Saahdiq Charles

Latest On Titans’ RG, RT Position Battles

The Titans and new offensive line coach Bill Callahan have quite a few familiar faces to work with in 2024, but there could be some big changes along the offensive line. A couple of position battles have developed in the early days of the offseason, according to Titans senior writer/editor Jim Wyatt.

The team utilized Daniel Brunskill and Dillon Radunz mostly at right guard and right tackle, respectively, last year, but neither player seems to be solid in their job security. Brunskill has lost his starting job before in San Francisco. After earning a starting job partway through his rookie season, Brunskill started two more years for the 49ers. In 2022, Brunskill found himself coming off the bench in favor of then-rookie Spencer Burford. He started 14 games for the Titans last year. Radunz finally earned his opportunity to start at right tackle last year after failing to win the job his first two seasons and being forced to work as a backup guard.

Radunz’s tenure as the starting right tackle may already be coming to an end, though, as Wyatt sees Nicholas Petit-Frere taking back the job in 2024. Petit-Frere started his rookie season at right tackle for the team in 2022, but a combination of a suspension for violating the league’s gambling policy and a stint on injured reserve restricted him to only three games last season. Wyatt predicts that, given a healthy recovery, Petit-Frere will reclaim his starting job and push Radunz back to guard-duty.

Wyatt sees free agent addition Saahdiq Charles as the biggest threat to Brunskill’s job. Despite being limited in how much offensive linemen can do in organized team activities, Charles has reportedly had a very good spring. Charles comes from Washington where he started 10 of 11 game appearances at left guard last year after only starting eight games in his first three years combined. He’s looked the part enough in Tennessee to convince Wyatt that a change could be in effect.

It’s still a competition, though, and Wyatt notes that Charles will have to beat out Brunskill, and potentially Radunz should he get pushed back inside, for the job. He notes that the right tackle position will be a battle, as well, and though Petit-Frere and Radunz will get first looks, Leroy Watson, Jaelyn Duncan, and the newly acquired Geron Christian will all be in the mix, as well.

The rest of the line seems set. Peter Skoronski is reportedly likely to stay inside at left guard, the team drafted Alabama’s JC Latham in the first round to start at left tackle, and they signed Lloyd Cushenberry to start at center. While battles are set to ensue, the expectation is that some combination of two of Charles, Petit-Frere, Radunz, and Brunskill will be alongside them on the right side of the line in 2024.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/12/24

Today’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/15/23

Here are today’s minor transactions, including some practice squad callups for the Saturday games:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Indianapolis Colts

Minnesota Vikings

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Getting Charles back should provide a bit of a boost for a Commanders’ offensive line that has allowed quarterback Sam Howell to be sacked an NFL-leading 58 times. That being said, they led the league in that category when Charles was healthy, as well. Still, as Charles attempts to come back from the calf injury that sidelined him for six games, he’ll have to overcome second-year guard Chris Paul, who has been starting in his place since the injury. While Charles had been struggling in a contract year, his replacement has ranked as the fourth-worst guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Wormley, Krull, and Senat all make their way up to the active roster for two reasons: first, injuries, and second, they’ve already appeared as standard gameday elevations off of the practice squad the maximum three times. In order to appear in any other games this year, all three needed to be signed to new contracts. If the players they are replacing come back from injury before the end of the season, any of them can be waived, re-signed to the practice squad, and elevated an additional three times.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/13/23

Today’s minor moves from around the NFL:

Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Jacksonville Jaguars

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

Agnew has missed the four games required to return from injured reserve, and though he’s not been activated yet, the Jaguars took the first step towards that outcome today in returning him to practice. It was shoulder and rib injuries that led to the return specialist’s placement on IR. During his absence the team had turned to rookie sixth-round receiver Parker Washington to return punts and veteran backup running back D’Ernest Johnson to return kickoffs. Jacksonville still has a few days to determine whether or not they’ll activate him right away for this weekend. If not, the team will have 21 days to activate him before his practice window closes and Agnew is reverted to season-ending IR.

Commanders Place LB Cody Barton, G Saahdiq Charles On IR, Activate DT Phidarian Mathis

On a busy day of roster shuffling for the Commanders, a pair of starters have been shut down for an extended stretch while a notable depth defender has been cleared to return. Washington announced on Saturday that linebacker Cody Barton and left guard Saahdiq Charles have been placed on injured reserve, while defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis has been activated from IR.

Barton suffered a high ankle sprain in the Commanders’ Week 7 loss to the Giants, and the injury will require a lengthy recovery period. The 26-year-old will miss at least the next four weeks as a result of the IR move. That will interrupt his debut season in the nation’s capital, which has come after four years in Seattle. Barton signed a one-year deal worth a fully guaranteed $3.5MM in free agency, and he has seen the largest workload of his career with the Commanders.

The former third-rounder’s defensive snap share sits at 88% this season, and he has made 61 tackles amidst the uptick in playing time. The latter figure represents the second-largest of Barton’s career, though he will be unable to match last season’s mark (136) given the time is now slated to miss. Washington has David Mayo and Khaleke Hudson in place at the LB spot, and head coach Ron Rivera has indicated a number of other players will get a look in Barton’s absence.

Losing Charles for at least one month will hinder a Commanders O-line which has drawn signficant criticism this season, as quarterback Sam Howell has taken a league-leading 40 sacks. Charles, who has previously seen time at right guard and right tackle, has played exclusively at the LG spot in 2023. The 2020 fourth-rounder has taken on full-time starting duties for the first time this year, though he has earned an underwhelming PFF grade of 59.1 so far. Between that, and the month-long absence guaranteed by today’s news, Charles’ free agent stock is set to take a hit. Chris Paul and Ricky Stromberg are the likely replacements available to Washington at left guard.

Mathis’ activation comes as little surprise, as he was designated for return earlier this week. The 2022 second-rounder was limited to just one game as a rookie due to an meniscus tear, and his return to the lineup (following a separate injury) has been long-awaited. The Alabama product will look to carve out a rotational role on the inside behind the team’s high-priced duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.

Bringing back Mathis will use up one of the Commanders’ IR activations, leaving them with six for the remainder of the season. Two of those will be required to bring Barton and Charles back into the lineup when healthy. In the meantime, Washington will proceed with their replacements through an important stretch on the schedule.

NFC East Notes: Commanders, Kearse, Giants

Battling a turf toe issue sustained Monday night, Terry McLaurin will not need surgery. But an extended rest period is underway. This hiatus has the top Commanders skill-position talent uncertain to be ready by Week 1, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeremy Fowler (Twitter links). McLaurin has not missed a game due to injury since 2020. The Commanders have made some big investments at wide receiver since starting McLaurin’s tenure off with little around him. Curtis Samuel is going into the final season of his three-year, $34.5MM contract, and the team has first-rounder Jahan Dotson going into his second season. But McLaurin has been one of the NFL’s best receivers, totaling his third straight 1,000-yard season months after signing a three-year, $69.6MM extension.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

Latest On Commanders’ OL Situation

The Commanders’ 2022 offensive line was one of the league’s most beleaguered position groups last year. The team dealt with multiple injuries throughout the season, handicapping a group that already was lacking in star talent. A good amount of turnover is expected from last year’s lineup, but is it nearly enough to not be a hindrance to quarterback Sam Howell‘s first season as a Day 1 starter?

In terms of turnover, Trai Turner, who started 12 games at guard last season, has departed as a free agent. Wes Schweitzer, who started six games at guard, is now on the Jets. Nick Martin and Chase Roullier have also made their way to free agency, and Andrew Norwell is soon set to join them. It was announced a little over a month ago that the team was waiting to release Norwell until he could pass a physical, but he’s still currently on the roster today.

In terms of new blood, the Commanders signed former Chiefs tackle Andrew Wylie, who followed new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy from Kansas City. The team also added former Giants interior lineman Nick Gates with the intent to play him at center. Washington did re-sign Tyler Larsen, who started eight games at center for the team last year. The loser of the starting battle between Gates and Larsen will become an experienced depth piece on the interior line. Additionally, the team used both a third- and a fourth-round draft pick to address the offensive line, bringing in rookie center Ricky Stromberg from Arkansas and rookie tackle Braeden Daniels from Utah. While both could project as long-term starters for the future, neither rookie seems to be a contender to make an impact this season.

With the offseason moves, we’re starting to see the line take shape. Left tackle Charles Leno is the only sure thing on the line. He’s a definitive starter and should produce at a consistent level. The Commanders spent too much money on Wylie for him not to start. It’s been a couple years since his best performances (he allowed nine sacks last year), but his starting experience for a Super Bowl-winning team is likely enough to cement him at right tackle.

Gates likewise is being paid at a starters’ rate, so he’s the odds-on favorite to take the starting job at center. In that case, it ends up being a smart move to have retained Larsen, since over the past two years, Gates has only appeared in 12 games. If Gates continues to struggle to stay on the field, Washington knows Larsen can step up. With the addition of Stromberg in the draft, the Commanders are certainly attempting to feel secure after a season that decimated their centers room.

Samuel Cosmi is an interesting piece in the line. He was drafted out of Texas in the second round two years ago as a top tackle prospect, and while he’s gotten some run there in Washington, he’s also filled in a bit at guard. With Wylie and Leno likely securing starting roles on the outside, Cosmi can either become a strong depth piece at tackle or continue working as a starter at guard.

The other guard spot seems fairly open. Saahdiq Charles is currently one of the top candidates for the starting role. In three years with the team, Charles has started eight games, but he’s not really expected to excel as a starting guard. His main competition for the position seems to be last year’s seventh-round pick Chris Paul. Paul only made his NFL debut when he started the season finale for the Commanders last year, but Rivera has heaped praise on the progress and abilities of the young man. If he continues to impress, he could push Charles for the starting spot opposite Cosmi.

So, did the Commanders piece together a line that their second-year passer can be confident behind? It’s almost certainly too soon to tell. There’s an argument to be made that they were able to increase the talent of their two-deep, but the biggest thing they could improve on to better their chances of success this year is just health.

Commanders HC Ron Rivera On LG Competition

Last March, the Commanders signed Andrew Norwell to a two-year, $10MM contract and installed him as their starting left guard. Aside from the last game of the season, Norwell played every offensive snap for Washington in 2022, but his roster spot could be in jeopardy.

When recently asked about his club’s LG competition, head coach Ron Rivera said he expects a real battle between fourth-year pro Saahdiq Charles and second-year blocker Chris Paul (Twitter link via JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington). As for Norwell, Rivera simply said, “he’s going to be there.”

That is hardly a strong vote of confidence for a player who was brought in as a worthy replacement for Brandon Scherff, who defected to the Jaguars in free agency last year after a brilliant seven-year tenure with Washington that included five Pro Bowl bids and one First Team All-Pro designation. Unfortunately for Norwell, his performance in his first year with the Commanders was not especially compelling.

After earning First Team All-Pro acclaim himself in 2017, his final season with the Panthers, Norwell secured a then-record contract with Jacksonville, and his play in Duval County, while generally solid, did not necessarily match the club’s financial commitment. In 2022, Norwell received a 59.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, which was the lowest mark of his nine-year career and which positioned him as the 47th-best guard out of 76 qualifiers. He was charged with five penalties and 29 total pressures allowed, including four sacks.

Still, his 127 career starts are unrivaled by Charles, who has taken all of 61 snaps at left guard in his three-year career, and Paul, a 2022 seventh-rounder whose only action of his rookie campaign came in the Week 18 contest that Norwell sat out. So it stands to reason that Washington would keep Norwell around at least long enough to see if the Charles-Paul battle yields promising results, or if running it back with Norwell is a better solution for a team that could be deploying a largely inexperienced Sam Howell at quarterback.

However, if Charles and/or Paul should prove themselves capable of a starting role in spring workouts and training camp, Norwell’s contract could work against him. Due to the void years that were tacked onto the end of his deal, releasing Norwell prior to June 1 would create $2.8MM in dead money versus a savings of only $2.3MM. A post-June 1 release, though, would create savings of $4.4MM on the 2023 ledger against just $700K in dead money.

If Rivera’s comments are any indication, Norwell may find himself a cap casualty this summer.

Commanders Place CB Benjamin St-Juste, OL Saahdiq Charles On IR

Washington made some quick adjustments to its active roster just prior to its season finale against Dallas this weekend, placing cornerback Benjamin St-Juste and offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles on injured reserve, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. To fill their spots on the 53-man roster, the Commanders signed practice squad tackle Alex Akingbulu and practice squad defensive end Benning Potoa’e to the active roster.

The biggest name here is obviously St-Juste, who has become a full-time starter in the slot during his sophomore season with the Commanders. As a rookie third-round pick last year, St-Juste was able to earn some serious playing time, starting three of nine appearances, but concussion issues led to an early end to his rookie year on IR. This season, St-Juste moved from outside corner to play more of a nickel role in the slot. St-Juste started every game of the season alongside cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Bobby McCain before beginning to deal with an ankle injury in a Week 11 win over the Texans. St-Juste has missed four of the five games since then and will now end his second season in a row on IR. In his absence, the Commanders have utilized rookie seventh-round pick Christian Holmes and veteran Danny Johnson in the slot.

Since being drafted in the fourth-round in 2020, Charles has been a dependable backup lineman for the Commanders, filling in as a starter for at least one game each season. Charles started three games earlier this season after coming in for injured right guard Trai Turner in a Week 4 loss to the Cowboys. Charles has been inactive since the team’s Week 14 bye while dealing with a concussion. Placing him on IR ensures he will be inactive for his fourth straight game to end the season.

Akingbulu is an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State. The first-team All-Mountain West offensive tackle from last year will provide some depth to the offensive line after the loss of Charles to IR. Potoa’e went undrafted out of the University of Washington in 2020, initially signing with the Buccaneers. After two seasons on Tampa Bay’s practice squad, Potoa’e was released in final roster cuts this preseason and decided to sign to the Commanders’ practice squad this season. Potoa’e is looking for his second in-game appearance this season, while an appearance by Akingbulu would mark his NFL debut.

Commanders C Chase Roullier Likely Out For Season, Restructures Contract

Commanders center Chase Roullier is likely done for the season, as Jeremy Fowler of reported earlier this week (via Twitter). Roullier played in only eight games last season due to a fibula fracture, so this is an especially disappointing development for player and team.

It was the fibula injury, suffered in Week 8 of the 2021 campaign, that landed Roullier on the PUP list at the start of this year’s training camp. The Wyoming product was able to suit up for the 2022 opener, but he went down with a serious injury to his right knee — which John Keim of reports is a torn MCL — in the waning moments of Washington’s Week 2 loss to the Lions. He underwent surgery on the knee on Thursday.

A starter since his rookie year in 2017, Roullier established himself as a quality blocker over his first few professional seasons, with Pro Football Focus consistently awarding him high marks for his pass-blocking prowess. 2020 was his best year yet, and he earned a four-year, $40.5MM extension in January 2021. Unfortunately, after appearing in 46 of a possible 48 regular season games from 2018-20, it looks like Roullier will have appeared in just 10 of a possible 34 games from 2021-22.

He will, however, get a little extra financial security despite the injury. In order to carve out some much-needed cap space, the Commanders have converted $4.5MM of Roullier’s base salary into a signing bonus, as Field Yates of tweets. The transaction gives Washington an additional $3MM in cap room.

PFF graded Washington’s O-line as the sixth-best unit in 2020 and 2021, but that group is facing some serious hardship this year. The Commanders lost longtime right guard Brandon Scherff in free agency and tried to replace him with veteran Trai Turner. Turner, though, missed most of training camp with a quad injury and was replaced by Saahdiq Charles during the club’s Week 4 loss to the Cowboys due to poor performance.

Meanwhile, Roullier’s replacement, Wes Schweitzer, sustained a concussion one week after Roullier’s injury and has been placed on IR, so the Commanders will deploy recent acquisition Nick Martin at the pivot for at least a few games. Furthermore, Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post reports that right tackle Samuel Cosmi underwent surgery on his right thumb on Tuesday and will miss an undisclosed amount of time.