, but Reiss adds the since-waived corner did surface later. Both players were benched for Week 9, and despite Jackson’s unavailability, the Patriots further limited Jones against the Colts. Jackson is expected to remain with the Pats, but the ballhawk has not escaped the rough patch that began last year in Los Angeles.
  • Trent Brown did not make the trip to Frankfurt for personal reasons, and Reiss adds the veteran tackle’s missed game will affect his recently reworked contract. Including $88K per game in roster bonuses, the Patriots set playing-time thresholds for additional Brown escalators as well. The starting LT would collect $1MM for playing 75% of the team’s offensive snaps this season. Hovering at 75% after Week 9, Brown has now missed two games. The low end of this incentive structure is 65%, which Reiss notes will pay out $750K. He would receive another $750K by hitting the 70% snap barrier.
  • Dolphins contract-year guard Robert Hunt will miss a second straight game due to a hamstring injury. As a result, Liam Eichenberg will complete a rare NFL feat. The 2021 second-round pick began the week practicing at left guard, his primary 2022 position, but the swingman moved to right guard midway through practice this week, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes. The Dolphins view Eichenberg as more comfortable there. Once Eichenberg replaces Hunt on Sunday, he will have started at all five O-line positions as a pro. While the converted tackle could not retain his LG job to start this season, having accomplished this O-line tour of sorts in his third season is certainly noteworthy. Lester Cotton will start at left guard for the Dolphins, who are uncertain to have LG first-stringer Isaiah Wynn back this season.

OL Rumors: Steelers, 49ers, Jets, Fins, Pugh

The Steelers may have executed a permanent switch at right tackle, and Chukwuma Okorafor believes it came because of comments he made near the end of the team’s Week 8 loss to the Jaguars. Pittsburgh benched Okorafor for its Thursday-night game against Tennessee, moving first-round pick Broderick Jones into the lineup. Okorafor said (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko) the Steelers benched him because he was “acting out” toward the end of the Pittsburgh-Jacksonville game. Mike Tomlin said (via The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly) Jones was deserving of an opportunity and helped the Steelers “provide a spark.”

Signed to a three-year, $29.25MM deal in 2022, Okorafor has been the Steelers’ starting right tackle since 2020. The team drafted Jones with the intent on making him its future left tackle, but a configuration in which left tackle Dan Moore moved to the right side to accommodate the rookie was floated as the more likely scenario this offseason. Since the Week 9 change, Jones and Okorafor said (via Kaboly and the Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac) they expect the Moore-Jones starting duo to remain due to Jones receiving the first-team reps this week. The Steelers’ depth chart lists Jones as the RT starter, though the Georgia product said he would prefer to play left tackle, where he lined up for the SEC powerhouse. Okorafor believes what he said has resulted in “significant” ramifications but maintains his benching was not performance-based, creating an interesting storyline to follow in Pittsburgh.

Here are some O-line subplots from elsewhere around the NFL:

  • Missing the past two games with an ankle injury, Trent Williams returned to a limited practice Thursday. Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers‘ All-Pro left tackle has dealt with more than a low ankle sprain, via 49ersWebZone.com’s David Bonilla. The 49ers lost both the games Williams missed, after dropping from the unbeaten ranks — in Cleveland — following Williams’ injury-driven exit in Week 6. A limited practice represents a good sign for Williams’ Week 10 availability and San Francisco’s offensive capabilities.
  • The Jets may soon be without yet another offensive lineman. Robert Saleh described Billy Turner as encountering a “concerning” injury, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes the veteran blocker suffered a broken bone in his hand. This will leave Turner’s status uncertain for the Jets’ Week 10 tilt. Turner has not practiced this week, pointing to an absence. The Jets have turned to Turner at guard in the wake of Connor McGovern and Wes Schweitzer‘s IR trips. The team is likely to have Duane Brown back, however; the 38-year-old tackle — who remains on IR — has practiced fully this week. Saleh recently pointed to Brown’s return kicking Mekhi Becton back to right tackle.
  • Although left tackle Terron Armstead came off IR in time to face the Chiefs, the Dolphins played their Germany game without both starting guards. Isaiah Wynn is on IR with a potential season-ending injury, and Robert Hunt missed the game because of a hamstring ailment. Wynn fill-in Robert Jones also left the game, due to a hyperextended knee. While Mike McDaniel said Jones does not need surgery, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes Lester Cotton and 2022 left guard starter Liam Eichenberg are set to vie for the starting role before the Dolphins return to action in Week 11. A third-year UDFA who made his first career start in Week 9, Jones is likely to miss some time, per McDaniel.
  • Justin Pugh signed a one-year, $1.43MM deal to rejoin the Giants last month. Pugh’s second Giants contract includes an incentive package worth $2.1MM, he revealed on his NetWorth Podcast (via the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard). Pugh can earn part of that $2.1MM by hitting the 50%, 70% and 90% playing-time thresholds from the point he debuted (Week 6). Despite the October arrival, Pugh has started — at both guard and tackle — in each of the four games in which he has played this season.

NFL Reserve/Futures Deals: 1/16/23

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Baltimore Ravens

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

San Francisco 49ers

  • DB A.J. Parker

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/14/23

Today’s minor moves in advance of the second day of Super Wild-Card Weekend:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 12/20/22

Today’s practice squad transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

  • Signed: QB James Morgan
  • Released: QB Carson Strong

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Signed: G Parker Ferguson, DB Devon Key
  • Released: LB Harvey Langi

Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks

  • Signed: DT Jarrod Hewitt

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/15/22

Today’s minor moves:

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

New York Jets

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans


Igwebuike is being elevated for the second time this season. Starting rookie running back Kenneth Walker has returned to the lineup but running back and return man DeeJay Dallas missed a second straight week of practice, meaning Igwebuike will likely have return duties while backing up Walker and Travis Homer.

Smith will be undergoing surgery for a nagging bone spur, according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic. The surgery will necessitate a recovery period of about four months, so Smith’s 2022 campaign has come to an end.

Parks re-signed with the Jets this offseason after being claimed by the team last December and starting two games. Despite starting another game this season, Parks has spent most of time on special teams in 11 games this year.

Raiders Activate CB Nate Hobbs

The Raiders have activated cornerback Nate Hobbs from injured reserve, the team announced. In a corresponding move, Las Vegas placed G Lester Cotton on IR.

Hobbs, a 2021 fifth-rounder, had started each of the Raiders’ first five games this season after earning nine starts in his rookie campaign. As a rookie, the Illinois product tallied 74 tackles, a sack, and an interception, and while he yielded a healthy 82.3% completion rate on passes thrown in his direction, Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics nonetheless deemed him one of the NFL’s best corners in 2021. PFF had him graded as the 29th-best CB in the league this year before he went on IR with a broken hand in mid-October.

Hobbs’ return is especially timely for Las Vegas, which was recently forced to place another starting corner, Anthony Averett, on injured reserve for the second time this season. Averett has not played especially well in his seven games of action, but the fact that the Raiders have not had their top three corners — Rock Ya-Sin, Averett, and Hobbs — on the field together after Week 1 is obviously suboptimal. The team is near the bottom of the league in terms of total defense and passing yards allowed per game, which is a major reason for its 4-7 record.

However, Josh McDaniels‘ troops have shown some moxie in winning their last two contests, both of which went to overtime. Getting Hobbs back should at least help stabilize the club’s secondary as it looks to keep its slim playoff hopes alive.

Cotton, meanwhile, has bounced between the Raiders’ active roster, taxi squad, and the unemployment line since signing with the team as a UDFA in 2019. Thanks to Las Vegas’ uncertain OL situation this year, he saw significant action in the first two weeks of the season, taking 90 snaps at right guard and earning his first career start in Week 2. Since then, he has played exclusively on special teams and has participated in just a handful of snaps per game.

Latest On Raiders’ Offensive Line Situation

The Raiders entered the season with one of the most highly-regarded skill-position groups in the league, but a number of questions on the offensive line. That was reflected by a rotation at multiple spots in Week 1, something which is expected to continue tomorrow. 

As noted by Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the team deployed two players at both right tackle and right guard, with starters Jermaine Eluemunor and Dylan Parham sharing time with Thayer Munford and Lester Cotton, respectively. Overall, the Raiders allowed five sacks in their loss to the Chargers, but the play of that quartet drew praise from the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi.

“I think they’ve earned the right to play again this week,” he said of the aforementioned linemen. The two starters drew encouraging PFF grades, but Bonsignore adds that Munford “will remain in the mix” for significant playing time. Of course, outside additions remain a distinct possibility as well.

The Raiders hosted a number of veterans earlier this week, including Billy Price. That resulted in a practice squad deal for the 27-year-old, who was a full-time starter for the Giants last season. In addition, Vegas worked out former Cardinal Justin Murray recently, along with far less experienced options in Myron CunninghamShamarious Gilmore and Willie Wright (Twitter link via SI’s Howard Balzer).

“We’re playing the guys that deserve to play,” head coach Josh McDaniels confirmed. “There are seven guys that played [Sunday] because they earned the opportunity with their performance throughout the course of the preseason and in training camp.”

With the rotation apparently set to continue for the foreseeable future, the Raiders will look to find a full-time starting unit while aiming for their first win tomorrow against the Cardinals.

Raiders Not Eyeing Free Agent RT Addition

The Raiders did not field a particularly good offensive line in 2021. Despite the franchise hiring a new head coach-GM combination, the group remains relatively unchanged. And the team endured a recent setback; Brandon Parker is battling what is believed to be a significant injury, Tashan Reed of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Parker has not practiced since the Raiders’ preseason opener Aug. 4. The veteran blocker who spent much of last season as the Raiders’ starting right tackle re-signed with the team on a one-year, $3.5MM deal. He continued to work with the first-stringers during the team’s offseason program and into the start of training camp. The Raiders do not view Parker’s injury as season-ending at this point, per Reed, leading to no IR placement. Players can only return from IR if they are carried through to the 53-man roster after the Aug. 30 cutdown day.

The team does have other options here. Alex Leatherwood, who moved to guard early during his rookie season, is the most prominent of those choices. Though, the Alabama product widely viewed as a first-round reach last year was Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded full-time O-lineman in 2021. Still, Josh McDaniels said earlier this summer Leatherwood would be given “every opportunity” to win the job. Veteran Jermaine Eluemunor and seventh-round rookie Thayer Munford, whom the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore notes has made “rapid” improvement, are also in the mix here. Munford, however, also suffered an injury this week.

Parker being sidelined for a chunk of the season opens the door to one of these options, with the others becoming depth pieces or swing options. The Raiders’ initial depth chart has Lester Cotton, a UDFA who has appeared in five career games, positioned as their right guard starter. Leatherwood having a road back to that gig, should he lose the right tackle competition, would make sense.

The team is not ruling out an outside addition, per Bonsignore, who adds a trade should not be discarded as an option. That may well depend on Parker’s timetable. If the team is to add a player in a non-trade capacity, Bonsignore notes a move should be expected on the waiver wire when rosters are slashed from 80 to 53 players in 10 days. But Las Vegas is not actively scouring the free agent market.

Daryl Williams resides as one of the top options available, but Reed adds the Raiders did not view him well as a Bills right tackle last season. The Bills moved Williams to guard during the 2021 slate. Bobby Massie, a longtime Bears starter who was the Broncos’ primary right-edge blocker in 2021, and Brandon Shell (a Jets and Seahawks full-timer during his career) are available as well.