Tracy Walker

Lions Eyeing Move To S For C.J. Gardner-Johnson; Brian Branch Receiving First-Team Reps

Expectations are high for the Lions’ defense in 2023 in large part due to the additions made in their secondary. Free agent signing C.J. Gardner-Johnson and rookie Brian Branch are among the new faces on the backend, and they could each find themselves in the starting lineup come Week 1.

Gardner-Johnson’s status as a first-teamer has not been in question, of course, after he posted six interceptions with the Eagles last year despite missing five games. The 25-year-old surprisingly only parlayed that into a one-year deal with $6.5MM guaranteed in free agency. His move to Detroit was expected to result in a return to his more familiar slot corner role (as opposed to the safety spot, where he spent most of his time in Philadelphia).

However, a knee injury Gardner-Johnson suffered early in training camp left him sidelined for a stretch. That opened the door to Branch filling in at the nickel spot, and his performances since then have him firmly in the mix for a starting role. The second-rounder has likely played his way into a first-team position, or at least notable rotational duties, as detailed by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Branch was lauded as one of the most versatile players in the 2023 class, but playing him at corner would open up the possibility of moving Gardner-Johnson back to safety.

Doing so would represent a change in approach compared to earlier in the offseason, but it could allow the Lions to deploy their ideal combination of defensive backs. Gardner-Johnson shifting back to safety would relegate Tracy Walker to backup duties while he rehabs the Achilles tear which ended his 2022 season. The latter had paired with 2022 third-rounder Kerby Joseph last year.

Head coach Dan Campbell recently noted that Walker is still in consideration for a starting position, however, so plenty is yet to be determined (aside from Joseph’s first-team certainty) as the preseason approaches. Branch will be a key player to watch during exhibition season as he looks to win a starting gig right away, something which would put the versatility of Detroit’s new and highly regarded secondary to the test early in the campaign.

Lions S Tracy Walker Eyeing Training Camp Return

One of the early developments so far from Lions OTAs has been the sight of Tracy Walker with the team. The veteran safety is taking part in on-field work during his ongoing recovery from an Achilles tear.

“It feels great to be back,” Walker said, via Tim Twentyman of the team’s website“I can’t hide the emotions, you know? It’s a blessing. I’m very excited. Honestly, I missed it. It’s hard to explain. It was cool I got time to spend at home with my family but at the end of the day I missed ball.”

The 28-year-old went down with the Achilles injury in Week 3, which marked a major blow to the Lions’ secondary. Walker had led the team in tackles early in the campaign, as he did the previous season. 2021 marked the second time in which he eclipsed 100 tackles, and he added one interception and six pass deflections, confirming his status as a key member of the team’s defense. Two years remain on his current contract, a $25MM extension signed last March.

In Walker’s absence, Detroit struggled mightily on that side of the ball for much of the season, one in which a late playoff push fell just short. If the former third-rounder can return to form, though, he should be counted on to play a signficant role alongside Kerby Joseph, who saw a large uptick in usage as a rookie with Walker sidelined last season.

Walker indicated that he expects to return in full during training camp in July, barring any setbacks. Presuming he is healed by that point, he will join Joseph, free agent addition C.J. Gardner-Johnson and second-round rookie Brian Branch as a contributor on the backend facing considerable expectations. Improved play on defense would go a long way towards Detroit securing a postseason berth in 2023, and a healthy Walker could play a large role in achieving that goal.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/27/22

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Detroit Lions

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

New York Jets

Although Ogbuehi is a former first-round pick, he has started five games since the 2018 season. He landed on Houston’s practice squad IR list earlier this month but will be part of the Jets’ scramble to reassemble their tackle depth chart after George Fant‘s IR trip. Ogbuehi’s Bengals audition seasons came back in 2016 and ’17; the Seahawks used him as a fill-in starter in four 2020 games. Ogbuehi, 30, joins Mike Remmers as Jets tackle additions this week.

The Ravens were interested in adding Luketa off the Cardinals’ practice squad, Aaron Wilson of tweets. That looks to have prompted the Cards’ decision to move him up to their 53-man roster. The Cards drafted Luketa in this year’s seventh round (256th overall) out of Penn State.

Tennessee’s outside linebacker shuffle included waiving Tuszka, who is now with his third team this year. A former Broncos seventh-round pick, Tuszka spent the offseason with the Steelers. He will move to a Chargers team that has Joey Bosa likely to miss games after suffering what Brandon Staley called a serious groin injury.

Lions S Tracy Walker Suffers Torn Achilles

After suffering a non-contact injury early in the Lions’ game yesterday, it was understood that safety Tracy Walker was facing a serious diagnosis. Today, it is believed that the veteran suffered a torn Achilles, which would end his season (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network). Walker has since confirmed that he did indeed tear his Achilles and will be out for the remainder of the campaign. 

“We don’t know entirely,” head coach Dan Campbell said after the game, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “We’ll know more in the morning. It doesn’t look real good. Obviously, it’s the ankle area, possibly could be the Achilles.” Confirmation of the worst-case scenario is likely to deal a major blow to the Lions.

Walker, 27, emerged as a starter in his second season with the team in 2019. That marked the first of two campaigns in which he has eclipsed the 100-tackle mark, and saw him register a career-high eight pass deflections. He had another productive season in 2021, which earned him a three-year, $25MM deal in March.

The former third-rounder led the team in tackles entering Week 3 with 18, and his absence would be felt throughout the Lions’ secondary. Cornerback Jeff Okudah has returned to form after suffering an Achilles tear of his own during last year’s season opener. Now, Detroit will once again move forward with a key starter unavailable for the remainder of the campaign.

Juju Hughes filled in for Walker after the injury. The former UDFA spent the past two seasons with the Rams, making 19 appearances but primarily playing on special teams. He could see extended action on defense for the first time in his career, assuming it is confirmed that Walker will be sidelined until 2023. The Lions could also turn to third-round rookie Kerby Joseph as a fill-in option.

Lions To Re-Sign Tracy Walker

The Lions have agreed to a brand new deal with safety Tracy Walker. The veteran will return on a three-year, $25MM contract with $17MM guaranteed, according to a source who spoke with Adam Schefter of (Twitter link).

Walker, a third-round pick in 2018, was pegged by many draft analysts as a late-round selection. However, the Lions saw something in him and they weren’t willing to let him get away. Now, they know that they made the right choice, especially since the Panthers were ready to pounce at No. 85 overall.

Walker, 27, started in all 15 of his games this year, notching 108 tackles, one sack, one interception, and six passes defensed. Heading into free agency, Pro Football Focus estimated that the safety could notch a two-year, $13MM deal. That’s more or less what he has here, in terms of annual average value, though the Lions went a touch higher at $8MM+ per annum and added an extra year. The details of the deal will be telling — it’s possible that Walker has little in the way of guarantees for that third season.

While Walker could have generated interest on the open market, he was not as valued as other safeties in this year’s class. This year’s group featured Saints standout Marcus Williams (Saints), Chiefs veteran Tyrann Mathieu, and promising Jets safety Marcus Maye.

NFL COVID List Updates

We are trying our best here at Pro Football Rumors to keep up with all of the updates throughout the league concerning players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. A lot of teams had high hopes during today’s testing as they were trying to get players activated in time for Sunday’s slate of games.

Here are updates as of 8:30 PM ET, Sat 12/18:

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: DT Eddie Goldman
  • OC Bill Lazor, DC Sean Desai, STC Chris Tabor in COVID-19 protocols

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: DB P.J. Locke

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Four Coaches in COVID-19 protocols

New York Giants

New York Jets

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/10/21

Here are Friday’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

North Notes: Vikings, Conner, JuJu, Lions

The 2017 draft class will become extension-eligible in January, and Dalvin Cook‘s contract figures to be one the key talking points once the calendar flips to the 2020 offseason. The Vikings are one of the few teams to have paid a running back top-market money, via Adrian Peterson‘s $14.4MM-AAV pact from 2011. With Cook’s contract not containing a fifth-year option like Christian McCaffrey‘s does, the Vikings will likely have to address his deal sooner than the Panthers will need to negotiate with their All-Pro candidate. Ezekiel Elliott‘s $15MM-per-year deal represents the new running back benchmark. Although Cook has been injury-prone, he will surely seek a contract in the Elliott-Todd GurleyLe’Veon BellDavid Johnson tax bracket (north of $13MM annually).

Running backs are valuable,” Cook said, via’s Courtney Cronin. “For guys to get rewarded for how physical, how much they get their bodies ready each and every week to go take that pounding, guys [are] getting rewarded for that. The running back value kind of went down, but I think we’re just as valuable as any position.”

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • Adam Thielen will not play Sunday night. The Vikings ruled out their highest-paid wide receiver for Week 10’s Cowboys contest. Thielen has dealt with this hamstring injury since Week 7, missing Minnesota’s game against the Redskins and exiting last week’s Chiefs game after seven snaps.
  • One of Cook’s 2017 draft classmates, James Conner, will also need at least another week to recover from injury. The Steelers ruled out Conner for Week 10. They also added JuJu Smith-Schuster to this week’s injury report Friday. Pittsburgh’s top wideout is questionable to face the Rams with a toe injury.
  • Lions safety Miles Killebrew suffered a concussion during Thursday’s practice, Kyle Meinke of notes. The Lions moved Killebrew to linebacker last year, but the trade of Quandre Diggs and Tracy Walker‘s knee injury prompted the team to shift Killebrew back to safety recently. UFA addition Tavon Wilson, third-round rookie Will Harris and rookie UDFA C.J. Moore are the Lions’ only healthy safeties. Killebrew and Walker are out for Sunday’s Bears tilt
  • The Lions’ two-year extension for Christian Jones features a short-term sacrifice for a 2020 payment. The deal reduces the linebacker’s 2019 salary from $2.45MM to the veteran minimum, which will be worth approximately $426K for the season’s remainder. In exchange, Jones will receive a $1.97MM signing bonus, Michael Rothstein of tweets. The through-2021 deal averages $2.92MM. Detroit tacked on a voidable 2022 year, in order to spread the bonus across three seasons instead of two.

Trade Notes: Browns, Broncos, Eagles, Patriots, Saints, Lions

The Patriots and 49ers strengthened their aerial groups Tuesday, and the Saints are exploring the idea of doing the same. New Orleans is pursuing pass catchers, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (on Twitter). The Saints made a late-season addition of Dez Bryant last year but saw the longtime Cowboy go down before playing in a 2018 game. This Saints iteration has surprised many by going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater at the controls, firmly placing the team in the contention picture. This offense has long funneled through Michael Thomas, with a steep drop existing between New Orleans’ No. 1 target and its other receiving targets. A.J. Green could be available, but the Bengals wideout may not be healthy by the deadline. Robby Anderson could also be a trade candidate, as could Demaryius Thomas (again).

Here is the latest from the trade market. Seven days remain until this year’s deadline.

  • Cornerback dominoes have fallen as well, with the Rams, Ravens and Texans making plays for key cogs. The Eagles‘ shaky pass defense features a notable need at corner, and the team has contacted the Broncos about Chris Harris, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. The Eagles were ready to send first- and second-round picks to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey. Harris is five years older and in a contract year, but it will likely take a Day 2 pick to pry him from Denver. The Texans tried to acquire the 30-year-old standout as well but evidently were not amenable to the Broncos’ asking price.
  • It does not look like a Trent Williams-to-Cleveland scenario will transpire. The Browns have repeatedly inquired about the Redskins tackle, but Jeremy Fowler of notes (via Twitter) they have accepted the fact Washington will stick to its guns and hold onto him. Washington has Williams signed through 2020 but has not seen him budge on his holdout. The Redskins are believed to prefer waiting until the offseason to trade him, in order to learn where every team’s draft capital resides.
  • The Patriots paid up to acquire Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons, parting ways with a second-round pick for the eighth-year wideout. But they were also in talks with the Broncos about Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The Pats signed Sanders to an RFA offer sheet in 2013, but the Steelers matched. This marked the second straight year the Patriots wanted one of the Broncos’ starting wideouts, having tried to acquire Demaryius Thomas before the 2018 deadline. San Francisco landed Sanders for third- and fourth-round picks.
  • The Lions surprised many by dealing starting safety Quandre Diggs to the Seahawks, doing so despite Diggs being signed through 2021. Lions brass viewed Diggs’ play as having fallen off, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link), and called multiple teams about moving him. The Lions landed a 2020 fifth-round pick for Diggs, who is now a Seahawk. The play of young safeties Tracy Walker and Will Harris helped induce the Lions to pull the trigger, Birkett adds. Walker and Harris grade as top-40 safeties, per PFF, which has Diggs slotted outside the top 60. Diggs is only 26, however. This trade gives the Seahawks access to a key part of his prime.

NFC Notes: Lions, Vikings, Bucs, Kelley

With more teams debuting their preseasons Friday night, here’s the latest out of the NFC, beginning with one of the teams that indeed begins its 2018 run tonight.

  • A fourth-round pick two years ago, Miles Killebrew may be moving to a different position in order to increase his chances of making the Lions‘ 53-man roster. The third-year safety’s been working exclusively as a linebacker in practice as of late, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Killebrew started three games at safety for the Lions last season, but Birkett adds that the Southern Utah product was working as the fifth safety during camp in a unit that’s now including former full-time cornerback Quandre Diggs. Rookie Tracy Walker was also running ahead of Killebrew.
  • Nick Easton‘s season-ending injury now has the Vikings down three starters, with Pat Elflein still on the PUP list and Mike Remmers also sidelined. Tom Compton is the favorite to fill in for Easton at left guard, and’s Courtney Cronin notes the Vikings were eyeing the former Redskins and Bears blocker in the past prior to signing him this offseason. Compton, though, has only made 16 starts in six seasons. The Vikings are likely to keep Compton at guard rather than have him also work at tackle, Mike Zimmer said. Second-year man Danny Isidora looks to the the top insurance option at the other guard spot in case Remmers, down with an ankle injury presently, doesn’t return soon, per Cronin. A fourth-year UDFA out of Portland State, Cornelius Edison is currently working as Minnesota’s first-team center in Elflein’s absence.
  • The Buccaneers will be without Vernon Hargreaves for a bit, potentially the rest of the preseason, with a groin injury. Dirk Koetter, however, doesn’t expect the former first-round pick to miss any regular-season time because of this malady (Twitter link, via the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud).
  • The 49ers will be dealing with similar timelines involving key personnel. Likely tight end starter George Kittle and No. 2 running back Matt Breida suffered separated shoulders in San Francisco’s preseason opener Thursday night, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Both will miss the remainder of the preseason calendar. Kyle Shanahan said the earliest either will return is Week 1.
  • Derrius Guice‘s ACL tear deprives the Redskins of a potential impact player being part of their 2018 offense, and they will likely turn to former starter Rob Kelley in his place, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington writes. He expects Samaje Perine, who was in danger of not making the roster prior to Guice’s injury, to work in off the bench on early downs. Tandler adds the Redskins could go after a veteran back, and while many are available, it’s not certain the team will move in that direction just yet. Kelley rushed for 704 yards (4.2 per carry) in 2016, a season that featured him start down the stretch, but gained just 194 last year (3.1 per tote) in seven games as Washington’s starter.