Ryan Stonehouse

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/8/23

Minor moves heading into the weekend:

Kansas City Chiefs

Tennessee Titans

Ross was placed on the Commissioner Exempt List back in October after getting arrested on misdemeanor domestic battery and misdemeanor property damage charges. Adam Schefter of ESPN now reports that the ordeal will result in a six-game suspension by the NFL for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. Since Ross has missed the past five games on the exempt list, those five games will count towards his six-game suspension, meaning that he may rejoin the team after their contest with the Bills this weekend. Unlike his time on the exempt list, though, the six-game suspension is meant to be unpaid, meaning that Ross will be required to pay back the game checks that he received over that five-game period.

We were told recently that Stonehouse would be out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Today’s transaction sets that in stone as he’ll find his way to injured reserve alongside the former practice squad linebacker.

Titans Fire ST Coordinator Craig Aukerman; P Ryan Stonehouse Out For Season

After a disastrous day from a special teams standpoint, the Titans will be making a few third phase adjustments. Special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman has been fired, head coach Mike Vrabel announced on Monday.

Tom Quinn will take over for Aukerman, as noted by ESPN’s Turron Davenport. The latter had been in place since 2018, having assumed the coordinator role after serving as an assistant the year prior. This had been Aukerman’s second stint with the Titans, after he first worked with the team as an assistant ST coordinator from 2013-15.

The 47-year-old made his NFL coaching debut in 2010 when he joined the Broncos as a defensive assistant. He held the same title one year later with the Jaguars, and it was in 2012 that he first began working as a special teams staffer. After his first Titans stint, Aukerman spent one year as the Chargers’ special teams coordinator before returning to Nashville.

The Titans rank ninth in the league in special teams DVOA in 2023, but the team’s Week 13 loss included multiple punts being blocked. On the second such occasion, punter Ryan Stonehouse was injured, and the play has proven to be the final one of the year for him. Stonehouse will undergo season-ending surgery, Vrabel said, via Davenport.

The 24-year-old proved to be a valuable addition last season, when he led the league in gross punting yards (4,779) and average (53.1 yards per punt). Stonehouse had matched the latter figure exactly during his 12 games this season, so his loss will be acutely felt for the remainder of the campaign. A new punter (and holder) will be needed to close out the year.

Quinn has considerable experience as a ST coordinator at the NFL level. He served in that role with the Giants from 2007-17, then remained in New York through 2021 as an assistant. The 55-year-old was out of coaching last year before joining Tennessee’s staff this past offseason. He will look to avoid a repeat of Sunday’s poor showing as the 4-8 Titans finish a disappointing campaign.

“There’s no real precedent to anything – you try to get a feel for what’s best and what’s needed,” Vrabel said when speaking about the move (video link via team reporter Jim Wyatt). “And whether we’ve done something in the past, there’s times we haven’t run a certain coverage or we haven’t run certain plays. And these decisions are about timing and feel. So, that’s the decision that was made.”

Titans To Release P Brett Kern

The Titans will have a new punter for the first time in over a decade this season. The team is set to release veteran Brett Kern, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). 

The 36-year-old was the longest-tenured player on the team, having started his 12-plus-year Nashville tenure in 2009. The move to the Titans came after being waived by the Broncos following 22 games in Denver. Since then, he has accumulated 197 appearances in Tennessee, which ranks third in Oilers/Titans franchise history.

Kern’s peak came during a three-year stretch from 2017-19. He was named a Pro Bowler in each of those seasons, earning All-Pro honors in two of them as well. During the 2017 campaign, the Toledo product led the NFL with a punt average of 49.7 yards. Overall, his average in that regard sits at 45.9, though his numbers have dropped during each of the past two seasons.

Kern had one season remaining on his current deal, which was set to pay him $2.2MM; the move will save Tennessee $1.2MM. With him off the roster, it appears that undrafted rookie Ryan Stonehouse will take over the team’s punting duties. During five seasons at Colorado State, he punted a total of 244 times at an average 47.8 yards, including a career-high 50.9 yards in 2021.

As Kern now looks for a new NFL home, many have suggested Buffalo as a logical landing spot. The Bills are currently without a punter, as they cut ties with sixth-round rookie Matt Araiza over the weekend in the wake of recent developments related to a suit naming him in gang rape allegations. As a native of Grand Island, New York, Kern signing with the Bills would not only fill the team’s roster void, but also represent a homecoming. Regardless of where he lands, the Titans will face some notable uncertainty this season on special teams.

Titans Sign 17 UDFAs & 1 International Allocation

After making a litany of moves on Draft Day, including trading away star wide receiver A.J. Brown, Tennessee added 17 undrafted free agents to their existing nine-man drafted rookie class:

Anenih set career highs this year for the Cougars and made himself a priority for the Titans, signing for a guaranteed $150,000, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Tennessee also saw the Hawkeye kicker as a priority, guaranteeing Shudak an impressive $40,000 at signing, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network.

Odukoya played 40 career games at Eastern Michigan and is one of four players joining the league from the International Player Pathway Program. Odukoya, who hails from the Netherlands, will look to help strengthen the pipeline of international players to the NFL.

Jackrabbits safety Griffin II holds no relation with former Titans safety Michael Griffin.