Liam Eichenberg

AFC East Notes: Patricia, Dolphins, Armstead, Jets

If you’re keeping track at home, Matt Patricia now appears to be the favorite to be New England’s offensive play-caller. As Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com writes, Patricia was the only coach calling plays from the Patriots sideline during last night’s preseason contest. This is a change from the preseason opener, when Patricia alternated play-calling duties with Joe Judge.

Bill Belichick has continued to play coy on the entire situation, and he even hinted after the game that Patricia was merely communicating with Mac Jones vs. calling plays. Regardless of who ends up calling plays on offense, it’s clear that the organization is going with a committee approach to replace departed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

“It’s still a process,” Belichick told reporters after the game (via NESN.com). “He (Matt Patricia)… communication with the quarterback? Yeah. But as far as calling the plays, there’s a whole other process on that.

However, if you ask some NFL sources, then it may be neither Patricia nor Judge calling offensive plays for the Patriots in 2022. As Albert Breer of SI.com writes, there are a “lot of smart NFL people who know the Patriots well” and believe it will ultimately be Belichick who ends up calling plays for Jones and the Patriots offense. Breer cautions that the head coach will end up calling plays “at some point this season,” perhaps a hint that the organization may role into the season with one of Patricia/Judge but will be prepared to pull the plug on the experiment.

More notes out of the AFC East…

  • A Patriots‘ seventh-round rookie may end up missing the entire season. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, offensive tackle Andrew Stueber doesn’t have a timetable for his return from the NFI list. Stueber suffered an injury while training after the draft, and Reiss hints that the injury could end up delaying the Michigan product’s NFL debut until the 2023 season.
  • Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has told league executives that he intends to leave the Dolphins organization to his family, according to Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal (on Twitter). While this isn’t a huge surprise, it seems pretty clear that Ross won’t be leaving the franchise to limited partner Bruce Beal. Both Ross and Beal were slapped with suspensions following Miami’s tampering investigation.
  • The Dolphins inked left tackle Terron Armstead to a massive deal this offseason. However, the offensive lineman has never been able to make it through an entire season healthy, and that includes a 2021 campaign when he was limited to only eight snaps. If Armstead is forced to miss any time, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald suggests (on Twitter) that the coaching staff could end up moving right tackle Austin Jackson or guard Liam Eichenberg to LT, although the reporter notes that coach Mike McDaniel prefers to keep players at their starting position instead of shifting them around.
  • Duane Brown‘s two-year, $22MM deal with the Jets includes a $7.88MM signing bonus and three void years, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). As a result, the offensive tackle’s cap hit for the 2022 season is only $3.69MM. The veteran will earn a base salary of $1.12MM in 2022, but he’ll see that number jump to $9MM.

AFC East Notes: Jets, White, Eichenberg

The Jets have moved Mekhi Becton to right tackle, with Robert Saleh citing George Fant‘s athleticism as making him a better blindside fit. Although the second-year Jets HC said Becton is appropriately athletic for the left tackle post, the former first-round pick has faced steady scrutiny regarding his weight. Becton was rumored to be over 400 pounds last year, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes the third-year blocker was thought to be in the 390s as recently as minicamp, when he would not confirm his weight. That said, Cimini adds Becton looks slimmer at Jets training camp. Saleh said the Louisville product has “got himself into football shape.” While Becton would not confirm his training camp weight, he said he hit the goal he targeted. Becton’s listed weight is 363 pounds. Given the rumblings about Jets dissatisfaction with their largest player’s frame at points, this will continue to be an issue to monitor as he transitions to a new position.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • James White signed a fourth Patriots contract this offseason, agreeing to a two-year deal worth $5MM. But the longtime Pats passing-down back is recovering from a September 2021 hip subluxation injury, one that could land him on the reserve/PUP list to start this season. The ninth-year vet was still walking with a noticeable limp barely a week before training camp, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. White signed for only $500K guaranteed, and the Patriots drafted two running backs — Pierre Strong (Round 4) and Kevin Harris (Round 6) — this year. With the team already having Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson locked into roles, Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed wonders if White is a release candidate. White led all backs in receiving yardage from 2015-20 (3,161), Reiss points out, but Strong — he of a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, this year’s top running back time — stands to be another option the Pats could use. The Pats slow-played both White and Shane Vereen‘s debuts as passing-down backs, but White’s injury could force the team’s hand.
  • The Dolphins are moving closer to giving Liam Eichenberg another try as a starter. The 2021 second-round pick is the clear frontrunner to be the team’s left guard starter, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Eichenberg and 2020 fourth-rounder Solomon Kindley are vying for that job, and while pronouncements about O-line battles before padded practices are premature, the Dolphins have more invested in the Notre Dame product. Eichenberg spent more time at left tackle last season, but Terron Armstead will take over there this year.
  • Denzel Mims has been attached to trade/cut rumors for a bit now, and Cimini predicts the Jets will end up trading the former second-round pick before Week 1. Mims delivered a solid offseason, but his lack of a special teams role and clear place out of the Jets’ top three at the position has long made him vulnerable. The Jets have four receivers they figure to look to before Mims, with Garrett Wilson joining a stable of Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and the recently re-signed Braxton Berrios. Despite being the 2020 No. 59 overall pick, Mims (31 career catches for 490 yards) would not fetch much in a deal.
  • The Jets plan to use John Franklin-Myers as a defensive end in base sets and inside on passing downs, with Saleh calling the veteran the team’s Justin Tuck– or Brandon Graham-type D-lineman, per The Athletic’s Connor Hughes (on Twitter). This year will feature a more crowded Jets D-line, with Carl Lawson back and first-rounder Jermaine Johnson in the fold. Franklin-Myers, whom the Jets extended last year, will still have a key role.

Dolphins Likely To Use Connor Williams At C

A left tackle in college, Connor Williams lined up at guard throughout his four-year Cowboys tenure. The Dolphins have something new in mind for the free agent offensive line acquisition.

Williams said Thursday it is “really likely” he plays center in Miami, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. This has loomed as a possibility for months, and Williams has been working at the position since April. While it is interesting the team has this path mapped out before any padded practices commence, Williams sliding to center would fill a need and open the door to multiple lineup combinations on this O-line.

The Dolphins signed Williams and Terron Armstead to lucrative deals, particularly in Armstead’s case, locking them into starting roles. Robert Hunt fared decently at right guard last season, even beyond his memorable end zone dash that did not count, grading as the top Dolphins O-lineman in Pro Football Focus’ view. PFF rated last year’s Miami front as the NFL’s worst. Should the Dolphins stay the Williams-at-center course, he will replace Michael Deiter. Still, it appears three starters from last season are in line to return under Mike McDaniel.

Williams sliding to center will lead to a left guard competition between Liam Eichenberg and Solomon Kindley, Jackson adds. Eichenberg served as Miami’s primary left tackle last season, with the 2021 second-rounder moving 2020 first-rounder Austin Jackson off that spot. Jackson is ticketed to give right tackle a try, according to the Herald. With the Tyreek Hill trade pushing the start of their draft participation into Round 3, the Dolphins did not draft a lineman this year.

The USC product was Miami’s primary left tackle as a rookie and made starts at left tackle and left guard last season. PFF graded Jackson as a below-average guard and viewed Eichenberg as a bottom-tier tackle. This right tackle opportunity looks to represent a high-stakes situation for the once-coveted prospect, who has not lived up to his draft slot yet as a pro. Longtime right tackle option Jesse Davis signed with the Vikings this offseason. A 2020 fourth-rounder, Kindley made 13 guard starts as a rookie but worked as a first-stringer just twice last season.

AFC Rumors: Jaguars, Williams, Van Roten, Leonard, Browns, Griffin III

After the Jaguars fired former head coach Urban Meyer, it became public that Jacksonville had no intentions of paying Meyer the remaining money on his contract, as he was being fired for cause. There was speculation at the time that the parties may follow existing precedents and negotiate a settlement in order to avoid a legal situation.

According to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation informed the columnist that, to date, the two sides have been unable to strike a settlement agreement.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting with a rumor out of South Beach:

  • The Dolphins should have plenty of options for their offensive line configuration, but it most likely hinges on what they do with interior offensive lineman Connor Williams. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Miami isn’t quite sure what to do with Williams, working him at center and left guard over the past three weeks. The good news, is that it gives them plenty of options. With Terron Armstead solidified at left tackle and Robert Hunt solidly at right guard, Williams could fit at either position. If you put Williams at left guard, the team would likely have Michael Deiter start at center and leave Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson to compete for the starting right tackle job. If you start Williams at center, Eichenberg can slide in to the left guard job and Jackson can man the right tackle position.
  • The Jets recently released guard Greg Van Roten. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, head coach Robert Saleh claimed that they released Van Roten because they believe he has the potential to start for other teams in the league. His release is meant to allow him to find those teams that would provide him a starting opportunity. Saleh was quoted saying they’d “love to have him back,” if he fails to find such opportunities.
  • Colts linebacker Darius Leonard had ankle surgery in June last year before the season. The surgery helped him to get healthy for the season, where he played every game but one and was named a first-team All-Pro for the third time in his career. While the ankle is still ailing him, Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star reported that Leonard says the ankle is better now than it was at this point last year. This is an encouraging sign for Leonard and a scary message for the other teams in the AFC South. Leonard has been named to an All-Pro team every year of his career while being nagged by his ankle ailment. A healthy Leonard is a dangerous weapon for opposing teams to have to game-plan against.
  • With the return of free agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry seeming less and less likely, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com believes the Browns will be able to push a bit harder now for free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney to return. Cabot points out that drafting UAB pass rusher Alex Wright makes the need to sign Clowney a little less urgent, but also mentions that fellow pass rusher Myles Garrett wants Clowney back, which could help his case. Cabot claims that, if the two parties can’t agree to a new deal, Cleveland will consider former Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes instead.
  • We’ve all seen Rich Eisen of NFL Network run the 40-yard dash for charity. Well, this year, former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, currently an analyst for ESPN, participated and reportedly was clocked at 4.48 seconds. Mike Florio of NBC Sports reports that on Eisen’s show, Griffin made the claim that some teams took notice of his impressive run and reached out to him. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any teams have offered to bring him back to the NFL, but Griffin has publicly stated his desire to return to football in the past, even claiming that his contract with ESPN would allow him to sign with an NFL team if the opportunity presents itself. Griffin last spent time in the league as Lamar Jackson‘s back up on the Ravens. He filled in multiple times leading many to wonder if he still had the ability to lead an NFL offense based on his brief appearances.

OL Notes: Fins, Steele, Colts, Jets, Seahawks

After the Dolphins drafted him to be Laremy Tunsil‘s left tackle successor, Austin Jackson finished his second NFL season at guard. Pro Football Focus graded Jackson as the Dolphins’ worst regular starter last season and tabbed Miami’s unit as the league’s worst. The team has since made changes, signing Terron Armstead to a big-ticket deal and adding guard Connor Williams. With Robert Hunt at right guard, the Dolphins are looking to try Jackson at a third position soon. They are planning to see how the USC product fares at right tackle, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Dolphins also figure to try 2021 second-rounder Liam Eichenberg on the right side, with Armstead having replaced him at left tackle. Hunt, whom PFF graded as the team’s top O-line regular last season, began his career at right tackle. But the Dolphins would prefer he stay at right guard, Jackson adds. This figures to pit Jackson and Eichenberg in a position battle. Eichenberg, who replaced Jackson on the left side last year, made 16 starts as a rookie.

Here is the latest from the O-line ranks:

  • The Cowboys made La’el Collins a cap casualty, but the team is confident in the player poised to replace him. Dallas views Terence Steele as a potential “decade-long” option at right tackle, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes. A UDFA out of Texas Tech, Steele has made 27 starts over his first two seasons, subbing for both Collins and Tyron Smith. The Cowboys turned to Steele during Collins’ five-game PED suspension last year and used him as their primary right tackle starter in 2020, when Collins missed the entire season. This has given Dallas a notable evaluation period on the oft-used backup. Steele is not eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2024, giving Dallas more time to determine his future.
  • Matt Ryan will join a Colts team that houses some of the league’s best O-linemen, and Quenton Nelson is on track to join center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Braden Smith in being extended. But the team has a hole at left tackle again. With Eric Fisher unlikely to return, the Colts may not be ready to spend on a replacement. Swingman Matt Pryor stands to be given the first look at replacing Fisher, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. Pryor made guard starts for the Eagles in 2020 and started at three positions for the Colts last season, a five-start year in which he replaced Fisher, Smith and Nelson at various points. The ex-sixth-round pick is signed through the 2022 season.
  • The Jets reunited Mike LaFleur and Laken Tomlinson, giving the ex-49ers guard a three-year, $40MM deal during the legal tampering period. Tomlinson will receive $13.9MM fully guaranteed, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets, adding that Tomlinson’s 2022 cap charge comes in at just $5.4MM. Tomlinson’s 2023 base salary ($12.7MM) shifts from an injury-only guarantee to a full guarantee on Day 5 of the 2023 league year. Tomlinson’s cap number spikes to $17.4MM in 2023.
  • The one-year, $4MM deal the Seahawks gave Austin Blythe comes with a $2.5MM signing bonus and a $1.5MM base salary, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Blythe can earn up to $500K in playing-time incentives. With Ethan Pocic unsigned, Blythe has a clear path to becoming a starting center again. The ex-Rams guard and center starter backed up Creed Humphrey throughout last season with the Chiefs.
  • Will Richardson‘s one-year Jaguars deal is worth $2MM, Wilson adds (on Twitter). Jacksonville is guaranteeing the veteran backup $975K.

AFC Rumors: Bates, Sutton, Dolphins, Texans

The Bengals and Jessie Bates did not agree on an extension ahead of his contract year, and the veteran defender expressed frustration a deal did not commence. Bates previously hoped he would land a contract that kept him in Cincinnati long-term. With his future up in the air, the former second-round pick admitted he let his contract talks cloud his on-field performance to start the season.

So caught on to proving the wrong people right and the main thing I should be focusing on is proving the right people right as far as my coaches, my teammates, my family and not worry about all of the other stuff,” Bates said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I know that’s going to work out; I know what type of player I am; that stuff’s going to work out regardless.”

Pro Football Focus ranked Bates as its No. 1 safety in 2020; through nine games this season, the Wake Forest product slots in at No. 75 at the position. He has allowed a 79% completion rate when targeted — well north of the 54% mark of last season. While Bates should still be expected to generate considerable interest in free agency, should no extension agreement or franchise tag come to pass before that point, this season’s second half suddenly becomes pivotal for his long-term prospects.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Courtland Sutton joined Bates as a 2018 second-rounder, and the ex-SMU standout also joins him in being uncertain about his long-term status with his NFL team. Sutton has played in all 10 Broncos games this season, after tearing an ACL last September. The 6-foot-4 target is on pace for his second 1,000-yard season, but his production has been somewhat inconsistent — particularly in games when Jerry Jeudy has been active. The Broncos also have Tim Patrick going through a quality contract year, creating a decision. The franchise tag may be in play for Sutton in March, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post writes. This year’s tag figure came in at nearly $16MM for wideouts, during the pandemic-affected offseason. New GM George Paton called Sutton one of the team’s core players this offseason. The Broncos have used the tag frequently and have a long track record in extending those players — though, Justin Simmons played on the tag in 2020 before his re-up earlier this year.
  • After trying Lonnie Johnson at safety over the past two seasons, the Texans are changing the young defender’s position again. They are moving Johnson back to cornerback, David Culley said (via Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson). Houston drafted Johnson in the 2019 second round as a corner but tried him at safety over the past two seasons. The pivot resulted in Johnson being benched at that spot. The Texans also shopped Johnson ahead of the deadline. The team has vets Desmond King and Terrance Mitchell stationed as its outside starters, but in a rebuilding year, Johnson — who entered the draft with a 4.36-second 40-yard dash time despite a 213-pound frame — figures to see an opportunity to rebound at the position.
  • The Dolphins have shuffled their offensive line on a few occasions this year, tinkering with just about every starter’s role. The highest-profile move came recently, when the team moved 2020 first-round pick Austin Jackson from left tackle to left guard. While that could be a temporary fix, Brian Flores said (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson) the team likes the USC product at guard. Second-round rookie Liam Eichenberg is currently Miami’s left tackle.

Dolphins Make Changes On Offensive Line

Trading for 2019 second-round pick Greg Little, the Dolphins continue to shuffle their offensive line group. But they are making more changes among their in-house personnel as well.

They have shifted second-round pick Liam Eichenberg from tackle to guard, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. While Dolphins offensive line coach Lemuel Jeanpierre initially said the move was to give the Notre Dame product experience at guard, Adam Beasley of ProFootballNetwork.com notes the Dolphins view versatile veteran Jesse Davis as a better option to start at right tackle this season than Eichenberg. Davis, a former UDFA, was the Dolphins’ primary right tackle in 2019. Eichbenberg was an All-American left tackle with the Fighting Irish, starting there for three years.

Eichenberg is working as Miami’s first-string left guard, however. The team’s directions with Davis and Eichenberg have resulted in two starters from last season — Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley — vying for the starting right guard role, Beasley adds. The Dolphins moved Hunt from tackle to guard this offseason. While they have been high on the 2020 second-round pick, viewing him as a possible Pro Bowler inside, the Louisiana product is currently battling for a starting spot in camp.

Additionally, Miami appears to be moving toward giving 2019 third-round pick Michael Deiter — a full-time guard starter as a rookie but a backup in 2020 — its starting center position over free agent acquisition Matt Skura, per Beasley. Skura represents a veteran presence on a group that lost D.J. Fluker early in camp, but Davis could end up being the only seasoned starter tabbed to be part of the Dolphins’ O-line in Week 1. Deiter played more games at guard at Wisconsin but was a 16-game center starter with the Big Ten program.

Pro Football Focus ranked the 2020 Miami O-line 28th, and it is possible only one player — left tackle Austin Jackson — will end up in the same position he primarily played last season. The team traded 2020 guard starter Ereck Flowers this offseason as well, and that change may be one of many at this Dolphins position group this year. It will certainly be interesting to see how Miami’s O-line configuration looks come Week 1.

Dolphins Sign Second-Round Pick Liam Eichenberg

The Dolphins have signed second-round offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg. With Eichenberg inked, the Dolphins have wrapped up their 2021 draft class.

Eichenberg, taken No. 42 overall, served as Notre Dame’s starting left tackle for three seasons. As a pro, he may be ticketed for more work on the interior. Either way, the Dolphins are high on his potential. Initially set to pick at No. 50 overall, the Dolphins packaged it with a 2022 third-rounder to move up and snag Eichenberg.

Here’s the full rundown of the Dolphins’ (totally signed) 2021 class:

Dolphins Considered Alejandro Villanueva, Rick Wagner, Dennis Kelly For RT Job

The Dolphins have a few young offensive linemen in place to start, but they have multiple veterans vying for jobs as well. Miami recently considered adding at least one other veteran blocker.

Prior to the draft, the Dolphins spoke with longtime Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva about a potential right tackle role, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes. The team also held discussions with veteran right tackle Ricky Wagner, whom the Packers released ahead of free agency, and 2020 Titans right tackle starter Dennis Kelly.

These discussions centered on moving Robert Hunt to guard, where the Dolphins believe the 2020 second-round pick can be a Pro Bowler, Fowler adds. However, the draft may have changed the organization’s plans here. Miami drafted Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame in Round 2. Eichenberg played left tackle primarily for the Fighting Irish, starting three seasons there, but is viewed as a better fight on the right side. With Tua Tagovailoa being a lefty, Eichenberg would retain a blindside role as a pro.

Hunt started 11 games as a rookie, primarily playing right tackle. He started at guard as an underclassman at Louisiana but played right tackle as a junior and senior. Pro Football Focus viewed Hunt as a below-average tackle last season, grading him just outside the top 50 at the position. Miami rosters multiple veterans with versatile NFL pasts as well, in Jesse Davis and D.J. Fluker.

Villanueva opted to sign with the Ravens shortly after the draft; the six-year Pittsburgh left tackle starter is set to take over Baltimore’s right tackle job. Kelly participated in the Broncos’ brigade of right tackle workouts this week, but Denver chose Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming from those. The Titans released Kelly during the legal tampering period; he spent the past five seasons in Tennessee.

Wagner, the Packers’ starting right tackle last season, is expected to retire, Fowler adds. While the former Ravens and Lions right tackle has not announced any retirement plans, this was believed to be a consideration when the Packers cut him three months ago. Wagner, 31, has made 96 pro starts.

Giants Trade No. 42 To Dolphins; Dolphins Pick OT Liam Eichenberg

Dave Gettleman just can’t stop trading back. After getting dragged this cycle for seemingly never trading down, the Giants GM has now done it in the first and second-rounds. New York has traded the 42nd overall pick to the Dolphins. Miami used the pick on offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg from Notre Dame.

Here’s the breakdown of the trade:

Dolphins Receive

  • No. 42

Giants Receive

  • No. 50
  • 2022 third-rounder

Not a bad deal for the Giants. They got an extra 2022 first-rounder on Thursday, and now picked up a free third-rounder for moving down eight spots. Gettleman is quieting the critics in a hurry.

Eichenberg is continuing what appears to be the start of a run on offensive linemen, as the Bears just drafted Teven Jenkins moments ago. Miami drafted Austin Jackson in the first-round last year to be their left tackle, and now Eichenberg can potentially slide in as the right tackle.

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah had Eichenberg going at the end of the first-round, and he had a real chance to go on Day 1. He was first-team All-ACC and a consensus All-American in 2020. He’s got great size, and Miami clearly felt he was going to go in the next few picks if they were willing to give up a third-rounder to move up.