Tavon Austin

NFL Workouts: Ross, Austin, Butler

Despite adding star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins back to the active roster and acquiring former Panthers wide out Robbie Anderson for a pair of draft picks, the Cardinals worked out another receiver yesterday in John Ross, according to Field Yates of ESPN. While many viewed Anderson as a replacement for the lost production of draft day acquisition Marquise Brown, who faces a potential multi-week absence, the speedy Ross would be a better match, in terms of skill set, to team up with diminutive wide outs Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch to replace Brown’s ability.

A former top ten draft pick for the Bengals in 2017, Ross is widely considered not to have lived up to his draft stock. After missing the majority of his rookie season with knee and shoulder issues, Ross was still able to salvage some bright spots in his second and third seasons, reaching career highs for touchdowns with seven in 2018 and receiving yards with 506 in 2019. Despite showing some promise, injuries continued to drag the young wide out down. Over the final two years of his contract, Ross missed 21 games, leading him towards free agency. He signed with the Giants last year and appeared in 10 games, catching 11 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown.

Here are a couple of other workouts reported around the league, starting with Brown’s former home in Baltimore:

  • After losing second-year wide receiver Rashod Bateman to injury for the past two weeks, the Ravens were looking to add some receiving depth recently, as well. This desire resulted in the practice squad addition of veteran DeSean Jackson, but, according to Yates, Baltimore auditioned another veteran wide out in Tavon Austin. The former long-time Ram has spent the last four seasons since leaving Los Angeles with three other teams. Austin has seen quite a down-sized role since his heyday as a starter with the Rams, but showed a big-play ability in Dallas, averaging 15.1 yards per reception as a Cowboy three seasons ago. With Jackson now on the practice squad, Austin will likely have to keep searching for his fifth NFL squad.
  • The Seahawks worked out a former first round pick in defensive tackle Vernon Butler yesterday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Butler waited until the final year of his rookie contract with the Panthers to play up to his draft stock, racking up 6.0 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss, 32 tackles, and three forced fumbles, which all still stand as career highs by quite a bit. Butler signed a two-year contract with the Bills after leaving Carolina but failed to match the production from his best year with the Panthers. He’s available after failing to make the Raiders’ final 53-man roster and looks to add some depth to a minorly banged up Seahawks defensive line.

Bills To Release WR Tavon Austin

The Bills picked up Tavon Austin midway through the offseason, but the former top-10 pick has not seen any game action. As a result, the sides are parting ways.

Austin is no longer on Buffalo’s practice squad, according to WGR 550’s Sal Capaccio (on Twitter). This is a mutual parting, per Capaccio, aimed at Austin finding a better opportunity elsewhere. A team could have plucked the former Rams investment off the Bills’ P-squad, but Austin would not have been free to choose another destination this way.

This Austin news comes after the Bills have sustained injuries at the receiver position. Jamison Crowder suffered a fractured ankle, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, and Isaiah McKenzie went down with a concussion during Buffalo’s Week 4 game in Baltimore. It does not sound like the Bills were planning to make Austin part of their solution, despite the veteran’s past as a slot/gadget player. Behind the Stefon DiggsGabriel Davis duo, the Bills roster rookie Khalil Shakir and Jake Kumerow. Should McKenzie be unable to go against the Steelers, the Bills will need to make at least one addition to their receiving corps.

Austin, 32, never ended up justifying the investment the Rams made in him, though the diminutive playmaker had moments during his time in St. Louis and Los Angeles. The Jaguars ended up using Austin as a rotational receiver during points last season. He caught 24 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown for the 3-14 team. The West Virginia product played a bit part as a Cowboys receiver in each of the previous two years.

The Bills are expected to replace Austin on their 16-man P-squad with Jaquarii Roberson, Garafolo adds (on Twitter). The Steelers cut Roberson, a Wake Forest product, from their taxi squad on Tuesday.

Wednesday NFL Transactions: AFC East

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 BillsDolphins, Jets and Patriots moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s AFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Buffalo Bills

Placed on IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Miami Dolphins

Signed to practice squad:

New England Patriots

Signed to practice squad:

New York Jets

Signed to practice squad:

Bills Cut WR Tavon Austin

The Bills released a pair of veterans today. The team announced that they’ve cut wideout Tavon Austin and punter Matt Haack.

Austin had his most productive season in years in 2021. In 13 games (three starts) with the Jaguars, the veteran hauled in 24 receptions for 213 yards and one touchdown. He ended up joining Buffalo in June, and there was hope that he’d be able to slide into a back-of-the-depth-chart role behind Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie. That didn’t end up being the case, and with the veteran out of the picture, this will probably secure an opening day roster spot for at least one of Jake Kumerow or Jamison Crowder.

There’s a chance Austin could catch on elsewhere. While he’s bounced around the NFL a bit recently, he’s still seen time in nine NFL seasons, hauling in 244 receptions and 16 touchdowns. The veteran also has extensive special teams history, although it’s been a while since he’s been a full-time punt returner.

Haack’s spot on the roster always seemed to be in risk following the emergence of ‘Punt God’ Matt Araiza. Haack was the Bills’ punter in 2021, averaging a career-low 42.9 yards on his 52 punts. He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Dolphins, where he had an average punt distance of 44.7 yards.

WR Tavon Austin Signing With Bills

Wide receiver Tavon Austin is signing a deal that will send him to camp in Buffalo where he’ll attempt to make the Bills’ roster this season, according to a tweet from Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Austin has had trouble finding success since his time with the Rams and will attempt to jumpstart his career by filling the No. 2 or 3 wide receiver role on his sixth NFL team. 

The former top-ten pick out of West Virginia has had one of the more puzzling careers in the NFL. Widely known for having one of the best high school highlight reels of all time, Austin tore up the field during his four years at West Virginia. His senior season displayed his true potential as a triple-threat: receiving, rushing, and returning. In 2012, the Mountaineers receiver caught 114 balls for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushed 72 times for 643 yards and 3 touchdowns, and averaged 11.0 yards per punt return and 25.4 yards per kickoff return, housing a return of each variety for a touchdown along the way.

Austin had trouble establishing himself as a receiver in the league, but demonstrated his elite elusiveness as a return man, being named a Pro Bowl alternate as a returner in his sophomore season. In the third year of his rookie contract with the Rams, Austin started to find the rhythm from his college days, becoming the first player since Gale Sayers in 1965 to score at least five receiving touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns, and a punt return touchdown in a single season.

The Rams gave Austin a four-year, $42MM extension before his fourth season. That season saw Austin record a career-high in receiving yards, but also saw his rushing and returning statistics diminish a bit. A frustrating first year under head coach Sean McVay the next year saw Austin’s usage plummet. Despite appearing in every game, and starting in nine of them, Austin saw a then-career-low 22 targets, catching 13 passes for 47 yards. His usage disappeared in the run and return game, as well.

In 2018, Austin was traded to the Cowboys in their attempts to replace former slot receiver Cole Beasley. In two seasons in Dallas, Austin caught 21 balls for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns. He signed in 2020 to join the 49ers, but was placed on injured reserve just prior to the season and released in October of that year. The Packers picked him up in December, but he gave very little in the way of on-field contributions. Last season saw Austin’s best season since his time with the Rams, as he played 13 games for the Jaguars, catching 24 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.

In Buffalo, Austin will attempt to replace Beasley for a second time. The Bills are down their second- and third-best receivers (in terms of receiving yards) from last year, with Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders both hitting the free agent market. Besides tight end Dawson Knox, this leaves the receiver cupboard in Buffalo fairly bare with Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie being the only returning receivers with at least 10 targets from last year. The team also signed Jamison Crowder from the Jets in free agency and drafted Boise State receiver Khalil Shakir in the fifth round of the Draft.

It will be interesting to see how the Bills plan on utilizing Austin if he makes the 53-man roster, as McKenzie and receiver Marquez Stevenson currently serve as the team’s return men, with McKenzie playing a very similar role to what Austin did early in his career. Regardless, it looks like Austin will be getting another chance, this time in an offense that saw success last year for two veteran receivers over 32-years-old with a lot of the same on-field tendencies as Austin.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/30/21

Here are Thursday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars Designate WR Tavon Austin For Return

Tavon Austin‘s debut with the Jaguars could be imminent. The veteran wideout was designated for return from IR today, the team announced.

This move will start a three-week clock. Austin can be activated to the active roster at any point over the next 21 days. If he isn’t activated within that time, Austin will be ineligible to play this year (although this would most likely be avoided by his release).

Austin joined the Jaguars in early August, and the team showed that they intended to keep him around when he survived final cuts. The team subsequently put him on short-term IR due to a quad injury, leading to today’s move.

The veteran hasn’t come close to matching the production from his days with the Rams. Over the past four years, Austin has seen time in 41 games (nine starts), collecting 756 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns on 110 touches. This included a 2020 campaign when he had only five catches for 20 yards in four games with the Packers.

Jacksonville has a talented grouping of receivers in DJ Chark. Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault, but Austin would provide another savvy target for Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars already prepared for Austin’s return when they moved on from practice squad receiver Phillip Dorsett today.

Jaguars Place Tavon Austin On IR

The Jaguars have placed wide receiver Tavon Austin on injured reserve, per a club announcement. The team did not disclose Austin’s injury, but the issue will keep him sidelined for an extended period.

It’s a frustrating setback for Austin, who lost time to injury last year with the Niners. He healed up later in the season to join the Packers, but didn’t see a ton of snaps in Green Bay. All in all, he finished with five catches for 20 yards across four games as a Packer.

Austin, the eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft, has been used more as a gadget player and returner than a true receiver in recent years. He was expected to return punts for the Jaguars and see some time in the new-look offense, but those plans have been scuttled for now.

He played really well Sunday,” head coach Urban Meyer told reporters on Tuesday . “We think with Joe and with Tosh, he’s a guy that it’s time to play. He’s been around and I can see the urgency in his look, in his practice and in the way he played.”

With Austin out of the picture, the Jaguars are left with five receivers in DJ Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Jamal Agnew, and Tyron Johnson.

Jaguars To Sign WR Tavon Austin

The Jaguars have agreed to sign wide receiver/kick returner Tavon Austin (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo). Terms of the deal are not yet known, but it’s likely a low-cost, one-year deal.

Austin signed with the 49ers in August of 2020, but was placed on injured reserve before the season started. After his release, he hooked on with the Packers. At the time of signing, the Packers didn’t seem to have much depth at WR beyond Davante Adams, but Austin didn’t see a ton of action on offense. All in all, he finished with five catches for 20 yards across four games.

Austin, the eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft, has been used more as a gadget player and returner than a true receiver in recent years. He may still offer big play ability, although at 31 he’s not quite as explosive as he used to be. Austin may get a chance to return punts for the Jaguars, but he’ll have to solidify his roster spot over the next few weeks.

Jets Host Tavon Austin

The Jets have already given significant money to Corey Davis and Keelan Cole this offseason, but they might not be done adding receivers. New York worked out veteran Tavon Austin on Wednesday, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

It seems a contract is a real possibility, since Rapoport writes that it “sounded like it went well.” Austin has appeared on the verge of falling out of the league a couple of times, but has been able to find additional chances. He signed with the 49ers right before the start of last season, but was placed on IR prior to final cuts and then later released. He managed to latch on with the Packers in December and played in four games for Green Bay, catching five passes.

Notably, Aaron Rodgers highlighted Austin late in the season as someone who made a very positive impact on the locker room. Perhaps that’s what the Jets are looking for here. Austin was a big name player coming out of college after a decorated career at West Virginia, and the Rams drafted him eighth overall in 2013.

He made a number of splash plays, and had a punt return touchdown in each of his first three pro seasons, but never lived up to his draft status. His career-high in receiving yards was 509 back in 2016. The Rams traded him to the Cowboys in April of 2018, and he spent the next two seasons in Dallas.

He was mostly used as a gadget player by the Cowboys, with only 21 receptions and 12 rush attempts in 21 games with the team. He turned 31 in March.