P.J. Walker

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/30/23

Saturday’s gameday elevations and other minor moves ahead of tomorrow’s slate of Week 4 games:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Walker’s elevation comes amidst a degree of uncertainty regarding Deshaun Watson‘s Sunday availability. The latter is dealing with a shoulder injury, but he has expressed confidence he will be able to suit up. In the event he is unable to play, though, Walker will provide insurance under center. NFL Network’s James Palmer reports Watson will be a game-time decision.

Chosen, formerly Robbie Anderson, made his Dolphins debut in Week 3, scoring a 68-yard touchdown on his only catch. His performance – along with other depth wideouts currently being sidelined for Miami – will give the 30-year-old a longer look with his new team.

Gore’s elevation will give him the chance to see regular season game action for the first time since 2021. The former UDFA recorded 361 scrimmage yards with the Chiefs that season, but a subsequent IR stint marked the end of his time in Kansas City. Gore has since spent time on the Saints’, and now Commanders’, taxi squads. Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post notes that fellow depth back Chris Rodriguez has bee ruled out with an illness, opening the door to Gore seeing limited snaps.

Browns TE David Njoku Listed As Questionable After Sustaining Burn Injuries

David Njoku has been listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game against the Ravens after suffering a burn injury at his home. The Browns announced that the tight end sustained “burn injuries to his face and arm during a household accident.”

Per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Njoku was burned while lighting a fire pit in his backyard. Fortunately, it sounds like the player avoided a serious injury, with Cabot noting that Njoku is “okay.”

After finishing last season with a career-high 58 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns, Njoku has gotten off to a bit of a slow start in 2023. Through three games, the tight end has collected only 10 receptions for 92 yards. As a result, he currently ranks 48th among 68 qualifying tight ends on Pro Football Focus’ positional grades, although he does have a top-three grade for his pass-blocking ability.

Following his career year in 2022, the Browns slapped Njoku with the franchise tag. The former first-round pick ended up signing a long-term deal with the organization, with the Browns giving him a four-year, $56.75MM extension.

If Njoku is sidelined for Week 4, the team would likely roll with a combination of Harrison Bryant and Jordan Akins at the position. Bryant has gotten into all three games for the Browns this season, although he’s been limited to a pair of catches while mostly serving in a blocking role. Akins also has a pair of catches in three games, and the tight end is coming off a career season in Houston where he compiled 495 receiving yards and five touchdowns. The team also announced that they’ve promoted UDFA tight end Zaire Mitchell-Paden from the practice squad.

Elsewhere in Cleveland, the team announced that they’ve promoted quarterback P.J. Walker from the practice squad. The former Panthers QB spent training camp with the Bears before catching on with the Browns practice squad. Deshaun Watson is questionable for tomorrow’s game with a shoulder injury, and rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson would be in line to start if needed.

Wednesday NFL Transactions: AFC North

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These BengalsBrownsRavens and Steelers moves are noted below.

Cincinnati Bengals



Signed to practice squad:

Baltimore Ravens



Signed to practice squad:

Cleveland Browns


Placed on IR:


Signed to practice squad:

Pittsburgh Steelers




Signed to practice squad:

OL Alex Leatherwood, QB P.J. Walker Among Bears’ Cuts

The Bears have yet to begin making mass cuts in an effort to move towards the eventual 53-man roster, instead opting to look at a few bigger names that should affect how the rest of the roster plays out. According to Bears senior writer Larry Mayer, the Bears released quarterback P.J. Walker and waived offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood while waiving guard Gabriel Houy with an injury designation.

The most notable departure here is Leatherwood, who has consistently slotted in as the team’s backup to Teven Jenkins, whose struggles to stay on the field have only continued this offseason. Without Jenkins or Leatherwood, ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reports that Cody Whitehair would be the one filling Jenkins’ spot. If that’s the case, the Bears would then need to turn to Lucas Patrick to cover Whitehair’s starting center role.

Walker, a former backup quarterback who started seven games for the Panthers over the past three years, apparently failed to do enough to stay in the running for the backup job behind Justin Fields. That leaves the Bears with Nathan Peterman and undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent as the team’s reserve options behind Fields

Another notable part of this transaction is the money that gets left on the table by Chicago here. Leatherwood reportedly had $4.59MM of guarantees remaining on his deal, while the money lost by releasing Walker brings that total up to around $7MM in dead money. Second-year general manager Ryan Poles is making it clear that money owed on a contract isn’t going to determine roster spots for this year’s squad.

Bears Conducting Backup Quarterback Competition?

The top spot on the Bears’ quarterback depth chart, as confirmed by their handling of the 2023 offseason, belongs to Justin Fields. Despite the identity of his backup appearing clear before training camp and the preseason began, that may not be the case.

Chicago inked P.J. Walker to a two-year deal including $2MM guaranteed in free agency. That move seemed to place the 28-year-old in prime position to secure the QB2 role behind Fields, but camp practices and exhibition contests have not seen Walker perform well enough to cement his status with the team. That has opened the door to a competition for the job.

“I would just say everything is open right now, and it’s not just that position, it’s every position,” head coach Matt Eberflus said when asked about Walker and the quarterback spot. “If the guy is in a competition, everybody can look at the roster and see who’s in a competition. Those are all going to be open. I think if you close your mind off to that, you might be missing on something” (Twitter links via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune).

While Walker has underperformed so far during the summer, undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent has drawn attention for his play when given an opportunity. The latter completed nine of 10 passes for 76 scoreless passing yards during last night’s preseason game against the Colts, adding a rushing touchdown. That could point to a degree of upside compared to Walker, who started seven games in Carolina (including five in 2022) and struggled to put up noteworthy numbers across his three-year Panthers tenure.

Nathan Peterman is also in the fold for the Bears, meaning he could be a QB2 candidate depending on how the remainder of August plays out. Chicago made a low-cost investment in Peterman for the second straight year this offseason, after the former Bills draftee made three appearances and one start in 2022. The Bears’ final preseason contest will no doubt go a long way in determining the final pecking order under center. As things currently stand, though, Walker’s grip on the backup spot does not appear to be a firm one.

Bears To Sign QB P.J. Walker

P.J. Walker is heading to Chicago. The Bears have reached an agreement with the free agent quarterback, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).

Walker was an impending restricted free agent but was ultimately non-tendered by the Panthers. Walker’s camp apparently moved quickly, with Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweeting that the QB is signing a two-year deal with Chicago. The deal has a max value of $5MM and includes a $1MM signing bonus.

The 2017 undrafted free agent out of Temple spent the past three seasons with the Panthers. The organization gave him a starting look each season, with the Panthers going 4-3 in those seven contests. In total, Walker has completed 57.5 percent of his pass attempts for 1,461 yards, five touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.

Walker got an extended look this past season, starting five games for the Panthers. He finished the campaign having tossed three touchdowns vs. three interceptions. That long look partly convinced the Panthers to look elsewhere this offseason, and the writing was on the wall when the organization acquired the No. 1 pick (which will presumably be used on a QB) and signed veteran quarterback Andy Dalton.

So, Walker is off to Chicago, where he’ll presumably serve as Justin Fields‘ backup. The team is also still rostering Trevor Siemian, who inked a two-year deal with the team last offseason.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/15/23

Today’s tender decisions from around the NFL:






NFC South Notes: Panthers, Hayward, Wirfs

Next year’s running back market stands to feature a glut of starter-caliber options. Even if the Giants and Raiders respectively keep Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs from hitting free agency, potential first-time free agents Miles Sanders, Tony Pollard, David Montgomery, Damien Harris, Devin Singletary and Alexander Mattison are unsigned through 2023. Ditto Kareem Hunt, who is expected to hit the market after the Browns held off on a deadline trade. Jeff Wilson and Jamaal Williams would also be intriguing second-go-round UFAs, but the Panthers have a player in a similar position.

D’Onta Foreman signed a one-year, $2MM deal to relocate from Charlotte to Nashville this offseason, and he has continued his Titans pace. Christian McCaffrey‘s replacement, who ended up being Derrick Henry‘s top fill-in last year, now has seven 100-yard games over his past 13. Teams are monitoring the former third-round pick’s status, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. The Panthers have Chuba Hubbard signed through 2024, and although they are likely to change coaching staffs come January, Foreman makes sense as a re-sign candidate. Despite being a 2017 draftee, he is just 26. And thanks to a lengthy hiatus that covered much of a three-year stretch from 2018-20, the ex-Texas Longhorn only has 366 career carries. That bodes well for more quality seasons being ahead.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Casey Hayward has been on IR since mid-October; he has been eligible to return for a bit now. But the Falcons cornerback is not a lock to come back this year, per AtlantaFalcons.com’s Scott Bair, who notes the 11th-year veteran underwent shoulder surgery after hitting the injured list. Hayward and the Saints’ Chris Harris are the NFL’s oldest active-roster cornerbacks, at 33, and the former represents a key defender for a team gunning for an unexpected division title. Hayward signed a two-year, $11MM deal to come over from Las Vegas. The Falcons have used second-year man Darren Hall in his place. Pro Football Focus does rank Hall, a fourth-round pick out of San Diego State, 35th overall among corners this season.
  • The Buccaneers are expected to be without Tristan Wirfs for a bit because of a high ankle sprain. While the team is hoping the All-Pro right tackle can return in three or four weeks, Fowler adds the third-year blocker could be facing a five- or six-week absence. Some ligament damage occurred, per Fowler, but Wirfs is not expected to need surgery. This timetable would put run up against the end of the regular season, though the Bucs have not placed Wirfs on IR yet.
  • Whereas Foreman’s free agency stock is rising, Baker Mayfield‘s keeps tumbling. Steve Wilks announced Sam Darnold will start in Week 14 against the Seahawks but stopped short of declaring Mayfield the backup, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Mayfield’s QB2 status depends on P.J. Walker‘s health, according to Wilks. This certainly points to Wilks having more confidence in the ex-XFLer. Despite pushing for Offensive Rookie of the Year acclaim and playing a lead role in snapping one of major American sports’ longest playoff droughts two years later, Mayfield will likely need to sign a one-year deal and attempt to prove himself once again. Mayfield, 27, remains last in QBR among qualified starters.

Panthers QB Notes: Darnold, Mayfield, Rhule, Herbert, Stafford, Tepper, Watson

Although the Panthers are starting Baker Mayfield in Week 11, they want to see Sam Darnold in action this season. Steve Wilks said he would like to give Darnold some work, though the interim HC did not indicate that would be certain to happen this week against the Ravens. “I’m interested in winning the game. This is not pay $250 to get to play,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Joe Person (on Twitter).

Carolina used one of its injury activations to move Darnold onto its 53-man roster last week, but the former No. 3 overall pick did not see any action against the Falcons. P.J. Walker is out of the picture for the time being, after becoming the third Carolina QB this season to suffer a high ankle sprain. Mayfield will make his first start since sustaining his ankle injury in Week 9. Here is the latest from what has become one of the more complex QB situations in recent NFL history:

  • After playing hurt last season, Mayfield has not turned it around. On the radar for a potential franchise-QB deal in 2021, Mayfield is on track for free agency for the first time. The market for the former No. 1 overall pick may check in at $5-$7MM on a prove-it deal, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. Mayfield’s 17.7 QBR ranks last in the NFL.
  • This situation has been in flux since Cam Newton‘s 2019 foot injury. Prior to the team making the Newton-for-Teddy Bridgewater change, GM Marty Hurney and most of the Panthers’ scouts were high on Justin Herbert. But Matt Rhule did not view 2020 as the window to draft a quarterback, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com indicating in an expansive piece the team saw a jump from No. 7 overall to No. 4 — ahead of the QB-seeking Dolphins and Chargers — as too costly. While then-Giants GM Dave Gettleman was not keen on trading down, going most of his GM career without ever doing so, the Panthers not making a push for Herbert has led to QB chaos.
  • After the Panthers determined Bridgewater — a preference of former OC Joe Brady — would be a one-and-done in Charlotte, they made a big offer for Matthew Stafford. Negotiations between new Panthers GM Scott Fitterer and Lions rookie GM Brad Holmes at the 2021 Senior Bowl led to Panthers brass leaving Mobile believing they were set to acquire Stafford, Fowler notes. It is interesting to learn how far the GMs progressed in talks, because Stafford made it known soon after he did not want to play for the Panthers. The Rams then came in late with their two-first-rounder offer, forcing the Panthers and others to look elsewhere.
  • Rhule then pushed hard for Darnold, Fowler adds, after Panthers staffers went through film sessions evaluating he, Carson Wentz and Drew Lock. The Panthers sent the Jets second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks for the former No. 3 overall pick and picked up his guaranteed $18.9MM fifth-year option. Owner David Tepper begrudgingly picked up the option but became irked by the 2023 cost hanging over the franchise, per Fowler. Tepper is believed to have held up this year’s Mayfield trade talks in order to move the Browns to pick up more money on his option salary. The delay was connected to the Panthers already having Darnold’s fifth-year option to pay.
  • Tepper’s main prize during this multiyear QB odyssey, Deshaun Watson, was leery of the Panthers’ staff uncertainty, Fowler adds. All things being equal between the four finalists — Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, New Orleans — the Panthers were not believed to be Watson’s first choice. The Falcons were viewed as the team that would have landed Watson if the Browns did not make that unprecedented $230MM guarantee offer.
  • Fitterer offered support for a Mitch Trubisky signing this offseason, according to Fowler, who adds the team never engaged in extended talks with Jimmy Garoppolo‘s camp. While Garoppolo said the Panthers were in the mix, the team was believed to be leery of his injury history. Trubisky is in Year 1 of a two-year, $14.3MM deal. While Trubisky may well be available again in 2023, the Panthers — having added six draft picks from the Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson trades — will be connected to this year’s crop of QB prospects.

Panthers Name Baker Mayfield Week 11 Starter

The quarterback position has been the source of plenty of uncertainty this season for the Panthers, especially in recent weeks. Another injury is forcing a change under center as the team prepares for Week 11.

Interim head coach Steve Wilks announced on Monday that P.J. Walker suffered a high ankle sprain during Carolina’s Thursday night win over the Falcons. As a result, he will be unavailable for the team’s game against the Ravens, and Baker Mayfield will once again take on the starter’s role. Sam Darnold will serve as the backup.

Walker became the Panthers’ starter in Week 6 after Mayfield suffered his own ankle sprain. The former XFLer continued in that role even after Mayfield was healthy enough to return, though the latter replaced him in the second half of their blowout loss to the Bengals two weeks ago.

Mayfield’s performance in that game, along with the IR activation of Darnold, gave the Panthers their top two signal-callers from the offseason available to start last week. Instead, Wilks went back to Walker for the primetime rematch against Atlanta. He will likely be sidelined for multiple weeks as a result of the injury, but Wilks indicated that an IR stint is not currently being considered (Twitter link via team reporter Darin Grant).

Mayfield, who won out a training camp competition with Darnold after his long-expected arrival in Carolina, has plenty of experience against Baltimore. The former No. 1 pick spent four years with the Browns, during which time he met the Ravens on eight occasions. His level of play with Carolina before the injury was a key factor in the team’s offensive woes, and the firing of Matt Rhule.

That will lead to increased scrutiny for him as he begins his second stint as Carolina’s starter. Mayfield, like Darnold, is set to hit free agency this offseason, so improved play in the second half of the campaign from one (or both) of them could go a long way in determining their financial futures.