Sam Howell

Seahawks Were High On QB Sam Howell

New Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, whom Washington selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft, had a lot of supporters in the Seahawks organization, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (subscription required). Seattle, which of course traded franchise icon Russell Wilson to the Broncos earlier this offseason, was connected to collegiate QBs throughout the predraft process, but the team decided against drafting a signal-caller.

Part of the reason for that is the Seahawks’ opinion of Drew Lock and Geno Smith. Head coach Pete Carroll has consistently praised Lock since acquiring him in the Wilson deal, and Smith flashed when filling in for an injured Wilson for a few games in 2021. Plus, as Fowler adds, the team wanted to improve the overall depth of its roster since it had only three selections in the 2021 draft.

The ‘Hawks are particularly high on fourth-round cornerback Coby Bryant, whom they believe only fell to the middle rounds because of injury concerns, and second-round running back Kenneth Walker III, who will pair with Rashaad Penny to create a potentially formidable 1-2 punch in the offensive backfield. Plus, since a quarterback like Howell would almost certainly be behind Lock and Smith on the 2022 depth chart, Seattle felt its draft resources would be better-utilized on immediate contributors like Bryant and Walker instead of a QB3. If the team is still in need of a signal-caller next year, the 2023 draft offers more intriguing quarterback talent than the 2022 draft did.

That is not to say, of course, that another QB addition is off the table. Although Carroll said he does not believe the Seahawks will trade for a passer (like well-documented trade candidates Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo), injuries could always change that stance. And if Mayfield and/or Garoppolo should be released by their current clubs and become free agents, Seattle could be interested at that point.

The team is also rostering Jacob Eason and rookie UDFA Levi Lewis at the moment.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/6/22

Here are the latest draft pick signings:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears 

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

  • DB Tariq Woolen (fifth round, Texas-San Antonio)
  • LB Tyreke Smith (fifth round, Ohio State)
  • WR Bo Melton (seventh round, Rutgers)
  • WR Dareke Young (seventh round, Lenoir-Rhyne)

Washington Commanders

Panthers Still Open To Veteran QB Addition

Although the Panthers came away with a Day 2 quarterback in this draft (Matt Corral), third-round picks do not necessarily block teams from further investments at this position. The team will continue to look into the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield and now Nick Foles, SI.com’s Albert Breer notes.

GM Scott Fitterer said post-draft the team would go with its current group — one headlined by Sam Darnold and Corral — but Garoppolo or Mayfield would provide an upgrade. The Panthers and Browns had discussed Mayfield ahead of last week’s second round but could not determine how to divvy up the since-replaced QB’s fifth-year option salary ($18.9MM). Darnold is already attached to that sum, which would make Carolina eating all of Mayfield’s option price a non-starter. As such, Mayfield is in limbo.

This marks the second Garoppolo connection to form in the past few days, with the Texans also believed to have the longtime 49ers starter on their radar. Houston did not draft a quarterback last week. Few Garoppolo connections emerged this offseason, with the 49ers’ high asking price limiting teams’ interest. The eight-year veteran’s shoulder surgery provided a roadblock as well.

Foles, 33, languished on the Bears’ bench for most of last season. The former Super Bowl MVP also lost his starting job in both 2019 (to Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville) and ’20 (to Mitchell Trubisky, after having taken it from the incumbent earlier that year). Last season, Andy Dalton and Justin Fields ran Chicago’s offense in all but one game — a Foles-directed win in Seattle — and the Bears finally cut bait after the draft.

Corral became a Panther after the team traded into the third round, giving up its 2023 third-rounder to do so, but the team might have had its eye on a different QB. The Panthers had a deal on the table to trade back into Round 2, when Corral, Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder were on the board amid their Friday-night freefalls.

I had the card in my hand, and [owner David Tepper] looks at me and says, ‘What do you want to do?’” Fitterer said, via Breer. “And we both just kind of took a moment, and we looked at the board, and we decided the right thing to do was to be patient. Let’s not overpay. Let’s be smart about this. Let’s not dig ourselves in a hole for next year. Let’s inch back on trading with these quarterbacks.”

The Falcons and Titans took Ridder and Willis, respectively, and Breer adds the Panthers would have been fine going with Sam Howell instead of Corral. They decided on the Ole Miss product, and the in-state product fell all the way to Washington atop Round 5.

Commanders Draft Sam Howell At No. 144

This draft’s slow-paced approach with non-Kenny Pickett quarterbacks affected Sam Howell, whose wait lasted well into Day 3. The Commanders stopped the skid.

Washington led off the fifth round by taking the North Carolina passer at No. 144. Howell is this draft’s sixth QB selected, coming in behind Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, Matt Corral and Bailey Zappe.

Although Howell waited much longer to hear his name called than expected, he lands in an interesting place. The Commanders took on Carson Wentz‘s full salary in their trade with the Colts, but the twice-traded quarterback is a year-to-year proposition. Wentz is on Washington’s books at $28.3MM this year, with $22MM of that figure being guaranteed. None of Wentz’s money over the next two years is guaranteed.

While the prospect of Howell becoming a starter is jumping the gun, as there are currently no fifth-round QBs penciled in as their teams’ starters, the Commanders have started five Week 1 QBs in the past six years. Wentz will become No. 6, with the former North Carolina passer set to develop behind he and Taylor Heinicke. The latter’s contract runs through 2022.

The Giants were also linked to Howell, viewing him as a possible late-Day 2 addition. ESPN rated the 6-foot Howell as its No. 50 overall prospect. But teams’ collective views on this quarterback class checked in even lower than the public’s, allowing for other positional attention as QBs slid. Howell was once viewed as a potential first-round pick. He exited his sophomore year with a 68-to-14 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio, playing with the likes of Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown. Howell and Brown are now reunited in Washington, which used a third-round pick on the wideout last year.

Without those players last season, Howell’s stock fell a bit. Although, he still entered the draft after his junior year. He was viewed as a likely Day 2 selection, behind the bulk of the aforementioned passers. Zappe going in front of the ex-Tar Heel was somewhat surprising, given their pre-draft stocks, but Howell may have landed in a better spot for potential playing time down the road.

Draft Notes: Remaining QBs, Jets, Vikings, Burks, Johnson

One of the main storylines from last night’s first round was the fact that only one quarterback came off the board. The Steelers have their preferred choice in Kenny Pickett, but the other top options likely won’t have to wait long to hear their names called.

Jeff Howe of the Athletic reports (via Twitter) that “several teams” are trying to move up in the second round. As a result, there is “anticipation that a QB run could be on the way”. A number of teams could be interested in adding the likes of Malik Willis, Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder and Matt Corral as intriguing developmental options.

On that point, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer names the Titans, Falcons, Seahawks and Commanders as teams to watch for. He reports that “Ridder’s name has been consistently connected to Tennessee”, who now holds the 35th overall pick. The other teams have done significant work on signal-callers as well. Perhaps eyeing a passer, the Seahawks have made “exploratory calls” about moving up tonight, per CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson (Twitter link).

Here are some other notes looking back on last night:

  • The Jets, as it has been reported, were willing to part with the No. 10 pick for Deebo Samuel. They almost made a different deal with that selection, though, as detailed by ESPN’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter). New York wanted to swap with Seattle for No. 9 to avoid a team leapfrogging them to select Garrett Wilson. Both teams were able to successfully stand pat, ultimately getting Charles Cross and Wilson, respectively.
  • Not long after the top-10 was complete, the Vikings ceded the 12th overall pick to the Lions. With their second first-rounder, Detroit selected Jameson Williams, who may have been the pick at that spot had Minnesota kept it. Breer reports that the Alabama receiver “was very much in play ” for the Vikings, who added Lewis Cine and two Day 2 picks as a result of the deal.
  • Another of the top receivers to be taken last night was Treylon Burks, whom the Titans selected as a replacement for A.J. BrownWhen speaking to Pat McAfee, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said the Arkansas alum “was the guy Aaron Rodgers wanted” (video link). With him off the board, the Packers extended their streak of not using a Round 1 pick on a wideout, but he reports that they are a candidate to trade up for one tonight (video link).
  • One of the most surprising fallers on Thursday night was pass rusher Jermaine Johnson II. Part of the reason he was still on the board for the Jets at No. 25, Breer notes, was poor interviews with teams in the pre-draft process. Thought by some as a top-10 pick, he ended up with the Jets anyway, and figures to serve as a notable boost to their pass rush.

Latest On Panthers’ QB Pursuit

4:46pm: The Panthers and Browns have continued their conversations on Mayfield, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (video link). The expectation now is Cleveland needing to eat a chunk of Mayfield’s $18.9MM fifth-year option salary would stand to improve Mayfield’s price tag, but NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport adds the cost for the since-replaced QB is expected to be a Day 3 pick.

The Panthers are also a candidate to trade into Round 2 for a rookie, but that would be quite costly. Because of its trades for Sam Darnold and C.J. Henderson, Carolina does not pick again until No. 137. Carolina is, however, high on Willis and Corral. Both visited the Panthers earlier this month, joining fellow potential Carolina target Howell in doing so.

12:04pm: Day 1 of this year’s draft has come and gone, and Sam Darnold remains at the top of the Panthers’ quarterback depth chart. While that doesn’t come as a surprise, the team’s situation at the position could still change in the near future. 

[RELATED: Panthers Select Ekwonu At No. 6]

According to Jeff Howe of the Athletic, Carolina’s interest in veterans such as Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo could heat back up. Given the fact that they made the expected move to bolster their offensive line by drafting Ikem Ekwonu sixth overall, he writes, the Panthers “now should be players for Mayfield.”

The two parties were linked in the build-up to the draft, with Carolina finding themselves as one of the runners-up to acquire Deshaun Watson. After initial reports indicated the team had little, if any, interest in Mayfield, the Panthers emerged in the eyes of many as the favorite to acquire him. Doing so, however, was only thought to be feasible after at least the draft’s opening round.

As Howe notes, any potential trade involving Mayfield is complicated by a number of factors. One is his contract; the 2018 No. 1 pick is due $18.86MM on the fifth-year option, just as Darnold is. For that reason, Howe writes, “the Browns are prepared to pay a portion of Mayfield’s salary to facilitate a deal.” Another is the team’s complete lack of Day 2 picks, taking them out of the running to draft the likes of Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell or Matt Corral without sacrificing 2023 capital.

“I think we’ll look at every opportunity out there” said general manager Scott Fitterer, via Howe’s colleague Joe Person, regarding the QB market. “There’s still some really good players in this draft. And we’ll also look at every opportunity outside the organization.” Whether the team acts on those opportunities will be worth monitoring as the weekend progresses.

Teams Targeting Late First-Round QB Trade-Ups?

It is widely known by this point that the 2022 quarterback class is not held in the same regard as the average one. That has made it difficult to pin down the likely landing spots for the top prospects at the position, as well as the number of teams willing to spend a first-round pick on one of them. It would appear as though the back end of Day 1 could become the source of some QB-related trades, however. 

[RELATED: Interest In First-Round QBs Cooling?]

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports that while Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett are the top options, the possibility exists for the next tier of passers to start being taken late in the opening round (video link). That group – which consists of Sam HowellDesmond Ridder and Matt Corrall – could be the target of teams trading up from early in the second round.

As Pelissero notes, there are a number of teams near the top of the second round which could select a signal-caller. That list includes the Seahawks and Falcons; if they decline to draft the likes of Willis or Pickett in the top-10, they could try to move into the late 20s to land one of the three other passers in the (seemingly likely) event they are still available.

One team to consider in that scenario is the Lions. While they are expected to target the top remaining edge rusher with the No. 2 pick, the team also owns No. 32. It is with that final Day 1 selection, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports, that Detroit “is more likely [to] snag a QB… or move up a bit from there to do so”. Competition between the Lions and a number of other interested teams could create the circumstances needed for there to be “a run on some of those other quarterbacks”, as Pelissero details.

The pre-draft process has seen a number of opinions come out regarding this QB class and the value of developmental signal-callers versus more surefire prospects at other positions. Much will depend, of course, on how high Willis and Pickett go, but those two may not be the only passers to hear their names called on Day 1.

Interest In First-Round QBs Cooling?

With less than one week to go until this year’s draft, there are still plenty of questions regarding the top pick, as well as the quarterback class. The long-held belief has been that Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett are locks to go in the first round, but sentiment seems to be growing that the top signal-callers may have to wait longer than expected to hear their names called. 

As noted by ESPN’s Matt Miller, “the momentum that swung [Pickett and Willis] up the board seems to be swinging back the other way”. He adds that Pickett (who has long been connected to the Steelers) is, in the eyes of some, the only surefire first-round prospect. His highly productive fifth season at Pittsburgh earned him Heisman trophy consideration, and has generally made him the prospect seen as most NFL-ready.

For the others, Miller notes, interest has “quieted down” considerably. He posits that Pickett being the only Day 1 signal-caller wouldn’t come as a surprise. Willis in particular has been involved in speculation surrounding QB-needy teams, including the Panthers, holders of the sixth-overall pick. Miller himself reported recently that Desmond Ridder could also find himself in the top-20.

With respect to the Steelers, Miller states that the team appears to prefer Pickett far more than any other prospect at the position. Pittsburgh devoted a great deal of time to scouting the top QB options, so such a stance would be rather telling. If Pickett isn’t available at No. 20, Miller reports, offensive tackle would become a position of interest.

While the overall view of the class seems to fading, Miller’s colleague Jordan Reid notes that the No. 32 pick (currently owned by the Lions) could be the target of a trade-up to land a passer. He details that Sam Howell is the name “to keep an eye on”; a team looking to secure a fifth-year option on his rookie contract could move up to the end of the first round, thus adding to the total number of QBs taken there.

Overall, the waters appear to be as muddied as ever as they pertain to this year’s prospects at the game’s most important position.

NFL Draft Rumors: Howell, McDuffie, Texans, Eagles

Scouts aren’t wild about this year’s crop of quarterbacks, but North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell tells Albert Breer of SI that he’s not bothered by the negativity.

We all hear it,” Howell said. “I don’t really take it personally. People are going to say what they believe, and that’s what they get paid to do. Whether they’re right or wrong, it doesn’t really matter. I can speak for myself, I truly could care less what anyone says about me. They try to judge all these draft guys before the draft every single year, and then they go in the league and they’re either going to play well or they’re not.”

And they’re going to guess, and 50% of the time they’re going to be right, and 50% they’re probably going to be wrong.”

On that note, here’s the latest buzz from Breer as we head into the 2022 NFL Draft:

  • Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie has impressed throughout the pre-draft process, Breer hears. From coach and scout meetings to his 4.4-second 40-yard-dash, McDuffie seems to have slotted himself as the No. 3 CB in this year’s crop, behind Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.
  • Texans head coach Lovie Smith has been vocal about his desire to remain his cornerback group and the rest of the league is taking him at his word. Smith, known for running the Tampa 2 defense, may push his club to pounce on a top-end CB with at either No. 3 or No. 13 overall.
  • The Eagles have prioritized wide receivers in each of the last two drafts, but rival scouts and evaluators aren’t ruling out the possibility of Howie Roseman going for three in a row. This year’s WR class is headlined by the likes of Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Georgia’s George Pickens, and USC’s Drake London.

Panthers Holding Private Workout With Sam Howell, Ikem Ekwonu

The Panthers, like all other NFL teams, have already conducted most of their allotted ’30 visits’ with top draft prospects. They can still host meetings and workouts with local players, though, and they are doing just that. Carolina is getting together with quarterback Sam Howell for a second time today, and will do so tomorrow with offensive linemen Ikem Ekwonu (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). 

[RELATED: Latest On Panthers’ QB Plans]

The Panthers already hosted Howell as part of their wider pre-draft work on each of the top QBs in the class. The North Carolina product has also drawn interest from a number of other teams, leading many to believe he will be a first-round pick. The consensus among analysts with respect to quarterbacks, however, is that Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett will hear their names called before Howell’s; the same may also be true of Desmond Ridder.

The No. 6 selection, then, could more likely be used on Ekwonu. It was reported earlier this month that the Panthers were interested in both him and Charles Cross, two of the top offensive line prospects in this year’s class. The NC State alum, like Howell, counts as a local, rather than a ’30’ visit. The extended look at each player signals a high degree of interest, but the 131-pick gap between the Panthers’ first and second selections leaves a trade-down as a distinct possibility as well.

Rapoport adds that the team will also meet with Cross, which doesn’t come as a surprise. The Mississippi State product is likelier than Ekwonu to still be available, and would still fill the offensive tackle need the team has faced for years. How the team handles its QB situation, meanwhile, will directly affect Howell’s odds of winding up in Carolina.